irons he wore, I sensed his fists were clenched.

“What of Talena?” asked Samos.

“She will understand,” I told Samos.

“I have information,” said he, “that this evening, following your departure from your hours, she returned to the marshes.” I leaped to my feet.

I was staggered. The room reeled.

“What did you expect her to do?” asked Samos.

“Why did you not tell me this?” I cried.

“What would you do, if I did?” he asked. “Would you chain her to the slave ring at your couch?” I looked at him, enraged.

“She is a proud, and noble woman,” said Samos.

“I love her — “ I said.

“Then go to the marshes and search her out,” said Samos.

“I–I must go to the northern forests,” I stammered.

“Builder of Ubara’s Scribe Six,” said Samos, moving a tall wooden piece toward me on the board.

I looked down. I must defend my Home Stone.

“You must choose,” said Samos, “between them.”

How furious I was! I strode in the torchlit hall, my robes swirling. I pounded on the stones of the wall. Could Talena not understand? Could she not understand what I must do? I had labored in Port Kar to build the house of Bosk. I stood high in this city. The curule chair at my high table was among the most honored and envied of Gor! What honor it was to be the woman of Bosk, merchant, admiral! And yet she had turned her back on this! She had displeased me! She had dared to displease me! Bosk! The marshes had nothing to offer her. Would she refuse the gold, the gems, the silks and silvers, and spilling coins, the choice of wines, the servants and slaves, the security of the house of Bosk for the lonely freedoms and silences of the salt marshes of the Vosk’s vast delta? Did she expect me to hasten after her, piteously begging her return, while Talena, once my companion, lay chained slave in the cruel green forests of the north! Her trick would not work!

Let her stay in the marshes until she had had her pretty fill, and then let her crawl whimpering back to the portals of the house of Bosk, whining and scratching like a tiny domestic sleen for admittance, to be taken back! But I knew Telima would not come back.

I wept.

“What are you going to do?” asked Samos. He did not lift his eyes from the board.

“In the morning,” I said, “I leave for the northern forests.”

“Tersites,” said Samos, not looking up, “builds a ship, fit to sail beyond the world’s end.” “I no longer serve Priest-Kings,” I said.

I wiped my eyes on the sleeve of the woolen robe. I returned to stand above the board.

My Home Stone was threatened.

Yet I felt hard and strong. I wore steel at my side. I was Bosk. I was once of the warriors.

“Home Stone of Ubar’s Tarnsman One,” I said.

Samos made the move for me.

I nodded my head to the chained, nude male slave, flanked by his guards, to one side.

“Is this the slave?” I asked Samos.

“Bring him forward,” said Samos.

The two guards, helmeted, threw him to his feet, and half dragging him, half carrying him, their hands on his arms, brought him before us. Then they forced him again to his knees, and thrust his dark, shaggy head down to the tiles before our sandals.

The slave girl laughed.

When the guard removed his hand from the slave’s hair, he straightened his back, and regarded us.

He seemed proud. I liked this.

“You have an unusual barber,” said Samos.

The slave girl laughed again, delightedly.

The strip which had been shaven on his head, from the forehead tot he back of the neck, signified that he had been captured, and sold, by the panther girls of the northern forests. It is among the greatest shames that a man can know, that he had been enslaved by women, who had then, when weary of him, sold him, taking their profit on him.

“It is said, “ said Samos, “that only weaklings, and fools, and men who deserve to be slave girls, fall slave to women.” The man glared at Samos. I could sense, again, that, in his manacles, behind his back, his fists were clenched.

“I was once the slave of a woman,” I told the man.

He looked at me, startled.

“What is to be done with you?” asked Samos.

I could see the heavy metal collar hammered about the man’s neck, not uncommon in a male slave. His head would have been placed across the anvil, and the metal curved about his neck with great blows.

“Whatever you wish,” said the man, kneeling before us.

“How came you to be slave?” I asked.

“As you can see,” he said, “I fell to women.”

“How came it about?” I asked.

“They fell upon me in my sleep,” he said. “I wakened to a knife at my throat. I was chained. They much sported with me. When they wearied of me, I was taken, leashed and manacles, to a lonely beach, at the edge of Thassa, bordering on the western edge of the forests.” “It is a well-known rendezvous point,” said Samos. “It was there one of my ships picked him up, and others.” He looked at the man. “Do you recall your price?” “Two steel knives,” said the man, “and fifty steel arrow points.” “And a stone of hard candies, from the kitchens of Ar,” said Samos. “Yes,” said the man, through gritted teeth.

The slave girl laughed, and clapped her hands. Samos did not admonish her. “What is to be your fate?” said Samos.

“Doubtless to be a galley slave,” he said.

The great merchant galleys of Port Kar, and Cos, and Tyros, and other maritime powers, utilized thousands of such miserable wretches, fed on brews of peas and black bread, chained in the rowing holds, under the whips of slave masters, their lives measured by feedings and beatings, and the labor of the oar. “What were you doing in the northern forests?” I asked him.

“I am an outlaw”, he said proudly.

“You are a slave,” said Samos.

“Yes,” said the man, “I am a slave.”

The slave girl, in her brief silk, stood, holding the two-handled bronze paga vessel, that she might look down upon him.

“Few travelers journey through the northern forests,” I said.

“Commonly,” said he, “I plundered beyond the forests.” He looked at the slave girl. “Sometimes,” said he, “I plundered within them.” She reddened.

“At the time I was captured,” said he, looking again at Samos, “I was trying chain luck.” Samos smiled.

“I thought that it was I who was hunting women,” said he. “But it was they who were hunting me.” The girl laughed.

He looked down, angrily.

Then he lifted his head. “When am I to be sent to the galleys?” he asked. “You are strong, and handsome,” said Samos. “I expect that a rich woman might pay a good price for you.” The man cried out in rage, trying to struggle to his feet, fighting his chains. The guards, their hands in his hair, forced him back to his knees.

Samos turned to the girl. “What should be done with him?” he asked her. “Sell him to a woman!” she laughed.

The man struggled in his chains.

“Are you familiar with the forests?” I asked.

“What man is familiar with the forests?” he asked.

I regarded him.

“I can live in the forests,” he said. “And hundreds of square pasangs, in the south and west of the forest, I know.” “A band of panther women captured you?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said.

“What was the name of the leader of this band?” I asked.

“Verna,” said he.

Samos looked at me. I was satisfied. “You are free,” I told the man. I turned to the guards. ”Remove his chains.” The guards, with keys, bent to his manacles, and the double-chained iron clasps securing his ankles.

He seemed stunned.

The slave girl was speechless, her eyes wide. She took a step backward, clutching the two-handled paga vessel. She shook her head.

I drew forth a pouch of gold. I handed five pieces of gold to Samos, purchasing the man.

He stood before us, without his chains. He rubbed his wrists. He looked at me, wonderingly.

“I am Bosk,” I told him, “of the house of Bosk, of Port Kar. You are free. You may now come and go as your wish. In the morning, from the house of Bosk, in the far city, bordering the delta, I shall leave for the northern forests. If it pleases you, wait upon me there, near the great canal gate.” “Yes,” Captain,” said he.

“Samos,” said I, “may I request the hospitality of your house for this man?” Samos nodded.

“He will require food, clothing, what weapons he chooses, a room, drink.” I looked at the man, and smiled. The stink of the pens was still upon him. “And, too, I suggest,” said I, “a warm bath, and suitable oils.” I turned to the man.

“What is your name?” I asked him. He now had a name, for he was free. “Rim,” he said proudly.

I did not ask him his city, for he was outlaw. Outlaws do not care to reveal their city.

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