Canjellne - Slave Challenge
Here are relevant references from the Books where Canjellne or the Slave Challenge is 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 like this girl," said the warrior. "Yield her to me!"
"No," I said.
"Yield her or I will have my tharlarion trample you," he snapped, "or would you prefer to be spitted on my lance?"
"You know the codes," I said evenly. "If you want her, you must challenge for her and meet me with the weapon of my choice."
The warrior's face clouded, but only for an instant. He threw back his fine head and laughed, his teeth white in his bushy beard.
"Done!" he cried, fastening his lance in its saddle sheath and slipping from the back of the tharlarion. "I challenge you for her!"
"The sword," I said.
"Agreed," he said.
"Kajira canjellne!" said the newcomer. Though he indicated me peremptorily with his spear, it was at the two other men that he looked. He did not now take his eyes from them.
The bearded man looked angry. "Kajira canjellne," he acknowledged. "Kajira canjellne," said the other man, too, soberly.
The bearded man lifted me lightly in his arms. My weight was as if nothing to him. He faced the stranger, who still crouched a few yards away.
"Kajira canjellne?" asked the bearded man. It was as though he were giving the stranger an opportunity to withdraw. Perhaps a mistake had been made. Perhaps there had been a misunderstanding?
The stranger, crouching in the grass, his shield beside him, the butt of the spear in the grass, the weapon upright, its point against the sky, nodded. There had been no mistake. "Kajira canjellne," he said, simply.
The other man angrily went to a place in the grass, to one side. There, angrily, with the blade of his spear, he traced and dug a circle in the earth. It was some ten feet in diameter. The bearded man then threw me over his shoulder, and carried me to the circle. I was hurled to its center. I lay on my side, bound.
The men spoke together, as though clarifying arrangements. They did not speak long.
I struggled to my knees. I knelt in the circle.
The stranger, now, stood. He donned his helmet. He slipped his shield on his arm, adjusting straps. He slid the short blade at his left hip some inches from the sheath, and slipped it back in, lifting and dropping it in the sheath. It was loose. He took his spear in his right hand. It had a long, heavy shaft, some two inches in width, some seven feet in length; the head of the weapon, including its socket and penetrating rivets, was some twenty inches in length; the killing edges of the blade began about two inches from the bottom of the socket, which reinforced the blade, tapering with the blade, double-edged, to within eight inches of its point; the blade was bronze; it was broad at the bottom, tapering to its point; given the stoutness of the weapon, the lesser gravity of this world, and the strength of the man who wielded it, I suspected it would have considerable penetrating power; I doubted that the shields they carried, though stout, could turn its full stroke, if taken frontally; I had little doubt such a weapon might thrust a quarter of its length through the body of a man, and perhaps half its length or more through the slighter, softer body of a mere girl; I looked upon the spear; it was so mighty; I feared it.
The two men who were my captors conferred briefly among themselves. He who was not the bearded man then stepped forward, his shield on his arm, his spear in hand. He stood separated from the stranger by some forty feet.
I observed them. They stood, not moving, each clad in scarlet, each helmeted, each similarly armed. They stood in the grass. Neither looked at me. I was forgotten. I knelt in the circle. I tried to free myself. I could not. I knelt in the circle.
The wind moved the grass. The clouds shifted in the blue sky
For a long time, neither man moved. Then, suddenly, the stranger, laughing, lifted his spear and struck its butt into the ground. "Kajira canjellne!" he laughed.
I could not believe it. He seemed elated. He was pleased with the prospect of war. How terrible he was! How proud, how magnificent he seemed! I thought I knew then, with horror, the nature of men.
"Kajira canjellne!" said the other man.
Warily they began to circle one another.
I waited, kneeling, frightened, nude and bound, in the circle. I watched the men warily circling one another. I pulled at my bonds. I was helpless.
Suddenly, as though by common accord, each crying out, each uttering a savage cry, they hurled themselves at one another.
It was the ritual of the spear casting.
The spear of he who was one of my captors seemed to leap upward and away, caroming from the oblique, lifted surface of the stranger's shield. The spear, caroming from the shield, flew more than a hundred feet away, dropping in the grass, where it stood fixed, remote and useless, the butt of its shaft pointing to the sky. The stranger's spear had penetrated the shield of he who was one of my captors, and the stranger, bracing the shaft between his arm and body, had lifted his opponent's shield and turned, throwing it and his opponent, who had not the time to slip from the shield straps, to the ground at his feet. The stranger's blade, now, loosed from its sheath, under the opponent's helmet, lay at his throat.
But the stranger did not strike. He severed the shield straps of the opponent's shield, freeing his arm front them. He stepped back. He cast his own shield aside, into the grass.
He stood waiting, blade drawn.
The other man got his legs under him and leaped to his feet. He was enraged. The blade in his sheath leaped forth.
He charged the other, the stranger, and swiftly did the two engage.
I knelt terrified. I shuddered with horror. They were not human, as I understood human beings. They were warriors and beasts.
I cried out with fear.
I had always had a fear of steel blades, even knives. Now I knelt bound and nude, helpless, utterly exposed and vulnerable, in the vicinity of fierce men, skilled and strong, who with intent and menace, with edged, bared steel, addressed themselves to the savageries of war.
I watched, wide-eyed, bound. Furious, sharp, was the precision of their combat.
They were not feet from me.
Backward and forward, swiftly, did they move in their grim contest.
I wondered at what manner of men they might be, surely like none I had hitherto known. Why did they not flee in terror from such blades? Why did they not flee! But they met one another, and did battle. How I feared, and still fear, such men! How could a woman but kneel trembling before such a man?
One man wheeled back, grunting, turning, and fell to his knees in the grass, and then fell, turning, to his side, lying upon his shoulder, doubled, hunched in pain, bleeding, his hands at his belly, his blade lost in the grass.
The stranger stepped back from him, his blade bloody. He stood regarding the other man, the bearded man.
The bearded man lifted his shield and raised his spear.
"Kajira canjellne!" he said.
"Kajira canjellne," said the stranger. He went to extricate his spear from the penetrated shield of the man with whom, but moments before, he had shared the sport of war. The fallen foe lay doubled in the grass; his lower lip was bloody; he tore it with his teeth, holding it, that, in his pain, he might make no sound. His hands were clutched in the scarlet of his wet tunic, bunching it, at the half-severed belt. The grass was bloody about him.
The stranger bent to lift the penetrated shield, that he might remove from it his bronze-headed weapon.
In that instant the bearded man, crying out savagely, rushed upon him, his spear raised.
Before I could respond in horror or my body move the stranger had reacted, rolling to the side and, in an instant, regaining his feet, assuming an on-guard position. As my cry of misery escaped my lips the thrust of the bearded man's spear had passed to the left of the stranger's helmet. The stranger had not remained at the vicinity of the shield with its penetrating spear, but had abandoned it. For the first time now the stranger did not seem pleased. The bearded man's spear had thrust into the grass. Its head and a foot of its shaft had been driven into the turf. He faced the stranger now, sword drawn. The instant he had missed the thrust he had left the weapon, spinning and unsheathing his sword. The bearded man was white-faced. But the stranger had not rushed upon him. He waited, in the on-guard position. He gestured with his blade, indicating that now they might do battle.
With a cry of rage the bearded man rushed upon him, thrusting with his shield, his sword flat and low. The stranger was not there. Twice more the bearded man charged, and each time the stranger seemed not to be at the point of intended impact. The fourth time the stranger was behind him and on his left. The stranger's sword was at his left armpit.
The bearded man stood very still, white-faced. The stranger's sword moved. The stranger stepped back. The bearded man's shield slipped from his arm. The straps which had held the shield to his upper arm had been severed. The shield fell on its edge to the grass, and then tipped and rocked, then was still, large, rounded, concave inner surface tilted, facing the sky. I could see the severed straps.
The two men faced one another.
Then did they engage.
I then realized, as I had not before, the skill of the stranger. Earlier he had matched himself, for a time, evenly with the first opponent. In a swift, though measured fashion, he had exercised himself, sharply and well, respecting his foe, not permitting the foe to understand his full power with the blade, the devastating and subtle skill which now seemed to lend terrible flight to the rapid steel. I saw the wounded man, now on an elbow, watching, with horror. He had not even been slain. Lying in the bloodied grass, he realized he had been permitted to live. It was with humiliating skill that the stranger toyed with the stumbling, white-faced bearded man, he who had, minutes before, been preparing to cut my throat. Bound, kneeling in the circle, it was with sudden, frightening elation that I realized the stranger was the master of the other two. Four times was he within the other's guard, his blade at breast or throat, and did not finish him. He moved the bearded man into a position where his fallen, discarded shield lay behind him. With a cry he forced back the bearded man, who fell, stumbling in the shield, backward, and then lay on the grass before the stranger, the stranger's blade at his throat. The stranger, in contempt, then stepped back. The bearded man scrambled to his feet. The stranger stood back, in the on-guard position.
The bearded man took his blade and hurled it into the grass. It sank to the hilt.
He stood regarding the stranger.
The stranger slipped his own blade back in the sheath. The bearded man loosened his dagger belt, dropping the belt and weapon to the grass. Then he walked, slowly, to his fellow, and similarly removed his dagger belt. The man held his bloodied tunic to his wound, to stanch the flow of blood. The bearded man lifted the other man to his feet, and, together, the bearded man supporting the other, they left the field.
The stranger stood watching them go. He watched them until they disappeared in the distance.
He removed his spear from the shield which it had penetrated. He thrust it, upright, butt down, in the turf. It was like a standard. He sat his shield by it.
Then he turned to face me.
I knelt within the wide circle, torn by the blade of a spear in the turf. I was naked. I was bound helplessly. It was an alien world.
He began to approach me, slowly. I was terrified.
Then he stood before me.
Never had I been so frightened. We were alone, absolutely.
"Kajira canjellne," he had said. I had been released of the chain and collar. A circle had been drawn in the turf. Bound, I had been thrown to it. Kneeling, I had watched men fight.
My captor took my head in his hands, and held it so that I must look up at him. I looked to him for pity. In his eyes there was no pity. I, branded, shuddered in his grasp. "Kajira," said he to me, clearly and simply. "Kajira." Then he released my head. I continued to regard him. "Kajira," he said. I understood that I was to repeat this phrase. "Kajira," I said. I had heard this word several times before on this world. The men who had first come to the rock and chain in the wilderness had used it to me. And, too, there had been the cry of "Kajira canjellne," which had seemed to play some ritualistic role in the fierce contests which had brought me, helpless, into his uncompromising power.
The man in the scarlet tunic, from over the fields, had arrived. "Kajira canjellne," he had said. He had fought for me, and won me.
"This is the woman," he said, weakly. "What am I bid?"
At this point the helmeted warrior began to descend the aisle. We watched him approach.
Clitus Vitellius turned again to face the crowd of Ar. "Kajira canjellne," he said. "Slave girl challenge."
There was no response from the crowd.
"She is pretty," he said.
"She is not muchly trained," I said, "and there are doubtless thousands who would bring higher prices."
"Still, she is very pretty," he said.
"Do you wish to challenge for her?" I asked.
"No," he said. "I have a better."
Unless there should be some misunderstanding here, one might observe that such challenges are not frequent, and normally require almost a ritual of circumstances. For example, aside from the usual impropriety of challenging one with whom one might share a Home Stone, Gorean honor militates against, if it does not wholly preclude, casual or unprovoked challenges. Obviously a skilled swordsman would have an advantage in such matters, which it would be inappropriate, and perhaps dishonorable, to press. Normally challenges would take place to recover a stolen slave, to protect a mortally endangered slave, perhaps to obtain a slave once foolishly disposed of, without which one cannot then bear to live, such things. Too, there may be economic constraints, as well, for if the challenge is not accepted, one is sometimes expected, depending on the city, the castes, and circumstances, to pay for the slave, with a purse several times her value. Few potential challengers then care to risk a refused challenge, as it is likely they cannot afford the slave, and must then retire in embarrassment. Many other possibilities enter into these things, but these remarks, hopefully, will give any who might chance to peruse these several sheets a sense of some of the prevailing customs in these matters. To be sure, brigands, pirates, enemies, and such, are not likely to concern themselves with challenges, but are rather the more likely, as they see fit, to attack, and kill. Similarly, in raids, and wars, it is understood that the property of the enemy, or quarry, or target, including not only his livestock and slaves, but even his free women, is legitimate booty. A proper challenge, on the other hand, is more akin to a duel, sometimes even to the setting of a time and place.
"If one were interested," he said, "there are many ways in which one might intervene, or attempt to do so. One might claim capture rights; one might index a recovery fee to conditions as to the slave's punishment, and so on, a high fee, even a prohibitive or exorbitant one if a severe punishment was in prospect, which an owner would be unwilling or unable to pay, a low fee if some lenience were granted. Such agreements are put in writing, of course, before a praetor's man. One could even keep the slave, or hide her and then sell her privately. If one were a warrior, one might even issue a challenge, a challenge in virtue of sword right, the right of beauty to be claimed by means of the sword. If worse came to worse, one might even consider buying the slave."