John Norman

Rouge of Gor

(Chronicles of Counter-Earth-15)

I. I Seek the Whereabouts of a Slave; I Spend an Evening in the Belled Collar

I slipped behind the girl and suddenly seized her, holding my hand tightly over her mouth. the trash she carried spilled. I dragged her backwards. She struggled. She made muffled noises. I threw her down, behind the row of trash containers behind the house of Oneander in Ar. My hand was at her throat, thrusting the light steel collar she wore up under her chin. 'Make no sound,' I warned her. She was blond. She wore the brief, sleeveless white tunic of a house slave. She was barefoot. I recognized her. She was the woman, once free, who had been last on the coffle of Oneander long ago in Ar, the same coffle in which Miss Henderson had been secured. 'Rape me quickly,' she said. 'I must soon be back.'

'Where is Oneander?' I asked my eyes hard. I had had little fortune with the guards at the gate to his holding. I knew little more than that he was not now in the city.

'Gone,” she said. 'To the north, business.' 'Where?' I asked. 'Where?' My hand tightened on her throat. 'I do not know Master,' she whispered. 'I do not know! I am only a slave!' Is the slave, Veminia, in the house?' I asked.

'The barbarian, the small dark-haired one, she brought from Vonda, she sold out of the house of Andronicus?'

'It is you!' she said suddenly, recognizing me. 'The slave in the street!' 'I am now fee,' I said. 'Where is she?' My grip tightened. 'Speak!'

'She was taken north, she with ten others, by Oneander,' she whispered. 'Where?' I demanded. 'I do no know,' She whispered. 'I am only a lowly slave.' 'Who would know?' I asked, fiercely.

'Those with him,' she said. 'Pneander keeps a close counsel' 'Who else?' I demanded. 'There must be others.' 'Alison,' she said, 'the dancing slave at the Belled Collar, she might know. Oneander uses her when it pleased him!'

I released her throast. She touched it, frightened, looking up at me. I looked down at her. 'I am not now in danger, am I?' she asked.'No more than any other slave,' I said.

She lay back on the cement. Her left hand touched the garbage cans to her left. 'You are handsome,' she said.I shrugged.'You have me at your mercy,' she said. 'Are you going to press your advantage?' Do you beg it?' I asked.'Yes, Master,' she said. 'You are not unattractive,' I told her. Then I thrust up the brief house tunic and she put her arms around my neck, lifting her lips to mine.

I considered the belly and hips of the dancing girl as she thrust them toward me, undulatingly, as the music pounded in the tavern.

'Have you heard the news?' the man next to me was asking. 'No,' I said.

The girl was naked, save that she wore many strings of jewels and armlets. Too she wore bracelets and anklets of gold, which had been locked upon her and were belled. Her collar too, was of gold and belled. She was blond, and it was said she was from Earth. A single pearl, fastened in a setting like a droplet, on a tiny golden chain, was suspended at the center of her forehead.

'There has been major engagement, one long awaited,' said the man next to me. 'south ofVonda. More than four thousand men were involved. Fighting was fierce. The mobility of our squares was crucial in the early phases, separating to permit the entrance of charging tharlarion into our lines, then isolating the beasts.'Massed men, I knew, could not stand against the charge of tharlarion, not without a defense of ditches or pointed stakes.'But then,' said the man, 'there retreat was sounded, but the withdrawal was prearranged to creviced ground, to rock slopes and cragged, outjeutting formations.Our generals had chosen their ground well.'I knew too that no fixed military formation could meet the phalanx on its own terms and survive.Different length spears are held by different ranks, the longer spears by the more rearward ranks.It charges on the run. It is like an avalanche, thundering, screaming, bristling with steel. Its momentum is incredible. It can shatter walls. When two such formations meet in a field, the clash can be heard for pasangs.One does not meet the phalanx unless it be with another phalanx. One avoids it, one outmaneuvers it.'Our auxiliaries then drove the tharlarion, maddened and hissing, back into the phalanx.In the skies our tarnsmen turned aside the mercenaries of Artemidorus. They then rained arrows upon the shattered phalanx. While the spearmen lifted their shields to protect themselves from teh sky, our squares swept down the slopes upon them.'

I nodded. I continued to regard the female before me. It was said she was from Earth. I lifted my page to my lips, from the low table behind which I sat, cross-legged.

She regarded me, as she danced her beauty before me.

'The field was ours,' said the man. 'Vonda herself now lies open to our troops!'

I nodded. I did not take my eyes from the dancer. Her eyes on me were sensuous and hot, those of a true slave. It was hard for me to believe that she was really from Earth.

'The women of Vonda will soon be emptied into our slave markets,' said the man.'It will lower prices,' said another, gloomily.

'I have heard,' said anther, 'that forces from Port Olni are marching to the relief of Vonda.' 'Our men will turn northeast to meet them,' said another.

'Please Master,' whispered the girl to me. She extended her small hand, still dancing, as though to touch me. On her wrist was a golden bracelet, beled. I saw the small lock, with the key socket on the bracelet. She could not remove it.

'She likes you,' said the man next to me, now paying some attention to the dancer.

Suddenly there was the fierce crack of a slave whip and the girl, terrified, scurried from me. Busebius, proprietor of the tavern, stood at the edge of the sand.'Do you think I have but one customer?' he called to her. 'No, Master!' she cried.There was laughter. Then she was dancing, too, before others and among the tables. I watched her. She was a sensuous dream. It was hard to imagine that she was from Earth.

'There was another dancer here previously, ' said the man next to me, 'one called Helen. She too was an Earth blonde. Alison was purchased to replace her. 'What happened to the other girl?' I asked. 'Helen?' hs asked.'Yes,' I said. 'She was seen once by Marleus of Ar, who purchased her. She was chained and sent as a gift somewhere.'I see,' I said.

'Paga, Master?' asked a dark-haired, belled paga slave, in a scrap of diaphanous yellow silk.I motioned her away. She had short, lovely legs and a sweet full boseom. The yellow silk was belted tightly aboug her waist by several turns of yellow binding fiber, more than enough to tie her for your pleasure in an alcove.

I continued to wach the dancer, now some yards away, under the low ceiling.

The girl who had offered me paga had not been truly interested in giving me paga. My cup, clearly, was still almost full. She was offering me something else, other than the wares of the tavern.

The dancer now, as the music was mounting in crescendo, was again approaching me. I considered her ankles and thighs, the sweet belly of her, her breasts, and shoulder and throat, the loveliness of her, her face and eyes, the latitudes of her swirling blonde hair, the shimmering restless jewelry on her body, the metal ocked on her wrists and ankles, her collar, the pearl at her forehead.

'Master,' she said, dancing before me. I regarded her through narrowly lidded eyes. Then she sank to her knees and on her knees, leaning backwards, danced before me as a kneeling slave.The music swirled to its climax and, as it ended, she straightened her body and then, from her knees, lowered herself to her right hip and extending her right arm to me, lay before me, submitted, her head to the floor.

There was Gorean applause in the room, the striking of the right palm on the left shoulder.I rose to my feet and placed two copper tarsks on the table. I went to the girl and, with the side of my foot, kicked her. 'Get to the alcove,' I told her.

'Yes, Master,' she said, and scrambled up, hurrying with a rustle of jewelry and bells to a leather-curtained alcove.There was more Gorean applause as I followed her and, turning, from inside, drew shut the curtains of the alcove. When I had them buckled shut from the inside, I turned to face the girl.

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