The Herb Plot 6

by Zack

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© Copyright 2004 - Zack - Used by permission

Storycodes: M+/fff; bondage; slaves; nc; XX

(story continues from )

The Star Fleet Series
The Herb Plot - Chapter 6
by Zack
The Herb Plot 3 by Zack
As the women worked they talked.  Petra asked, "Is Queen Narona thriving?  I know that one day she will save us from this island and these priests."

Carin answered, "Yes, she's reforming all of Avorna.  She has abolished slavery and freed the serfs.  But there is much more yet to be done."

"I'd heard that."  Petra sighed.  "It came too late for me and Rak.  We were sold to the priests, back during the war."

"Sold?  You mean you were abducted by slavers?"

"No, my father sold me.  I don't blame him, it was bad back then.  The armies fought over our county and what they didn't plunder was burned.  We were starving, so when a priest offered to buy me my father took the money and used it to buy food for my mother and the younger children.  I didn't have anything to say about it, but I wasn't all that upset.  I figured I would have food at least, and a peasant girl's life is very hard anyway.  Now I curse the day it happened."  Rak nodded in agreement.

"That's so sad.  War is a terrible thing."  Carin thought of something pleasant. "Here's something you may not know.  At the Harvest Festival Queen Narona is going to become the Arch-Priestess of Mida."

Petra and Rakan greeting this news with smiles, but Gris started to cry.

"Why are you crying, Gris?  Don't you think Queen Narona should be the Arch-Priestess?"  Carin was puzzled.  Surely Gris didn't share Hovat's concerns about church-state separation.

"Oh, no, it's not that, the Harvest Festival has a bad memory for me."

Jani asked, "What happened?"

"During the Festival in my village almost three years ago, me and my lover went walking in the woods just after dark.  I was very happy, I thought he was going to ask me to marry him.  He had a bottle of wine and I drank some.  I blacked out, and the next I knew I was in a wheelbarrow pushed by my lover.  I thought that maybe I had passed out from too much wine, but then I realized I was tied up, really tight, with my wrists and ankles fastened together behind my back, and with a gag stuffed in my mouth.  My lover met some men and sold me to them, and I was brought here."

"That's terrible.  Men can be such scum,"  Jani said.  "But they can be a lot of fun, too."

The stories continued.  All of the women were eager to hear about Queen Narona, whom they revered.  All saw the queen as the savior who would one day rescue them from the island.  Carin told what she knew  about the queen, and her stories fascinated the women.  Carin the anthropologist carefully filed all of this away in her memory, and then realized with a jolt that she might not ever get a chance to publish it.

Carin asked, "How do the priests treat you?"

Petra answered, "We're just animals to them, not people.  The only good part is they need us, so we're valuable animals.  If you get sick or hurt they'll have a healer priest look at you, and most of them are good at finding a cure.  Show her your arm, Gris."

Gris held out her left arm.  "Gris broke both bones in her arm just above her wrist.  A healer priest set them and they healed straight.  Touch it, you can't even feel a bump.  If that had happened before she came here she would have been crippled.  And they feed us good.  The food is better and there's a lot more of it than I got back home, even before the war."  Rakan nodded her agreement.

Now that the shock had worn off Carin started to notice her surroundings.  They were in a pasture near the north side of the island.  Inland, the land rose gently to a low ridge.  There weren't any trees, just some bushes with a maximum height of not more than a couple of meters. The dark olive green of their leaves complemented the bright green of the grass.  The sheep had eaten most of the lower branches, leaving about a meter of bare trunk.

She became so interested in the land that she forgot to pick up dung.  She snapped back to reality when a priest shouted, "You worthless zlit!  Position!"

Carin stood in confusion as the priest hurried over to her.  He shouted, "Stupid zlit!  I'll teach you to obey!'

Petra intervened, "Mercy, Exalted!  She's new."  To Carin she said, "Quick!  Pull your dress up to your waist and bend over.  Hurry!"

Carin still hesitated, not wanting to obey this demeaning order, but Petra grabbed her dress and pulled it up, and then pressed down on Carin's head until she was bent over.

The priest swung his strap in a whistling arc that terminated in a loud crack as it impacted with Carin's bottom.  A puffy red welt sprang up.

Carin had never experienced pain like this.  She gasped with the shock, and would have fallen if Petra hadn't held her up.  The priest hit her again, and this time Carin screamed.  The priest gave a grunt of satisfaction and swung again.  He was rewarded by another scream and another welt.

The priest turned to Petra.  "Now you, interfering zlit.  Position!"

Petra quickly obeyed, and received the blow of the strap with nothing more than a grunt.  The priest said, "Work!" and went back to his place in the shade.

Petra straightened up and rearranged her dress, and Jani helped Carin.  Carin said, "Thank you for helping me.  I'm sorry you got whipped too."

Petra shrugged.  "It's not the first time, and it won't be the last.  But you should obey faster.  The priests resent it if you don't."

Jani asked, "Do the priests like to hurt us?"

"No, if one does he's transferred to another job.  Vartro and the other high priests don't want us damaged."

Carin said, "I'll try to do better next time.  Thank you for your help, and I'm sorry you got hurt."

"We got to look out for each other."  The crew resumed their dung collection.

The guard priest checked the dung barrel, and when it was full he ordered, "Take it to the new herb plot.  You know which one?"

Petra answered, "Yes, Exalted."

There was a large U-shaped loop of rope tied between the runners on the sledge, and Petra got inside it and grabbed the rope with both hands at the level of her waist.  Four small loops, two on each side, had been tied in the rope and Gris and Rakan each took one of these.  After a moment Carin and Jani took the loops on the other side.

Petra walked toward a gate in the pasture wall and the other women followed, towing the sledge behind them.  The runners slipped easily over the grass, but once through the gate it became more difficult to move the sledge.  Now they were on a stony path instead of slippery grass, and the crew had to bend over and pull hard.  Carin quickly became tired, but she forced herself to continue on.

After a while Carin noticed that Jani was shirking.  The wasn't much tension in the loop she was holding, and she wasn't straining nearly as hard as Carin was.  Carin was surprised at the amount of resentment she felt, and wondered if the other women had noticed that Jani wasn't doing her share of the work.  Petra had glanced at her a few times, but hadn't said anything.

Finally they reached the new herb plot, which was on the south side of the ridge Carin had seen from the pasture.  A half-dozen crews were there, tilling the soil with wooden shovels, rakes, and hoes.   When the dung barrel arrived a crew tipped it on its side and extracted its contents, which were spread out and worked into the soil.  Carin was glad of the chance to rest while this process was going on, but the other women didn't seem to be too tired.

While the dung crew was waiting for their barrel to be emptied another barrel arrived at the plot. This one held water and was mounted on a four-wheeled cart.  It was pulled by only two women, and Carin was shocked  by their treatment.  Each had her arms strapped behind her back, wrists locked to the opposite elbows, and each wore a leather harness.  This was a wide belt around the hips and waist, held in place by a leather crotch strap, with the woman's dress hiked up to fit under it.   An iron ring was riveted to the back of each woman's belt, and these were connected by a short, thick wooden bar.  The center of the bar was attached to the end of the cart's single shaft.

The priest guiding the wagon carried a short braided whip instead of a strap.  He had been making free use of it, and the women's bare legs were covered with red welts.  They stopped for only as long as it took to drain the water onto the herb plot; then they were on the move again, back to the reservoir for more.

Petra said, "Those two are what we call solos; women who for one reason or another can't fit in on a crew.  Some sulk, some fight, others," here she glared at Jani,  "are slackers who don't take their share of the load.  They cause trouble, and as soon as a priest notices the crew isn't producing maximum work the troublemaker become a solo.  Solos usually don't last long.  It's the only sure way to commit suicide, but it's not a quick or easy death."

She grabbed Jani's collar ring and shook it.  Carin was right, she was strong.  "You understand?"


"Good. A crew that works together is a happy crew.  Or as happy as a crew can get."  Their barrel was empty now, and Rakan and Gris set it upright on the sledge.  "Back to the pasture."

Jani pulled enthusiastically.

The rest of the morning was occupied by dung collecting.  As the sun rose higher Carin and Jani suffered, but their tanned companions didn't seem to notice.  Now every time they emptied their baskets into the barrel Petra shared out water from a bucket carried on the sledge.  There was only one wooden cup, and Carin and Jani had to struggle to overcome a lifetime of indoctrination that told them sharing utensils was a certain path to disease.

The order in which the women drank was always the same; Petra, Rakan, Gris, Jani, and Carin.  Finally Carin complained, "Why am I always last?"

Petra explained, "It's the custom.  The one on the rope the longest goes first.  It's the fairest way, and it prevents arguments."

"It doesn't seem fair to me!"  She could think of several ways to more equitably arrange things, but she realized that an ignorant peasant girl such as Petra might not have considered any alternatives.

"You got a better way?  Strongest goes first, maybe? Course, we'd have to fight to settle that."

This stopped Carin.  Maybe she wasn't as intellectually superior as she had supposed.

Just before noon a crew conveying food found its way into the pasture and distributed a meal to Petra's crew.  It was some sort of stew, mainly barley with a mixture of vegetables and a few scraps of meat added.  It tasted especially good to Carin and Jani, because it had been a long time since their last food.  Best of all, it was served in individual wooden bowls, and each woman had a wooden spoon of her own.

After a brief pause to eat the women went back to collecting dung, and they did this the rest of the afternoon.  It wasn't as boring as Carin had feared, because the women talked continually.  Sex was a popular topic, discussed in graphic detail, and Jani was able to keep everyone entertained.  As sunset came closer the three veterans started casting meaningful glances at the priest guarding them, until finally he said, "To the barracks."  This order was quickly obeyed.

The crew had been working in the pasture on the north side of the island and the barracks was to the south of the reservoir, which ran east from the beach cliff for about 300 meters.  It was a walk of over a kilometer, but they dropped off the sledge near the cultivated land so the last half of the journey was unencumbered.

Carin was surprised when they reached the barracks.  It was actually two strangely shaped adjacent buildings.  Each structure was a stone barrel vault, built like a cylinder sliced lengthwise and placed with the cut edges down.   Each building was about twenty meters long, and seen from the end it was a semicircle with a diameter of about five meters.  The ends of the building were closed off by thick stone walls, pierced on the near end by a low wooden door and a window over the door.  The window was secured by a grillwork of iron bars and a pair of wooden shutters, now open.  The curved roofs were covered with concrete, and had stone gutters at the bottom edges that diverted rainwater into a cistern.

Petra said, "Now we all fit into one of the buildings, but when I first came here both were used.  They are really cold in the winter, but at least they keep out rain and snow."

Jani asked, "Isn't there any kind of heat?"

"Nothing but what comes from our bodies.  The priest's quarters have fireplaces, but there aren't any trees on the island so they have to ship in firewood.  They don't waste any on us."

There were two other buildings close by, of a more conventional design.  Made from the ubiquitous stone, they were two stories high, with steep roofs covered with wooden shingles.  Carin asked, "what are those buildings for?"

"The one with all the chimneys is the distillery.  The herbalists and the high priests live on the second floor. The other building, the big one, has the kitchen and workroom below and the guard priest quarters and storerooms above.  The meals are served in the workroom."

"What's that little stone hut for?  The one sunk in the ground and covered with dirt?  It looks like a root cellar."

"That's where the solos are kept at night.  I heard they're always chained to the floor when they're not out working.  It's not something you want to see for yourself. Right, Jani?"

As the crews arrived from their work areas they had been lining up in front of the barracks.  Petra said, "We'd better get in place for the evening check off.  You're on the end, Carin.  You stand up front."

Carin fell into line, and the other women in her crew stretched out behind her.  A priest walked down the line counting the crews, and when he had finished the women filed into the workroom.  Carin was surprised at how orderly it was, without any jostling for position.

The interior of the workroom was bleak, with bare stone walls.  The many small windows were covered with oiled paper that let in some light.  The furnishings were wooden trestle tables and wooden benches.  As the women filed into the building they passed by a counter and picked up a bowl filled with the same kind of barley stew they ate at noon.  They also received a wooden mug filled with beer, much to Carin's surprise.

Jani said, "This stew doesn't taste too bad, but it's going to get monotonous after a while.  Do you ever get anything different?"

Petra replied, "It depends on what's available.  Sometimes the priests buy a load of fish.  If a sheep dies we usually get some of it.  The food gets worse as the winter moves along, of course."

Carin yelped as her welted bottom contacted the bench.  "I'm really sore.  Can I eat standing up?"

"Nope.  You got to pretend that nothing hurts.  It's part of the punishment."

After the meal the women filed out of the workroom.  Twilight was fading, and it was almost dark.  Petra said, "We have to be in the barracks soon.  Let's use the latrine now."  She led the way behind the workroom building.

Carin didn't see anything that looked like a latrine.  "Where is it?"

"Right here.  Can't you smell it?"  Petra pointed to a long, narrow trench.  In front of the trench was a knee-high rail.  She hiked up her dress, backed up to the rail, and sat down, with her bottom overhanging the trench.  "Sure beats squatting."

Jani and Carin did the same.  The darkness hid their embarrassment.

The crew filed into the barracks, this time led by Gris.  There was a central aisle, bordered on both sides by square canvas mats laid edge-to-edge on the stone floor.  They looked identical to Carin, but Gris walked directly to a mat on the right-hand side about half-way down the aisle. Petra picked up a neatly-folded woolen blanket that was on the mat, and at her signal the crew lay down.  The mat was just wide enough to allow them to rest on their backs without touching.

 By this time of night it would have been totally dark inside the barracks except for the oil lamps held by two guards, one standing near the door and the other at the back wall. As soon as all of the women were inside the guard priests took a count and left the barracks, taking the lamps with them.  The door and the shutters were shut and barred, and now the inside of the barracks was pitch black.  Petra said, "Here's the blanket," and shook it out so the crew was covered.

Carin squirmed on her sore bottom, and then rolled onto her side so she was facing Jani.  The mat seemed to be stuffed with hay or straw, and it was lumpy and so thin that her hip touched the floor.  'The end of a perfect day', she thought.  She was very tired after her sleepless night, and felt herself falling asleep in spite of the emotional turmoil inside her.

There was some chatter, and at least one pair of lovers moaning and panting, but the other women were tired too and soon the barracks was quiet, except for muffled sobs.  They seem to be close by, and Carin realized they were coming from Jani.  She reached out and hugged Jani, holding her close.  Carin was surprised; Jani had seemed to be holding up so well, and she certainly didn't appear to be traumatized by the rape on the ship.  "What's the matter?" she whispered in Galactic.

"Oh, Carin, I'm so frightened.  What's going to happen to us?  How long will we have to stay here?"

"I don't know, Jani, but it won't be too long.  We've been missed by now.  Hovat will report it to the university, and they'll organize a rescue.  We're not alone, all of the Amalgamation is behind us.  All we have to do is survive until they get here."

"But what can they do?  Will they violate the First Directive if that's necessary to save us?"

Would they?  Carin was trained to regard the First Directive as sacrosanct, and she didn't think it would be violated even to save their lives.  But she couldn't tell Jani that.  "If they have to.  Don't worry, we'll get out of this, and think of the technical articles you can write!"

"Carin, I didn't enjoy the sex on the ship.  You may think I did, but it was all just an act.  It wasn't any more brutal than what some of the customers did at the tavern, but it, it... seemed dirty.  I'm starting to hate men."

"That's not surprising.  What they did to us was terrible.  I'm very grateful for what you did to help me."

Jani put her arms around Carin's neck and kissed her on the lips.  "I love you, Carin.  I feel much better knowing you're here for me."

Carin started to pull away from the kiss, but then she decided to return it.  She told herself that Jani needed comforting, and she was just a mother substitute.  But having Jani's body pressed against hers didn't make her feel maternal.  "We're just overcome by these horrible events," she muttered, and continued to hug Jani until they both fell asleep.

The next morning the barracks doors were opened and the women herded outside before dawn.  After a visit to the latrine and a quick meal in the workroom they were again mustered in front of the barracks for the morning count and the day's work assignment.  Petra's crew was assigned to harvest herbs.

Petra was elated.  "This is one of the easiest jobs.  You two are bringing us luck."  They walked to the cultivated land north of the reservoir and found another of the wooden sledges waiting, this one with a large wicker basket on it instead of a barrel.  They each took a small basket and started down a row of waist-high bushes.

Petra explained, "You pick these medium-sized leaves near the top of the bush.  Don't pick the big, dark green ones, or the pale green shoots right at the top."

Jani exclaimed, "So this is where they come from!"

Carin asked, "What does?"

"These leaves.  Some of the girls chew them.  They give you a really nice high.  Or so I've been told."

Petra said, "Well, don't take any.  Stealing herbs is serious.  You get a formal for sure if you're caught."

"Oh, I won't.  I never use drugs!"  Jani giggled.

The morning passed uneventfully.  There was the usual conversation, and Carin was amazed at the varieties of sexual experience that were discussed, and the frankness of the descriptions.

After the noon meal the crew again went down the rows of bushes, picking leaves and putting them in their baskets, then emptying their small baskets into the large wicker basket on the sledge.  It was boring work, but easy, and the conversation occupied their minds.

About mid-afternoon Petra turned to Carin. "I heard you two talking last night, but I couldn't understand what you said.  What was that language, anyway?"

"Oh, it's a Piconia hill dialect.  Jani and I are both from there."

Jani giggled, "Yep, we're Piconians."

Carin was alarmed.  Jani was definitely euphoric.  "Jani!  Are you chewing those leaves?"

Jani pulled a cud of leaves out of her mouth and looked at it.  "Yep.  I guess I am."  She giggled.

Petra whispered urgently. "Throw that away before a priest sees it, you fool!"

Too late! A priest had already seen it.  He strode over to the crew and shouted, "Cower, zlits!"

The crew dropped to their knees and put their foreheads on the ground.  Petra had to help Jani, and she whispered to Carin, "Hands behind your back."  Carin hurriedly complied.

The priest took short lengths of thin cord out of a pouch on his belt and walked down the line of the cowering crew, tying each woman's hands behind her.  He was an expert at this; hold the crossed hands together, two quick horizontal and one vertical turn of the thin cord, and a hard knot.  Carin winced when the tight cord bit into her wrists, but Jani giggled.

The priest snarled, "On your feet, zlits!"  The women struggled to stand.  The priest tied a rope to Carin's collar ring and pulled the crew in the direction of the barracks.

They continued around to the back of the barracks.  There were five thick posts set in the ground, in a line and about a meter apart.  They were made of peeled logs, and the part above the ground was almost three meters high. Each post had a hole drilled completely through it, close to the top, and a long rope was threaded through the hole.  The priest tied Carin's lead rope to the end post in the line and walked around the barracks.

As soon as he was out of sight Carin said, "Oh, Petra! What's going to happen now?"

"What do you think?  We're going to get a formal."

"These look like whipping posts!"

"Yeah, they do, don't they?"

"Is Jani going to be whipped?"

"We're all going to be whipped.  I told you, if someone breaks a rule the whole crew gets blamed."

Carin said, "Jani, how many times did I tell you to stay away from drugs!  Now you've really done it."

Jani cried, "I'm sorry!  I didn't mean to hurt anybody."  She started to sob.

Carin had some more hard words in mind, but she didn't speak them.  Jani was about to get a lesson that went beyond any verbal reprimand she could deliver.  Carin was just sorry that the rest of the crew was going to suffer too.

The priest was back in ten minutes, and another priest was with him.  He was carrying a handful of wide leather straps, and they went to each bound woman.  One priest untied her hands and held them in front of her while the other strapped them tightly together.  The rope dangling from the post was cinched around the strap and while one priest raised the woman's hands high over her head the other fastened the rope so she was standing on tiptoe, her face against the post.

Carin was very frightened as she stood on her toes, her arms stretched above her head and tingly-numb.  As soon as the priests had strung up the rest of the crew and again left them alone she asked Petra, "What's going to happen now?"

"The priest who saw Jani with the drugs will report to a high priest. Vartro most likely, since he's in charge of us and the guards.  The priest will tell what he saw and Vartro will decide on a punishment."

"What do you think the punishment will be?"  Carin waited for the answer with mounting fear.

"Could be anything.  A girl got two hundred lashes once.  She passed out before they were through, and died later.  One good thing, they're short on slaves, so they're less likely to want Jani killed or crippled."

Jani gasped when she heard this, and started to sob again.  Jani didn't like pain, unless it was associated with sex.

The women waited for over an hour before a priest returned.  He was carrying the same type of short braided whip that had been used to drive the solos.  He removed each woman's dress by untying the string shoulder straps and pulling it down so it pooled on the ground at the victim's feet.  Carin noticed that far from fondling the naked women the priest seemed reluctant to touch their bodies.

The priest announced, "Twenty lashes."  He swung the whip and hit Jani just above the shoulder blades.  Jani screamed as a swollen red welt appeared on her back.

Carin winced when she heard the whip strike Jani, then gasped with shock and pain as her own back was struck.  She hadn't recovered from the blow when another lash brought another scream from Jani.  Next the priest struck Petra, then another lash for Jani, this one across her thighs.  A lash for Rakan, a lash for Jani, a lash for Gris, another lash for Jani.  The other women just grunted or moaned when they were struck but Jani screamed loudly with every blow, and danced and jerked at the end of the rope.

Then it was Carin's turn to scream, as the whip landed across the welts the strap left on her bottom the previous day.  The beating continued, until Jani had received twenty lashes and the others five each.  Before it was over all of the women except Petra had screamed.

When he had finished the priest walked away without another word, leaving the five naked women moaning or sobbing at the posts.  Finally Carin was able to ask, "Now what?  Do we stay here all night?"

"No, they'll let us down at sunset.  We can go right into the barracks, we don't get a meal."

"No loss.  I couldn't eat anyway.  I've never felt such pain before."

Petra just grunted.  She'd had a hard life, and pain was a frequent part of it.

At last the priest returned and released the crew.  Jani collapsed, and Carin and Petra had to carry the naked woman into the barracks and put her face-down on the mat.  Carin examined Jani's back and legs.  She was relieved when she found only a couple of places where the whip had broken the skin.  The bleeding had already stopped.  There was nothing Carin could do for her; she didn't even have any water to sponge off the dried blood.  She found a morbid fascination in looking at the swollen red welts that covered Jani from her neck to her knees.

After a while Jani recovered enough to sob, "I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry.  Please forgive me, I'll never break a rule again.  I couldn't stand another whipping like this one."

Petra replied, "I hope you mean that.  I don't like being whipped either. If you mess up again you're going to wake up dead.  But for now, you're forgiven.  We can't be a crew if we're carrying a grudge.  Right, girls?"   There was some muttering, but finally they all nodded.

Carin couldn't sleep much that night.  The pain kept her awake, and when she did get to sleep Jani's moans and sobs would wake her.  She tried to comfort Jani, holding her and speaking soft words into her ear when she cried.

Jani whispered, "I can't stand much more of this, Carin.  I want to go home, away from this dirty planet.  How much longer before we're rescued?"  She started to sob again.

"I don't know, but it should be soon.  You can make it, Jani!  Don't lose hope.  Help is on the way."

* * *

Actually, help hadn't been summoned yet.  Hovat kept delaying, reluctant to tell the university that two members of the staff had just disappeared.  It was Athel who sent in the report the next morning, panicked now that Carin and Jani had been gone for more than two days.

It was the middle of the night when the message was received at the University of Zarn, and half of the next day was spent in discussions before the academics decided what to do.  Finally, they notified Star Fleet and the families of the missing women.  The next day rescue orders were sent from the Admiralty to the Amalgamation Survey Ship Interloper

End of Chapter 6

Copyright © 2004 by Zack. All rights reserved.
I welcome your comments. Email me at [email protected] or [email protected]

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