These are relevant references from the Books where Trials 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,
Click one of the links to jump down to that example.
Trial Example 1
Trial Example 2
Trial Example 3
Trial Example 4
Trial Example 5
Trial Example 6
Trial Example 7
Trial Example 8
Trial Example 9
At last I found myself in a large, vaulted room, lit by torches set in the walls. In spite of its loftiness, it too was plain, like the other rooms and passageways I had seen, somber, oppressive. Only one adornment relieved the walls of their melancholy aspect, the image of a gigantic golden mask, carved in the likeness of a beautiful woman. Beneath this mask, there was, on a high dais, a monumental throne of gold.
On the broad steps leading to the throne, there were curule chairs, on which sat, I supposed, members of the High Council of Tharna. Their glittering silver masks, each carved in the image of the same beautiful woman, regarded me expressionlessly.
About the room, here and there, stood stern warriors of Tharna, grim in their blue helmets, each with a tiny silver mask on the temple members of the palace guard. One such helmeted warrior stood near the foot of the throne. There seemed to be something familiar about him.
On the throne itself there sat a woman, proud, lofty in haughty dignity, garbed regally in majestic robes of golden cloth, wearing a mask not of silver but of pure gold, carved like the others in the image of a beautiful woman. The eyes behind the glittering mask of gold regarded me. No one need tell me that I stood in the presence of Lara, Tatrix of Tharna.
The warrior at the foot of the throne removed his helmet. It was Thorn, Captain of Tharna, whom I had met in the fields far from the city. His narrow eyes, like those of an urt, looked upon me contemptuously.
He strode to face me.
"Kneel," he commanded. "You stand before Lara, Tatrix of Tharna."
I would not kneel.
Thorn kicked my feet from under me, and, under the weight of the yoke, I crashed to the floor, helpless.
"The whip," said Thorn, extending his hand. The burly man in wrist straps placed it in his hand. Thorn lifted the instrument to lay my back open with its harsh stroke.
"Do not strike him," said an imperious voice, and the whip arm of Thorn dropped as though the muscles had been cut. The voice came from the woman behind the golden mask, Lara herself. I was grateful.
Hot with sweat, each fiber in my body screaming in agony, I managed to gain my knees. Thorn's hand would allow me to rise no further. I knelt, yoked, before the Tatrix of Tharna.
The eyes behind the yellow mask regarded me, curiously.
"Is it thus, Stranger," she asked, her tones cold, "that you expected to carry from the city the wealth of Tharna?"
I was puzzled, my body was racked with pain, my vision was blurred with sweat.
"The yoke is of silver," said she, "from the mines of Tharna."
I was stunned, for if the yoke was truly of silver, the metal on my shoulders might have ransomed a Ubar.
"We of Tharna," said the Tatrix, "think so little of riches that we use them to yoke slaves."
My angry glare told her that I did not consider myself a slave.
From the curule chair beside the throne rose another woman, wearing an intricately wrought silver mask and magnificent robes of rich silver cloth. She stood haughtily beside the Tatrix, the expressionless silver mask gleaming down at me, hideous in the torchlight it reflected. Speaking to the Tatrix, but not turning the mask from me, she said, "Destroy the animal." It was a cold, ringing voice, clear, decisive, authoritative.
"Does the law of Tharna not give it the right to speak, Dorna the Proud, Second in Tharna?" asked the Tatrix, whose voice, too, was imperious and cold, yet pleased me more than the tones of she who wore the silver mask.
"Does the law recognize beasts?" asked the woman whose name was Dorna the Proud. It was almost as if she challenged her Tatrix, and I wondered if Dorna the Proud was content to be Second in Tharna. The sarcasm in her voice had been ill concealed.
The Tatrix did not choose to respond to Dorna the Proud.
"Has he still his tongue?" asked the Tatrix of the man with the wrist straps, who stood behind me.
"Yes, Tatrix," said the man.
I thought that the woman in the silver mask, who had been spoken of as Second in Tharna, seemed to stiffen with apprehension at this revelation. The silver mask turned upon the man in wrist straps. His voice stammered, and I wondered if, behind me, his burly frame trembled. "It was the wish of the Tatrix that the slave be yoked and brought to the Chamber of the Golden Mask as soon as possible, and unharmed."
I smiled to myself, thinking of the teeth of the urt and the whip, both of which had found my flesh.
"Why did you not kneel, Stranger?" asked the Tatrix of Tharna.
"I am a warrior," I responded.
"You are a slave!" hissed Dorna the Proud from behind that expressionless mask. Then she turned to the Tatrix. "Remove his tongue!" she said.
"Do you give orders to she who is First in Tharna?" asked the Tatrix.
"No, Beloved Tatrix," said Dorna the Proud.
"Slave," said the Tatrix.
I did not acknowledge the salutation.
"Warrior," she said.
Beneath the yoke I raised my eyes to her mask. In her hand, covered with a glove of gold, she held a small, dark leather sack, half filled with coins. I assumed they were the coins of Ost and wondered where the conspirator might be. "Confess that you stole these coins from Ost of Tharna," said the Tatrix.
"I stole nothing," I said. "Release me."
Thorn laughed unpleasantly from behind me.
"I advise you," said the Tatrix, "to confess."
I gathered that, for some reason, she was eager that I plead guilty to the crime, but as I was innocent, I refused.
"I did not steal the coins," I said.
"Then, Stranger," said the Tatrix, "I am sorry for you."
I could not understand her remark, and my back felt ready to snap under the weight of the yoke. My neck ached under its weight. The sweat poured down my body and my back still stung from the lash.
"Bring in Ost!" ordered the Tatrix.
I thought Dorna the Proud stirred uneasily in the curule chair. She smoothed the silver folds of her robes with a nervous hand, gloved in silver.
There was a whimpering and a scuffling from behind me, and, to my astonishment, one of the guardsman of the palace, the tiny silver mask blazed across the left temple of his helmet, flung Ost, the conspirator, yoked and sniveling, to the foot of the throne. Ost's yoke was much lighter than mine but, as he was a smaller man, the weight might have been as much for him.
"Kneel to the Tatrix," commanded Thorn, who still retained the whip.
Ost, squealing with fear, tried to rise, but could not lift the yoke.
Thorn's whip hand was raised.
I expected the Tatrix to intervene on his behalf, as she had on mine, but, instead, she said nothing. She seemed to be watching me. I wondered what thoughts glittered behind that placid mask of gold.
"Do not strike him," I said.
Without taking her eyes from me, Lara spoke to Thorn. "Prepare to strike," she said.
The yellowish, purple-marked face split into a grin and Thorn's fist tightened on the whip. He did not take his eyes from the Tatrix, wanting to strike at the first instant she permitted the blow.
"Rise," said the Tatrix to Ost, "or you will die on your belly like the serpent you are."
"I can't," wept Ost. "I can't."
The Tatrix coldly lifted her gloved hand. When it fell so too would the whip.
"No," I said.
Slowly, every muscle straining to keep my balance, the cords in my legs and back like tortured cables, I reached out my hand to Ost's and, struggling in agony to keep my balance, added the weight of his yoke to mine as I drew him to his knees.
There was a gasp from the silver-masked women in the room. One or two of the warriors, heedless of the proprieties of Tharna, acknowledged my deed by smiting their shields with the bronze heads of their spears.
Thorn, in irritation, hurled the whip back into the hands of the man with wrist straps.
"You are strong," said the Tatrix of Tharna.
"Strength is the attribute of beasts," said Dorna the Proud.
"True," said the Tatrix.
"Yet he is a fine beast, is he not?" asked one of the silver-masked women.
"Let him be used in the Amusements of Tharna," urged another.
Lara held up her gloved hand for silence.
"How is it," I asked, "that you spare a warrior the whip and would use it on so miserable a wretch as Ost?"
"I had hoped you guiltless, Stranger," said she. "The guilt of Ost I know."
"I am guiltless," I said.
"Yet," said she, "you admit you did not steal the coins."
My brain reeled. "That is true," I said, "I did not steal the coins."
"Then you are guilty," said the voice of Lara, I thought sadly.
"Of what?" I asked to know.
"Of conspiracy against the throne of Tharna," said the Tatrix.
I was dumbfounded.
"Ost," said the Tatrix, her voice like ice, "you are guilty of treason against Tharna. It is known you conspire against the throne."
One of the guards, the fellow who had brought Ost in, spoke. "It is as your spies reported, Tatrix. In his quarters were found seditious documents, letters of instruction pertaining to the seizure of the throne, sacks of gold to be used in obtaining accomplices."
"Has he confessed these things as well?" asked Lara.
Ost blubbered helplessly for mercy, his thin neck wiggling in the yoke.
The guardsman laughed. "One sight of the white urt and he admitted all."
"Who, Serpent," asked the Tatrix, "supplied the gold? From whom came the letters of instruction?"
"I do not know, Beloved Tatrix," whined Ost. "The letters and the gold were delivered by a helmeted warrior."
"To the urt with him!" sneered Dorna the Proud.
"What more do you know of this plot against the throne?" asked Lara of the sniveling Ost.
"Nothing, Beloved Tatrix," he whimpered.
"Very well," said Lara, and turned the glittering mask to the guardsman who had hurled the yoked Ost to her feet, "take him to the Chamber of the Urts."
"No, no, no!" whimpered Ost. "I know more, more!"
The silver-masked women leaned forward in their chairs. Only the Tatrix herself and Dorna the Proud sat straight. Although the room was cool I noted that Thorn, Captain of Tharna, was sweating. His hands clenched and unclenched.
"What more do you know?" demanded the Tatrix.
Ost looked about himself as well as he could, his eyes bulging with terror.
"Do you know the warrior who brought you the letters and gold?" she demanded.
"Him I do not know," said Ost.
"Let me," begged Thorn, "bloody the yoke." He drew his sword. "Let me end this wretch here!"
"No," said Lara. "What more then do you know, Serpent?" she asked the miserable conspirator.
"I know," said Ost, "that the leader of the conspiracy is a high person in Tharna - one who wears the silver mask, a woman."
"Unthinkable!" cried Lara, rising to her feet. "None who wear the silver mask could be disloyal to Tharna!"
"Yet it is so," sniveled Ost.
"Who is the traitress?" demanded Lara.
"I do not know her name," said Ost.
"But," said Ost, hopefully, "I once spoke with her and I might recognize her voice if I were but allowed to live."
Thorn laughed again. "It is a trick to buy his life."
"What think you, Dorna the Proud?" asked Lara of she who Was Second in Tharna.
But instead of answering, Dorna the Proud seemed strangely silent. She extended her silver-gloved hand, palm facing her body and chopped brutally down with it, as though it might have been a blade.
"Mercy, Great Dorna!" screamed Ost.
Dorna repeated the gesture, slowly, cruelly.
But the hands of Lara were extended, palms up, and she lifted them slightly; it was a gracious gesture that spoke of mercy.
"Thank you, Beloved Tatrix," whimpered Ost, his eyes bursting with tears, "Thank you!"
"Tell me, Serpent," said Lara, "did the warrior steal the coins from you?"
"No, no," blubbered Ost.
"Did you give them to him?" she demanded.
"I did," he said. "I did."
"And did he accept them?" she asked.
"He did," said Ost.
"You pressed the coins upon me and ran," I said. "I had no choice."
"He accepted the coins," muttered Ost, looking at me malevolently, determined apparently that I would share whatever fate lay in store for him.
"I had no choice," I said calmly.
Ost shot a venomous look in my direction.
"If I were a conspirator," I said, "if I were in league with this man, why would he have charged me with the theft of the coins, why would he have had me arrested?"
Ost blanched. His tiny, rodentlike mind scurried from thought to thought, but his mouth only moved uncontrollably, silently.
Thorn spoke. "Ost knew himself to be suspected of plotting against the throne."
Ost looked puzzled.
"Thus," said Thorn, "to make it seem he had not given the money to this warrior, or assassin as the case may be, he pretended it had been stolen from him. In that way he might at one time appear free from guilt and destroy the man who knew of his complicity."
"That is me," exclaimed Ost gratefully, eager to take his cue from so powerful a figure as Thorn.
"How is it that Ost gave you the coins, Warrior?" asked the Tatrix.
"Ost gave them to me," I said, "- as a gift."
Thorn threw back his head and laughed.
"Ost never gave anything away in his life," roared Thorn, wiping his mouth, struggling to regain his composure.
There was even a slight sound of amusement from the silver-masked figures who sat upon the steps to the throne.
Ost himself snickered.
But the mask of the Tatrix glittered upon Ost, and his snicker died in his thin throat. The Tatrix arose from her throne, and pointed her finger at the wretched conspirator. Her voice was cold as she spoke to the guardsman who had brought him to the chamber. "To the mines with him," she said.
"No, Beloved Tatrix, no!" cried Ost. Terror, like a trapped cat, seemed to scratch behind his eyes, and he began to shake in his yoke like a diseased animal. Scornfully the guardsman lifted him to his feet and dragged him stumbling and whimpering from the room. I gathered the sentence to the mines was equivalent to a sentence of death.
"You are cruel," I said to the Tatrix.
"A Tatrix must be cruel," said Dorna.
"That," I said, "I would hear from the mouth of the Tatrix herself."
Dorna stiffened at the rebuff.
After a time the Tatrix, who had resumed her throne, spoke. Her voice was quiet. "Sometimes, Stranger," she said, "it is hard to be First in Tharna."
I had not expected that answer.
I wondered what sort of woman was the Tatrix of. Tharna, what lay concealed behind that mask of gold. For a moment I felt sorry for the golden creature before whose throne I knelt.
"As for you," said Lara, her mask glittering down upon me, "you admit that you did not steal the coins from Ost, and in this admission you admit that he gave them to you."
"He thrust them in my hand," I said, "and ran." I looked at the Tatrix. "I came to Tharna to obtain a tarn. I had no money. With Ost's coins I could have purchased one and continued my journey. Should I have thrown them away?"
"These coins," said Lara, holding the tiny sack in her hand, gloved in gold, "were to buy my death."
"So few coins?" I asked skeptically.
"Obviously the full sum would follow upon the accomplishment of the deed," she said.
"The coins were a gift," I said. "Or so I thought."
"I do not believe you," she said.
I was silent.
"What full sum did Ost offer you?" she asked.
"I refused to be a party to his schemes," I said.
"What full sum did Ost offer you?" repeated the Tatrix.
"He spoke," I said, "of a tarn, a thousand golden tarn disks and provisions for a long journey."
"Golden tarn disks - unlike those of silver - are scarce in Tharna," said the Tatrix. "Someone is apparently willing to pay highly for my death."
"Not your death," I said.
"Then what?" she asked.
"Your abduction," I said.
The Tatrix stiffened suddenly, her entire body trembling with fury. She rose, seemingly beside herself with rage.
"Bloody the yoke," urged Dorna.
Thorn stepped forward, his blade raised.
"No," screamed the Tatrix, and, to the astonishment of all, herself descended the broad steps of the dais.
Shaking with fury she stood before me, over me, in her golden robes and mask. "Give me the whip!" she cried. "Give it to me!" The man with the wrist straps hastily knelt before her, lifting it to her hands. She snapped it cruelly in the air, and its report was sharp and vicious.
"So," she said to me, both hands clenched on the butt of the whip, "you would have me before you on the scarlet rug bound with yellow cords, would you?"
I did not understand her meaning.
"You would have me in a camisk and collar would you?" she hissed hysterically.
The women of the silver masks recoiled, shuddering. There were exclamations of anger, of horror.
"I am a woman of Tharna," she screamed, "First in Tharna! First!"
Then, beside herself with rage, holding the whip in both hands, she lashed madly at me. "It is the kiss of the whip for you!" she screamed. Again and again she struck me, yet through it all I managed to stay on my knees, not to fall.
My senses reeled, my body, tortured by the weight of the silver yoke, now wrapped in the flames of the whip, shook with uncontrollable agony. Then, when the Tatrix had exhausted herself, by some effort I find it hard to comprehend, I managed to stand on my feet, bloody, wearing the yoke, my flesh in tatters, and look down upon her.
She turned and fled to the dais. She ran up the steps and turned only when she stood at last before her throne.
She pointed her hand imperiously at me, that hand wearing its glove of gold, now spattered with my blood, wet and dark from the sweat of her hand.
"Let him be used in the Amusements of Tharna!" she said.
The bodies of the two girls, stripped, lay on the narrow rectangles, networks, of knotted ropes, on the racks. The ropes, slung, were pressed down with their weight. Their hands were at their sides, but ropes were attached to them, and fixed on the axle of the windlass, above their heads. Both wore collars. Their ankles were roped to the foot of the device.
I knelt on the circle of accusation. My wrists were manacled behind my back. On my neck, hammered, was a heavy ring of iron, with two welded rings, one on each side, to which chains were attached, these chains in the hands of guards. I was stripped. My ankles were chained.
"Cut him down!" had cried Ibn Sarah, raising his scimitar.
"No!" had said Shakar, captain of the Aretai, staying his arm. "That would be too easy."
Smiling, Ibn Saran had sheathed his weapon.
Ropes had been put upon me.
I struggled in the chains. I was helpless.
"Let the testimony of slaves be taken," said the judge.
The red-haired girl on the rack cried out in misery. The testimony of slaves, in a Gorean court, is commonly taken under torture.
Two brawny male slaves, stripped to the waist, spun the two handles on the racks.
The red-haired girl, she who had been one of the matched set of slaves, who had had in her charge the tray of spoons and sugars, wept. Her wrists, and those of the other girl, as the long wooden handles turned, were pulled up and over her head. The red-haired girl writhed on the cords. "Master!" she wept.
Ibn Saran, in silken kaftan, and kaffiyeh and agal, strode to the rack.
"Do not be frightened, pretty Zaya," he said. "Remember to tell the truth, and only the truth."
"I will, Master!" she wept. "I will."
At a sign from the judge the handle moved once, dropping the wooden pawl into the ratchet notch. Her body was now tight on the rack; her toes were pointed; her hands were high over her head, the rough rope slipped up her wrists, prohibited from moving further by its knots and the wide part of her hands.
"Listen carefully, little Zaya," said Ibn Saran. "And think carefully."
The girl nodded.
"Did you see who it was who struck noble Suleiman Pasha?"
"Yes," she cried. "It was he! He! It was he, as you, my Master, have informed the court." The girl turned her head to the side, to regard me. "He!" she cried.
Ibn Saran smiled.
"Hamid it was!" I cried, struggling to my feet. "It was Hamid, lieutenant to Shakar!"
Hamid, standing to one side, did not deign to look upon me. There were angry murmurs from the men assembled in the court.
"Hamid," said Shakar, not pleased, standing near, "is a trusted man." And he added, "And he is Aretai."
"Should you persist in accusing Hamid," said the judge, "your penalties will be the more severe."
"He it was," said I, "who struck Suleiman."
"Kneel," said the judge.
The judge signaled again to the slave who controlled the handle of the red-haired girl's rack. "No, please!" she screamed.
Once more the handle moved and the pawl slipped into a new notch on the ratchet. Her body, now, was lifted from the network of knotted ropes and hung, suspended, between the two axles of the rack.
"Masters!" she cried. "Masters! I have told the truth! The truth!"
The pawl was moved yet another notch. The girl, now hurt, screamed.
"Have you told the truth, pretty Zaya?" inquired Ibn Saran.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!" she wept.
At a signal from the judge the handle was released. The axle of the windlass at the girl's head spun back and her body fell into the network of knotted ropes. One of the slaves removed the ropes from her wrists and ankles. She could not move, so terrified she was. He then threw her to the side of a wall, where another slave, pushing against the side of her neck, fastened a snap catch on her collar, securing her by a chain to a ring in the floor. She lay there, trembling.
"Let the testimony of the second slave be taken," said the judge.
Her wrists were already over her head. She was stripped. She looked at me. She wore a collar.
"Think now, my pretty," said Ibn Saran. "Think carefully, my pretty."
She was the other girl of the matched set, the other white-skinned wench, who had had in her charge the silvered, long-spouted vessel of black wine.
"Think carefully now, pretty Vella," said Ibn Saran.
"I will, Master," she said.
"If you tell the truth," he said, "you will not be hurt."
"I will tell the truth, Master," she said. Ibn Saran nodded to the judge.
The judge lifted his hand and the handle on the girl's rack moved once. She closed her eyes. Her body was now tight on the rack; her toes were pointed; her hands were high over her head, the rope tight, taut, on her wrists.
"What is the truth, pretty Vella?" asked Ibn Saran.
She opened her eyes. She did not look at him. "The truth," she said, "is as Ibn Saran says."
"Who struck noble Suleiman Pasha?" asked Ibn Saran, quietly.
The girl turned her head to look at me. "He," she said. "He it was who struck Suleiman Pasha."
My face betrayed no emotion.
At a signal from the judge the slave at the handle of the girl's rack, pushing it with his two hands, moved the handle. When the pawl slipped into its notch her body was held, tight, suspended, between the two axles of the rack.
"In the confusion," said Ibn Saran, "it was he, the accused, who struck Suleiman Pasha, and then went, with others, to the window."
"Yes," said the girl.
"I saw it," said Ibn Saran. "But not I alone saw it."
"No, Master," she said.
"Who else saw?" he asked.
"Vella and Zaya, slaves," she said.
"Pretty Zaya," said he, "has given witness that it was the accused who struck Suleiman Pasha."
"It is true," said the girl.
"Why do you, slaves, tell the truth?" he asked.
"We are slaves," she said. "We fear to lie."
"Excellent," he said. She hung in the ropes, taut. She did not speak.
"Look now again, carefully, upon the accused."
She looked at me. "Yes, Master," she said.
"Was it he who struck Suleiman Pasha?" asked Ibn Saran.
"Yes, Master," she said. "It was he."
The judge gave a signal and the long handle of the rack, fitting through a rectangular hole in the axle, moved again. The girl winced, but she did not cry out.
"Look again carefully upon the accused," said Ibn Saran. I saw her eyes upon me. "Was it he who struck Suleiman Pasha?"
"It was he," she said.
"Are you absolutely certain?" he asked.
"Yes," she said.
"It is enough," said the judge. He gave a signal. The handle spun back. The girl's body fell into the network of knotted ropes. She turned her face to me. She smiled, slightly.
The ropes were removed from her wrists and ankles. One of the male slaves lifted her from the rack and threw her to the foot of the wall, beside the other girl. The slave there took her by the hair, holding her head down, and, between the back of her neck and the collar, thrust a snap catch, closing it. He then, roughly, burning the side of her neck, slid the catch about her collar, to the front; there he jerked it against her collar; the chain then, which fastened her, like the other girl, to a ring in the floor, ran to her collar, under her chin. She kept her head down, a slave.
The judge, on the testimony of Ibn Saran, and that of two white-skinned, female slaves, one named Zaya, a red-haired girl, the other a dark-haired girl, whose name was Vella, had sentenced me as a criminal, a would-be assassin, to the secret brine pits of Klima, deep in the dune country, there to dig until the salt, the sun, the slave masters, had finished with me. From the secret pits of Klima, it was said, no slave had ever returned.
His first case dealt with a widow who had been defrauded by a creditor. The fellow was dragged screaming from the court. His hands would be cut off, as those of a common thief. His properties were to be confiscated and divided, half to the widow and half, predictably, to the state.
The next fellow was an actual thief, a mere boy, who had stolen vegetables. It turned out that he had been hungry and had actually begged work in the gardens of his victim. "No one who wants to work in my Ubarate," said Bila Huruma, "will go hungry." He then directed that the boy be given work, if he wished, in his own gardens, which were considerable. I supposed that if one did not wish to work, one might well expect to starve. Bila Huruma, I conjectured, was not one to be patient with laggards. Fairness is a central thesis of sound governance.
Two murderers were next brought to him for sentencing. The first, a commoner, had slain a boatsman from Schendi. The second, an askari, had killed another askari. The commoner was ordered to have his fingers cut off and then be put upon a tharlarion pole in Lake Ushindi. That his fingers be removed was accounted mercy on the part of Bila Huruma, that he be able to cling less long to the pole and his miseries be the sooner terminated. He had slain not one of the domain of Bila Huruma but one of Schendi. His crime, thus, was regarded as the less heinous. The askari was ordered to be speared to death by one of his own kin. In this fashion his honor would be protected and there would be no beginning of a possible blood feud between families. The askari petitioned, however, to be permitted to die instead fighting the enemies of the Ubarate. This petition was denied on the grounds that he had, by slaying his comrade, not permitted this same privilege to him. This judgment was accepted unquestioningly by the askari. "But am I not of my own kin, my Ubar?" he asked. "Yes," had said Bila Huruma. He was taken outside. He would be given a short-handled stabbing spear and would be permitted to throw himself upon it.
The next fellow had lied about his taxes. He would be hung, a hook through his tongue, in a market. His properties were to be confiscated and distributed, half to be given to members of his village and half to the state. It was conjectured that, when he was removed from the pole, if he were still alive, he would be more careful in his accounts.
From outside I heard the cry of the askari. He had performed upon himself the justice of Bila Huruma.
The next to appear before Bila Huruma were two members of the nobility, a man and his companion. He complained of her that she had been unwilling to please him. By one word and a stroke of his hand between them Bila Huruma dissolved their companionship. He then ordered that the man be put in the dress of a woman and beaten from the court with sticks. This was done. He then ordered that the woman be stripped and a vine leash be put on her neck. She was then sentenced to a barrack of askaris for a year, that she might learn how to please men.
Kisu, the rebel, in chains, was then dragged before Bila Huruma. He was thrown upon his knees. He was sentenced to the canal, to be put upon the rogues' chain, that he might now, at last, well serve his sovereign, Bila Huruma. Kisu, kept on his knees, was then dragged to one side. Next to approach Bila Huruma was Mwoga, ambassador of the villages of Ukungu, representative of the high chief, Aibu, who had organized the chiefs of Ukungu against Kisu, and deposed him. He presented gifts, skins and feathers, and brass rings and the teeth of tharlarion, to Bila Huruma, and swore to him the fealty of the Ukungu villages. Too, to seal the bonds of these political bargains, he, on behalf of Aibu, offered to Bila Huruma the very daughter of the high chief, Aibu, himself, a girl named Tende, as one of his companions.
"Is she beautiful?" asked Bila Huruma.
"Yes," responded Mwoga.
Bila Huruma shrugged. "It does not matter," he said. I supposed it did not matter. There were doubtless many womens' courts in his house. He had, I had heard, already more than two hundred companions, not to mention perhaps twice the number of slave girls, captures, purchases and gifts. If the body of Tende appealed to him he could get heirs upon it. If it did not, he could forget her, leaving her neglected, a sequestered souvenir of state, another girl lost in one of the womens' courts in the palace.
"May I address our prisoner?" inquired Mwoga.
"Yes," said Bila Huruma.
"Is Tende not beautiful?" he asked.
"Yes," said Kisu, "and she is as proud and cold as she is beautiful."
"Too bad she is not a slave," said Bila Huruma. "She might then be made to crawl and cry out in passion."
"She is worthy to be a slave," said Kisu. "She is the daughter of the traitor, Aibu!"
Bile Huruma lifted his hand. "Take him away," he said. Kisu was dragged, struggling, from the court.
Mwoga shortly thereafter, bowing and stepping backwards, took his leave.
Msaliti then appeared by my side, and thrust me gently, through the crowd, forward. "Be ready," he said.
Bile Huruma and those about him, including Shaba, regarded me. Shaba gave no sign that he recognized me. If he revealed that I was not what I seemed, it might seem reasonable to inquire into the sources of his knowledge. It would then be a short step to making clear his involvement with the ring. Such a trinket, doubtless, would be of great interest to the Ubar, Bila Huruma. It was not in the best interest of Shaba, or myself, or Msaliti, for the power of the ring to come to the attention of the sovereign of this vast equatorial Ubarate.
When I was near Bila Huruma I was to draw the dagger, slay Shaba and then, by prearranged plan, be immediately apprehended by askari guardsmen, to be placed under arrest.
Msaliti was supposed to obtain the ring from the body of Shaba. I was later supposed to receive a hundred tarns of gold and my freedom. I smiled to myself.
"Are you armed?" asked Msaliti, both in the inland speech, some of which I had learned from Ayari, and in Gorean.
"Why, yes," I said pleasantly, revealing the sleeve sheath, and handing him the dagger.
For an instant, just an instant, I saw in the eyes of Msaliti a flash of incredible fury. Then he nodded, and accepted the dagger, which he handed to an askari.
I showed the sleeve sheath to Bila Huruma, who was interested in it. Such sheaths are common in the Tahari but, in the equatorial interior, where men are commonly bare-armed, I gathered they were an interesting novelty.
Bila Huruma said something to an aide. It had to do with seeing that a robe was made for him which contained such a device.
"Greetings, Great Ubar," said I, "and noble gentlemen, all." I smiled at Shaba. "I bring you greetings from the merchant council of Teletus, that council sovereign in that free island. Aware of the wealth and mighty projects of the Ubarate we desire to arrange the apparatus for commercial interaction with your state. Should the great canal be completed we are well aware that this Ubarate will become a crucial link between the equatorial east and west. We now wish, as doubtless will other merchant holdings, such as our sisters, Schendi and Bazi, to accord you our best wishes and to sue for your favor, that our shipping and merchants may be permitted to prove themselves of service in your future ventures."
Msaliti did his best, not happily, to translate this for Bila Huruma.
I wished to make such declarations for various reasons. First I thought it possible that some of the blacks in the room, besides Shaba and Msaliti, perhaps close counselors of Bila Huruma, might know Gorean. It was important to me to seem to be truly an envoy from Teletus. Secondly, I thought it might be amusing to try my hand at diplomatic bombast. I seldom received such an opportunity, and I have always been impressed by that sort of thing. I gathered, from the looks of those about, that the sort of things I said were the usual sorts of things, mostly vacuous, which are said upon such occasions. This pleased me. Thirdly, I think I might have enjoyed discomfiting Msaliti, hoisting him, so to speak, by his own petard.
Msaliti then signaled to a man who brought forward the gifts for Bila Huruma, in the small coffer.
He acknowledged them, and then they were put to the side. I was informed, through Msaliti, the Ubar speaking, that the greetings of Teletus were accepted, that his Ubarate expressed similar greetings to those of the island, that his Ubarate appreciated our interest in its future and that his wazir of trade would speak to me within the next ten days. I then, as I had seen others do, smiled and bowed, and, walking backward, withdrew from his presence.
The next envoy was from Bazi. He presented to Bila Huruma four chests of gold, and ten black slave girls, nude, in golden chains.
This did not much please me. I thought that Msaliti might have done better on behalf of Teletus. The envoy from Bazi, I noted, would receive an audience with the wazir of trade within five days.
Shortly after the business with the envoy of Bazi the court of Bila Huruma was adjourned.
"We seek Zarendargar," said Kog. "We are his appointed executioners."
Yet there was something puzzling to me in these matters. I could not fully understand what it was. For one thing, I doubted that Zarendargar was in hiding. Yet, otherwise, I could not explain his presence in the Barrens. Too, I was not fully confident that the artist was dead. He impressed me as a competent and resourceful warrior. The skin, on the other hand, had apparently been traded. I was troubled by these things. I did not understand them.
"His crime was failure?" I asked.
"It is not tolerated on the steel worlds," said Kog, "not in one who is above the rings."
"Doubtless he received a fair trial," I said.
"Judgment was pronounced in accord with the statutes of the steel worlds," said Kog, "by the high council, composed of seventy-two members elected from among the representatives of the thousand cliffs."
"The same council was both judge and jury?" I asked.
"Yes," said Kog, "as is the case in many of your own cities."
"Zarendargar was not present at this trial," I said.
"If the presence of the criminal were required," said Kog, "it would make it impossible, in many cases, to pass judgment."
"That is true," I said.
"A limitation on judicial proceedings of such a sort would be intolerable," said Kog.
"I see," I said.
"Was evidence submitted in support of Zarendargar?" I asked.
"In a case of this sort, evidence against the court is inadmissible," said Kog.
"I see," I said. "Who, then," I asked, "spoke on behalf of Zarendargar?"
"It is wrong to speak on behalf of a criminal," said Kog.
"I understand," I said.
"Due process of law, as you may see," said Kog, "was strictly observed."
"Thank you," I said, "my mind is now satisfactorily relieved on the matter."
Kog's lips drew back over his fangs.
"Even so," I asked, "was the vote unanimous?"
"Unanimity constitutes an impediment to the pursuit of expeditious and efficient justice," said Kog.
"Was the vote unanimous?" I asked.
"No," said Kog.
"Was the vote close?" I asked.
"Why do you ask?" asked Kog.
"I am curious," I said.
"Yes," said Kog, "interestingly, it was."
"Thank you," I said. I knew there were factions among these creatures. I had learned this, clearly, in the Tahari. Too, I suspected some of the council, even if they were not of the party of Zarendargar, would have recognized his value to the steel worlds. He was doubtless one of the finest of their generals.
"There is no division here," I said, "between the political and the judicial."
"All law exists to serve the interests of the dominant powers," said Kog. "Our institutions secure this arrangement, facilitate it and, not unimportantly, acknowledge it. Our institutions are, thus, less dishonest and hypocritical than those of groups which pretend to deny the fundamental nature of social order. Law which is not a weapon and a wall is madness."
"How do we know that you are truly appointed to fulfill the edict of the council?" I asked.
"Do you doubt the word of one who is of the Peoples?" asked Kog.
This was the one case which I remembered the most clearly.
The culprit was a small, vile man with a twisted body. He was an itinerant peddler, Speusippus of Turia. I had found him inutterably detestable. A Corcyran merchant had brought charges against him. He had received a bowl from Speusippus which was purportedly silver, a bowl seemingly stamped with the appropriate seat of Ar. The bowl upon inspection, the merchant becoming suspicious as to the weights involved, had turned out to be merely plated. Further, since the smithies of Ar, those authorized to use the various stamps of Ar, will not plate objects without using relevant variations on the seal of Ar to, indicate this, the object was not only being misrepresented but was, in effect, a forged artifact. This had led to a seizure and search of the stores and records of Speusippus. Various other discrepancies were found. He had two sets of weights, one true and one false. Too, documents were found recording the purchase of quantities of slave hair, at suitable prices, some even within the city of Corcyrus itself. This hair, as was attested to by witnesses, had been represented to the public as that of free women, with appropriate prices being expected.
. . .
I was pleased to see the odious Speusippus turned about by guards and dragged from my presence.
Kajira of Gor Book 19 Pages 68 - 69
"It is now time," said Claudius, the Ubar of Argentum, "to come to the major business of the evening. Let the sack be brought forth."
Two soldiers, from a side room, dragged the golden sack across the floor and put it before the center table, that table where sat Claudius, the members of he high council and other significant guests. At this table, too, sat Ligurious, Miles of Argentum and Drusus Rencius.
"This feast," said Claudius, "is one of victory, one of triumph. Months ago the unprovoked aggression of Corcyrus, seeking the silver of Argentum, was repelled. Further, to ensure our security, and to prevent a repetition of this form of aggression, we fought our way to, and through, the gate of Corcyrus itself. There, abetted by the people of that city, we defeated the forces of the Tatrix of Corcyrus and overthrew her tyrannous regime."
There was Gorean applause at this point, the striking of the left shoulder with the palm of the hand. Even Ligurious, I noted, politely joined in the applause. "The ties of Corcyrus with Cos have now been severed," said Claudius. "She, now, like Argentum, is a free ally of glorious Ar."
Here there was more applause.
"And fortunate is this for her," said Claudius, "for Ar, as she has demonstrated, stands by her allies"
Again there was applause.
"As her allies stand by her!" he added. There was more applause.
Ar, of course, had substantial land forces. She had, doubtless, the largest and best-trained infantry in known Gor. The land forces of Cos, on the other hand, were probably not superior to those of a number of Gorean city states, even much smaller in their populations than the island Ubarate. These balances tended to be reversed dramatically in sea power. Cos had one of the most powerful fleets on Gor. The sea power of Ar, on the hand, was negligible. It consisted largely of a number of ships on the Vosk River, largely wharfed at Ar's Station.
"The villainess in this matter, the culprit, the instigator of all these hostilities, was Sheila, the cruel and wicked Tatrix of Corcyrus."
"Yes, yes!" cried several men.
"She was captured in Corcyrus but, en route to Argentum, escaped. A great search was organized and conducted. A handsome reward was posted. Still, for months she eluded us. Then Hassan, the Slave Hunter, he of Kasra, consented to take up her trail. Her days of freedom were then numbered. In Ar, not two weeks ago, she fell to his bracelets."
There was applause.
"He then saw fit to bring her to us in his own inimitable fashion, in a wagon, like a common girl, tied naked in a slave sack."
There was laughter.
"This time," laughed Claudius, "she did not escape!"
There was more laughter. I saw Ligurious smile.
"It is now time," said Claudius, "to have Sheila, the former Tatrix of Corcyrus, presented before her conquerors, to await their pleasure!"
There was applause.
"Ligurious," said Claudius, turning to him.
Ligurious rose, and walked about the table, to stand before it, and near the sack.
"Many of you know me," said Ligurious, "if only by reputation, as the former first minister of Corcyrus. What many of you may not know is that I was also the secret leader of the resistance in Corcyrus to the rule of Sheila, the Tatrix. For months within her very government I strove to dissuade her from endeavors hostile to the great state of Argentum. I attempted to assert a persistent influence in the directions of harmony and peace. Alas, my efforts were frustrated, my counsels were ignored. The best that I could hope for was to prepare the way for the victorious forces of Argentum, which I managed to do. You may recall the ease with which you took the city, once the great gate was breached."
Drusus Rencius was smiling.
"In this time, of course, I was often in close converse with the Tatrix. In my efforts to convince her of the futility and madness of her policies I was in almost constant proximity to her. I think it may well be said that there is no man on Gor better qualified than I to recognize her, or to identify her for you.
"Thank you, noble Ligurious," said Claudius. "Now," said he, "let Sheila's captor, the noble Hassan, of Kasra, have the honor of presenting her before us, that she may await our pleasure." It was quiet. Men looked about. "Where is Hassan?" asked Claudius.
"He is not here," said a man.
Ligurious looked down, smiling.
Claudius shrugged. "He is perhaps indisposed," he said. "Let the sack be opened!"
Ligurious looked about himself, pleased. He scarcely bothered to note the opening of the sack, and the drawing forth of its helpless, gagged, bound, stripped occupant. She was knelt then, bound hand and foot, naked and gagged, before Claudius and the council.
Ligurious looked about. "Yes," he said, "I know her well. There is no doubt about it." He pointed at the kneeling figure, dramatically, but scarcely looking at her, directing his attention more to the audience. "Yes," he said, "that is she! That is the infamous Tatrix of Corcyrus!"
She uttered wild, tiny, desperate, muted sounds, shaking her head wildly. How well Goreans gag their prisoners and slaves, I thought.
"Do not attempt to deny it, Sheila," said he, scarcely noting her. "You have been perfectly and definitively identified."
She continued to make tiny, desperate, pleading noises. She continued to shake her head, wildly.
Tears flowed from her eyes.
Ligurious then, perhaps curious, regarded her closely. Even then, for a time, I do not think he recognized her. I think this was because of our very close resemblance, and, too, perhaps, because he found it almost impossible to believe that I was not the woman who had been drawn forth from the sack, who now knelt helplessly before Claudius and the council. Then, suddenly, he turned white. "Wait!" he cried. He crouched down, then, and took the woman's head in his hands. Her eyes looked at him wildly, filled with tears. "No!" he cried, suddenly. "No! This is not she!"
"I thought," said Claudius, "that you identified her as Sheila, perfectly and definitively."
"No, no!" said Ligurious. He was shaking. There was sweat on his forehead. "I made a mistake! This is not she!"
"Then where is she?" asked Claudius, angrily.
"I do not know!" said Ligurious, looking wildly about. "Hassan, of Kasra!" called the feast master, from near the door, announcing the arrival of Hassan in the hall.
"I am sorry I am late," said Hassan. "I was temporarily retained. I was attacked by two men. They are now outside my quarters, where I put them, tied back to back. Their arms and legs are broken."
"See that the assailants of Hassan are taken into custody and attended to," said Claudius.
"Yes, Ubar," said two soldiers, and swiftly left the room.
I saw Sheila, at the appearance of Hassan in the hall, immediately put her head down to the tiles. Hassan trained his women perfectly.
"Is this the woman you captured in Ar?" asked Claudius pointing to Sheila.
Hassan walked over to her, pulled her head up by the hair and then, holding her by the arms, put her to her belly, and then turned her from one side to the other, examining her body for tiny marks.
"Yes," he said, "this is she."
The Gorean master commonly knows the bodies of his women. They are, after all, not independent contractual partners, who may simply walk away, but treasured possessions. They receive, accordingly, careful attention. Many women, indeed, are never truly looked at by a man until after they are owned.
He then put Sheila again on her knees before the council.
"Do you believe her to be the Tatrix of Corcyrus?" asked Claudius.
"I believe that she was the Tatrix of Corcyrus," said Hassan, "yes."
"He has never seen her!" shouted Ligurious.
"She was identified by sleen," said Hassan.
"But from false clothing!" cried Ligurious. "She is not the true Tatrix of Corcyrus! But the true Tatrix of Corcyrus is here, somewhere! I am sure of it!"
"How do you know?" asked Claudius.
Ligurious looked down, confused. He could not very well inform the assemblage of the exchange he had attempted to effect earlier in the throne room. "I have seen her here in the palace, somewhere about," he said quickly. "It was she whom I thought was to be withdrawn from the sack."
"My Ubar," said Miles of Argentum, rising to his feet, "reluctant as I am to agree with the former first minister of Corcyrus, and doubtless one of the finest liars on Gor, I think it not impossible that he may have seen Sheila about in the palace, perhaps on her hands and knees scrubbing tiles in a corridor, the type of task to which it has amused me to set her."
Men looked about, wildly, at one another.
"With your permission, my Ubar," said Miles of Argentum. Then, suddenly, sharply, he struck his hands together twice. "Sheila!" he snapped. "Forth!"
Startled, frightened, I parted the headed curtain with my chained hands and, with the small, measured, graceful steps of a woman whose ankles are chained, hurried to him. I knelt on the tiles before the table, before his place, my head down.
"Lift your head," lie said.
I heard cries of astonishment.
"Go, kneel beside the other woman," he said.
"Yes, Master," I said.
"There," cried Ligurious in triumph, "that is the true Sheila, the true Tatrix of Corcyrus!"
"Do you not think you should examine her somewhat more closely?" asked Drusus
Ligurious threw him a look of hatred and then came closer to me. He made a pretense of subjecting me to careful scrutiny. Then he said, "Yes, that is the true Sheila."
"Let them be identically chained," said Claudius.
Miles of Argentum gestured to an officer. He had apparently anticipated this request.
In moments Sheila, freed of the gag and cords, wore chains. We now knelt naked and identically chained, side by side, before Claudius, the Ubar of Argentum. Each of us had our wrists separated by some eighteen inches of chain. Each of us, too, had our ankles separated by a similar length of chain, only a little longer. Another chain, on each of us, ran from the center of our wrist chain to the center of our ankle chain. This central, or middle, chain was about three, and a half feet in length.
"It is a remarkable resemblance," said Claudius, wonderingly.
"They could be twins," said a man.
"You can tell them apart," said a man. "One has shorter hair."
"That is not important," said another.
"There are other differences, too," said a man, "subtle differences, but real differences."
"Yes," said the man, "I see them now." That was he who had suggested that we might be twins. Had we been twins we, at least, would not have been identical twins. Fraternal twins, separate egg twins, two boys, two girls, or a boy and a girl, are not likely to resemble one another any more closely than normal siblings, except, of course, in age.
"If you did not see them together, however," said a man, "it would be extremely difficult to tell them apart."
"Yes," said another.
"I submit, my Ubar," said Miles of Argentum, "that the woman on your left, she with the shorter hair, is she before whom I appeared in Corcyrus, when I brought, at your request, the scrolls of protest to that city."
"Are you certain?" asked Claudius.
"Yes," said Ligurious. "That is true. She is Sheila, the former Tatrix of Corcyrus."
"That is not the one whom the sleen selected," said Hassan.
"I have witnesses who will identify her," said Miles. "I myself am the first such witness. She is Sheila, the Tatrix of Corcyrus.
"How do you know?" asked Drusus Rencius, rising to his feet.
I was startled. How dared he speak?
"The captain from Ar is out of order," said Claudius.
"Please let him speak, noble Claudius," said Miles.
"Is it your intention to speak on behalf of the shorter-haired slave?" asked Claudius.
"Yes," said Drusus Rencius.
There were cries of astonishment in the banquet hall. Even the feast slaves, in the back, girls such as Claudia, Crystal, Tupa and Emily, looked wildly at one another. I moved in my chains. I was thrilled.
"You may do so," said Claudius."
My thanks, Ubar," said Drusus Rencius.
"Is it your intention to jeopardize our friendship, old comrade in arms?" inquired Miles of Argentum.
"That is no friendship, beloved Miles," said Drusus Rencius, "which can be jeopardized by truth."
"That is the woman whom I saw in Corcyrus when I carried there the scrolls of Argentum," said Miles, pointing to me. "That is she who was on the throne. That is she whom I captured after the fall of the city. That is she whom I had locked in the golden cage!"
"I do not dispute that," said Drusus Rencius.
"You grant, then, my case," said Miles.
"No," said Drusus Rencius. "I do not dispute that you saw her in Corcyrus, that you later captured her, that you had her placed in a golden cage, and such things. What I dispute is that she was the Tatrix of Corcyrus."
"The captain from Ar," said Miles, "has apparently taken leave of his senses. He is being foolish. Would he have us believe that the true Tatrix was off somewhere, polishing her nails perhaps, while someone else was conducting the business of state in her place?"
There was laughter. Drusus Rencius clenched his fists. He was a Gorean warrior. He did not take lightly to being mocked and chided in this fashion.
"My second witness," said Miles of Argentum, "is the woman who served her intimately in her own quarters, who bathed her and clothed her, and combed her hair, who was to her as her own personal serving slave, now one of my own slaves, Susan."
Susan was summoned forward. How exquisite and beautiful, and well displayed she was, in the trim, tiny tunic that was the uniform of the girls of Miles of Argentum. We now wore the same collar. He owned us both.
She knelt before him, his.
"Is that the woman whom you served In Corcyrus?" Miles asked her, pointing to me.
Susan came over to me. "Forgive me, Mistress," she said.
"Do not call me Mistress, Susan," I said. "I am now as much a slave as you."
"Yes, Mistress," she said.
"Is that the woman whom you served?" asked Miles.
"It is, Master," she said.
The members of the high council and many of the guests looked about at one another, nodding.
"As this girl is the property of Miles of Argentum," said Claudius to Drusus Rencius, "you may move that her testimony be discounted or be retaken, under torture."
In Gorean courts the testimony of slaves is commonly taken under torture.
Drusus Rencius looked across the room to Miles of Argentum.
"I will withdraw her testimony," said Miles of Argentum. "If she is to be tortured, it will be at my will and not that of a court. In this, however, I make no implicit concession. I maintain that the truth which she would cry out under torture would be no different from that which you have already heard freely spoken."
"Well done, Drusus Rencius," said a man, admiringly.
I saw that Miles of Argentum did not wish to have Susan subjected to judicial torture, perhaps tormented and torn on the rack, even though it might validate her testimony and strengthen his case. But she was only a slave! Could it be he cared for her? I suspected it was true. I suspected that the little beauty from Cincinnati, Ohio, in his collar, had become special to him, that she was now to him perhaps even a love slave.
"I do not ask that her testimony be discounted or with drawn," said Drusus Rencius, "only that it be clearly understood."
There were cries of astonishment from those about the tables.
"Susan," said Drusus Rencius.
"Yes, Master," she said. "Do you think this woman is wicked?" he asked.
"I think she can be nasty and cruel," she said, "but, in a collar, she will doubtless be kept well in her place."
"From what you know of her," he asked, "do you think she could be guilty of the enormities and crimes commonly charged against the Tatrix of Corcyrus?"
"No, Master," she said, happily.
"Mistresses sometimes have different relationships to their serving slaves, or friends, than they do to others," said Ligurious. "It is well known that great crimes can be committed by individuals who are, to others, kindly and affectionate."
"And," said Drusus Rencius, "that a man who is a wrathful master to one woman may be little better than the obsequious pet of another."
"Perhaps," said Ligurious, angrily.
"You know that this is the woman whom you served, Susan," said Drusus Rencius, indicating me, "for you are familiar with her, and have no difficulty in recognizing her. What I am suggesting is that you do not really know that she was the true Tatrix of Corcyrus. You suppose she was because that is what you were told, and for certain other reasons, such as others took her also for such, and you saw her performing actions which, you supposed, only the Tatrix would perform, such things as holding audiences with foreign dignitaries, and such."
"Yes, Master," said Susan.
"But is it not possible," he asked, "that she might have been reported to be the Tatrix, has, and might have done such things, without being the true Tatrix?"
Yes, Master," Susan granted, eagerly.
"Do you regard it as likely, Susan," asked Miles of Argentum, "that that woman was the Tatrix of Corcyrus?"
"Yes, Master," she said.
"Do you regard it as extremely likely?" he asked.
"Yes, Master," she whispered.
"Do you doubt it, really, at all?" he asked.
"No, Master," she sobbed. She put down her head.
"Remain here, Susan," said Miles.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"I call my next witness," said Miles of Argentum, "located in Venna by my men, and brought here, Speusippus of Tuna."
To my amazement Speusippus was conducted forward. He seemed cringing and obsequious in the presence of such a noble assemblage. No longer, now, did he seem as detestable to me as he once had. Too, I was now a slave and a thousand times lower than he. Too, it was he who had taken my virginity. Too, I now realized that my femaleness had shown his maleness too little respect. I was a woman. Yet, in spite of that, I had not properly related to him. I had not shown him the deference which, in the order of nature, it was proper for my sex to accord to his. He was a member of the master sex; I was a member of the slave sex.
"You were, several months ago, were you not, found guilty of certain alleged commercial irregularities in the city of Corcyrus, and banished for a time from the city?"
"Yes," said Speusippus.
"As the reports have it," said Miles, "you were marched naked from the city, before the spears of guards, a sign about your neck, proclaiming you a fraud."
"Yes," said Speusippus, angrily.
"Who found you guilty, and pronounced this sentence?"
"Sheila, the Tatrix of Corcyrus," said Speusippus.
"Is she who was the Tatrix of Corcyrus in this room?" asked Miles of Argentum.
"Yes," said Speusippus.
"Would you point her out for us?" asked Miles.
Speusippus, unerringly, came to my side. He pointed to me. "This is she," he said.
"Thank you," said Miles. "You may now go."
"I had her in my grasp," cried Speusippus, "but she escaped. The reward should have been mine!" This reward had originally been one thousand pieces of gold. It had later been increased to fifteen hundred pieces of gold.
"It is not my fault if you could not hold a slave," said Miles.
"She was not then a slave," said Speusippus. Then he turned to me, with hatred. "But I got something from you, you slut," he said. "I took your virginity away!"
"Am I to understand," asked Miles of Argentum, "that you are confessing to the rape of a free woman, one who was even a Tatrix?"
Speusippus turned white.
"May I speak, Masters?" I asked.
"Yes," said Claudius.
"After he had captured me," I said, "I presented myself to Speusippus of Tuna naked and as a slave, and begged for his use. As a true man he could not do otherwise than to have me."
Speusippus looked wildly at me.
"Very well, Speusippus of Tuna," said Miles of Argentum, "you may go."
"Forgive me, Master," I said to Speusippus of Tuna. "I muchly wronged you. I was stupid and cruel. I showed you too little respect. I now beg your forgiveness, as a woman, now a slave."
"You seem much different now from before," he said.
"I have now learned that I am a female," I said. Then I put my head down and did obeisance to his maleness, kissing his feet.
He crouched down and lifted my head. He looked into my eyes. "Fortunate is the man who has you under his whip," he said.
"Thank you, Master," I whispered. He then kissed me, rose to his feet and hurried away.
"Slave!" snarled Drusus Rencius, looking angrily at me.
"Yes, Master," I said. "I am a slave."
"Let it be noted," said Miles of Argentum, "that the witness unhesitantly identified her as Sheila, the former Tatrix of Corcyrus."
"It is noted," said Claudius.
"He, too," said Drusus Rencius, "could have been mistaken in this matter!"
There was some laughter from some of the members of the high council, and from some of the others about the tables.
"I call now my fourth witness," said Miles of Argentum, "Ligurious, former first minister of Corcyrus. He, if no one else, should know the true Tatrix of Corcyrus. I now ask him to make an official identification in the course of our inquiry. Ligurious."
Ligurious unhesitantly pointed to me. "I know her well," he said. "That is Sheila, who was the true Tatrix of Corcyrus.
"Have you further witnesses, General?" asked Claudius of Miles.
"Yes, noble Claudius," smiled Miles, "one more."
"Call him," said Claudius.
"Drusus Rencius," said Miles.
"I?" cried Drusus Rencius.
Men looked at one another, startled.
"Yes," said Miles. "You are Drusus Rencius, a captain from Ar, are you not?"
"Yes," said Drusus Rencius, angrily.
"The same who was on detached service to Argentum, and was engaged in espionage within the walls of Corcyrus?" asked Miles.
"Yes," said Drusus Rencius.
"I believe that while you were in Corcyrus," said Miles, "one of your duties was to act as the personal bodyguard of Sheila, the Tatrix of Corcyrus."
"I was assigned the post of guarding one whom I at that time thought was Sheila, the Tatrix of Corcyrus," said Drusus Rencius. "I no longer believe that she was the true Tatrix. I think that I, and many others, including yourself, were eon fused and misled by the brilliance of Ligurious, Corcyrus's first minister. She was used as a decoy to protect the true Tatrix. In effecting this stratagem she was educated in the identity and role of the Tatrix, in which role, part-time at least, she performed. The success of this plan became strikingly clear after the fall of the city. She fell into our hands and, as the supposed Tatrix, was stripped, chained and caged. The true Tatrix, meanwhile, eluded us, escaping in the company of Ligurious and others."
"Ligurious?" asked Miles.
"Preposterous," said Ligurious.
"Is the woman whom you believed to be the Tatrix of Corcyrus, and whom you testified in Corcyrus was the Tatrix, before the very throne itself, in this room?"
Drusus Rencius was silent.
"As you may have noted," said Miles, "Publius, the house master of the house of Kliomenes, of Corcyrus, is in the room. I think that he, with the practiced eye of his profession, skilled in the close scrutiny and assessment of female can render a judicious opinion as to whether or not she whom you brought to the house of Kliomenes, she whom you were guarding, is or is not in the room."
"How did you know of this?" asked Drusus Rencius.
"In the search for the Tatrix," said Miles, "the records of hundreds of slave houses were checked, to see if a woman fitting her description might have been processed. In this search, the records of the house of Kliomenes, we found entries pertaining to your visit there with a free woman, purportedly Lady Lita, Descriptions of this 'Lady Lita' were furnished to several members of the staff. There was no difficulty with these descriptions. They were splendidly clear, and useful and intimately detailed, even to conjectured shackle sizes, just as one would expect of descriptions of a female in a slave garment. The descriptions tallied, of course, with those available of the Tatrix of Corcyrus."
"I did not know," said Publius, rising to his feet, "that was for such a purpose I was invited to Argentum. As Miles of Argentum knows, I am the friend of Drusus Rencius. I will not testify in this matter."
"You can deny, of course," said Miles of Argentum to Drusus Rencius, "that she whom you took to the house Kliomenes was the same woman you were guarding as the putative Tatrix. In that fashion, even if Publius can be encouraged to testify, his testimony could do no more than confirm that she here chained is the same as she whom you then brought to the house of Kliomenes. You can still deny that she who is here chained is she whom you then took to the Tatrix of Corcyrus.
Drusus Rencius was silent.
"We have, of course, independent identifications."
"We do not require the testimony of Drusus Rencius in this matter," said Claudius.
"I do not refuse to testify," said Drusus Rencius.
Men looked at one another.
"Let me then repeat my question," said Miles of Argentum. "Is she whom you believed to be the Tatrix of Corcyrus, she whom you identified as the Tatrix in Corcyrus itself, before the very throne of Corcyrus, in this room?"
"Yes," said Drusus Rencius.
"Would you please point her out?" asked Miles.
Drusus Rencius pointed to me. "That is she," he said.
"Thank you," said Miles.
"The matter is done," said a man.
"In making this identification," said Drusus Rencius, "I do no more than acknowledge that I was once the dupe of Ligurious. Can you not see? He is making fools of us all!"
Ligurious looked down, as though grieved by some irresponsible and absurd outburst.
"By the love I bear you, and by the love you bear me," said Drusus Rencius to Miles, "hear me out. That woman is not the Tatrix! She sat upon the throne! She appeared in public as the Tatrix! She sat in court as the Tatrix! She conducted business as the Tatrix! She was known as the Tatrix! But she was not the Tatrix!"
"Lets not ignore the evidence," said Miles of Argentum. "The evidence, some of which you yourself have presented, clearly indicates that she is the Tatrix. What sort of evidence would you wish? How do we know, for example, that you are really Drusus Rencius, a captain from Ar? Or that I am Miles, a general from Argentum? Or that he is Ligurious, who was the first minister in Corcyrus? How do we know anyone in this room is who we think? Perhaps we are all victims of some elaborate and preposterous hoax! But the question here is not one of knowledge in some almost incomprehensible or absolute sense but of rational certainty. And it is clear beyond a doubt, clear to the point of rational certainty, that that was the Tatrix of Corcyrus!"
There was applause in the room.
"I recall an earlier witness," said Miles of Argentum, "my slave, Susan."
"Master?" she asked, frightened.
"In your opinion, Susan," he asked, "did the shorter-haired slave, she kneeling there in chains, she whom you served, regard herself as Sheila, the Tatrix of Corcyrus."
"Yes, Master," whispered Susan, her head down.
I, too, put my head down before the free men, the masters. It was true. I had regarded myself as Sheila, the Tatrix of Corcyrus. Indeed, even now, there was a painful ambiguity in my mind in this matter. I supposed that, in a sense, I was a Sheila, who had been a Tatrix in Corcyrus. I was, I supposed, one of the two Sheilas, who, in their different ways, had been Tatrix there. I knew, of course, that I was not the true Sheila, or, at least, the important Sheila, the Sheila in whom they were particularly interested. I, too, in my way, had been a mere dupe of Ligurious.
"She herself," said Miles of Argentum, "regarded herself as the Tatrix of Corcyrus. She accepted herself as that! She did not deny it or dispute it! Why not? Because that is who she was!"
"No!" cried Drusus Rencius.
"Why do you think she was not the Tatrix of Corcyrus?" asked Miles.
"I do not know," cried Drusus Rencius. "I just know!"
"Come now, Captain," said Miles, patronizingly.
"I know her," said Drusus Rencius, angrily. "I have known her from Corcyrus. She is petty, and belongs in a collar, and under the whip, but she is not the sort of woman who could have committed the enormities and outrages of the Tatrix of Corcyrus. Such things are not in her!"
"Has the good captain from Ar," inquired Miles, "permitted the glances, the smiles, the curvaceous interests of a woman to sway his judgment?"
"No," said Drusus Rencius.
"I think you have succumbed to the charms of a slave," said Miles.
"No!" said Drusus Rencius.
"She has made you weak," said Miles.
"No!" said Drusus Rencius.
I looked at Drusus Rencius. I was only a naked slave, and in chains. How could I make such a man weak?
"The evidence is clear," said Miles of Argentum to the Ubar, Claudius, to the members of the high council, to the others in the room. "I rest my case." He then pointed to me. "Behold she who was the Tatrix of Corcyrus!" There was much applause in the room. Drusus Rencius turned angrily away. He stood to one side, his fists clenched.
"That is not the one whom the sleen selected," said Hassan.
Drusus Rencius spun about. "True!" he said.
"May I speak?" inquired Ligurious.
"Speak," said Claudius
"I anticipated some difficulty in the matter of the sleen," he said. "First of all, we must understand that the sleen are merely following a scent. They recognize a scent, of course, but not know, in a formal or legal sense, whose scent they are following. For example, a sleen can certainly recognize the scent of its master but it, being an animal, does not know, of course, whether its master is, say, a peasant or a Ubar. Indeed, many sleen, whereas they will respond to their own names, do not even know the names of their masters. I am sure the type of point I am making is well understood. Accordingly, let us suppose we now wish a sleen to locate someone, say, a Tatrix. We do not tell the sleen to look for a Tatrix. We give the sleen something which, supposedly, bears the scent of the Tatrix, and then the sleen follows that scent, no differently than it might the scent of a wild tarsk or a yellow-pelted tabuk. The crucial matter then is whether the sleen is set upon the proper scent or not. Now fifteen hundred gold pieces is a great deal of money. Can we not imagine the possibility, where so much money is at stake, that a woman closely resembling the Tatrix, as this woman, for example, might be selected as a quarry in a fraudulent hunt? It would not be difficult then, in one fashion or another, to set sleen upon her trail. A scrap of clothing would do, a bit of bedding, even the scent of a footprint. The innocent woman is then captured and, later, presented in a place such as this, the reward then being claimed."
Claudius, the Ubar of Argentum, turned to Hassan. "Your integrity as a hunter has been impugned," he said.
All eyes were upon Hassan.
"I am not touchy on such matters," said Hassan. "I am not a warrior. I am a businessman. I recognize the right of Claudius and the high council to assurances in these matters. Indeed, it is their duty, in so far as they can, to protect Argentum against deception and fraud. Much of what Ligurious, the former first minister of Corcyrus, has told you is true, for example, about sleen, and their limitations and utilities. These are, even, well-known facts. The crucial matter, then, would seem to be the authenticity of the articles used to provide the original scent. When I was in Corcyrus and I received from Menicius, her Administrator, clothing which had been worn by the Tatrix, I divided it into two bundles and had each sealed with the seal of Corcyrus. A letter to this effect, signed by Menicius, and bearing, too, the seal of Corcyrus, I also obtained. One of these bundles I broke open in Ar, and used it to locate and capture the former Tatrix of Corcyrus."
"She whom you claim is the former Tatrix," said Ligurious.
"Yes," said Hassan.
"Do you still have the second bundle, unopened, and the letter from Menicius, Administrator of Corcyrus, in your possession?" asked Claudius of Hassan.
"I anticipated these matters might be sensitive," said Hassan. "Yes."
Hassan was truly a professional hunter. I had heard the name 'Menicius' somewhere before, but I could not place it.
He, whoever he might be, was now apparently Administrator in Corcyrus.
Claudius regarded Hassan.
"I will fetch them," said Hassan, rising to his feet.
"I, too, have clothing from Corcyrus," said Ligurious, "but it is authentic clothing, clothing actually once worn by the true Tatrix of Corcyrus."
"Please be so kind as to produce it in evidence," said Claudius.
"I will be back shortly," said Ligurious.
"Bring guard sleen and meat," said Claudius to one of the guards in the room.
In a few Ehn Hassan and Ligurious had returned. Too, but moments later, two sleen, with keepers, had entered the hall. The feast slaves and dancers shrank back against the walls. Such beasts are used to hunt slaves.
I, too, shrank back, fearfully, in my chains. I, too, was a slave.
"As you will note," said Hassan to Claudius and the high council, "the seal on this bundle has not been broken. Here, too, is the letter from Menicius."
The letter was examined. Claudius himself then broke the seal on the bundle and handed clothing to one of the sleen keepers. One soldier came and crouched down behind me, holding me from the back by the upper arms. Another so served Sheila, to my left. We were not to be permitted to move from our places. I saw one of the keepers holding the clothing beneath the snout of one of the sinuous, six-legged beasts. The specific signals between masters and sleen, signals which, in effect, convey such commands as "Attack," "Hunt," "Stop," "Back," and so on, are usually verbal and private. Verbality is important as many times the sleen, intent upon a scent, for example, will not be looking at the master. The privacy of the signals is important to guarantee that not just anyone can start a sleen on a hunt or call one away from it. The signals to which they respond, then, are idiosyncratic to the given beast. They are generally not unique; however, to a given man and beast. For example, in an area where there are several sleen and several keepers, the keepers are likely to know the signals specific to the given beasts. In his fashion any beast may be controlled by any of the associated trainers or keepers. These signals, too, are usually kept written down somewhere. In this fashion, if a keeper should be slain, or change the locus of his employment, or something along those lines, the beast need not be killed.
Suddenly the beast, on its chain leash, leapt towards us Sheila and I screamed, pulling back. I actually felt the body of the beast, its oily fur, the muscles and ribs beneath it, brush me, lunging past me. Sheila tried to scramble back, wild in her chains, but, held, could not do so. She threw her head back, her eyes closed, sobbing and screaming, begging the masters for mercy. The frenzied sleen tried to reach Sheila. Its claws scratched and slipped on the tiles. It snapped and bit at her, its eyes blazing, its fangs, long, wild, white, moist, curved, gleaming, were but inches from her enslaved beauty.
A word was spoken. The sleen drew back. It was thrown meat. Sheila, her eyes glazed, hair before her face, looked numbly at the animal. She was still held by the soldier. Had she not been I think she might have slumped to the tiles. How helpless we are, naked and in our chains, before masters. How they can do with us whatever they wish!
"The clothing with which the sleen was put on the scent of the woman on our right could have been imbued with her scent at any time, of course," said Ligurious. "For example, it could have been put in the sack with her for a night, when she was being brought to Argentum. I have here, however and I now break the seal, clothing which is actually that of the former Tatrix of Corcyrus. See? Already she cringes and shrinks back. She knows that by this clothing she will be exactly and incontrovertibly identified as the former true Tatrix of Corcyrus."
I watched in horror as Ligurious tossed the clothing, piece by piece, to one of the sleen keepers. One of the pieces was the brief, sashed, yellow-silk robe I had been fond of. It was the first garment I had ever worn on Gor.
"That one garment," said Miles of Argentum, indicating a scarlet robe, with a yellow, braided belt, "appears to be that in which she put her curves on the day of my audience with her, that having to do with the scrolls of protest."
"It is," Ligurious assured him.
I also saw there garments which looked like those I had worn to the song drama with Drusus Rencius, and had worn later with him on the walls of Corcyrus.
"Surely you recognize that garment?" asked Ligurious, indicating a purple robe with golden trim, and a golden belt. "Yes," said Miles of Argentum. "That is the garment she wore when she was captured."
"By you," said Ligurious.
"Yes, by me," said Miles.
"But she did not wear it long, did she?" asked Ligurious.
"No," he grinned. There was laughter from the tables.
I did not doubt but what these garments were genuine. The last garment, for example, was undoubtedly really that which had been taken from me in the throne room of Corcyrus, before the very throne itself, before I had been taken naked and in chains outside, into the courtyard, to be placed in a golden cage. These garments, Ligurious had informed me in the throne room of Argentum, before placing me in the golden sack, from which I had been rescued by Drusus Rencius, had been smuggled out of Corcyrus. He had probably paid much to obtain them. The last pieces were all items of intimate feminine apparel, which had been worn next to my body.
I was embarrassed to see them. Now that I was a slave, of course, I would have been grateful to have even so much to wear publicly. But when I had worn them they had been the garments of a free woman. Thus, when I saw them now it was as one who had once been a free woman that I was embarrassed. Few free women care to have their intimate garments exhibited publicly before men.
I then saw the sleen, a different sleen, thrust its snout deeply into the pile of garments. I could hear it snuffling about in them. I saw the keeper, too, take the intimate garments, wadded in his hand, and thrust them beneath the animal's snout. He then held one of the longer, sliplike garments open from the bottom, and, to my horror, I saw the beast, sniffing and growling, thrust its snout deeply into the garment. My scent, from my intimacies, would doubtless be strongest in such a place.
I shrank back, even further. The hands of the soldier behind me, on my arms, forbade me further retreat.
In a moment the sleen leaped forward. I closed my eyes and screamed. I felt the hot breath of the animal on my breasts. I seemed surrounded by its snarling. I heard the scratching and slipping of its claws on the tiles, the rattle and tightening, and rattle and tightening, again, of the links of the chain leash, in its lunges toward me. I sensed its force, its terribleness, its eagerness. I heard the snapping of its jaws. Could the keeper judge the distances unerringly? Could he hold the animal? What if the chain broke? I opened my eyes. In that instant the beast was again lunging toward me. In that instant, in a flash, I saw the cavernous maw, the fangs, the long, dark tongue, the blazing eyes, the intentness, the single-mindedness, the power, the eagerness of the beast. I threw back my head and screamed miserably. "Pity!" I begged. "I beg mercy, my masters!" I cried, a terrified slave, addressing them all, in my terror, as though they might be my legal masters.
Then the sleen, with a word, was withdrawn, and thrown meat. I trembled. Were it not for the hands of the soldier behind me, on my arms, I might have collapsed. I saw Drusus Rencius looking at me with scorn. I did not care. I was not a warrior. I was a girl, and a slave.
"Thus, you see," said Ligurious, "who was the true Tatrix of Corcyrus."
"Each woman, it would seem," said Claudius, "has been identified as such, one in virtue of the articles of Hassan and one in virtue of the articles with which you have furnished us."
"Examine the seals," said Ligurious, triumphantly. "See which bears the true seal of Corcyrus!"
The broken seals were brought to Claudius. He put them on the table before him. Members of the high council crowded about him.
"The seal broken from the package of Ligurious," he said, "is the seal of Corcyrus."
"That cannot be," said Hassan.
"Perhaps you will be given two Ahn in which to leave Argentum," said Ligurious.
"I have the letter from Menicius!" said Hassan.
"It, too, doubtless, will bear the same seal as was on the package," said Ligurious.
"Yes," said Hassan.
"I, too, have such a letter, but a genuine one," said Ligurious, "describing and authenticating the garments I have produced for you. That letter bears the signature of Menicius and is marked with the true seal of Corcyrus." He reached within his robes and produced a letter, wrapped with a ribbon, the ribbon and the flaps of the letter secured with a melted disk of wax, this wax bearing the imprint of a seal.
The seal was examined.
"It is the seal of. Corcyrus," said Claudius.
The letter was opened and examined.
"The descriptions tally with the garments brought to us by Ligurious," said one of the members of the high council.
"Who has signed the letter?" inquired Ligurious.
"Menicius," said one of the members of the high council, looking up.
"I think not," said voice.
All eyes turned to the back of the room. There, the guest who had been hooded rose to his feet.
"Who would dare to gainsay me in this?" inquired Ligurious.
With two hands the guest brushed back his hood.
"I think that I am known to several in this room," he said. "Some of you were present at my investiture as Administrator of Corcyrus."
"Menicius!" cried more than one man.
Ligurious staggered backwards.
"My dear Ligurious," said Menicius, "your confederate in Corcyrus is now in custody. He has confessed all. I deemed, accordingly, it might be of interest to venture incognito to Argentum. I did so with the papers of a minor envoy, bearing my own signature."
How startled I was! I now recognized, and clearly, the hitherto unknown guest. I had known him as Menicius, of the Metal Workers. He was the man whose life I had spared when he had spoken out so forcibly against the Tatrix, on that day, so long ago, when I had been in the palanquin with Ligurious, that day in which, in the glory of a state procession, we had been carried through the streets of Corcyrus Doubtless Drusus Rencius, who had prevented him from reaching the palanquin, remembered him well, for his courage and his opposition to the rule of the Tatrix.
"I was interested to hear that you were the leader of the opposition to the rule of the Tatrix," said Menicius to Ligurious. "I, myself, had thought that that honor was mine." Ligurious looked about himself. He took one or two steps backward.
"I suggest that that man be put in shackles," said Menicius. "Do it," said Claudius. Two guardsmen moved swiftly to Ligurious. In a moment his wrists had been shackled behind him.
The seals," said Menicius, "on the package and letter of Hassan were genuine. It is natural, however, that they were unfamiliar to you. They are imprints of the new seal of Corcyrus. It was discovered, after the institution of the new regime in Corcyrus, that the old seal was missing. Presumably it had been taken by Ligurious in his flight from the city. That now seems evident. For this reason, and also to commemorate the rise of a new order in Corcyrus, it was changed."
Ligurious, shackled, looked down at the tiles.
Menicius came about the tables. He stopped before Sheila and myself. We, slaves, put our heads to the tiles. "Lift your heads, Slaves," he said. We complied.
"We meet again," said Menicius to me.
"Yes, Master," I said.
"Who are you?" he asked.
"My master is Miles of Argentum," I said. "He has named me 'Sheila.'"
"You look well in slave chains, Sheila," he said.
"Thank you, Master," I said.
He turned to Sheila. "Who are you?" he asked.
"My master is Hassan, of Kasra," she said. "He has named me 'Sheila.'"
"You look well in slave chains, Sheila," he said.
"Thank you, Master," she said.
He then, from his robe's, removed a package and, opening it, exhibited soft and silken contents. She drew back, shuddering in her chains.
"These are further garments from Corcyrus," he said "They were taken from among the belongings of the Tatrix of Corcyrus, found in her suite of rooms in the palace." He turned to regard Sheila. "Perhaps, you recognize them?" hi asked.
"Admit nothing!" cried Ligurious.
"Consider the nature of these garments," he said. "They are clearly, in a fashion, slave garments.
This may be determined from their lightness, their softness and tininess. On the other hand, there are some anomalies here. For example, note that here there is a nether closure. That would certainly be unusual in a garment permitted by a Gorean master to a female slave."
There was laughter here.
"They are barbarian garments," he said. The garments he was exhibiting to those at the tables were undergarments of sorts common to free women of Earth. I had not really thought before, of how feminine they were and how appropriate to slaves. Who but a slave would permit such delicious delicate and silken things to touch their bodies?
"But few barbarian girls, as nearly as we can tell, come to Gor clothed and, if they do, they are seldom permitted to retain their clothing, or the bits of clothing left to them at that point, past the sales block, on which, one supposes, it might be removed from them."
There was some acknowledgment of this from the tables. There is a Gorean saying that only a fool buys a woman clothed.
"The Tatrix of Corcyrus, on the other hand, though a barbarian, was apparently permitted to keep this clothing. Similarly she was permitted to keep her freedom. That was removed from her only recently by Hassan and Kasra."
Men at the tables looked at one another.
"Some of us," said Menicius, "are familiar with the rumors, the frightening rumors, that there are forces on Gor and elsewhere, who would challenge the power of the Priest-Kings themselves, rulers of Gor from time immemorial.
Men looked at one another, fearfully. Sometimes it seemed likely to me that the Priest-Kings were mythical entities. Surely they mixed, as far as I could tell, little in the affairs of Gor. On the other hand, it was also clear to me that someone, or something, must be in opposition to the forces which had brought me to Gor. Those forces, for example, had mastered space flight. Surely Goreans, with their swords and spears, by themselves, could not have resisted them. Their clandestine efforts, for all their power, suggested the existence of a formidable counter-power. That counter-power, I suppose, for want of a better name, might be referred to as that of Priest-Kings.
"It seems likely to me, thus," said Menicius, "that such forces might bring wealth and barbarian agents, perhaps, with no Gorean allegiances, to our world, laboring in their behalf. Too, of course, they might recruit native Goreans for their purposes. How, except for such power, could a barbarian woman, such as Sheila, the former Tatrix of Corcyrus, come to power in a city such as Corcyrus? I suspect, also, that the true motivation of the attack on the mines of Argentum was not to fill the coffers of Corcyrus, already a prosperous city, but to supplement the economic resources of these other forces. They intend, perhaps, failing success in outward aggression, to subvert our world, city by city, or to form a league of cities, that may become dominant among our states. This might be accomplished, presumably, within the weapon laws and technological limitations imposed upon Gorean humans by Priest-Kings, for whatever might be their purposes."
Men looked at Sheila. She put her head down, trembling.
"Preposterous though those ideas may sound," said Menicius, "there is some plausibility to them. Too, further evidence comes from two sources. Outside of Corcyrus, in a great field, have been found burned grass and three large, deep, geometrically spaced depressions, as though something of great heat and weight, perhaps some giant, heated steel insect or fiery mechanical bird, had alighted there. Too, within the palace itself, in a subterranean chamber, we found the smells, the spoor and traces of some large, unknown beast which, apparently, perhaps from time to time, resided there. It had apparently removed itself from those premises, however, well before the downfall of the city."
Ligurious was looking at the tiles. He did not look up.
"Ligurious?" asked Claudius.
"I know nothing of these things," said Ligurious, shrugging.
"Shall we see whose garments these are?" inquired Menicius, lifting the delicate undergarments of Earth clutched in his fist.
"Yes, yes," said various men in the room.
"Please, no, Master!" wept Sheila. Then she lowered her head, cringing, for she had spoken without permission. The soldier behind her looked to Hassan, who nodded. He then cuffed her to her side from behind with the back of his hand and then ordered her again to her knees, to which position she struggled in her chains. Menicius, meanwhile, had thrown the garments, in a silken, fluttering wad, to one of the sleen masters who thrust them beneath the snout of the beast. In a moment it was moving swiftly about the room its nose to the floor, and then, suddenly, taking the scent, lunged murderously, claws slipping on the tiles, toward Sheila. Inches from her body, the chain on its collar jerked taut, it was held back. She screamed but could not withdraw, held mercilessly, immobility, on her knees, in place, by the soldier behind her.
"The identification is made," said Claudius, and, with a wave of his hand, signaled the sleen keeper to divert and pacify his beast. A word was whispered. The sleen, suddenly in the superbness of its training, drew back. It seemed, suddenly calm. Its tail no longer lashed back and forth. Its tongue, from the heat of its activity, lolled forth from its mouth, dripping saliva to the tiles. I could see, too, the imprint of its paws, in dampness, on the tiles. The sleen tends to sweat largely through its mouth and the leathery paws of its feet. It fell upon the meat which it was thrown.
Sheila, released by the soldier, struggled to remain upright. She sobbed, then, gasping, shuddering, her head back, half in shock. I was pleased that it had been she and not I who had been the object of this second identification. I felt sorry for her. I saw that she now, like I, was only a slave. Not only are there masters on Gor, but there are sleen. We strive to be pleasing. We do what we are told.
"May I speak, Master?" asked Sheila of Hassan.
"Be silent!" said Ligurious.
"You may speak," said Hassan to his slave.
"I confess all," she said. "I was the true Tatrix of Corcyrus! The woman next to me is innocent. She was brought to Gor as an unwitting dupe, one selected to serve as proxy for me in case our plans should go awry. She had no true power, save a pittance which we, for our purposes, were sometimes pleased to accord to her. What crimes there are here are mine, or those of the free woman I once was. It will not be necessary, therefore, to impale us both. I alone am she whom you seek. I was captured in Ar by Hassan, of Kasra, who is now my master. The reward of fifteen hundred gold pieces is thus rightfully his. I am prepared now to be turned over, as a slave, to Claudius, the Ubar of Argentum, and the high council of Argentum, to face their justice."
"Fool!" cried Ligurious. "Fool!" He struggled in his manacles. They held him well.
I regarded Sheila wildly, almost disbelievingly. She had acknowledged her identity. I was now an exonerated slave, at least of her crimes, if not of mine, those of pettiness, of pride, of selfishness and cruelty, crimes for which a woman on Gor can be regarded as fittingly enslaved.
"You have me naked and in chains now before you, I who was once Sheila, the Tatrix of Corcyrus, your enemy," she said. "I am now yours to do with as you please."
"Fool!" cried Ligurious.
"What of the speculations of Menicius," Inquired Claudius, "those having to do with affairs of worlds, of the business of Priest-Kings and others."
"They are sound, Master," she said.
"Be silent!" said Ligurious.
"Speak," said Claudius.
"Hold, Claudius," cautioned a man. "Consider whether or not it is proper for mere mortals to inquire into such matters."
"Such thoughts are surely to be reserved for the second or third knowledge," said another man.
"I am a man," said another. "I repudiate the distinctions between knowledges. Knowledge is one. It is only knowers who are many.
"We are not Initiates," said another man. "Our status, prestige and livelihood do not depend on the perpetuation of ignorance and the propagation of superstition"
"Heresy!" cried a fellow.
"I shall inquire into truth as I please," said another. "I am a free man."
"It is our world, too," said a fellow.
"Surely it is permissible to inquire into such matters," said another, "if we do so with circumspection and respect."
"I think," said Claudius, "in these matters both our fears and our noble, belligerent vanities are out of place. Gods, for example, I trust, do not have need of the silver of Argentum, nor do they have need of fiery ships for plying the long, dark roads between worlds. Gods, I trust, do not leave spoor in subterranean chambers nor deep wounds in remote turfs. These things of which we speak, I think, are things which can eat and bleed."
"We do not speak, then, of Priest-Kings," said a man, relieved.
"Who knows the nature of Priest-Kings?" asked a man. "Some say they have no form," said a man, "only that they exist."
"Some say that they have no matter," said a man, "except that they are real."
"Surely they are like us," said a man, "only grander and more powerful."
"Let us not waste time in idle speculations," said a man.
"Speak," said Claudius to Sheila.
"There are two worlds involved, Master," she said, "Gor, and the world called Earth."
"Lying slave!" said a man. "Earth is mythical! It is only in stories. It does not exist."
"Forgive me, Master," she said, "but Earth is real, I assure you. I am from Earth, and so, too, is the slave to my right."
The man looked at me, closely.
"Yes, Master," I whispered, frightened.
"That Earth is real is in the second knowledge," said one of the men, a fellow wearing the yellow of the Builders, a high caste.
"I was taught that, too," said the fellow with him, also in the yellow of the Builders. "Do you think it is really true?"
"I suppose so," said the first man. The classical knowledge distinctions on Gor tend to follow caste lines, the first knowledge being regarded as appropriate for the lower castes and the second knowledge for the higher castes. That there is a third knowledge, that of Priest-Kings, is also a common belief. The distinctions, however, between knowledge tend to be somewhat imperfect and artificial. For example, the second knowledge, while required of the higher castes and not of the lower castes, is not prohibited to the lower castes. It is not a body of secret or jealously guarded truths, for example. Gorean libraries, like the tables of Kaissa tournaments, tend to be open to men of all castes.
"Gor, and the world called Earth," she said, "are prizes in a struggle of titanic forces, the forces of those whom you call Priest-Kings and of those whom you think of as others, or whom we might think of as beasts."
"And what is the nature of these Beasts?" asked Claudius.
"I have never seen one," she said.
"Ligurious?" asked Claudius.
"I choose not to speak," he said, sullenly.
"Continue," said Claudius to Sheila.
"Both Priest-Kings and Beasts possess powerful weaponry and are masters of space travel," she said. "Intermittently, it is my understanding, for generations, they have been involved in combat. Probes and skirmishes are frequent. As yet outright force has been unable to prevail. In many respects Priest-Kings seem to be tolerant and defensive creatures. For example, they permit native beasts on Gor, marooned beasts, and such, provided such obey, their laws, particularly with respect to weaponry and technology. And never have they pursued the beasts to their steel lairs in space, pursuing temporary advantages in these perennial conflicts. The beasts, it is my surmise, having hitherto failed to win Gor by overt conquest, attempt now to obtain power on this world by specific and detailed subversions, mixing in, and influencing, the politics and affairs of cities. Indeed, in this way, perhaps they, too, hope to prepare the way for an eventual full-scale invasion, one which could then be supplied and supported by a number of strategically located cities, or leagues of cities. I know little more, specifically, in these matters than my own role. By means of the wealth of beasts and the influence of Ligurious, the first minister of Corcyrus, I was brought to power in Corcyrus. There, supported by the influence and wealth of beasts, and abetted by Ligurious, I ruled. I grew soon fond of the throne. Testing my power I found it real. I was exhilarated. I became ambitious to expand the sphere of Corcyrus's influence and, in particular, to obtain, if possible, for my own wealth, the mines of Argentum. In these things I exceeded my authority. Ligurious, against his better judgment, at least initially, pleaded my case with beasts and protected me from them, convincing them to accept my proposals. Ligurious was smitten with me. I seduced him to my projects. I played with his feelings. I toyed with his emotions. I exploited his sentiments. I made him dance like a puppet to my will. I deprived him of his leadership and manhood."
I looked at Ligurious. His face was dark with anger as he looked down at Sheila, now another man's slave.
"These projects, to be sure, were dangerous," she said. "Too, I was a valued agent. Thus, through Ligurious, an order was placed with the beasts, that a double might be obtained for me. The girl selected was the collared slave to my right, how the slave, as I understand it, of Miles of Argentum. He was brought to Gor and taught that she was Sheila, the Tatrix of Corcyrus. She came to accept this identity. Some knew me as the Tatrix. Some knew her as the Tatrix. That there were actually two women involved was a carefully guarded secret, known only to a handful of trusted followers. We miscalculated seriously in at least one matter. We did not think that Ar would honor its treaty commitments with Argentum, that it would risk all-out war with the Cosian Alliance, in which Corcyrus was implicated. As it turned out, of course, Ar did support Argentum and, as it also turned out, we were not supported by Cos. Defeated in war and in the face of an up-rising, too, within our own city, Ligurious and I, with some others, fled. The slave on my right, she who was brought to Gor as my double, was left behind on the throne, to be captured and, in my place, bear the wrath of the enemy. As you know, she escaped. A vast, intense and lengthy search was undertaken to recover her. In this search, as you know, as well, both of us were eventually apprehended. Now both of us, she who was the Tatrix and she who was her double, now both no more than slaves, kneel stripped before you, helpless in your chains." She put down her head.
"Speak further," said Claudius.
The slave lifted her head. "You may put me under tortures, Master," she said, "but, woe, I know little more than I have spoken. The beasts keep us much in ignorance so that, if captured, we can reveal little of their strategies and plans. What details there are beyond those I have given you would, I fear, be meaningless or trivial to you, such things as descriptions of the appearances of agents on Earth, where I was first contacted, and such."
"As beasts may be allied with men," said Claudius, "so, too, I suppose, might men be allied with Priest-Kings."
"Yes, Master," she whispered.
"Are there not, then, on Gor, places where such men may be found?" asked Claudius.
"There are several, doubtless, Master," she said.
"Name one such place," said Claudius.
She turned white. She looked to Hassan, her master. His eyes forbade hesitation. Neither mercy nor lenience were to be shown to her.
"The house of Samos, in Port Kar," she whispered.
Claudius looked to Menicius.
Claudius then regarded Ligurious.
"I choose not to comment on these matters," he said, straightening himself. He seemed very strong. He was the sort of man, it seemed to me, who might serve as master to the slave in almost any woman. Many times, I knew, I had felt the helpless desire and fear of a slave in his presence. Sheila did not meet his eyes. No longer was she a Tatrix. She was now naught but a stripped and chained slave.
"Tortures, doubtless," said Menicius, "might be brought to bear upon your resolve."
"True," said Ligurious, "but only at the cost of sacrificing the honor of Argentum."
Claudius looked at Ligurious.
"Claudius?" asked Menicius.
"Ligurious, it is true," said Claudius, "came to us a free man, of his own will. He has been guaranteed immunity in Argentum, and has been guaranteed a safe conduct from her walls."
"He has sought to misdirect our inquiries and has distorted and misrepresented evidence," said a man.
"Perjurous abominations he has uttered!" cried a man. "Impale him!" cried another.
"Impale him!" cried yet another. Men rose to their feet, shaking their fists. "Impale him!" cried several.
Ligurious smiled. The victory was his. What a small thing would be his impalement compared to the stain on the escutcheon of Argentum. His freedom was guaranteed.
"Remove the former first minister of Corcyrus from our presence," said Claudius, "lest I be tempted to betray the pledge of my city. Let his shackles be removed only in his own quarters, to which he is to be closely confined."
Two soldiers seized Ligurious by the arms.
"We have to inquire into these matters," said Claudius to Ligurious, "and resolutions to be made. It is possible we may have need of you for further testimony, asseverations germane to our proceedings. In any event, your presence will be retained for our pleasure until our deliberations have been concluded. Then, and then only, will the pledge of Argentum be honored."
"Such a reservation is fully in accord with our original arrangements," said Ligurious loftily. I abide by your decision as willingly as I must also abide by it, perforce."
"Postpone the deliberations a thousand years!" cried a man.
"That is not the way of Argentum," smiled Claudius.
At a gesture from Claudius Ligurious was conducted from the room.
"Do you object, Menicius, my friend?" asked Claudius.
"I had not realized the guarantees extended by Argentum," said Menicius. "You have, of course, under the circumstances, no choice."
"I feel sorry for him in a way," said Claudius, looking after Ligurious. "He is a strong man, ruthless and powerful, proud and strong, but he permitted himself to be the dupe of a female, to be wound about the finger of a woman."
Claudius then pointed to Sheila. "Bring that slave forward," he said.
With a whimper Sheila was dragged to her feet, pulled forward and, with a rattle of chain, thrown to her knees before Claudius.
"This woman," said Claudius, pointing to Sheila, "has been proved by evidence and testimony, both written and oral, to be the former Tatrix of Corcyrus. Indeed, this fact has been acknowledged, ultimately, even in her own admission."
He looked down at Sheila. "Who captured you and brought you here, Slave?" he asked.
"Hassan, of Kasra, Master," she said.
"The reward, then," said Claudius, "clearly belongs to Hassan, of Kasra. Let it be brought!"
An officer left the room. Hassan came forward, about the tables, to stand near the kneeling slave. In a few moments the officer had returned. He carried a heavy, bulging sack over his shoulder which he lowered gently, heavily, to the floor before the table. It must have weighed between ninety and one hundred pounds.
"In this sack," said Claudius, "carefully counted, but assure yourself of the matter, are fifteen hundred pieces of gold, stamped staters of Argentum, certified by the mint of the Ubar."
Hassan looked down at Sheila.
"Shall scales be brought?" asked Claudius. "We will take no offense. If any discrepancy be found, perhaps the result of some inadvertence, we shall see that it is made good."
"No," said Hassan. "Weights and balances, the chains and pans, need not be fetched forth."
"Accept then the reward," said Claudius. "You have well earned it."
"What fate do you intend for this woman?" asked Hassan.
Claudius shrugged. "The mounting for the impaling spear has already been prepared," he said. "The spear itself has been sharpened and polished."
"Fifteen hundred gold pieces," said Hassan, "seems a great deal of money for a mere slave."
"It was you yourself, as I understand it," smiled Claudius, "who neck-ringed her and, shortly thereafter, with a blazing iron, marked her slave."
Hassan smiled. "I seem to recall something to that effect," he said, He looked down at Sheila.
"Are you a slave?" he asked.
"Yes, my master," she said, "and only you know how much a slave."
I was thrilled to hear her say this. Every woman, in her deepest heart, wants to find a man whom she must serve perfectly, a man who will bring out the fundamental and profound slave in her, a man who will bend her uncompromisingly and helplessly to his will. In Hassan Sheila, obviously, had found such a man.
"Are you prepared, now," asked Hassan, "to be turned over to Claudius and the high council?"
"Yes, Master," she said. "I ask only, first, to be permitted one last time to kiss your feet in respect and reverence, and, in doing so, to express, too, my gratitude for the joy you have given me in these few days you have owned me. They have been the most precious of my life." She then, tenderly, kissed his feet, extending obeisance and love to the man who had made her a slave.
There were tears in my eyes.
Hassan laughed, a roar of a laugh. She looked up, startled. "Do you truly think I brought you here," he laughed, "to turn you over to Claudius and the high council?"
"Of course, Master," she said.
"No!" he laughed.
There were cries of astonishment from those about.
"Kiss my feet fifteen hundred times, you luscious baggage," he laughed, "at least once for every gold piece you are costing me!"
"Yes, Master," she cried, startled, putting down her head.
"This woman was the Tatrix of Corcyrus, was she now?" laughed Hassan.
"Yes," said Claudius, startled. "That has been established, even by her own admissions."
"And I have, thus, earned the reward, fully and clearly, if I should wish it?" asked Hassan.
"Certainly," said Claudius, puzzled.
"That is all I wanted," said Hassan. "Indeed, it is all I ever wanted."
"I do not understand," said Claudius.
"For years," said Hassan, "I have heard of the Tatrix or Corcyrus, of her tyranny, of her fabled pride and beauty. I found such a woman intriguing. Then, wonder of wonders, she fell. None could find her. I was curious to know what it would be like to have such a woman in my collar, a fair-skinned, golden-haired Tatrix of the north, to make her crawl, and cry and serve, to make her a man's woman."
I looked at Sheila. She was weeping with joy at his feet, kissing them, and his ankles and legs. "I love you, Master," she wept.
"So I captured her and made her a slave, mine," said Hassan.
"It was never your intention, then, to deliver her to us?" asked a member of the high council.
"No," said Hassan. "Had that been my intention I would not have removed her virginity from her and enslaved her."
"Had you never any doubts on this matter?" asked a man.
"Had I any," smiled Hassan, "they disappeared the instant I saw her. I knew then I would keep her for my own slave."
"But why did you bring her here?" asked a man.
"That you might see her humbled and helpless, and for my own glory," said Hassan.
"It is pleasing to see the former Tatrix of Corcyrus as a humbled slave," said a man.
"Yes," said Hassan.
"What if we take her from you?" asked a man.
"You will not do so," said Hassan. "That would be theft"
"But what of her crimes?" asked a man.
"Those were the crimes of a free woman," said Hassan. "She is no longer a free woman. She is now only a slave."
"I love you, my master," whispered the slave, her head at his feet.
"Sheila," said Hassan.
"Yes, Master?" she said, lifting her head.
"You may continue your obeisances and services in the privacy of my chambers," he said. "Yes, Master," she said. She rose to her feet, her head humbly lowered. "Conduct her to my quarters," said Hassan to a soldier, he who held the key to her chains, "and chain her to the slave ring at the foot of my couch."
The soldier glanced to Claudius, and then nodded. "Come, Slave," he said.
"Yes, Master," she said, and was conducted from the room.
It has been an interesting evening," said Hassan, lifting his hand to the assemblage. "I wish you all well!"
We, too, wish you well, Hunter," said Claudius.
"Hail, Hassan!" called a man.
"Hail, Hassan!" called others.
The men rose from about the tables, saluting and applauding Hassan. He, lifting his hands, and turning, waving to them, took his leave from the hall.
"Is this the Lady Constanzia?" asked the fellow behind the high desk, looking down upon us.
"Yes, your honor," said the pit master.
"Bring her forward," he said. He was, as I understood it, an officer in the business court, that under the jurisdiction of the commercial praetor, subject, ultimately, to the high council.
The Lady Constanzia, clad in new, rich, ornate robes of concealment, fully hooded and veiled, was conducted forward, between two guards, from the pits. There were also, in the lofty, circular, sunlit room, the light coming through high, narrow windows, dust motes visible within it, two guards of the court. A broad, scarlet marbled circle was before the high desk of the praetor's officer, and the Lady Constanzia was conducted to its center, the guards then withdrawing, moving back, several feet, leaving her there, alone, on the circle. She seemed small there, even tiny, before the high desk. The pit master, as indicated, was also in the room. I, too, was there. Indeed, it was I who, in my office as keeper for the state of the free woman, had led her here, she leashed and back-braceleted on the way. Though it might be thought demeaning to a free woman to be in the keeping of a slave, it was also thought to be less compromising to her modesty than to be led by a male. Having such in the keeping of a female, too, of course, is likely to be safer than entrusting them to a male who, after all, particularly if irritated of provoked, might be tempted to do far more to her than compromise her modesty. The slave, too, of course, is much more subject to supervision and control than a free man. She may, for example, for any lapse, or putative lapse, be easily put to punishment. Within the entrance to the court the Lady Constanzia had been freed of the leash and bracelets. One of the guards had inserted these within his pouch. I knelt back, and to the side, on the left side of the room, as one would face the desk. I wore a clean, modest tunic. My hair had been washed and brushed. It had also been tied back, behind my head. In this fashion it was perhaps less distractive, less luxurious and slavelike. But it also, of course, accented my collar.
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."
The clerk nodded, and, lifting his hand, summoned the guards of the court. They lifted up the Lady Constanzia who, it seemed, could scarcely rise unaided. Each guard then took one of her arms. The Lady Constanzia threw a wild glance toward me, over her shoulder, but she could do little more, as the guards held her arms. I lifted my hand to her. She was then conducted from the chamber. There were tears in my eyes. I did not rise, of course, for I had not received permission to do so.
Cabot was well bedecked, in purple robes, sashed with gold. About this neck were strings of rubies.
He refused a diadem of gold, as he felt himself no ruler, no king, no baron, no Ubar, no Administrator, or such.
Peisistratus, too in splendid robes, stood near him, on a step below the surface of the platform of the witness. This platform was twelve feet high, and railed, and stout enough to support more than one Kur. The jury was a thousand Kurii, ranged on tiers. Lord Pyrrhus, chained by limbs and neck, and fastened in a cement pit, had spoken in his own defense, but his defense, articulate and bellicose, did little more than confirm his guilt. He did protest his innocence of treason, and his insistence that he had never acted otherwise than in the best interests of the species and the world.
The testimony of Peisistratus, taken through translators, had made it clear that Lord Pyrrhus had intended to take the human, Tarl Cabot, hunting in the sport cylinder, which seemed upon the surface, if tasteless considering some of the game available, at least sufficiently innocent. Other testimony had made it clear that Lord Pyrrhus had returned from the sport cylinder without Tarl Cabot, and that, later, a hunting party of eight Kurii, three of whom were womb brothers, and two of whom were egg brothers, to Lord Pyrrhus had entered the sport world with sleen, and had been arrested in the midst of an attempt upon the life of Tarl Cabot, esteemed ally of Agamemnon.
"You are the human, Tarl Cabot?" inquired the translator of the chief prosecutor.
"I am," said Cabot.
"One supposes it is possible," said the prosecutor, "that a terrible mistake is involved in all this, for the defendant is Kur."
"Certainly," said Cabot.
"Yet it seems clear, and overwhelmingly so, that Lord Pyrrhus had designs upon your life."
"What reason could he possibly have for such designs?" asked Cabot.
"That question is to be ignored," said the judge, who was not visible, but whose presence was made known by a sound system, and whose words were picked up by the platform translator, set in the railing before Cabot. The body of Agamemnon, in this instance, Cabot supposed, was in effect the courtroom itself. He had little doubt that Agamemnon, wherever he might be ensconced, could see as well as hear the proceedings.
"We need not inquire into such matters," said the chief prosecutor, "as facts are at issue, and not motivations."
"Very well," said Cabot.
"One fact is clear, at least," said the prosecutor, "that a tunic, bestowed upon you in accordance with the largesse of Lord Agamemnon, Eleventh Face of the Nameless One, Theocrat of the World, was in the possession of the hunting party by which you were endangered, a tunic used to set sleen upon you."
"Certainly to find me," said Cabot.
"I do not understand," said the prosecutor.
"Perhaps the party was sent by Lord Pyrrhus, or someone, to locate me in the sport world, and thereby effect my rescue."
"We have ample testimony," said the prosecutor, whose movements suggested anger, though the translator spoke without passion, "that in the time of your location your life was in great jeopardy."
"That is true," said Cabot. "I fear the hunters mistook me for a game human."
"How could that be?" inquired the prosecutor.
"I fear I was clad in skins, suggesting a human game animal," said Cabot.
Several of the encircling jurors exchanged glances.
"Lord Pyrrhus took you to the sport cylinder and abandoned you there, to be hunted down and killed by his cohorts," said the prosecutor.
"Is that not speculation?" asked Cabot.
"It is fact," said the prosecutor.
"One supposes the jury must decide on that," said Cabot.
"Are you intent on trying to protect one who would have had you slain?"
"Is that not for the jury to ponder?" inquired Cabot.
"You could not have reached the sport cylinder alone," said the prosecutor. "You could not know the shuttle codes."
"I was to go hunting with Lord Pyrrhus," said Cabot. "I had codes from him, though I do not now recall them. I was to wait for him, but I went ahead. Perhaps he came later to the shuttle port, and deemed that I had declined the hunt, and thus returned to his quarters."
"What are you telling us?" asked the prosecutor.
"I was curious," said Cabot. "I wandered off. It was unwise of me."
"You would hold Lord Pyrrhus innocent in all this?" said the prosecutor.
"Certainly," said Cabot.
Pyrrhus, clothed in chains, in the pit, regarded Cabot, puzzled.
"What are you doing?" whispered Peisistratus to Cabot.
"Kaissa," said Cabot.
Peisistratus seemed content with this answer.
The prosecutor turned about, and, high in the tiers, above the jurors, a small light glowed briefly, twice. It would be noted, presumably, only by those facing it, and perhaps looking for it. Cabot, given his vantage on the platform, did see it.
"The witness may step down," said the prosecutor.
Cabot descended from the platform, and Peisistratus, who had been near to him, waiting on a step, accompanied him.
"The jury will note," sounded the voice of the judge, which seemed to come from everywhere in the room, the platform translator producing this in Gorean almost immediately, "that the guilt of Lord Pyrrhus is overwhelmingly clear, albeit largely circumstantial. The aberration of a witness, or the obscurity of its testimony, must not be permitted to distract your attention from either the charges or the indisputable and incontrovertible evidence on which they are based. The jury may now deliberate."
"Do they not withdraw?" asked Cabot.
"Certainly not," said Peisistratus. "The judge would then not know how each voted."
"The verdict need not be unanimous?" asked Cabot.
"Certainly not," said Peisistratus. "If that were the case a single madman or fool, a simpleton, a partisan or malcontent, might nullify or vitiate an entire trial."
"Is a simple majority required?" asked Cabot.
"No," said Peisistratus, "innocence or guilt must be clear, so a clear, significant majority is required, and in a trial such as this, involving charges of high treason, guilt must be exceedingly clear, this requiring that nine out of every ten jurors draw the knife."
"If more than one out of ten do not unsheathe their blades?"
"Then the defendant is acquitted," said Peisistratus.
Already in the tiers many six-digited paws were clasped about the handles of their knives, but, Cabot noted, many jurors were crouched down, knuckles on the tiers, their knives untouched.
"Hold!" called the voice of the unseen judge.
The jurors looked about themselves, but the location of the judge, as the voice emanated from a diversity of locations, was not clear.
"Pyrrhus," called the voice.
"Lord Pyrrhus," bellowed a voice from the pit, with a fierce shaking of chains.
"Did you or did you not seek the death of the human, Tarl Cabot?"
"I did," said Pyrrhus.
"So his honor destroys him," said Cabot to Peisistratus, at the foot of the witness platform.
"Perhaps not," said Peisistratus.
"You have spoken in all honesty, as Kur," said the judge.
"Certainly," said Pyrrhus.
"Let it be so recorded," said the judge.
"And let this, too, be so recorded, and I speak as Kur," called Pyrrhus, his voice rising from the cement pit, in which, to rings, he was chained, "I am guilty of no treason against the species or the world!"
This caused a considerable stir on the tiers, for it was clear Lord Pyrrhus had spoken as Kur.
"If I am guilty of treason," he continued, "it is not treason against the species and the world, but against one who would betray the honor of the species and the world, a dissembler and deceiver, an opportunist and thief, a liar and seeker of power, a true traitor to worth, nobility, and valor."
"So name such a foe," said the judge.
"He cannot," said Peisistratus to Cabot, "for it is forbidden, sacrilegious, blasphemous, to speak ill of the Nameless One, or of any mask through which he speaks."
"Let the jury draw their daggers or not," challenged Pyrrhus.
"Agamemnon may not have his majority," said Peisistratus, looking about the tiers.
"He confessed to seeking my death," Cabot reminded Peisistratus.
"You are an animal," said Peisistratus. "We can be killed here with more impunity than might a wild sleen in a Gorean forest. We are not even pets. We are not even owned. No restitution, even, would be expected for slaying us."
"Then it matters little?"
"It matters nothing, save for your interest to Agamemnon," said Peisistratus. "Your testimony clouded matters for Agamemnon. He expected to convict on its basis. You betrayed him. The jury was confused."
"That was my intention," said Cabot.
"You are interested in abetting revolution, in spreading division in the Steel World?"
"I suppose my life now," said Cabot, "will be worth little, if Lord Pyrrhus goes free."
"He will not go free," said Peisistratus. "But his party will doubtless remember your testimony."
"Is Pyrrhus not to be now acquitted?" asked Cabot.
"Acquitted, perhaps, but not spared," said Peisistratus.
"See the knives," said Cabot.
Many were unsheathed, and by far the most, and each of those daggers pointed downward, threateningly, toward the pit in which Lord Pyrrhus awaited the verdict.
"I do not think," said Peisistratus, scanning the tiers, "that Lord Agamemnon will have his needful numbers."
"Hold!" came the booming voice of the judge.
"No," whispered Peisistratus, "he would not have his needful numbers."
"Desist!" came from the speakers about the courtroom. "This matter will be decided otherwise."
"It will be the arena," whispered Peisistratus.
Daggers were sheathed, and the Kurii stirred restlessly, eagerly, on the tiers.
"Kur to Kur!" cried Lord Pyrrhus, shackled, but mighty, looking upward, fangs bared.
"Yes," said the judge, the voice seeming to ring about the gigantic chamber. "Kur to Kur!"
The Kurii on the tiers leaped up and down, howling with pleasure. Muchly were they satisfied with this outcome.
The passion for truth, and the seeking of justice, in the Kur heart, is linked more closely with victory than deliberation, with triumph than balloting, with blood than mind. The hereditary coils have cast their countless lots, and nature has made her innumerable decisions amongst them, according to her mysterious wills and ways, denominating her fortunes of extinction and prosperity, of defeat and victory, of death and life. To the Kur it is the highest court, and her judgments are nonrepudiable.
Sometimes a free woman, perhaps curious, or adventurously bold, or resentful, rankling under the prohibition of such premises to her sex, will disguise herself as a slave girl, even daring to affect the degrading habiliments of the kajira, and enter. These, commonly, are soon detected, given their tone, bearing, carriage, or mien. It is difficult for the Gorean free woman, with her pride, assumptions, background, behaviors, and attitudes, to pass herself off as a slave. There are too many differences, too many difficulties. The free woman is not yet a slave; she has not yet been broken to the collar. The discovered imposters are politely back-bound and escorted from the premises. Then, their hands bound behind them, they must make their way home. How then can they return to their cached garments and dress themselves? Being so treated, of course, openly and publicly, is scandalous to the free woman, and may be ruinous to her reputation. Certainly her peers, afterwards, are likely to shun her, and look upon her as little more than the female slave she endeavored to counterfeit. If the free woman wishes to make a scene, she may be back-bound and ejected naked, with her tunic tied about her left, bound wrist. Sometimes she may be remanded to guardsmen and held for a public trial, on charges of conduct unbecoming to, and offensive to, free women.