Excerpts from A Merchants Tale ‘A Journal of Gorean travels’
The Royal Baths of Zerzura:
Journal Entry I
Shortly after arriving in the city and securing accommodations with a local Inn Keeper I inquired about the baths and the whispered tales of its many splendors. The Inn Keeper, a jovial and friendly sort, laughed. “The rumors you have heard traveler…” he would stop talking as he turned his back to me. He grabbed an earthen jug from the shelf behind him and set it before me. Removing the cork, he placed an empty cup directly next to the jug regarding me with expectant stare.
Digging into my coin purse I produced two copper tarsks, placing them one at a time next to the empty cup. “One for the wine Inn Keeper and one for the tale.”
His hand slapped down over the coins, snatching them up as if they had never been. His bellowing laugh echoing about the room as he filled my cup with what appeared to be a very watery red. “The stories you have heard are of the Royal baths. While commoners and peasants are not permitted most Free citizens belonging to a caste are. Including Free Women” The Inn Keepers eyes narrowed as he glared, as if he were taking my measure before he continued. “Outsiders such as yourself” he shrugged “I doubt you would be permitted…though perhaps…if you were to secure a suitable guide.” He finished with a jagged almost toothless grin.
I laughed as I tipped my cup, swallowing down the whole of it contents. Watery indeed. I felt the man was playing some shrewd game, conning unsuspecting travels from their coin. I have found in my various travels, allowing such deceptions to pass un-protested can be advantageous. Further, despite my current visage, I was not a poor traveler but a merchant of significant means. I decided to play along with his little ruse. “Perhaps you might point me to one willing to escort a weary traveler?”
The Inn Keepers jovial face slacked to a look of serious pondering. Scratching his bearded chin, he answered “I myself am of course permitted entry, Being a man of some repute.“ He would then sigh heavily, shaking his head side to side “but I am far to busy as you can well see.” Gesturing to the nearly empty room with a sly grin. “I will take you for mmmm...twelve copper tarsks”
Our banter bounced back and forth for some time till finally agreed. He would escort me for seven copper tarsks.
Journal Entry II
The first thing that struck me as we approached the structure were the high garden walls. Approximately twice the height of a man, no doubt to shield the interior from unworthy eyes. Above the walls rose great glimmering domes, rimmed and capped with spires of pure gold. The doors to the bath house gates were higher yet than the walls. Golden in appearance a topped with an arch common in Tahari architecture. The door was flanked by two armed guards who seemed to regard me with a suspicious and intense gaze. Though they were the only guards visible, one could not help but have the feeling of being closely watched by many more eyes.
Stepping into the interior of the baths was truly breath taking. Large sunbaked stones making up a floor that surround a large shimmering pool. The reflected light of the water dancing up along columns etched with mysterious symbols. Soft laughter and sounds of playful splashes echoing through a covered section of the pool. The slaves obvious, though clearly of a fine stock. They served naked save a golden collar locked about their necks. This site, not unusual, in fact common to most any bath house one might experience. It was the other women, and men, soaking together in the cool spring fed waters. For these women were obviously not slaves. They wore extravagant jewels, each seemingly more ostentatious than the previous. Some so covered in such that you wondered how the weight did not pull them into the pool to drown. Others less encumbered but all wearing some visible token of their status.
The Inn Keeper leaned to me. Speaking in a hushed tone “The free women wear jewels to flaunt their wealth and status…as well as making sure they are not mistaken for slaves.” He had finished with a snicker. Grabbing my arm with surprising strength he had pulled me closer. The stench of stale watery wine heavy on his breath whispering as he nudged his head to a small round pool deep within the bath house. “See the young girl with the two slaves there?”
I nodded my head, almost mesmerized by the girl’s youthful beauty. Her sun kissed skin glistening with rivulets of water cascading delicately over the generous curves of her body. She wore a type of head covering of laced pearls and great golden necklace with stones of amethyst larger than any I had ever seen. Golden chains woven with emeralds draped about her arms and chest. On her long delicate fingers she wore many jeweled rings. They were difficult to make out at this distance but appeared to be symbols of some type. She was attended by two slaves. A girl, also of some significant beauty, sponging her back and a boy slave. He knelt at her feet. I watched with an almost envious stare as he carefully lifted her leg, resting her foot on his bare thigh as he washed and massaged her with loving adoration.
The Inn Keeper continued in his raspy whisper “Do not let your eyes linger my friend. She is the daughter of the Tatrix herself. Releasing his claw like grip on my arm he would step back, his voice returning to his boisterous self, nudging me with an elbow as he bellowed “Forbidden fruits to the likes of us aye my friend”
It was with great effort I turned my eyes from the splendors laid bare before me. Not bothering with a response to my conniving escort, I can recall the thought that repeated itself in my head. Something my father say to me over and over as a young boy.
“Nothing is impossible for a man of ambition.”