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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Norman John
 

«Hunters of Gor», John Norman

1 Rim

“It is not my wish”, said Samos, looking up from the board, “that you journey to the northern forests.” I regarded the board. Carefully, I set the Ubar’s Tarnsman at Ubar’s Scribe Six. “It is dangerous,” said Samos.

“It is your move,” said I, intent upon the game.

He threatened the Ubar’s Tarnsman with a spearman, thrust to his Ubar Four. “We do not care to risk you,” said Samos. There was a slight smile about his lips.

“We?” I asked.

“Priest-Kings and I “ said Samos.

“I no longer serve Priest-Kings,” said I.

“Ah, yes,” said Samos. Then he added, “Guard your tarnsman.”

We played in the hall of Samos, a lofty room, with high, narrow windows. It was late at night. A torch burned in a rack above and behind me, to my left. The shadows flickered about the board of one hundred red and yellow squares. The pieces, weighted, seem tall on the board, casting their shadows away from the flame, across the flat arena of the game.

We sat cross-legged on the floor, on the tiles, over the large board. There was a rustle of slave bells to my right, loved on the left ankle of a girl.

Samos wore the blue and yellow robes of the Slaver. Indeed, he was first slaver of Port Kar, and first Captain in its Council of Captains, which council, since the downfall of the four Ubars is sovereign in Port Kar. I, too, was a member of the Council of Captains, Bosk, of the House of Bosk, if Port Kar. I wore a white robe, woven of the wool of the Hurt, imported from distant Ar, trimmed with golden cloth, from Tor, the colors of the Merchant. But beneath my robe I wore a tunic of red, that color of the warriors.

To one side of the room, unclothed, his wrists manacled behind his body, his ankles confined in short chains, knelt a large man, a heavy band of iron hammered about his throat. He was flanked by two guards, standing slightly behind him, helmeted, Gorean steel at their sides. The man’s head had, some weeks ago, been shaven, a two-and-one-half-inch stripe, running from the forehead to the back of his neck. Now, for the strip that had been shaved, his hair was black, and shaggy. He was powerful. He had not yet been branded. But he was slave. The collar proclaimed him such.

The girl knelt at the side of the board. She was clad in a brief bit of diaphanous scarlet silk, slave silk. Her beauty was well betrayed. Her collar, a lock collar, was yellow, enameled. She was dark eyed, dark haired.

“May I serve, Masters?” she asked, “Paga,” said Samos, absently, looking at the board.

“Yes,” I said.

With a flash of slave bells, she withdrew. As she left, I noted that she passed by the kneeling male slave, flanked by his guards. She passed him as a slave girl, her head in the air, insolently, taunting him with her body.

I saw rage flash in his eyes. I heard his chains move. The guards took no not of him. He was well secured. The girl laughed, and continued on, to fetch paga for free men.

“Guard your tarnsman,” said Samos.

Instead I swept my Ubar to Ubar’s Tarnsman One.

I looked into Samos’ eyes.

He turned his attention again to the board.

He had a large, squarish head, short-cropped white hair. His face was dark from the sun, and wind-burned, and seaburned. There were small, golden rings in his ears. He was a pirate, a slaver, a master swordsman, a captain of Port Kar. He studied the board.

He did not take the Ubar’s Tarnsman with his spearman. He looked up at me, and defended his Home Stone by bringing his Scribe to Ubar One, whence it could control his Ubar’s Tarnsman Three, controlling as well the killing diagonal. “Talena, daughter of Marlenus of Ar, I learn, had been taken as slave to the northern forests,” I said.

“Where did you obtain this information?” he asked. Samos was always suspicious. “From a female slave, who was in my house,” I said, “a rather lovely wench, whose name was Elinor.” “That El-in-or,” he asked, “Who is nor the property of Rask of Treve?” “Yes,” I said. I smiled. “I got one hundred pieces of gold for her.” I said. Samos smiled. “Doubtless, for such a price,” he said, “Rask of Treve will see that she repays him a thousand times that price in pleasure.” I smiled. “I do not doubt it.” I returned my attention to the board. “Yet,” said I, “it is my suspicion that between them there is truly love.” Samos smiled. “Love,” he asked, “for a female slave?” “Paga, Masters?” asked the dark-haired girl, kneeling beside the table. Samos, not looking at her, held forth his goblet. The girl filled the goblet. I held forth my goblet, and she, too, filled mine.

“Withdraw,” said Samos.

She withdrew.

I shrugged.

“Love or not,” said Samos, studying the board, “he will keep her in a collar — for he is of Treve.” “Doubtless,” I admitted. And, indeed, I had little doubt that what Samos had said was true. Rask of Treve, though in love with her, and she with him, would keep her rightless, in the absolute bondage of a Gorean slave girl — for he was of Treve.

“It is said that those of Treve are worthy enemies,” said Samos.

I said nothing.

“Those of Ko-ro-ba,” he said, “have often found them so.”

“I am Bosk, of Port Kar,” I said.

“Of course,” said Samos.

I moved my Ubar’s Rider f the High Tharlarion to command the file on which the Home Stone of Samos lay richly protected.


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