This galley, one of my swiftest, the Tesephone of Port Kar, had forty oars, twenty to a side. She was single ruddered, the rudder hung on the starboard side. Like others of her class, she is of quite shallow draft. Her first hold is scarcely a yard in height. Such ships are not meant for cargo, lest it be treasure or choice slaves. They are commonly used for patrols and swift communication. The oarsmen, as in most Gorean war galleys, are free men. Slaves serve commonly only in cargo galleys. The oarsmen sit their thwarts on the first deck, exposed to the weather. Most living, and cooking, takes place here. In foul weather, if there is not high wind, or in excessive heat, a canvas covering, on poles, is sometimes spread over the thwarts. This provides some shelter to the oarsmen. It is not pleasant to sleep below decks, as there is little ventilation. The “lower hold” is not actually a hold at all, even of the cramped sort of the first hold. It is really only the space between the keel and the deck of the first hold. It is approximately an eighteen-inch crawl space, unlit and cold, and damp. This crawl space, further, in its center, rather amidships and toward the stern, contains the sump, or bilge. In it the water which is inevitably shipped between the calked, tarred, expanding, contracting, sea-buffeted wooden planking, is gathered. It is commonly foul, and briny. The bilge is pumped once a day in calm weather; twice, or more, if the sea is heavy. The Tesephone, like almost all galleys, is ballasted with sand, kept in the lower hold. If she carries much cargo in the first hold, forcing her lower in the water, sand may be discarded. Such galleys normally function optimally with a freeboard area of three to five feet. Sand may be added or removed, to effect the optimum conditions for either stability or speed. Without adequate ballast, of course, the ship is at the mercy of the sea. The sand in the lower hold is usually quite cool, and, buried in it, are commonly certain perishables, such as eggs, and bottled wines.

“Bring us in,” I said to Thurnock. “But do not beach her.” Gorean galleys, with their shallow draft, are often beached. Night camps are frequently made on land. I had no desire, in this instance, to beach the galley. I wanted her free, some yards offshore. With the men at the oars, ready, and others with the thrusting poles, she might be swiftly sped, if need should arise, at a word, into deeper waters.

Thurnock cried his orders.

The wooden tarn head, surmounting the prow of the Tesephone, with its large, carved, painted eyes, turned slowly toward the beach.

The two captured panther girls had now been removed from their frames. I removed the robes of the captain, and stripped to my tunic. In my hand I held my sword, n its sheath, the sword belt wrapped about the sheath.

Rim similarly prepared himself.

Cara not stood again beside us. She looked slightly ill, for she had been in the lower hold, but the air would revive her. There was a great deal of wet sand on her knees and lower legs, and on her hands, and up to her elbows. There was also sand on her brief, white woolen slave tunic.

She carried two large bottles of wine, red Ka-la-na, from the vineyards of Ar. “Fetch, too,” said Rain, “a sack of cups.” “Yes, Master,” she said.

Her hair was bound back with a white woolen fillet. She was beautiful, his slave.

“Oars inboard!” called Thurnock. “Poles!”

We were a few yards offshore. I heard the forty oars slide inboard. I saw two seamen, one on the starboard bow, the other on the port bow, hunch their weight into the two, long, black temwood poles, which curved with the stress set upon them.

The Tesephone hesitated, backed a foot, and then, gently, rocked.

Two further poles were set at the stern, that the lapping tide, seeking its beach, not turn her about.

Another yard and we would have heard soft sand rub beneath her keel. Thurnock had done well.

The tarn head at the prow, slightly rocking, scarcely moving, surveyed the beach.

The Tesephone rested.

I swung over the side, holding my sword, in its sheath, with the sword belt wrapped about the sheath, over my head.

The water was very cold. It came to my waist.

Another splash behind me informed me that Rim had followed me.

I waded toward the shore.

I glanced back to see Thurnock lowering Cara over the side, with the wine and sack of cups, into the waiting arms of her master, Rim.

He did not carry her, but set her on her feet in the water, and then turned after me.

Thurnock had tied the two bottles of wine about her neck, that it might be easier for her, and she held the sack of cups over her head, that they might not be washed with sea water. It was thus that she made her way to shore. I felt the sand of the beach, beneath my feet. I now slung the sword over my left shoulder, in the Gorean fashion.

I climbed some yards up the beach.

The sand was hot.

The outlaws, I saw now there were six of them, including the leader, Arn, came down to meet us, bringing the girls.

They still wore the skins of panther girls. Their wrists had been lashed behind their backs. They were fastened together with a thick, twice-drilled branch, of some five feet in length. It had been placed behind their necks. Each girl was fastened to it by the throat, by binding fiber, the fiber passing through one of the drilled holes, each placed about six inches in from its end of the branch. Arn’s strong hand, gripping the branch in its center, controlled both girls. We met some yards up the beach, on the hot sand.

Arn, with the branch, forced both girls to their knees. He them put his foot on the branch, forcing their heads down to the sand. When he removed his foot, they remained as he had placed them.

“Rim!” laughed Arn. “I see that you had fallen to women!” He laughed. Rim had not chosen to wear a cap, or headgear of any kind, even a helmet, to conceal his shame. The hair was now better grown, but it was clear now, and it would remain clear, for some weeks, what had once been done to him. Rim, and I admired him for this, had not chosen to deny the shame that had been placed upon him.

“Shall we discuss the matter with the sword?” he asked Arn.

“No!” laughed Arn. “There are more important matters to discuss!”

We sat down cross-legged in the sand, Cara kneeling to one side.

“Wine,” said Rim.

Immediately the slave girl prepared to serve us.

“What is the news?” asked Arn.

“We have been abroad on Thassa,” said Rim. “We are but ignorant seamen.” “But four days ago,” said Arn, “in the guise of a peddler, I was in Lydius.” “Did your trade go well?” inquired Rim.

“I managed to exchange the threat of steel for some paltry baubles of gold,” said Arn.

“Times are good,” said Rim.

Cara knelt beside Rim, and poured wine into his cup. He took it, without noticing her.

She similarly served the others, then went to one side, where she knelt. “But I met, in a tavern,” said Arn, “a brief-tunicked girl. Though free, small, black-haired, named Tina, with a notched ear.” Some free girls, without family, keep themselves, as best they can, in certain port cities. That her ear had been notched indicated that, by a magistrate, she had been found thief. Ear notching is the first penalty for a convicted thief in most Gorean cities, whether male or female. The second offense, by a male, is punished with removal of the left hand, the third offense by the removal of the right. The penalty for a woman, for her second offense, if she is convicted, is to be reduced to slavery.

“She,” Arn continued, “smelling my gold, and pretending it irresistible desire, begged to serve me in an alcove.” Rim laughed.

“The drink she gave me,” said Arn, smiling, “was well drugged. I awakened at dawn, with a great headache. My purse was gone.” “Times are hard,” said Rim.

“I complained to a magistrate,” said Arn, laughing, “but, unfortunately, there was on present who well recalled me, one with whom I had had prior dealings.” He slapped his knee. “Soldiers were set upon me, and over the roofs and into the forests, I barely escaped.” “Times are indeed hard,” said Rim.

“True,” said Arn.

He held out his cup to Cara, and she hastened to him, to refill his cup. She, too, filled again the cups of the others. When she had finished, Rim indicated with his head that she should kneel at his side, and behind him. She did so, still with the wine.

“Well,” said Arn, “I gather that you have come to do some trading with us.” He looked at me.

“Was there other news in Lydius?” asked Rim, pleasantly.

“The price for a good sleen pelt is now a silver tarsk,” said Arn. Then he held out his cup again to Cara. “More wine,” he said.

She refilled the cup.

Arn regarded her. I saw that he was pleased with her.

I, too, held out my cup, and she rose, serving me, and then the others, in their turn, lastly serving Rim.

“Is there further news in Lydius?” I asked.

Arn smiled. “Marlenus of Ar,” he said, “was in Lydius five days ago.” I betrayed no emotion.

“What does the great Ubar do so far from Ar,” inquired Rim.

“He hunts Verna,” said Arn.

I thought I had detected the slightest movement in the shoulders of one of the panther girls, their heads to the sand, the branch lashed behind their necks. “He had once captured Verna,” continued Arn, “But she had escaped.” He looked at me. “This did not please Marlenus,” said he.

“Further,” said one of his men, “it is said that Verna now holds his daughter slave.” Arn laughed.

“Where is Marlenus now?” I asked.

“I do not know,” said Arn,” But from Lydius, he was to follow the river to Laurius, two hundred pasangs upstream. Afterwards, he was to enter the forest.” “Let us see to these females,” said Rim, gesturing with his head to the secured panther girls.

“Straighten yourselves,” said Arn.

Immediately the two girls lifted their heads from the sand, shaking their heads, throwing their hair behind their back, over the branch. They were both blond, and blue-eyed, as are many of the panther girls. Their heads were high. They knelt in the position of pleasure slaves, as they knew was expected of them. They were both quite beautiful.

“Miserable wenches,” said Rim, “common stock.”

Anger flashed in the eyes of the girls.

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