who hunt them, and whom they hunt, as worthy foes, than they do to women other than themselves. They regard, it seems, all women, slave or free, as soft, worthless creatures, so unlike themselves. Perhaps most of all they despise beautiful female slaves, and surely Cara was such. I am not sure why they hold this great hatred for other members of their own sex. I suspect it may be because, in their hearts, they hate themselves, and their femaleness. Perhaps they wish to be men; I do not know. It seems they fear, terribly, to be females, and perhaps, they fear most that they, by the hands of a strong man, will be taught their womanhood. It is said that panther girls, conquered, make incredible slaves. I do not much understand these things.

Sheera fastened her two, fierce black eyes on me. She jabbed with her knife in the sand. She was a sturdy bodied wench, exciting. She sat cross-legged, like a man. About her throat was a necklace of claws and golden chains. About her left ankle, threaded, the anklet of pierced shells. “What am I bid for these two slaves?” she demanded.

“I had expected to be met by Verna, the Outlaw Girl,” said I, “at this point. Is it not true that she sells from this point?’ “I am the enemy of Verna,” said Sheera. She jabbed down with the knife into the sand.

“Oh,” I said.

“Many girls sell from this point,” said Sheera. “Verna is not selling today. Sheera is selling. How much am I bid?” “I had hoped to meet Verna,” I said.

“Verna I have heard,” volunteered Rim, “sells by far the best merchandise.” I smiled. I recalled that it had been Verna and her band that Rim had been sold. Rim, for an outlaw, was not a bad sort.

“We sell what we catch,” said Sheera. “Sometimes chain luck is with Verna, sometimes it is not.” She looked at me. “What am I bid for the two slaves?” she asked.

I lifted my eyes to regard the two miserable wretches bound in the frames. They had been much beaten, and long and heavily worked. The fierce women had doubtless raped them many times.

They were not my purpose in coming to the exchange point, but I did not wish to leave them at the mercy of the panther girls. I would bid for them. Sheera was regarding Rim closely. She grinned. She jabbed at him with her knife. “You,” she said, “have worn the chains of panther girls!” “It is not impossible,” conceded Rim.

Sheera, and the girls, laughed.

“You are an interesting fellow,” said Sheera, to Rim. “It is fortunate for you, that you are at the exchange point. Else we might be tempted to put our chains on you.” She laughed. ”I think I might enjoy trying you,” she said. “Are you any good?” asked one of the girls, of Rim.

“Men,” said Sheera, “make delightful slaves.”

“Panther girls,” said Rim, “do not make bad slaves either.”

Sheera’s eyes flashed. She jabbed the knife into the sand, to the hilt. “Panther girls,” she hissed, “ do not make slaves!” It did not seem opportune to mention to Sheera that, aboard the Tesephone, nude, chained in the first hold, in gags and slave hoods, were two panther girls. I had kept them below decks, secured, and in gags and slave hoods, that they not be seen, nor heard to cry out, at the exchange point. I did not wish their presence, nor an indication of their presence, to complicate our dealings at the point. After I had interrogated them thoroughly, I would sell them in Lydius. “You mentioned,” said I to Sheera, “that you are an enemy of Verna?” “I am her enemy,” said Sheera.

“We are anxious to make her acquaintance,” said I, “Do you know perhaps where she might be found?” Sheera’s eyes narrowed. “Anywhere,” she said.

“I have heard,” I said, “that Verna and her band sometimes roam north of Laura.” The momentary flash in the eyes of Sheera had told me what I wanted to know. “Perhaps,” she said, shrugging.

The information about Verna’s band I had had from a girl who had been recently slave in my house, a wench named Elinor. She now belonged to Rask of Treve. The inadvertent response in Sheera’s eyes had confirmed this belief. It was, of course, one thing to know this general manner of thing, and another to find Verna’s band’s camp, or their dancing circle. Each band of panther girls customarily had a semi-permanent camp, particularly in the winter, but, too, each band, customarily, had its own dancing circle. Panther girls, when their suppressed womanhood becomes sometimes too painful, repair to such places, there to dance the frenzy of their needs. But, too, it is in such places, that the enslavement of males is often consummated.

Rim had been captured by Verna and her band, but he had been chained, raped and enslaved, not far from the very exchange point where he was sold, this very point. He knew less than I of the normal habits of Verna and her band. We both knew, of course, that she, with her girls, ranged widely.

“Verna’s camp,” I said to Sheera, matter-of-factly, “is not only north of Laura, but to its west.” She seemed startled. Again I read her eyes. What I had said had been mistaken. Verna’s camp, then, lay to the north and east of Laura.

“So you wish to bid on the slaves or not?” asked Sheera.

I smiled.

“Yes,” I said.

I now had as much information as I had expected to obtain at the exchange point. It was perhaps not wise to press for more. Sheera, a leader, a highly intelligent woman, doubtless understood that she might have betrayed information. Her knife was cutting at the sand. She was not looking at me. She was only too obviously irritated, now intensely suspicious. More specific information I expected to obtain from the captured panther girls on board the ship. Panther girls generally know the usual territories of various bands. They might even know, approximately, the locations of the various camps, and dancing circles. I was not likely to obtain that information from free women. I expected however, under interrogation, to be able to obtain it from the helpless girls, at my mercy, on the Tesephone. Afterwards I would sell them. I had learned enough at the exchange point to confirm my original information, to add to it somewhat, and to be able, in the light of it, to evaluate the responses of my captives on board the ship. I smiled to myself. They would talk. Afterwards, when I had learned what I wished to know, I would sell them in Lydius. “A steel knife for each,” I proposed to Sheera, “and twenty arrow points, of steel, for each.” “Forty arrow points for each, and the knives,” said Sheera, cutting at the sand. I could see she did not much want to conduct these negotiations. Her heart was not in the bargaining. She was angry.

“Very well,” I said.

“And a stone of candies,” she said, looking up, suddenly.

“Very well,” I said.

“For each!” she demanded.

“Very well,” I said.

She slapped her knees and laughed. The girls seemed delighted.

There was little sugar in the forest, save naturally in certain berries, and simple hard candies, such as a child might buy in shops in Ar, of Ko-ro-ba, were, among the panther girls in the remote forests, prized.

It was not unknown that among the bands in the forests, a male might be sold for as little as a handful of such candies. When dealing with men, however, the girls usually demanded, and received, goods of greater value to them, usually knives, arrow points, small spear points; sometimes armlets, and bracelets and necklaces, and mirrors; sometimes slave nets and slave traps, to aid in their hunting’ sometimes slave chains, and manacles, to secure their catches. I had the goods brought from the ship, with scales to weigh out the candies. Sheera, and her girls, watched carefully, not trusting men, and counted the arrow points twice.

Satisfied, Sheera stood up. “Take the slaves,” she said.

The nude male wretches were, by men from the Tesephone, cut down.

They fell to the sand, and could not stand. I had them placed in slave chains. “Carry them to the ship,” said I to my men.

The girls, as the slaves were carried toward the water, swarmed around them, spitting on them, and striking them, jeering and mocking them.

“This one”, said one of the girls, “will look well chained at the bench of a galley.” “This one,” said Sheera, poking the other in the shoulder with her knife, “is not bad.” She laughed. “Sell him to a rich woman.” He turned his head away from her, his eyes closed, a male slave.

Male slaves, on Gor, are not particularly valuable, and do not command high prices. Most labor is performed by free men. Most commonly, male slaves are utilized on the cargo galleys, and in the mines, and on the great farms. They also serve, frequently, as porters at the wharves. Still, perhaps they are fortunate to have their lives, even at such a price. Males captured in war, or in the seizure of cylinders or villages, or in the pillaging of caravans, are commonly slain. The female is the prize commodity in the Gorean slave market. A high price for a male is a silver tarsk, but even a plain wench, of low caste, provided she moves well to the touch of the auctioneer’s coiled whip, will bring as much, or more. An exception to the low prices for males generally is that paid for a certified woman’s slave, a handsome male, silken clad, who has been trained to tend a woman’s compartments. Some of such bring a price comparable to that brought by a girl, of average loveliness. Prices, of course, tend to fluctuate with given markets and seasons. Of there are few such on the market at a given time, their prices will tend to be proportionately higher. Such men tend to be sold in women’s auctions, closed to free men, with the exception, of course, of the auctioneer and such personnel.

“To Lydius,” I told Thurnock.

“Out oars!” he called.

The oars slid outboard.

With a creak of ropes and pullies, seamen were hauling the long, sloping yard up the mast, its sail still secured in the brail ropes.

I saw Sheera, standing knee deep in the water, near the beach. She had now thrust her sleen knife into its belt sheath. She was a strongly bodied girl. The sun made the chains and claws at her throat gleam.

“Return again,” she called. “Perhaps we will have more men to sell you!” I lifted my hand to her, acknowledging her cry.

She laughed, and turned about, and waded up to the sand.

The two male slaves I had purchased lay on their sides on the deck, their feet and legs pulled up, their wrists together, in their chains.

“To Lydius!” he repeated.

“Half beat,” said I to Thurnock.

“Oars ready!” he called. “Half beat! Stroke!”

As one, the oars dipped cleanly into the water, and drew against gleaming Thassa, and the Tesephone, lightly, began to turn in the water, her prow seeking the south, and Lydius.

I turned to a seaman. “Take the two male slaves below, to the first hold,” I said. “Keep them chained, but dress their wounds, and feed them. Let them rest.” “Yes, Captain,” said he.

I looked to the shore. Already Sheera, and her girls, had disappeared from the beach, slipping as invisibly, as naturally, as she-panthers into the darkness of the forests.

The frames to which the male slaves had been tied were now empty. They stood high on the beach, where they might be easily seen from the sea.

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