From the classic role play vault
Editorial comment Morrighan Serendipity
“Pure RP from two of the best”
Terrible Ansar swivels in the snow, right hand dropping to the sheathed dagger at her thigh and withdrawing it with a hiss as she parts the branches with her bow clenched tightly in the other, staring through the russet leaves with cold, dark eyes “my little hill. was here first. get your own.”
Heather Rau takes the high part of the rise, her bow drawn tight and leveled at the woman’s heart. Her eyes dart over the figure, taking in her dress and appearance, then settling back on her hips. If the woman moves to flee or strike her, the first thing that will move will be her hips. Her lips tighten at the woman’s words. She has travelled long and hard to find some solace, some relief from her misery, and now this oddly outfitted creature decides to lay claim to the same small patch of earth. She has half a mind to let the arrow fly, think nothing more of it, and deal with the woman’s corpse during the spring thaw. But she takes a more active approach, perhaps out of her instict for leadership. “Incorrect. The tent…” she jerks her head to her right. “Is mine. So bugger off.” She pulls the bow tighter, her breathing steady and even.
Terrible Ansar’s eyes take the luxury of a quick glance in the tent’s direction – folly, perhaps, to take her gaze from the one with the weapon trained on her, but it is clear that she lacks some wilderness savvy … she is armed to the teeth, however … with bow, with dagger, and with an overwhelming sense of entitlement .. “mine” she replies matter of factly, in reference to the tent “just built it now” her grasp of the Gorean language weak at best, and her speech awkward and oddly structured “you lost, likely. go back, try again”
Heather Rau blinks, trying to follow the woman’s stilted speech. She sets her jaw. Now is not the time for people to be testing her, particularly those that are fully at her mercy. She shakes her head slowly. What idiot would lay claim to some shelter with such a transparent lie and not expect something bad to come of it? She growls, her voice loud and menacing and sharp. “You will leave this hill now. If you do not, chunks of your flesh shall bait my traps for the balance of the winter. Now be gone….or be dead.” Her arm is beginning to tire. If the woman does not back down in the next minute or so, she will have to kill her, or risk losing her advantage. She waits, staring over the unwavering Arrow.
Terrible Ansar stares at her, her coal-like eyes unblinking, heart hammering in her chest despite the stubborn set of her jaw, weighing a multitude of options in mere milliseconds …. her fingers cold and stiff upon her weapons, weapons that she has yet to master, and it seems her bluff has been called … the dagger slides back into its sheath, dislodging a few crusted bits of ice, and she lowers her bow, the tree branch falling back to its original position, the dead clinging leaves rustling their amusement at the situation … forcing a smile that blurs behind the clouding of her breath, she stands slowly, the random riot of thick fur garmentry falling around her as the biting wind pulls her braids across her face .. “eh maybe lost I instead am” she drops her bow to her side .. her body language a more subtle version of a dog submitting by rolling on its back and showing its belly .. she shrugs, looking hungrily towards the tent and, moreso, the fire “look same. any could mistake, sure. do not shoot”
Heather Rau watches and listens, her attention riveted on the woman. As she backs down, she takes in all the signals. She looks at the muscles in the woman’s hand as it moves from her dagger. She looks at the pulse of the woman’s neck above her cloak. She listens to the timbre of her voice and the set of her shoulders. She nods slowly, relaxing herself as the situation retreats from the precipice of decisive action. “Could be.” she says curtly, her voice even and uninflected. “Snow masks differences.” she says simply. She eases the bow down, letting tension off the gut but keeps it notched and drawn in front of her, pointing down. “Who are you. You are not of the group in the valley. And you are certainly not of the town. You speak oddly. You are strange.” She looks at her earnestly, her expression betraying curiosity behind her clinical questions.
Terrible Ansar squints, leaning towards her as she speaks, as if getting a better look at her could make her easier to understand – the rapidity of her words, some words utterly foreign to her … she manages to get the gist of what she says, however .. or so she hopes .. the lowering of the bow had been a good sign, perhaps she would live … “will not give name here. they said am ‘terrible’ kajira. ‘terrible’ will do for name.” she drags an arm across her numb and slightly red nose, glancing towards the fire again. first things first. she couldnt even think about socializing whilst being this cold.
Heather Rau notices the woman glancing repeatedly to her fire and she scowls. No doubt she wishes the luxuries of the camp, including warmth and food. She sighs inwardly, turning the situation over in her mind and finally relenting. Three quarters of the tabuk like buried in the snow, packed in salted ice. She has more than enough to last the week and to trade with the panther group for what she needs, or with the trade post inhabitants, if it comes to that. She can spare some meat, and it is better to befriend this woman that to make her an enemy over a resource she currently has in abundance. She grunts. “Go gather some wood, and when you return, you may sit by my fire and enjoy some food.” She stands, waiting for the woman to move off, her bow still drawn and notched.
Terrible Ansar’s eyes run the gauntlet of her surroundings, dancing from point to poignant point of that which highlighted the reality of her situation – the fire, the woman, the steep slope of near virgin snow that she already knew was halfway up to her knees … her skin drawn tight and nearly numb beneath her boots and several larger patches of her clothing, but she knew better than to ask for some softening of the panther’s stance … it would be a stupid thing to show weakness .. another luxury she could ill afford these days, probably never again … she pulls her cloak about her with her stiff, clumsy fingers, and turns wordlessly away, crouching slightly to lower her center of gravity as she sidesteps down the slope to where the denser woods lie …
Heather Rau watches her move off and turns towards the fire. She says as she is still in earshot, noting the stiff and shivering motion of her hands “A few good branches will suffice. I will make black wine.” Asking less of her, and offering a reward. She smiles to herself. She has always been good at fostering cooperation. Her smile vanishes. “I’d be better off by myself.” she says to herself stiffly as she pulls the hammered pot from her satchel, fills it with snow, and puts it on the coals. She pulls out the bag of beans, the one small luxury she affords herself in these parts, and even rationalizes as a necessity to survival. She fills a small cloth with them and crushes them to coarse dust with the flat side of her dagger against the stone, then dumps them in the heating water. Her eyes seldom leave the tall figure weaving through the woods, occasionally bending over stiffly to examine or gather a branch.
Heather Rau tends the fire, coaxing it to a point that will boil the water. She smiles to herself. She travelled many pasangs to find a place where she could build a fire and not worry about circling tarnsmen who might swoop down and hunt her. But she still does not let the fire burn at night, which would be folly. She looks up, noting the sun dipping below the treeline. “It will be dark in a hour” she mutter to herself. She stokes the fire a bit, anxious for the hot beverage in her belly. The fire has warmed the rock and she sits down on it, cross-legged, feet already beginning to thaw. She pokes at the fire absently and whispers “Some afternoon I will sneak into one of those cabins in the glade, and make myself at home. I will light a fire in the fireplace, lay out my provisions and furs, and even roll naked in the warm cozy heat, feasting.” Her eyes glimmer with hope before they settle back to tending the fire. “Where is that good for nothing woman.” she hisses, glancing at her depleted pile of wood.
Terrible Ansar arrives back at the tiny camp, eyes half shut and lips quivering and near blue with cold … stubbornly holding to her end of the ‘bargain’, she had not dropped half the armful on the way up as her body had protested she do … she drops it now, however, and pulls her hands to her lips, blowing again and looking at the panther, saying simply ‘I need warm.’ .. it was one hell of an understatement ..
Heather Rau jerks her head to the other side of the fire and grunts “Sit.” She does not thank her for the wood. She does not need to, as it is obvious that the woman is simply contributing to their mutual comfort and well being. Is is she, in fact who should be thanked, and she notes the lack of it coming from her newfound companion. Who is she, she wonders? She is no slave….she shows no mannerisms of a slave, and those never disappear, ever, to the practiced eye of one who has knelt at the feet of a man. No, this woman is entirely odd. She watches her sit and then again, more slowly this time so she is understood, asks “Tell me your story.”
Terrible Ansar wastes no time in availing herself of the fire’s small circle of warmth, moving towards it in a rush, hands extended palms outwards towards the flame, feeling it sink into the chilled flesh quickly, then a bit slower as it hits the bones which feel like shards of ice inside her … after a few moments, she pulls her cloak off, spreading it out to dry as close to the fire as she dares, following suit with various other bits of her clothing – both boots, her gloves, and finally peeling the old thick sweater from her torso, spreading it all out to dry as well, carefully not looking at the panther as she goes about her business, her bared chest brown and soft looking despite the patches of mud adorning her … “my story” she mumbles, fishing in a ratty old pouch for something ‘I was not here. but they bring me here, make to put hideous clothes and to be upon knees. I escape, run to very far, and I am here”
Heather Rau watches the woman quickly peel herself almost naked, her shivering diminishing as the clothes, obviously soaking and so of little value in keeping her worn, are stripped away in front of the roaring fire. She snorts to herself. The woman is a barbarian from the counter planet. No wonder she is so clueless. The tip of her tongue runs lightly over her bottom lip as she considers the situation. This person is a liability she thinks. She has yet to meet a barbarian of this “Earth” that was anything but bad luck and worse help. They all bring misery and sorrow in one manner or another. She sighs and pokes the coals one last time under the now boiling water, then goes to fetch two cups from her pack. “How long have you been here…since you were…”taken” from your home and made to kneel? From that time until now, how long has it been?” She wipes out the inside of the cups and sets them to warm by the fire.
Terrible Ansar scoots a bit closer to the fire, turning sideways so that her back might benefit as well from the heat, the ripple of ribs and spine beneath her skin a clear sign that she has not quite refined her hunting skills … “months” she says in English, not knowing the Gorean equivalent, then offers up haltingly “possible twenty or thirty weeks of days, maybe.” she is guessing, that much is clear … finally pulling her hand out of her pouch, holding something almost reverently in her dirty fingers – three strips of dried larma, glittering with the fruit’s sugar, crystallized … giving them an almost sorrowful look before extending her hand to offer them to the panther .. offering thanks in a more valuable currency than words … “for you” she tears her eyes away from them, already denying herself the tempting sight of what is no longer hers …
Heather Rau watches the woman taking in her sorrow, the flinch of her pain and sense of loss. These barbarians always show this until they have been on Gor for many years, and even then, on occasion, they appear to be sick from being away from their home. She swallows, a lump forming in her throat, the strain of suffering dovetailing, augmenting her own pervasive sense of loss. The corners of her lips curl in the faintest of harsh smiles as the woman holds out her hand, still shivering from the cold, but proud and generous. This one might be different she thinks to herself. We shall see. She reverently takes one of the fruit slivers from the outstretched palm and says respectfully “I only take what I need. Take more than that is a weakness and an indulgence. I thank you for your generosity.” She slips the fruit into her pouch for eating after the meal, and bends to pour out two cups of black wine using a small cloth from her belt to strain the grinds in one cup then the next. She hands over the first cup…
Terrible Ansar had nodded at her response, glad she had not taken all three and impressed by her restraint … the other slaves where she had been held would have mauled her for them without a second thought … tucking the remaining fruit safely back into its pouch and storing it away, she reaches for the offered cup and cups it carefully in her hands, pulling it close to her face and inhaling deeply of the steam … so long it had been, since she had smelled something so wonderful … she would waste none of it, not even the scent, if she could help it … still crouched low on her haunches, she sips, moaning almost ferally as the black gold slides down her throat and sets fire to her belly, warming her from the inside … “is good.” she says, looking back up at her “how did you get? so very rare”
Heather Rau settles down on to her folded legs and brings her own up to her lips, blowing on it. “This particular bag of it? I took it, as I do many things. They owe me, even if they don’t know it.” She jerks her head down the slope.” A merchant was attacked by Tarsnmen not so long ago. The caravan released the slaves and they themselves ran into the forest, abandoning the wagons. As the tarsnmen dismounted and pursued them on foot, I rifled through the group’s supplies, unseen. This was but one of the spoils of that small adventure.” She blows on the hot black liquid. “But I would trade for it, in certain circumstances.”
Terrible Ansar leans towards her as she listens, squinting again with the effort of listening to that which is not a comfortable language for her … a brief pause as her mind works to piece it all together as best she can, taking one sip and then another in attempt at hiding her struggle with the language .. “well, is good. you have did well, best than I.” she gives her a rueful smile as she reaches to check the dryness of her garments, adjusting them a bit to better get the benefit of the heat … a warm glow beginning to show on her face .. “that is danger” she comments “to go that close to the people … chance I do not make”
Heather Rau nods. “Aye….to be around the free you must act free…and you must do it from a position of strength. Men are like dogs. They see weakness and they attack, and so fulfill for themselves some quotient of their own masculinity. So you must be strong. And hard. And if they punch you, verbally, then you punch them right back and make it hurt. That is the only way. But it is exceedingly dangerous. I run most of the time. I do not take chances if I do not think the reward far, far outweighs the risk.” She looks to your clothes “We must put out the fire soon. Do what you can to make sure those are dry before it gets dark.”
Terrible Ansar: another pause as she works through the panther’s response, guessing at the words she didnt understand … she gives a quick nod, looking sadly at the fire as she gathers up the thick and heavy cloak, setting her blackwine reluctantly aside and rising to her feet, holding the voluminous garmnet directly in front of the flames to dry it more quickly . .the cloak was crucial .. .everything else was secondary … “men here .. ” she gazes at her across the top fringe of fur “much different … bastards” one word she had picked up from the other slaves on the chain she had been kept on ..
Heather Rau looks at her and blinks. By “here” she can only assume on Gor. The men are….well they are the men she has only known. The yin to her yang, strength against her strength. She cannot imagine them any other way, and she pauses for a moment to consider them as a class as “bastards” and she cannot. She wonders what men must be like on Earth. Different, no doubt. Pulling her own cloak around her, she considers what is next. The woman has obviously survived out in the cold for some time now, but is clearly no expert at it. She almost seems like she would expire if turned out into the forest. She purses her lips, looking at her, supposing that she could as easily sneak back into camp and put a knife in her back in the darkeness as well as accomplish the same from the otherside of the tent.
Terrible Ansar runs hands over the cloak, feeling for lingering damp spots and finding none, seemingly oblivious to the panthers perusal of her … she sighs contentedly, throwing the toasty fur around herself .. it would be fine to sleep under now that it isnt soaked through with the water of the creek she had fallen into, foolishly walking across its thin veneer of ice .. all her lessons learned the hard way … she bends over, checking her boots – also dry – and the sweater which was still slightly damp, working on getting that dry next .. she glances back at the panther as she picks up her blackwine, sipping again as she studies her carefully .. “why you are alone?”
Heather Rau watches her, eyes peering out from under her disheveled but glossy mane of dark hair. The steam from the last of her drink rises before her eyes, and it obscures the pain that clouds them in response to her question. She sits silently for a long minute, and then says, evenly, carefully “There was a time when I was not alone. There was a time when I shared a life with someone, and it was as good as it can be.” Her eyes seem to cast themselves down, disappearing in her mass of hair that hangs heavier in front of her face. “But that is gone now. I am alone because there are none that I wish to be with. It is no simpler, nor more complicated, than that.” She drains her cup and rises, and says curtly “The rock will stay warm for most of the night” as she kicks the fire apart and then shovels snow on it with her foot, the coals hissing and steaming in complaint.
Terrible Ansar opens her mouth to protest the dousing of the fire but bites back the words that would come … the forest not a place for spoiled people that would cater to their desires at the expense of their needs … she dresses herself in silence, stealing occasional glances at the woman across from her, made more curious by her answer and wondering how one so beautiful had managed to remain free … done with the task, and her cup empty, she walks to the edge of the rock, scooping a bit of snow into it and holding it close to the fire to melt, attempting more conversation in the dying light of the fire “you maybe loved him then” dipping her dirty fingers into the cup of melted snow to wash it .. “and then he leave you?”
Heather Rau’s face is stoic as she finishes dousing the fire. “I do not wish to discuss it.” she says with clipped finality. “The past is the past. Tomorrow cares not for it’s problems and sorrows.” She looks up at Terrible and seems to see her for the first time. Her eyes slither over her and she say dully, almost disinterestedly “Why do you keep your hair that way? It’s foolish to, in this weather.” She picks up her bow and moves to the tent opening.
Terrible Ansar bristles at the question, answering quickly and with a slight sharpness in her tone ‘it get wrapped when too very cold. I am not so stupid. funny you ask hair and not the mud” watching her move towards the tent, envious of her shelter and vowing silently to acquire enough furs to fashion one of her own … dropping into a squat on the warm stone and looking to the sky, relieved to see clear skies although it was a mixed blessing . .there would be no snow but the night would be colder .. she lays down upon it, curling into a tight ball and cocooning the thick cloak around her as she watches the panther settle into her tent, remarking “it is that way to think that make the past to haunt, panther … sleep good”
Heather Rau squints, not really understanding a word that the woman has said but figuring that she has her reasons. If she does not mind a cold head, and is too stupid to do anything about it, then it is not her problem. “Fashion” she mutters. She slips in the tent and lowers the flaps, and then a moment later a large fur comes tumbling out “Here, use this tonight. You will need it.” There is a pause. “And know that if you leave with it, and any of my other things, before I am awake, I will hunt you down and cut you down like a stupid bosk. Do you understand?” She seeks to ensure that the woman understands what she has said, as she does not put it past her to try and wander off with some of her possessions, despite the trackability provided by the snow. She snaps the tent flaps down tight and fastens them. “Good night.” she grunts.
©Heather Rau/Terrible Ansar