trainers differ. I glanced at the blondish girl, kneeling to one side, the former Miss Priscilla Blake-Alien. I, if her trainer, would probably put her frequently, at least at first, and later for discipline, in a rope slave harness. After a night in such harness, her wrists braceleted behind her that she might not remove it, I expected Miss Blake-Allen would be suitably docile, and eager to attend to her lessons.

When the girl had been forced through the door leading to the pens, I turned to Samos.

“Who is Abdul?” I asked.

Samos, puzzled, looked at me.

“Who is Abdul?” I repeated.

“I do not know,” said Samos. He turned and went to his place behind the low table.

Those at the table paid us little attention. All eyes were on the dark-haired dancer, the skirt of diaphanous scarlet dancing silk low upon her hips. Her hands moved as though she might be, starved with desire, picking flowers from a wall in a garden. One saw almost the vines from which she plucked them, and how she held them to her lips, and, at times, seemed to press herself against the wall which confined her. Then she turned and, as though alone, danced her need before the men.

“There is much here that appears to make little sense,” said Samos. “Yet, there must be a meaning, a pattern” With an eating prong, of Turian design, Samos tapped the table before him. He looked at me. “Little has of late occurred in the Wars of Priest-Kings and Others.”

“Beware of a silent enemy,” I said.

Samos smiled. “True,” he said. Then he pointed the eating prong at the leather-harnessed American girl, on the tiles to our right, naked, two guards with spears at her side. The heavy butts of their spears rested, one to each side of her. Her fists were clenched in the leather, buckled cuffs of her harness, held to her thighs by the thigh straps. “We learn from this slave,” he said, indicating the former Miss Blake-Alien, “that, until further orders, slave runs from Earth to Gor have been cancelled.”

“Yes, “I said.

“Why?’ he asked.

“Have the runs actually been stopped?” I asked.

“Information from the Sardar,” said Samos, “suggests that they have. There has not been a detection, let alone a pursuit, in three weeks.”

The Gorean week consists of five days. Each month consists of five such weeks.

Following each month, of which there are twelve, separating them, is a five-day Passage Hand. The twelfth Passage Hand is followed by the Waiting Hand, a five- day period prior to the vernal equinox, which marks the Gorean New Year. It was currently in the late winter of Year 3 of the Sovereignty of the Council of Captains in Port Kar, the year 10,122 C.A., Contasta Ar, from the Founding of Ar I had, two months ago, returned from Torvaldsland, where I had attended to certain matters of the sword.

“Further,” said I, “into your keeping has come a captive beast, clearly a Kur.”

“It seems irrational,” said Samos. “Only a beast.”

“I think it is rational,” I said. “Its intelligence, I suspect, is the equal of ours, if not greater.”

Samos regarded me.

“It may not, of course, be able to articulate Gorean. Few of the Kurii can. It is extremely difficult for them to do so.”

“You understand the direction in which it was traveling?” asked Samos.

“Yes,” said I.

“Strange,” said Samos.

The beast had been taken southeast of Ar, while moving southeast. Such a Path would take it below the eastern foothills of the Voltai and to the south. It was incredible. “Who would enter such a place?” asked Samos.

“Caravans, crossing it,” I said. “Nomads, grazing their verr on the stubble of verr grass.”

“Who else?” asked Samos.

“The mad?” I smiled.

“Or the purposeful,” said Samos, someone who had business there, who knew what he was intending?”

“Perhaps, “I admitted.

“Someone who had a mission, who knew precisely for what he was searching?”

“But there is nothing there,” I said. “And only the mad, deeper into the area, depart from marked caravan routes, proceeding from oasis to oasis.”

“A tender of kaiila, a boy, lost from his camp,” said Samos, “found a rock. On this rock was inscribed “Beware the steel tower.’“ “And the message girl” I said. “We do not know, I gather, whom this Abdul is of whom we are warned to beware.”

“No,” said Samos, puzzled. “I know of no Abdul.”

“And who would send such a message, and why?”

“I do not know,” said Samos.

I idly observed the dancer. Her eyes were on me. It seemed, in her hands, she held ripe fruits for me, lush larma, fresh picked. Her wrists were close together, as though confined by the links of slave bracelets. She touched the imaginary larma to her body, caressing her swaying beauty with it, and then, eyes piteous, held her hands forth, as though begging me to accept the lush fruit. Men at the table clapped their hands on the wood, and looked at me.

Others smote their left shoulders. I smiled. On Gor, the female slave, desiring her master, yet sometimes fearing to speak to him, frightened that she may be struck has recourse upon occasion to certain devices, the meaning of which is generally established and culturally well understood. I shall mention two such devices. There is, first, the bondage knot. Most Gorean slave girls have long hair. The bondage knot is a simple looped knot tied in the girl’s hair and worn at the side of her right cheek or before her right shoulder. The girl approaches the master naked and kneels; the bondage knot soft, curled, fallen at the side of her right cheek or before her right shoulder. Another device, common in Port Kar, is for the girl to kneel before the master and put her head down and lift her arms, offering him fruit, usually a larma, or a yellow Gorean peach, ripe and fresh. These devices, incidentally, may be used even by a slave girl who hates her master but whose body, trained to love, cannot endure the absence of the masculine caress. Such girls, even with hatred, may offer the larma, furious with themselves, yet helpless, the captive of their slave needs, forced to beg on their knees for the touch of a harsh master, who revels in the, sport of their plight; does he satisfy them; if it is his will, yes; if it is not his will, no. They are slaves.

The girl now knelt before me, her body obedient still, trembling, throbbing, to the melodious, sensual command of the music.

I looked into the cupped hands, held toward me. They might have been linked in slave bracelets. They might have held lush larma. I reached across the table and took her in my arms and dragged her, turning her, and threw her on her back on the table before me. I lifted her to me, and thrust my lips to her, crushing her slave lips beneath mine. Her eyes shone. I held her from me. She lifted her lips to mine. I did not permit her to touch me. I jerked her to her feet and, half turning her, ripping her silk from her, hurled her to the map floor, where she half lay, half crouched one leg beneath her, looking at me, stripped save for her collar, the brand, the armlets, bells, the anklets, with fury. “Please us more,” I told her. Her eyes blazed. “And do not rise from the floor, Slave,” I told her. The music, which had stopped, began again.

She turned furiously, yet gracefully, extending a leg, touching an ankle, moving her hands up her leg, looking at me over her shoulder, and then rolled, and writhed, as though beneath the lash of masters.

“You discipline her well,” said Samos, smiling.

I grinned.

The girl now, on her belly, yet subtly to the music, crawled toward us, lifted her hand piteously to us.

I heard a cry of dismay, of protest, from the horrified, once Miss Blake-Allen.

Samos regarded her. He was not pleased. “Free her legs of the harness,” said Samos to one of the guards.

The guard took the straps which had bound her ankles together, and, untying them, slipped them through the metal ring, glinting, sewn into the back of the leather collar of the harness, worn over the simple curved collar of iron which marked her, even should she be clothed, and her brand not visible, as slave. The straps had run from the back of the collar to her ankles, holding her in a kneeling position. Her legs were now free. The ankle straps then, sewn to the sides of the collar, and now circled about the collar and crossing in back, and now run through the ring on the front of the collar, served as leash. The harness is designed to provide a large number of ties. The girl, her legs freed, looked at Samos with horror. But he was no longer regarding her.

The dancer now lay on her back and the music was visible in her breathing, and in small movements of her head, and hands. Her hands were small and lovely.

She lay on the map floor, her head turned toward us. She was covered with sweat.

I snapped my fingers and her legs turned under her, and she was kneeling, head back, dark hair on the tiles. Her bands moved, delicate, lovely. Slowly, if permitted, she would rise to an erect kneeling position; her hands, as she lifted herself, extended toward us. Four times said I “No,” each time my command forcing her head back, her body bent, to the floor, and such time again, to the music, she lifted her body to an erect kneeling position. The last position of her body to rise was her beautiful head. The collar was at her throat. Her dark eyes, smoldering, vulnerable, reproachful, regarded me. Still did the move to the music, which had not yet released her.

With a gesture I permitted her to rise to her feet. “Dance your body, Slave,” I told her, “to the guests of Samos.”

Angrily the girl, man by man, slowly, meaningfully, danced her beauty to each guest. They struck the tables, and cried out. More than one reached to clutch her but each time, swiftly, she moved back.

Samos rose from behind the table and strode to the map floor. I went with him.

He stopped at a point on the smooth, mosaiced floor. I looked at him. “Yes,” he said, “somewhere here.”

I looked down at the intricately wrought mosaiced floor. Beneath our feet, smooth, polished, were hundreds of tiny, fitted bits of tile, mostly here, in this area, tan and brown. The bits of tile seemed soft, lustrous, under the torchlight. The dancer, now behind us, continued to move before the low tables.

The eyes of the men gleamed. Before each man, for moments seemingly his alone, she danced her beauty.

“There is one thing more,” said Samos, “which I have not told you.”

“What is that?” I asked.

“Kurii have delivered to the Sardar an ultimatum.”

“An ultimatum?” I asked.

“Surrender Gor, it said.” said Samos.

“Nothing more?” I asked.

“Nothing more,” said Samos.

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