'Kill her!' said another.

'No!' said Marcus.

'No!' I said.

'There are only two of them,' said a fellow.

'Listen!' I said, lifting my hand.

In that instant the crowd was silent. More than one man lifted his head. We turned down the street. Phoebe, very small and vulnerable, naked, in her collar, crawled more behind the legs of Marcus.

We could hear the bells, the chanting. In a moment we could see the lifted golden circle, on its staff, approaching. The people in the streets hurried to press against the walls.

'Initiates,' I said to Marcus.

I could now see the procession clearly.

'Kneel,' said the fellow near me.

'Kneel,' I said to Marcus.

We knelt, on one knee. It surprised me that the people were kneeling, for, commonly, free Goreans do not kneel, even in the temples of the Initiates. Goreans commonly pray standing. The hands are sometimes lifted, and this is often the case with praying Initiates.

'I do not kneel to such,' said Marcus.

'Stay down,' I said. He had caused enough trouble already.'

We could now smell the incense. In the lead of the procession were two lads in white robes, with shaved heads, who rang the bells. Following them were two more, who shook censers, these emitting clouds of incense. These lads, I assumed, were novices, who had perhaps taken their first vows.

'Praise the Priest-Kings!' said a man, fervently.

'Praise the Priest-Kings!' said another.

I thought that Misk, the Priest-King, my friend, might have been fascinated, if puzzled, by this behavior.

An adult Initiate, in his flowing white robe, carried the staff surmounted with the golden circle, a figure with neither beginning nor end, the symbol of Priest-Kings. He was followed by some ten or so Initiates, in double file. It was these who were chanting.

A free woman drew back her robes, hastily, frightened, lest they touch an Initiate. It is forbidden for Initiates to touch women, and, of course, for women to touch them. Initiates also avoid meat and beans. A good deal of time, I gather, is devoted to sacrifices, services, chants, prayers, and the perusal of mystic lore. By means of the study of mathematics they attempt to purify themselves.

'Save Ar!' wept a man, as they passed.

'Save us, oh intercessors with Priest-Kings!' cried a man.

'I will bring ten pieces of gold to the temple!' promised another.

'I will bring ten verr, full-grown verr, with gilded horns,' promised another.

But the Initiates took no note of these not inconsiderable pledges. Of what concern could be such things to them?

'Keep your head down,' I muttered to Marcus.

'Very well,' he growled. Phoebe was behind us, on her stomach, shuddering, covering her head with her hands. I did not envy her, a naked slave, caught inadvertently in such a place.

In a few moments the procession had passed and we rose to our feet. The crowd had dissipated about us.

'You are safe now,' I said to Phoebe, 'or at least as safe as is ever a female slave.'

She knelt timidly at the feet of Marcus, holding to his leg.

'We cannot resist Cos,' said a man, a few feet from us.

'We must place our trust in the Priest-Kings,' said another.

Across from us, about seven feet away, on the other side of the narrow street, was the free woman who had secured her robes, that they might not touch an Initiate. She rose to her feet, looking after the procession. We could still hear the bells. The smell of incense hung in the air. Near the free woman was a female slave, in a short gray tunic. She, too, had been caught, like Phoebe, in the path of the procession. She had knelt with her head down to the street, the palms of her hands on the stones, making herself small, in a common position of obeisance. The free woman looked down at her. As the girl saw she was under the scrutiny of a free person she remained on her knees. 'You sluts have nothing to fear,' said the free woman to her, bitterly, 'It is such as I who must fear.' The girl did not answer. There was something in what the free woman had said, though in the frenzy of a sacking, the blood of the victors racing, flames about, and such, few occupations of a fallen city. I supposed, either free or slave, were altogether safe. 'It will only be a different collar for you,' said the free woman. The girl looked up at her. She was a lovely slave I thought, a red-haired one. She kept her knees tightly together before the free woman. had she knelt before a man she would probably have had to keep them open, even if they were brutally kicked apart, a lesson to her, to be more sensitive as to before whom she knelt. 'Only a different collar for you!' cried the free woman, angrily. The girl winced, but dared not respond. To be sure, I suspected, all things considered, that the free woman was right. Slave girls, as they are domestic animals, are, like other domestic animals, of obvious value to victors. It is unlikely that they would be killed, any more than tharlarion or kaiila. They would be simply chained together, for later distribution or sale. Then the free woman, in fury, with her small gloved hand, lashed the face of the slave girl, back and forth, some three or four times. She, the free woman, a free person, might be trampled by tharlarion, or be run through, or have her throat cut, by victors. Such things were certainly possible. On the other hand, the free women of a conquered city, or at least the fairest among them, are often reckoned by besiegers as counting within the yield of prospective loot. Many is the free female in such a city who has torn away her robes before enemies, confessed her natural slavery, disavowed her previous masquerade as a free woman, and begged for the rightfulness of the brand and collar. This is a scene which many free woman have enacted in their imagination. Such things figure, too, in the dreams of woman, those doors to the secret truths of their being. The free woman stood there, the breeze in the street, as evening approached, ruffling the hems of her robes. The free woman put her fingers to her throat, over the robes and veil. She looked at the slave, who did not dare to meet her eyes.

'What is it like to be a slave?' she asked.

'Mistress?' asked the girl, frightened.

'What is it like, to be a slave?' asked the free woman, again.

'Much depends on the master, beautiful Mistress,' said the girl. The slave could not see the face of the free woman, if course, but such locutions, 'beautiful Mistress,' and such, on the part of slave girls addressing free women, are common. They are rather analogous to such things as 'noble Master,' and so on. They have little meaning beyond being familiar epithets of respect.

'The master' said the free woman, shuddering.

'Yes, Mistress,' said the girl.

'You must do what he says, and obey him in all things?' asked the free woman. 'Of course, Mistress!' said the girl, and leaped to her feet, scurrying away. 'You may go,' said the free woman.

'Thank you, Mistress!' said the girl, and leaped to her feet, scurrying away. The free woman looked after the slave. Then she looked across at us, and at Phoebe, who lowered her eyes, quickly. Then, shuddering, she turned about and went down the street, to our left, in the direction from whence the Initiates had come.

'The people of Ar are frightened,' said Marcus.

'Yes,' I said.

We saw a fellow walk by, mumbling prayers. He was keeping track of these prayers by means of a prayer ring. This ring, which had several tiny knobs on it, was worn on the first finger of his right hand. He moved the ring on the finger by means of the knobs, keeping track of the prayers that way, comes to the circular knob, rather like a golden circle at the termination of the Initiate's staff, one knows one had completed one cycle of prayers. One may then stop, or begin again.

'Where do you suppose the Initiates were bound?' I asked Marcus.

'To their temple, I suppose,' he said.

'What for?' I asked.

'For their evening services, I presume,' he said, somewhat irritably.

'I, too, would conjecture that,' I said.

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