Men to Free Women
These are relevant references from the Books where Men to Free Women are mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
"I never thought," Tab was saying, "that I would find a free woman of interest." He had one arm about Midice.
"On a peasant holding," said Thurnock, defensively, as though he must justify having freed Thura, "one can get much more work from a free woman!" He pounded the table. Thura wore talenders in her hair.
"A retinue!" shouted one of the guards.
"There is a free woman with the retinue!" shouted another.
I heard Targo crying out. "Slaves out!"
I was thrilled. I had never seen a Gorean free woman.
I watched the flat wagon rolling closer.
The woman sat regally on the curule chair, wrapped in resplendent, many-colored silks. Her raiment might have cost more than any three or four of us together were worth. She was, moreover, veiled.
"Do you dare look upon a free woman?" asked a guard. I not only dared, but I was eager to do so. But, nudged by his foot, as the wagon approached, I lowered my head to the grass, as did the other girls.
The wagon, and the retinue, stopped only a few feet opposite us.
I did not dare to raise my head.
"Lift your head, Child," said a woman's voice.
I did so.
She was no older than I, I am sure, but she addressed me as a child.
I looked into her eyes. How steadily she regarded me, over her veil, her eyes mused. How beautiful she seemed. How splendid and fine! I could no longer meet her eyes.
"You may lower your head, Girl," she said, not unkindly. Gratefully I put my head again, swiftly, to the grass.
When the wagon, and the retinue, had passed us, Targo straightened up. He had a strange expression on his face. He was pleased about something.
"Who was she?" asked the grizzled, one-eyed guard. "The Lady Rena of Lydius," said Targo, "of the Builders."
That night, at a stream, we stopped early to camp.
Out of the darkness came two men, warriors. Between them, face-stripped, was a woman, stumbling. Her arms, over her resplendent robes, were bound to her sides with a broad leather strap. She was thrown to the feet of Targo.
"You were foolish to hire mercenaries to guard you," said Targo.
"Please!" she cried.
I recognized her then. She was the woman with the retinue.
"Please!" wept the woman. I admitted to myself that she was beautiful.
"You have an admirer," Targo told her, "a Captain of Tyros, who glimpsed you in Lydius last fall. He has contracted to buy you privately in Ar, to be taken to his pleasure gardens on Tyros. He will pay one hundred pieces of gold."
Several of the girls gasped.
"Who?" asked the captive, plaintively.
"You will learn when you are sold to him," said Targo. "Curiosity is not becoming in a Kajira," said Targo. "You might be beaten for it."
I remembered that the large man, on the planet Earth, had said to me this thing. I gathered that it was a Gorean saying.
The woman, distraught, shook her head.
"Think!" urged Targo. "Were you cruel to someone? Did you slight someone? Did you not grant someone the courtesy that was his due?"
The woman looked terrified.
"Strip her," said Targo.
"No, no!" she wept.
"Will the Lady Tina of Lydius deign to face me?" asked the judge, using the courteous tones and terminology with which Gorean free women, often inordinately honored, are addressed.
She had been the proud free woman, sold at Two Scimitars, with Zina, the traitress. It was difficult now to see in this lascivious, delicious slave, who seemed born to the collar, the proud free woman whom Hassan had earlier captured, and who had been later sold at the Bakah oasis of Two Scimitars. Some Goreans maintain that all women are born to the collar, and require only to find that man strong enough to put it on them.
"What are you talking about?" she demanded. "Give me my clothing," she demanded angrily.
Again the points of the two spears pressed against her abdomen. Again they penetrated the loosely woven cloth. Again she stepped back, for the moment disconcerted.
I gathered that she had been accustomed to having her demands met by men.
When a woman speaks in that tone of voice to a man of Earth he generally hastens to do her bidding. He has been conditioned so. Here, however, her proven Earth techniques seemed ineffectual, and this puzzled her, and angered her, and, I think, to an extent frightened her. What if men did not do her bidding? She was smaller and weaker, and beautiful and desirable. What if she discovered that it were she, and not they, who must do now what was bidden, and with perfection? A woman who spoke in that tone to a Gorean man, if she were not a free woman, would find herself instantly whipped to his feet.
I gestured to the two girls with the free woman. One of them slightly lowered her veil.
"I will pay well for the use of one of these slaves," I said to the free woman.
"They are my personal slaves," she said.
"I will give a silver tarsk for the brief use of one, either that you might indicate," I said.
The warriors looked at one another. The offer was quite generous. It was unlikely that either of the girls would bring so much on the block.
"No," said the free woman, icily.
"Permit me then to buy one," I said, "for a golden tarn." The men looked at one another, the draft slaves, too. Such a coin would fetch from the block a beauty fit for the gardens of a Ubar.
"Stand aside," said the free woman.
I inclined my head. "Very well, Lady," said I. I moved to one side.
"I deem myself to have been insulted," she said.
"Forgive me, Lady," said I, "but such was not my intent. If I have done or said aught to convey that impression, however minutely, I extend to you now the deepest and most profound of apologies and regrets."
I stepped back further, to permit the retinue to pass.
"I should have you beaten," she said.
"I have greeted you in peace and friendship," I said. I spoke quietly.
"Beat him," she said.
I caught the arm of the captain. His face turned white. "Have you raised your arm against me?" I asked.
I released his arm, and he staggered back. Then he slung his shield on his arm, and unsheathed the blade slung at his left hip.
"What is going on!" demanded the woman.
"Be silent, foolish woman," said the captain.
She cried out with rage. But what did she know of the codes?
I met his attack, turning it, and he fell, shield loose, at my feet. I had not chosen to kill him.
"Aiii!" cried one of the draft slaves.
"Kill him! Kill him!" cried the free woman. The slave girls screamed.
"I was terribly angry," she said. "'Never have I been so insulted!' I said to him. 'I hate you!' I cried. He smiled at me. 'Being troublesome and displeasing is acceptable in a free woman,' he said. 'Be troublesome and displeasing while you may. It will not be permitted to you later.'
"Back! Back!" they cried. "Back, you collared she-sleen!" they cried to the slave girls, drawing their whips. And the leather of their whips, to cries of dismay and pain, fell liberally on the half-stripped bodies of the imbonded beauties. Even free women among them cried out in misery, struck. Then the women, bond and free, fell back, crying and frightened, for all women, whether slave or free, understand the whip.
"No," she said. "No!" She regarded me, in fury. "Can you not simply look upon me and see that I am free?"
"Perhaps if I saw you in the robes of concealment, and veiled, being carried in a palanquin through the streets of Vonda by slaves," I said, "I would think you free."
"It has nothing to do with such things!" she said. "Free women are different from slave girls. They are simply different! Free woman are noble and fine! Slave girls are only meaningless, lascivious, sensuous, little sluts!"
"Men seeing you will want you in their collar," I said. "They will pay high to take you from the block. As a free woman you are extremely beautiful. As a slave you will be a thousand times more beautiful."
"I am a free woman of Vonda!" the woman at the counter had been crying out last night. "You cannot put me out!" "You will pay or be ejected," Strobius had told her.
"You cannot put me out into the street!" she said. I had taken another sip of the sul porridge.
The woman at the counter had been veiled, as is common with Gorean women, particularly those of high caste and of the high cities. Many Gorean women, in their haughtiness and pride, do not choose to have their features exposed to the common view. They are too fine and noble to he looked upon by the casual rabble. Similarly the robes of concealment worn by many Gorean women are doubtless dictated by similar sentiments. On the other hand veiling is a not impractical modesty in a culture in which capture, and the chain and the whip are not unknown. One justification for the veiling and for the robes of concealment, which is not regarded as inconsiderable, is that it is supposed to provide something of a protection against abduction and predation. Who would wish to risk his life, it is said, to carry off a woman who might, when roped to a tree and stripped, turn out to be as ugly as a tharlarion? Slave girls, by contrast, are almost never permitted veils. Similarly they are usually clad in such a way that their charms are manifest and obvious to even the casual onlooker. This, aside from having such utilities as reminding the girls that they are total slaves and giving pleasure to the men who look upon them, is supposed to make them, rather than free women, the desiderated objects of capture and rapine. I think there is something to this theory for, statistically, it is almost always the female slave and not her free sister who finds herself abducted and struggling in the lashings of captors or slavers. On the other hand, in spite of the theories pertaining to such matters, free women are certainly not immune to the fates of capture and enslavement Many men, despite the theories pertaining to such matters, and accepting the risks involved, enjoy taking them. Some slavers specialize in the capture of free women. Indeed, it is thought by some, perhaps largely because of the additional risks involved, and the interest in seeing what one has caught, that there is a special spice and flavor about taking them. Similarly it is said to be pleasant, if one has the time and patience, first to their horror and then to their joy, training them to the collar.
"You cannot put me out into the street!" had cried the free woman.
"I can," he informed her soberly.
"I am a free woman of Vonda," she said, "a member of the Confederation."
"I am an innkeeper," said he. "My politics are those of the ledger and silver."
"I am a free woman," she said. "Do you find slaves more interesting than I?"
"Of course," I said.
"Why?" she asked.
"For one thing," I said, "they are owned."
"That makes them fascinating, doesn't it?" she said, bitterly.
"Yes," I said.
"And doubtless," she said, angrily, "they do not have the inhibitions and frigidities of their free sisters!"
"They are not permitted them," I admitted.
"I hate female slaves," she said.
"Why are they preferred over free women?" she asked.
"Because they are slaves," I said.
"What are the differences?" she asked.
"There are thousands," I said. "Perhaps, most simply, the female slave is submitted to men. This makes her the most total of women."
"Disgusting," she said.
"Perhaps," I said.
The presence of a free woman on a ship, incidentally, causes some Gorean sailors uneasiness. Indeed, some, superstitiously, and mistakenly, in my opinion, regard them as harbingers of ill fortune. This is probably, from the objective point of view, a function of the dissension such a woman may produce, particularly on long voyages, and of the alterations in seamanship and conduct which can be attendant upon her presence on shipboard. For example, knowing that a free woman is on board, and must be accommodated and protected, can adversely, whether it should or not, affect the decisions of a captain. He might put into shore when it would be best to remain at sea; he might run when he should fight; when he should be firm, he might vacillate; when he should be strong, he might be conciliatory and weak.
"Too," said I, "tie shut your tunic. Free women may soon be about. We must not scandalize them."
"A free woman!" suddenly exclaimed Glyco, startled.
From the kitchen there had emerged, in the robes of concealment, the figure of a woman.
The men, save I, rose as one to their feet, for Gorean men commonly stand when a free woman enters a room.
The voluptuous slave of Aemilianus swiftly knelt, making herself as small as possible, putting her head to the floor. The little dark-haired slave, too, swiftly knelt, also putting her head to the floor. Too, she shuddered, trying to cover her nakedness with her hands. Peggy and Florence, too, now had their heads to the floor. Slave girls, as I may have mentioned, fear free women, terribly.
"What did Grunt, who is your master, the fellow in the broad-brimmed hat, call you?" I asked.
"'Wicincala'," she said, "which means 'Girl', and 'Amomona', which means 'Baby' or 'Doll'."
"I see," I said. I myself prefer the application of such expressions not to slaves, but to pretentious free women, to remind them that they, in spite of their freedom, are only women. They are useful, by the way, in making a free woman uneasy, their use suggesting to her that perhaps the male is considering shortly enslaving her. In speaking to a slave I prefer expressions such as 'Slave' or 'Slave Girl', or the girl's name itself, she understanding clearly, of course, that it is only a slave name.
I did not know if Bloketu would be permitted into the council or not. Normally women are not permitted in such places. The red savages, though often listening with great attention to their free women, and according them great honor and respect, do not choose to relinquish the least bit of their sovereignty to them. They will make the decisions. They are the men. The women will obey.
Lastly I would no longer be an encumbrance to you for I am, obviously, no longer a free woman. No longer am I an inconvenience and a bother, something to be concerned about and watched out for. Now I am only a property that begs to love and serve you."
Too, Miles of Argentum had speculated that I might bring as much as even a silver tarsk in a market. Was it then because I was free? Were Gorean men spoiled for free women by those collared, curvaceous little sluts they had crawling about their feet, desperately eager to please them? Given such luscious alternatives it was natural enough, I supposed, that men would see little point in subjecting themselves to the inconvenience, frustration and pain of relating to a free woman, with her demands, inhibitions and rigidities. Perhaps they could not be blamed for not choosing to reduce the quality of their lives in this fashion. To be sure, if slaves were not available, then it was understandable how men might relate to free women. Sexually starved, and driven by their needs, they would then be forced to make do with whatever might be available, the best in such a case perhaps being the free woman. But on Gor alternatives, real alternatives, slaves, were available. It was no wonder free women as I had heard, so hated slaves. How could they even begin to compete with a slave, those dreams come true for men?
"I suppose," I said, "I should be pleased that you did not order me to strip completely and kneel before you."
"You are, of course," he said, "a free woman."
"Yet it seems," I said, "if only implicitly, you have threatened me."
"Suitable disciplines and punishments may be arranged for a free woman," he said, "suitable to her status and dignity."
"I am sure of it," I said, ironically.
He then approached me, and stood quite close to me. I was facing away from him.
"And yet," he said, "I sense that such disciplines and punishments, those suitable for free women, would not be suitable for you."
"And what sorts of disciplines and punishments would be suitable for me?" I asked.
He then jerked away the veil of state from my features. I, though a free woman, had been face-stripped before free men. My face was as bare to them as though I might be a slave. Face-stripping a free woman, against her will, can be a serious crime on Gor.
"Perhaps you are a free woman," he said. "It is hard to imagine a slave being so stupid."
"Interesting," said Tina. "Are you so unskilled, so inert, so like a free woman that you are not even worth having?"
"I do not think so," I said.
"I do not understand it," she said. "Surely he wants you to become more of a slave and not less of a slave."
"That is perhaps it," I said, frightened. I recalled his words to me at supper yesterday evening. "Remember that you are the Tatrix of Corcyrus, and not a slave," he had said.
"What?" she asked.
"He may want to keep me more like a free woman," I said.
"Why would he want to do that?" she asked. "That would be stupid, since you are a slave."
"You seem to have been furnished with rather complete descriptions," I said. I was surprised that he had been furnished with estimations of wrist, ankle and collar sizes. One does not usually think in terms of such things where free women are concerned. On the other hand, such measurements, I supposed, are pertinent to any woman.
"You are a natural slave," he said. "Perhaps you know that by now. The brand and collar are perfect on you. You are a thousand times more beautiful as a slave than you were as a free woman."
Hassan apparently had her on a careful diet and exercise program Her body was now vital and healthy, and excitingly curved far beyond anything that one commonly expects in a free woman.
"You take free women into companionship," I said, "but you dream of slaves. You even dream of the free woman as slave. I doubt that any glandularly sufficient male does not want us as slaves. If he doesn't, then I think he must be very short on imagination. What do you think is the meaning of your size and strength, your energy and agility, your dominance? Do you think it is all some alarming, inexplicable, statistical eccentricity? Can you not see the order of nature? Is it so difficult to disclose? Why do you think men make us slaves, and put us in collars? It is because they want us a slaves. And why do you think we make such superb slaves? Because we are born slaves."
I inclined my head, "Lady," said I, acknowledging the introduction. To a free woman considerable deference is due, particularly to one such as the Lady Rowena, one obviously, at least hitherto, of high station.
She inclined her head to me, and then lifted it, acknowledging my greeting.
I saw that her sexual drives were far too strong to be appropriate for those of a free woman. In her there was an eager, succumbing slave.
"Now I want to be overwhelmed, dominated. Now I want to take my place in the order of nature. Now I want to be what I am, and have always been, truly, a woman!"
In every woman, of course, Goreans think, there is a slave.
Perhaps, in the end, there is no difference.
She looked at me, pleadingly.
"You are a free woman," I told her.
"It would seem thus," I said, "at least according to some, that you are entitled to respect and dignity."
"I have never encountered a convincing proof to that effect," she said. "Have you?"
"No," I said.
"Oh, would that I were a slave," she smiled. "Then I would not have to concern myself with such matters. Then I would only have to mind my manners and make certain that I pleased my masters, totally."
"To be sure," I said, "many of the matters with which the free woman must concern herself are simply irrelevant to the slave."
"Such as dignity and respect," she said.
"Yes," I said.
"Under those names I have gone hungry for years," she said.
"And yet, now," I said, "you have come, and of your own free will, to a rack."
"There comes a time," she said, "when the slogans no longer suffice, a time when the myth is seen to be meaningless."
"And such a time came for you?" I said.
"Yes," she said.
"Free women are more beautiful than slaves," she said.
"That is false," I said. "Furthermore, every woman, in her heart, knows it is false. Any beauty a free woman has, for example, is enhanced a thousand-fold when she becomes a slave."
"I hate slaves!" she said.
"That is because you are not one of them," I said. "You envy them."
"Beware," she said. "I am a free woman!"
"I know," I said.
I did not think it was necessary to remind her that I was not really according her the polite courtesies and gentle dignities appropriate to the pleasures of the free woman, but was, in effect, of my own will, by my own decision, subjecting her to attentions more commonly reserved for the imbonded female, the woman who has no choice but to submit to a lengthy and authoritative ravishing, one which well teaches her the meaning of her collar, and what it is to be in the hands of a man, and as he wants her.
"I am a free woman," she said. "How can you, a free man, deny me anything I want?"
"Easily," I said.
She looked at me, angrily.
"Many free women believe they can have anything they want, merely by asking for it, or demanding it," I said, "but now you see that that is not true, at least not in a world where there are true men."
"Disgusting!" cried the free woman.
"It is you who are disgusting," said one of the men to the free woman.
"I?" she cried.
"Yes, you," he said.
The free woman did not respond to him. She stiffened in her robes, her small hands clenched in her blue gloves. How antibiological, petty, and self-serving were her value judgments.
"As you are perfect gentlemen, you will free me," she said. "I can count on that as a free woman!"
I smiled. Goreans tend to be less gentlemen, than owners and masters of females. In the order of nature they tend to acquire and dominate them, making them uncompromisingly their own.
"And so what is your complaint?" I inquired. As she was a free woman, it seemed I should be concerned, at least to some extent, with any complaints which she might have. A slave, of course, in distinction from a free woman, is not permitted complaints. She must try to obtain things in other ways, for example, by humble requests while kneeling or lying on her belly before her master.
The small figure stood just outside what had once been the threshold of the hut. It had come there naturally, it seemed, as if perhaps by force of habit, or conviction, although the door was no longer there. It seemed forlorn, and weary. It clutched something in its arms.
"Are you a brigand?" she asked.
"No," I said.
"It is a free woman," whispered Feiqa, kneeling on the blankets.
"Cover your nakedness," I said. Feiqa pulled her tiny, coarse tunic about herself.
"This is my house," said the woman.
"Do you wish us to leave?" I asked.
"Do you have anything to eat?" she asked.
"A little," I said. "Are you hungry?"
"No," she said.
"Perhaps the child is hungry?" I asked.
"No," she said.
"We have plenty."
I said nothing.
"I am a free woman!" she said, suddenly, piteously.
"We have food," I said. "We have used your house. Permit us to share it with you."
"Oh, I have begged at the wagons," she said suddenly, sobbing. "It is not a new thing for me! I have begged! I have been on my knees for a crust of bread. I have fought with other women for garbage beside the road."
"You shall not beg in your own house," I said.
She began to sob, and the small child, bundled in her arms, began to whimper.
I approached her very slowly, and drew back the edge of the coverlet about the child. Its eyes seemed very large. Its face was dirty.
"There are hundreds of us," she said, "following the wagons. In these times only soldiers can live."
"The forces of Ar," I said, "are even now being mustered, to repel the invaders. The soldiers of Cos, and their mercenary contingents, no matter how numerous, will be no match for the marshaled squares of Ar."
"My child is hungry," she said. "What do I care for the banners of Ar or Cos?"
"Are you companioned?" I asked.
"I do not know any longer," she said.
"Where are the men?" I asked.
"Gone," she said. "Fled, driven away, killed. Many were impressed into service. They are gone, all of them are gone."
"What happened here?" I asked.
"Foragers," she said. "They came for supplies, and men. They took what we had. Then they burned the village."
I nodded. I supposed things might not have been much different if the foragers had been soldiers of Ar.
"Would you like to stay in my house tonight?" she asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Build up the fire," I said to Feiqa, who was kneeling back in the shadows. She had put her tunic about her. Too, she had pulled up the blanket about her body. As soon as I had spoken she crawled over the flat stones to the ashes of the fire, and began to prod among them, stirring them with a narrow stick, searching for covert vital embers.
"Surely you are a brigand," said the woman to me.
"No," I said.
"Then you are a deserter," she said. "It would be death for you to be found."
"No," I said. "I am not a deserter."
"What are you then?" she asked.
"A traveler," I said.
"What is your caste?" she asked.
"Scarlet is the color of my caste," I said.
"I thought it might be," she said. "Who but such as you can live in these times?"
I gave her some bread from my pack, from a rep-cloth draw-sack, and a bit of dried meat, paper thin, from its tied leather envelope.
"There, there," she crooned to the child, putting bits of bread into its mouth.
"I have water," I said, "but no broth, or soup."
"The ditches are filled with water," she said. "Here, here, little one."
"Why did you come back?" I asked.
"I have heard there are more wagons coming," she said. "Perhaps there will be fewer to follow these."
"You came back because you wanted to see the village again?" I speculated. "Perhaps you wanted to see if some of the men had returned."
"They are gone," she said.
"Why did you come back?" I asked.
"I came to look for roots," she said, chewing.
"Did you find any?" I asked.
She looked at me quickly, narrowly. "No," she said.
"Have more bread," I said, offering it.
"It is a gift, like your hospitality." I said, "between free persons. Did you not accept it I should be shamed."
"You are kind," she said, "Not to make me beg in my own house."
"Eat," I said.
Feiqa had now succeeded in reviving the fire. It was now a small, sturdy, cheerful blaze. She knelt near it, on her bare knees, in the tiny, coarse tunic, on the flat, sooted, stained stones, tending it.
"She is collared!" cried the woman, suddenly, looking at Feiqa.
Feiqa shrank back, her hand inadvertently going to her collar. Too, her thigh now bore a brand, the common Kajira mark, high on her left thigh, just under the hip. I had had it put on her two days after leaving the vicinity of Samnium, at the town of Market of Semris, well known for its sales of tarsks. It had been put on in the house of the slaver, Teibar. He brands superbly, and his prices are competitive. No longer could the former Lady Charlotte, once of Samnium, be mistaken for a free woman.
The free woman looked at Feiqa, aghast.
"Belly," I said to Feiqa.
Immediately Feiqa, trembling, went to her belly on the stained, sooted stones near the fire.
"I know your sort!" cried the free woman. "I see them sometimes with the wagons, sleek, chained and well-fed, while free women starve!"
"It is natural that such women be cared for," I said. "They are salable animals, properties. They represent a form of wealth. It is as natural to look after them as it is to look after tharlarion or tarsks."
"You will not stay in my house!" cried the free woman to Feiqa. "I will not keep livestock in my house!"
Feiqa clenched her small fists beside her head. I could see she did not care to hear this sort of thing. In Samnium she had been a rich woman, of a family well known on its Street of Coins. Doubtless many times she would have held herself a thousand times superior to the poor peasant women, coming in from the villages, in their bleached woolen robes, bringing their sacks and baskets of grain and produce to the city's markets. Her clenched fists indicated that perhaps she did not yet fully understand that all that was now behind her.
"Animal!" screamed the free woman.
Feiqa looked up angrily, tears in her eyes, and lifted herself an inch or two from the floor on the palms of her hands. "I was once as free as you!" she said.
"Oh!" cried Feiqa, suddenly, sobbing, recoiling from my kick, and then "Ali!" she cried, in sharp pain, as, my hand in her hair, she was jerked up to a kneeling position.
"But no more!" I said. I was furious. I could not believe her insolence.
"No, Master," she wept, "no more!"
I then, with the back of my hand, and then its palm, first one, and then the other, back and forth, to and fro, again and again, lashed her head from side to side. Then I flung her on her belly before the free woman. The was blood on my hand, and about her mouth and lips.
"Forgive me!" she begged the free woman. "Forgive me!"
"Address her as 'Mistress,'" I said. It is customary for Gorean slaves to address free women as "Mistress" and free men as "Master."
"I beg your forgiveness, Mistress!" wept the girl. "Forgive me, please, I beg it of you!"
"She is new to the collar," I apologized to the free woman. "I think that perhaps even now she does not yet fully understand its import. Yet I think that perhaps she understands something more of its meaning now than she did a few moments ago. Shall I kill her?"
Hearing this question Feiqa cried out in fear and shuddered uncontrollably on her belly before the free woman. She then clutched at her ankles and, putting down her head, began to cover her feet with desperate, placatory kisses. "Please forgive the animal!" wept Feiqa. "The animal begs your forgiveness! Please, Mistress! Please, gracious, beautiful, noble Mistress! Forgive Feiqa, please forgive Feiqa, who is only a slave!"
I looked down at Feiqa. I think she now understood her collar better than before. I had, for her insolence and unconscionable behavior, literally placed her life in the hands of the free woman. She now understood this sort of thing could be done. Too, she would now understand even more keenly how her life was completely and totally, absolutely, at the mercy of a Master. It thus came home to her, I think, fully, perhaps for the first time, what it could be to be a Gorean slave.
"Are you sorry for what you have done?" asked the free woman.
"Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, Mistress!" wept Feiqa, her head down, doing obeisance to one who was a thousand times, nay, infinitely, her superior, the free woman of the peasants.
"You may live," said the free woman.
"Thank you, Mistress!" wept Feiqa, head down, shuddering and sobbing uncontrollably at the free woman's feet.
"Have you learned anything from this, Feiqa?" I asked.
"Yes, Master," she wept.
"What?" I asked.
"That I am a slave," she said.
"Do not forget it, Feiqa," I told her.
"No, Master," she sobbed, fervently.
"Will you stay the night?" asked the free woman.
"With your permission" I said.
"You are welcome here," she said. "But you will have to sleep your animal outside."
I glanced down at Feiqa. She was still shuddering. It would be difficult for her, I supposed, at least for a time, to cope with her new comprehensions concerning the nature of her condition.
"I do not allow livestock in my house," said the free woman.
I smiled, looking down at Feiqa. To be sure, the former rich young lady of Samnium was now livestock, that and nothing more. Too I smiled because of the free woman's concern, and outrage, at the very thought of having a slave in the house. This seemed amusing to me for two reasons. First, it is quite common for Goreans to keep slaves, a lovely form of domestic animal, in the house. Indeed, the richer and more well-to-do the Gorean the more likely it is that he will have slaves in the house. In the houses of administrators, in the domiciles of high merchants, in the palaces of Ubars, for example, slaves, and usually beautiful ones, for they can afford them, are often abundant. Secondly, it is not unusual either for many peasants to keep animals in the house, usually verr or bosk, sometimes tarsk, at least in the winter. The family lives in one section of the dwelling, and the animals are quartered in the other.
"Go outside," I told Feiqa.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"Would you like a little more food?" I asked the free woman. "I have some more."
She looked at me.
"Please," I said.
She took two more wedges of yellow Sa-Tarna bread. I put some more sticks on the fire.
"Here," she said, embarrassed. She drew some roots, and two suls, from her robe. They had been freshly dug. Dirt still clung to them. She put them down on the stones, between us. I sat down cross-legged, and she knelt down, opposite me, knees together, in the common fashion of the Gorean free woman. The roots, the two suls, were between us. She rocked the child in her arms.
"I thought you could find no roots." I smiled.
"Some were left in the garden," she said. "I remembered them. I came back for them. There was very little left though. Others obviously had come before me. These things were missed. They are poor stuff. We used to use the produce of that garden for tarsk feed."
"They are fine roots," I said, "and splendid Suls."
"We even hunt for tarsk troughs," she said, wearily, "and dig in the cold dirt of the pens. The tarsk are gone, but sometimes a bit of feed remains, fallen between the cracks, or missed by the animals, having been trampled into the mud. There are many tricks we learn in these days."
"I do not want to take your food," I said.
"Would you shame me?" she asked.
"No," I said.
"Share my kettle," she said.
"Thank you," I said. I took one of the roots and broke off a bit of it in my hand. I rubbed the dirt from it. I bit into it. "Good," I said. I did not eat more, however. I would let her keep her food. I had done in this matter what would be sufficient. I had, in what I had done, acknowledged her as the mistress in her house; I had shown her honor; I had "shared her kettle."
"Little Andar is asleep," she said, looking at the bundled child.
"You may sleep your slave inside the threshold," she said.
"Get back!" he cried.
Some crowded yet more closely about the wagon. "Bread!" they begged. "Please!" Then the whip fell amongst them and they, though free women, fell back, away from it, crying out in pain, and scattering.
"Tomorrow then," he cried, angrily, "if you wish, there will be nothing for any of you!"
"No, please!" wept the women.
"Kneel down," he said. Swiftly they fell on their knees, behind the wagon. "Heads down to the dirt," he commanded. They complied. I was not certain that it was proper to command free women in this fashion. It was rather as one might command slaves. Still, women, even free women, look well, obeying. The slave, of course, must obey. She has no choice.
"You may lift your heads," he said. "Are you contrite?" he inquired.
"Yes," moaned several of the women.
"Perhaps you are moved to beg my forgiveness?" he asked.
"We beg your forgiveness, generous and noble sir!" called a woman.
"Yes, yes!" said others.
I leaped to the free woman and tore the whip from her hand, hurling it angrily to the side. She looked at me, wildly, in fury, not believing I had dared to interfere.
"What right have you to interfere?" she demanded.
"The right of a man who is not pleased with your behavior, female," I said.
"Female!" she cried, in fury.
"Yes," I said.
Her hand darted to the hilt of the dagger she wore at her belt. I regarded her evenly. She, frightened, quickly removed her hand from the hilt of the dagger, crying out in frustration, in rage. Then she lifted her fists and, with the sides of them, together, struck towards me. "Oh!" she cried, in misery, in frustration. I had caught both her small wrists. She could not begin to free them. "Oh!" she cried in misery, in protest, as, inexorably, slowly, I forced her down. Then she was kneeling before me, her wrists in my grip. I turned her about and flung her to her belly, and then knelt across her thighs. I removed her dagger from its sheath. "No!" she cried. I then, with her own dagger, cut her clothing from her body.
"Binding fiber," I said, not even looking, just putting out my hand. Some was fetched, a length of some five feet, or so, and, in a moment, with one end of the fiber, with a few loops and a knot, her wrists crossed, her hands were secured behind her back. I had tied her tightly, utterly helplessly, as I might have a slave. "Help!" she cried out to the warriors. "Help!" But none stirred to render her assistance. I then reversed my position on her body, kneeling now facing her feet, across the small of her back. I pulled her ankles up, behind her body, at an angle of about fifty degrees, and crossed them. I then, with the free end of the binding fiber, extending back from her wrists, tied them together, tightly, fastening them to her wrists. "Please!" she cried to the warriors but none leapt to accord her succor. I then lifted her up, in effect kneeling her, and then bent her back, her head back to the dirt, that the warriors might assess the bow of her beauty.
"You might be caught, and put in chains," said Hurtha. He did not even mention, explicitly, the horrifying word "bondage." In this he was tactful. She was a free woman.
"Yes," said Hurtha. "And such protection extends to you, of course, only in so far as you are a free woman."
"I am not a slave!" she said, weeping, struggling. "I am a free woman! I do not have sexual needs!"
"Perhaps not," I said. To be sure, it was difficult, and probably fruitless, to argue with a free woman about such matters. Too, I might have misread what seemed to be numerous and obvious signs of need in her. Perhaps free women neither needed nor wanted sexual experience. That, I supposed, was their business. On the other hand, if they did not want or need sex, the transformation between the free woman and the slave becomes difficult to understand. To be sure, perhaps it is merely the collar, and the uncompromising male domination, which so unlocks, and calls forth, the passion, service and love of a female.
"Doubtless men will be here soon," I said.
"What are you doing?" she wept.
I put the opaque sack over her head and tied it, with its own strings, under her chin, close about her neck, rather like a slave hood. "This will make it easier for you," I said. "I am veiling you. Too, this will enable you, by shutting out certain extraneous factors, to concentrate more closely on the exact nature of your sensations."
"Release me!" she wept.
I heard a fellow near me. I looked about.
"She is certified free?" he asked.
"Yes," I said. "Examine her."
He thrust Boabissia's dress up, high, over her breasts. He examined her thighs, and the usual brand sites on a Gorean female slave.
"How much?" he asked.
"She is only a free woman," I said. I put a copper bowl on the ground, beside her, at her left. "She is not trained. Only a tarsk bit." It was the smallest, least significant Gorean coin, at least in common circulation.
"In advance," I said. Men are commonly disappointed in free women, and almost certainly if they have experienced the alternative. They are not slaves, trained in the giving of pleasure to men. Some free women believe that their role in lovemaking consists primarily in lying down. Should they become slaves the whip soon teaches them differently.
"Of course," he said. The coin rattled into the copper bowl.
"No!" wept Boabissia. She clenched her ankles tightly together. Then her ankles, one in each hand of the fellow, were parted.
"Did you take me?" she asked.
"Did Hurtha have me?" she asked.
"You are a free woman," I told her. I then removed the sack from her head. Her face was red, and broken out. Her hair was damp. I turned the sack inside out, that it might dry and air. Boabissia turned away from me, apparently not wanting to meet my eyes. I do not think she wanted us to see her face. She was afraid, I think, of what we might see them. We would respect this. She was, after all, a free woman. We would, similarly, in deference to her feelings, keep Feiqa and Tula under the blanket for a time, lest their eyes suddenly, inadvertently, meet hers, and women read in one another's eyes truths which might be deeper than speech. "Good night," I said to her.
"True," I said. I thought it might be fun to sell Boabissia. She occasionally got on one's nerves. Too, as a free woman, she could be something of a nuisance.
"Few men will trouble themselves to steal a dried crust of bread, perhaps even at great personal risk, if a free banquet is set forth for them. To be sure, some men are unusual."
"I am not a dried crust of bread," she said, irritably.
"It is only a figure of speech," I said.
"If I chose to be, if I were in the least interested in that sort of thing," she said, "I could prove to be a quite tasty pudding for a man."
"'Tasty pudding'?" I asked, pleased to hear her speak in this way.
"Yes," she said.
"That is a common misconception of untrained free women," I said. "They think themselves attractive and skilled, when they know little of attractiveness and almost nothing of skill."
"Yes," I said. "There is more in pleasing a man than taking off your clothes and lying down."
"Indeed," I said, "sometimes you do not take off your clothes, and you do not lie down."
"Perhaps you could get lessons from Feiqa," I said.
"Oh, no, please, Master!" cried Feiqa, fearfully. "Please, no!"
I smiled. I did not think, under the circumstances, it would be necessary to beat her. It had, after all, been a joke on my part, a capital one. To be sure, not everyone appreciates my splendid sense of humor. Boots Tarsk-Bit had not always done so, as I recalled.
"Strip," he said.
"Do so, immediately," I said to Boabissia, sternly.
Trembling she thrust down her dress over her hips, and stood then within it, it down about her ankles.
"Your sandals, too," I said, "quickly!"
Frightened she slipped from them, too. When a Gorean orders a woman to strip he means now, and completely, leaving not so much as a thread upon her body.
"If it is of interest to you," he said, "I did not simply buy you. Although your mother was a free woman I had her strip, and then put her through slave paces. I would attempt to assess the possibilities of the daughter by seeing the mother, by seeing her naked and performing, attempting desperately to please. When she was reluctant, as a free woman, I used the whip on her. Thus I obtained a better idea of what I might be buying."
"Tell me about my mother, please," she said.
"She was a comely wench, as I determined, when I saw her naked," he said. "She was curvaceous, and, when she realized I would not compromise with her, moved quite well. She herself, I am sure, under a suitable master, would have made excellent collar meat. She would also make, it seemed to me, an excellent breeder of slaves."
"Why not train her?" I asked.
"Training would be inappropriate for her, as she is a free woman," said my hostess. "Too, it might scandalize and horrify her. We would certainly not want that. Too, it is not likely that it would even be fully meaningful to her, as she is free, and would thus not be able to understand it as it is meant to be understood, in the helpless depths of an owned belly."
"You are not interested in free females?" she said.
"Not particularly," I reminded her. This is not that unusual in one who has tasted of slaves. As women, there is no comparison between a free woman and her imbonded sister. Perhaps that is why free women so hate slaves. To be sure, there is something to be said for free women. It is enjoyable to capture, enslave and train them. That is interesting. But then, of course, in a matter of time, one is not then dealing any longer with a free woman, but only another slave.
"Would you care to join me?" I asked.
"I'm sorry," she said. "It would not be proper. I do not even know you."
"Forgive me," I said. "I did not mean to be forward." She moved her left foot a little, causing the bangles on her left ankle to move slightly. Most free women, of course, would never wear such things. They are regarded as suitable and appropriate only for slaves. She moved the bracelets on her left wrist up her left forearm an inch or two. The tiny noise this made was exciting, slave exciting. With one hand she threw her hair back. It was loose. Slaves commonly wear their hair loose. She moved subtly, charmingly, seemingly inadvertently, within the dress. Then she seemed, suddenly, concerned with it. Could there be something wrong with it? She then, almost apologetically, adjusted one of shoulder straps of the dress, pulling it up tighter and more to the side. She did this as though not giving it much thought, and as though modestly, but in such a way, with such a movement of her body, and with such an effect, that she called dramatic and inevitable attention to the marvelousness of her breasts. Such breasts, I thought, would probably increase her value as a slave.
"I am sure you find free women of some interest," she said.
"Certainly I find them of interest," I said. The most interesting thing about them, of course, was that they could be seized and enslaved. After that they might become of real interest to a man. The female slave, of course, yours in her servitude, is ten thousand times more interesting than a free woman could ever dream of being. In any contest of desirability the free woman must always lose out to the slave, and if she does not seem to do so, then let her be enslaved, and see how she then, suddenly, in a moment, competing then with her former self, becomes ten thousand times more desirable than she ever was as a mere free female.
"I have been too bold," she said. "I approached your table. I have spoken to you first. I have permitted you, a man I scarcely know, to buy me ka-la-na. I am so ashamed."
"There is no need to be ashamed," I said.
"But far worse," she said, "I revealed to you my feelings. I told you of my unspeakable loneliness. Are you lonely?"
"Not particularly," I said. It is normally only free folks among free folks who are lonely, each so separate from the other. It is not easy for men to be lonely who have access to slaves. Similarly the slaves, so occupied, and of necessity so concerned to please the master, are seldom given the time for the indulgence of loneliness. Too, of course, the incredible intimacy of the relationship, intellectual and emotional, as well as sexual, for the master may inquire into, and command forth, and is normally inclined to do so, her deepest thoughts and feelings, which must be bared to him, as much as her body, as well as command, even casually, her most intimate and delicious sexual performances, militates against loneliness.
In slavery total intimacy is not only customary, but it can be made obligatory, under discipline. Masters like to know their girls. They want to know them with a depth, detail and intimacy that it would be quite inappropriate to expect of, or desire from, a prideful free companion, whose autonomy and privacy is protected by her lofty status. In a sense, the free woman is always, to one extent or another, veiled. The slave, on the other hand, is not permitted veils. She is, so to speak, naked to the master, and fully.
There is no doubt that slaves without private masters, or slaves in multiple-slave chains, arrangements, households, institutions, and such, may experience terrible loneliness. There is doubtless great loneliness, for example, in a rich man's pleasure gardens. Indeed, the presence of a lovely slave there might not even be known to the master, but only to her immediate keepers, and the master's agents, who may have purchased her, or accountants, who keep records of the master's properties and assets. Perhaps she must beg piteously to be called to the attention of the master. Some women in such a place, even those whose existence is known, or remembered, at least vaguely, might wait for months for a summons to the couch of the master, he perhaps selecting a ribbon with her name on it, from a rack of slave ribbons, and tossing it to an attendant, that she be brought in chains to his quarters that night, the ribbon on her collar. Too, it can doubtless be lonely in the house of a slaver, especially when the guards do not choose to amuse themselves with you, or have you perform for them, or, say, when you find yourself alone at night, perhaps a work slave, in the basement of a cylinder, chained in a cement kennel.
"Oh," she said.
"With you here," I said, "how could I be lonely?"
"What a lovely thing to say," she said.
I thought it had been pretty good myself. To be sure, it had required quick thinking.
"But mostly," she said, as though tearfully, "I am distressed at the boldness with which I spoke before."
"Boldness?" I asked.
"When I admitted, as I should never have done," she said, "that I was drawn to you."
"'Drawn to me'?" I inquired.
"Yes," she said, lowering her eyes.
"I understand," I said. "You were drawn to me because something within you seemed to sense, and delicately, that I might prove to be a sympathetic interlocutor, an understanding fellow with whom you might, assuaging therein to some extent your loneliness and pain, hold gentle and kindly converse."
"It was more than that," she whispered, not looking up, as though she dared not raise her eyes.
"Oh?" I asked.
She looked up, as though distressed. "I felt drawn to you," she said, and then she lowered her head, as though in shame, "- as a female to a male."
I said nothing.
"Free women have needs, too," she whispered.
"I do not doubt it," I said. At the moment, of course, she had no real idea of what female needs could be. As with most free females they were doubtless far below the surface and seldom directly sensed. Their effect upon conscious life, because of her conditioning, would normally be felt in such transformed and eccentric modalities as anxiety, uneasiness, misery, discomfort, ill temper, imaginary complaints, frustration and loneliness. These things would be connected with her lack of feminine fulfillment, she not finding herself in her place, in her natural biological relationship, that of submissive to dominant, to the male of her species. These things, the result of her loss of sexual identity and fulfillment, too, often produced a sense of emptiness and meaninglessness. Too, they sometimes produced an envy and resentment of men, whom she, perhaps with some justice, would blame for this lack of fulfillment. When one sex needs the other to fulfill it, and the other refuses, what is to be done? One way of striving for vengeance, of course, is to attempt, socially and politically, to bring about the debilitation and ruination of anatomical males, whether they be men or not. This, of course, might prove dangerous, for it might provoke an upsurge of nature, like a natural phenomenon, in which her order, artificialities then scorned and abolished, would be harshly restored.
Another danger, and perhaps one more serious; is that a misdirected response would be provoked in which, say, angry males, perhaps unable to take direct action because of the numerous, carefully wrought political traps and snares trammeling them, would think themselves, consciously or subconsciously, to have no recourse but to engage in the undeniably masculine games of war, games which might destroy worlds, but, with them, perhaps, the walls within which they have permitted themselves to be imprisoned. It would be unfortunate, indeed, if the female, returned at last to her rightful chains, were to find herself kneeling in ashes.
"You are kind not to scorn me for my needs," she said. She looked up at me. "Sometimes they are very strong."
"I am sure of it," I said. She had as yet, of course, as a free woman, as I have mentioned, no real idea of what female needs could be. They were in her, as in all free women, muchly suppressed. She had no idea as to what they could be. Never had she confronted them wholly and directly. She was as yet alienated from the depth and richness of the extensive sexual tissues in her body; she did not yet understand how her entire skin, from her scalp to her toes, could awaken into life, startled and rejoicing, stimulated by the hot, surgent, wavelike irradiations emanating not only from her helpless, lovely, exploited centralities, but as well from all the other sensitive curvatures and beauties of her, curvatures and beauties so much at a master's mercy; too, she could not even now begin to suspect the momentous emotional dimensions of bondage for the female, its entire, totalistic matrix, of what it was to be a slave, the nature of the slave's feelings, how she is affected by what she is, and what can be done to her, of what it is to be owned, absolutely, to be under uncompromising discipline, of what it is to know that you must, and will, under strict and uncompromising enforcements, give yourself up wholly to service and love, no alternatives permitted.
"You are very kind to take pity on a woman," she said.
"It is nothing," I said. I speculated that her needs might be rather strong, as a matter of fact, for a free woman. Certainly her body suggested the influence, of a rich abundance of female hormones. One does not get curves like that by being hormonally deficient. It might be interesting, I thought, to see what those needs might be like if permitted to develop fully under bondage.
"When I spoke your name before," she said, "I hesitated."
"I remember," I said.
"It was so hard to speak," she said.
"Yes?" I said.
"May I speak?" she asked.
"Yes," I said.
"I was thinking that I might perhaps let you see my body," she said, "that I might even permit you to touch it."
"Yes," I said.
"That I might tonight," she said, "as you have been so kind to me, and I am drawn to you, give you my body."
"I am overwhelmingly impressed," I said. This seemed to me a suitable response, as she was a free woman. It is really difficult to know what to say when one hears something so stupid. If she were a slave, I would have enjoyed hearing her try to speak in that fashion, speaking of "giving her body" and for such-and-such a period. That would earn her a swift whipping. If one could speak in that fashion, of "mere bodies," so to speak, and it was not typically Gorean to do so, she would not in bondage be considering whether or not to bestow her body, and for how long, but rather she would discover that it was his for the master to take, whenever he wished, however he wished, and for as long as he wished, for it would then belong not to her but to him, or he could order her to bring it to him, his property, in whatever attitude or posture he might please. But it is not typically Gorean to think in this fashion. The slave, for example, does not ask if the Master now wants the body of Gloria but, rather, does he want Gloria. In Gorean thought, and, indeed, Gorean law is explicit on this, what is owned is the whole slave. It is she who is owned, the whole woman, and uncompromisingly and totally.
"How kind you are," she said, "to a woman met in such a place, one so poor she cannot even afford sandals, a suitable gown, and proper veiling. Do you object that I am so revealingly clad, and am not properly veiled? Does it scandalize you?"
"No," I said. "Doubtless it is an inevitable concession to the cruelties of poverty."
"Yes," she lamented. "Perhaps you could try to think of me veiled," she suggested.
"That is a thought," I said. That much, surely, at least, could be said for it. I conjectured what she might look like, stark naked, save for chains, perhaps, holding her as a tight love bundle, for a master's pleasure, at a ring, and the locked, steel slave collar that belonged on her neck.
She looked at me, gratefully. In my imagination I tightened her chains a notch or two.
"Is it true that you are drawn to me?" I asked.
"Yes!" she whispered, daring to touch my hand.
"Then shall we leave this place," I asked, "and venture to your domicile?"
She drew back. As I had anticipated, she would not find a suggestion of this sort acceptable. She would not want her address known. That might put her at the mercy of furious, outraged victims. Too, it could make it simple for guardsmen, acting on complaints, to bring her in for identification and questioning, these details doubtless, in her case, to be followed by a hearing and sentencing, an almost inevitable reduction to bondage and then perhaps, initially, while her disposition is being more carefully considered, a placement in the public slave gardens.
"Perhaps then my room?" I suggested. "It is nearby."
"Sir!" she said, reproachfully. As I had thought, this would not be satisfactory either. She would prefer to complete her work here, where apparently it was tolerated, with the stealth of a drug, rather than go to the expense of employing confederates outside or take the risk of being recognized by others who might be in the vicinity of the victim's environs. "What sort of girl do you think I am?"
"Forgive me," I said, earnestly. "I did not mean to offend you." She was skillful at this type of game, it seemed, to provoke a male response, and then to claim she had been misunderstood, and was offended, thus confusing the male, keeping him off balance, and, in general, thusly guaranteeing, with a glance or tear, that she would have things her own way. She was, at least, manipulative in a feminine fashion. That I granted her. It said something for her femaleness. It is pleasant later, of course, to manipulate such women in a masculine fashion, by command and the whip.
"I knew I should not have come here," she sobbed, wiping away a tear, one at least in theory, from the corner of her eye. She made as though to rise but, as I did not restrain her, she remained where she was.
"I have been clumsy," I said.
"I do not really blame you," she sobbed. "What else could you think, meeting me here? Surely you must think me the same as these other, lower women."
"No, certainly not," I said. "You are quite different, obviously, from them."
"Thank you," she whispered.
I nodded. Of course she was quite different from them. That was obvious. She was not yet nude. She did not yet have a slave collar on her neck. She had probably never yet, in her life, felt a slave whip.
"Perhaps you are wondering," she said, wiping away yet another supposed tear, "what I, a gentlewoman, of breeding and refinement, am doing in this place?"
"Perhaps," I said, encouragingly. I tried to look puzzled. Actually I had a rather clear idea what she was doing in this place.
She looked down. "I think the real reason," she said, "under everything, as you may have suspected, is that I was driven here, almost helplessly, a woman in desperate need of love, daring to enter this terrible place, but one where I knew men were, by my desire to meet a kindly man, by my loneliness."
"Yes?" I said.
"But I should never have come."
"But then we would never have met," I said.
"Yes," she whispered, again touching my hand. "That is true."
"You spoke of a real reason," I said, "that having to do with your need of love, and such. That suggests, then, I take it, that there was some other reason, or pretended reason, for coming."
She smiled, ruefully. "Yes," she said. "I am a proud free woman. I could not permit myself to recognize such things as my loneliness, or need for love. I must tell myself there was another reason for coming."
"And what was that?" I asked.
"I am in need of money," she said. "I have a ring. I told myself that I would try to sell it, that I would try to find a buyer in this place."
"I see," I said.
"But I have never been able to bring myself to part with it," she said. "It is one of the few things left to me from the time when I was proud and wealthy. It is so laden with memories. I could never really bring myself to part with it."
"I understand," I said.
"Would you like to see it?" she asked.
"It is not necessary," I said.
"Please, let me show it to you," she said.
"Very well," I said.
From the tiny pouch, hung on strings at her belt, she produced the ring. She slipped it on her finger.
"Lovely," I said. Its oval stone was of white porcelain, mounted in a red-metal bezel. On the porcelain, very delicately done, in red, was the representation of a Tur tree. The band was of gold.
"It was wrought in Turia," she said. I found that easy to believe. It had the Tur tree, emblem of Turia, in the southern hemisphere, on the porcelain stone. Too, I knew such rings were manufactured in Turia. Indeed, I had even seen them there. Rings of this design, however, though perhaps not of this purpose, were rare in Ar, in the northern hemisphere. Most fellows of Ar would not recognize the ring, or suspect its purpose. She had probably purchased it in an import shop on the Avenue of Turia, which was nearby. To be sure, perhaps the setting was solid, and not hollow. Many rings of this appearance are totally innocent.
"Would you let me buy it?" I asked. "Surely you could use the money."
"Do not tempt me," she smiled. "I could never bring myself to part with it."
"I am sorry," I said.
"How fortunate I am to meet a man such as you," she said. "How understanding you are."
"I am becoming excited," she whispered.
"Oh?" I said.
"I want to go to your room," she whispered.
"Let us go," I said.
"Oh, the wine is gone," she pouted.
That was true.
"May we have more wine?" she wheedled. "It would help me to get even more into the mood. With a little more wine I do not know if I could control myself. I might find myself hurrying after you, going to your room, heeling you through the streets like an amorous slave!"
"I will get some more wine," I said. I glanced over to the left. In a moment or two, I had managed to catch the eye of Louise. She had not, of course, after her initial command, been concentrating on our table. I was pleased that she was not in use. I enjoyed having her serve me. Had she been, of course, I would have made do with another girl, say, Ita or Tia. They were both very nice slaves. Louise was now looking at me, aware that I was looking at her. I lifted my hand. She leaped up, hurrying toward me. I noticed the fellow nearby, slumped over the table. He had not yet stirred. He might be out for another Ahn or so. I leaned over to where Louise now knelt and gave her the wine order. The collar, such fine, strong steel, looked nice under her right ear.
Lady Tutina smiled at me. I, too, smiled at her.
"Do you like me?" she asked.
"Yes," I said. I thought, properly trained and disciplined, she would make an excellent slave.
"I wish that slave would hurry," she said.
"I'm sure she will be back in a moment," I said.
"Perhaps you should beat her," she said.
"An excellent suggestion," I said, "but let us give her a few more Ihn."
"I think I shall soon be in the mood," she whispered, confidingly, intimately.
"Excellent," I said. It amused me to hear her speak of moods, and such. I wondered if she might think, perhaps for the first few Ihn of bondage, until the hand, the whip or boot taught her differently, that she might make a master wait upon her pleasure, until, say, she might be in the "mood," or something like that.
"I suspect," she said, looking into my eyes, intimately, "that this meeting may change my life."
"It is not impossible," I said.
"Master," said Louise, arriving at the table, kneeling, another small bottle of wine on her tray. I removed it from the tray and set it near me. I then dismissed her.
I poured two small glasses of wine. I did not know how skilled the Lady Tutina was. I had known at least one fellow, Boots Tarsk-Bit, who was marvelously skilled at such things as misdirection and sleight of hand.
"She is rather pretty, isn't she?" asked the Lady Tutina, looking after Louise. She, the Earth-girl slave, nude and collared, hard to see in the flickering reddish light, carrying the tray over her head, was making her way back along the tables and mats to the bar. "In a trivial, servile way, suitable for a slave, of course," added the Lady Tutina.
"Perhaps," I said. I looked after Louise.
"That fellow seems to think so," said the Lady Tutina. A fellow had reached out to touch Louise's branded flank as she moved past his table. She withdrew, frightened, hurrying on, from the touch. Then the fellow sprawled to the side, drunk.
"Yes," I said.
Louise was lovely, indeed. She had not yet, however, I suspected, fully learned her collar. I did not think she, as yet, realized fully, in the depths of her, that she was a slave girl, and only that, and what that meant. She could, of course, be taught.
"She is a bit skinny," said the woman.
I shrugged. She was not skinny. She was slight, and slender. But such often make superb slaves. Certainly for her size and weight, she was well curved.
"Let us drink," said the Lady Tutina. I decided that she was not particularly skilled after all. It is no great trick to put something in someone's drink when they are not looking. Boots, I was sure, could have managed it while engaged in face-to-face conversation. He, of course, was unusually good at that sort of thing.
"To you," breathed the Lady Tutina, smiling.
"No," I smiled, "to you."
She then sipped the wine. I, on the other hand, after lifting it toward my lips, merely returned it to the table.
"This is not the same wine," she said, lowering the glass. "It is different."
"Yes," I said. "Do you like it?"
"Yes," she said, smiling. "Of course. It is wonderful."
"Perhaps you will come to like it," I said. In the beginning perhaps it would be poured down her throat, her head held back by the hair, by masters. Later, she might find herself wheedling and groveling for it, grateful to have anything that good.
"You haven't touched your wine," she said, reproachfully.
"Come here," I said.
She came about the table, kneeling near me. It was the first time she had obeyed me. It pleased me to have her obeying me.
"Close," I said.
She came then quite close to me.
"Cuddle," I said.
She snuggled up against me. Her nearness made me master hot. Her breasts were exciting. I put my arm about her, that I might hold her to me. She looked up into my eyes.
"You haven't touched your wine," she pouted.
"Oh?" I said.
"Drink, drink," she wheedled, picking up the glass, lifting it toward my lips. "Drink," she said, "and then we may hurry to your room, where I may serve you, even as a slave."
"You are luscious, and tempting," I said.
"Drink," she said.
I forced myself to remember that she was for the other fellow, the one slumped across the nearby table.
"Drink," she whispered.
I took the glass from her. I set it down on the table.
"What is wrong?" she asked.
"Encourage me," I said.
She then began to kiss me, and lick me, about the face and neck. She did it quite well. With training she would do it much better.
"Do you know the wine?" I asked.
"No," she said.
I turned the bottle so that she might read the label. It was a small bottle of Boleto's Nectar of the Public Slave Gardens. Boleto is a well-known winegrower from the vicinity of Ar. He is famous for the production of a large number of reasonably good, medium-grade ka-la-nas. This was one of the major wines, and perhaps the best, served in Ar's public slave gardens; indeed, it had originally been commissioned for that market; hence the name.
"Oh," she said.
"I hope you like it," I said.
"It's very nice," she said.
"I'm glad you like it," I said.
"Here," she said, picking up the glass, "hurry, drink. I wish to hurry to your room."
"Let us go to the room now," I said. I considered giving her this option, this chance to save herself. Did she accept it I would release her from the ring in the morning, with perhaps no more than an admonitory bruise or two.
"Hurry," she whispered. She lifted the glass to my lips. "Drink," she whispered, invitingly, seductively.
I smiled to myself. She had had her chance. To be sure, I had offered it to her only as an irony and amusement. That would doubtless sometime become quite clear to her. I had known she would not accept it.
"Drink," she whispered.
I took the glass from her hand.
"Drink," she whispered.
"But it is for you," I said.
I loosened the blades of the whip. "You will kiss it now," I said, "or after you have felt it. To me it is a matter of indifference. The choice is yours."
"Do not whip me," she said.
"You are a free woman," I said. "You have doubtless never even felt a slave whip."
"I will kiss it," she said.
I held it before her. Many free women, before they have felt it, are skeptical of the efficacy of the slave lash. Their skepticism vanishes, of course, as soon as they feel it. On the other hand, I did not think this one would be. She was quite familiar with it. She doubtless used it regularly in her work. It was one of her tools, a useful device for the instruction, correction, discipline and punishment of slaves. She would be quite aware of its power, of its effect on her helpless charges.
"Take me then to a slaver's," she said.
"No," I said.
"You are no true man!" she said.
I then stood up before her. She looked up at me, puzzled, I then, after regarding her for a time, suddenly, with the back of my hand, struck her fiercely back from the mat, she twisting and falling back, flung to the side from her knees, almost half on her feet for an instant, then losing her balance, then falling back into the trash at the side of the wall. She, from the midst of the garbage, half on her side, looked at me wildly, her hand at her mouth, blood between her fingers.
I pointed to the mat. "Here," I said. "Kneel."
She hastened back to the mat and knelt before me. She looked up at me in wonder, blood at her mouth. She had been cuffed. "Did you strike me because I challenged your manhood?" she asked. "I did not really mean it. It is only that I was terribly angry. I did not think."
"You were not struck for such an absurd reason," I said. "You are, after all, a free woman, and free women are entitled to insult, and to attempt to demean and destroy men. It is one of their freedoms, unless men, of course, should decide to take it from them. You were struck, rather, because you were attempting to manipulate me."
She nodded, putting her head down.
"Do you recognize your guilt, and the suitability of your punishment?" I asked.
"Yes," she said.
I thought of Pietro Vacchi. How well he handled a woman! How well he had mastered me! I remembered that on the road a "gentlewoman," one from Ar, had been mentioned. She, as I understood it, was to have been given to Aulus for the evening, that he might help her learn what it was to be a female. Aulus, as I well knew, from when I had worn the rectangle of silk in his tent, was a strong master. I had little doubt but what the "gentlewoman," lying at his feet in the morning, wide-eyed and sleepless, would recollect in chagrin and horror her responses of the preceding night. Could she believe what she had done, and said? How she had begged and squirmed, and acted not at all like a free woman, but like a slave? How she had behaved in his arms? How could she, a free woman, have acted like that? But perhaps she was not truly, ultimately, a free woman, as she had hitherto supposed but really, truly, like so many other women, those she had pretended not to really understand, and had held in such contempt, until now, only a slave? Could that be? And could they teach her things, if she begged hard enough, that she might be more pleasing to such men, that they might find her of interest and deign again to notice her? Regardless of such considerations how could she now, after what had been done to her, and how she had acted, go back to being a free woman? Could she pretend nothing had happened? How could she hold her head up, again, now, among free women? Would she not now cringe before them, and be unable to meet their eyes, like a runaway slave, thence to be seized by them and remanded to a praetor? Now that she had known the touch of a man, such a man, how could she return, as though nothing had happened, to her former self, with its haughty, barren pretenses of freedom? What authority or right had she any longer, given what she had learned about herself last night, to claim that she was "free," except perhaps in virtue of the accident of an undeserved legal technicality?
"We are free women!" said the third woman. "We expected men to be gentlemen, to be understanding, to take care of us!"
"We counted on the kindness of men!" said the forth woman.
"They will do anything for free women!" said the second woman.
I laughed, and they shuddered in their chains, against the wall. It was still raining, but the force of the storm had muchly subsided. I released my grip under the chin of the first woman.
"Do not laugh!" begged the first woman.
"In short," I said, "you entered the inn, and remained here, in spite of the fact that you had not the wherewithal to meet your obligations, expecting perhaps you might somehow do so with impunity, that your bills would perhaps be simply overlooked, or dismissed by the inn in futile anger, or that eager men could be found to pay them, doubtless vying for the privilege of being of service to lofty free women."
"Would you have had us spend the night on the road, like peasants?" demanded the third woman.
"But these are hard times," I said, "and not all men are fools."
The third woman cried out with anger, shaking her shackles. She was well curved, and diet and exercise could much improve her. I thought she might bring as much as sixty copper tarsks in a market. If that were so, and the inn sold her for that much, they would have made then, as I recalled, some twenty-five copper tarsks on her.
"When you discovered you had not the price of the inn's services," I said, "you might have asked if you might earn your keep for the night."
"We are not inn girls!" cried the second woman.
"It is interesting that you should think immediately in such terms," I said. "I had in mind other sorts of things, such as laundering and cleaning."
"Such tasks are for slaves!" said the fifth woman.
"Many free women do them," I said.
"Those tasks are for low free women," she said, "not for high free women such as we!"
"Yet you are now at the wall, in shackles," I said, "and have upon you not so much as a veil."
"Nonetheless," said the second woman, "we are high free women, and women such as we do not earn our keep."
"Perhaps women such as you," I speculated, "will soon, at last, find yourself doing so."
This must be she, then, of whom the keeper had spoken. I recalled that he had told me that although the use of an inn girl would cost me, in these times, three copper tarsks for only a quarter of an Ahn, I might have the free woman working in the paga room for an Ahn for only a tarsk bit. To be sure, that perhaps overrated her value considerably, as she was only a free woman. Whereas free women, technically, are priceless, they are also, usually, in bed, worthless. They are not worthy of kneeling and humbly holding candles within a thousand pasangs of a slave. To be sure, they commonly hold an inflated opinion of their expertise and desirability. They are no good, however, until they have been imbonded, and have begun, vulnerably and fearfully, to tread, willingly or not, the paths to fulfillment, and ecstasy. The outrageousness of the price, of course, was doubtless to be expected, given the general inflations of the times. I had told him I would let him know later. I would.
"What is your name?" I asked.
"It is none of your business," she said.
"Have you ever been whipped?" I asked.
"I am Temione, Lady of Telnus," she said. "No, I have not been whipped," she added.
"There are some others outside," I said, "who may have had similar ideas to yours, in one way or another. They are now in the court, chained naked to rings. Do you know them?"
She looked away, angrily.
"Lady Temione," I said, "you have been asked a question."
"There are five others," she said, "Rimice, Klio, and Liomache, from Cos, Elene, from Tyros, and Amina, a Vennan."
"What do you think will happen to them?" I asked.
"Doubtless they will be redeemed, and freed," she said. "We are all free women. Men, some sorts of men, will save us. Men, some sorts, cannot so much as stand to see a tear in a woman's eye. To such men it is unthinkable that we might bear the consequences of our actions."
"Do you think I am such a man?" I asked.
"No," she said, "else I would have petitioned redemption from you."
"Men such as those of whom you speak," I said, "those who are so solicitous, so kindly, those who are so eager to render you succor, who will strive so desperately to help you, and please you, do they stir you deeply in your belly?"
"I am a free woman," she said. "We do not consider such things."
"But you must fear the iron," I said.
"But you must fear it," I said.
"Things, then," I said, "would be quite different."
"Yes," she said. "They would then be quite different." This was quite true. The slave girl is in a totally different category from the free woman. It is the difference between being a person and being a property, between being a respected, legally autonomous entity, entitled to dignity and pride, and being a domestic animal. The same fellow who will go to absurd lengths to please a free woman, and even make a fool of himself over her, will, even with the same woman, if she has been enslaved, simply gesture her with his whip, and without a second thought, to the furs.
"How did the keeper seem when he ordered you shackled and put in the paga room?" I asked.
"Such is my right!" she said. "I am a free woman!"
"You dared to protest the treatment you received?" I asked.
"Of course!" she cried. "How is it that a free woman, should be stripped, and searched, and put in a cage, and such!"
"Perhaps you made demands, threatened him, insulted him, that sort of thing?" I asked.
"Perhaps," she said.
"I can see then," I said, "why it might have amused him to put you here, to serve as a waitress."
The Lady Temione paused near my table, on all fours. She looked at me. She had been rejected by a man, thrown from him, in disgust. I saw that she was stunned, that she was confused, that she was bewildered. Many free women regard themselves, without justification, as marvelous prizes. It can come as a great shock to them to suddenly realize they are, for most practical purposes, worthless. This rejection had shaken her profoundly. Like many free women she probably regarded herself as inordinately attractive. She looked at me, piteously, beggingly. She wanted some reassurance from me that she might be at least a little bit desirable or attractive.
I saw one free woman backed against the wall, a sword at her belly. Then she pulled her robes away from her shoulders and breasts, and then, a moment later, at an impatient movement of the sword, which made her wince, thrust them down over her hips, and let them slip to her knees. Then she straightened up. The sword was then again at her belly, only now it was bared to the sharpened steel. She turned her head to the side, in misery, in terror, being assessed. Then, at a movement of the blade, and ordered, doubtless, she looked at the fellow. It seemed then she was suddenly startled. Then she began to tremble. I had little doubt she had seen in him her master. It is an interesting moment for a woman, the first time she finds herself looking as a slave into the eyes of her master. She quickly knelt, as though fearful of displeasing him. I saw her turned about, rudely and thrust up, closely, against the wall. Her hands were bound behind her. She was leashed.
"So that is how a slave is used!" she gasped.
"Surely no free woman would be used in such a manner!" she said.
"Presumably not often, at any rate," I granted her. I did know that free women might be, and occasionally were, used in that way, for example, to insult them, or prepare them for the collar. To be sure, the man who used them in that fashion might as well be, I supposed, for most practical purposes, their master.
"Do you presume, incidentally," I asked, "to arrogate to yourself the rights or modesties, or the least of the prerogatives of the free woman?"
"No, Master!" she said.
"Do you presume, further," I asked, "to inquire into even the least of the sexual habits or activities of free women, whatever they might be?"
"No, Master!" she said. Her response amused me. Naturally both free women and slaves, as both are women, are very much interested in one another's sexual activities. It is very natural. To be sure, unless the slave is a bred slave, most of this interest is on the part of the free women, for the slaves have usually, at one time or another, been free women, and have a very good idea of how narrow, dull, limited and mediocre is the sex life of the free woman. Indeed, the matter is paradoxical, for the free women have a tendency both to inquire eagerly into the behaviors expected of slaves, and enjoined upon them, and, at the same time, commonly profess horror and scandal at what they hear.
"Such things are no longer of concern to you, are they?"
"No, Master!" she said.
"Forgive me, Master!" she said.
"In any event," I said, "you need not concern yourself any longer with the sexual activities, the proprieties, and such, of the free woman. Your attention is now to be more properly focused on your own business and concerns, for example, such things as the many intricate, exciting, complex and delicious sexual modalities and behaviors of the female slave."
"Yes, Master," she said.
"But a free woman is a thousand times more valuable than a slave!" she said.
"Many," said I, "regard a slave as a thousand times more valuable than a free woman."
She cried out, angrily.
It interested me that she had put a specific value on a free woman.
"But then," I said, "many also believe that the free woman and the slave are the same, except for a legal technicality."
"Surely you do not mean that slaves are actually free women," she said.
"No," I said. "I do not mean that."
"Free women are only slaves, not yet collared," I said.
I felt her body move a little, helplessly. This gave me pleasure.
I wished she were a slave.
Free women are so inferior to slaves.
"And what are you feeling now?" I asked.
She cried out, with misery. "Please do not use such words to me. I am a free woman."
"Free women have no needs?" I asked.
"Do not be ashamed of what is natural, and grand," I said.
"You were curious to know what it would be like," I said. "Why?"
"Nothing," she said.
"Many free women are curious about such things," I said, "what it would be like to wear chains, to be subject to a whip, to have a master, such things."
A saying, a saying of men, of course, has it that all women are slaves, only that some are not yet in the collar. I know now, of course, as I did not earlier, that there are many free women on Gor, and, indeed, that most women on Gor are free.
The power of free women, of course, rests ultimately on the might of men.
Were it not for men, free women would be as powerless as slave girls.
She did not know this at the time but many Goreans can tell the difference between free women and female slaves, even when the latter are clothed in the garments of the former, so internalized, so ingredient, so manifest is femininity in the female slave. Sometimes fleeing female slaves, runaways, attempting to escape hated masters in the clothing of free women are simply stopped, unceremoniously, and stripped, their brands and collars then revealed. They are then returned to the dreaded mercies of their masters. The garmenture of free women and slaves, of course, differs considerably, that of the slave tending to be far briefer and more revealing. Incidentally, a slave can be slain for putting on the garment of a free woman. It is permissible, though frowned upon, for a free woman to put on the garb of a slave. Also, it is quite dangerous to do so. Many free women, so garmenting themselves, as an adventure, thinking to have the run of the city, to go into areas forbidden to free women, to see the insides of paga taverns, and such, have, to their horror, found themselves, gagged and blindfolded, struggling futilely in the tight ropes of slavers.
Men, it seems, respect free women, but seek slaves, they venerate the citizeness, but it is we whom they buy; they esteem the free woman but it is we whom they rope and leash, and lead home.
It is little wonder free women hate slaves, and slaves fear free women.
Whereas Gorean free women commonly scorn and hate female slaves, and profess no interest in them, it is clear that there are few topics of greater interest to them. When with free men the free women seldom neglect an opportunity to speak loftily and disparagingly of slaves. How tedious it must be for the men to hear them so incessantly denigrate and castigate the innocent, helpless, scantily clad kajirae, sometimes even when being served by such. Naturally they wish the men to share their views but most Gorean men refrain from discussing the matter with them, except perhaps to dismiss the matter with some remark, such as "Do not concern yourself with them. Let them be beneath your notice. You are priceless, and free. They are only meaningless slaves, only domestic animals." Despite their profession of disinterest in such matters, free women, it seems clear, seek avidly to learn all they can about female slaves and their lives. What do they do? How do they serve their masters? What goes on behind those closed doors? What is it like to have to obey? What is it like to be in a collar? When the free women are alone with one another, and no young free females are present, they speak of little else. It seems they are obsessed with their embonded sisters. If they are truly free, why is it that they find the topic of the slave girl so extraordinarily fascinating?
The free male, should he have an interest in free women, perhaps he has no access to slaves, usually initiates the sexual encounter. He petitions the free woman, so to speak, who may or may not accede to his petition.
And yet, in all, how many masters, to the chagrin of free women, come to care for their lovely chattels!
And what, thought Ellen, of all this talk of humiliation, shame, degradation, and such. I suspect such things are usually more in the mind of free women than in the mind of the slave. Certainly free women often, in their envy and jealousy, do their best to discomfit a slave, to shame and humiliate her, to treat her as a worthless, degraded object, and so on. But men prefer us. We are the women they want. We are the women they buy.
"She has pretty legs," said Marcus, of Ar's Station.
Ellen tried to pull down the tunic at the hems.
"Prettier than those of Phoebe?" asked Bosk of Port Kar.
"No, I do not think so," said Marcus of Ar's Station.
That "Phoebe," as they spoke of her, thought Ellen, so casually, so objectively, must be a slave. Surely they would not dare to speak so of the legs of a free woman.
Gorean free women can be difficult and troublesome. But the pain that Gorean men will accept from their free women, in deference to their freedom, and their sharing of a Home Stone, they do not, and will not, accept in their slaves.
Men, of course, compete for females, sometimes with the sword. But females, too, in their way, compete for men. Who has not seen the difference in the behavior of even veiled free women when in the presence of men, how they stand, how they hold their heads, how they speak, with such pretended, insouciant indifference?
The codes do, you see, recommend respect for the status of the free female, if not for the female herself. To be sure, the codes make it abundantly clear that this pertains only to females with whom one shares a Home Stone. Cabot, however, as some Warriors, tended to generalize this recommendation to free women more generally, saving, of course, those who might be insolent or abusive, or of an enemy city.
Cabot bowed, respectfully, for he was in the presence of a free woman, and such are to be treated with the courtliness due to their status.
"As you are an animal," said the Lady Bina, "why are you clothed?"
"Master has permitted his animal a tunic," she said.
"Remove it," said the Lady Bina.
The slave looked to Cabot, questioningly, and he nodded, affirmatively. The desires of free women are seldom questioned.
"Even a free woman," said Cabot, "may be subjected to controls of various sorts, a limitation to specified locales, imprisonment, leashings, the restrictions of light chains, and such, if the interests of states are at stake. There is much precedent for that sort of thing."
Both were, at the time, though without Home Stones, yet free women, you see, and thus, given the nobility of their status, not to be lightly put to one's pleasure, certainly not without suitable provocation. It is difficult to convey the dignity, importance, and social standing of the Gorean free woman to one with no first-hand awareness of the matter. They have a position and elevation in society which far transcends that of, say, the free woman of Earth who is usually not so much free as merely not yet enslaved. The analogy is imperfect but suppose a society of rigid status, of severe hierarchy, and the rank and dignity that might be attached to the daughter of, say, a royal or noble house.
The Lady Bina, on the other hand, had been accorded quarters, as she had insisted, in the cabin of Peisistratus himself, the captain, who then, with her guard, Grendel, had bunked with his men. It must not be thought surprising that the Lady Bina had been deferred to, for she was a free woman.
"As you are a free woman," I said, "even though one of Earth, I have treated you with some circumspection. In the codes such matters are gray, for it is commonly supposed that a Home Stone would be shared. If you were a slave, of course, whether of Earth or not, the matter would not even come up. Too, as you may not understand, even a Gorean free woman is expected to show a fellow respect, as another free person. If she insults him, belittles him, ridicules him, or treats him in any way which he deems improper or unbecoming, sometimes even to the glance, depending on the fellow, she is considered as having put away the armor of her status, and may be dealt with as the male sees fit. This is particularly the case if there is no shared Home Stone.
I then left her, as she had requested. A Gorean male, commonly, complies with the wishes of a free woman.
They are, after all, free.
I regarded her. She was pretty, in her way, so angry. I wondered if she knew how she looked, so helpless, so futile, so lovely.
"What are you looking at!" she snapped.
It was true. I fear I had not been looking at her in a way appropriate to look at a free woman.
For example, to refer to a free woman as "slave beautiful" is a considerable compliment. It means she is beautiful enough to be a slave, beautiful enough to be of interest to men, beautiful enough to be publicly exhibited and sold, beautiful enough to be collared.
The rape of a free woman with whom one shares a Home Stone, on the other hand, is a very serious offense. Fellows have been tortured, and publicly impaled, for that sort of thing.
It is a common belief amongst Goreans, though seldom voiced in the presence of free women, that men are masters and women slaves. As it is said, all women are slaves, only some are in collars, and some are not.
It is a rare Gorean who does not speculate what even a free woman, bundled in her stiff, ornate robes, concealed within her layers of veils, would look like, stripped, collared, and at his feet, perhaps on all fours, looking up at him, frightened, the whip or switch between her teeth, hoping it will not be used upon her.
What male does not sense the vulnerable, inviting nakedness of a slave within a woman's assorted garmentures, no matter how contrived and pretentious?
Were it not for the security of their Home Stones, one supposes there would be few free women in a Gorean city. One wonders sometimes if they understand that the freedom which, in their arrogance, they take so much for granted is tenuous and fragile, a revocable gift of men.
The free man may find the free woman of interest, for example, in matters of family, position, power, and wealth, but is it not the despised, meaningless slave to whom he turns for pleasure?
There is a joke that in the light of a lamp even a free woman is beautiful.
Gorean men tended to be strong, energetic, ambitious, possessive, impatient, and sexually aggressive. Often little more than honor stood between a Gorean free woman and a chain.
The Lady Bina as she was a free woman, was given five portions. It is not unusual that the Gorean free woman, in virtue of her freedom, is prominently advantaged. If anything, Grendel had given her less than many men would think her due. The free woman on Gor has a status and power which would astonish most of the putatively free women of my former world, but then the Gorean commonly thinks of the women of my former world not as free women, at least as he understands that, but rather as slave stock. In any event, the Gorean free woman, even of the lower castes, is accorded considerable respect. Her entitlements and privileges are seldom challenged. Most men will yield place to her.
"Is this," she asked, looking at the coin, "all your use was worth?"
"I had nothing to say about it," I said. "It was what he gave me."
"I would have supposed you should have brought twice that," she said, "two tarsk-bits."
"Ela," I said, "Mistress was not there to negotiate."
"Many men " said Lord Grendel, "coming upon a luscious kajira gagged, and secured, helpless, totally at their mercy, in a secluded place, would not pay al all."
"Would it not be the same with a free woman?" I asked.
"Certainly not," he said. "The free woman would be instantly freed, succored, and restored to dignity. And if not, if one were so boorish, or foolish, as to risk torture and impalement one would not pay, anyway, as the free woman is priceless. To give her a coin would be a great insult."
"And we are quite different?" I said.
"Quite," said Lord Grendel. "You are not priceless. You are worth what men will pay for you."
One might risk one's life or die for a free woman because she is free, or because a Home Stone is shared, or because it is expected, or because it is thought to be a duty, or a matter of honor, but why might one risk one's life for, or die for, a slave?
It can be worth a man's life to try to take a free woman from a Gorean city, even a slave. We strive to protect our free women, and even our properties, our verr, our kaiila, our slaves.
Sometimes a free woman is spoken of if not to her face, as "slave beautiful," namely, that she is beautiful enough to be a slave. Supposedly this is quite insulting to a free woman, and would result in cries of rage and protest, but, should this lamentable assessment come to her attention, she is likely, secretly, to be profoundly pleased. What woman would not wish to be "slave beautiful?"
Several others, some with slaves, had then entered the dining hall. Some were free women who, naturally, regarded the slaves with satisfaction and contempt. Two approached my table.
I had not invited them.
"Put her in a collar," said one of them to me, of my slave.
"She has been recently purchased," I said. "That omission will be soon rectified."
I supposed that some of the metal workers' shops would now be open.
"Animals look well in collars," said the other.
"True," I said. I wondered how she might look in a collar. Given the veiling, it was hard to tell.
"Clothe her," said the first woman.
Tears formed in the eyes of the girl from Asperiche.
Few things can so reduce and humiliate a female slave as the withering, contemptuous glance of a free woman.
There would be little to protect them from free women, if it were not for masters.
"I will consider the matter," I said.
I supposed that one or another of the cloth workers' shops would be open, or soon open.
"Apparently you cannot afford to clothe her," said the first woman.
"Or are too cheap to do so," said the second.
"Here is a tarsk-bit," said the first woman. "It should be enough for a tunic."
"Or a rag," said the other.
I stood up and slipped the coin in my wallet.
"You are both thoughtful and generous, kind, noble ladies," I said to them, "and doubtless you are both as beautiful as you are beneficent."
"Perhaps," said one, provocatively.
"Let us see," I said.
"What?" they cried.
I seized them both, and flung them on their bellies across the small table, with a clatter, amidst the dishes, and the residue of food.
It was a simple matter, then, to keep them in place.
I jerked back their hoods, and tore away their veils.
"Behold!" laughed a fellow. "Two are face-stripped!"
Some of the free women, at the other tables, stood. One had screamed, two gasped. "Interfere!" said one of them to a fellow, standing, watching, he presumably her companion. "Not at all!" he laughed, striking his left shoulder twice with the flat of his right hand. "Beast!" she cried to him. "Do something!" said another free woman to her escort or companion. "I am," he said. "I am watching." "Take me home," she said. "Later," said he, "after breakfast." "Now!" she said. "I would not hazard the streets of Brundisium alone," he said. She remained standing beside him, and seemed pleased enough to be doing so.
"Remove their sandals," I ordered my slave, "and give me the straps."
"Stop!" cried one of the free women, and then the other.
I tied the hands of each behind her back.
Each had long hair, and, by the hair, I fastened them together, knotting them, head to head, close to one another.
"No!" they cried, as my knife parted garment after garment.
"Have no fear," I said. "I will stop with the last garment."
"Sleen!" cried one.
"Perhaps I will not stop with the final garment," I said.
"We are free women!" cried the other. "Free women!"
"Have mercy," cried one, "mercy!"
"Ah, silk," I said, "and not overly long."
"Beast, monster!" said the other.
"Have no fear," I said.
I pulled them by the hair to their feet. They were now face-stripped, barefoot, and bound.
I regarded them.
"I find both of you inferior to my slave," I said.
"Sleen, sleen!" hissed one.
"Ah," I said, "a sleen! Here are your purses. If you wish them, you may carry them in your mouth, as might a pet sleen."
"Never!" cried one.
"Then you will leave them here," I said.
"No!" cried the other.
"Open your mouths," I said.
Each bit on her purse.
"I will now permit you to leave," I said. "If you should crave succor, from some fellow outside, it is likely your purse will fall. Perhaps the best thing would be to kneel down before one fellow or another, and put your head down, and release the purse, thereby keeping it near. You might then beg, head down, to be untied. To be sure, the purse might be taken and you left on your knees, barefoot and bound."
"I would say that is extremely likely," said a bystander.
It was true that times were hard in Brundisium.
"Now," I said to the free women, "be away, lest I call for a switch, and have you switched like slaves from the inn."
Weeping, awkwardly, pulling one another's hair as they stumbled forth, the two free women left the inn.
"It is a joke worthy of a Ubar," said one of the fellows about.
"How long do you think they will keep their purses?" asked a fellow.
"Not long," I said.
"Guardsmen will pick them up, supposing them to be slaves," said another, "as they are barefoot and, essentially, slave-garbed."
"It may be an Ahn, or better, before a free woman may be found to discreetly examine their bodies," said another.
"Before then," said another, "they may be whipped and put in cages, for claiming."
"You may be sure that guardsmen will be annoyed, having been inconvenienced," said another.
"They will see it as a merry jest," said another.
It was true that many Gorean males found the pride and pretensions of free women annoying. Certainly it was easier to deal with women in their place, at one's feet, in collars.
I would not have behaved as I did, of course, if my Home Stone had been that of Brundisium.
Had that been the case, it would have been expected that I would endure uncomplainingly, and graciously, the contumely of the women, however prolonged and unpleasant it might be, for they were free, and a Home Stone would have been shared. Anything else would be not only improper, but, I supposed, unconscionable. On the other hand, not all Gorean males are patient with women, even those with whom a Home Stone might be shared. I wondered, sometimes, why free women occasionally so hazarded themselves before men. Were they exploiting their freedom, or testing its limits? Did they not know that they were women, and in the presence of men? Perhaps, as the saying is, they were "courting the collar."
One expects much of slaves. They are not free women.
An additional point might be mentioned, relevant to slave garmenture, particularly with respect to its revealing nature, aside from the preferences of men, which is the supposed protection it affords to free women. The notion here seems to be that a roving tarnsman, a raider, a slaver, a girl hunter, and such, given the choice between a prey of obvious interest, say, a scantily clad slave girl, and one of an unknown quality, say, a free woman in the robes of concealment, given the risks involved, and such, is more likely to drop the slave loop about the slave than her exalted free sister. Who, it is said, would wish to risk his life for a tarsk?
Except on a round ship and even on many of those, mariners do not welcome the presence of a free woman. Such, it is said, sow discord. Such are to be respected, but, in time, men grow hungry. It is a strain, even on a well-trained sleen, to circle meat it is forbidden to touch. The matter worsens, of course, if the free woman insists on the privileges of the deck, or, say, if she is careless of how she stands when the wind whips her robes, and matters may become intolerable indeed should she delight herself with certain pleasures not unknown to occasionally appertain to her sex, usually harmlessly, flirting with, or teasing, taunting, and tormenting men, confident in the inviolability of her freedom, perhaps in the possession of a shared Home Stone, and such. It is one thing, of course, to engage in such games in a theater, a street or plaza, and quite another on a ship at sea, far from taverns, the relief of paga girls, and such. More than one woman began a voyage free and concluded it being sold in a distant port.
"You do not know what it is to be free," she said, "for you were never a Gorean free woman. You cannot know the freedom we have, the pride the nobility, the splendor, the power, the raiment, the veiling, the dignity! Men defer to us. They step aside. They make way for us. They will not sit in our presence without permission. We have Home Stones!
Gorean men do not enjoy being trifled with. The same free woman who may have taunted with her veil, and the glimpse of a slippered foot, may later find herself stripped and collared, at the feet of some fellow who was wearied of her nonsense.
One leaves poison to the ost, and the striking pins and daggers of free women. That is one reason many warriors require a captured free woman to strip herself, lest they run afoul of concealed devices, a scratch from which might prove fatal. Sometimes the captor inquires politely if the woman's garments contain such devices. If she replies affirmatively she is asked to remove the devices and place them before the captor before stripping herself. If she should fail to surrender any such device she is slain instantly. If she responds negatively, and is found to have lied, such a device being found, she is also slain instantly. Once stripped and weaponless she is assessed, to see if she might be of interest, as such women may be of interest to men, as they should be, as a slave. If she is found of interest, the matter is routinely and summarily accomplished; she is enslaved. If she is not found of interest, she is commonly driven away, naked, and shamed, or, sometimes, held for ransom, naked on a chain.
"I for one," I said, "am perfectly content with slaves, and would prefer them. I know how to relate to Gorean free women, which is sometimes trying, and often annoying, and I know how to deal with slaves, which is quite simple, but I am uncertain how to behave with your contract women, the modes of address, how to respond appropriately, the ceremonial aspects, and such."
A free woman, stripped and bound, watches the water, and then, when the large, narrow, triangular, dorsal fins of the sharks cleave the water, men lift her, to cast her into the sea; on other occasions, she might, suspended by the wrists, be lowered, bit by bit, into a pit of starving urts who will feed on her, inch by inch; other unpleasant fates involve the fangs of sleen and the wicked hollow thorns of well-rooted, matted, leech plants. In such straits it seemed that the free women often discovered that they were actually slaves, professed themselves such, and begged the collar. Free women of the enemy make lovely slaves, it seems, but what else are they good for? I had learned that it was far safer to be a slave, or a verr or kaiila, than a free woman in the hands of the enemy.
What free man, looking upon a free woman of possible interest, does not, in his imagination, consider her as a slave, how she might look, barefoot in a tunic, a collar on her neck? Does he not idly ponder how she might look, bellied and bound before him? Does he not wonder, sometimes, what might be the feel of her small tongue, licking his feet? What free woman, one of possible interest, has not, in the imagination of a thousand men, been a thousand times undressed and put upon a block?
A free Gorean male is highly unlikely to strike a free woman, unless as a prelude to reducing her to slavery.
What man does not wish, at least upon occasion, that one of his lofty, disdainful, arrogant free women, opaquely veiled and encumbered in her voluminous robes, were stripped before him, marked, collared, and thrown to his feet, a slave?
"You know little of Gor," he said. "One does not criticize free women. They are free. Would you have had her gainsaid? Would you proclaim her to be in error, or, worse, lying? Would that not be unthinkable, insupportable? Would it not be grievously insulting? Would you dare to hint, even privately, that she, in her status and freedom, might be flawed, might be less than righteously perfect?"
"There are women there?" asked Aktis.
"Yes," I said, "free women, some of whom decline veiling."
"They are so brazen, so shameless?" asked Aktis.
"Surely the maidens of Nicosia did not go about veiled," I said.
"It was a village," he said. "Everyone knew everyone. And there was much work to do, by both men and women."
"Put aside thoughts of free women, greedy, troublesome creatures," I said. "There are slaves, as well, some eager to please lest they be lashed, others, whose slave fires have been kindled, they then the helpless victims of their needs, begging to please, even for the slightest caress."
"I am not to think of free women?" asked Aktis.
"No," I said. "It is not worth the bother of pursuing them, except to get them stripped and in chains, that they may be redeemed and learn their womanhood. Think rather of slaves."
"Are there many slaves in Sybaris?" he asked.
"It is a rich city," I said.
"There were no slaves in Nicosia," he said.
"So much the worse for Nicosia," I said.
"Free women are exalted and priceless," said Aktis.
"Precisely," I said. "That is why they are such a bother. A free woman is priceless because she has no price, and without a price she is worthless. A woman has no value until she is a slave and her value then is what the free will pay for her. It is only then a woman learns what she is truly worth, when she is taken off the block, when she is sold. Until then let each think she would bring a thousand gold pieces."
"The Gorean free woman," I said, "is glorious and priceless, a jewel of inestimable value."
"I fear free women," she said. "I think they are unhappy, cruel, and filled with hate. What are they really but forlorn, miserable slaves not yet in their collars?"
"Females are the slave sex," said a man. "They are never fulfilled until they are collared."
"Beware of saying that before a free woman, particularly one of high caste," I said.