CAPTIVE OF GOR

- by John Norman

Chapter 6: I ENCOUNTER TARGO, WHO IS A SLAVER.

I awoke in the morning, near dawn. It was very cold, and gray and damp. I was terribly hungry. My body was stiff, and ached. I wept. I sucked dew from the long grass. I was alone. My clothes were wet. I was miserable. I was alone. I was alone. I was frightened. I was hungry. I wept.

As far as I knew I might be the only individual on this world. The ship had crashed here, but this may not have been its world. The other ship had come, to destroy the first, but this might not be its world either. And I had seen no survivors of the crash. And the other ship had departed. As far as I knew I might be the only living human being on this world.

I stood up.

Around me, soft, undulating, glistening with dew in the dim light, I could see nothing but grassy fields, seemingly endless fields, rolling and rolling, sweeping away from me on all sides toward horizons that might be empty.

I was lonely.

I walked on in the midst of the fields.

I heard the song of a bird, fresh in the morning. Near me, startling me, there was a tiny movement in the grass and a small, furry creature, with two large gnawing teeth, skittered past.

I continued on.

I would surely starve. There was nothing to eat. I cried.

Once, looking up, I saw a flight of large, white, broad-winged birds. They seemed lonely, too, high in the gray sky. I wondered if they, too, were hungry.

I trudged on.

I could not understand what had happened. There had been so much, that was so different. I remembered awakening on the August morning, showering. I remembered the men, my attempts to escape, my flight through the woods on Earth, the ship, the plastic tube in which I had been placed.

I remembered, awakening again, in the grass, and then discovering the wreck of the black ship. And I remembered the second ship, the silverish one, that it had destroyed the first, and I remembered fleeing.

Now I was alone.

Elinor Brinton was alone, wandering across the fields of what world she even knew not.

I continued on.

About two hours, I would guess, after dawn, I came to a rock outcropping. Here, among the rocks, I found a tiny pool of rain water. I drank.

Nearby, to my delight, I found some berries to eat. They were good, and this filled me with some confidence.

The sun had now begun to climb in the sky and the air turned warmer. It showered once or twice, but I did not much mind. The air was bright and clear, the grass green, the sky a full blue with bright, white clouds.

When the sun was overhead I found some more berries and, this time, I ate my fill. Not far away, in another outcropping of rock, I found another pool of trapped rain water. It was a large pool, and I drank as much as I wanted. And then I washed my face.

Then I continued on.

I was not as frightened now, nor as displeased. It seemed to me not impossible that I might be able to live on this world.

It was beautiful.

I ran for a little ways, my hair flying behind me, leaping, and jumped and turned in the air, and laughed again. There was no one to see. I had not done that since I had been a little girl.

Then I stepped warily, for I saw, to one side, a patch of the dark, tendriled vinelike plants. I stood to one side and, fascinated, watched them rustle, sensing my presence. Several of the fanged seedpods lifted, like heads, sensing me, moving back and forth gently.

But I was no longer much afraid of them. I now knew their danger.

I continued on.

I saw no animals.

Here and there I found more berries, and, from time to time, more outcroppings of rock in which, almost invariably, I found water, doubtless trapped from recent rains.

But I was very lonely.

About the middle of the afternoon I sat down in the grass, in a gentle, sloping valley between two of the grassy hills.

I wonder what chance I might have of being rescued.

I smiled. I knew that this world was not mine. The ship that had brought me here, I knew, even with my limited knowledge of such matters, was far beyond the present capabilities of any of the civilizations of Earth. And yet the men who had captured me were surely human, or seemed so, as did those who manned the ship. Even those who had come from the silverish ship, with the exception of the tall, delicate golden creature, had seemed to be human, or much like humans.

But the black ship had crashed. And the silverish ship had departed, perhaps for another world.

But I wanted to be rescued! I would be rescued! I must be rescued!

But I was not particularly frightened.

I could live on this world.

But I was lonely.

There is nothing to be frightened of, I told myself. There is food here, and water. I had found berries, and there were doubtless other things to eat, fruit and nuts.

I laughed, so pleased I was.

Then I cried, for I was so lonely. I was all alone.

Then, startled, I lifted my head. Drifting through the air, unmistakable, though coming from some distance, was the sound of a shout, a human voice.

I leaped wildly to my feet and ran, stumbling up the hill. I came to its crest and looked wildly and cried out, and waved, and began to run down the side of the hill, stumbling and shouting and waving my arms. There were tears of joy in my eyes. "Stop! I shouted. "Stop!"

They were humans! I would be rescued! They would have food and shelter, and water! I was saved! I would be saved! Safe!

"Stop!" I shouted. "Stop!"

There was a single wagon. About it were some seven or eight men. There were no animals at the wagon. At the front of it, standing on the grass, were some fifteen or twenty girls, unclothed. They seemed enmeshed in the harness. Two men stood near them. The wagon itself seemed damaged, partly stained with black. Its cover, of blue and yellow silk, was torn. Near the front of the wagon, too, was a short, fat man, clad in a robe of broadly striped blue and yellow silk. Startled, they turned to face me.

I ran down the hill, stumbling and laughing, toward them.

Two of the men ran forward to meet me. Another two, flanking these, began to run toward the top of the hill. They passed me.

"Iím Elinor Brinton," I told the men who had come to meet me. "I live in New York City. Iím lost."

One of the men, with two hands, seized my left wrist. The other man, with two hands, seized my right wrist. They swiftly left me, pulling me, not gently, down the hill between them, toward the group at the wagon.

The small, fat, short man, he, plump and paunchy in his robe of broadly striped blue and yellow silk, scarcely looked at me. He was more anxiously regarding the top of the hill, where his two men had gone. Crouching down, they were looking about, over the hill. Two others of his men had left the wagon and were looking about, some hundreds or so, on other sides. The girls near the front of the wagon, enmeshed in the harness, seemed apprehensive. The fat man wore earrings, sapphires, pendant on golden stalks. His hair, long and black, did not seem cared for. It was dirty, not well combed. It was tied behind his head with a band of blue and yellow silk. He wore purple sandals, the straps of which were set with pearls. The sandals were now covered with dust. Some of the pearls were missing. On his small, fat hands, there were several rings. His hands, and nails, were dirty. I sensed that he might be, in his personal habits, rather fastidious. But, now, surely he did not seem so. Rather he seemed haggard, apprehensive. One of the men, a grizzled fellow, with one eye, came back from searching the fields some hundred yards or so from the wagon. I gathered he had found nothing. He called the fat, pudgy little man "Targo."

Targo looked up to the top of the hill. One of the men there, standing a bit below its crest, waved to him, and shrugged, lifting his arms in the air. He had seen nothing.

Targo drew a deep breath. Visibly he relaxed.

He then regarded me.

I smiled my prettiest smile. "Thank you," I said, "for rescuing me. My name is Elinor Brinton. I live in New York City, which is a city on the planet Earth. I wish to return there, immediately. Iím rich, and I assure you that if you take me there, you will be well rewarded."

Targo regarded me, puzzled.

But he must understand English!

Another man cam back, I suppose to report that he had found nothing. Targo sent him back, perhaps to stand watch. One of the men he then recalled from the top of the hill. The other remained there, also I suppose, to watch.

I repeated, somewhat irritably, but with some patience, what I had said before. I spoke clearly, slowly, that I might be easier to understand.

I wished the two men would release my wrists.

I was going to speak further to him, to attempt to explain my predicament and my desires, but he said something abruptly, irritably.

I flushed with anger.

He did not wish to hear me speak.

I pulled at my wrists, but the two men would not release me.

The Targo began to speak to me. But I could understand nothing. He spoke sharply, as one might speak to a servant. This irritated me.

"I do not understand you," I told him, icily.

Targo then seemed to reconsider his impatience. My tone of voice had seemed to startle him. He looked at me, carefully. It seemed he suspected he had been wrong in some way about me. He now came closer to me. His voice was oily, ingratiating. It amused me that I had won this small victory. He seemed kinder now, honeyed.

He would treat Elinor Brinton properly!

But I still, of course, could not understand him.

There seemed something, however, that was familiar about his speech. I could not identify what it was.

He seemed to refuse to believe that I could not understand him.

He continued to speak, finally very slowly, word by word, very clearly. His efforts, of course, were not rewarded in the least, for I could understand not even a word of what he had said. This seemed, for some reason, to irritate him. I, too, began to grow irritated. It was as though he expected anyone to be able to understand his strange language, whether it was their native language or not. How simple and provincial he was.

It was not even English.

He continued to try to communicate with me, but to no avail.

At one point he turned to one of his men and seemed to ask him a question. The fellow replied with a single word, apparently of negation.

Suddenly I was startled. I had heard that word before. When the small man, in my penthouse, when I had lain bound on my bed, had touched me, the large man, abruptly, angrily, had said that word to him. The smaller man had then turned away.

It struck me then what was familiar about the language Targo spoke. I had heard only a word or two of it before. My captors had conversed, almost entirely, in English. And I supposed they had been, at least on the whole, native speakers of English. But I recalled the accent of the large man, who had commanded them. In English, that accent had marked his speech as foreign. Here, however, a world away, I heard the same accent, or one similar, save that here it was not an accent. Here it was the natural sound, the rhythm and inflection, of what was apparently an independent, doubtless sophisticated, native tongue. I was frightened. The language, though it struck my ear as strange, was not unpleasant. It was rather strong, but in its way it seemed supple and beautiful. I was frightened, but I was also encouraged. Targo noted the difference in my attitude, and he redoubled his efforts to communicate with me. But, of course, I still could not understand.

I was frightened, because it had been the language, or rather like the language, of my chief captor, and perhaps others of his group. On the other hand, I was encouraged because it seemed to me then that these individuals, if they spoke the same language, must possess the technological skills to return me to my native world.

Yet it was hard to believe.

The men I now noted, held as I was, did not carry pistols and rifles, or even small weapons, such as my captor had had, or the wands, or silver tubes, which had been carried by the men from the silverish ship. Rather, to my surprise, even amusement, they wore at their sides small swords. Two, over their backs, had slung something like a bow, except that it had a handle, much like a rifle. Four of the others actually carried spears. The spears were large, with curved bronze heads. They seemed heavy. I could not have thrown one.

The men, saving the one called Targo, wore tunics, with helmets. They looked rather frightening. The opening in the helmets reminded me vaguely of a "Y". the swords they carried in scabbards slung over their left shoulder. They wore heavy sandals, laced with thick straps, more than a foot up their leg. Several of them, besides the small swords, carried a knife as well, this attached to a leather belt. They wore pouches also at the belt.

I was relieved that these men, apparently so primitive, could not be of the same group as my former captors, with their sophisticated equipment. But I was also apprehensive for, by the same token, surely men such as these did not have the technological capabilities essential for flights between worlds. These men, surely, could not, themselves, return me to Earth.

I had fallen in with them, however, and would have to make the best of it.

I was rescued, and that was the important thing. There were doubtless men on this word who did possess the capabilities for space flight and I would make inquiries and contact them. With my riches, I could pay well for my transportation back to Earth. The important thing was that I was now safe, that I had been rescued.

I noted the wagon. It was also scarred in several places, as though it had been struck with sharp objects. In places the wood was splintered. I wondered where the draft animals, presumably oxen, were, who would draw the heavy wagon. I further noted that the boards of the wagon, besides being struck and splintered in certain places, were, in other places, darkened, as though by smoke. Further, looking more closely I could see that the paint on the wagon, which was red, had cracked and blistered considerably. It was reasonably clear that the wagon had been afire, or had come through a fire. As I mentioned, over the wagon, its cover, of blue and yellow silk, was torn. Further, as I could see now, it had been burned at the edges and was, in another area, stained with smoke and rain. It then occurred to me that Targo had seemed haggard, apprehensive, and that, although he seemed to be the sort of man who might be vain about his appearance, judging from the earrings, the sandals, the robe, the rings that he had not kept up his appearance. I did not event think him the sort who would be likely to walk, but his sandals, with the pearled straps, with certain of the pearls missing, were stained with dust. I recalled, too, how apprehensive the men had been, when I had approached them, how they had examined the hill, the fields about, as though they feared I might not be alone.

Targo was running.

They had been attacked.

There were some objects in the wagon, some chests and boxes.

I looked to the girls near the front of the wagon, enmeshed in the harness.

There were nineteen of them, ten on one side of the wagon tongue, and nine on the other.

They were naked.

I looked at them, irritably, and stunned. They were incredibly beautiful. I regarded myself as a fantastically beautiful woman, one among perhaps tens of thousands. I had even modeled. But here, to my amazement, and fury, I saw that at least eleven of these girls were unquestionably, clearly, more beautiful than I. On Earth I had never met a woman, personally, whom I had regarded as my superior in beauty. Here, uncomprehensively, but obviously, there were at least eleven. I was puzzled how there could be so many in this one small place. I was shaken. But, I told myself, I am more than their equal in intelligence, and in riches, and in taste, and sophistication. They were doubtless simple barbarians. I felt pity for them. I hated them! I hated them! They looked on me as I had looked on other women , on Earth, casually, unthreatened. They looked on me as I had looked on plainer women, unimportant women, not to be taken account of, not to be considered seriously as a rival, simply as my inferiors of beauty. I could not remember ever having not been the most beautiful woman in any room I had entered. How I had relished the admiration of the men, the intake of their breath, their pleasure, their furtive glances, the irritation of the other women! And these women looked upon me, daring to, as I had upon those others. They regarded me curiously, I could see, but more importantly, I had seen, to my fury, that when I received their instantaneous appraisal, that which one woman gives always to another when first they meet, as natural and unconscious as a glance, that they had, at least to their own satisfaction, found themselves superior to me! To Elinor Brinton! I had seen that if I was to count with them I would have to have qualities other than my beauty to comment me to them, as if I were a plain girl, who must cultivate other qualities, who must struggle to be pleasing, rather than a beauty, whom others must strive to please! The haughty bitches! I was superior to them all! I was more beautiful! I was more rich! I hated them! I hated them!

But the important thing was that I was rescued, that I could soon buy my way home to Earth.

Surely someone would be found, if not here, in the next city, who spoke English, who could put me in contact with those from whom I might purchase passage in my return to Earth.

The important thing was that I had been saved, that I was safe.

I had been rescued.

I began to find Targo odious.

Further, I did not care for my wrists being held by the two men, one on each side.

I tried to pull my wrists away, angrily. I could not, of course, free myself.

I hated men, and their strength.

Targo himself had now grown more and more irritable.

"Let me go!" I cried. "Let me go!"

But I could not free myself.

Once again Targo tried to speak to me, patiently, slowly. I could tell that he was growing furious.

He was a fool, such a tiresome fool. They were all fools. None of them seemed to understand English. One, at least, of the men on the black ship had spoken English. I had heard him converse with the large man. There must be many, then, on this world, many!

I was tired of Targo.

"I do not understand you," I told him, sounding out each word, with great contempt and coldness. Then I looked away, loftily. I had put him in his place.

He said something to a subordinate.

Instantly I was stripped before him.

I screamed. The girls at the wagon tongue laughed.

"Kajira!" cried one of the men, pointing at my thigh.

Every inch of me blushed red.

"Kajira!" laughed Targo. "Kajira!" laughed the others. I heard the girls at the wagon tongue laughing, and clapping their hands.

Tears were running out of Targoís eyes, tiny in the fat of his face.

Then, suddenly, he seemed angry.

He spoke again, sharply.

I was thrown forward on my face and stomach on the grass. The two men who had been holding my wrists continued to do so, but they held them apart and over my head, pressed down to the grass. Two other men came and held my ankles apart, they, too, pressed down to the grass.

"Lana!" cried Targo.

One of the other men went to the wagon tongue. I could not see what he did there. But I heard a girl laugh. In a moment she had left the wagon tongue and was standing somewhere behind me.

I had been a spoiled, pampered child. The governesses and nurses who had raised me had scolded me, and frequently, but they had never struck me. They would have been dismissed immediately. In all my life I could not remember ever having been struck.

Then I was whipped.

The girl struck, with her small fierce strength, again and again, over and over, viscously, fiercely, as hard as she could, again and again. I cried out, and screamed and sobbed, and struggled. The handful of slender leather straps was merciless. I bit at the grass. I could not breathe. I could not see for tears. Again and again! "Please stop!" I cried. But then I could cry out no longer. There was only the grass and the tears and the pain of the straps, striking again and again.

I suppose the beating lasted normally for only a few seconds, surely not for more than a minute.

Targo said something to the girl, Lana, and the stinging rain of leather stopped.

The two men at my ankles released them. The two men who held my wrists pulled me up to my knees. I must have been in shock. I could not focus my eyes. I heard the girls laughing at the wagon tongue. I threw up on the grass. The men pulled me away from where I had vomited and another, from behind, holding my hair, pushed my face down to the ground, to the clean grass, and, turning my head, wiped the vomit from my mouth and chin.

Then I was pulled again up and placed, on my knees, the men holding my wrists, before Targo.

I looked up at him.

I saw that he now held my clothing in one hand. I scarcely recognized it. He was looking down at me. In his other hand I saw, dangling, the handful of straps with which I had been beaten. The girl was now being returned by one of the men to her position at the wagon tongue. The entire back of my body, my legs, my arms, my shoulders, was afire. I could not take my eyes from the straps.

The two men released my wrists.

"Kajira," said Targo.

He lifted the straps.

I shook. I thrust my head to the grass at his feet.

I took his sandal in my hands and pressed my lips down on his foot, kissing it.

I heard laughter from the girls.

He must not have me beaten again!

I must please him/

I kissed his foot again, trembling, sobbing. He must be pleased with me, he must be pleased with me!

I sobbed, raising my head and looking after him.

I was seized from behind by the two men who had held my wrists. I watched Targoís retreating back. I did not dare call out to him. he was no longer interested in me. The two men dragged me to the wagon tongue.

There were ten girls on one side, nine on the other.

I saw the girl who had beaten me, Lana, some position ahead of me. I noted, suddenly, that she was harnessed. There were buckled straps on her wrists, fastening her in place. And about her body, in a broad loop, passing over her left shoulder and across her right hip, was a wide, heavy leather strap, which was bolted into the wagon tongue. The other girls were similarly fastened. Buckled straps were placed on her wrists, fastening her in place. And about her body, in a broad loop, passing over her left shoulder and across her right hip, was a wide, heavy leather strap, which was bolted into the wagon tongue. The other girls were similarly fastened. Buckled straps were placed on my wrists. Over my shoulder, about my body, was passed a heavy loop of leather.

I sobbed. I seemed scarcely able to stand. My legs trembled. The entire back of my body stung terribly. I tasted my tears.

The man began to adjust the strap on my body.

Near me, across from me, a short girl, with dark hair, very red lips, and bright dark eyes, smiled at me.

"Ute," repeated the short, dark-haired girl, pointing to herself. Then she again pointed at me. "La?" she asked.

I saw that the girls harnessed at the wagon tongue wore, on their left thighs, the same make that I wore on mine.

I jerked at the straps on my wrists. I was secured.

"Ute," repeated the short, dark-haired girl, pointing at herself. Then she again pointed at me. "La?" she inquired.

The man cinched the strap on my body. It was snug. Then he stepped away from me. I was harnessed.

"La?" persisted the dark-haired girl, pointing at me with her strapped hand. "La?"

"Elinor," I whispered.

"EL-in-or," she repeated, smiling. Then, facing the other girls, she pointed at me. "El-in-or," she said, pleased. She seemed delighted.

For some reason, I was utterly grateful, that this short, lovely girl should be pleased by my name.

Most of the other girls merely turned, and regarded me, not much interested. The girl, Lana, who had beaten me, did not even turn. Her head was in the air.

Another girl, a tall, blondish girl, some two positions ahead of me and on my left, smiled, "Inge," she said, indicating herself.

I smiled.

Targo was now crying out orders. He was looking about, apprehensively.

One of his men shouted.

The girls leaned forward into the traces, pulling at the wagon.

Two of his men thrust at the rear wheels.

The wagon began to move.

I leaned against the leather strap, pretending to pull. They did not need me to pull the wagon. They had pulled it before. I dug my feet into the grass, as though straining. I grunted a little, to add to the effect.

Ute, at my right, cast a glance, an unpleasant one. Her little body was straining at the strap.

I did not care.

I cried out with pain, and humiliation, as the switch struck my body.

Ute laughed.

I threw all my weight against the strap, sobbing, pushing with all my might.

The wagon was moving now.

In a minute or so I saw the girl Lana switched, as I had been, below the small of the back. She cried out with humiliation and pain, left with a stinging red stripe. The other girls, I among them, laughed. I gathered Lana was not popular. I was pleased that she, too, had been switched. She was a slacker! Why should the rest of us pull of her? Was she better than we?

"Har-ta!" cried Targo. "Har-ta!"

"Har-ta!" cried the men about us.

The girls began to push harder. We strained, to increase the speed of the wagon. From time to time the men would thrust, too, at the wheels.

We cried out with pain as two of the men, about the sides, one on each side, encouraged us with their switches.

We could pull no harder. And yet we were struck. I dared not protest.

The wagon lumbered over the grassy fields.

Targo walked beside us. I would have thought he would have ridden in the wagon, but he did not. He wanted it as light as it could be, even though it meant he, the leader, must walk.

How I dreaded it when he would cry "Har-ta!" for then we would be switched again.

I sobbed in the straps, under the switch.

But I was Elinor Brinton, of park Avenue, of Earth! She had been rich, beautiful, smartly attired, tasteful, sophisticated; she had been well educated and traveled; she had been decisive, confident; she had carried her wealth and her beauty with élan; and she had deserved her position in society; it had been rightfully hers, for she had been gifted, high-order, superbly intelligent individual, an altogether superior person! She deserved everything that she had had! Whatever she had had she should have had, for she was that kind of person! That was the kind of person she was!

I glanced at Ute.

She regarded me, unpleasantly. She had not forgotten that I had shirked. She looked away, disgusted.

I was angry. I did not care. Who was she? A fool! On such a world as this it was every girl for herself! Every girl for herself!

"Har-ta!" cried Targo.

"Har-ta!" cried the men about us.

We cried out again, stung by the switches. I threw my full weight against the leather, digging my feet into the grass.

I sobbed.

I would not be permitted to shirk.

I had always had my way before, with both women and men. I could get extensions for my term papers. I could get a new fur wrap, when I wished. When I tired of one auto I would have another. I could always petition for what I wished, or wheedle for it, or look sad, or pout. I would always get what I wished.

Here I did not have my way.

Here I would not be permitted to shirk. The switch would see to that. If there were those here who might wheedle, or have their way, it would be those more beautiful, more pleasing than I. I would be expected. I realized, to my fury, for the first time, to do my share.

The switch struck again and I wept.

Sobbing, crying out inwardly, I pushed against the broad leather strap with all my might.