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Swordsmen of Gor
The Gorean Saga: Book 29
By John Norman
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2010 John Norman
All rights reserved.
What Occurred at the Edge of the Forest
"I had not dreamed it so," she said. "How could it be so beautiful?"
She stood on the beach, Thassa, calm, the sea, before her, the forest behind her.
We watched the ship of Peisistratus ascending, almost vertically, and then vanishing, far off, a sparkle, in the bright, blue sky.
"You had seen only Earth," I said, recalling that distant, desecrated, half-ruined world from my past, "and the Steel World, once ruled by Agamemnon." The name 'Agamemnon' was not the actual name of he who was once a Steel-World master, but it was chosen, it seems, for obscure associations. In any event, the actual name, being in Kur, could not be well rendered into phonemes accessible to the human throat.
In any event, we need not concern ourselves with Agamemnon as he had been dethroned, removed from the Steel World in question, and brought to Gor by exiled, devoted liegemen. Too, without a body, he was little to be feared.
The Steel Worlds are not visible to the naked eye, nor even to relatively sophisticated telescopic instrumentation. Too, they lurk, like wolves, muchly concealed, amongst the scattered stones, some small, many mighty, of what, on Earth, is commonly referred to as the asteroid belt, on Gor, by those familiar with the Second Knowledge, as the reefs of space.
Ramar, the sleen, lame, rubbed against my thigh.
"You can live in this place," I told him. "I do not even know where we are."
To be sure, I knew we were somewhere in the vicinity of the northern forests, north of the Tamber gulf, east of Thassa, well south of Torvaldsland. This mode of orientation is not Gorean, the common compass of which, with its eight cardinal points, is oriented to the Sardar, the dark, walled, mountainous abode of Priest-Kings, but founded on the Gorean poles. I am utilizing this manner of speaking, as it seems to me not only convenient but suitable. Should this record, then, which is written in English, and will thus be unintelligible to most Goreans, this often a boon to the writer, assuring as it does a modicum of privacy, indeed, it commonly amongst Goreans counting as a suspect, secret writing, come into the hands of any who might be familiar with English, these directions will be reasonably well understood. I write in English because it is easiest for me. Although I speak Gorean fluently, I can read it and write it only with difficulty. This is not unusual with those of my caste, many of whom, by choice, are contemptuously, pridefully illiterate, holding themselves superior to what they despise as trivial, vulgar learning. The business of their caste, then, in their view, is not with the pen but with steel, not with ink, but blood. Let scribes, they say, be adept with letters, and such, for that is their business, little scratches and marks on scrolls, and such. But this is not for them, not for the Scarlet Caste. But, too, should not each caste concern itself with its own business, the metal worker with metals, the peasant with the soil, the mariner with the sea, and so on? I do not commend this view, but report it. Too, in all honesty, it is not that unusual to find refined, literate members of my caste. Some members of my caste are educated gentlemen, educated, distinguished, dangerous gentlemen. Gorean, incidentally, is written "as the bosk plows," which requires an alternating laterality, the first line read from left to right, the second from right to left, and so on. I might also mention that certain measures, of, say, length and weight, and such, will be approximated in English, in terms of pounds, yards, inches, and such, rather than in terms of stones, paces, horts, and such. The Gorean pace is very close to the English yard, but the stone is well over a pound and the hort is somewhat longer than an inch. I think this way of doing things will be helpful to an English reader. An exception, though perhaps not the only one, is the "pasang," a convenient, often-encountered linear measure, easily graspable, I think. It is, as nearly as I can determine, having paced it out long ago, between pasang stones in the vicinity of Ko-ro-ba, some seven tenths of an English mile.
"The air," she said, "exhilarates me!"
"The air has not been fouled," I said. "Goreans love their world."
"It is all so beautiful," she breathed, wonderingly.
"Earth," I said, "was doubtless once much like this."
"The gravity," she said, "is much like that of the Steel World."
"It should be identical," I said. "The rotation of the Steel Worlds, which produces their surrogate gravity, is arranged to simulate that of Gor."
"There is a purpose in that?" she said, uneasily.
"Certainly," I said. "The Kurii want Gor. Would you not want Gor, as well?"
"Given the fall of Agamemnon," she said, "Gor has nothing to fear."
"That is false," I said. "Agamemnon wished to act unilaterally, and have Gor for himself. Many others, and even many in his own world, found that ambition unacceptable, or, at least, unrealistic. The denizens of the Steel Worlds, on the whole, wish to obtain Gor cooperatively, and, after that, they can dispute it amongst themselves."
"Of course," I said. "They are Kur."
"I suppose humans might, as well," she said.
"That explains much of the history of Earth," I said, "competition for territory, resources, and such."
"And women?" she said.
"Certainly," I said, "women are highly desirable resources."
"As loot, as properties, and slaves," she said.
"Of course," I said. "They are always valuable, as counters of wealth, and such."
"And, one supposes, as helpless, vulnerable vessels of pleasure," she said.
"Yes," I said, "as helpless, vulnerable vessels of pleasure, vessels of inordinate pleasure."
"As animals, whom you use as you wish?" she said.
"Of course," I said.
"Men are beasts," she said.
"They are what they are," I said. "And on Gor they do not pretend to be what they are not."
Her hand went, inadvertently, not really thinking much about it, to her throat. She could not remove the light, flat, slender metal band which encircled it, attractively, closely.
"Gor is lovely," I said.
"Yes," she said, looking out, over the sea.
"Sometimes the Priest-Kings," I said, "as a most cruel punishment, condemn an individual to Earth."
"Those of Earth are unaware of the nature of their world," she said.
"They do not much mind it," I said, "for they have known nothing else, nothing better. But the poor man, or woman, who is sent to Earth from Gor, they well understand the harshness of their sentence."
"I suppose they, their lesson learned, must hope in time for mercy, a pardon, a reprieve?" she said.
"Some are sentenced for life," I said.
"I am much pleased to be here," she said.
"Even as you are?" I asked.
"Certainly," she said.
She was well legged, sweetly hipped, narrow waisted, and well breasted. I did not think she would need be disappointed at the price that would be likely to take her off the block.
She was the sort of woman who was eminently purchasable.
The block was designed with such as she in mind.
"Even as what you are?"
"Oh, yes," she said. "Yes! Yes! Extremely so! And particularly and appropriately so!"
"It is right for you?"
"Yes, and perfectly so!" she said.
"Yes, absolutely, perfectly so!"
"On Earth you did not anticipate it," I said.
"Certainly not," she said, "though I now realize how pathetically, and needfully, half consciously, sometimes fully consciously, I longed for it."
"I see," I said.
"I did not realize then what it was, what it would be, to be overwhelmed, owned, and mastered."
"You are content?" I said.
"Yes," she said, "joyfully so."
"But it does not matter," I said, "one way or the other."
"No," she said, "I know that. It does not matter, one way or the other."
I looked out to sea.
No sails were seen.
The horizon was clear.
"You, and others," she said, "fought against Agamemnon, furthering the ends of other Kurii, those opposed to him. Are not you, then, and your colleagues, friends, allies, with them?"
"For a moment, we were," I said. "It was a brief intersection of interests, a moment when we traveled a single road."
"And that road has forked?" she said.
"I think so," I said. "Kurii are intent, and steadfast."
"But we have been brought here, and put here, alive."
"Doubtless in virtue of an arrangement with Priest-Kings," I said.
"Who are Priest-Kings?" she asked. "What are Priest-Kings?"
"Do not concern yourself with the matter," I said.
"Curiosity," she said, "is not for one such as I?"
"No," I said. "Such as you are for other things."
"'Other things'?" she said.
"Certainly," I said.
"I can no longer see the ship of Peisistratus," she said, looking after the path of the ship, shading her eyes.
"I gather it is to make landfall within territories under the hegemony of Ar, and there disembark the Lady Bina and her cohort, and guard, Lord Grendel."
"To what purpose?"
"I know not," I said.
"She expects to become a Ubara," she said.
"She is clever, and beautiful," I said, "but the thought is madness."
"But she was put there, with her guard, Lord Grendel. Do you think this is a guerdon for obscure services she rendered, or a gift to Lord Grendel?"
"It seems unlikely," I said.
"If you have been placed here, in this verdant wilderness, at the will of Priest-Kings, whoever or whatever they may be, might not the Lady Bina and Lord Grendel have their purposes, as well?"
"I do not know."
"Why have you been put here?"
"I do not know," I said.
"I see nothing about," she said.
"Nor I," I said.
"You have your bow, some arrows, a sword, a knife," she said.
"Rejoice," I said, looking about.
"It does not seem we were put here to perish," she said.
"No," I said, looking back to the forest, "but we may perish."
"There are animals?" she said.
"Doubtless," I said.
"Men?" she asked.
"One does not know," I said.
"We have some provisions," she said, "bread, a bota of ka-la-na."
"I will hunt," I said. "We will seek water."
"When Peisistratus disembarks Bina—" she said.
"Lady Bina," I said, sharply, narrowly.
"Yes," she said, quickly, "Lady Bina."
I wondered if she were testing me. That would have been unwise on her part. No love was lost between her and the beauteous Lady Bina, but that was no excuse for an impropriety in this matter, however inadvertent or slight. There were forms to be observed. Too, a chasm, a world, separated her from the Lady Bina. The gulf between a tarsk and a Ubara was less than the gap between one such as she and one such as the Lady Bina. To be sure, I had often thought that the Lady Bina would herself look quite well in a collar.
How did she expect to become a Ubara?
She did not even have a Home Stone.
And there was a Ubara in Ar, if only a Cosian puppet on the throne, Talena, a traitress to her Home Stone, Talena, once the daughter of the great Ubar, Marlenus of Ar, whose whereabouts, as far as I knew, were unknown.
"When Peisistratus disembarks the Lady Bina and Lord Grendel," she said, "whence then he?"
"He will undoubtedly continue his work," I said. I did not elaborate on the nature of his work, but she was substantially familiar with it. Peisistratus, and his crews, were in their way mariners and merchants. He doubtless had one or more bases, or ports, on Earth, and one or more on Gor, and I knew he had one on the Steel World from which we had been brought, that now under the governance of Arcesilaus, now theocrat of that world, and now, claimedly, Twelfth Face of the Nameless One.
"He is a slaver," she said.
"He doubtless deals in various commodities, in various forms of merchandise," I said.
"He is a slaver," she said.
"Yes," I said, "certainly at least that."
"Predominantly that," she said.
"Perhaps," I said. "I do not know."
"I saw the capsules on the ship," she said.
"He is a slaver, certainly," I said.
"Perhaps he thinks he is rescuing women from the ravages of Earth," she said.
"That seems unlikely," I said.
"At a price, of course," she said.
"Oh?" I said.
"A rag, if that, and a mark, a collar," she said.
"I doubt that his motivations are so benevolent, so thoughtful," I said, "even mixedly so. And, on the other hand, his motivations are certainly not villainous, or malevolent. Do not think so. You know him too well for that. I think of him primarily as a business man, obtaining, transporting, and selling, usually wholesale, wares of interest."
"Women," she said.
"Perhaps an occasional silk slave, to delight a free woman," I said.
"Mostly women," she said.
"Almost always," I said.
"They sell better," she said.
"Of course," I said. "They are the most fitting, appropriate, and natural form of such merchandise."
"'Merchandise'?" she said.
"Yes," I said.
"They view us as animals, as cattle," she said.
"There is nothing personal in it, or usually not," I said. "To be sure, one might take a particular female who has displeased one, in one fashion or another, and have her brought to Gor, to keep her, or see her sold off to the highest bidder, that sort of thing."
"As cattle!" she said.
"No," I said, "as less, as females."
"It seems I have an identity, and a value," she said.
"Certainly," I said.
"But I was not brought to the Prison Moon by him, or by one such as he," she said.
"No," I said. "But do not be distressed, for he assured you that you would have been well worthy of selection and transportation, that you were exactly the sort of goods which would have been well enclosed, so to speak, in one of the capsules."
I had found myself, months ago, imprisoned in a container on the Prison Moon, sharing the container with two individuals, a young Englishwoman, Miss Virginia Cecily Jean Pym, and a lovely Kur Pet, who had later come to be the Lady Bina. These were both free women and I, who had seemingly displeased Priest-Kings had been, apparently, enclosed with them as an insidious punishment, that, sooner or later, as I weakened, becoming more bitter, frustrated, outraged, and needful, my honor would be compromised, or lost. And, after that, I do not know what fate they might have planned for me, perhaps a hideous death, perhaps a wandering life of exile, beggary, and shame. One does not know. Both were, at the time, though without Home Stones, yet free women, you see, and thus, given the nobility of their status, not to be lightly put to one's pleasure, certainly not without suitable provocation. It is difficult to convey the dignity, importance, and social standing of the Gorean free woman to one with no first-hand awareness of the matter. They have a position and elevation in society which far transcends that of, say, the free woman of Earth who is usually not so much free as merely not yet enslaved. The analogy is imperfect but suppose a society of rigid status, of severe hierarchy, and the rank and dignity that might be attached to the daughter of, say, a royal or noble house. One in such a society would not be likely to think of bedding such an individual, at least as a serious project. To be sure, a Goth, a Turk, a Saracen, a Dane might have fewer inhibitions in such a matter.
Kurii had raided the Prison Moon, freed me, and brought me to what was then the Steel World of Agamemnon.
But this event and various ensuing events, as I understand it, have been elsewhere chronicled.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Ramar," I said, "must be freed."
"Is that wise?" she asked.
"I do not know," I said. "But it was for this reason that I had him brought to Gor."
Excerpted from Swordsmen of Gor by John Norman. Copyright © 2010 John Norman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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