Read an Excerpt
Kajira of Gor
The Gorean Saga: Book 19
By John Norman
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1983 John Norman
All rights reserved.
"Do you not see it?" asked the man.
"Yes," said the fellow with him.
"It is incredible," said another.
"The resemblance is truly striking," said the second man.
"Please turn your profile towards us, and lift your chin, Miss Collins," said the first man.
I was in a photographer's studio.
"A little higher, Miss Collins," said the first man.
I lifted my chin higher.
"You may change in here," had said the man earlier, indicating a small dressing room off the studio. I had been handed a pair of clogs, a white silk blouse and a pair of black shorts.
"No brassiere or panties," he had said.
I had looked at him.
"We want no lines from them," he said.
"Of course," I had said.
The shorts were quite short, and, even without the panties, at least a size too small. The blouse, too, even without the brassiere, was tight.
"Please tie up the blouse, in front," he said. "We want some midriff."
I had complied.
"Higher," he had suggested.
I had complied.
I had then been, to my puzzlement, photographed several times, from the neck up, front view and profile, against a type of chart, on which appeared various graduated lines, presumably some type of calibrating or measuring device. The lines, as nearly as I could determine, however, correlated neither with inches nor centimeters.
"Now, please, step into the sand box," he had said.
I had then stepped onto the sand, in the wide, flat box, with the beach scene projected onto the large screen behind me. Then, for several minutes, the photographer moving about me, swiftly and professionally, sometimes almost intimately close, and giving me commands, the camera clicking, I had been posed in an incredible variety of positions. Men, I had thought, must enjoy putting a woman thusly through her paces. Some of the shots were almost naughty. I think, too, given the absence of a brassiere and panties, and the skimpiness and tightness of the shorts, and the tightness of the blouse, doubtlessly calculated features of my apparel, there would be little doubt in the minds of the observers as to the lineaments of my figure. I did not object, however. In fact I rather enjoyed this. I think I am rather pretty.
I was now standing in the sand, my left side facing the men, my chin lifted. The lights were hot. To my left were the lights, the tangles of cord, the men. To my right, in contrast, there seemed the lovely, deserted beach.
"She is pretty," said one of the men.
"She is pretty enough to be a Kajira," said one of the men.
"She will be," laughed another.
I did not understand what they were talking about.
"Do not see such a woman merely in terms of such predictable and luscious commonalities," said the first man. "You see clearly her potential for us, do you not?"
"Of course," said the second man.
I did not understand them.
"Turn on the fan," said the first man.
I then felt a cool breeze, blown by the large fan in front of me. In the heat of the lights this was welcome.
* * *
"This coin, or medal, or whatever it is, is very puzzling," had said the gentle, bespectacled man, holding it by the edges with white, cotton gloves, and then placing it down on the soft felt between us. He was an authenticator, to whom I had been referred by a professional numismatist. His task was not to appraise coins but to render an informed opinion on such matters as their type and origin, where this might be obscure, their grading, in cases where a collaborative opinion might be desired, and their genuineness.
"Is it genuine?" I asked.
"Who sold you this piece," asked the man, "a private party? What did you pay for it?"
"It was given to me," I said, "by a private party."
"That is extremely interesting," said the man.
"Why?" I asked.
"It rules out an obvious hypothesis," said the man. "Yet such a thing would be foolish."
"I do not understand," I said.
"Puzzling," he mused, looking down at the coin on the felt between us, "puzzling."
I regarded him.
"This object," he said, "has not been struck from machine-engraved dies. Similarly, it is obviously not the result of contemporary minting techniques and technology. It is not the product, for example, of a high-speed, automated coin press."
"I do not understand," I said.
"It has been struck by hand," he said. "Do you see how the design is slightly off center?"
"Yes," I said.
"That is a feature almost invariably present in ancient coins," he said. "The planchet is warmed, to soften the metal. It is then placed between the dies and the die cap is then struck, literally, with a hammer, impressing the design of the obverse and reverse simultaneously into the planchet."
"Then it is an ancient coin?" I asked.
"That seems unlikely," he said. "Yet the techniques used in striking this coin have not been used, as far as I know, for centuries."
"What sort of coin is it?" I asked.
"Too," he said, "note how it is not precision milled. It is not made for stacking, or for storage in rolls."
I looked at him. It did not seem to me he was being too clear with me. He seemed independently fascinated with the object.
"Such coins were too precious perhaps," he said. "A roll of them might be almost inconceivable, particularly in the sense of having many such rolls."
"What sort of coin is it?" I asked.
"You see, however," he asked, "how the depth of the planchet allows a relief and contrast of the design with the background to an extent impossible in a flat, milled coin?"
"Yes," I said.
"What a superb latitude that gives the artist," he said. "It frees him from the limitations of a crude compromise with the counting house, from the contemporary concessions which must be made to economic functionalism. Even then, in so small and common an object, and in so unlikely an object, he can create a work of art."
"Can you identify the coin?" I asked.
"This, in its depth and beauty, reminds me of ancient coins," he said. "They are, in my opinion, the most beautiful and interesting of all coins."
"Is it an ancient coin?" I asked.
"I do not think so," he said.
"What sort of coin is it, then?" I asked.
"Look here," he said. "Do you see how this part of the object, at the edge, seems flatter, or straight, different from the rest of the object's circumference?"
"Yes," I said. To be sure, one had to look closely to see it.
"This object has been clipped, or shaved," he said. "A part of the metal has been cut or trimmed away. In this fashion, if that is not noted, or the object is not weighed, it might be accepted for, say, a certain face value, the individual responsible for this meanwhile pocketing the clipped or shaved metal. If this is done over a period of time, with many coins, of course, the individual could accumulate, in metal value, a value equivalent perhaps to one or more of the original objects."
"Metal value?" I asked.
"In modern coinage," he said, "we often lose track of such things. Yet, if one thinks about it, at least in the case of many coins, a coin is a way in which a government or ruler certifies that a given amount of precious metal is involved in a transaction. It saves weighing and testing each coin. The coin, in a sense, is an object whose worth or weight, in standardized quantities, is certified upon it, and guaranteed, so to speak, by an issuing authority. Commerce as we know it would be impossible, of course, without such objects, and notes, and credit and such."
"Then the object is a coin?" I said.
"I do not know if it is a coin or not," said the man.
"What else could it be?" I asked.
"It could be many things," he said. "It might be a token or a medal. It might be an emblem of membership in an organization or a device whereby a given personage might be recognized by another. It might be a piece of art intended to be mounted in jewelry. It might even be a piece in some game."
"Can you identify it?" I asked.
"No," he said.
The object was about an inch and a half in diameter and about three eighths of an inch in thickness. It was yellowish, and, to me, surprisingly heavy for its size.
"What about the letter on one side?" I asked.
"It may not be a letter," he said. "It may be only a design." It seemed a single, strong, welldefined character. "If it is a letter," he said, "it is not from an alphabet with which I am familiar."
"There is an eagle on the other side," I said, helpfully.
"Is there?" he asked. He turned the coin on the felt, touching it carefully with the cotton gloves.
I looked at the bird more closely.
"It is not an eagle," he said. "It has a crest."
"What sort of bird is it?" I asked.
He shrugged. "Perhaps it is a bird from some mythology," he said, "perhaps a mere artist's whimsy."
I looked at the fierce head on the surface of the yellowish object.
It frightened me.
"It does not appear to be a whimsy," I said.
"No," he smiled. "It doesn't, does it?"
"Have you ever seen anything like this before?" I asked.
"No," he said, "aside, of course, from its obvious resemblance to ancient coins."
"I see," I said.
"I was afraid," he said, "when you brought it in, that you were the victim of an expensive and cruel hoax. I had thought perhaps you had paid a great deal of money for this, before having its authenticity ascertained. On the other hand, it was given to you. You were thus not being defrauded in that manner. As you perhaps know coins can be forged, just as, say, paintings and other works of art can be forged. Fortunately these forgeries are usually detectable, particularly under magnification, for example, from casting marks or filing marks from seam joinings, and so on. To be sure, sometimes it is very difficult to tell if a given coin is genuine or not. It is thus useful for the circumspect collector to deal with established and reputable dealers. Similarly the authentication of a coin can often proceed with more confidence if some evidence is in hand pertaining to its history, and its former owners, so to speak. One must always be a bit suspicious of the putatively rare and valuable coin which seems to appear inexplicably, with no certifiable background, on the market, particularly if it lacks the backing of an established house."
"Do you think this object is genuine?" I asked.
"There are two major reasons for believing it is genuine," he said, "whatever it might be. First, it shows absolutely no signs of untypical production, such as being cast rather than struck, of being the result of obverse-reverse composition, or of having been altered or tampered with in any way. Secondly, if it were a forgery, what would it be a forgery of? Consider the analogy of counterfeiting. The counterfeiter presumably wishes to deceive people. This end would not be well served by producing a twenty-five dollar bill, which was purple and of no familiar design. There would be no point in it. It would defeat his own purposes."
"I understand," I said.
"Thus," said the man, "it seems reasonable to assume that this object, whatever it is, is genuine."
"Do you think it is a coin?" I asked.
"It gives every evidence of being a coin," he said. "It looks like a coin. Its simplicity and design do not suggest that it is commemorative in nature. It has been produced in a manner in which coins were often produced, at least long ago and in the classical world. It has been clipped or shaved, something that normally occurs only with coins which pass through many hands. It even has bag marks."
"What are those?" I asked.
"This object, whatever it is," said the man, "can clearly be graded according to established standards recognized in numismatics. It is not even a borderline case. You would not require an expert for its grading. Any qualified numismatist could grade it. If this were a modern, milled coin, it would be rated Extremely Fine. It shows no particular, obvious signs of wear but its surface is less perfect than would be required to qualify it as being Uncirculated or as being in Mint State. If this were an ancient coin, it would also qualify as being Extremely Fine, but here the grading standards are different. Again there are almost no signs of wear and the detail, accordingly, is precise and sharp. It shows good centering and the planchet, on the whole, is almost perfectly formed. Some minor imperfections, such as small nicks, are acceptable in this category for ancient coins."
"But what are bag marks?" I asked.
"You may not be able to detect them with the naked eye," he said. "Use this."
From a drawer in the desk he produced a boxlike, mounted magnifying glass. This he placed over the coin, and snapped on the desk lamp.
"Do you see the tiny nicks?" he asked.
"Yes," I said, after a moment.
"Those are bag marks," he said. "They are the result, usually, of the coin, or object, being kept with several others, loose, in, say, a bag or box."
"There might, then," I asked, looking up from the magnifying device, "be a large number of other objects like this somewhere?" That I found a very interesting thought.
"Surely," said the man. "On the other hand, such marks could obviously have other causes, as well."
"Then all the evidence suggests that this is a coin?" I said.
"The most crucial piece of evidence," he said, "however, suggests that it cannot be a coin."
"What is that?" I asked.
"That it fits into no known type or denomination of coin."
"I see," I said.
"As far as I know," he said, "no city, kingdom, nation or civilization on Earth ever produced such a coin."
"Then it is not a coin," I said.
"That seems clear," he said. "No," he said. "Do not pay me."
I replaced his fee in my purse.
"The object is fascinating," he said. "Simply to consider it, in its beauty and mystery, is more than payment enough."
"Thank you," I said.
"I am sorry that I could not be more helpful," he said. "Wait!" he called after me. I had turned to the door. "Do not forget this," he said, picking up the small, round, heavy object on the felt.
I turned back to face him. I was angry. I had thought that the object might have had some value.
"It is only some sort of hoax," I said, bitterly.
"Perhaps," he said, smiling, "but, if I were you, I would take it along with me."
"Why?" I asked.
"It has metal value, or bullion value," he said.
"Oh?" I asked.
"Yes," he said. "Do you not understand what it is composed of?"
"No," I said.
"It is gold," he said.
I had hurried back and snatched the object, and put it in my purse. I had then, hurriedly, left his office.
* * *
"Turn up the fan," said the man, he who seemed in charge of those in the photographer's studio. The fan was turned up. "Keep facing as you are," he said, "your left side to us, your chin lifted. That's good." My hair was lifted and blown back. I felt the breeze from the fan, too, pressing my blouse back against me, even more closely. It rippled the silk at the sides. It tugged at the collar. The ends of the blouse, where I had tied them together, high on my midriff, as the man had requested, fluttered backward. "Now arch your back and lift your hands to your hair," he said. "Good, excellent," he said. I was not a professional model. I had often thought that I was beautiful enough to be one, but I was not one.
I heard the camera clicking. "Excellent," said the man. "Now look at us, over your left shoulder."
I had had the yellowish, metallic object assayed. It had indeed been gold. I had sold it to a bullion dealer. It would be melted down. I had received eighteen hundred dollars for it.
"Now, face us, crouching slightly, your hands at your hair," said the man. "Good."
These men, perhaps, wanted to train me as a model. Yet I suspected this was not their true purpose. I was not particular as to what might be their true purpose, incidentally. They obviously possessed the means to pay me well.
"Now smile, Tiffany," said the man. "Good. Now crouch down in the sand, your hands on your knees. Good. Now put your left knee in the sand. Have your hands on your hips. Put your shoulders back. Good. Smile. Good."
"Good," said one of the other men, too. I could see they were pleased with me. This pleased me, too. I now felt more confident that they might hire me. For whatever object they wanted me I could sense that my beauty was not irrelevant to it. This pleased me, as I am vain of my beauty. Why should a girl not use her beauty to serve her ends, and to get ahead?
"Now face the camera directly, with your left hand on your thigh and your right hand on your knee," said the man, "and assume an expression of wounded feelings. Good."
Excerpted from Kajira of Gor by John Norman. Copyright © 1983 John Norman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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