As the Panther Girl numbers swelled, their fear of his sword would reduce.
The rain on Gor can be savage and unpredictable. Rain can strike a flat roof like a hail of bullets, or it can hammer down in sheets of water, varying from driving rain to sudden showers to perhaps just a chilly haze sparkling in the air before you. The water droplets grew larger, falling with greater intensity as the light ‘pitter patter’ of rain evolved into wet thuds against the canopy roof. And then just as suddenly it died down to a vague mist in the air once more.
Flavius heard the first hunting cries of the Panther Girls who had grown bolder still.
Panther Girls have various signal calls – a certain whooping and hollering that carries over half a pasang if the acoustics are right. They do this to alert other girls in the forest that they are on the hunt, and that they too should follow the sounds and lend aid. When you hear the hunting cry of a Panther Girl pack you have good reason to begin running, because very soon girls will be coming at you from all directions with spears, bows and capture nets. Be you a man of Gor or a helpless slave-girl, know only that these fierce, proud hunters seek to run you to the ground and chain you in steel bracelets.
Flavius took his powerful hunting bow from his back and notched the string in place. Gorean bows are not typically carried in a pre-strung fashion, because doing so weakens the pull. Unlike the Panther Girls who carried light short bows, capable of being pulled by a woman, Flavius’s bow required a great deal of physical strength. He suddenly slid to a halt, notch an arrow to his bow string, and spin round in a fluid movement just as a couple of girls appeared in the misty distance. The great bow was raised and Flavius pulled the bowstring back to touch his right ear. Then he let loose with the arrow, but his aim was poor, affected by his weak left shoulder that made his grip tremble under the strain of the pull. The arrow thumped into a tree trunk, maybe two feet away from a blonde Panther Girl. It was enough to make her scream in surprise and jump back into thicker cover.
Flavius drew a second arrow and fired again at the second girl. Again he was unable to hold the bow firm and at that distance he missed again as his left hand shook. This time his arrow disappeared into thick bushes.
A couple of arrows shot passed him and the two slave girls that accompanied him. The Panther Girls on the whole weren’t particularly experienced at firing short bows at moving targets, but if we remained where we were, one of them might get lucky. Flavius drew a third arrow, causing spots of blood to appear on the dressing on his shoulder, and this time he hit a girl in the left leg. She screamed as the shot threw her backwards onto the ground. Now the other two girls that I saw went running back, out of sight, afraid of facing Flavius’s great bow, for they did not know each shot was causing him considerable pain.
02 – We must keep moving
“My Master, we should keep moving,” I said as I stood there, my hair wet from the rain shower. Flavius nodded and gestured for us to move ahead of him, while he watched for further signs of pursuit. “How is your shoulder?” I asked.
“Bad. I’m bleeding again. I think a couple of the stitches have torn.” The strain from pulling such a powerful bow would not have done him any favors.
I heard more hunting cries coming from my left, answering the cries that emanated from behind us. More girls were being drawn to this area, keen to help in bringing down a man. They would still be wary of Flavius, and in particular getting close to him, but as the Panther Girl numbers swelled, their fear of his sword would reduce.
Lena staggered, and almost slipped in some patches of mud as she continued to labour under the weight of Flavius’s shield across her back and shoulders. As he saw that, Flavius seemed to make up his mind and he seized Lena’s arm to stop her in her tracks. Then, reluctantly I guess, he freed the shield from its straps and threw it away into the nearest bushes. The war helm that hung across Lena’s chest, he removed and placed on his head.
“I’m not going to be able to use the shield with my shoulder the way it is, and it’s only slowing us down. Keep moving.” He swatted Lena’s ass and she yelped and ran forward, now able to move a lot more quickly.
Panther Girls begin a hunt feeling very cautious and wary of men. Then comes the tipping point when they seem to work themselves into a sort of group hysteria, and they grow more reckless and begin to take chances, testing the man or men that they hunt, probing for weaknesses or opportunities. Like animals, once they scent weakness, the hunting frenzy takes over and they close in for the kill, or more usually the capture. I could sense they were getting close to this point now as it became apparent that Flavius could not simply shoot them all down with his bow.
I think Flavius was beginning to realize that he had been stupidly overconfident in allowing Forest Moon’s band of girls to follow us. He should have turned back to the safety of the Exchange Point rather than permit them to trail us into the Forest. But male pride can be a stupid thing at times.
And still we were too heavily burdened with bags and sacks. Flavius tore them away from our bodies and cast them behind us. Our camping supplies, spare clothes, bedrolls, tools, food, all the things we required for our expedition were thrown away to enable Lena and myself to move quickly through the trees. I heard cries of delight from Panther Girls as they pounced on the supplies, tearing open the sacks to reveal the valuable contents. Flavius had hoped the looting of or possessions might buy us enough time to outrun the girls that were now pursuing us, and maybe that would have worked had he done so earlier, but now we had bands of Panther Girls closing in from the sides as well. I ran, terrified, with Lena on my left and Flavius just behind in the rear.
And then they came for us. Flavius turned, drawing his sword, as a number of Panther Girls ran screaming out of the tree line to the right of us. There were six girls, maybe seven, carrying spears and capture nets and they shrieked with joy as they saw a single male and two slave-girls. Flavius raised his sword and ran at them, but as he did so, more girls appeared from our left, and they too had spears and capture nets. I ran blindly forwards, knowing we were in danger of being surrounded, and as I did so, girls began to emerge from the bushes ahead of us. Two girls laughed as they ran at me, arms outstretched to catch themselves a squealing slave-girl. The third girl ran towards Lena.
One of the girls coming towards me carried a capture net made from strong hemp-rope, with leaden balance weights attached to the sides. When the circular shaped net is thrown correctly, the weights enable a spreading effect which should in theory envelop its target. The weights then cause the net to wrap around the target upon impact. Capture nets usually have a stronger thread running around the perimeter of the net which enables the Panther Girl to tighten it around the opponent once he or she is netted. This makes subsequent biding and restraining so much easier.
The girls were working in unison against me as I skidded to my right hand side. The girl with the spear prodded and thrusted to steer me into a required place while the girl with the capture net prepared her net for throwing. I shouted for help from Flavius, but he was now engaged with a line of snarling and spitting Panther Girls, knocking their spear points aside with his blade and sweeping in under their guard. I saw one girl go down with a stab wound to her side, but sudden thrusts with spear points from other girls meant Flavius had to turn and face them rather than finish off his first opponent. Now the girls kept their distance, jumping back the moment Flavius brushed a spear away. As soon as Flavius committed himself against one girl, the other girls would force him to abandon his original target by jabbing at his back. They were now encircling him, though Flavius was able to break through their line so long as they remained disorganised and afraid to commit themselves. Unfortunately for Flavius, he was further hampered by wanting to protect Lena and myself, but we served as nothing more than a distraction as he had to continually parry spearpoint after spearpoint rather than run to our help. Lacking a shield, Flavius was unable to exploit the confusion and inexperience of the Panther Girls in close combat.
I ran to my left, only to find a spear jab forcing me back again. Now the other girl raised her weighted net and cast it up into the air. It opened itself up from the centrifugal pull of the weights and flew directly towards me. I had just enough time to see the third girl running towards Lena, eager to wrestle her to the ground for another girl to then bind, but Lena sprinted forward and launched a stiff palm strike at the girl’s nose. There was a crack of cartilage breaking as the girl was flung backwards. Lena dipped her left hand down and seized the hilt of the girl’s knife from a belt sheath. Then, kicking down with the heel of her left foot, Lena stamped into the girl’s solar plexus, disabling her. With a backwards glance at my un-rescuable situation as the thrown net hit and enveloped me, Lena ran straight on into the tree line ahead of us. Another Panther Girl emerged carrying a capture net, but before she could disentangle it and prepare it for a throw, Lena had ran past her and sliced upwards with the knife edge, drawing blood across her neck.
And then Lena was through the encircling line of Panther Girls and unencumbered by any of Flavius’s equipment was free to flee at top speed through the forest, but where she would go and what she might do, clad in a collar and camisk, with pierced ears and nose, I had no idea.
I fell, entangled in the weighted net as the Panther Girls pounced on me. One began tightening the thread along the net’s perimeter, closing it around me like a draw string while the other Panther Girl rolled my netted body over onto my stomach, found my wrists and quickly braceleted them. I was caught!
Flavius was now fighting for his life, or rather his freedom, as fifteen to twenty Panther Girls gathered in a circle around him. They were laughing, knowing the numbers were now overwhelmingly on their side. Most of the girls carried spears, but three of them carried capture nets that they were already preparing to throw.
“Come to Red hair,” said the Red haired panther Girl as she waved her spear point in Flavius’s face. Other spear points were also jabbing playfully from all sides, forcing Flavius to keep turning around, smacking them away with his sword. I suppose they could easily have killed him now, but they didn’t want that. The first net was thrown, and Flavius hit it in mid-air with his sword. It wrapped about his arm, and this was the cue for the other two nets to be thrown while Flavius was distracted. They wrapped around him within a couple of seconds of one another, and then the girls rushed him, screaming with joy.
“I have a man!” yelled Sav as she reached Flavius first and kicked his legs out from under him. Flavius was struggling furiously as the weighted nets entangled his body. Sav threw the weight of her body on to his, pinning him to the ground while he was caught in the hemp ropes. “Sav claims the man!” Other girls reached Flavius and began driving sharpened stakes through the open pores of the nets, and into the soft earth, in effect trapping Flavius so that he couldn’t struggle free or get up.
“A woman has taken you,” shouted Sav with joy as she put her face through the holes in the net to suddenly kiss Flavius on the lips as a man might suddenly kiss a bound and helpless girl.
I struggled of course in my own net, for all the good it did me. The Panther Girl who had so skillfully cast the capture net over my body crouched down in the grass and turned me round so she could gaze down at my face.
“I know you, don’t I, pretty little silk slave girl,” the red head said with a smile.
I knew her too. It was the Panther Girl called Red hair who had now captured me.