Here are relevant references from the Books where a switch is mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
I was pleased with how well, in the past months, Elizabeth had done with the language. Of course, Kamchak had rented three Turian girls, slaves, to train her; they had done so, binding her wrists and leading her about the wagons, teaching her the words for things, beating her with switches when she made mistakes; Elizabeth had learned quickly. She was an intelligent girl.
One day, after he had been three weeks slave in my house, the door to my audience chamber had suddenly burst open, and he had stumbled in, breathless, the kitchen master but two steps behind him, with a heavy switch.
"Forgive me!" cried the kitchen master.
"Captain!" demanded the boy.
The kitchen master, in fury, grabbed him by the hair and raised his arm to thrash him.
I called out to a passing slave girl. "Where is the slave Telima?" I demanded.
"She was here but a moment ago," said a slave girl.
"She went to the kitchens," said another.
I had not given her permission to leave.
"I will serve you paga," said Sandra.
"No," I said, holding the paga goblet away from her. I addressed myself to one of the slave girls. "Have Telima beaten," I said, "and sent to my side. I would be served."
I heard a movement at my side and saw that Telima now stood again where she had before. There were tears in her eyes. I did not doubt that she now had four or five welts on her back from the switch of the kitchen master. The thin rep-cloth tunic provides little protection from the kitchen master's switch. I held out the paga goblet, and she refilled it.
"Kitchen Master!" I called.
"Here, Captain!" cried Tellius, from behind the tables.
"Come here!" I called.
The man approached the table.
"Here," I told him, gesturing to the girl, "is a new girl for the kitchens."
He laughed, and walked about her, his switch in his hand. "She is a beauty," he said.
"See that she is worked well," I said.
"She will be," he promised me.
I felt her back, and the five welts left there by the switch of the kitchen master.
I leaned against the leather strap, pretending to push. 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 me 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.
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 for 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.
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.
"Kneel," snapped the girl who held my leash.
I did so, breathing heavily.
"As a Pleasure Slave!" snapped the girl.
Gagged, I shook my head, No!
"Cut switches and beat her," said Verna.
I shook my head, begging, eyes wild, no, no!
"You are awake," he said. "You can walk."
Sitting on the grass, in pain, displeased, I looked up at him.
"No, I cannot walk," I said. "I cannot even stand."
He tied up the shirt in the back, sticking it into the binding fiber. He then went and cut a switch.
When he returned I was on my feet.
"Good," he said. He pulled down the shirt and threw away the switch.
I walked before him.
Slave girls in the crowd rushed forward to surge about the carts, to poke at them with sticks, strike them with switches and spit upon them. Panther girls were hated.
How arrogant and beautiful she seemed!
How I hated her!
And so, too, must have the other slave girls in the crowd, with their switches and sticks.
"Hit her!" I screamed through the canvas.
"Be quiet!" cried Ute, in horror.
"Hit her!" screamed Lana.
The crowd of slave girls swarmed forward toward the cart with their sticks and switches, some of them even leaping upon it, spitting, and striking and poking through the bars of the high narrow cage.
The slave girls swarmed about the cage, poking, and striking with their switches, and spitting and cursing. Their abuse was endured by Verna. It seemed she chose to ignore them. This infuriated them and they redoubled their efforts. Verna now flinched with pain, and her body was cut and marked, but still she would not lower her head, nor did she deign to speak to, or recognize in any way, her foes.
Then there was a roar of anger from the crowd and, to my fury, men began to leap, too, to the cart, but to hurl the slave girls from the cage. And huntsmen, too, angrily, now leaped to the cart, striking about them with their whips. The slave girls screamed, and fled from the cart. Men seized them, and disarmed them of their sticks and switches, and then threw the girls to the stones at their feet, where they cowered, at the sandals of free men, and then the men ordered them from the street. The girls leapt up and, weeping, terrified, fled away, humiliated, chastened slaves.
I was angry. I wished that I might have had a stick or switch. How I would have beaten Verna! I was not afraid of her! I would have beaten her well, as she deserved!
How I hated Verna!
There must have been two hundred or more peasants, men, children and women, all shouting, and beating on their kettles or pans. The women and children carried sticks and switches, the men spears, flails, forks and clubs.
"She stole meat from us last night," said a man.
"Yes," said another, "and before that, the night before, from the village of Rorus."
"Give her to us, Warrior," said a man, "for a quarter of an Ahn, for a switching."
The warrior laughed.
"There are men of Rorus here, too," said the man. "They, too, would like to punish her. Give her to us for a quarter of an Ahn, that we may switch her."
Bound, I trembled.
"Let us switch her," cried the women and the children.
"Let us switch her!"
Upside down, fastened in the straps, I shook with fear.
"What is the cost of the meat?" inquired the warrior.
"Sell me in Ar," I begged.
"I think rather," said he, "I will give you to a village of peasants."
I remembered the peasants, with their switches and sticks. I trembled. I knew, too, that such men often used girls, with the bosk, to pull plows, under whips. At night, unclothed, when not being used, they were commonly chained in a straw kennel with a dirt floor.
A panther girl holding each arm, she was thrust into the camp. She was still braceleted, of course, but now her hands, in the bracelets, with binding fiber, had been tied close to her belly. Her brief white garment had been torn to her waist. The fillet was gone from her hair. Sheera was thrust forward, and forced to her knees, head down, by the fire. She had been much switched.
"In the forests," she said, "you made me carry trade goods on my back. You braceleted me, and sent me into the woods, when sleen and panthers were hunting. By the women of Verna I was much abused. I was much switched."
Verna was clad only in the bit of yellow slave silk she had worn when she escaped. It was half torn from her. Shreds of it were held by the binding fiber on her body. She was barefoot. There were many scratches on her legs and body. About her neck, and shoulders and arms, and back, she had been switched.
The dark-haired girl, the paga slave, in the skins of panther girls, leapt to her and seized her by the hair. She shook her hair violently, and then threw her back. Then she turned to Ilene. "Bring me a switch," she said, imperiously. Ilene, in her silk, commanded, fled and brought her a switch. I had cut it earlier in the day, but had not used it. If any of the prisoners had been insubordinate, or difficult in any way, the paga slaves had been instructed to use it on them. The switch was stout and supple. The dark-haired girl stood over the panther girl, the switch upraised. "Do you, naked slave, have any objection?" she asked the panther girl. The panther girl, shaking her head negatively, eyes frightened, shrank back in the coffle. The paga slaves, with the exception of Ilene, who perhaps feared the switch might be used on her, laughed.
I went to the three paga slaves clad in the skins of panther girls. Without speaking I tore the skins at their left thighs to the waist, revealing their brands.
"Do not forget you are slave girls," I told them.
"Yes, Master," they said.
I threw the switch to the red-haired girl. "Keep order in the camp," I said. I turned to Ilene, and pointed to the red-haired girl. "She is now first girl in the camp," I said. "Until my return you are to her as her slave."
"Yes, Master," said Ilene.
There were now twenty-one prisoners, each of them a beauty. I was weary. "See that they rest well," I said. "Do not permit them to struggle."
"I will," said the red-haired girl, with her switch. She strode among the panther girls. They lay very still, not daring to move a muscle, fearing her.
"Posture!" cried the red-haired girl, with her switch. She struck two of the girls with stinging stripes.
"We are panther girls!" cried the blond girl in the ankle ring. "We are not the porters of a man!"
It was she who was struck first with the switch by the red-haired girl, who leaped among them, striking and slashing with the supple lash.
The blond girl, weeping, seized up her burden and stood straight in the coffle. She carried the box on her head, in the fashion of the Gorean woman. She balanced it with her right hand. She stood straight. She was, though in tears, very graceful.
I heard the slap of the switch twice behind me, and cries of pain from panther girls.
Eight men of Tyros, with whips, struck the male slaves. Four panther girls, with switches, hurried the lovely, tethered, braceleted bondswomen.
"Hurry, Slave!" cried one of the girls of Hura, striking her twice again with a switch.
Verna hurried on, a slave girl under the switch.
I returned and picked up the girls I had taken, the day's catch. I unbound their ankles, tied them together by the neck, and, with a switch, hurried them to the camp. There the dark-haired girl and the blond girl, two of my paga slaves, stripped the new prisoners and I, with Harl rings, part of the freight carried by the panther girls, not speaking, fastened them in the slave chain.
"Do you know the penalty," I asked, "for a slave girl who lies to her master?"
She looked at me, no longer smiling. She was now apprehensive. "Whatever the master wishes," she said.
"For the first offense," I said, "the penalty is not usually severe, commonly only a whipping."
She looked down.
"Will it be necessary in the morning to have you trussed and switched?" I asked.
The red-haired girl, first girl in the camp, she who held the switch, was now up, stretching like a she-panther, yawning like a she-larl. She, though a former paga slave, pulled the skins of panther girls about her body. I had torn the skins at her left thigh, that she might not forget she wore a brand. She was a strong, lithe girl. Ilene, I knew, feared her. And well she might, for she was first girl, and held the switch.
"Do you ask that it be she who is sold in Port Kar?" I asked.
"Yes, Master," said Ilene. She kissed me, happily.
"Go to her," I said.
"Yes, Master," said Ilene.
"Speak to her," I said.
"I will," said Ilene. "I will!" She kissed me. "I will tell her that she is to be sold in Port Kar."
"No," I said.
She looked at me.
"You will go to her," I said. "You will then inform her that you asked me to sell her in Port Kar. You will then ask her to give you ten switches. You will then ask for your duties for the day."
Ilene looked at me, protest in her eyes. Then, fear and tears came into her eyes and she sprang up.
She ran to the girl.
"I asked for you to be sold in Port Kar," she said.
"Aren't you a pretty little slave with the master," said the red-haired girl.
"And what did he say?" she asked.
"I am to ask for ten switches, and then for my duties for the day," said Ilene.
"I see," said the red-haired girl.
Ilene stood before her.
"Remove your garment, pretty little slave," said the red-haired girl.
Ilene did so.
"Go to that tree," said the red-haired girl, indicating a slender-trunked tree at the edge of the camp clearing. Ilene went to it. "Hold to that branch, pretty little slave," said the red-haired girl, indicating a branch over Ilene's head. Tears in her eyes Ilene grasped it.
There was the swift hiss of the switch and then the slap of its strike.
Ilene screamed with pain and fell, releasing the branch. She clutched the base of the tree's trunk. She looked over her shoulder at the red-haired girl. "Please," she wept.
"Hold the branch, pretty little slave," said the red-haired girl, not much pleased with her.
Ilene regarded her with horror.
I strode to the tree and, with two short lengths of binding fiber, tied Ilene's wrists to the branch.
She was weeping with pain.
"Let me beat her," said the blond girl, one of the panther girls, in her ankle ring.
The red-haired girl went swiftly to the girl who had spoken and struck her twice. The blond girl, tears in her eyes, shrank back in the coffle, shoulder stinging, and hid herself among the other girls.
The red-haired girl then strode to Ilene.
The Earth girl must now endure nine strokes. The red-aired girl was excellent with the switch. She knew well how to beat a slave.
Ilene would not soon forget her beating.
It took more than two Ehn to deliver the next five strokes. Ilene did not know when, or where on her body, they would fall. She would stand there, her wrists bound, over her head, apart, on the branch, waiting. Then suddenly there would be the hiss and, somewhere on her body, the swift, lashing fall of the switch.
The red-haired girl had handled the psychological dimension of the beating beautifully.
Even when she was not being struck Ilene would sometimes cry out, "No! Don't hit me!" Sometimes, waiting, unstruck, she would cry out as though she had been struck. She jerked, trying to free her wrists. She twisted helplessly, but could not free herself. Then, shaking her head, weeping, she began to writhe and beg incoherently for mercy. She, of course, as a slave girl, would receive none.
"Be silent, Slave," said the red-haired girl.
"Yes, Mistress," wept Ilene.
"You are only being switched," said the red-haired girl.
"Yes, Mistress," wept Ilene.
"Suppose," said the red-haired girl to the slave, "it was not a switch, but the five-strap Gorean slave whip?"
Ilene closed her eyes.
"Suppose," said the red-haired girl, "it was not I who disciplined you, but, with such a whip, a male."
"Yes, Mistress," wept Ilene, her head down.
"Rejoice," said the red-haired girl, "that you are only switched, and only by a woman."
"Yes, Mistress," whispered Ilene, her face stained with tears. The red-haired girl had thrown Ilene's long dark hair forward, that it not provide any shielding from the switch.
There were now six stripes on her body, from her ankles to the back of her neck. They were slender and red. Each was well placed. Spreading from each stripe there was a redness of pain. She clenched her fists in her bonds. Now her entire back burned scarlet.
The panther girls, in their chains, laughed. They enjoyed seeing the pretty Earth-girl slave beaten.
I nodded to the red-haired girl. Swiftly, across the back, in rapid succession, she delivered Ilene's last four stinging stripes.
I then unfastened her wrists from the branch.
She was bent over with pain. I picked up the bit of yellow silk and threw it to her. She caught it, and held it before her body.
"It is you," I told her, "who will be sold in Port Kar"
The red-haired girl, to my satisfaction, but not asking me, took some of the silk we carried and cut it into strips, wrapping it in and around the ankle rings of her charges, and about the girls' ankles, that their ankles be protected in the march. She was a good first girl. "Thank you, Mistress," said one of the girls to her. "Be silent, Slave," responded the red-haired girl. "Yes, Mistress," responded the other. She was a good first girl. She, with her switch, maintained a harsh and perfect discipline among her charges, but she was not more cruel to them that it was customary to be with Gorean slaves. They were animals in her charge. She was, accordingly, solicitous for their welfare. From my point of view, of course, a girl with a scarred ankle is likely to bring a lower price than a perfect specimen. I thus approved of her action.
Vinca, the red-haired girl, did her job well. From time to time, when not satisfied with an answer, or, sometimes, for no apparent reason at all, she would, unexpectedly, strike the blindfolded, bound, cowering Mira with the switch. Mira never knew when she would be struck. She wept. She would sometimes flinch from blows that had not even fallen.
"Please do not hit me again," wept Mira.
"Very well," said Vinca.
Mira lifted her head and, gasping, straightened her body.
Then suddenly the switch would fall again, with lashing ferocity.
From our coffle we had separated eight girls and chained them in pairs, left ankle to right ankle, running the Harl-ring chain of one to the second welded ring on the Harl ring of the other. They were thus double chained and separated by about a yard. Each pair was under the command of one of my slaves. Even Ilene, in her slave silk, had a switch, and was given her pair of girls to command.
She struck them with her switch. "Hurry, Slaves!" she told them.
The chained work slaves, under their switches, began to gather up the unconscious panther girls and carry them and place them on the grass in a line, their feet at, and vertical to, what would have been an extension of the coffle line.
I heard a switch fall twice. Ilene had beaten her girls. They were dragging another fair prisoner. "Hurry!" scolded Ilene. They did not fear her. They feared Vinca. Accordingly they obeyed Ilene perfectly. She exulted in her absolute control of two other girls. She struck them again. "Hurry!" she cried.
I looked back. One of the panther girls was on her feet, wild, hysterically trying to force the slave bracelet from her left wrist. The chain was moved, the bodies of other girls, still unconscious, like inanimate, beautiful weights, their left wrists imprisoned by the bracelet and chain, jerked to and fro.
Instantly Vinca was on the girl with her switch, striking.
"Kneel as a pleasure slave, head down, and be silent!" she cried.
"Yes, Mistress," wept the girl. "Yes, Mistress!"
Now, behind them, led by bound, stripped Sheera, her body marked with scarlet stripes from the switch, came the coffle of enslaved women.
I heard Ilene's switch strike Rissia twice across the back. Rissia stripped, her ankles, wrists and throat locked in the graceful chain and rings of the sirik, stumbled forward. She knelt before my chair, on the sand. Twice more fell Ilene's switch, and I saw bloody stripes leap on the girl's exposed back. Her knees were in the sand, her head was down.
Picking up the switch from the sand, with which Ilene had often beaten her, she struck her.
Ilene cried out. "Please do not beat me!" she wept. "Please do not beat me, Mistress!"
"I do not choose," said Rissia, "to comply with the request of a slave."
She beat Ilene until Ilene wept and screamed, and then could weep and scream no more.
Then she threw aside the switch and disappeared into the forest, Ilene, tears in her eyes, her head turned to the side, lay on her stomach in the sand, confined in the sirik. The entire back of her body was hot and bright with the scarlet marks of the switch.
Incidentally, for what it is worth, though the southern girl is, I expect, worked less hard then the northern girl, who is commonly kept isolated on the farm, she is more often than her northern sister put to the switch or whip; I think she lives under a harsher discipline; southern masters are harder with their girls, expecting more from them and seeing that they get it; northern girls, for example, are seldom trained in the detailed, intricate sensuous arts of the female slave; the southern girl, to her misery, must often learn these to perfection; moreover, upon command, she must perform, joyfully and skillfully.
A girl must be careful, of course; should she in anyway irritate, or not please, her master she may be switched or whipped.
Dagmar had, two months ago, stolen a piece of cheese from Pretty Ankles; she had been beaten for that, at the post; fastened there by Ottar and switched by Pretty Ankles, until Pretty Ankles had tired of switching her, too; she had not been found sufficiently pleasing by several of the Forkbeard's oarsmen; she was, accordingly, to be sold off, as an inferior girl.
The Forkbeard gestured to the several captive slave girls, loot from Thorgard's tent, kneeling, wrists bound behind their backs, in their brief, mired silk, in throat coffle, those girls Olga, light-heartedly, had secured for him. "Take them to the pen," he said to Olga. Olga slapped her switch in the palm of her hand. "On your feet, Slaves," she said. The girls struggled to their feet. "To the pen, hurry!" she snapped. "You will be given to men!" The girls began to run. As each one passed Olga, she, below the small of the back, was expedited with a sharp stroke of the switch. Then Olga, much pleased, laughing, trotting beside them, herded the running, weeping, stumbling coffle toward the pen.
"She will have to learn Gorean, and quickly," said Samos, referring to the blondish girl.
"Let slaves, with switches, teach her," I said.
"I will," said Samos. There was no swifter way for an Earth girl to learn Gorean, providing that candies and pastries, and little favors, like a blanket in the pens, were mixed in. Learning was closely associated, even immediately, with reward and punishment. Sometimes, months later, even when not under the switch, a girl would, upon a mistake in grammar or vocabulary, wince, as though expecting a fresh sting of the switch. Goreans do not coddle their slave girls. This is one of the first lessons a girl learns.
As we passed the cages, male slaves glared at us sullenly; slave girls usually shrank back. One girl thrust her hands through the bars. "I am ready to be sold to a man!" she wept. "Sell me! Sell me!" A guard struck his leather switch against the bars before her face, and she fled back within the enclosure.
"She is not yet hot enough for the block," I said.
"No," said Samos.
"Are you often whipped?" I asked.
She turned and pulled up her blouse, showing me her back. "No," she said. There were few marks on her back, though I saw the traces of a beating or two. There was no scarring. The soft, pliant, broad-bladed five-strap lash had been used. It is the common instrument, if not the switch, used on girls. It is a valuable tool. It punishes with a terrible efficiency, and does not leave the girl permanently marked.
Hassan slipped the golden tarn disk into his wallet. "Alyena!" he called.
The girl came running to him, and knelt before him. "Yes, Master," she said.
"Give us more tea," said Hassan.
"Yes, Master," she said.
"Are you not afraid the free girl will kill her?" I asked Hassan. I referred to the switching in progress of the recently imbonded wench at the slave stake.
She who had been Zina was now shrieking for mercy. She was not receiving it.
"No," said Hassan.
"Slave! Slave! Slave!" screamed the free girl, lashing down at the imbonded traitress.
But, after a time, he signaled to one of his men, and he, standing behind the free girl, who was on her knees, caught the switch on the backswing and, to her fury, took it from her. "It is enough," he said to the free wench. She sat angrily in the gravel, her head down, her neck chained to the stake.
A switch was put in the hands of Eta. She stood over me. I put down my head. She did not strike me. I looked up at her. I realized then that she was first girl in the camp, and that I must obey her, that she had been empowered to set me tasks and duties. Suddenly I feared her.
The Lady Sabina extended her hand to one of the two slave girls who were with her. In her gloved hand was placed the switch the girl had carried for her.
She then approached the bound slave, who trembled. "Have I not always set you an example of nobility, dignity and self-respect?" asked the Lady Sabina.
"Yes, Mistress," said the girl.
"Naughty, naughty, salacious slave!" cried the Lady Sabina, striking her.
The girl cried out with the misery of her switching. I was startled at the fury with which the Lady Sabina struck the bound, collared girl. Richly did she lay the disciplinary device to the back and body of the imbonded wench, well punishing her for her lascivious indiscretion. Then, wearied, furious, the Lady Sabina cast aside the switch, turned, and went back to her tent. She was followed by the two girls who had accompanied her, one of whom retrieved the switch. The whipped beauty knelt against the wagon wheel, bound there, shuddering. I saw the gold of her collar beneath her dark hair.
"Yes, Mistress," said Slave Beads. She was frightened of Lehna. One of the first things that had been done with her after her branding was to be put in a Sirik and given over to Lehna for a disciplinary switching.
"Earlier this evening," said my master, "you much and richly switched her."
"Yes, Master," said the Lady Sabina.
"Give Lehna a switch," said my master to one of his men. Lehna beamed. She was given a switch.
"Lehna," said my master, "should the Lady Sabina dally or in any way attempt to delay the coffle, it will be your charge to hasten her."
"Yes, Master," said Lehna. I did not envy the Lady Sabina.
"I am sorry I switched you, Lehna," said the Lady Sabina. Lehna struck her savagely across the back with the switch, and the Lady Sabina, whose thin undergarment shielded her from the blow scarcely at all, cried out with misery. She could not believe the sting of the stripe. It was, I conjectured, the first time in her life she had ever been struck. "Lehna!" she cried.
"Address the girls as Mistress," ordered my master, standing over the kneeling free girl.
"Yes, Master," she said.
Lehna again, savagely, struck the kneeling girl. "Please, do not strike me, Mistress!" wept the Lady Sabina.
"What is my crime?" she asked.
"Not to desire the touch of a man," said he.
She looked at him, aghast.
"You see," said he, "in this camp it is a crime for a girl not to desire a man's touch." My master turned to one of his men. "Bring Lehna a switch," he said. He turned again to Slave Beads. "You will be well punished for your crime, Slave Girl," said he.
"I am ready, Master," said Lehna.
"Do not forget this beating," said my master. "You are to desire men. Further, it will be well for you to learn what it is to be a beaten slave girl. What you did to Lehna she will now do to you. Perhaps you will then have a richer understanding of what it was, truly, that you did to her. Perhaps you will regret that you were not a kinder mistress."
"She will regret it, Master," promised Lehna, licking her lips.
"I will now leave you to the tender mercies of Lehna," said my master. "Let us hope that, in the future, your masters and mistresses will be kinder to you than was the Lady Sabina of Fortress of Saphronicus to her slaves."
"Do not leave me with her, Master!" cried Slave Beads. "She will kill me! She will kill me!"
"It is not impossible," said my master. He turned to leave, then turned again to face the kneeling, terrified Slave Beads. "It is my hope, too," said he, "that this beating will prove a useful initiation for you, given your antecedents and nature, into the condition of slavery." He looked at her, sternly. "Yes, Master," she said, looking up at him. "After your beating," he said, "you will be asked again if you desire the touch of men. I trust, then, your answer will be affirmative. If it is not, you will be again beaten, and again, throughout the night."
"My answer will be affirmative, Master," whispered Slave Beads.
My master then turned away from her, and so, too, did we all, leaving her with Lehna.
Later my master took Slave Beads by the hair. "Do you now desire the touch of men?" he asked. "Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, Master," she wept.
"I am first girl," said Sandal Thong.
"I am so happy for you," said Radish.
"Fetch a switch," said Sandal Thong.
"Sandal Thong?" asked Radish, stunned.
"Fetch a switch," said Sandal Thong.
"Yes, Mistress," said Radish, hurrying away.
In a few moments Radish returned, carrying a switch, which she placed in the hands of Sandal Thong.
"Kneel," said Sandal Thong to the three girls.
"In a straight line, four horts apart, facing the master," she said. She dressed their line. "Straight," she said. She kicked back Radish's knees. "Backs straight, hands on thighs, bellies sucked in. heads high," she sad. She tapped Verr Tail on the belly with her switch. Verr Tail sucked her belly in, tight. She tapped Turnip twice under the chin. Turnip lifted her chin. In their eyes I could read their distress. But they knelt beautifully under Sandal Thong's discipline.
"Here are your slaves, Master," she said to Thurnus.
"Excellent," said Thurnus. He looked upon the three girls. They dared not move a muscle. I had little doubt but that Sandal Thong would richly switch any of them who disobeyed in the least, or gave the least hint of disobedience. Thurnus grinned. He began to suspect the wonders that he would now have from these girls.
"That is good," I said. "Why is Thistle yoked?"
"It pleased me, Master," said Thimble, first girl. There was little love lost between the girls.
"Was she insubordinate?" I asked.
"She said a sharp word to me," said Thimble.
"Did you switch her, too?" I asked.
"Of course, Master," said Thimble.
"Excellent," I said. Discipline must be kept in the tent.
Arlene struck down at her and, suddenly, they again were locked together, tearing and scratching at one another on the trodden turf.
"Do not hurt me!" suddenly cried Arlene, she now on the bottom, Audrey kneeling over her.
"I am a slave. I will be pleasing to any free man I want," said Audrey.
"Slave!" screamed Arlene up at her.
"Slave!" screamed Audrey at Arlene.
Arlene squirmed free and again, together, they fought. I thought them extremely well matched slave beauties. Arlene might have been a little stronger. Either of them could have been severely bested by blond Thimble.
At last I, with a switch, fell upon them. "Oh," they cried. I took them, one hand in the hair of each, and threw them to their knees under the pole. "Strip and stand," I told them, "hands over head, wrists crossed, beneath the pole." They did so, and I fastened them in position, side by side.
"Now you are going to have us whipped," said Audrey to Arlene.
"Be quiet, Slave Girl," snapped Arlene.
Audrey began to cry.
I handed the switch to Thimble, who once had been Barbara Benson. "Discipline them," I said to her. "Twenty strokes to each."
"Yes, Master," had said Thimble.
"How is she to be treated?"
"You are first girl," I said. "You hold switch rights over her. See that she is worked well."
"Full discipline?" asked Lola.
"Of course," I said.
"Excellent, Master," said Lola.
"I am first girl," said Ginger, walking back and forth before the line of girls, kneeling before her, a switch in her small hand, "and Evelyn is second girl." She indicated Evelyn. She spoke in English, a language held in common by the new barbarian slaves. Five spoke English natively; three were American, including the red-haired girl, and two were British; two of the other girls were Swedish, and the last girl, with the short, dark hair, was French. "You will address myself, and Evelyn, as Mistress," she said. "You will learn your lessons well, both those of the language and of service."
The girls looked at one another.
"This is a switch," said Ginger, lifting the supple switch. She then struck one of the girls, one of the Swedish girls, with a stinging, slashing blow at the side of the neck.
"This is a switch," repeated Ginger.
"Yes, Mistress," said the red-haired girl, swiftly. I was pleased to see that she was quite intelligent. "Yes, Mistress," said the other girls. "Yes, Mistress!" said the Swedish girl, tears in her eyes.
"Hurry, hurry, lazy slave!" I heard. I heard then the hiss of a switch and a girl, carrying two skins of water, cry out in pain. She was a white female slave. She was naked, collared, red-haired and large-bosomed. She belonged to Mahpiyasapa. One of Mahpiyasapa's wives, with a switch in her gnarled, mutilated hand, the woman with whom I had once spoken outside of his lodge before the attack on the summer camp, was supervising her in her duties.
"Of course not," I said. As she was a free woman, she could lie with impunity. I myself, if caught in a lie, could be switched mercilessly.
"Yes," I said. "Would the people of your city object to the switching or whipping of an errant slave?"
"No," she said. "If the slave is not fully pleasing, she is to be punished. Everyone knows that."
"Of course," said he, "you will have other duties, as well, cooking, cleaning, mending, sewing, laundering, and such."
"Yes, Master," she said. She was grateful to have been shown the rudiments of such matters in her training. She had been switched more than once for her lack of skill in such matters.
And it can be miserable to be a slave, of course, thought Ellen. There is little doubt about that. One is so helpless, one is so vulnerable. She remembered incidents in the house of Mirus, many in her training, her sometimes almost hysterical despair of ever being able to please her instructors, their impatience with her, her deferent and lengthy serving of formally clad diners, she naked and in a collar, her abuse at the hands of Mirus, her writhing under his whip, the ease with which she was drugged and sold, the heat of Targo's shelf, the fear of masters and the great tarns, the dust of the coffle, the cruel encirclements of tight, coarse ropes, the weight of chains, the sting of the switch, the stroke of the lash, so many things.
"Apparently," I said to Pertinax, "your slave wishes one or more additional, corrective strokes of the switch."
"No!" said the Lady Constantina.
The least infraction, she knows, may be punished with the switch or lash.
"Were you more of a slave," I said, "you would understand." The obedience of a slave is to be unquestioning and instantaneous. It does not take an intelligent woman long to learn this, usually no more than a first hesitation, following which they are apprised of their lapse by the switch or lash.
"Go downstairs," said the beast to the Lady Bina. "Fetch a slave whip."
"They have no slave," she said.
"They will have such a device," he said.
I did not doubt it.
Such things are common in a Gorean household. Delia companion of Epicrates, a free woman, I was sure, would not be without one. Who knew when a slave, perhaps near the shop at a fountain, on the street might be displeasing? Free women, abroad, often have a switch about their person.
I was within fifty paces of one of the lower entryways, a back entryway, to Six Bridges when, to my dismay, I saw my two nemeses, one emerging from a doorway to the left, the other from a doorway to my right. I had little doubt they had been waiting there, watching, for me to come close enough to surprise.
Carrying the laundry, a rectangular bulk of it, steadying it on my head with two hands, I could not well have turned about and fled.
They were too close.
Both were smiling.
Both were carrying a peeled, supple branch.
I did not know how long I could hold the laundry, if those branches were laid against the back of my thighs, or across my arms and shoulders. They would avoid my face, I was sure, lest I be permanently marked or damaged.
I was, after all, goods perhaps goods of some value.
The first of the two laundering slaves whipped her branch viciously through the air, twice. I heard its swift rush through the air. The other slapped her branch in her palm.
"Why are you not on the bridge?" laughed the first.
"You looked well, paralyzed, unable to move, cowering on your belly," said the second.
"She is a barbarian," said the first.
"I will enjoy this," said the second.
"I mean you no harm," I said. "Please! Please let me pass. I must do as I am told."
"So, too, must we," laughed the first.
"You were warned," said the second.
They then, improvised switches at the ready, stepped forward. They lifted their arms, eager, grinning, but then, to my amazement, they stopped, and turned white.
"First obeisance position," said a voice behind me, sharply, a male voice, "switches in your teeth."
What is wrong with, say, the theft of a candy, if one may manage it with perfect impunity?
One would not wish to be caught, of course. That might mean the switch or lash, close chains, an unpleasant roping, short rations, a slave box, such things.
"I trust the alcove is well furnished," I said, "with various instruments, a switch, a whip such things."
"Of course," he said.
Sensing someone near her she stood more straightly, more beautifully. She may have supposed it a guard, and did not wish to invite the instructive stroke of a switch.
"Ai!" I cried, in misery, lashed at the side of the neck by a switch. He had come up behind me, from having brought a small barrel to shore.
"Are you not to be in position, your eyes forward?" he inquired.
"Yes, Master!" I said. "Forgive me, Master!"
"What are you doing?" I asked Haruki.
"Cutting a switch," he said, "in case the beasts need encouraging, or hastening."
"Your Gorean is coming along nicely," he said.
"In the training house, the switch often abetted my learning," I said.
"You must strive to become adept in the language of your masters," he said.
"Yes, Master," I said.
I then felt, against the back of my thighs, several times, sharp, and stinging, the lash of a switch.
"This slave," said Kurik, "is a barbarian, brought to our markets from the slave world. And yet, you will note, her Gorean is quite passable."
"It had better be," laughed one of the fellows with a bow.
"The switch and whip have seen to it," said the second fellow with a bow.
Well was I familiar with the switch. But I had never been whipped, had never had the Gorean slave lash applied to my body, for my improvement or instruction.
"Shirkers," she said, "idlers, malingerers!"
"Forgive us, Mistress," begged Paula.
The free woman then, enraged, lifted her switch.
"Keep your hands on your thighs!" she said.
"Yes, Mistress!" said Paula.
Then, as we put down our heads to protect our face and eyes, she began to lash at us with that supple leather wand. We were struck, at the back of the neck, and across the shoulders and arms. "Now, up, go, slothful slaves!" she cried. We sprang up, eager to escape her blows but the pursuing switch, hastening in our wake, struck each of us at least twice across the back of the thighs as we fled.