Kara tore the last of the gold ornaments from her body. She shook with rage. No longer would she cower before the Littan. If she was to be ravaged then she would fight him every step of the way.
She was still very sore from her first session with the alien, but during the weeks it had taken her to heal a strange resolve came over her. Perhaps it was a strength born of desperation, but whatever it was she no longer intended to be the Littan’s cooperative plaything. As she threw the chain angrily across the room Falana entered.
“What have you done?” the Twarg queen asked, her voice filled with shock and dismay. The Littan will be greatly angered.”
“I’ve freed myself from his loathsome decoration,” Kara replied. “If I am going to be raped I fail to see why I should cooperate in my humiliation and torture.”
“You foolish girl. The Littan will punish you. And punish you most severely. I have no choice but to report what you have done.”
“Go ahead,” Kara said with forced bravado. In spite of her anger and resolution she was quite cognizant of the fact that she was entirely at the mercy of the alien monster. She had no doubt that her punishment would be painful, perhaps even fatal, however, she was so angered at what had been done to her that she preferred death to living as a slave to an alien monster. “And you can tell that stinking alien piece of filth that his seed didn’t take. I’m not carrying his child and if I was I’d abort it.”
Falana fled the room in shock. No doubt she had never heard such blasphemy. Kara expected that the Littan would soon be informed of her outrageous and defiant behaviour. She wondered what his reaction would be. No doubt he would not be pleased.
She was certainly right about the latter. An hour after Falana had left six eunuch guards came for her. She considered resisting, but decided that she might as well put off the inevitable beating for as long as possible. However, to her surprise she was not taken to the Littan. Instead she was hustled into a windowless side room where Falana and an older woman awaited her.
“Get onto the table,” Falana ordered pointing to a medium sized table in the centre of the room.
“Go to Hell,” Kara replied.
Falana looked at her somewhat confused. “Sorry,” Kara I forgot the Twarg have no concept of Hell.”
Falana shook her head. “Put her on the table,” she ordered the eunuchs.
Kara kicked the first eunuch where his testicles would have been. Not surprisingly, her attack had very little effect. Immediately the other eunuchs closed about her, and seizing her arms and legs picked her up and deposited her in the middle of the table. Once there they held her down while Falana and the older woman proceeded to give her what amounted to a thorough gynecological examination.
When they were finished Falana looked at her with a look of disgust. “You are not with child. The Littan will be most displeased.” Turning to the eunuchs she ordered, “Take her back to the harem.”
Kara stood defiantly before the Littan. She was as usual quite naked, but she was becoming almost used to that. She suspected that if she was ever allowed so much as a g-string she would feel heavily overdressed.
“What do you want from me this time? Are you planning on trying to impregnate me again? It didn’t work so well last time.”
“No,” the Littan replied. “It is apparent that our species are not sexually compatible. Normally I would send you to the barracks for my soldiers to enjoy, but your beauty is so unusual that I have found a better use for you.”
Kara waited with baited breath for the Littan to continue. She was almost past caring what he did to her, although the part about being sent to the barracks seemed a bit extreme.
“I have found a buyer for you. Today you will be taken to your new owner. I hope that he enjoys you as much as I did and has better luck filling your womb.”
“You’ve sold me?” Kara asked, her voice rising in anger. “What am I a piece of meat to be put on the shelf whenever you have used me? I demand to be released at once.”
“Release you? You’re not thinking very clearly. You are a complete stranger in this land. I don’t know how you got here, but it is obvious that you don’t belong. If I put you on the street you would be picked up almost immediately. The Twarg do not allow their women any freedom. A beauty like you would be sold into slavery within a day. Count yourself lucky that I’ve found a good owner for you.”
“Owner?” Kara raged. “Owner! No one owns me!”
The Littan laughed. “Take her away,” he said to the eunuch guards. “I don’t want her tiring herself out. She has a long journey in front of her.”
Protesting, Kara was escorted from the room. Frustrated and humiliated she wondered what was going to happen to her now. She was deeply ashamed of the fact that she could be passed on to someone else like a piece of used furniture. It was completely mortifying to be thought of as property and not as a person. Someone she had never laid eyes on now owned her and intended use her in whatever way he wished. It was the ultimate in degradation.
However, she had no choice in the matter. Still as naked as everyone else in the harem she was escorted to the courtyard of the palace. There to her surprise a kapert awaited. Strapped to the beast’s broad back was a canopied seat resembling a houdah. It was large enough to afford her complete privacy and shelter her from the blazing desert sun. With very little alternative she clambered aboard and pulled the curtains closed, enclosing herself in her own little private space. She was far from pleased at being treated like a piece of property, but at least her new owner cared enough to make sure that she was afforded some dignity while she traveled.
She had barely settled into her seat when the silken curtains were drawn back and a young woman entered. Kara had never seen her before and since she was not naked supposed that she was not part of the harem. As the girl entered the tiny compartment she bowed low. “I am here to serve you mistress. I am Valessa, your servant.”
“My servant?” asked Kara. “Well the first thing you can get me is some clothes.”
Valessa bowed again. Kara saw that she was very attractive, with long ebony hair that swept down past her waist, and dark mysterious eyes set in an oval face of great beauty. Kara guessed her age at somewhere between sixteen and eighteen. “As you wish mistress,” she replied. She immediately exited the houdah. Kara watched as clinging to a simple rope ladder attached to the side of the houdah, the girl swung nimbly down the kapert’s side and dropped to the ground.
She returned just a few minutes later with a small bundle. A very small bundle. Kara looked at what she had been given with dismay. “Don’t any of you ever get cold?”
“Mistress?” the girl asked, obviously not understanding the reference. Kara smiled. Valessa was wearing only a small halter top that barely covered her swelling breasts. Her midriff was bare to five inches blow her navel and her loins were afforded privacy only by a loincloth that hung down front and back to just above her knees. The outfit she had offered Kara was almost identical.
Shrugging, Kara put it on. It was obvious that she was not going to get anything better.
“Where are we going?” she asked Valessa.
“To meet your master,” answered the girl.
“My master. I don’t think I care for that term. You mean the man who has bought the right to rape me this time.”
“Rezar, Lord of Gorgos, would not do such a thing. You are the Chraga Suhm. He would not permit such sacrilege.”
Kara permitted herself a sardonic smile. “Such sacrilege, as you put it, has already taken place. You have seen the scars on my body. You know what was done to me.”
“The cruelty of the Littan exceeds all bounds,” Valessa replied. “But you will be safe with my master and you will be avenged.”
“Avenged,” Kara thought. “That sounded interesting. Who was this mysterious Lord of Gorgos she was being taken to see?”
She got no more information from Valessa, not that day or on the next ten days that it took to travel to Gorgos. The scenery improved, however. Despite their ponderous appearance, the kaperts made good time, probably covering twenty miles in a day. The last part of the journey was spent moving higher into the mountains that bordered the desert. Here the landscape change from one of parched desolation to one covered with trees and where tinkling brooks tumbled down the mountainsides and across the caravan route.
It was very different from the desert empire of the Twarg. The last day of the journey was spent traveling in a country dotted with well-ordered small hillside farms that were carved out of the slopes. The country looked green and prosperous and Kara began to hope that perhaps Valessa’s assessment of the Lord of Gorgos might be correct.
By this time she and the girl had become good friends and Kara used the time spent in the houda with Valessa to learn more of the local language and discover more about Gorgos. As she had already surmised Gorgos was a mountain kingdom, but one that received adequate rainfall. More importantly it controlled the caravan routes from the north which gave it considerable power and influence. For centuries the Twarg had been trying to capture it without much success, the last war concluding only a few months before Kara had been sent to the Littan’s harem.
As punishment for starting the war Gorgos had cut off Twarg access to the northern caravan routes until the fighting ended and had then demanded an annual tribute as payment. The caravan Kara was part of was now carrying that tribute. Kara began to have a strong suspicion that she had not been purchased after all, but simply included as part of the payment. So she had not been sold. Instead she had been used as payment for a debt.
“There,” Valessa said, pointing into the distance.
Kara squinted. The sun was setting over a mountain just in front of her. Already, Chera, Zhim’s largest moon was visible in the night sky. However, the caravan had not stopped for the night as was the norm. Instead, this close to the castle of Rezar, Lord of Gorgos, it had pushed on expecting to reach the capital of Gorgos shortly after sunset. And there it was, Simbalan, the capital of Gorgos; and perched on the mountain behind it was the castle.
“Impressive,” thought Kara. It was a formidable fortress of high walls and taller towers. Kara could see why Gorgos had been so difficult to conquer. Even if the enemy penetrated all the way to the capital capturing the castle would have been almost impossible.
An hour later the caravan entered the castle gates. Kara peered out between the gauzy curtains. Beside her Valessa gave a little gasp. “He does you a great honour!” she exclaimed.
Kara looked. He was a tall, broad-shouldered man in his late thirties or early forties. A hint of gray tinted his dark hair. Kara noted that in spite of what she considered his advanced age he was strikingly handsome. Dressed in a simple tunic and tight-fitting brown leather pants, he wore a gold medallion on a heavy gold chain and a sword was belted at his waist.
“He doesn’t look too bad,” Kara thought. “I only he wasn’t so old he might almost be acceptable.” She stopped herself. What was she thinking? She was nothing more than a slave and this was her new master.
“Remember to touch your head to the ground before him,” Valessa whispered and then she set an example by climbing to the ground and prostrating herself before Rezar.
“Damned if I’m doing that,” Kara muttered. She made no attempt to leave the houdah until several servants came forward and placed a ramp against the side of the kapert so that she could descend more gracefully. Only when one of the servants took her arm did she deign to leave the houdah.
To her surprise the middle-aged man who waited for her did not seem the least put off by her rude behaviour, although Kara was certain that Valessa must have been mortified by her bad manners. “Welcome, Chraga Suhm,” Rezar said, stepping forward. He took her hand and touched it briefly to his lips, bowing as he did so.
Kara suddenly felt very awkward. She was almost 80% naked and being greeted by one of the most courtly gentlemen she had ever met. In the courtyard dozens of eyes watched her every move. She hardly knew how to behave. Should she abase herself like Valessa, or continue to stand awkwardly erect and attempt to ignore those around her?
The uncomfortable situation was saved by Rezar. Taking a cloak from one of the guards, he draped it about Kara’s shoulders. “Come,” he said. “Let’s go inside. I will have your serving girl take you to your room and will have proper clothes sent to both of you.”
Not knowing what else to do, and helpless to refuse in any case, Kara allowed Rezar to escort her into the great hall of the castle. There he bowed to her once more and allowed Valessa to guide her toward the staircase. He watched her without a word until she was out of sight.
Kara watched Rezar’s lithe and powerful body as he dueled in the courtyard. The window of her apartment looked out over the practice yard and her new lord and master practiced almost every day so she had ample time to appreciate his skill. He was an interesting man; quite unlike her first and only lover, Theran.
Theran had been young, brave, and gallant, and as Kara’s first love she had been completely infatuated with him. But he seemed far away now. She knew that he was somewhere on Zhim, but she had no idea exactly where. He could have been thousands of kilometers away. Larson’s portal could have dropped her anywhere on the planet. Her chances of finding him were somewhere between slender and nonexistent.
Rezar was quite different. He was much older and more sophisticated. He could even read, a rare characteristic among most members of the planet she had come across. He treated her like a queen, providing her with clothes that properly covered her body and equipping Valessa with a similar wardrobe. He was also a perfect gentleman. Or at least he behaved in the way that Kara had been taught a gentleman behaved. He never ordered her to do anything; he always asked, even over such mundane matters as whether or not she wished to attend meals in the great hall. After her treatment by the Littan and Twarg society in general, she was surprised by such civilized behaviour.
The most surprising revelation, had occurred last night during the evening banquet. She had been seated next to Rezar as was his custom when he turned to her. “Would you accompany me on my morning ride Chraga Suhm? It would give me great pleasure.”
“What choice do I have?” Kara answered. “I am your slave. You may do with me as you wish.”
A look of surprise crossed Rezar’s face. “My slave? No you are my guest. No woman is a slave in my kingdom.”
“You purchased me from the Twarg and brought me here under heavy guard and yet you expect me to believe that I am free.?
Rezar looked into Kara’s eyes. “You may leave at any time. I will escort you anywhere in my kingdom and provide transport and money so that you may choose your destination.”
Kara found that she believed him. For an instant she was tempted, but then she realized that she had no place to go. She was almost certain that she could not find her way back to the place in the desert where Larson had dropped her. She needed more time to find out more about the strange world she had been dropped into. “I will go riding with you,” she said, “if you answer one question.”
“And what is that?”
“Have you ever heard of a place where men ride birds? A kingdom called Attalan?”