These are relevant references from the Books where Praetors are mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
I passed the throne of the wharf praetor, he in his robes, with the two scribes, for the settling of disputes which might occur on the quays. Four guardsmen, too, were there.
They grinned at me as I walked past, and I smiled back at them. They were handsome guardsmen, and I was a slave girl.
But I must not annoy them, soliciting their patronage for the tavern, for they were on duty. I had been struck five times across the back of the legs, my wrists held, when I had made this mistake before. The praetor was a sour fellow.
Slave Girl of Gor Book 11 Page 339
"Where are odds made on the Kaissa matches?" I asked a small fellow, in the garb of the leather workers. He wore the colors of Tabor on his cap.
"I would ask you that," he said.
"Do you favor Scormus of Ar?" I inquired.
"Assuredly," he said.
I nodded. I decided it would be best to search for a merchant who was on the fair's staff, or find one of their booths or praetor stations, where such information might be found.
We stood in the vicinity of the high desk of the wharf praetor.
"There seemed no reason to ring it earlier," said the man. "It was thought she would be soon picked up, by guardsmen, or the crew of the Palms of Schendi."
"She was to be shipped on that craft?" I asked.
"Yes," said the man. "I suppose now her feet must be cut off."
"Is it her first attempt to escape?" asked another man.
"I do not know," said another.
"Why is there this bother about an escaped slave," demanded a man, his clothing torn and blood at his ear. "I have been robbed! What are you doing about this?"
"Be patient," said the wharf praetor. "We know the pair. We have been searching for them for weeks." The praetor handed a sheet of paper to one of his guardsmen. People were gathered around. Another guardsman stopped ringing the alarm bar. It hung from a projection on a pole, the pole fixed upright on the roof of a nearby warehouse.
"Be on the watch for an escaped female slave," called the guardsman. "She is blond-haired and blue-eyed. She is barbarian. When last seen she was naked."
"Return the girl to the praetor's station on this pier," said the guardsman.
"What of those who robbed me!" cried the fellow with the torn clothing and the blood behind his ear.
"We shall send two guardsmen to investigate," said the praetor. "Thank you, Citizen, for this information."
"They will be gone now," said the man with the blood behind his ear.
"Perhaps not," I said.
The praetor dispatched a pair of guardsmen, who moved swiftly toward the Rim canal.
There seemed to be something going on now at the post of the wharf praetor, so I returned to that area.
"What do you have in your mouth, Girl?" asked the praetor.
One of the guardsmen opened her mouth, not gently, and retrieved the coin, a rather large one, a tarsk bit. Ten such coins make a copper tarsk. A hundred copper tarsks make a silver tarsk.
The praetor placed the coin on his desk, the surface of which was some seven feet high, below the low, solid wooden bar The height of the praetor's desk, he on the high stool behind it, permits him to see a goodly way up and down the wharves. Also, of course, one standing before the desk must look up to see the praetor, which, psychologically, tends to induce a feeling of fear for the power of the law. The wooden bar before the desk's front edge makes it impossible to see what evidence or papers the praetor has at his disposal as he considers your case. Thus, you do not know for certain how much he knows. Similarly, you cannot tell what he writes on your papers.
"Give me back my coin!" said the girl.
"Be silent," said a guardsman.
"She is the one who cooperated in the attack upon you?" asked the praetor, indicating the bound girl.
"Yes," said the man with blood behind his ear.
"No!" cried the girl. "I have never seen him before in my life!"
"I see," said the praetor. He apparently was not unfamiliar with the girl.
"Ha!" snorted the man who had accused her.
"How did you come to be helpless and tied beside the canal?" inquired the praetor.
The girl looked about, wildly. "We were set upon by brigands, robbed, and left tied," she said.
There was laughter.
"You must believe me," she said. "I am a free woman!"
"Examine the pouch of the man," said the praetor.
It was opened by a guardsman, who sifted his hands through coins.
The girl looked, startled, at the pouch. She had apparently not understood that it had contained as much as it did. Her small hands pulled futilely, angrily, at the binding fiber which restrained them.
"It seems that the fellow who robbed you," smiled the praetor, "neglected to take your pouch."
The bound man said nothing. He glared sullenly downward.
"He also left you a tarsk bit," said the praetor, to the girl.
"It was all I could save," she said, lamely.
There was more laughter.
"I was not robbed," said the bound man. "But I was unaccountably, from behind, struck down. I was then tied to this little she-urt. Her guilt is well known, I gather, on the wharves. Clearly enemies have intended to unjustly link me to her guilt."
"Turgus!" she cried.
"I have never seen her before in my life," he said.
"Turgus!" she cried. "No, Turgus!"
"Did you see me strike you?" asked the fellow who had been addressed as Turgus.
"No," said the fellow who had been struck. "No, I did not."
"It was not I," said the bound man. "Unbind me," said he then to the praetor. "Set me free, for I am innocent. It is clear I am the victim of a plot."
"He told me what to do!" she said. "He told me what to do!"
"Who are you, you little slut?" asked the bound man. "It is obvious," he said, to the praetor, "that this she-urt, whoever she is, wishes to implicate me in her guilt, that it will go easier on her."
"I assure you," smiled the praetor, "it will not go easier on her."
"My thanks, Officer," said the man.
The girl, crying out with rage, tried to kick at the man tied beside her. A guardsman struck her on the right thigh with the butt of his spear and she cried out in pain.
"If you should attempt to do that again, my dear," said the praetor, "your ankles will be tied, and you will hear the rest of the proceedings while lying on your belly before the tribunal."
"Yes, Officer," she said.
"What is your name?" asked the praetor of the girl.
"Sasi," she said.
"Lady Sasi?" he asked.
"Yes," she said, "I am free!"
There was laughter. She looked about, angrily, bound. I did not think she would need be worried much longer about her freedom.
"Usually," smiled the praetor, "a free woman wears more than binding fiber and a neck strap."
"My gown was taken, when I was tied," she said. "It was torn from me."
"Who took it," asked the praetor, "a casual male, curious to see your body?"
"A girl took it," she cried, angrily, "a blond girl. She was naked. Then she took my garment. Then I was naked! Find her, if you wish to be busy with matters of the law! I was the victim of theft! It was stolen from me, my garment! You should be hunting her, the little thief, not holding me here. I am an honest citizen!"
There was more laughter.
"May I be freed, my officer?" asked the bound man. "A mistake has been made."
The praetor turned to two guardsmen. "Go to where you found these two tied," he said. "I think our missing slave will be found in the garment of the she-urt."
Two guardsmen left immediately. I thought the praetor's conjecture was a sound one. On the other hand, obviously, the girl would not be likely to linger in the place where she had stolen the she-urt's brief, miserable rag. Still, perhaps her trail could be found in that area.
"I demand justice," said the girl.
"You will receive it, Lady Sasi," said the praetor.
She turned white.
"At least she will not have to be stripped for the iron," said a fellow near me, grinning.
The girl moaned.
The praetor then addressed himself to the fellow who had the dried blood caked behind his left ear. It was dried in his hair, too, on the left side of his head.
"Is this female, identified as the Lady Sasi, she who detained you, when you were attacked?" asked the praetor.
"It is she," he said.
"I never saw him before," she wept.
"It is she," he repeated.
"I only wanted to beg a tarsk bit," she said. "I did not know he was going to strike you."
"Why did you not warn him of the man's approach behind him?" asked the praetor.
"I didn't see the man approaching," she said, desperately.
"But you said you didn't know he was going to strike him," said the praetor. "Therefore, you must have seen him."
"Please let me go," she said.
"I was not seen to strike the man," said the fellow whom the girl had identified as Turgus. "I claim innocence. There is no evidence against me. Do what you will with the little slut. But set me free."
The girl put down her head, miserably. "Please let me go," she begged.
"I was robbed of a golden tarn," said the fellow with the blood at the side of his head.
"There is a golden tarn in the pouch," said a guardsman. "On the golden tarn taken from me," said the man,"I had scratched my initials, Ba-Ta Shu, Bem Shandar, and, on the reverse of the coin, the drum of Tabor."
The guardsman lifted the coin to the praetor. "It is so," said the praetor.
The bound man, suddenly, irrationally, struggled. He tried to throw off his bonds. The girl cried out in misery, jerked choking from her feet. Then two guardsmen held the fellow by the arms. "He is strong," said one of the guardsmen. The girl, gasping, regained her feet. Then she stood again neck-linked to him, beside him, his fellow prisoner.
"The coin was planted in my pouch," he said. "It is a plot!"
"You are an urt, Turgus," she said to him, "an urt!"
"It is you who are the she-urt!" he snarled.
"You have both been caught," said the praetor, beginning to fill out some papers. "We have been looking for you both for a long time."
"I am innocent," said the bound man.
"How do you refer to yourself?" asked the praetor. "Turgus," he said.
The praetor entered that name in the papers. He then signed the papers.
He looked down at Turgus. "How did you come to be tied?" he asked.
"Several men set upon me," he said. "I was struck from behind. I was subdued."
"It does not appear that you were struck from behind," smiled the praetor.
The face of Turgus was not a pretty sight, as I had dashed it into the stones, and had then struck the side of his head against the nearby wall.
"Is the binding fiber on their wrists from their original bonds, as you found them?" asked the praetor of one of the guardsmen.
"It is," he said.
"Examine the knots," said the praetor.
"They are capture knots," said the guardsman, smiling.
"You made a poor choice of one to detain, my friends," said the praetor.
They looked at one another, miserably. Their paths had crossed that of a warrior.
They now stood bound before the praetor.
"Turgus, of Port Kar," said the praetor, "in virtue of what we have here today established, and in virtue of the general warrant outstanding upon you, you are sentenced to banishment. If you are found within the limits of the city after sunset this day you will be impaled."
The face of Turgus was impassive.
"Free him," he said.
Turgus was cut free, and turned about, moving through the crowd. He thrust men aside.
Suddenly he saw me. His face turned white, and he spun about, and fled.
I saw one of the black seamen, the one who had passed me on the north walkway of the Rim canal, when I had been descending toward the pier, looking at me, curiously.
The girl looked up at the praetor. The neck strap, now that Turgus was freed of it, looped gracefully up to her throat, held in the hand of a guardsman. Her small wrists were still bound behind her back.
She seemed very small and helpless before the high desk.
"Please let me go," she said. "I will be good."
"The Lady Sasi, of Port Kar," said the praetor, "in virtue of what we have here today established, and in virtue of the general warrant outstanding upon her, must come under sentence."
"Please, my officer," she begged.
"I am now going to sentence you," he said.
"Please," she cried. "Sentence me only to a penal brothel!"
"The penal brothel is too good for you," said the praetor.
"Show me mercy," she begged.
"You will be shown no mercy," he said.
She looked up at him, with horror.
"You are sentenced to slavery," he said.
"No, no!" she screamed.
One of the guards cuffed her across the mouth, snapping her head back.
There were tears in her eyes and blood at her lip.
"Were you given permission to speak?" asked the praetor.
"No, no," she wept, stammering. "Forgive me - Master."
"Let her be taken to the nearest metal shop and branded," said the praetor. "Then let her be placed on sale outside the shop for five Ehn, to be sold to the first buyer for the cost of her branding. If she is not sold in five Ehn then take her to the public market shelves and chain her there, taking the best offer which equals or exceeds the cost of her branding."
The girl looked up at the praetor. The strap, in the hand of the guardsman, grew taut at her throat.
"This tarsk bit," said the praetor, lifting the coin which had been taken from her mouth earlier, "is now confiscated, and becomes the property of the port." This was appropriate. Slaves own nothing. It is, rather, they who are owned.
The girl, the new slave, was then dragged stumbling away from the tribunal.
The praetor was now conversing with the fellow, Bem Shandar, from Tabor. Papers were being filled in; these had to do with the claims Bem Shandar was making to recover his stolen money.
"Are her thighs marked?" asked the praetor.
"No," said a guardsman. He had already made this determination.
The girl stood, her hands bound behind her, in the brief rag of the she-urt, before the tribunal of the praetor. The neck strap of a guardsman was on her throat.
"Is this your slave?" asked the praetor of Ulafi of Schendi.
"Yes," said he.
"How do I know she is a slave?" asked the praetor. "Her body, her movements, do not suggest that she is a slave. She seems too tight, too cold, too rigid, to he a slave."
"She was free, captured by Bejar, in his seizure of the Blossoms of Telnus," said Ulafi. "She is new to her condition."
"Is Bejar present?" asked the praetor.
"No," said a man. Bejar had left the port yesterday, to again try his luck upon gleaming Thassa, the sea.
"Her measurements, exactly, fit those of the slave," said a guardsman. He lifted the tape measure, marked in horts, which had been applied, but moments before, to the girl's body.
The praetor nodded. This was excellent evidence. The girl's height, ankles, wrists, throat, hips, waist and bust had been measured. She had even been thrown on a grain scale and weighed.
The praetor looked down at the girl. He pointed to her. "Kajira?" he asked. "Kajira?"
She shook her head vigorously. That much Gorean she at least understood. She denied being a slave girl.
The praetor made a small sign to one of the guardsmen.
"Leash!" said the fellow, suddenly, harshly, behind the girl, in Gorean.
She jumped, startled, and cried out, frightened, but she did not, as a reflex, lift her head, turning it to the left, nor did the muscles in her upper arms suddenly move as though thrusting her wrists behind her, to await the two snaps of the slave bracelets.
"Nadu!" snapped the guard. But the girl had not, involuntarily, begun to kneel.
"I have her slave papers here," said Ulafi, "delivered with her this morning by Vart's man."
He handed them to the praetor.
"She does not respond as a slave because she has not yet learned her slavery," said Ulafi. "She has not yet learned the collar and the whip."
The praetor examined the papers. In Ar slaves are often fingerprinted. The prints are contained in the papers.
"Does anyone know if this is Ulafi's slave?" asked the praetor.
I did not wish to speak, for I would, then, have revealed myself as having been at the sale. I preferred for this to be unknown.
The four she-urts, with which the blond-haired barbarian had fished for garbage in the canal, stood about.
"She should have been marked," said the praetor. "She should have been collared."
"I have a collar here," said Ulafi, lifting a steel slave collar. It was a shipping collar. It had five palms on it, and the sign of Schendi, the shackle and scimitar. The girl who wore it would be clearly identified as a portion of Ulafi's cargo.
"I wish to sail with the tide," said Ulafi "In less than half an Ahn it will be full."
"I am sorry," said the praetor.
"Has not Vart been sent for," asked Ulafi, "to confirm my words?"
"He has been sent for," said the praetor.
From some eighty or so yards away, from the tiny shop of a metal worker, I heard a girl scream. I knew the sound. A girl had been marked. She who had been the Lady Sasi, the little she-urt who had been the accomplice of Turgus of Port Kar, had been branded.
"I am afraid we must release this woman," said the praetor, looking down at the girl. "It is unfortunate, as she is attractive."
"Test her for slave heat," suggested a man.
"That is not appropriate," said the praetor, "if she is free."
"Make her squirm," said the man. "See if she is slave hot."
"No," said the praetor.
The praetor looked at the girl. He looked at Ulafi. "I am afraid I must order her release," he said.
"No!" said Ulafi.
"Wait," said a man. "It is Vart!"
The girl shrank back, miserably, her hands tied behind her back, the neck strap on her throat, before Vart, who had pushed through the crowd.
"Do you know this girl?" asked the praetor of Vart.
"Of course," said Vart. "She is a slave, sold last night to this captain." He indicated Ulafi of Schendi. "I got a silver tarsk for her."
The praetor nodded to a guardsman. He thrust the girl down to her knees. She was in the presence of free men. With the neck strap he pulled her head down and tied it down, fastening it to her ankles by means of the neck strap; the leather between her neck and ankles, which were flow crossed and bound, was short and taut. Her rag, the brown, torn tunic of the she-urt, stolen from she who had been Sasi, was then cut from her. She knelt bound then, and naked, in one of several Gorean submission positions.
"The slave is awarded to Ulafi of Schendi," ruled the praetor.
There were cheers from the men present, and Gorean applause, the striking of the left shoulder with the right hand.
"My thanks, Praetor," said Ulafi, receiving back the slave papers from the magistrate.
"Captain Ulafi," said the praetor.
"Yes, Praetor," said Ulafi.
"Have her marked before you leave port," he said.
"Yes, Praetor,' said Ulafi. He turned to his first officer.
The merchant then looked at the thief. "I will have him taken to Port Cos," he said, "where there are praetors."
"Please, Master," said the thief, "do not deliver me to praetors!"
"Are you so fond of your hands?" asked the merchant. I noted that the thief's left ear had already been notched. That had doubtless been done elsewhere than in Victoria.
"Please, Master, have mercy on me," begged the thief.
"I bought her properly," said my master.
"You have papers on her?" asked the man.
"No," said my master.
"You received stolen goods," said the man.
"Not to my knowledge," said my master.
"An investigation might nonetheless prove you have no legal hold on her."
"Are you a magistrate, or a praetor's agent?" inquired my master, narrowly.
"No," said the fellow.
My master relaxed, visibly.
"But I could always lodge a citizen's inquiry, and have the matter looked into," he said.
"What do you want?" asked my master.
"She is a hot slave, and is curvy, and beautiful," he said.
"So?" asked my master.
"Too, she dances well, and her ears are pierced," said the man.
"So?" inquired my master.
"What did you pay for her?" he asked.
"That is my business," said my master.
"Not much, I would suppose," said the man. "Stolen slaves seldom bring high prices, unless delivered to private dealers on contract, or to slavers, who know what to do with them, and where to sell them."
"She is mine," said my master. "I have held her in my collar for a sufficient time."
"I am prepared to accept that she is now yours," said the fellow. "For example, she seems clearly accommodated to your collar. The official recovery period is doubtless now passed."
"Then our conversation is at an end," said my master, angrily.
"Nonetheless it seems you might still count, officially, as a fellow who had received stolen goods," said the man.
"Not to my knowledge, if at all," said my master.
"Ignorance of the origin of the goods," said the man, "might indeed exonerate you from personal guilt in the matter."
My master shrugged.
"Still," said the man, "it might be of some interest to a praetor to hear you protest your innocence in the matter. He would be likely to be interested, too, in whom you bought the slave from, and such, and perhaps even where they obtained her."
"Then," said Aulus, "if you are recruiting one hundred and seventy-seven, and releasing five, from Brundisium, who may, or may not take service with you, then we are talking about less than seventy men."
"Sixty-eight, to be exact," said the fellow.
"Yes," said Aulus. "You have been very zealous in your recruiting, it seems. Can we not do a little better than that?"
"The one hundred and seventy-seven have already taken the campaign oath," he said.
"Then that is that," said Aulus. "What about the five from Brundisium."
"They are from Brundisium," he said.
"Of course," said Aulus.
"A silver tarsk apiece," skid the fellow.
"That seems high," said Aulus.
"It is an average praetor's price," he said. To be sure, some, serving shorter sentences, would presumably go for less, and some, more dangerous fellows, perhaps, serving longer sentences, might go for more. "Too," he said, "I expect you pay that much, or more, for the fellows you get from illicit suppliers."
"But we were speaking of the former Lady Publia," I said. "She now knows herself a slave, having said the words. Too, she knows that she, a slave, can be freed only by a master. What will she make of these things? That, I take it, is your question?"
"Doubtless she would pretend she had never said the words," she said.
"That she would, in one way or another, attempt to conceal her true condition?"
"Yes," she said.
"Perhaps," I said. "But, of course, she would still, in her heart, know the truth, that she was a slave."
"Yes," she said.
"And that only a master could free her?"
"Yes," she said.
"Surely it might be difficult to live with such a hidden truth," I said. Perhaps it, irrepressible, insistent within her, might finally require some resolution. She must then take action. She might turn herself over to a praetor, hoping for mercy, as she had surrendered herself.
To the left of the praetor's officer, to our right, as we faced him, below him, on the floor level, on a bench, behind a table, was a court's clerk.
"You are the Lady Constanzia, of the city of Besnit?" inquired the praetor's officer.
"I am," she said.
"You have been the object of ransom capture," said the praetor's officer.
"Yes your honor," she said.
He then addressed himself to the court's clerk. "There is no difficulty as to the matter of her identity?" he asked.
"No, your honor," said the clerk. "Her fingerprints tally with those taken shortly after her delivery to Treve by the abductors."
"Have the agents of the redemptor accepted her as the Lady Constanzia?" inquired the praetor's officer.
"They have, your honor," said the clerk.
"In virtue of interrogations and such?"
"Yes, your honor."
"There is the matter of the slipper."
"It is here," said the clerk. He produced a tiny, jeweled, muchly embroidered slipper. It might have cost more than many slaves.
The praetor's officer nodded to the clerk and carried the slipper to the Lady Constanzia, who took it in her hands, and looked upon it.
"Do you recognize it?" asked the praetor's officer.
"Yes, your honor," she said. "It is mine."
"It matches with that brought by the agent of the redemptor?" asked the praetor's officer.
"Yes, your honor," said the clerk. He then took it back from the Lady Constanzia and returned to his desk.
"The court of the commercial praetor of the high city of Treve," said the praetor's officer," accepts the prisoner as the Lady Constanzia of Besnit."
The clerk made a notation on his records.
"You are now within the custody of the court of the commercial praetor of Treve," said the officer.
"I understand, your honor," she said.
"There is also the matter of the necklace," said the praetor's officer.
The clerk then produced, holding it out, a large, impressive necklace, with many strands, containing many stones. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
"Do you recognize the necklace?" asked the praetor's officer.
"It seems to be that which I selected in the shop of the jeweler in Besnit, before my abduction," she said.
"It is," he said.
"Yes, your honor," she said.
"And was it not to obtain such a thing that you went to the jeweler's shop?"
"It was, your honor," she said.
"Were you not careless of your safety?" he asked.
"Yes, your honor," she said.
"It was not wise, was it?" he asked.
"No, your honor."
"And then you were captured?"
"Yes, your honor."
"Why did you enter the shop?" he asked.
"To obtain such a thing, or things," she said. "I wanted such things."
"But you were rich."
"I wanted more," she said.
"Such greed," he said, "is unbecoming in a free woman."
"Yes, your honor."
"It would be more appropriate," he said, "in a slave girl."
"Yes, your honor," she said.
"Destroy the necklace," said the praetor's officer to the clerk.
"Your honor!" cried the Lady Constanzia.
"It is paste," said the praetor's officer.
We watched as the clerk struck a fire-maker, one used to melt wax for seals, and set the flame to the necklace. The flames sped from paste stone to paste stone, and the whole was then dropped to the side, flickering and smoldering.
"Such things are seldom used in ransom captures," said the praetor's officer. "They are usually used in luring of free women by slavers."
We watched smoke curl upward from the necklace.
"It was kept on me until I came to this city, which I now learn, by your words, is Treve," she said. "I thought it a joke, that I should be made to wear it, that all might see me in it, and realize how it had been used in my abduction, and that I wore it, such a rich thing, but, captive, could not profit from it."
"The joke," said the praetor's officer, "was richer then you understood."
"Yes, your honor," she whispered.
"Do you know the identity of your redemptor?" asked the praetor's officer.
"Yes, your honor," she said. "They are my brothers."
"Do you recall," he asked, "when you were first in your house, and mistress of your enterprises, a certain matter of business, from more than three years ago, conducted with the house of William, in Harfax?"
"Your honor?" she asked.
"There was the cashing of letters of credit in Besnit, from the house of William, in Harfax, letters the House of William had drawn on the street of coins in Brundisium, to be used in the purchase of ingots in Esalinus, these to be melted down in Besnit and there, in Besnit, to be formed into the wares for which she is famous, thence to be sent to the house of William, for resale though the house of William to the shops of Harfax and elsewhere, even as far away as the Market of Semris, Corcyrus, Argentum, Torcadino, and Ar."
The Lady Constanzia put down her head.
"The gold was fairly purchased at competitive prices," said the praetor's officer. "And the wares were made under the supervision of your house, and according to your specifications. But the wares were mismarked. Their gold content was not that agreed upon. The wares were muchly debased from the original agreements. Your house made an excellent profit on the matter, retaining the extra gold for your own coffers. Testimony from a metal worker, one traveling from Besnit to Brundisium, one who had been engaged in the manufacture of the wares in Besnit, seeing such articles in Harfax, and noting them marked as they were, in a way he knew false, alerted the house of William. They had not hitherto conducted tests, as the reputation of your house, prior to your accession as mistress of its enterprises, had been faultless. The wares were recalled and remarked. Much did the reputation of the house of William suffer. In time the street of coins in Brundisium demand repayment of its loans. The house of William was in jeopardy. Only two years later did it manage to recoup its losses, and to rebuild its fortunes. You may suspect that much bad blood then existed between your house and that of William, in Harfax."
"Yes, your honor," she said.
"Do you know now," asked the praetor's officer, "who your redemptor is?"
"Surely," she said. "My brothers."
"No," he said.
"I do not understand," she said, puzzled.
"It was naturally intended that your brothers, your won house, should be your redemptor," said the praetor's officer. "Naturally it was with such a redemption in mind that you were abducted for ransom."
"They are not the redemptor?" she asked.
"Surely you were aware of delays in the matter of your ransom," said the praetor's officer.
"Yes, your honor," she said.
"Your brothers refused to pay," said the praetor's officer. "Indeed, from their point of view, why should they? They were now first in their house, and master of its fortunes. If you were to return they would be reduced, again, to second."
Lady Constanzia looked up at him.
"Their sense of honor seems to be equivalent to your own," he said. "They would seem to be the fit brothers of such a sister, and you the fit sister of such brothers."
"Why, then," she asked, "is my redemptor?"
"Kneel," said he, "prisoner."
The Lady Constanzia knelt in the center of the scarlet circle.
"Your redemptor," said he, "is the house of William, in Harfax."
She looked up at him, started.
"An oath, it seems, was sworn," said the praetor's officer. "This oath was sworn upon the honor of the house of William, in Harfax. It was in this oath sworn that you were to be brought to the house of William as a slave, and put naked and in chains at the feet of the master of the house. Your disposition will be in accord with the provisions of this oath."
She trembled, kneeling on the scarlet circle.
"Do you not wish to leap up, and try to escape?" asked the praetor's officer. "Do you not wish to protest, to cry out, to beg for mercy? Do you not wish to bemoan your fate, to tear your clothing?"
"No, your honor," she said.
"What have you to say?" he asked, puzzled.
"I will attempt to serve my master to the best of my abilities," she said.
"I can guarantee it," said the praetor's officer. Then he lifted certain papers on his desk. "It is to be done in this fashion," he said to the clerk. "She is to be stripped and branded, and put in a holding collar. She is also to be gagged, for her words, her please, her remonstrations or such, will be of no avail, nor will they be of interest to those of the house of William, in Harfax. Let them not then be disturbed by them. She is then to be placed in an outer robe of concealment, the outer robe only, but also hooded and veiled. Then, hands bound behind her, on a rope, at the tenth Ahn, she is to be brought to this place. Here she will be delivered into the hands not of an agent of the house of William but into the hands of one of that house itself, the youngest and least of that house, who has come to Treve for this purpose, to acquire her, to whom she is to be given as a slave."
"Her disposition will be decided by higher authority," said the officer. "I may ask for her myself. I think she will be lovely, curled in the furs at my feet."
"We shall see about that," said Tersius Major.
"It is not impossible that a praetor may speak for her, even a stratigos or a polemarkos."
"Does the proscription list not mean death?" she asked.
"Strictly," I said, "it means apprehension, but it is true, that it is commonly a warrant for death, certainly for males, and often for women, free women."
"They wanted our blood," she said.
"At the time, in the rage of the crowd, I do not doubt it," I said. "But, now, you might rather be brought before a praetor, for the iron and the collar."