Tora Pt. 06



DaKar soared above the assembled might of the Shogunate. His helmet bore the fearsome steel beak of a tarn and he wore the etched armor of his land. His rifle was slung across a shoulder, his longsword across the other. The sun was just rising, turning the early-autumn sky pink and blue, glinting on the metal of the battalions and battalions that shielded Edo. Spies had determined that the armies of five clans planned to march on the city, overthrow the military government, and restore the Emperor, whom the Shogun confined in Kyoto.

DaKar swooped down to a southern hilltop where large panels of indigo cloth bearing the Shogun's cloud were are hung on frames, forming billowing walls around three sides of a tatami platform. From here the Shogun and a dozen advisers observed the movement of men on the plain below. As usual, Sayoko sat behind the Shogun to his right, her falcon on her left shoulder. All the men were in full armor, and even Sayoko wore a breastplate over her dark-blue riding uniform. Before DaKar reined his tarn sharply upward, he saluted the Shogun and saw that Sayoko, for the first time since he arrived in Edo, bore the cloud crest, on her breastplate and sleeves.

The Shogun nodded to Sayoko and she was soon on her tarn, a rifle across her shoulder and a sword at her side. Her falcon circled her. Her crop whistled sharply and the tarn rose and the wind from its wings flattened the long grass below. She flew to DaKar, surveying the ground, burning the details into her mind for her report to the Shogun. Ants, she thought. Steel-fanged poisonous ants.

Soon, she and DaKar were riding side by side. They inspected the medical tents, the benefits of which DaKar had persuaded the Shogun. They honored the proud rifle-bearing warriors, the perfect formations of swordsmen, the straight rows of archers. Some were veterans of the last terrible battles that united the territory. Some, like Sayoko, had only heard or read of war. But the night before, all of them had written what they expected to be their last poems, and their eyes were pure with the expectation of a noble death.

The air rushed against DaKar's face as he guided his mount as close to Sayoko as he dared. Laughing, he pointed to her rifle and shouted: "Do you suppose you will be able to use that?" Her glance was withering. After months of lessons forced upon her by the Shogun, she had, despite herself, become a fair, if reluctant, marksman.

"Askari Hodari!"? she hissed, using a phrase he had taught her in gentler times when he spoke of his land. She snapped the reins and sped away from him, tossing her ponytail. He raced after her, grinning, his blood warmed by the scent of war, which he missed so much since leaving Gor, and by Sayoko's hauteur, which was the iciest he had seen. They circled the city twice, then saw dust rise in the distance. With small mirrors they sent a glitter of signals to the generals and the Shogun's party.

The red, yellow, and black banners of the insurgents emerged from the forests and blossomed across the open plain. Infantries marched and cavalries galloped toward Edo, doomed even before they saw their enemy. Bullets ripped through the vanguard's armor as if through silk. Men and horses trampled the fallen. The survivors of the second devastating volley of bullets now crossed swords with the Shogun's forces.

DaKar flew beyond the reach of enemy archers but he could hear the shrieks of beast and man, the crash of metal on metal. He saw the blood on the ground and the torn faces and broken bodies. Later, on the fields and in the medical tents, he would find that bushido gave way to a more basic emotion: warriors did not die with the name of their lord on their lips but cried out for their mothers.

Sayoko fought for calm, desperately memorizing the cruel images. She watched numbly as the sparkling codes that she and DaKar sent helped fell rows and rows of advancing rebels. But it was the sound of suffering that made her tremble. The ethereal poems that likened the death of a warrior to the falling of a petal had not prepared her for the horror below and she was sickened.

DaKar flew low and slew two enemy swordsmen with bullets to the neck, saving an Edo general from death. Sayoko saw DaKar's face, flushed and virile. Her falcon sped along beside her, screaming with joy. I am not, she thought miserably, made for war.

DaKar was still flying low, and three enemy archers trained their weapons on him, tracking him carefully. Sayoko gripped her mount with her legs, aimed her rifle, and watched, her heart deadened, as one archer after another fell in torment from her bullets. DaKar turned his hard face to her. "Askari Hodari!" His lips formed the words silently. Her throat filled with bitterness, but she saluted him and, knowing he was safe, raced away to complete her grim task.

The hell on earth painted on the screens in the Castle's Map Room had failed to capture the obscenity of what Sayoko saw. Her jaw ached and she rested her forehead on the tarn's neck as her body heaved with disgust.

By mid-afternoon, the rebel forces had withdrawn, leaving the fallen in the dust and crushed grass. Only the Shogun's artillery had saved Edo. Sayoko knew that the Shogun would order the generals to prepare for a more formidable assault. She guided her tarn high enough for it to be mistaken for an eagle. As she suspected, an even more powerful force was mustering beyond the western forests and behind the northern hills. She flew back to the hilltop.

Kneeling before the Shogun and his advisers, she made her dreadful report—the number of dead and dying and wounded, the enemy's movements, and the probable force with which the rebel armies would attack again. The men sat in silence, their faces like glowing stone as the sun set. The breeze no longer carried the sound of swords and pain or the smell of burning and gunpowder, and she was glad that the evening hid her tears.

The Shogun finally dismissed her and she stumbled down the hill to DaKar's tent. Her falcon roosted in a tree. In the dimness of the tent DaKar stood, enormous in his armor, his helmet and weapons resting on racks behind him. She was silenced by the sight. She had seen him smolder with lust in the fragrant rooms of the Tora and the Castle, but now he blazed with the exhilaration of battle. The Shogun, Sayoko thought, was dispassionate about war, for it was merely a means to an end, and the warriors were made fierce by duty. But DaKar's eyes had neither the frost of one driven purely by the will to power nor the serenity of one trained to die. The glint, she realized, came from the sheer delight in battle, as primal as her falcon's bloodthirsty joy.

When he gripped her wrist hard and brought it behind her back, she knew that he was not the same man she entertained with her sensuality and erudition. He unbuckled her breastplate and let it fall to the ground. He ripped off the silk ribbon that tied her hair back and ran his fingers through her hair. His kiss was rough and his armor pressed hard against her.

Here on the battlefield, she was not protected by layers of protocol. Here there was no wine or refined ritual, no candle-lit bath or silk quilt. A man she hardly recognized stripped her, and the cruelty in his touch made her throb. In the floating world of the Tora and even in the unsentimental halls of the Castle, Sayoko had lulled herself into thinking that DaKar was of Edo. But now she knew she was mistaken, for beneath his elegant, laughing surface he was, after all, of Gor, that land about which she knew little except that it was crude and violent.

The blood and steel of the day had warmed him as he had not been since his arrival in Edo. His former self had been reborn in battle, and in his Gorean trance the woman moaning beneath his hands was neither courtesan nor soldier. She was spoils.

He imprisoned her wrists in leather bands and hooked them together behind her back. These were not the finely crafted cuffs of the Tora but restraints for slaves. He strapped her elbows together. He smiled as pain crossed her flushed face. He forced her to her knees on the cotton futon on the wood platform and doubled her over her shins.

He coiled her hair and let it spill forward, baring her back and nape and hiding her face. His war-drugged mind was filled with merging images of slaves—captured after battle, awaiting the slaver's kiss, displayed in the markets, coffled, whipped, thrown to the furs and raped.

She strained against the straps, and her open heat moistened with the excitement of fear. He towered over her and she heard the metal and leather fall to the dirt. Her moans—half protest, half desire—inflamed him. He knelt beside her and drew a warm hand slowly from her curving ass to her slender neck.

His fingers parted the wet lips of her heat, dipping into the tiny, hot mouth and drawing the moisture up to the pucker between the cheeks. His fingers lingered there, passing over the ridges, probing the tightness, then stroked the smooth, swollen clitoris. She felt a violent current flow through her, as if what had transported him to another world had now swept her away, too. The shock was unlike the passion she felt in civilized Edo, so strong that she groaned as if in pain. She was intoxicated, and his captive.

He knew that his touch maddened her and that he alone would decide if she cried out in pleasure or pain. His eyes were like flint and his shaft hardened against his belly. He moved behind her and held her hips still in both hands, rubbing the shaft across her back, tracing the crease, grazing the lips. He moaned softly as she writhed and as he breathed her scent.

He probed her heat and withdrew, dipped and pulled back, slid down to her clitoris and up to her anus, again and again until her moans grew long and she was near sobbing. He held her hips still and finally thrust roughly into the soft tightness of her heat. Although the violence gathered in his groin, his strokes were deliberate. Her cries were unlike any heard by the walls of the Tora or Castle. He had often taken her to the sharper edge of pleasure, but tonight she sensed danger. He had always allowed her to move when he took her, whether he restrained her or not, as her writhing aroused him. But now, with fewer bonds he kept her still. In this shaming pose she felt a yielding deeper than any swoon, and the humiliation became desire.

DaKar groaned as her flesh parted helplessly for him, and a feeling beyond joy filled him. She strained against her bonds and shook her head defiantly, yet her body acknowledged him. Her heat did not passively accept him: it clasped him desperately. He kept her near ecstasy, denying it to her. She moaned, feverishly thinking, Use me... please use me... let me... She refused to say the words and despaired as her body obeyed him.

"Please," she whispered finally. "Please let me, Master." Her ass ground against his groin. He reached beneath her and drew a finger long and sensuously between the lips and across her clitoris. She whimpered and her body rose and fell. She had addressed him as Master since he arrived, but he had never heard her say it as she did now—with full acceptance of its meaning, not as a courtesy, but as a need. "Master," she groaned. "Please let me."

"Not yet," he said. She convulsed with the first wave. He stopped stroking her. "Please!" she begged. "Let me, Master, please!" He drew the finger across her clitoris one long last time, and commanded her, "Now!" She cried out with a pleasure deepened by complete surrender. He felt her convulse around his shaft and he groaned.

He coiled her hair around a fist, lifting her face, radiant with submission. He rubbed the wet cap of his shaft across her soft lips. They parted for him, and her tongue darted out, tasting herself. He moaned as her tongue swirled around his shaft. Holding her head with both hands, he used her mouth as he did her heat, but with more pleasure in this violation. His thrusts were slower, harder, and his groans longer. He spilled into her mouth, crying out. The sharp saltiness coursed down her throat.

His eyes pierced her as if for the first time, and she felt desire on her skin and in her groin. He unbound her. In cotton robes and bearing lamps, they made their way to the baths, simple affairs of wood frames and straw walls, with simmering water in metal vats and cool water in wooden ones. The floor's slats allowed the water to drain into a canal. Water was mixed in wooden buckets and poured over the body with dippers. There was no soaking tub.

Yet, in this rough structure she stroked him with a sensuality he had never felt at the Tora. Her being poured into him as she moaned and rubbed her breasts and cheek against his slippery back. He placed her hands on the rim of a wooden vat and bent her over. Her ass gleamed, and he soaped it until the lather was thick. She groaned as his finger pushed into her tight entrance, gently, relentlessly. He kept her hips still and placed the tip of his shaft against the slick crease. He guided the hardness up and down, brushing her anus, which now pulsated gently, seeking the violation. As he eased into her, she cried out in pain yet did not ask him to stop. A stab of heat formed in her groin and spread beneath her skin. She shuddered as the pleasure rose. She did not beg or resist: she accepted it, accepted that he was taking her, that he was forcing pleasure into her body, that he could make her cry out even as she tried to stop. Her release was so strong that her head snapped back and her hair loosened from the pins. As the orgasm wracked her, he heard a new, yielding lilt in her voice as she called him, and he felt the white-hot thread rip through his shaft, and he pulled her roughly to him, groaning as his fire poured into her.


Later, they emerged from the bath, steam rising from their hair. He took her to a hillside and lounged on a rock like a tiger as she stood before him. The light of the second full moon of the month softened his features but not his eyes.

"Shed the robe," he said.

Surprised, she said, "Perhaps when we return to the tent."

"It is not," he said softly, "a request." After the din of battle and the violent possession of her body, his voice bound her more securely than slave cuffs. Her thick cotton robe fell to the grass.

"Lie on the kimono," he said. She obeyed and the moonlight made her closed thighs gleam. When he said, "Offer yourself," she moaned softly and her hips lifted and fell of their own accord. She shook her head, unable to stop her body's assent. Her arms were thrown above her head. Then she felt a cool trickle of oil on her chest and belly and thighs, lighter than the oil he used to ease his passage into her, and with a hint of jasmine. His voice soothed, yet commanded.

"Rub the oil into your skin, your breasts," he said. She breathed hard as her hands spread the oil, lingering over her breasts, pulling the nipples until she moaned in pain. Her palms pressed firmly on her belly and thighs. Her fingers probed her heat.

"No," he said sharply. "I will say when you may touch." She withdrew her hand, feeling her core tighten and torment her now that it was forbidden to her.

The oil and moonlight made her glow. His voice mesmerized her, and she was barely aware of his words. Yet, her hands obeyed when he commanded her to work the oil into her breasts and to make her nipples stand. She had never touched herself for another's pleasure, and she felt shame and fear and anger along with the ache of need. His voice stroked her, controlled her pleasure, showed her that he could use her without touching her. Her anger ebbed as her need deepened and she moaned, unable to stop. Her power over her own pleasure slipped away; he was taking from her what had allowed her to hold sway over her patrons. For the first time, she feared him.

The moonlight found the swollen lips of her heat as her thighs parted. Her hands were rougher now, hurting her nipples, raking her flesh. She was delirious with need for release. And still his voice stroked her, finding secret nerves, awakening cravings.

"Part the petals," he said. Her oiled fingers obeyed him, and even in the gentle light he could see the red of her inner folds. She drew a finger slowly over the erect nub, back and forth, until he commanded her to insert a finger, then two, into the soft mouth. His eyes were hot and cruel, and she saw herself through them: her hair wild, lips parted, breasts heaving, hips rising, fingers probing her heat, and she moaned as the current coursed through her like a drug.

She pleaded silently at first, whispered, and then sobbed, begging him. He did not wish to release her. He enjoyed her desperation and her pleas. Finally he permitted her, and she shook to her core, calling him over and over. When the last tremors died, she lay shuddering, gazing into his pleased eyes.

The next morning, the battalions were in tight, deadly formation, awaiting the rebels. After yesterday's blood and his conquest of Sayoko, DaKar was even more warlike. Sayoko was calm, all the knotted tightness within her gone, and she was as sharp-eyed as her falcon. She and DaKar flew above the armies and hills and sent their mirror signals to the generals. Swooping low, they did not see the waiting archer in the woods. An arrow pierced DaKar's hand and the poison flowed swiftly through his blood. Sayoko saw him slump and screamed a command to his tarn to follow her.

The tarns landed near the Shogun's platform. Soon DaKar was surrounded by the healers he had trained. Sayoko was near fainting as he fell unconscious. The Shogun's hand on her head revived her. "They will come for DaKar," he said. "And you will go with him and bring him back when he is well. You will learn all you can while you are there." She nodded, not understanding. Who? she wondered. Who will come for him and where are we going?

While the Shogun's forces decimated the rebel armies, Sayoko knelt beside DaKar, gazing at his face and the bound, wounded hand, willing him through her tears to awaken. A brilliant column of light fell on them, and the world went black.

The Shogun watched serenely as Sayoko and her falcon and DaKar floated up into the column of light and disappeared into the bright, silent, hovering vessel.

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