This is a narrative and relevant references from the Books where the Fighting Slave is mentioned.
It is not meant to be anything other than the facts of the matter.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
I was asked a while back if I had considered adding a fighting slaves category.
So, I did some digging in the books and came up with this page.
The simple thing to do is say "Just go read Book 14" but it's more than just Fighting Slave of Gor.
We can learn from Assassin of Gor of slaves squaring off against one another in the sand as entertainment for Cernus and his guests during the banquet (and also who gets to be the main course for the Kur).
Book 5 also tells us of the arena games. And while not every participant in these matches was a fighting slave, some were.
Some of the weapons used are spiked leather, and knife gauntlets, the cruel cestae of the low pits, spiked cestae or buckler and short sword just to name a few.
Sometimes the fighting slaves were locked into helmets which did not allow them to see their opponent. Other times these helmets were perforated so that, while it appeared to the crowds as though the slave could not see, in fact they were able to.
Jason, as a fighting slave, was chosen due to his size and speed but mostly for his intelligence.
Training devices used are the gunni, curved weights of lead, several pounds heavy, with handles, cushioned with cloth. The purpose is to strengthen the muscles of the shoulders, back and arms, building up incredible strength. Also, when they are removed, it seems as though the hands, relieved of such weights, can fly like hornets.
Too, there is the training beam, about a foot Gorean square, sunk a yard deep in its wood-lined well and braced.
Balance is taught. This may include shackling the ankles together until foot placement is second nature.
The fights between slaves are fought with occasional rest periods. Typically the hands are wrapped in leather. Fighting slaves are divided by weight class.
There are some rules in the fighting pits. Kicking is allowed but holds to the death are not permitted.
The bouts are timed and there ia a referee. However, to keep the fighters fighting, the referee has a whip.
Perhaps needless to say, a veteran fighting slave can become disfigured with masses of scar tissue, lingering records of a bloody history in the pits.
The rewards for winning included an extra round of rations, some pastry upon occasion, sometimes even a bowl of cheap wine, meaningless little things, trivialities, baubles, things of no account or worth and the occasional slave girl.
Fighting slaves can also be freed.
I observed the two men, collared slaves, squaring off against one another in the sand. Both were stripped to the waist. The hair of both was bound back with a band of cloth. Each carried, sheathed, a hook knife. The edges of the sheath were coated with a bluish pigment.
"These men are the champions among male slaves at hook knife," said Cernus. He scarcely glanced up from the game board at which he sat across from Caprus, of the Caste of Scribes, Chief Accountant of the House.
A blue line appeared across the chest of one of the slaves fighting between the tables, on a square of sand some twelve feet in dimension. The line was adjudicated as a point. The two men then returned to opposite corners of the ring and crouched down, waiting for the command to fight again.
There was a shout from the men-at-arms and members of the House who sat at the tables as the second slave, he who had scored the first point, managed to leave a long streak of blue down the inside of the right arm of the first slave. "Point!" called the man-at-arms, he with the whip, and the two slaves separated again, each going to their corners and crouching there in the sand, breathing heavily. The man whose arm had been marked was forced then to carry the sheathed hook knife in his left hand. I heard the odds changing rapidly at the tables as the men of the house of Cernus revised their betting.
There was a cry and I looked again to the square of sand and the first slave, with the hook knife in his left hand, had plunged across the sand, taking a stroke across the chest, to strike his own blue line blow at his opponent.
"Point for both," announced the man-at-arms.
"A kill!" cried the man-at-arms with the whip. I saw that the second slave, who was doubtless the better man at the sport, had slipped behind the first and, holding his head back with a powerful forearm, had decisively drawn his sheathed hook knife across the throat of the first man.
The first man seemed numb, the heavy blue streak on his throat, and slipped to his knees. Two men-at-arms rushed forward and put him in shackles. For some reason, the man with the whip took the slave's hook knife, unsheathed it, and drew it across the slave's chest, leaving there a smear of blood. It was not a serious wound. It seemed pointless to me. The slave who had lost was then led away in his shackles. The victor, on the other hand, turned about and raised his hands. He was greeted with cheers and was immediately taken to the table on my left, where he was seated at the far end of the table, before a plate heaped with meat, which he began to devour, holding it in his hands, eyes wild, almost lost in the food, to the amusement of the watching men. I gathered the feed troughs in the pens of the male slaves seldom contained viands so choice.
"The slave who lost at hook knife," said Ho-Tu, pushing a large spoonful of porridge into his mouth.
"What happened to him?" I asked.
"He was fed to the beast," said Ho-Tu.
I do not choose to describe the nature of the games, except in certain general detail. There seems to me little of beauty in them and much of blood. Matches are arranged between single armed fighters, or teams of such. Generally Warriors do not participate in these matches, but men of low caste, slaves, condemned criminals and such. Some of them, however, are quite skillful with the weapons of their choice, surely the equal of many Warriors. The crowd is fond of seeing various types of weapons used against others, and styles of fighting. Buckler and short sword are perhaps most popular, but there are few weapons on Gor which are not seen over a period of three or four days of the games. Another popular set of weapons, as in the ancient ludi of Rome is the net and trident. Usually those most skilled with this set of weapons are from the shore and islands of distant, gleaming Thassa, the sea, where they doubtless originally developed among fishermen. Sometimes men fight locked in iron hoods, unable to see their opponents. Sometimes men wrestle to the death or use the spiked gauntlets. Sometimes slave girls are forced to fight slave girls, perhaps with steel claws fastened on their fingers, or several girls, variously armed, will be forced to fight a single man, or a small number of men. Surviving girls, of course, become the property of those whom they have fought; men who lose are, of course, slain.
Outside, as though from a distance, I could hear the roar of the crowd packed into the tiers of the Stadium of Blades.
"Murmillius is apparently victorious again," said Vancius of the House of Cernus, lifting a blind helmet and fitting it over my head.
Vancius, of the guards, turned the key in the helmet lock that fastened the helmet on my head.
Within the heavy metal casque I could see nothing.
"It will be amusing," said he, "to see you stumbling about on the sand, sword in hand, thrashing here and there, trying to find your foes. The crowd will love it. It provides comic relief between the serious bouts and the animal fights to follow. It is also a time for patrons to stretch, buy their pastries, relieve themselves and such."
I did not respond.
"Surely the famed Tarl Cabot, master swordsman of Gor," said Vancius, "prefers to die with blade in hand."
"Remove my manacles," said I, "and blade or no, let me give response as might a Warrior."
"Your manacles will be removed," Vancius assured me, when you are in the arena."
"If I do not choose to fight?" I asked.
"Whips and hot irons will encourage you," he said.
"Perhaps not," I said.
"Then be encouraged by this news," he laughed. "Your opponents will be the finest swordsmen in the Taurentians."
"In blind helmets?" I queried.
He laughed. "It will appear so," said he, "for the sake of the crowd. Actually their helmets will be perforated. They will be able to see you but you will not be able to see them."
"It will indeed be amusing," I said.
"Indeed," laughed Vancius.
"If I may speak, Master," I said, "you seem pleased to learn that I have been consigned to the stables."
"I expect that you will make coins for Barus and myself."
"Master?" I asked.
"Can you fight?" he asked.
"No," I said.
He laughed. "You are a big fellow," he said, "and strong. Too, you seem fast. Too, you are clearly intelligent. That is important, more important than many fools understand."
"I do not know how to fight," I said. I was very conscious of the binding fiber confining my wrists behind my back.
"Tighten your belly," he said.
I did so. He then, as I anticipated, struck me, heavily, in the gut. I was, of course, in good condition, and set for the blow.
"Good," said Kenneth.
"I do not know how to fight," I told him.
"In the stables," said Kenneth, "authority is mine. You will, for all practical purposes, belong to me. Is that understood?"
"Yes, Master," I said.
"Do you wish to live?" he asked.
"Yes, Master," I said.
"You will then do as you're told," he said.
"Yes, Master," I said.
"In the stables," he said, "we have, too, besides the male slaves, some Kajirae, stable sluts, as we call them. I can assign these as I please."
I looked at him. I thought of Gorean Kajirae. I inadvertently licked my lips.
He laughed, and turned about, leading the way about the corner of the house, treading upon the wagon way.
"Come along, Stable Slave," he said.
"Yes, Master," I said, following him.
The training beam, about a foot Gorean square, sunk a yard deep in its wood-lined well, braced, too, within the wooden-floored, high-roofed barn, shook with the blow struck against it. On my hands I wore the gunni, training devices, curved weights of lead, several pounds heavy, with handles, cushioned with cloth. The value of these devices is twofold. First, they strengthen the muscles of the shoulders, back and arms, building up incredible strength; second, when they are removed, it seems as though the hands, relieved of such weights, can fly like hornets. I stayed close to the beam. The fist moves most swiftly and has the greatest power within the first six inches of its motion, with the back and arm behind it. Too, it is similar to the loosened arrow, which has its greatest swiftness, and maximum striking power, immediately after being sprung from the string, immediately after leaving the bow. The concave surfaces of the gunni face the user of the devices, and the handles are recessed within these surfaces. The outer surfaces, or striking surfaces of the gunni are usually shallowly rounded, being slightly convex. This tends to prevent excessive splintering of the beam. The blows thus, in a sense, compress and pack the beam, causing it to last longer, until it finally, after a few finishing blows, shatters. These beams are frequently replaced. It may seem surprising but a strong man, determined, and working against time, can break through a training beam in a matter of only a few Ehn. The gunni, in weight, are similar to the heads of sledgehammers. One may, of course, break through walls with such devices or bend iron.
I struck at the beam, denting it, causing it to shudder in its well and braces.
It had been yesterday that we had been inspected by the Mistress. After she had inspected me, it had seemed to me that she had brought her inspection to a rather swift termination.
She had been cursory with the rest of the slaves in my line and she had barely glanced at the Kajirae.
I struck again and again at the beam. It is important to maintain one's balance. This permits maneuverability and reduces the opponent's opportunities to take advantage of a misstep or a momentary clumsiness in the distribution of one's weight; too, it provides greater impact for the blows which one strikes. My feet seldom moved more than some twenty inches apart; earlier in my training my ankles had been shackled; now, kinesthetically, habitually, without thinking, I tended almost invariably to maintain a sensible measure between my feet; I stayed, too, generally on my toes; this reduces friction and enables quickness of movement; too, in the fighting pit, the toe, gouging into the sand, the body moving forward, increases leverage. Many slave fights are little more than bloody brawls, which free persons are pleased to witness. Kenneth and Barus, on the other hand, who bet on such matters, took these fights seriously. They had, over the years, devoted time and intelligence to the training and development of fighting slaves. The stables of the Lady Florence of Vonda had been, as a result of this, particularly in the last four or five years, unusually successful in the stable bouts. Indeed, Kenneth and Barus had accumulated small fortunes as a result of their efforts in this area. Gorean free persons of high caste, of course, tended to take little note of these matters.
I struck again and again at the beam, pummeling it. It groaned. I heard it crack. Again and again, over and over, I struck at it. The ceiling of the high-roofed barn and its walls rang with the sound of the blows on the weakening wood. I sensed that it would soon give way. I increased the number and speed of my blows.
Sometimes as often as every fourth or fifth day I was hooded and chained, and placed in a wagon, usually with some fellow slaves, fighters, too. I would then be unchained and unhooded, in my turn, in a shallow pit, about which free persons, almost always of low caste, would be gathered. In the pit, too, would be another slave. Our hands would be wrapped in leather that they might not be easily broken. One might kick but holds to the death were not permitted. One fought, with occasional rest periods, for this makes the fight last longer, the fighters being briefly refreshed, until one man or the other could no longer fight. There would be much shouting and betting. I had lost my first matches in our own stables but, in time, with training and advice, and pit experience, I had begun to do well. I had won my last seventeen bouts, five of which had been outside our own stables. I was usually one of a team of five fighters, divided by weight. I was in the heaviest weight class. Some small men, as is well known, are extremely fine fighters, though, of course, they do not have the size and weight to consistently best larger men, assuming that the distribution of skills is similar.
The beam splintered suddenly away, shattering back from the weights on my hands.
I threw back my head, sucking in air.
I sensed her suddenly beside me, the small, blond female, collared, in the brown rag.
"Telitsia," I said.
She removed one of the gunni, that which clothed my left fist. It was heavy for her. She carried it, with two hands, and placed it on the shelf to one side.
"Does Kenneth know you are here?" I asked.
She returned to my side and, from my right fist, removed gently the heavy, curved weight with which it was clad.
"Does Kenneth know you are here?" I asked.
She placed the second weight beside the first on the shelf. She turned and looked at me. I looked at her. She trembled. She put down her head, and went to a water-filled wooden bucket in the corner of the barn. There was a gourd dipper near the bucket. She lowered the gourd dipper into the water and then, the dipper brimming, returned to my side. I took the dipper and drank. I handed the dipper back to her and she returned it to its place. Her small, bare feet dislodged sawdust on the floor of the barn. She returned to my side with a large, coarse towel, and began, gently, to towel my body. I was soaked with sweat. We were alone in the barn. There were several stalls in the barn. These were empty, but filled with clean straw. She continued to towel my body.
I reeled back, sprawling in the sand. I could feel blood about my mouth.
I grunted, kicked. He threw himself at me, fists striking.
I heard the screams of the crowd, in the tiers. I rolled to one side, eluding the attacker.
I staggered up. He, too, then, was on his feet. I tried, gasping, to thrust him away. He struck me in the gut with his head, driving me half to the wall. He again lowered his head. I clasped my hands, and flung them upward, catching him under the chin and he staggered backward. I spit blood into the sand. He again rushed at me, seizing me, and flung me against the low palings. "Fight! Fight!" I heard. "Jason!" I heard. "Kaibar!" I heard. "Now you have him!" I heard. "Get away from the wall!" Kenneth was screaming. The slave, Kaibar, then, of the stables of Shandu, holding his hands together, slashing sideways, struck me with his left elbow, and then his right. "Get away from the wall!" I heard. I grunted, taking a blow in the gut and then another, the fists now, like battering rams. "Get away from the wall!" screamed Kenneth. But it was not he, the bastard, who was pinned against it. I clenched Kaibar, holding to him, gasping. He tried to shake me from him. "Do not delay the fight!" warned the referee, moving about us. I felt his whip lash at me. Then he was between us, forcing us apart. But I was now in the center of the pit. Kaibar and I faced one another. We were both bloody, and exhausted. He struck at me with his balled fist. I blocked the blow. He was strong. My arms ached. Even to parry the blows of a strong man takes its toll.
My shoulders and arms ached. I could scarcely lift them. Kaibar staggered toward me again. Again I seized him, holding to him.
We heard then the bar being struck.
"Here!" called Kenneth. I, turning about, followed the sound of his voice and in a moment he had seized me and pulled me down on the box. Barus, with a sponge, dipped in a bucket, squeezed water over my head.
"You are doing splendidly," Kenneth assured me.
I could not even answer him.
Barus sponged sand and blood from my body.
"Drink," said Kenneth to Taphris, who knelt at our side. She thrust the bottle filled with water, thick with sugar, to Kenneth who, holding it for me, poured some of it down my throat. I spit the rest of it away into the sand. Kenneth pushed the bottle back to Taphris.
Barus now toweled my body. Weakly I pushed him away. The sweat and water on my body, I hoped, would tend to slide blows away, were they struck at oblique angles.
He then dried the leather on my fists, that it would grip when it struck flesh.
The bar was again struck, a sharp, ringing note.
"You have him now," said Kenneth. "Finish him quickly!" I was half thrust to my feet and staggered toward the center of the pit. Kenneth, I decided, was insane. Yet he had seen hundreds of such bouts.
I took the first blow, staggering to the side. I straightened and, stumbling, smashed my fist into the gut of Kaibar. He reached for me, and I struck aside his hands, and struck him on the left side of the face. We stood in the sand, unsteadily.
"Fight!" cried the referee. "Fight!" cried the crowd. The crowd, mostly, was an excited and motley assortment of low-caste males, but, here and there, there were veiled women amongst them, generally these, too, of low caste. There were, in favored seats, some upper-caste Goreans, recognizable by the colors and qualities of their robes, and among these, here and there, heavily veiled, erect and lovely, some upper-caste women. At one end of the enclosure, where it was entered, there was a barred gate. Behind this, pressed against it, watching, excited, holding to the bars, were collared, half-naked slave girls, stable sluts, crying out for the champions of their various stables.
"Fight!" cried the referee. His lash fell on Kaibar.
I suddenly felt chilled. I realized then I should have permitted Barus to towel my body, drying it. I feared I might be seized with muscle cramps. The sweat and water, too, now that I had paused, sticky on my hot body, formed an adhesive surface which I feared might hold the leather of Kaibar.
"Fight!" cried the referee. His lash stung my back. The referee's lash again then fell on Kaibar, and again on me.
Kaibar and I again staggered toward one another. I had survived the eighteenth fighting period.
Then suddenly it seemed that the gunni were again on my hands and that I stood in the training barn before the great post. I could hear, but only as in the distance, the crying of the crowd, the screaming of the women, slave and free. I must work against time. Did not Kenneth hold the vial of sand? Blows it seemed I rained with an avalanche of lead on the reeling post shuddering in its braces. I must beat the sand. I could, and would. I lunged against the post, inches from it, blow after blow. Then spitting blood from my mouth, my legs covered to the knees with sweat and sand, pounding, laughing, exultant, terrible, I saw the post shatter away, falling from me.
"Stop! Stop!" was crying Kenneth. He ran to me, holding me. I stood bloody in the sand. At my feet, bloody, covered with sand, unconscious, lay Kaibar.
"Is he dead?" someone was crying.
"No," called the referee.
I was dragged to the center of the sand and my hands, one by the referee, the other by Kenneth, the trainer, were lifted in victory.
I threw back my head, sucking in air. My hands were swollen. The bloodied leather was cut from my hands.
"I shall have a champion who can beat your Jason!" cried Miles of Vonda, from the side of the wall.
"Bring him then forth!" cried Kenneth. "The stables of the Lady Florence of Vonda will await him!"
I had beaten the champion of the stables of Miles of Vonda two weeks ago. It had been that match which had established my precedence among the fighting slaves of the stables in the vicinity of Vonda. It had been that match which had resulted in my being named the local champion. This victory had not set well with Miles of Vonda. It was not merely that his own champion had been defeated and that he had lost a goodly bit of coin on the wagering involved, but that he had been, in the past, like several other young swains in the vicinity, an unsuccessful suitor, in the matter of the companionship, for the hand of the Lady Florence of Vonda.
I was half dragged, half pushed, by a crowd, Kenneth and Barus close to me, Taphris behind, through the barred gate leading to the sand pit. Another match, to hold the interest of the crowd, would soon be beginning. I pressed through people, slave and free, who pressed about me, congratulating me, many trying to touch me, even free persons. Slave girls, their eyes bright, their breath hot, tried to press themselves piteously against me. Some fell to their knees as I passed, trying to seize my legs and kiss at my thighs and ankles as I passed. Women know that they are the natural spoils of conquering males. I saw even the eyes of free women bright and wild over their veils.
"Well done, Jason," said Kenneth. "Well done."
We heard the striking of the long bar from near the pit. Another match was beginning.
We walked around, behind the tiers, still pressing through an admiring throng. Slave girls pattered behind, hoping for another look, but fearful now, away from the gate, of jostling free persons.
"Back," begged Kenneth, "back! Return to the tiers!" We were now near the corridor gate leading, from the small arena, to the stables where we were prepared for combat.
"The Mistress!" said Kenneth.
I looked up. Before us, standing, near the corridor gate, were two free women, veiled, in flowing, lovely robes.
Swiftly I knelt. I was owned by one of these women.
"Congratulations, Jason," said the Lady Florence of Vonda. "You did well."
"Thank you, Mistress," I said. I looked up at her. My throat was locked in her collar. I was still breathing heavily.
I remembered Krondar. Indeed, I had once fought him in the pit of leather and blood, when I, too, had been a fighting slave. Krondar was a veteran of the fighting pits of Ar. He had fought even with the spiked cestae and the knife gauntlets. He was a short, stout, thick-bodied, powerful man. His face and upper body were disfigured with masses of scar tissue, lingering records of a bloody history in the pits.
"Is this not a new slave in the stables?" she asked Kenneth.
"Yes, Lady Florence," said Kenneth, "but, still, he has been with us now for some five weeks."
"What is his name?" she asked.
"Jason," said Kenneth.
"He seems familiar," she said, lightly.
"Perhaps you remember him, Lady Florence," said Kenneth. "He was once your silk slave."
"Ah!" she said, as though suddenly recollecting the matter. "Is it truly you, Jason?" she asked.
"Yes, Mistress," I said.
She stepped back two or three feet, and looked upon me.
"What a sturdy brute you have become," she said.
I said nothing.
"Your face and features," she said, "seem to have coarsened. And there is a scar on your lower left cheek."
I said nothing. I had had the scar from a cut received some four weeks ago. I had been careless.
"I have, inadvertently, from time to time, overheard the speakings of slaves," she said. "Is it true that you are the champion in the stables?"
I smiled to myself. Her informant in such matters was Taphris. Kenneth had told me this.
"Is it true?" she asked.
I considered the line of men. "Yes, Mistress," I said.
"He is splendid, Lady Florence," said Kenneth, warmly. "He is a true champion. He has beaten already the champions of five stables, those of Kliomenes, Policrates, Gordon, Dorto and Miles."
"I abhor violence," she said, shuddering, the quirt in her hand.
"Of course, Lady Florence," said Kenneth. "Forgive me. They are, of course, only slaves who are set at one another."
"That is true," she said. "It is not as though they were people. They are only animals."
It was true. Slaves, both male and female, are animals. Anything may be done with them.
"When he does well, or is successful," she asked, as though merely curious, "is he rewarded?"
"Yes," said Kenneth, "it is useful in the training."
"And how is he rewarded?" she asked.
"An extra round of rations," said Kenneth, expansively, "some pastry upon occasion, sometimes with even a bowl of cheap wine."
"I see," she said.
I looked over at the line of stable sluts, kneeling in the soft earth, in their brown tunics. I had had all of them, and more than once. Kenneth had been generous. Not unoften he would bring one of them to my stall at night, where I was chained, and chain her by the neck, beside me in the straw. My favorite was the blond, Telitsia.
"And is he, upon occasion," asked the Lady Florence, "rewarded with things of another sort?"
"Of course, Lady Florence," said Kenneth.
"With what?" she asked.
"With meaningless little things, trivialities, baubles, things of no account or worth," said Kenneth.
The Lady Florence looked over to the line of kneeling Kajirae. "To be sure," she said, acidly.
"If Lady Florence disapproves," said Kenneth, "we shall, of course, discontinue the practice."
"Why should I disapprove?" she asked, angrily.
"I do not know, Lady Florence," said Kenneth. "I only thought -"
"The sluts are on their slave wine, are they not?" she asked.
"Of course," said Kenneth.
"In what else could I possibly have been interested?" she asked.
"I do not know," he said.
"If there is to be breeding done upon them, I will, of course, supervise it," she said.
"Of course, Lady Florence," said Kenneth.
Slaves are domestic stock. They are bred if and when, and as, the masters please.
"How strong your arms seem to have become," mused the Lady Florence, looking down upon me. Like the other slave tunics, mine was sleeveless.
I said nothing.
"It is nothing whatsoever to me," said the Lady Florence to Kenneth, "whether this slave, a mere slave, is or is not used in the stable bouts. See, however, that he performs his full share of labors."
"Of course, Lady Florence," said Kenneth.
The Mistress then turned from me, and surveyed the next slave in line. She stayed before him, however, only a moment. And, indeed, she was soon finished with our line of slaves. She turned about.
"Does the Lady Florence wish to inspect her Kajirae?" inquired Kenneth.
The body of the Mistress suddenly stiffened. "Yes," she said.
Then, in a moment, in her swirling skirt, and hood and veil, and boots, quirt in hand, she stood before the five Kajirae, members of her own sex, briefly tunicked, wearing feminine work collars, with rings, who knelt before her.
"Which of these," she asked, "is the favorite of the fighting slave, he named Jason?"
"Telitsia, this one," said Kenneth, puzzled.
Blond Telitsia looked up at her Mistress, frightened.
"Sell her," said the Lady Florence, and turned away.
"With your permission, Lady Florence," said Kenneth, "I would like to get Jason to the stall, that we may dry and warm him. He is hot and sweaty. I do not wish him to take a chill."
"I trust you take as good care of my tharlarion as you do of your fighters," said the Lady Florence.
"Of course," grinned Kenneth.
"You may kiss my feet, Jason," said the Lady Florence. I bent, putting my lips to her slippers, kissing them. "Now those of the Lady Melpomene," she said. Again I bent, this time pressing my lips to the slippers of the Lady Melpomene, too, kissing them.
"He has become a sturdy brute, hasn't he?" asked the Lady Florence.
I lifted my head.
"And a handsome brute, too," she said.
"Come, Jason," said Kenneth, drawing me to my feet. He half pushed me down the corridor.
"Kenneth!" called the Lady Florence.
Kenneth stopped and turned.
"Is he to be rewarded?" she asked.
"Surely," said Kenneth. "Was it not a splendid performance? Did he not do excellently?"
"Double rations, and wine," she said.
"Of course," said Kenneth.
I was angry.
"And no slut!" she said, clearly.
"He is a male slave, a fighter," protested Kenneth. "He needs a collared slut squirming in his arms. He has earned her."
"No slut," she said.
"Let me at least chain Taphris at his side," said Kenneth. "She is the least of the sluts, and has been shorn."
Taphris shrank back.
"No, Kenneth," said the Lady Florence. "Do not give him a woman."
"He is a man," said Kenneth. "He needs meat and a slave girl."
"He is not to be given a woman," she said. "Is that clearly understood, Kenneth?"
"Yes, Lady Florence," he said, angrily.
"Kenneth," she said.
"Yes, Lady Florence," he said.
"I will later find a slut for him," she said. "I have a slut in mind."
"I will free you," she said suddenly, intensely.
I did not speak.
"You are free," she said. "You are free!"
She fled from me to a small vanity by the wall, near her bed. She seized out a key from a drawer and fled again to me, holding her robes about her with her left hand.
"Remove the collar," I told her.
"Please, Jason," she said.
"Remove it," I said.
Blushing she allowed her robes to fall about her hips and, with two hands, holding the collar with her left and inserting the key with her right, she removed it from my throat. She bent down and placed the collar and key on the floor. She hesitated, for the briefest instant, realizing that she had bent her body before me, and then, quickly, she straightened up. I still held the slave bracelets I had removed from her in my right hand. The key I had placed in a fold in the cloth belt of my half tunic.
The leather slave hood was pulled from my head. I heard the cry of the crowd. Barus rubbed my back. Kenneth was wrapping the long strips of leather about my hands. I saw slave girls, in their brief rags and collars, at the gate, some standing on the bars of the gate. "Jason! Jason!" some of them called. "Krondar!" cried several of the free persons in the crowd. "Jason!" cried others.
There was a new cry from the crowd as a burly, short, thick-bodied man was led into the sand-floored, circular pit. He pulled against the manacles which confined his hands behind his back. "He is eager," I thought.
"Krondar! Krondar!" cried men in the crowd.
"I have not heard of this slave," I said to Kenneth. "Is Gort not the champion of the stables of Miles of Vonda?"
"Here," cried one of the referee's men, pointing to me, "is Jason, champion of the stables of the Lady Florence of Vonda!" There was a cheer at this. "Jason! Jason!" cried several of the slave girls. The women present at the pit of sand, whether at the gate leading into it, or in the tiers looking down upon it, were excited. Women grow excited when men are to do battle. This is because they know that they are the natural spoils of the wars of men. This is obvious in any woman, whether slave or free, but it is particularly and almost pathetically obvious among female slaves, who already know themselves explicitly and legally as properties and spoils. Too, their half-naked bodies, collared and branded, make it difficult for them to conceal their excitement, or other emotions and feelings.
"He seems strong," I said to Kenneth.
"Yes," said Kenneth, not looking back, but continuing to wrap the leather about my hands.
"His body," said I, "is muchly scarred."
"It should be," said Kenneth. I did not understand his remark.
"Krondar!" cried free persons in the tiers.
"Jason!" cried others.
I looked to the tiers and there saw the proud and regal figure of Miles of Vonda. He was smiling. I recalled that he had once been one of the rejected suitors of the Lady Florence of Vonda. He was one of the main tharlarion ranchers in the area. I did not think so proud a man would have taken his rejection cooly. The Lady Florence was not this day present at the bouts. For no reason that was generally clear to her employees and slaves she had claimed to be currently indisposed, and had chosen to remain in seclusion in her house. When I had asked Kenneth about this, he had merely grinned, and asked, "Do you not know?"
"Perhaps," I had smiled.
Miles of Vonda gestured to one of the referee's men, and he removed the slave hood from the head of the burly man opposite me, across the sand.
"Aiii," I whispered.
There was a gasp of horror from the crowd.
"This," called another of the referee's men, pointing to the burly fellow, whose seconds were now removing the manacles from his wrists, freeing his hands from behind his back, "is Krondar, newly purchased slave to Miles of Vonda, and new champion of his stables!"
Krondar struggled, but was held by his seconds. One of the referee's men whipped forth steel, a Gorean blade, short and wicked, and, leveling it, thrust it a quarter of an inch into the burly man's gut. Krondar ceased struggling. He well knew the meaning of Gorean steel. Such a blade, with little effort, can disappear into a body and divide flesh.
But Krondar's eyes sought mine. They were small, under hanging brows. His face was a mass of scar tissue.
"That is no ordinary fighting slave," I told Kenneth.
"No," said Kenneth, not looking back. "That is Krondar. He is a famous fighting slave of Ar."
"His face," I said, half in awe.
"In the pits of Ar," he said, "he has fought with the spiked leather, and with the knife gauntlets."
"Doubtless he has cost Miles of Vonda much," said Barus, rubbing my back.
"Why should Miles of Vonda have purchased such a slave?" I asked. "Can the championship of the local stables mean so much to him?"
"Surely he could not be jealous of me," I said. "He is a free person, and I am only a collared slave."
Across the pit, Krondar's seconds were wrapping leather about his hands.
"Do not delude yourself," said Kenneth, "he will rejoice in each blow that is struck upon your body. When you fall broken and bloody at the feet of Krondar, unable to move and at his mercy, will that not be a sweet vengeance for him, against you, and, in its way, against the Lady Florence?"
"Doubtless," I said.
"Beat and mark his face well, Krondar!" called Miles of Vonda to his slave.
"Yes, Master," growled the slave.
"When Krondar is through with him," laughed a man in the tiers, "a she-tharlarion would not have him for a silk slave!" There was laughter at this.
"Krondar seems a formidable antagonist," I said.
"He is one of the finest fighting slaves of Ar," said Kenneth.
"It seems he could tear me to pieces," I smiled.
"I do not think it is impossible," said Kenneth, finishing with the leather on my hands.
I began to feel sick. "Do you think I can win?" I asked.
"Of course not," said Kenneth.
"Why then am I fighting?" I asked.
"You are champion," said Kenneth. "You must fight."
"Have you bet upon me?" I asked.
"No," said Kenneth.
"Have you bet on Krondar?" I asked.
"No," said Kenneth.
"Why not?" I asked.
"Such a bet would cast suspicion on the honesty of the bouts," said Kenneth.
"Such a bet could be placed secretly, through agents," I said.
"Doubtless," said Kenneth.
"But you have not done so?" I asked.
"No," he said.
"Why not?" I asked.
"I will not bet against my own men," said Kenneth.
"Does Master speak the truth?" I asked.
"A bold question," he smiled.
"Its answer," I asked.
"Yes," smiled Kenneth, striking me on the shoulder. "I speak the truth!"
"Bet," I told him.
"Bet?" he asked.
"Yes," I said, grinning. "I am going to win."
"You are mad," said Barus.
"After the first few blows," said Kenneth, "feign disorientation, then when another is struck, fall to the sand."
"And then?" I asked.
"Why, pretend unconsciousness," said Kenneth, "or inability to rise."
I regarded him.
"Krondar will probably kick you a few times, that your ribs may be broken, or pull you by the hair to your knees, that he may break loose your teeth or shatter your jaw, but you will live."
"As an overwhelmingly humiliated and defeated slave," I said.
"Of course," said Kenneth.
"Does Master command me," I asked, "as the collared slave I am?"
"I advise you," said Kenneth, "to adopt that course of action which is in your own best interest."
"Does Master command me," I asked, "as the collared slave I am?"
"I have watched you, Jason," said Kenneth. "The collar does not belong on your throat. You are not a woman, born to lie licking and loving at a man's feet. In you there is the stuff of masters."
"I am not then commanded," I said.
"No." said Kenneth. "I do not command you."
"Thank you, Master," I said. I measured Krondar across the sand.
"The bar will soon be struck," said Barus.
Krondar was eager. I was pleased at this. I decided that I would make short work of him.
"I have done all that I can do," said Kenneth.
"Not all," I said.
"What else can I do?" asked he.
"Why, bet," said I.
"You are indeed mad," said Kenneth.
The bar then suddenly sounded and I leaped to my feet and moved quickly onto the sand.
I was not before him, however, when Krondar, raging, hurled himself toward me. He reeled, struck in the side of the head, against the wooden palings at the side of the pit of sand.
The crowd seemed stunned.
I did not pursue my advantage. "There are fighters other than in Ar," I told Krondar. "I hope that you understand this clearly."
He glared at me.
"A golden tarn disk on Jason!" I heard Barus cry.
"Taken!" called a man in the tiers.
"But ten to one!" called Barus.
"Granted!" called the man.
"Let me bet, too," cried another.
Furious Krondar head down lunged at me. He was thus not in a position to protect against the upward stroke with which I caught him. Fortunately we did not engage with knife gauntlets or his head might have been torn from him. Even the cruel cestae of the low pits might have cut away his lower jaw. I still felt the shock in my right arm and shoulder. He staggered backward and to one side. I did not, again, pursue my advantage. "I tell you," I said, "that there are fighters, too, in what you might consider the wilderness or the outlands." He was breathing heavily. "Even in the stables of Vonda," I said, "there are champions." There was a cheer at this from many in the tiers. Even the slave girls, in their rags and collars, cried out with pleasure.
"A golden tarn disk on Jason!" cried Barus. "At ten to one!"
There was silence.
"Eight to one!" cried Barus.
"Five to one!"
"Taken," said a man, uncertainly.
Again, maddened, Krondar, again head down, hurled himself toward me. This time I did not strike him, but let him, sand kicking behind him, plunge past me. He turned quickly, startled, at the palings. He knew that I had not struck him.
"Let us take one another seriously," I said.
"A golden tarn disk on Jason!" called Barus. "Five to one! Five to one? Three to one? Two to one? Even odds! Even odds!"
"Taken!" said a man.
"Taken!" said another.
In that squarish, hideously scarred countenance of Krondar there was, for a moment, a sudden understanding that though he were now in the vicinity of Vonda he with whom he shared that shallow pit of sand, collared and slave, too, might be one perhaps not unworthy to be called a fighter.
"A golden tarn disk on Jason!" cried Barus. "Even odds! Even odds!"
There were no answers from the crowd.
Again Krondar charged, as though maddened, but I had earlier seen his understanding that I might be dangerous. This time I stood to the right and, as he thrust forth his hands to seize me, I struck upward with my left fist. I then struck him crosswise with my right fist, and then similarly again with my left fist, this time to the gut. This brought his head into position for the upward stroke of my right fist again. The combination was swift and delivered at close range. The crowd was screaming. I could conceive of the post in the training barn shattering. Krondar shook his head, backing away. I followed him, warily. Swiftly, with his right foot he dug into the sand to hurl its granular shower at me, but I was too quickly upon him. Such an action puts a man off balance. I struck him four times before he struck against the palings and twisted away.
"You would not try that trick, surely, in the pits of Ar," I chided him. "Do you think you can dare to put yourself so off balance with me? Do you think to shame me? Next time I will press my advantage with severity."
Krondar grinned, and wiped blood from his face. He shrugged. "You are fast," he said.
"There are champions in Vonda!" cried a man in the tiers. "Yes!" cried others.
"A silver tarsk on Jason!" called Barus. "Even odds! Even odds!"
But no one responded to his proposal.
Krondar came carefully toward the center of the sand. He beckoned to me. "Come here," he said. "Let us become better acquainted."
"Do you think I fear to close with you?" I asked.
The slave girls screamed.
Krondar struck brutally against the palings. They shook. There was blood on them.
"A silver tarsk on Jason!" cried Barus. "Odds of two to one in favor of Jason! Four to one? Ten to one in favor of Jason!"
The bar then rang and the first fighting period was terminated.
The crowd was screaming.
I stood unsteadily in the center of the sand. It was in the fourth fighting period. Kenneth and Barus ran to me. I felt my bloody, leather-bound fists raised in victory. Gold showered into the pit. Half-naked slave girls knelt at my feet, weeping, pressing their lips to my feet and body. I saw free women in the tiers, their eyes wild, half glazed, over their veils. Men were cheering. Many were pounding their left shoulders in Gorean applause. I saw that Miles of Vonda had left. I broke loose from the crowd and lifted Krondar, bloody, to his feet. We embraced. "You could fight in Ar," he said. Then he was pulled from me, and hooded and shackled. Kenneth and Barus drew me from the fighting area. We forced our way through the crowd. Slave girls clung about me. Even free women reached out to touch me, my body covered with sweat and sand.
Soon, at the gate leading to the stalls used as dressing rooms, the men of the bouts interposed themselves between us and the crowd. "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. The gate closed behind us. Barus threw a towel about my shoulders and began to dry me. Kenneth thrust me happily down the corridor and into the straw-filled stall. "Well done, Jason!" he exclaimed. Barus reached to a peg in the stall to get my slave hood and shackles. "I want a woman," I gasped. I felt my hands pulled behind me. "I want a woman," I said. I felt the manacles, heavy and obdurate, snapped shut on my wrists. "I want a woman," I said. "Would that I could throw you a wench," said Kenneth. "You have well earned her."
"But the Mistress would not approve?" I asked.
"I do not think so," said Kenneth.
"What of the 'new slave,'" I smiled, "she who was sent to me in the tunnel?"
"I want a woman," I said.
"I am sorry," he said. Then the slave hood was drawn over my head and its strap looped twice about my throat and then buckled shut under my chin.