“Shall I present her to you” asked Samos, “ naked and in bracelets?”

“No,” I had said.” Present her in the most resplendent robes you can find, as befits a high-born woman of the city of Ar. ”

“But she is a slave,” he said. “ Her thigh bears the brand of Treve. Her throat is encircled in the collar of my house”

“As befits,” said I, “ a high-born woman of the city ofglorious Ar.”

And so it was that she, Talena, once daughter of Marlenus of Ar, then disowned, once my companion, was ushered into my presence.

“The slave,” said Samos.

“Don not kneel,” I said to her.

“strip your face, Slave,” said Samos.

Gracefully the girl, the property of Samos, first slaver of Port Kar, removed her veil, unfastening it, dropping it about her shoulders.

We looked once more upon each other.

I saw again those marvellous green eyes, those lips, luscious, perfect for crushing beneath a warrior’s mouth and teeth, the subtle complexion, olive. She removed a pin from her hair, and, with a small movement of her head, shook loose the wealth of her sable hair.

We regarded one another.

“Is master pleased?” she asked.

“It has been a long time, Talena,” said I.

“Yes,” she said, “it has been long,”

“He is free,” said Samos.

“It has been long, Master,” she said.

“Many years,” said I. “ Many years.” I smiled at her. “ I last saw you on the night of our companionship.”

“When I awakened, you were gone,” she said. “ I was abandoned.”

“Not of my own free will did I leave you,” said I. “ That was not of my will”

I saw in the eyes of Samos that I must not speak of Priest-Kings. It had been them who had returned me then to Earth.

“I do not believe you,” she said.

“Watch your tongue, Girl.” said Samos.

“If you command me to believe you,” she said,” I shall, of course, for I am slave.”

I smiled. “No,” I said, “ I do not command you.”

“ I was kept in greathonor in Ko-ro-ba, “ she said, “ respected and free, for I had been your companion even after the year of companionship had gone, and it had not been renewed.”

At that point, in Gorean law, the companionship had been dissolved. The companionship had not been renewed by the twentieth hour, the Gorean Midnight, of its anniversary.

“When Priest-kings, by fire signs, made it clearKo-ro-ba was to be destroyed, I left the city.”

No stone would be allowed to stand upon another stone, no man of Ko-ro-ba to stand by another.

The population had been scattered, the city razed by the power of the Priest-Kings.

“Youfell slave,” I said.

:”Within five days,” she said, “ as I tried to return to Ar, I was sheltered by an itinerant leather worker, who did not believe, of course, that I was the daughter of Marlenus of Ar. He treated me well the first evening, with gentleness and honor. I was grateful. In the morning, to his laughter, I awakened. His collar was on my throat.” She looked at me, angrily. “He then used me well. Do you understand? He forced me to yield to him, I, the daughter of Marlenus of Ar, he only a leather worker. Afterwards he whipped me. He taught me to obey. At night he chained me. He sold me to a salt merchant.” She regarded me. “I have had many masters,” she said.

“Among them, “ I Said, “Rask of Treve.”

She stiffened. “ I served him well,” she said. “I was given no choice. It was he who branded me.”She tossed her head. “Until then, many masters had regarded me as too beautiful to brand.”

“They were fools,” said Samos. “A brand improves a slave.”

She put her head in the air. I had no doubt that this was one of the most beautiful women in Gor.

“It is because of you, I gather,” said she to me, “that I have been permitted clothing for this interview. Further, I have you to thank, I gather, that I have been given the opportunity to wash the stink of the pens from my body.”

I said nothing.

“The cages are not pleasant,” she said. “ My cage measures four paces by four paces. In it are twenty girls. Food is thrown to us from above. We drink from a trough.”

“Shall I have her whipped?” asked Samos.

She paled.

“No,” I said.

“Rask of Treve gave me to a panther girl in his camp, one named Verna. I was taken to the northern forests. My present master, noble Samos of Port Kar, purchased me at the shore of Thassa. I was brought to Port Kar chained top a ringin the hold of his ship. Here, in spite of my birth, I was placed in a pen with common girls.”

“You are only another slave,” said Samos.

“I am the daughter of Marlenus of Ar,” she said proudly.

“in the forest,” I said, “it is my understanding that you sued for freedom, begging in a missive that your father purchase you.”

“Yes,” she said. “I did.”

“Are you aware,” I asked, “that against you, on his sword and on the medallion of Ar, Marlenus swore the oath of disownment?”

“I do not believe it.” She said.

“You are no longer his daughter” I said. “You are now without caste, without Homestone, without family.”

“You lie!” she screamed.

“Kneel to the whip!” said Samos.

Piteously she knelt, a slave girl. Her wrists were crossed under her, as though bound, her head was to the floor, the bow of her back was exposed.

She shuddered. I had little doubt but what this slave knew well, and much feared, the disciplining kiss of the Gorean slave lash.

Samos’ sword was in his hand, thrust under the collar of her garment, ready to thrust in and lift, parting the garment, causing the robes to fall to either side, about her then naked body.

“Do not punish her,” I told Samos.

Samos looked at me, irritably. The slave had not been pleasing.

“To his sandal, Salve,” said Samos.

I felt Talena’s lips press to my sandal. “Forgive me, Master” she whispered.

“Rise,” I said.

She rose to her feet, and stepped back. I could see that she feared Samos.

“You were disowned,” I told her. “ Your status now, whether you know this or not, is less than that ofthe meanest peasant wench, secure in her caste rights.”

“I do not believe you,” she said.

“Do you not care for me,” I asked, “Talena.”

She pulled the riobes down from her throat. “ I wear a collar,” she said. I saw the simple, circular, gray collar, the collar of the house of Samos, locked around her throat.

“What is her price?” I asked Samos.

“I paid ten pieces of gold for her,” said Samos.

She seemed startled that she had sold for so small a sum. Yet, for a girl, late in the season, high on the coast of Thassa, it was a marvelous price. Doubtless she had obtained it only because she was so beautiful. Yet, to be sure, it was less than she would have brought if expertly displayed on the block in Turia or Ar, or Ko-ro-ba, or Tharna, or Port Kar.

“I will give you fifteen,” I said.

“Very well,” said Samos.

With my right hand I reached into the pouch at my belt and drew out the coins.

I handed them to Samos.

“Free her,” I said.

Samos, with a general key, one used for many of the gray collars, unlocked the band of steel which encircled her lovely throat.

“Am I truly free?” she asked.

“Yes.” I said.

“I should have brought a thousand of gold,” she said. “As daughter of Marlenus of Ar my companion price might be a thousand tarns, five thousand tharlarion!”

“You are no longer the daughter of Marlenus of Ar,” I told her.

“You are a liar,” she said. She looked at me contemptuously.

“With you permission,” said Samos, “ I shall withdraw.

“Stay,” said I, “ Samos.”

“Very well,” said he.

“Long ago,” said I, “Talena, we cared for each other. We were companions.”

“Irt was a foolish girl, who cared for you,” said talena. “ I am now a waoman.”

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