Beasts of Gor [Gor Series Book 12] [MultiFormat]
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eBook by John Norman
eBook Category: Fantasy
eBook Description: In this, the twelfth book in the famous Gor series, the fight for survival on the primitive, Earthlike world, Gor, continues with a ferocity that matches the rest of the series. On Gor, there are three different kinds of beings that are labeled beasts: there are the Kurii, a monster alien race that is preparing to invade Gor from space; the Gorean warriors, who fight with viciousness almost primitive in its blood lust' and then there are the slave girls of Gor, lowly beasts for men to do with as they see fit, be it as objects of labor or desire. Now all three come together as the Kurii fight to take over Gor with its first beachhead on the planet's polar ice cap. As all three kinds of beasts struggle together, an incredible adventure is told, one that begins in lands of burning heat and ends up in the bitter cold of the polar north among the savage red hunters of the polar ice pack. Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the first book of the Gorean Saga, TARNSMAN OF GOR, E-Reads is proud to release the very first complete publication of all Gor books by John Norman, in both print and ebook editions, including the long-awaited 26th novel in the saga, WITNESS OF GOR. Many of the original Gor books have been out of print for years, but their popularity has endured. Each book of this release has been specially edited by the author and is a definitive text.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads, Published: e-reads, 1979
Fictionwise Release Date: July 2002
This eBook is part of the following series:
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"There is no clue," Samos had said.
I lay awake on the great couch. I stared at the ceiling of the room.
Light from a perforated lamp flickered dimly. The furs were deep and soft. My weapons lay to one side. A slave, sleeping, lay chained at my feet.
There was no clue.
"He might be anywhere," had said Samos. He had shrugged. "We know only that somewhere he is among us."
We know little about that species of animal called the Kur. We do know it is bloodthirsty, that it feeds on human flesh, and that it is concerned with glory.
"It is not unlike men," had once said Misk to me, a Priest-King.
This story, in its way, has no clear beginning. It began, I suppose, some thousands of years ago when Kurii, in internecine wars, destroyed the viability of a native world. Their state at that time was sufficiently advanced technologically to construct small steel worlds in orbit, each some pasangs in diameter. The remnants of a shattered species then, as a world burned below them, turned hunting to the plains of the stars.
We do not know how long their hunt took. But we do know the worlds, long ago, entered the system of a slow-revolving, medium-sized yellow star occupying a peripheral position in one of nature's bounteous, gleaming, strewn spiral universes.
They had found their quarry, a world.
They had found two worlds, one spoken of as Earth, the other as Gor.
One of these worlds was a world poisoning itself, a pathological world insane and short-sighted, greed-driven and self-destructive. The other was a pristine world, virginal in its beauty and fertility, one not permitted by its masters, called the Sardar, or Priest-Kings, to follow the example of its tragic sister. Priest-Kings would not permit men to destroy Gor. They are not permissive; they are intolerant of geocide. Perhaps it is hard to understand why they do not permit men to destroy Gor. Are they not harsh and cruel, to deny to men this pleasure? Perhaps. But, too, they are rational. And one may be rational, perhaps, without being weak. Indeed, is not weakness the ultimate irrationality? Gor, too, it must be remembered, is also the habitat of the Sardar, or Priest-Kings. They have not chosen to be weak. This choice may be horrifying to those of Earth, so obsessed with their individualism, their proclaimed rights and liberties, but it is one they have chosen to make. I do not defend it. I only report it. Dispute it with them who will.
"Half-Ear is now among us," Samos had said.
I stared at the ceiling, watching the shifting shadows and reflections from the small, perforated lamp.
The Priest-kings, for thousands of years, had defended the system of the yellow star against the depredations of the prowling Kurii. Fortunes had shifted perhaps dozens of times, but never had the Kurii managed to establish a beachhead on the shores of this beautiful world. But some years ago, in the time of the Nest War, the power of the Priest-Kings was considerably reduced. I do not think the Kurii are certain of this, or of the extent of the reduction.
I think if they knew the truth in these matters the code words would flash between the steel worlds, the ports would open, and the ships would nose forth, turning toward Gor.
But the Kur, like the shark and sleen, is a cautious beast.
He prowls, he tests the wind, and then, when he is certain, he makes his strike.
Samos was much disturbed that the high Kur, it referred to as Half-Ear, was now upon the surface of this world. We had discovered this from an enciphered message, fallen into our hands, hidden in the beads of a necklace.
That Half-Ear had come to Gor was taken by Samos and Priest-Kings as evidence that the invasion was imminent.
Perhaps even now the ships of Kurii flamed toward Gor, as purposeful and silent as sharks in the waters of space's night.
But I did not think so.
I did not think the invasion was imminent.
It was my surmise that the Kur, it called Half-Ear, had come to prepare the way for the invasion.
He had come to make smooth the path, to ready the sands of Gor for the keels of the steel ships.
He must be stopped.
Should he discover the weakness of the Priest-Kings, or construct a depot adequate to fuel, to shield, and supply the beaching ships, there seemed little reason to suppose the invasion would not prove successful.
Half-Ear was now upon the surface of Gor.
"He is now among us," had said Samos.
The Kurii moved now, at last, with dispatch and menace. Half-Ear had come to Gor.
But where was he!
I almost cried with anger, my fists clenched. We did not know where he might be.
There was no clue.
The slave at my feet stirred, but did not awaken.
I rose on one elbow and looked down at her. How incredibly beautiful and soft she seemed; she was curled in the furs; she was half covered by them; I lifted them away, that I might see her fully; she stirred; her hands moved a bit on the furs; she drew her legs up; she reached as though to pull the furs more about her but her hands did not find them; she drew her legs up a bit more and snuggled down in the furs; there is perhaps nothing in the world as beautiful as a naked slave girl; a heavy iron collar, with chain, was locked on her throat; the chain ran from a ring fixed in the bottom of the great couch, circular, and some twenty feet wide, around the circumference of the couch to the right and was lifted and coiled to one side, on the left. Her skin, she was very fair-skinned and dark-pelted, seemed very soft and reddish, subtly so, glowingly so, vulnerably so, in the light of the tiny perforated lamp. I found her incredibly beautiful. Her hair, dark and lovely, half covered the heavy collar that encircled her neck. I looked at her. How beautiful she was. And I owned her. What man does not want to own a beautiful woman?
She stirred, and reached again for the furs, chilled. I took her by the arm and drew her beside me, roughly, and threw her on her back. She opened her eyes suddenly, startled, half crying out. "Master!" she gasped. Then I had her swiftly. "Master! Master!" she whispered, clutching me. Then I was finished with her. "Master," she whispered. "I love you. I love you." One has a slave girl when and as one wishes.
She held me closely, pressing her cheek against my chest.
Sex is an implement which may be used in controlling a slave girl. It is as useful as chains and the whip.
"I love you," she whispered.
Sex in a woman, I think, is a more complicated phenomenon than it is in a man. She, if properly treated, and by properly treated I do not mean treated with courtesy and gentleness, but rather correctly treated, as her nature craves, is even more helplessly in the grasp of its power than a man. Sex in a woman is a very subtle and profound thing; she is capable of deep and sustained pleasures which might be the envy of any vital organism. These pleasures, of course, can be used by a man to make her a helpless prisoner and slave. Perhaps that is why free women guard themselves so sternly against them. The slave girl, of course, cannot guard herself against them, for she is at the mercy of her master, who will treat her not as she wishes, but precisely as he wishes. Then she yields, as she must, and as a free woman may not, and her will is yielded in ecstasy to his. The needs of a woman, biologically, are deep; it is unfortunate that some men regard it as wrong to satisfy them. The correct treatment of a female, which is only possible to administer to a girl who is owned, is adjusted to her needs, and is complex and subtle. The least girl contains wonders for the master who understands her. Two things may perhaps be said. The correct treatment of a girl does not always preclude courtesy and gentleness no more than it always involves them. There is a time for courtesy and gentleness, and a time for harshness. The master must remember that he owns the girl; if he keeps this in mind he will generally treat her correctly. He must be strong, and he must be capable of administering discipline if she is not pleasing. Sex in a woman, as in a man, is not only richly biological but psychological, as well, and the words suggest a distinction which is somewhat misleading. We are psychophysical organisms, or better perhaps, thinking, feeling organisms. Part of the correct treatment of a woman is treating her as you wish; she has genetic dispositions for submission bred into every cell of her body, a function of both natural and sexual selection. Accordingly, what might seem brutal or quick to a man can be taken by a woman in the dimensions of her sentience as irrefutable evidence of his domination of her, her being owned by him, which thrills her to the core for it touches the ancient biological meaning of her womanhood. He simply uses her for his pleasure, because he wished to do so. He is her master.
I did not thrust her from me.
"May I speak your name, Master?" she begged.
"Yes," I said.
"Tarl," she whispered. "I love you."
"Be silent, Slave Girl," I said.
"Yes, Master," she whispered.
I watched the shadows on the ceiling. I sensed her lips softly kissing me.
You may judge and scorn the Goreans if you wish. Know as well, however, that they judge and scorn you.
They fulfill themselves as you do not.
Hate them for their pride and power. They will pity you for your shame and weakness.
Half-Ear stood somewhere upon Gor.
I did not know where.
Perhaps there was never a time for courtesy and gentleness with an owned woman.
The girl beside me, Vella, was an owned woman.
I laughed. I wondered if I had been tempted to weakness. She trembled then. Still she kissed me, but now frightened, trying to placate me.
How small and weak she was. And how beautiful. How I relished the owning of every bit of her!
I wondered if I had been tempted to weakness. Courtesy and gentleness for a slave? Never!
"Please me," I said. My voice was hard.
"Yes, Master," she whispered. She began to lick and kiss at my body.
In time I ordered her to desist and put her again to her back. I lifted aside the chain which ran to her collar.
"Oh," she said, softly, as I claimed her.
I felt her fingernails in my arms.
She looked up at me, her eyes filled with tears. How helpless she was in my arms.
Then she began to cry out, softly. "Please, please," she begged, "let me speak your name."
"No," I told her.
"Please," she begged.
"What am I to you?" I said.
"My master," she said, frightened.
"Only that," I said.
"Yes, Master," she said.
I did not let her speak further then, but forced the slave, as my whim had it, to endure the lengthy tumult of a bond girl's degradation, lying chained in the arms of a master who does not choose to show her mercy.
I had her as what she was, a slave.
In a quarter of an Ahn her beauty squirmed helplessly; my arms bled from her fingernails; her eyes were wild and piteous. "You may speak," I informed her. She threw back her head and screamed, jolting with spasms, "I yield me your slave! I yield me your slave!" she cried. How beautiful a woman is in such a moment! I waited until she drew tremblingly quiescent, looking at me. Then I cried out with the pleasure of owning her, and claimed her. She clutched me, kissing me. "I love you, Master," she wept. "I love you."
I held her to me closely, though she was a slave. She looked up at me. Her eyes were moist. "I love you, Master," she said. I brushed back hair from her forehead. I supposed one could be fond of a slave.
Then I recalled that she had once betrayed Priest-Kings, and had pointed me out to my enemies. She had served the Kurii in the Tahari. She had smiled at me when in a court at Nine Wells she had testified falsely against me. Once, from a window of the kasbah of the Salt Ubar she had blown me a kiss and tossed me a token to remember her by, a scarf, perfumed and of slave silk, to taunt me, when I was to be marched chained to the pits of Klima. I had returned from Klima and had made her my slave. I had brought her back with me from the Tahari to the house of Bosk, captain, and merchant, of Port Kar.
I kept her in the house, slave. Much work was she given. Sometimes, as this night, I let her sleep chained at my feet.
"I love you, Master," she said.
I looked angrily to the slave whip upon the wall.
She trembled. Would I use the lash on her? She had felt it more than once.
Suddenly I lifted my head a bit. I smelled the odor of sleen.
The door to my chamber which, in my house, I did not keep locked, moved slightly.
Instantly I moved from the couch, startling the chained girl. I stood, bent, tensed, beside the couch. I did not move.
The snout of the beast thrust first softly through the opening, moving the door back.
I heard the girl gasp.
"Make no sound," I said. I did not move.
I crouched down. The animal had been released. Its head was now fully through the door. Its head was wide and triangular. Suddenly the eyes took the light of the lamp and blazed. And then, the head moving, its eyes no longer reflected the light. It no longer faced the light. Rather it was watching me.
The animal was some twenty feet in length, some eleven hundred pounds in weight, a forest sleen, domesticated. It was double fanged and six-legged. It crouched down and inched forward. Its belly fur must have touched the tiles. It wore a leather sleen collar but there was no leash on the leash loop.
I had thought it was trained to hunt tabuk with archers, but it clearly was not tabuk it hunted now.
I knew the look of a hunting sleen. It was a hunter of men.
It swiftly inched forward, then stopped.
When in the afternoon I had seen it in its cage, with its trainer, Bertram of Lydius, it had not reacted to me other than as to the other observers. It had not then, I knew, been put upon my scent.
It crept forward another foot.
I did not think it had been loose from its cage long, for it would take such a beast, a sleen, Gor's finest tracker, only moments to make its way silently through the halls to this chamber.
The beast did not take its eyes from me.
I saw its four hind legs begin to gather under it.
Its breathing was becoming more rapid. That I did not move puzzled it.
It then inched forward another foot. It was now within its critical attacking distance.
I did nothing to excite it.
It lashed its tail back and forth. Had it been longer on my scent I think I might have had less time for its hunting frenzy would have been more upon it, a function in part of the secretions of certain glands.
Very slowly, almost imperceptibly, I reached toward the couch and seized one of the great furs in my right hand.
The beast watched me closely. For the first time it snarled, menacingly.
Then the tail stopped lashing, and became almost rigid. Then the ears lay back against its head.
It charged, scratching and scrambling, slipping suddenly, on the tiles. The girl screamed. The cast fur, capelike, shielding me, enveloped the leaping animal. I leaped to the couch, and rolled over it, and bounded to my feet. I heard the beast snarling and squealing, casting aside the fur with an angry shaking of its body and head. Then it stood, enraged, the fur torn beneath its paws, snarling and hissing. It looked up at me. I stood now upon the couch, the ax of Torvaldsland in my hand.
I laughed, the laugh of a warrior.
"Come my friend," I called to it, "let us engage."
It was a truly brave and noble beast. Those who scorn the sleen I think do not know him. Kurii respect the sleen, and that says much for the sleen, for its courage, its ferocity and its indomitable tenacity.
The girl screamed with terror.
The ax caught the beast transversely and the side of its head struck me sliding from the great blade.
I cut at it again on the floor, half severing the neck.
"It is a beautiful animal," I said. I was covered with its blood. I heard men outside in the hall. Thurnock, and Clitus, and Publius, and Tab, and others, weapons in hand, stood at the door.
"What has happened?" cried Thurnock.
"Secure Bertram of Lydius," I said.
Men rushed from the door.
I went to fetch a knife from my weapons. They lay beside and behind the couch.
I shared bits of the heart of the sleen with my men, and, together, cupping our hands, we drank its blood in a ritual of sleen hunters.
"Bertram of Lydius has fled," cried Publius, the kitchen master.
I had thought this would be true.
I had looked into the blood, cupped in my hands. It is said that if one sees oneself black and wasted in the blood, one will perish of disease; if one sees oneself torn and bloody, one will perish in battle; if one sees oneself old and gray one will die in peace and leave children.
But the sleen did not speak to me.
I had looked into the blood, cupped in my hands, but had seen nothing, only the blood of a beast. It did not choose to speak to me, or could not.
I rose to my feet.
I did not think I would again look into the blood of a sleen. I would look rather into the eyes of men.
I wiped the blood from my hands on my thighs.
I turned and looked at the naked girl on the furs, half tangled in her chain, it running about her ankle and leg, looped, and lifting to the ring on the heavy collar. She shrank back, her hand before her mouth.
"Bertram of Lydius approached a guardsman," said Publius, "who suspected nothing, Bertram of Lydius being guest in the house. He struck him unconscious. With a rope and hook he descended the delta wall."
"The tharlarion will have him," said a man.
"No," I said. "There would be a boat waiting."
"He cannot have gotten far," said Thurnock.
"There will be a tarn in the city," I said. "Do not pursue him."
I regarded the circle of men about. "Return to your rest," I said.
They moved from the room.
"The beast?" asked Clitus.
"Leave it," I said. "And leave me now."
Then I and the slave were alone. I closed the door. I slid shut the bolts, and turned to face her.
She looked very small and frightened, chained on my couch.
"So, my dear," I said, "you labor still in the service of Kurii."
"No, Master," she cried, "no!"
"Who tended my chamber afore this morning?" I asked.
"It was I, Master," she said. It is common to let the girl who is to spend the night at your feet tend your chamber the preceding day. She scrubs and cleans it, and tidies it. It is not a full day's work and she has hours in it in which she has little to do but wait for the master. She readies herself. She plans. She anticipates. When the master arrives, and she kneels before him, she is eager and anxious, vulnerable and stimulated, well ready both physically and psychologically for the mastery to which she will have no choice but to be joyfully subjected. Even the performance of small servile tasks, such as the polishing of his tarn boots, which she must perform, plays its role in her preparation for the night. The performance of such small tasks teaches her, incontrovertibly, in the depths of her beauty, that she truly belongs to him, and that he is truly her master. She is then well ready when he gestures her to the furs to perform for him exquisitely the most delicious and intimate of her assigned tasks, her most important tasks, those of the helpless love slave.
"Kneel on the tiles," I told her.
She slipped from the couch and knelt on the tiles before me. She knelt in the blood of the sleen.
"Position," I said.
Swiftly she assumed the position of the pleasure slave. She knelt back on her heels, her knees wide, her hands on her thighs, her back straight, her head up. She was terrified. I looked down at her.
I crouched before her, and took her by the arms. I was covered with the blood of the sleen. "Master?" she asked. I put her to her back on the tiles in the sleen's blood. I held her so she could not move, and entered her. "Master?" she asked, frightened. I began to caress her from within, deeply, with my manhood. The warm closeness of her body, so beautiful, so helpless, that of an owned slave, clasped me. She began to respond to me, frightened.
"You labor still for Kurii," I said.
"No, Master," she wept, "no!"
I felt her spasmodically squirm beneath me. "No!" she wept. Her haunches shuddered.
"Yes," I said.
"No," she said, "no, Master!"
"The beast must have been put upon my scent," I said.
"I am innocent!" she said. Then she writhed beneath me. "Please do not make me yield to you this way, Master," she wept. "Oh," she cried. "Oh!"
"Speak," I told her.
She closed her eyes. "Have mercy!" she begged.
"Speak," I told her.
"I was taking the tunics to the tubs," she said. "I would have put them in with the others!" She half reared up beneath me, struggling, her eyes open and wild. She was strong for a girl, but girls are weak. I thrust her back down, shoulders and hair into the blood. Her head was back. She writhed, impaled, and held. How weak she was. How futile were her struggles.
"There is no escape," I told her. "You are mine."
"I know," she said. "I know!"
"Speak further," I said.
"Oh," she cried. "Oh!" Then she wept, "Please, Master, do not make me yield this way!"
"Speak further," I said.
"I was tricked," she cried. "Bertram of Lydius, in the halls, followed me. I thought little of it. I thought only he wanted to see my body move in the livery of the house, that he only followed me as a man will upon occasion follow a slave girl, idly, for the pleasure in seeing her."
"And this flattered you, did it not, you slut?" I asked.
"Yes, Master," she said. "I am a slave girl."
"Go on," I said.
"Please, Master," she wept, clutching me. "Oh, oh!" she cried.
"Go on," I said.
"Yes," she cried, angrily. "I was pleased! He was handsome, and strong, and Gorean, and I was a female slave. I thought he might ask for my use, and that it would be granted him by you in Gorean courtesy!"
It was true. Had a guest expressed interest in Vella, Elizabeth, a former secretary from Earth, one of my slaves, I would surely have given her to him for his night's pleasure. And if he were not fully pleased, I would have had her whipped in the morning.
"He spoke to me," she said, "so I turned and knelt before him, the tunics clutched in my arms. 'You are pretty,' he said to me. This pleased me." Slave girls relish compliments. Indeed, there is a Gorean saying to the effect that any woman who relishes a compliment is in her heart a slave girl. She wants to please. Most Gorean men would not think twice about collaring a girl who responds, smiling, to compliments. It is regarded as right to enslave a natural slave. Most masters, incidentally, make a girl they own earn her compliments. She must struggle to be worthy of complimenting. She so struggles. Gorean compliments are generally meaningful, for they tend to be given only when deserved, and sometimes not then. A girl desires to please her master. When she is complimented she knows she has pleased him. This makes her happy, not simply because then she knows she is less likely to be punished, but because she, in her heart, being a woman, truly desires to please one who is her complete master. "'Do you know me?' he asked," she said. "'Yes, Master,' I said, 'you are Bertram of Lydius, guest in the house of my Master.' 'Your master has been kind to me,' said he. 'I would make him a gift to show my appreciation. It would be unfitting for me to accept his hospitality without in some small way expressing the esteem in which I hold him and my gratitude for his generosity.' 'How may I aid you, Master?' I asked. 'In Lydius,' said he, 'we encounter often the furs of snow sleen, fresh and handsome and warm. Too, we have there cunning tailors who can design garments with golden threads and secret pockets. I would make a gift of such a garment, a short coat or jacket, suitable for use in the tarn saddle, for your master.'"
"Few," I said, "in Port Kar think of me as a tarnsman. I did not so speak myself to Bertram of Lydius in our conversations."
"I did not think, Master," she said.
"Did you not think such a gift strange for a merchant and mariner?"
"Forgive a girl, Master," she said. "But surely there are those in Port Kar who know you a tarnsman, and the gift seems appropriate for one to proffer who is of Lydius in the north."
"The true Bertram of Lydius would not be likely to know me a tarnsman," I said.
"He was not then what he seemed," she whispered.
"I do not think so," I said. "I think he was an agent of Kurii."
I thrust into her, savagely. She cried out, looking at me. She was hot with sweat. The collar was on her throat.
"I think we have here, too," I said, holding her, "another agent of Kurii."
"No," she said, "no!" Then I began to make her respond to me.
"Oh," she wept. "Oh. Oh!"
"He wanted my tunic," I told her, "to take its measurements, that the jacket of the fur of the snow sleen might be well made."
"Yes," she wept. "Yes! But only for moments! Only for moments!"
"Fool," I said to her.
"I was tricked," she wept.
"You were tricked, or you are a Kur agent," I said.
"I am not a Kur agent," she wept. She tried to rise up, but I held her down, her small shoulders down to the tiles in the blood. She could not begin to be a match for my strength.
"Even if you are a Kur agent," I said, softly, "know, small beauty, that you are first my slave girl."
I looked down into her eyes.
"Yes, Master," she said. She twisted miserably, her head to one side. "He had the garment for only moments," she said.
"Was it always in your sight," I asked.
"No," she said. "He ordered me to remain in the hall, to wait for him."
"He had it for only moments it seemed," she said.
"Enough time," I said, "to press it between the bars of the sleen cage and whisper to the beast the signal for the hunt."
"Yes!" she wept.
Then I thrust again and again into her, in the strong, increasingly intense rhythms of a savage master until the collared she of her, once that of a civilized girl, screamed and shuddered, and then lay mine, without dignity or pride, shattered, only a yielded, barbarian slave, in my arms.
I stood up, and she lay at my feet collared, in the sleen's blood.
I reached to the great ax of Torvaldsland. I stood over her, looking down at her, the ax grasped in my hands.
She looked up at me. One knee was lifted. She shook her head. She took the collar in her hands and pulled it out from her neck a bit, lifting it toward me.
"Do not strike me, Master," she said. "I am yours."
I looked at the collar and chain. She looked up at me, frightened. She was well secured.
My grip tightened on the ax.
She put her hands to the side, helplessly, and, frightened, lifted her body, supplicatingly, to me.
"Please do not strike me, Master," she said. "I am your slave."
I lowered the ax, holding it across my body with both hands. I looked down at her, angrily.
She lowered her body, and lay quietly in the blood, frightened. She placed the backs of her hands on the tiles, so that the palms were up, facing me, at her sides. The palms of a woman's hands are soft and vulnerable. She exposed them to me.
I did not lift the ax.
"I know little of sleen," she said. "I had thought it a sleen trained to hunt tabuk, in the company of archers, little more than an animal trained to turn and drive tabuk, and retrieve them."
"It is thus that the animal was presented to us," I said. That was true. Yet surely, in the light of such a request, one for a garment, a sleen in the house, her suspicions should have been aroused.
"He wanted a garment," I said.
"I did not think," she said.
"Nor did you speak to me of this thing," I said.
"He warned me not to speak to you," she said, "for the gift was to come as a surprise."
I laughed, looking at the sleen.
She put her head to one side, in shame. She turned then again to look at me. "He had it for only a few moments," she said.
"The cage could be opened later, and was," I said. "The hunt then began, through the halls of the house, in the silence and darkness."
She closed her eyes in misery, and then opened them again, looking at me.
I heard the ship's bell, in the great hall, striking. I heard footsteps in the hall outside.
"It is morning," I said.
Thurnock appeared at the door to my chamber. "Word has come," said he, "from the house of Samos. He would speak with you."
"Prepare the longboat," I said. We would make our way through the canals to his house.
"Yes, Captain," he said, and turned and left.
I put aside the ax. With water, poured into a bowl, and fur, I cleaned myself. I donned a fresh tunic. I tied my own sandals.
The girl did not speak.
I slung a sword over my left shoulder, an admiral's blade.
"You did not let me tie your sandals," she said.
I fetched the key to the collar, and went to her, and opened the collar.
"You have duties to attend to," I said.
"Yes, Master," she said. On her knees she suddenly grasped my legs, weeping, looking up at me. "Forgive me, Master," she cried. "I was tricked! I was tricked!"
"It is morning in Port Kar," I said.
She put down her head to my feet. She kissed my feet. She then looked up at me. "If I do not please you this day, Master," she said, "impale me."
"I will," I told her. Then I turned and left her.