Adventures of Red hair
Here’s a little fan-fiction based in John Norman’s world of sci-fi, beasts, heroes and sexism – Gor
Red hair shivered, her ripped leathers no protection against the night winds or the coldness in what was left of her soul. She looked down at the small mound of earth that represented all her belongings. “Quite a laugh, huh?” she called to the unseen Priest Kings. “All I had, but it’s mine! No one will take it from me! My decision. My choice. My hand!” she exclaimed.
And then there was a sound, her instincts of preservation not entirely suppressed. One person. Alone. A dozen lengths away. Ignoring her injuries, she silently vaulted to a tree to watch.
The intruder was not attempting to hide his or her movements. Red hair could not see them clearly, only that they were alone. She waited, glad that she had her sleen knife . Whoever this was, they had tracked the wrong red headed woman. She was prepared to take her own life, but she was damned if she would allow some sleazy male slaver to take her. Whoever this was, they were dead from the moment they entered her campsite. One more death at her hands would hardly unbalance her scales. She tensed, every muscle waiting for the attack.
“Tal? Tal, there?” The single figure moved to stand in the remaining glow of her dampened fire. The red head cocked her head in puzzlement. This was different. She waited to see how her adversary would play this, and held back.
The slim figure continued to speak to the air around her.
“If you’re interested, I’ve got some food?” The voice was lilting, female and very young.
‘There have got to be others with her waiting for me to move,’ Red hair thought.
“Brilliant Leena,” the fire-lit figure muttered to herself, “try to coax her out with food, like she was a deer. Maybe you should have just brought a salt lick.” She turned and addressed the woods.
“Look, I know you’re here somewhere, because, if you’re not, well, you see, everything depends on you being here and so you have to be. Here, I mean.”
Red hair shook her head. There was no one else in the area but this lone women. Red hair was unsure, but this had to be the strangest slave hunting technique she had ever seen.
“Well, I’m going to sit right here and wait. OK?” Long pause. “Would you like to hear a story? How about how the great Branca enslaved all the weak panther tribes ?”
Nuts, that what this was, it was a nut.
A shadow moved and suddenly Leena was held by very strong arms, and a blade of some kind was held against her throat. To Red hair’s astonishment she could swear there was a sigh of relief.
“How do you know Branca?” Came a whisper above the head of the smaller woman.
The smile was clear even in the moonlight.
“Oh, thank the Priest Kings, you are here. I really wasn’t sure.”
This really was a crazy with a capital C. She tried a whispered threat. “This is not the answer to a maiden’s prayer. This is my sleen blade, and it cuts soft, young throats, just like yours.”
Leena felt the warmth of the woman holding her.. She tried to ignore the cloud that descended on her mind for a second.
“Then you won’t get to hear the story.”
Red hair rolled her eyes. The girl was small, but strong, and her blonde hair had highlights that were caught by the dying flames. With a sigh, she released her, spinning her around to face her.
“Who let you out? Why are you alone here?”
Leena had rehearsed this part. “Meeting my Destiny.” she said solemnly.
Red hair barked a laugh. “Well, you’ve got the wrong place, we’ve fresh out of Destiny,” and now her voice dropped a register, ” and I’ve had all the destiny I want.”
Leena had thought she would be prepared for the desolation in the red head’s eyes, but the emptiness still surprised her.
“How do you know Branca?” she repeated.
“She let’s me hunt with her, sometimes.”
Leena’s eyes were now fixed on something interesting on the ground. The red head smirked, “Here I was worried about you traveling with male slavers…”
“Look! I’ve had about enough of that from Branca. I came here to challenge you and ask for your help, not to be mocked.”
The red head backed away, holding up her hands. “Challenge ME? I’m shaking” she laughed.
When she stepped back, the red head was lit by the moon’s glow, and Leena’s breath caught. “You’re badly hurt.”
“It’s not nothing. You’re bleeding and you’ve been stoned. Why did they do that?”
The red head closed her eyes. “Why do you want to know?”
“Because no one should be treated like that.”
Such innocence. “It was a judgment by the wealthy villagers. They had a right.”
“No one has a right to do something like that. Sit down, I brought supplies.”
“No. I tend to my own injuries. I have green knowledge” And not even that, this time. Why couldn’t she just tell this little girl to run away?
“Like the ones on your shoulder blades? That’s going to need stitches. Unless reaching all the way back there is one of your skills?”
Red hair felt her anger return, a warming of her blood. “You just don’t get it, do you, Crazy? I don’t care about them. And if I did, I’m not turning my back on a stranger.”
“I care. My name is Leena, I’m a healer and next in line as Chieftess…. Now… Sit…DOWN!” She was already rummaging around in her pack and pulling out what seemed to be the proper salves.
Red hair shook her head. Did she even take a breath during that speech? She sat down as ordered, wondering why she was giving in to this blonde.
“Now, I’m fairly new at this, but I’ll try not to hurt you too much.” Red hair rolled her eyes again. Death by malpractice, that was the Priest King’s final irony. The hands were nonetheless gentle, and conscientiously rinsed out the wounds. For a moment the red head relaxed before realizing that this had to be another test.
She caught a hand, and gripped it tightly. “What do you want from me?”
Leena swallowed. “I want to challenge you to a spear fight.”
The red head did not like surprises. And that was all this girl had given her. “WHAT?”
“A spear fight. If I win, oh wait…don’t move…, that’s a bad one, I’ll need more fresh water.”
“If you win?” It was a pity, red hair thought. She really was crazy. Too bad. She had begun to feel a strange affection for this lost nutter.
The nutter returned with water skins. “Where was I?”
“If you win…” she managed to imply that rocks would sing before that could happen.
“If I win, you agree to be my Champion.”
“And why would I do that?”
“Because your warrior’s pride would respect me then, and I’d promise not to let anyone know I beat you.”
That almost made sense. Red hair thought. It must be contagious.
“Got this all worked out, huh? Why do you need a champion?”
“Well, it’s a long story…”
“My Chieftess is dying, and I am next in line.”
“Mali is dying,?” She nodded grimly “…and you want me to help you become Chieftess? If I cared at all, why wouldn’t I just knock you off, and then declare myself Chieftess of the Di Jan Lina?”
“You’re going to be my Champion,” Leena stopped while she cut the thread with her teeth. “because as soon as the Chieftess dies, Branca will challenge me for the Chieftess feathers.”
“And you can’t beat this Branca., but you think you can beat me?”
“No, you dumb panther,” Red hair’s eyes bulged at this. “I can’t fight her for the feathers because…..” She began to use the salve in soft caressing motions. Red hair’s eyes fluttered for a moment.
“She would want a battle to the death.”
Red hair let out a hiss of disappointment. “And that frightens you.”
“No. I won’t kill. ” The girl said flatly.
From anyone else red hair might have laughed, but she heard the conviction, born of having had to make the decision more than once before.
“And you don’t think that will stand in your way in being Chieftess? A leader of the Di Jan ?”
“I don’t want to be the Chieftess. I plan on making Carrie the Chieftess, and I’ll continue my travels. I’m just supposed to stop Branca.” Another pause to cut a thread. “She plans to attack the Sa di Sani, and that would only be the beginning, I know. She would destroy the remaining panther tribes through war in a few years.”
“And your plan is? At least before you go off on some other great adventure?”
“I would negotiate a treaty with the Sa di Sani and the others.”
Red hair hung her head. “The Sa di Sani, and the others. Do you have any idea how much bad blood they have, how impossible…”
A piece of parchment was eagerly pulled out and placed under the red head’s nose. Tilting it towards the firelight, she read in growing astonishment an itemized set of demands and counter demands, land and trading rights based on extremely detailed figures.
“How did you..? Why would they…?”
“So you think you can get me to kill Branca, and preserve your blood innocence.” Red hair was disappointed again.
“No, my innocence isn’t important. But breaking the cycle of violence is. I won’t begin my reign through killing. But if I managed to beat Branca and then just banished her, she would only keep trying until she was successful. If you were my Champion…”
“She’d wouldn’t need more than one lesson. I see. So, all this depends on me agreeing to help you. And Sorry! I won’t.”
“You will if I can beat you in a fair fight.” She finished the last of her stitches. “You’re all set. Can we start now?”
Red hair stood, towering over the smaller blonde, rolling her head around, flexing her shoulder blades. She realized it had not even occurred to her that Leena might have tried to drug her to even the odds. “Why do you think you can beat me?”
“Because it’s the only way this plan will work, and there is always a way if you’re willing to try.”
“Always?” the red head mocked.
“Well, sorry, you’ve been talking to the wrong Sa di Sani Priestess. I know.”
Leena refused to respond and instead a spear was thrown at the red head. Automatically she grabbed it, weighing it in her hands. The girl moved to a defensive stance, her chin set in a determined manner.
Red hair shook her head. “I’m not going to fight you, little girl.”
“You have to, everything depends on it.”
“I don’t know who or what you think I am, but I am no one’s champion. ”
The girl move to strike, and was blocked. “Stop this!” The red head demanded.
“Will you be my Champion?”
There was another quick strike, changing to a feint, and red hair just barely caught it. Another quick blow struck her hip, and she began to take the offensive. There was a series of blocks, and red hair realized that the girl was quite good. She was making her short stature work for her somehow, and red hair became angry realizing that she had been caught up in the contest. They continued in silence for some time. Red hair knew the panther girl techniques and training, watched for the pattern, and waited for the opening. When it came she was merciless and went for the knees and the girl fell with a cry of pain.
Staring down at the fallen Leena she shouted in anger, “I am not a Champion. There is no destiny here. Some one or some Priest King is just using you, amusing themselves. And I will kill you before I let myself be played again.”
She lay on the ground; there were no tears, but the red head could see she was fighting them.
“I can’t… I will not yield.”
“Do you really know what I was doing before you showed up?”
The girl pulled herself to her feet, using her spear.
“Yes.” said quietly.
“What do you know…” the girl was shoved back, the spear brought up again “…about What….I…Am” The blows lashed out, with each word. Hard merciless strikes that forced the young Leena to her knees, despite her blocks.
There was a leap and a roll and the red head landed behind her, and as Leena spun around to defend herself, she was struck again on her arm and the crack of bone was heard. And a muffled scream.
The red head stood panting. “Now, Go Home! There are no Champions. Not here.”
Somehow, drawing on pure will, the girl again struggled to her feet, the tears no longer held back.
Holding the spear along the length of her good arm she again took her stance.
“You’ve lost! Give this up!” There was pleading in the red head’s tone.
“I can’t lose, as long as I can stand,” it was almost a recitation.
“Then I’ll break your legs, and I’ll leave you here to die.” Leena looked into the red head’s eyes and saw that it was a promise. She stood her ground.
Red hair was moving in to keep that promise. Somehow the girl still managed to defend, and red hair stopped again and demanded, “End this now.”
“No! This isn’t how it’s supposed to be! This has to work, everyone depends on it, on me!”
“This…is how it IS!”
Red hair found that she was almost near tears herself now. But she willed fire to return to her eyes, and moved to finally finish the girl off. “I am no one’s pawn. Never again. And No One’s Champion!”
On the third blow the girl overbalanced and fell on her broken arm, crying out. But she somehow rolled in time to avoid the next strike, hitting red hair hard on the instep.
By now, red hair’s stitches had torn, and there was blood on Leena’s mouth, but the girl stood again in her crouch and waited, her broken arm dangling uselessly.
“I will kill you…”
“Until then I will fight….”
There was hesitation, and for a moment their eyes, caught, and for that second there was a connection so strong, purer than either had ever experienced before, and reacting to it purely in fear, red hair shook her head and moved in screaming “Damn YOU!”
Leena never saw the third strike.
Red hair stood over the broken and unconscious girl. She had beaten the last temptation, she thought. But her soul began to cry…..