This is a short narrative and relevant references from the Books where the Taluna are mentioned.
It is not meant to be anything other than the facts of the matter.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
There is not a lot written about the Taluna. We have only a few passages from Explorers of Gor to tell us all there is to know.
On that point, nowhere, when speaking of the Taluna, are Panther Girls mentioned as being comparable, as a comparison or a contrast. Therefore any similarities drawn between the two groups is your own assumption.
So, from what we do know, talunas are white-skinned jungle girls. The jungle being the rain forest in the vicinity of Shendi, known for its sapphires. However, that they speak Gorean confirms they are not originally of the jungle. The color of their skin alone shows that. And, in fact they had fled undesired companionships.
Taluna do not wear rep-cloth or bark cloth, or rags, of the sort which might be worn by slaves. Instead they wear brief skins, belted at the waist, golden armlets, golden bangles on the left ankle and necklaces of claws.
For weapons they use only daggers and light spears.
They are proficient with canoes, even those large enough to carry at least seven of them.
Taluna are not overly strong. They are not "Amazonian". They are women, and have only women's strength.
The Taluna, more than forty of them, live in a stockade with a single gate. Inside are several small, thatched huts. These huts have with thatched roofs and thatched sides between the sticks which form walls. They sleep in their brief skins on woven mats with their weapons at the side of the hut.
The leader has her own hut which is the largest and most impressive, in the center of the camp which is not shared with another girl.
One of the huts is a prison, tied shut from the outside. Women such as talunas sometimes keep a male slave or two. They are useful, for example, in performing draft labors and to serve their pleasure for sex.
One example is Turgus who fell captive to them. In his words, "I fell to these women. They made me their work slave. Sometimes they would beat me and mount me."
The Taluna have other slaves too. In the jungle there are small men, not more than five feet in height and weighing no more than eighty pounds.
Although being men, their small stature allows the Taluna to make these men work for them. The talunas are too large and strong for the small men and can make these men fish and hunt, make cloth, and serve them. For their work, the small men are allowed to wear belts hung with knives and small implements. They also carry spears and nets.
Talunas also keep slave bracelets about in case slave girls should fall into their hands. They are extremely cruel to slave girls, whom they regard as having betrayed their sex by surrendering as slaves to men. Of course, it seems likely that their hatred of slave girls, which tends to be unreasoning and vicious, is due less to lofty sentiments than to their own intense jealousy of the joy and fulfillment of their imbonded sisters.
It is not unusual for Talunas to be irritable, and many times hostile toward men. However, instead of not needing men, their attitude is instead, that they are starved for a man's touch.
Girls such as talunas, silked and perfumed, and placed under the iron will of a man, make superb slaves.
The entire band of Talunas are then captured, enslaved and sold to the black slavers of Schendi for two silver tarsks.
"The chief says the river is dangerous beyond this point. He says there are hostile tribes, dangerous waters, great animals, monsters and talunas, white-skinned jungle girls." He indicated the blond-haired barbarian, kneeling, her hands tied behind her back, her neck-rope in the hands of Alice, who, in lovely repose, stood beside her. "He thought she might be one," he said. "I told him she was only an ordinary slave."
"Oh, men!" we heard cry. "Men! Men! Please help me! Take pity on me! Help me!"
"Look, Master!" cried Alice. "There, near the shore! A white girl!"
She was slender-legged and dark-haired. She wore brief skins. She ran down to the edge of the water. Her hands were not bound together but, from each wrist, there hung a knotted rope. It was as though she had been bound and, somehow, had been freed.
"Please save me!" she cried. "Help me!"
I examined the condition of the skins she wore. I noted, also, that she wore a golden armlet and, on her neck, a necklace of claws. She also had, about her waist, a belt, with a dagger sheath, though the sheath was now empty.
"Save me, please, noble sirs!" she wept. She waded out a few feet into the water. She extended her hands to us piteously. She was quite beautiful.
Now, on the shore, standing at a post, chains about her body, we saw a blond girl. "Please help me!" she cried, straining against the chains. She, like the first, was dressed in brief skins and, like the first, was ornamented, with an armlet and necklace. Too, about her left ankle, there was a golden bangle.
"They speak Gorean," I pointed out. "Thus they are not originally of the jungle. The color of their skins alone, white, should make that clear to you. Consider the first girl. The lengths of rope dangling from her wrists seemed rather long for any usual form of binding. Eighteen inches of rope is quite sufficient for tying a girl's hands either before her body or behind. Too, it is common to loop a wrist binding, and use a single knot, rather than tie each wrist separately."
"Perhaps she was tied about a tree," said Janice.
"Perhaps," I said. "But, too, the rope was cut, not frayed. How would it have been cut?"
"I do not know, Master," she said.
"Consider also," I said, "that she retained her belt and dagger sheath. A normal captor would surely have discarded these. What need has a captured woman for such accouterments?"
"I do not know, Master," she said.
"Too," I said, "she, like the girl at the post, there on the shore, wore clothing and ornaments. One of the first things a captor commonly does with a woman is to take away her clothing. She is not to be permitted to conceal weapons. Also, it helps her to understand that she is a captive. Also, of course, a captor commonly wishes to look upon the beauty of his capture. This pleases him. Also, of course, he may wish to form a conjecture as to its market value or the amount of pleasure he will force it to yield to him. At the very least it seems reasonable that her ornaments, and in particular those of gold, would be removed from her. One does not expect to find rich ornaments of gold on the body of a captured woman. Surely such things belong rather in the loot sack of her captor. She might, of course, wear them later, as her master's property, he using them then to decorate his slave. Consider, too, the nature and condition of their garments. The garments are not ripped or torn. They show no signs of a struggle or of the abuse of their owner. Too, they are skins, of the sort which might be worn by free women, huntresses, not rep-cloth or bark cloth, not rags, of the sort which might be worn by slaves."
"Their bodies, too," said Kisu, "showed no signs of lashings or bruises. Presumably, then, they were not fresh captures."
I nodded. Sometimes a free woman must be taught that she is now subject to discipline. Some women refuse to believe it until the whip is on them.
"Other clues, too," I said, "suggest that they are not what they seem. Consider the girl at the post. Her hands are not fastened over her head, which would lift and accentuate the beauty of her breasts. You must understand that a post is often used to display a girl, not merely to secure her. As it is, we do not even know if her hands are truly fastened behind her or not. We simply cannot see. Too, captors in the forests, natives of these jungles, would not be likely to have chains to secure their captures."
"Please help me!" called the girl, plaintively.
"How long have you been at the post?" I called to her.
"For two days," she wept. "Take pity on me! Help me, please!"
"Have you any doubt now?" I asked. "Consider her condition. It is prime. Does she truly seem to have been at the post for two days?"
"No, Master," said Janice.
"Too," I said, "had she been at the post overnight is it not likely that tharlarion would have discovered her and eaten her from the chains?"
"Yes, Master," said Janice.
"I am, too, made uncomfortable by the thickness of the brush and trees in these areas, both before and now. They seem fit to conceal the numbers of an ambuscade."
"Perhaps we should hurry on," said Tende, looking about.
"Take up your paddles," said Kisu. "Continue on."
"Please, stop!" begged the girl in chains. "Do not leave a poor woman here to die!"
"But can we truly leave her?" asked Janice.
"Yes," said Kisu.
"Yes," I said.
"Paddle," I told her.
"Yes, Master," she said.
As our canoe moved away we looked back. "After them!" cried the girl. She slipped from her chains and bent to the grass beside her, seizing up a light spear. From the brush about her appeared numbers of girls similarly clad and armed. We saw canoes being thrust into the water.
"Perhaps now you will paddle with a better will," I said.
"Yes, Master!" said Janice.
There were now some eight canoes behind us. In each canoe there were five or six girls. In the prow of the first canoe was the blond girl who had seemed to be chained at the post. In the prow of the second was the slender-legged, dark-haired girl whom we had seen earlier. She still had the dangling ropes knotted on her wrists.
"Will they overtake us?" cried Alice.
"It is unlikely," I said. "In no canoe there are there more than six paddlers. In this canoe, too, there are six paddlers, and three of these are men."
In less than a quarter of an Ahn we had considerably lengthened our lead on our pursuers.
"Do you not recall, Janice," I asked, "in one of the villages long ago, one of the men inquired if you were a taluna?"
"Yes," she said.
"Those behind us," I said, "are talunas."
Some fifty yards into the jungle I stopped. There, ringing a depression, were more than a dozen small men. They wore loincloths with vine belts. From loops on the belts hung knives and small implements. They carried spears and nets. I do not think any of them were more than five feet in height. I doubt that any of them weighed more than eighty pounds. Their features were negroid but their skins were more coppery than dark brown or black. They did not seem to be one of the black races, which are usually tall, long-limbed and supple, but their racial affinities seemed clearly to be more aligned with one or more of those groups than any others.
They spoke quickly among themselves. It was not in Gorean.
"We are the slaves of the talunas," said one of the men, their leader.
I nodded. I had thought so, from their behavior. It was from the talunas, too, doubtless, that they had learned their Gorean.
"We fish and hunt for them, and make cloth, and serve them," said one of the men.
"Men should not be the slaves of women," I said. "Women should be the slaves of men."
"We are small," said a man. "The talunas are too large and strong for us."
"They may be taken, and made slaves, as any women," I said.
"Help us to rid ourselves of the talunas," said the leader.
"I have business on the river," I said.
Their leader nodded.
The small men looked at one another. They spoke swiftly in a language I could not follow. Certain of the words, but very few of them, were recognizable. There are linguistic affinities among most of the lake and river dialects. The language they spoke, however, was far removed from the speeches of Ushindi or Ukungu.
In a moment the small men turned to regard me. "Let us exchange gifts," said their chieftain. "Rid us of the talunas, and we will help you."
"You must be very brave," I told them.
"We can be brave," said one of the men.
"You are spear and net hunters," I said. "This is my plan."
Lightly I dropped down within the stockade of the talunas. It contained several small, thatched huts. It was not difficult to see in the light of the three moons.
I made my way quietly, crawling, stopping upon occasion to listen, toward the more central huts. In one of the huts, one with a door tied shut from the outside, I heard a rustle of chain.
I picked that hut which seemed the largest and most impressive, one in the center of the camp.
On my belly, quietly, I entered it. Moonlight filtered in through the thatched roof and between the sticks which formed the sides of the hut. She was sleeping within, in her brief skins. Her weapons were at the side of the hut. She lay on a woven mat, her blond hair loose about her head. I examined her thighs, moving back the skins she wore. They had never been branded. She turned, restlessly. She was the girl who had feigned being chained at the post, to lure us into a trap. She was, I was sure, the leader of the talunas. She had given commands in our pursuit. She did not share her hut with another girl. She threw her arm restlessly over her head. I saw her hips move. I smiled. She was a woman in need. She moaned. I waited until her arms were again at her sides, and she lay upon her back. I saw her lift her haunches in her sleep. She was starved for a man's touch. Such women, in their waking hours, are often tense and restless; it is not unusual, too, for them to be irritable; and many times they are hostile toward men; many times they are not even fully aware of the underlying causes of their uncomfortable conscious states; how horrified they might be if they were told that they were women, and desired a master; yet must they not, on some level, be aware of this; would not their hostility toward the male who does not understand their needs or is too cowardly or weak to satisfy them not be otherwise inexplicable; what other hurt could the uncooperative male be inflicting upon them; the more he tries to please them the more they demand; the more he tries to do what they claim to wish the more he find himself disparaged and despised; can he not see that what they really want is to be thrown to his feet and subjected, totally, to his will? They wish to be women, that is all. But how can they be women if men will not be men? How cruel a man is to deny to a woman the deepest need of her womanhood. Can they not care for them? Can they not see how beautiful they are, and how marvelous?
But I steeled myself against thoughts of mercy for the blond beauty. She was an enemy.
Her head was then turned to the side. She twisted restlessly in her sleep.
I waited until her head was back, and she lay upon her back, her arms at her side. Her small fists were clenched. She whimpered, needing a man.
She was indeed beautiful. I thought she would look well naked, on a slave block.
Swiftly I knelt across her body, pinning her down, pinning her arms to her sides. Almost instantly, frightened, she wakened. The trapped girl's first impulse is to scream. This may be depended upon. As her mouth opened I, with my thumb, thrust the rolled-cloth wadding deep into it. In a moment I had lashed it in place. I then threw her to her stomach and tied her hands behind her back. I then put her again on her back. Her eyes were wild, terrified, over the gag. With my knife I cut the skins from her. "You will not be needing these," I told her. I regarded her. Such women bring high prices. I took her in my arms. Her eyes were frightened. She shook her head fiercely, negatively. But her body, as though in sudden relief, desperately clasped me. She twisted her head to the side, and then, again, looked at me. She shook her head, negatively. But her body thrust itself against me, asking no quarter, piteously and helplessly soliciting its full impalement. "Very well," I told her. She looked at me in fury. "Your eyes say, 'No,'" I told her "but your body says 'Yes.'" Her hips and thighs then began to move. She put back her head in misery on the mat. Then, in a moment, there were tears in her eyes, and she tried to lift her head and gagged mouth to touch me. When later I crouched over her she sat up, shuddering, and put her cheek to my left shoulder. I felt the lashings of the gag against my shoulder.
I thrust her to her back on the mat. "You are only bait," I told her. I then tied her ankles together and, putting her over my shoulders, her head hanging down over my back, left the hut. I left by way of the stockade gate. I would leave an obvious trail.
"There they are! We have them now!" cried the slender-legged, dark-haired girl.
I plunged through brush, dragging the bound, gagged blond girl, running and stumbling, bent over, by the hair at my side.
The talunas, more than forty of them, plunged after us, brandishing their weapons, in hot pursuit.
I turned when I heard their sudden cries of surprise, and then of rage, and then of fear.
I tied the blond girl by her hair to a slender palm and strode back to the nets.
Some of the talunas lay upon the ground, tangled in nets, the spear blades of the small men at their throats and bellies. More than twenty of them struggled, impeding one another's movement, in a long vine net about them.
The first girl I pulled from a net was the slender-legged, dark-haired girl. I cuffed her, and then threw her on her belly and bound her hand and foot. I then drew forth another girl and treated her similarly. Then, in a row, lying on the jungle floor, there were forty-two captives. I then released the blond girl from the palm tree and, tying her ankles, threw her with the rest. I did not bother to ungag her.
"Release us," said the dark-haired girl, squirming in her bonds.
"Be silent," said the leader of the little men, jabbing his spear blade below her left shoulder blade.
The girl gritted her teeth, frightened, and was quiet.
"Remove their clothing and ornaments," I told the little men.
This was done. The little men then tied a vine collar on the throat of each girl and, by the arms, dragged them, one by one, to a long-trunked, fallen tree. About this tree, encircling it, were a number of vine loopings. The little men then knelt each girl at one of the vine loopings. Pushing down their heads, they then, with pieces of vine rope, fastened both under the vine collars on the girls, tied down their heads, close to the trunk. The forty-three girls then knelt, naked, hands tied behind them, ankles crossed and bound, at the trunk of the fallen tree, their heads tied down over it. They could not slide themselves free sideways, moving the vine loopings, because of the roots of the tree at one end and its spreading branches at the other. They were well secured in place, their heads over the tree trunk. One of the little men then, with a heavy, rusted panga, probably obtained in trade long ago, walked up and down near them. They shuddered. They knew that, if the little men wished, their heads might be swiftly cut from them.
"There are the mighty talunas," I said.
Many of the little men leaped up and down, brandishing their spears and singing.
"At the stockade of the talunas," I said, "there was a prison hut. Within it I heard the chains of a prisoner. The chains were heavy. It is probably a male. Women such as talunas sometimes keep a male slave or two. They are useful, for example, in performing draft labors. I would keep him chained until a determination can be made of his nature. He may be a brigand. I then suggest that the stockade be examined for any other slaves, or objects of interest or value. Then I would, if I were you, burn the stockade."
"We will do these things," grinned the leader of the small men.
Two days ago the leader of the small people had led me into the jungle, leaving behind the clearing where we had secured the lovely talunas, their necks at the mercy of the panga.
I kicked her. "I will take this one," I said.
The leader of the small people then untied the ankles of the blond girl and unbound the fastening that held her, by her vine collar, to the loop tied about the log.
"Stand up," he told her. She stood up. She still wore her gag. It had been removed only to feed and water her.
The leader of the talunas stood before me, a vine collar on her throat, her hands tied behind her back.
"Put your head down," I told her. She lowered her head.
I then went to the white male, who had been the captive of the talunas, released by the small people from his prison hut before they burned the taluna village.
He knelt in the clearing, in the chains of the talunas, shackles on his ankles and wrists, connected to a common chain depending from a heavy iron collar.
"We were attacked the first night," he said. "All in my party were killed save myself, who escaped. I wandered westward, paralleling the river." He cast a glance at the talunas, trussed kneeling by the log, their heads down, fastened to it, their necks helpless to the blow of the panga, should it descend. "I fell to these women," he said. He lifted his chained wrists. "They made me their work slave," he said.
"Surely they forced you to serve their pleasure, as well," I said.
"Sometimes they would beat me and mount me," he said.
"Examine these women," I said, indicating the line of kneeling, trussed talunas. "Which among them pleases you most?"
"That one," said he, indicating the slender-legged, dark-haired girl who had been, as we had determined, second in command among the talunas. There was a menace in his voice.
"Perhaps you remember her well from your enslavement?" I asked.
"Yes," he said. "I do well remember her."
"She is yours," I said.
The girl began to involuntarily shudder. "No," she begged, "please, do not give me to him!"
"You are his," I told her.
"He will kill me," she cried.
"If he wishes," I said.
"Please do not kill me," she cried to Turgus. "I will try to please you totally, and in all ways!"
He did not speak.
"I will be the most loving and lowly slave a man could ask," she wept. "Please, let me try to earn my life!"
He untied her ankles and freed her vine collar from the loop on the trunk of the tree. He threw her to her feet and pushed her head down, submissively. She then stood, hands tied behind her, beside the blond girl, the leader of the talunas.
I took two pair of slave bracelets from the loot of the taluna camp. Girls such as talunas keep such things about in case slave girls should fall into their hands. They are extremely cruel to slave girls, whom they regard as having betrayed their sex by surrendering as slaves to men. Actually, of course, it seems likely that their hatred of slave girls, which tends to be unreasoning and vicious, is due less to lofty sentiments than to their own intense jealousy of the joy and fulfillment of their imbonded sisters. The joyful slave girl, obedient to her master's wishes, is an affront and, more frighteningly, an unanswerable and dreadful threat to their most cherished illusions. Perhaps they wish to be themselves slaves. Why else should they hate them so?
I slipped the straps on the wrists of the blond girl a bit higher on her wrists. I then, below the straps, snapped her wrists into one of the pairs of slave bracelets from the loot of the taluna camp. I then untied the straps which had, hitherto, confined her wrists. Her hands, then, were still fastened behind her, but now in slave bracelets.
I loosened the gag from the mouth of the blond girl and let it fall, its wadding looped about it, before her throat.
She threw up on the jungle floor. The wadding smelled. She threw back her head, gasping for air. I cleaned her mouth with a handful of leaves.
"Do you wish to be a slave girl?" I asked her.
"No," she said. "No!"
"Very well," I said. I threw the other pair of slave bracelets to Turgus. He snapped them on the dark-haired girl and then, as I had, freed her wrists of the earlier binding, which had been, in her case, a length of vine rope from the small people.
She looked at him, puzzled.
"Do you wish to be a slave girl?" he asked.
"No," she said, "no, no!"
"Very well," he said.
I grasped the hand of the leader of the small people in friendship. "I wish you well," I said. "I wish you well," he said.
Then I, and Kisu, followed by Turgus, and by Janice, Alice and Tende, turned about to leave the clearing. We would return to our hidden canoe, beached near the river, near which we had concealed many of our supplies.
"What shall we do with these?" called the leader of the small people. We turned about. He indicated the line of miserable, trussed talunas.
"Whatever you wish," I told him. "They are yours."
"What of those?" he asked. He indicated the blond girl who had been the leader of the talunas and the dark-haired girl, who had been her second in command. They stood, their hands braceleted behind them, confused, in the clearing.
"They were ours," I said. "We let them go. Let them go."
"Very well," he said.
"Unlock our bracelets," begged the blond girl. She and the dark-haired girl had followed us to the edge of the river.
Kisu and I, and Ayari, were sliding our canoe, from which we had removed its camouflage, toward the water. The girls, Janice, Alice and Tende, with the paddles and supplies, accompanied us.
Then we were at the edge of the water.
"Please," begged the blond girl. She turned, that her wrists, enclosed snugly in the linked, steel bracelets, might be exposed to me. "Please unlock our bracelets," she begged. "Please, please!" begged, too, the dark-haired girl.
Kisu and Ayari thrust the canoe into the water. Janice, Alice and Tende, wading, placed the paddles and supplies in the canoe, and then, entering the narrow vessel, assumed their places.
"Please free us," begged the blond girl.
"They are only slave bracelets," I said. "Free yourselves."
"We cannot do so," said the blond girl. "We are women, and have only women's strength."
"Please," she begged again.
"Did you think, noble free women," I asked, "that you might do fully as you wished, that no penalties would be inflicted upon you?"
"You cannot leave us here!" she wept. She looked behind her, fearfully, at the jungle.
Turgus and I waded to the canoe, which Kisu and Ayari held steady in the water.
"Please," begged the blond girl. "You cannot leave us here!"
I turned to face her. "You have lost," I told her. I turned away.
"There is another penalty which may be inflicted upon free women," cried the blond.
I turned again to face her. "Do not even speak of it," I said. "It is too degrading and horrifying. Surely death is a thousand times more preferable."
"I beg that other penalty," said the blond, kneeling in the mud on the shore. "I too," cried the dark-haired girl, kneeling, too, in the mud. "I, too!"
"Speak clearly," I said.
"We beg enslavement," said the blond. "Enslave us, we beg of you!"
"Enslave yourselves," I said.
"I declare myself a slave," said the blond, "and I submit myself to you as my master." She put her head down to the mud. "I declare myself a slave," said the dark-haired girl, and then she turned to face Turgus, "and I submit myself to you as my master." She then put her head down, like the blond, to the mud.
"Lift your head," I said to the blond. "Lift your head," said Turgus to the other girl. The two girls lifted their heads, anxiously.
"You are now only two slaves," I said.
"Yes, Master," said the blond. "Yes. Master," said the dark-haired girl. They had declared themselves slaves. The slave herself, of course, once the declaration has been made, cannot revoke it. That would be impossible, for she is then only a slave. The slave can be freed only by one who owns her, only by one who is at the time her master or, if it should be the case, her mistress. The legal point, I think, is interesting. Sometimes, in the fall of a city, girls who have been enslaved, girls formerly of the now victorious city, will be freed. Technically, according to Merchant Law, which serves as the arbiter in such intermunicipal matters, the girls become briefly the property of their rescuers, else how could they be freed? Further, according to Merchant Law, the rescuer has no obligation to free the girl. In having been enslaved she has lost all claim to her former Home Stone. She has become an animal. If, too, she is sufficiently desirable, it is almost certain she will not be freed. As the Goreans have it, such women are too beautiful to be free. Too, as often as not, city pride enters into such matters. Such girls, with other slave girls, both of various cities and with the former free women of the conquered city, now collared slaves, too, will often be marched naked in chains in the loot processions of the conquering cities. It is claimed they have shamed their former city by having fallen slave, and if they were good enough to be only slaves in the conquered city then surely they should be no more within the walls of the victorious city. Such girls usually are marched in a special position in the loot processions, behind and before banners which proclaim their shame. The people much abuse them and lash them as they pass. Such girls usually beg piteously to be sold to transient slavers. It is hard for them to wear their collars in their own city.
Kisu and Ayari, and Turgus and I, entered the canoe. "Masters!" cried the blond, kneeling in the mud, her hands braceleted behind her. "Wait!" cried the dark-haired girl.
"You are slaves," I told them. "You may be left behind." The prow of the canoe swung slowly toward the center of the river.
"Do not leave us!" cried the blond. She struggled to her feet and, slipping, waded splashing to the side of the canoe. So, too, did the dark-haired girl.
The canoe was now in waist-deep water.
The blond, wading beside it, crying, thrust her body against its side. "Please," she begged, "please!" Both the girls still wore the vine collars on their throats, which the small people had affixed on them, that they might be fastened more easily at the fallen tree. The blond, too, still had looped about her neck her gag lashing with its unrolled, dependent wadding looped about it.
"Let us serve you as work slaves!" cried the blond. "Yes, Master, please!" cried the dark-haired girl. The canoe continued to move, and the two girls waded, weeping, beside it. "Let us serve you as work and pleasure slaves!" cried the blond. "Yes, Masters," cried the dark-haired girl. "Please, please!"
"Do you have the makings of a pleasure slave?" I asked the blond. I held her by the vine collar at the side of the canoe.
"Yes, Master," she wept. "Yes, Master!" I, too," cried the dark-haired girl.
I pulled the blond into the canoe, kneeling before me, her back to me. She was shuddering. Turgus drew the weeping trembling dark-haired girl, too, into the canoe. She fainted, overcome, and he placed her on her side, knees drawn up, before him.
"Where are you from?" I asked the blond girl.
"I, and Finn," she said, indicating with her head the dark-haired girl, "are from Turia. The other girls are from various cities in the south."
"Did you spy upon us once," I asked, "further down the river?"
"Yes," she said. "It was I. We then determined to try and trap you, for slaves." Ayari, then, long ago, had, as I had suspected, seen a taluna in the forest. He had thought it might have been Janice, gathering wood.
"How came you to the rain forests?" I asked.
"I, and Fina, and the others," she said, "fled undesired companionships."
"But now you have fallen slave," I said.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"Your entire band," I said, "will doubtless know no nobler fate."
"Yes, Master," she said. She shuddered. "We now, all of us, belong to men."
"Yes," I said.
"You left our vine collars on," she said. "You knew, did you not, that we would beg slavery?"
"Yes," I said.
"But how could you know?" she asked.
"Though you and the others have fought your femininity," I said, "yet you and they are both beautiful and feminine."
"You knew that we were natural slaves?" she said.
"Of course," I said.
"I will no longer be permitted to fight my femininity, will I?" she asked.
"No," I said. "You are now a slave girl. You will yield to it, and fully."
"I'm frightened," she said.
"That is natural," I said.
"It will make me so loving and helpless," she said.
"Yes," I said.
"Can I dare, too, now," she asked, "to be sensuous?"
"If you are not fully pleasing in all the modalities of the slave girl, sensuous and otherwise," I said, "you will be severely punished."
"Yes, Master," she said.
"Or slain," I said.
"Yes, Master," she whispered.
The canoe moved into the center of the river. "I do not know how to be a slave girl," she suddenly wept. I thrust her head down, "You will begin," I said, "by learning to be docile and submissive." I then rewound the wadding and, dragging her head up briefly, by the hair, from behind, pushed it into her mouth and lashed it in place. I then again thrust her head down. "Also," I said, "you will consider whether or not, at a given time, your master wishes to hear you speak. If you are in doubt, you may ask his permission to speak, which may then be granted or denied, as he pleases."
She nodded, piteously signifying her slave's assent.
We then continued our journey eastward.
In a few moments she began to tremble. Tears fell from her eyes, staining her thighs and the wood of the canoe bottom. I put her then gently on her stomach, her head turned to the left. She shuddered and then, exhausted by her ordeal, fell asleep.
We paddled on.
We would let the new slaves sleep for a time. Then, in an Ahn or so, we would put our hands upon them and, holding them by the hair and the braceleted wrists, thrust them half over the side, immersing their heads and torsos in the river, that they might be awakened. We would then pull them back into the canoe, tie their ankles to a thwart and remove their slave bracelets. Paddles would be thrust into their hands. Janice, Alice and Tende might then rest, and the new girls, fresh, raw slaves, but now more cognizant than before of their condition, might contribute to our progress on the river.
I started up the stairs, Kisu a step behind me. Then came Ayari and Turgus. Behind them, single file, their hands tied behind them, came five slave girls. Tende was first, for she was first girl. Then came Janice and Alice, and then the blond girl and, lastly, the slender-legged, dark-haired girl. I had, some days ago, removed the gag from the blond-haired girl. The formerly proud leader of the talunas was now well tutored in docility and deference, and already she was showing early signs of emergent growth in vitality and sensuousness. Too, she was becoming happy. Her gag, no longer necessary on her as an instructional or disciplinary device, was that which now packed the pretty face of the dark-haired girl, she who had been her second in command, who now brought up the rear of the coffle.
We had remained that night in the village of Nyundo. I remembered the feast well. In addition to its political importance it had given the talunas an opportunity to learn to dance and serve. Their progress in femininity had not been much advanced by their work at the oars of a galley.
In our journey downriver we had found the small people marching the talunas westward, to sell them. The talunas, stripped, were being marched in tandem pairs, each pair fastened in the long coffle. Two forked sticks are lashed together. The fork of the first stick goes to the back of the neck of the first girl. Another stick then is thrust crosswise under the chin of the first girl and tied on the fork, holding her in the fork. The fork of the second lashed stick is before the throat of the second girl. Another stick then is thrust crosswise behind the neck of the second girl and lashed in place. The hands of each girl are tied behind their backs. Each pair, bound and fastened in the sticks, is then added as a unit to the coffle. The second girl in one pair, unless she is the last in the long line, and the first girl in the succeeding pair, unless she is the first in the long line, are fastened together by neck ropes. Thus is the coffle formed.
When we found the talunas being herded along by the small people we had brought our vessels to shore.
We bought the entire band of captive talunas for a crate of beads and five pangas.
We relieved the caught beauties of the coffle and chained them, four to a bench, to certain of the thwarts of one of the galleys. Oars were then thrust in their hands, four girls to one oar, that they might be able to move the levers. There were enough girls, in this arrangement, for five oars to a side with one girl left over, who could carry food and water to her laboring sisters. A long chain was run lengthwise in the galley and fastened to rings at both stem and stern. The left ankle of the extra girl, the fetch-and-carry girl, who was already in wrist rings, joined by a foot of chain, was then locked in one of two ankle shackles, joined by about eighteen inches of chain. The right ankle shackle was then passed under the long chain and snapped shut about her right ankle. She was thus, by her lovely legs and body, and shackled ankles, literally fastened about the long chain, which served then as a slave's run-chain, permitting her movement, but strictly, by intent, controlling its scope. She might move back and forth, lengthwise in the galley, and to the benches, performing her labors, but could not leave the vessel or, indeed, even touch its bulwarks. Too, it did not permit her to move as far as its rudder. On this galley, the floating prison for the talunas, both those on the benches, chained to the thwarts, and the fetch-and-carry girl, we put five askaris, one for the rudder, for the river galley is single ruddered, and four, should the girls at the oars require encouragement, or the fetch-and-carry girl be in any way not completely pleasing, with whips.
"The river must be made safe," had said Bila Huruma, when the right ankle of the fetch-and-carry girl, the last girl to be chained, had been snapped in its shackle, fastening her by chain and body about the run-chain.
"What will you do with them?" I asked.
"I will have them sold in Schendi," he said.
I think that many of the talunas did not realize that their labors at the oar were intended to be temporary. Before the first Ahn was out many were sweating and moaning with pain, begging that they might be released, to be taught the more typical, softer labors of the female slave. It was hard to blame them for the oar of a river galley is normally drawn by a strong man. If the journey had not been downriver I do not think it would have been practical to put them at oars at all. The fetch-and-carry girl, of course, scolded the talunas for their weakness. The next day, however, it was she herself who sweated at an oar, crying out in pain under the whips of the vigilant askaris, while another took her place. She had not realized that the fetch-and-carry girl would be changed daily. In this way no taluna would have to spend more than forty consecutive days at an oar. It had not taken the original fetch-and-carry girl more than an Ahn at the oar, incidentally, before she, too, had begged to be relieved of its pain, that she might be taught lighter duties, even those involving perfumes and silks, more fitting, more suitable, to the bodies and dispositions of female slaves.
The wharves were busy. I saw two slave girls, nude and chained, being delivered to a ship.
The talunas, last night, in a lot, had been sold to the black slavers of Schendi. The entire lot had gone for only two silver tarsks. I had then seen them, one by one, heads down, crawl to the slave circle. There they had rendered submission to men. They were then placed in wrist and throat coffle, their left wrists linked by one chain, their fair throats by another, and led away. They would be kept for a time in one of the underground pens beneath one of the fortresses of the black slavers. They would be given balms for their backs and oils for their blistered hands, and taught the duties of slaves. In a few weeks they would be ready, healed and cleaned, and to some extent trained, for the northern markets. Girls such as talunas, silked and perfumed, and placed under the iron will of a man, make superb slaves.
Two, however, who had once been talunas would not be with them. These were the blond-haired girl who had once been their leader, whom I decided to name Lana, and the dark-haired girl who had been her second in command, now the slave of Turgus. He had named her Fina.
I looked to my left, on the wharf. The blond-haired girl who had been the taluna leader, now the slave girl Lana, knelt there. Near her, too, was Alice. Both girls were stripped and had their hands braceleted behind their back. They were chained by the neck to the same ring.
"Master," said the girl who had been the taluna leader, Lana.
"Yes," I said.
"You are taking me to Port Kar," she said.
"Yes," I said. It is natural for a girl to fear the very name of that city.
"Will men be cruel to me in Port Kar?" she asked.
"You will be treated as the slave you are," I said.
There is a saying in Gorean, that the chains of a slave girl are heaviest in Port Kar. I did not think, truthfully, however, that Port Kar was unusual in its treatment of female slaves.
"Your own slave, Fina," I said, referring to the dark-haired girl kneeling behind him and to his left, "has also shown considerable improvement in beauty." She put down her head, happily. She was in a brief tunic. She was collared. Once, I recalled, she had been second in command among the talunas. Turgus had picked her out from among them, some forty girls, to be his personal slave. His choice had been excellent. Once a cold and arrogant taluna the girl knelt now, happily at his heels. She had been taught submission, and love.