sex, whose gentleness and intelligence might have made such a contribution in softening their harsh ways. To be sure, in certain cities, as had been the case in Ko-ro-ba, women were permitted status within the caste system and had a relatively unrestricted existence.

Indeed, in Ko-ro-ba, a woman might even leave her quarters without first obtaining permission of a male relative or the Free Companion, a freedom which was unusual on Gor. The women of Ko-ro-ba might even be found sitting unattended in the theatre or at rge reading of epics.

In the cities of Gor that I knew, with the possible exception of Tharna, women had been most free in Ko- ro-ba, but now Ko- ro-ba was no more. I wondered if I might be able to secure a tarn in the intriguing city of Tharna. It would shorten the trip to the Sardar Mountains by weeks. I had no money with which to purchase a tarn but I reasoned my hiring price as a swordsman might be sufficient to purchase a mount. For that matter, though I did not seriously consider the possibility, being without a city, in effect an outlaw, I was entitled in the Gorean way of thinking to take the bird or its purchase price in any way I saw fit.

As I was pondering these matters, I observed, approaching me, but not seeing me, in the distance, moving across a green meadow, a dark figure, that of a woman. Though she was young she walked slowly, mournfully, heedlessly, aimlessly.

It is unusual to find a woman unescorted outside the walls of a city, even near the walls. I was startled to see her alone in this wild, deserted place, far from roads and cities. I decided to wait for her to approach. I was puzzled.

On Gor a woman normally travels only with a suitable retinue of armed guards. Women, on this barbaric world, are often regarded, unfortunately, as little more than love prizes, the fruits of conquest and seizure. Too often they are seen less as persons, human beings with rights, individuals worthy of concern and regard than as potential pleasure slaves, silken, bangled prisoners, possible adornments to the pleasure gardens of their captors. There is a saying on Gor that the laws of a city extend no further than its walls.

She had not yet seen me. I leaned on my spear and waited.

The harsh, exogamous institution of capture is woven into the very fabric of Gorean life. It is regarded as meritorious to abduct one' s women from a foreign, perfereably hostile city. Perhaps this institution, which on the surface seems so deplorable, is profitable from the standpoint of the race, preventing the gradual inbreeding of otherwise largely isolated, self-sufficient cities. Few seem to object to the institution of capture, not even the women who might seem to be its victims. On the contrary, incredibly enough, their vanity is terribly outraged if they are not regarded as worth the risks, usually mutilation and impalement. One cruel courtesan in the great city of Ar, now little more than a toothless, wrinkled hag, boasted that more than four hundred men had died because of her beauty.

Why was the girl alone?

Had her protectors been killed? Was she perhaps an escaped slave, fleeing from a hated master? Could she be, like myself, an exile from Ko-ro-ba? Its people have been scattered, I said to myself, and no two stones and no two men of Ko-ro-ba may stand again side by side. I gritted my teeth. The thought ran through my head, no stone may stand upon another stone. I she were of Ko-ro-ba, I knew that I could not, for her own welfare, stay with her or help her. It would be to invite the Flame Death of the Priest-Kings for one or the other, perhaps both of us. I had seen a man die the Flame Death, the High initiate of Ar on the summit of Ar' s Cylinder of Justice, consumed in the sudden burst of blue fire that bespoke the displeasure of the Priest-Kings. Slim though her chances might be to escape wild beasts or slavers, they would be greater than the chance of escaping the wrath of the Priest- Kings.

If she were a free woman and not unfortunate, to be alone in this place was unwise and foolish.

She must know this, yet she did not seem to care.

Something of the nature of the institution of capture, and the Gorean' s attitude toward it becomes clear when it is understood that one of the young tarnsman' s first missions is often the capture of a slave for his personal quarters. When he brings home his captive, bound naked across the saddle of his tarn, he gives her over, rejoicing, to his sisters, to be bathed, perfumed and clothed in the brief slave livery of Gor. That night, at a great feast, he displays the captive, now suitably attired by his sisters in the diaphanous, scarlet dancing silks of Gor. Bells have been strapped to he ankles, and she is bound in slave bracelets. Proudly, he presents her to his parents, his friends and warrior comrades. Then, to the festive music of flutes and drums, the girl kneels. The young man approaches her, bearing a slave collar, its engraving proclaiming his name and city. The music grows more intense, mounting to an overpowering, barbaric crescendo, which stops suddenly, abruptly. The room is silent, absolutely silent, except for the decisive click of the collar lock. It is a sound the girl will never forget.

As soon as the lock closes, there is a great shout, congratulating, saluting the young man. He returns to his place among the tables that line the low-ceilinged chamber, hung with glowing brass lamps. He sits in the midst of his family, his closest well-wishers, his sword comrades, cross- legged on the floor in the Gorean fashion behind the long, low wooden table, laden with food, which stands at the head of the room.

Now all eyes are on the girl.

The restraining slave bracelets are removed. She rises. Her feet are bare on the thick, ornately wrought rug that carpets the chamber. There is a slight sound from the bells strapped to her ankles. She is angry, defiant. Though she is clad only in the almost transparent scarlet dancing silks of Gor, her back is straight, her head high. She is determined not to be tamed, not to submit, and her proud carriage bespeaks this fact. The spectators seem amused. She glares at them. Angrily she looks from face to face. There is no one she knows, or could know, because she has been taken from a hostile city, she is a woman of the enemy. Fists clenched, she stands in the centre of the room, all eyes upon her, beautiful in the light of tha hanging lamps.

She faces the young man, wearing his collar.

'You will never tame me!' she cries.

Her outburst provokes laughter, skeptical observations, some good-natured hooting.

'I will tame you at my pleasure,' replies the young man, and signals to the musicians.

The music begins again. Perhaps the girl hesitates. There is a slave whip on the wall. Then, to the barbaric, intoxicating music of the flute and drums, she dances for her captor, the bells on her ankles marking each of her movements, the movements of a girl stolen from her home, who must now live to please the bold stranger whose binding fibre she had felt, whose collar she wore.

At the end of her dance, she is given a cup of wine, but she may not drink. She approaches the young man and kneels before him, her knees in the dictated position of the Pleasure Slave, and, head down, she proffers the wine to him. He drinks. There is another general shout of commendation and well wishing, and the feast begins, for none before the young man may touch food on such occasions. From that moment on, the young man' s sisters never again serve him, for that is the girl' s task. She is his slave. As she serves him again and again throughout the long feast, she steals glances at him, and sees that he is even more handsome than she had thought. Of his courage and strength she had already had ample evidence. As he eats and drinks with gusto on this occasion of his triumph, she regards him furtively, with a strange mixture of fear and pleasure. 'Only such a man,' she tells herself, 'could tame me.'

Perhaps it should only be added that the Gorean master, though often strict, is seldom cruel. The girl knows, if she pleases him, her lot will be an easy one. She will almost never encounter sadism or wanton cruelty, for the psychological environment that tends to breed these diseases is largely absent from Gor. This does not mean that she will not expect to be beaten if she disobeys, or fails to please her master. On the other hand, it is not too unusual a set of compartments on Gor where the master, in effect, willingly wears the collar, and his lovely slave, by the practice of the delightful wiles of her sex, with scandalous success wheedles her way triumphantly from the satisfaction of one whim to the next. I wondered if the girl approaching was beautiful.

I smiled to myself.

Paradoxically, the Gorean, who seems to think so little of women in some respects, celebrates them extravagantly in others. The Gorean is keenly susceptible to beauty; it gladdens his heart, and his songs and art are often paeans to its glory. Gorean women, whether slave or free, know that their simple presence brings joy to men, and I cannot but think that this pleases them.

I decided the girl was beautiful. Perhaps it was something in her carriage, something subtle and graceful, something which could not be concealed by the dejected cast of her shoulders, her slow gait and apparent exhaustion, no, not even by the coarse heavy robes she wore. Such a girl, I thought, would surely have a master or, I hoped for her sake, a protector and companion.

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