“I have not begun to punish you,” I told her, looking down at her.

“I hate you,” she said, sullenly. “I hate you!” She looked up at me. “You caused me much pain,” she said. “You whipped me. You branded me.” She turned her head to one side. “I am confused,” she said. “I do not know what to think.”

“How is that?” I asked.

“It hurt terribly to be whipped, and branded,” she said.

“Yes?” I said.

“And yet, because of these things, I stand wonderfully and vulnerably in awe of you, and of men in general,” she said.

“What thrills you,” I said, “is not the whip, not the iron, not pain, but masculine domination. It is that to which you, unknown to yourself, are responding. What is not important is whether the master whips you or not, but that you know he is fully capable of whipping you, and will, if you are not pleasing.”

“Yes,” she said, “that is it-not the pain-but my weakness, and the strength of men, and that I am under their will, and that, if I am not pleasing, I know that be is man enough and powerful enough to put me under harsh discipline, and, should I not be pleasing, will, without a thought, do so.”

“Your body is now hot, Slave Girl,” I said.

“No!” she said.

I touched her and she writhed in the straw, turning away from me, pulling her legs up. I touched her on the shoulder, and she shuddered. Every inch of her was alive. “Slave Girl” I sneered.

“Yes, Slave Girl!” she cried, turning on her back, throwing her” body brazenly open to me.

“You seem little of Earth now,” I laughed.

She spread her hair back on the straw. “I am only a slut of a slave,” she laughed. “Treat me as such. I love you, Master!”

We heard soldiers in the hall outside.

“Will you give me to others?” she asked.

“If it pleases me,” I said.

“Yes,” she said, “You will if it pleases you.” She turned her head to the side.

“How vulnerable I am!” She looked up at me. Her head was back in the straw. “For the first time in my life,” she said, “I know that I am a slave girl, only a slave girl. It is such a strange, helpless feeling. No longer am I a woman of Earth. I am now only a Gorean slave girl.”

I lifted her by the arms. “I do not know if I love or hate,” she said. “I know only I am a slave girl, and that I am helpless, and that I am in the arms of my master.”

I lifted her toward my lips, to claim her. “Have you forgotten Earth?” she asked.

“I have never heard of that place,” I told her.

She lifted her lips, timidly, delicately, to mine. “Nor have I,” she said. She whispered, very softly. “I love you, Master.” I did not let her kiss me. Rather, I, suddenly, with a larl’s ferocity, thrust my lips to hers, cruelly, in the raping kiss of the master, and pressed her savagely back into the straw, against the very stones of the dungeon cell in which she lay slave, chained, beneath me.

She squirmed and then, held, cried out, a scream that must have carried to every cell, through every corridor, of that grim level, startling the enslaved beauties chained there, amusing the soldiers in whose arms they lay, a scream at once of wild love and of a helpless slave girl’s total submission.

Near the front of the march I joined Hassan.

“One thing puzzles me,” I told him. “One thing I do not yet understand.”

“What is that?” he asked.

“In the house of Samos, at Port Kar,” I said, “there was a girl, Veema, a message girl. The message she bore was ‘Beware Abdul.’ Mistakenly I took the Abdul of this message to be Abdul, the carrier of water, in Tor.”

“That is not a mistake which one of the Tahari would have made,” said Hassan. He looked at me. “Was not Ibn Saran at that time in the house of Samos?”

“Yes,” I said.

“The timing is interesting,” said Hassan. “Perhaps he who sent the message assumed that the information of the agents of Priest-Kings was sufficient to identify Ibn Saran with Abdul, the Salt Ubar, or, at least, to link him with that villain.”

“At that time,” it was not,” I said. Since the time of the Nest War the intelligence and surveillance networks of the Priest-Kings had been severely impaired. Even had they not have been, their information, they, seldom leaving the Sardar, not being as humans, was little better than that of their human agents, widely separated in space and time.

“But who sent the message girl, Veema, to the house of Samos?” I asked.

“I did,” said Hassan. “My brother told me to do this. He had had the message placed months before. I merely transmitted her. He then entered the desert to investigate rumors of a tower of steel. He must have been captured by men of Ibn Saran. He was released in the desert with insufficient water.”

“He made it very far,” I said.

“He was very strong,” said Hassan.

“The Priest-Kings are fortunate,” I said, “that such men fight for them.”

“I knew another,” said Hassan, “quite as strong, who fought for Kurii.”

I nodded. I would not forget Ibn Saran, lithe, like a silken panther. He had been a worthy foe. One gains a victory; one loses an enemy. I lifted my head to the sky, wide and blue, with no clouds. Somewhere up there, beyond atmospheres, beyond the orbits of Gor, and Earth and Mars, in a boulder-strewn enigmatic blackness of space, in the silence of the fragments of the asteroid belt, were the steel worlds, the lairs and domiciles of Kurii. A Kur had fought by my side to save the Gorean world. It was desired not only by men, it was desired, too, by Kurii. I did not think that Kurii, again, would be willing to sacrifice this world, to achieve another. Already, in their remote past, they had lost one world, their own. The political ascendancy of the party which bad been willing to destroy Gor, to secure the Earth, had, with the failure of their project, doubtless been brief. That a Kur had been sent to foil them was doubtless significant. Further, Gor was the true prize of the planet rooting about the sun, not the Earth, for, in the name of rights and liberty, and business, the fools of Earth, confused by the rhetoric of law and morality, shielding short- sighted greed and madness, had stood aside, permitting the poisoning of the air they breathed, the water they drank, the food they ate. That the poisoners will die with the poisoned will perhaps yield them some comfort. Priest-Kings, of course, who are accustomed to think directly in terms of realities and consequences, not words, had not permitted this same insane duplicity to be practiced upon their gullibility. They do not shrivel before the moral fervor of fanatics; rather they seek to look behind words, discarding them as largely meaningless, to discover what is truly meant, what is wanted, what is being striven for, and, if these programs and policies are implemented, what will be the nature of the resultant world, and is that world acceptable or not. To exploitation, to waste, to pollution, Priest-Kings had simply, in their technological abridgments imposed on man, said, “No.” It is, in defense of their tyranny, their despotism, you see, after all, lest you think too badly of them, their habitat as well.

I looked up at the sky. The Kurii, I suspected, did not want Earth, but Gor.

Earth might be useful as a slave planet, but the true prize, the object of their predation, would be Gor.

What then could be the next step? The uprising of native Kurii had been foiled in Torvaldsland. I had been in Torvaldsland at the time. The destruction of Gor, to rid themselves of the opposition of Priest-Kings Gor, had been foiled. When this had occurred I had been at the steel tower in the Tahari, the half-buried ship which had housed the destructive device. I gazed at the placid sky.

Surely Kurii must by now, sense the weakness of the Nest. The ship, for Tahari which had housed the destructive device had penetrated the weakened defenses of the Priest-Kings. But the Priest-Kings, after the Nest War, would be rebuilding their power.

It might well seem to Kurii that they must strike soon. There was not a cloud in the wide, bright Tahari sky. The invasion, I surmised, must be impending.

The drums of the march increased their beat. I turned on the kaiila, looking behind me, at the long columns of riders, of kaiila, of slaves. I saw the desert, the pennons. I saw the two kasbahs, which had been those of Abdul, Ibn Saran, the Salt Ubar, and Tarna, once a proud desert chieftainess.

I felt the cheek of the girl tethered to my saddle press softly against the side of my left boot, I looked down, and she looked up at me. “Master?” she asked.

“The march will be long,” I told her. “If you cannot make it,” I said, “you will be dragged.”

She smiled up at me. She kissed the side of my boot. “A girl knows,” she said, “Master.” She again kissed the side of my boot, in the stirrup, and again looked up at me. “I know I deserved to be whipped,” she said, and she looked at me in awe, and admiration, “and you whipped me.” She again kissed my boot, and again regarded me, eyes smiling. “I was proud,” she said, “and arrogant, and insolent, and contemptuous, and, when you were helpless, mocked you to my delight from safety. You did not approve of this. You returned from Klima. You burned me with the iron and made me your slave.” Her eyes shone. “You are magnificent!” she said. With the back of my left hand I cuffed her from the side of the saddle.

I saw the pennons on the lances, I listened to the drums. I was eager to begin the march.

Hassan, in swirling white, lifted his band. The drums stopped. I rode between Hassan, Haroun, high Pasha of the Kavars, and, in the black kaffiyeh with white agal cording, Suleiman, high Pasha of the Aretai. Near us were Baram, sheik of Bezhad, vizier to Haroun, high Pasha of the Kavars, and Shakar, with silver-tipped lance, a captain of the Aretai. With us, too, were other pashas.

In the march were Kavars and Aretai, Ta’Kara, Bakahs. Char, Kashani, Luraz, Tashid, Raviri, Ti, Zevar, Arani and, holding the position of the rear guard, with their black lances, Tajuks.

I looked back at the kasbahs which had been those of Abdul, Ibn Saran, the Salt Ubar, and Tarna once a proud desert chieftainess. Their walls were bright, hot and white in the morning sun.

Hassan lowered his hand. Pennons dipped and straightened. The drums began the beat of the march. There was a jangling of kaiila harness, the movement of weapons.

I began the march. Beside me, at my stirrup, my slave, was Vella.

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