Long quote, but great description of a large slaver's house, specifically the House of Cernus in Ar
Chapter 9 I Learn of the House of Cernus
Ho-To, as Elizabeth had suggested, was only too willing to show me about the House of Cernus.
He was pleased with the size and complexity of the operation, which was indeed impressive. It was, of course, the largest and most opulent of the slave houses in Ar. The House of Cernus was more than thirty generations old. It had bred slaves as well as handled them for more than twenty-five generations. The breeding lines of the House of Cernus were recognized, with those of the House of Portus, and certain other of the large slave houses, throughout known Gor. To a slaver, certain girls can be recognized at a glance, as being of certain varieties developed by certain houses. The primary goals of the program, of course, wherever found, are beauty and passion.
On the other hand, considering the large number of slaves on Gor, only a small fraction are carefully bred; a larger fraction is bred, but more haphazardly, as when a given male of one private house is mated, for a price, with a given female of another house. Often in these matters, conducted under supervision, both slaves are hooded, in order that they not know who it is with whom they are forced to mate, lest they might, in their moment of union, in their common degradation, care for one another, or fall in love. The largest number of slaves, however larger than the bred slaves, considered as a group, are those who have been born free and have fallen into slavery, a not uncommon fate on this cruel, warlike world, particularly for women. Slave raids are a major business, and from time to time, a city falls.
Slavers are angry, incidentally, when a city does fall, for then the market is likely to be depressed for months, due to the influx of new slaves, sometimes numbered in the thousands. The slavers, by the way, indulge in speculation and manipulation whenever possible, trying to anticipate changes in fashion or control them. I suspected that the House of Cernus was attempting to create a need for barbarian girls, if only to add variety to a rich man's Pleasure Gardens girls of a sort it seemed it could supply in numbers not possible to competing slavers. The major obstacle to this plan, of course, was that barbarian girls tended to be ignorant and untrained. On the other hand, such girls might be trained, and I suspected that Cernus might have in mind some such experiment with Elizabeth.
The House of Cernus, which is a broad, many-storied cylinder, has a number of facilities which any large slave house must have. The only difference between these facilities in the House of Cernus and such facilities in other houses would probably have been in size, numbers of staff and lavishment of appointment. I have already mentioned the baths in the House of Cernus, which can rival some of the pools in the gigantic Capacian Baths, the finest of known Gor. Less impressive perhaps but even more essential to the operation of the House were its kitchens, its laundries, commissaries and storerooms; its medical facilities, in which dental care is also provided; its corridors of rooms for staff members, all of whom live in the House; its library, its records and files; its cubicles for Smiths, Bakers, Cosmeticians, Bleachers, Dyers, Weavers and Leather Workers; its wardrobe and jewelry chambers; its tarncots, two of them, opening by means of vast portals to tarn perches fixed in the side of the cylinder; its training rooms, both for slaves and for guards, and for those learning the trade of the slaver; recreation rooms for the staff; eating places; and, of course, various pens, kennels and retention facilities; as well as a chamber in which slaves are processed, collared and branded; deliveries to the House of Cernus, both of foodstuffs and materials, and slaves, are frequent; it is not unusual that a hundred slaves be received in a given day; the total number of slaves in the house at any one time, a shifting population, of course, tends to be between four and six thousand.
Many of these, of course, are simply put in pens and retained there until removed for sale; some lots are wholesaled to minor slavers, usually coming in from distant cities to pick up merchandise, which tends in Ar to be abundant and, on the whole, reasonably priced. Ar is the slave capital of known Gor. Although there are some private show and sales rooms in the House of Cernus, and private auctions and exhibitions, intended to interest prospective clients, are held, most slaves, of the House of Cernus and others, are sold in one of the five public auction houses, licensed and taxed by the Administrator of Ar. The major auction house, the Curulean, contains the great block. It is a great mark of prestige among slave girls to be selected for sale from the great block in the Curulean, and girls tend to compete viciously among themselves for this honor. To be sold from the Curulean great block is almost a guarantee of a rich master, and a luxurious pleasant life, though it be, of course, only that of a slave. As at many of the larger markets, there are Musicians near the block, and a girl is given enough time to present herself well. At the minor blocks in the small houses, or even the minor blocks in the Curulean, sales are conducted with a swiftness and dispatch that gives the girl little time to interest and impress buyers, with the result that even a very fine girl, to her indignation and shame, may be sold for only an average price to an average buyer, who may use her for little more than, as it is said, kettle and mat. This type of thing is at its worst when large numbers of girls must be sold, as when a city has fallen. Then, stripped, chained by the throat, in a long chain of girls, each separated from the other by about ten feet, secured not even by the dignity of a collar but only by a loop of the communal chain bolted or padlocked about her neck, each is dragged up the steps of the minor block, bid upon while a one-Ehn sand clock is turn highest bid that comes forth in one Ehn, and then dragged down the steps on the other side, making room for the next girl.
"This is the best of our private auction rooms," said Ho-Tu.
I looked into one of the private salesrooms in the House of Cernus. It would seat no more than a hundred buyers. The tiers in the room were of marble. The room itself was draped in rich purple. The block itself, interestingly, as tradition required, was rounded and of wood. On its surface there was sprinkled, again in one of the conventions of Gorean tradition, some sawdust. Female slaves, incidentally, are always sold barefoot. It is good for the girl to feel wood and sawdust beneath her feet, it is said.
I was a bit sad as I looked at the block. I knew that in such places private auctions were sometimes conducted, discreetly, for favored clientele, many times slavers themselves. At such private auctions, conducted secretly, Gorean slavers sometimes find it convenient to dispose of important, High Caste women without trace, sometimes even from the city of Ar itself, perhaps .women who have lived proudly, luxuriously, not more than a pasang or two from the rounded, wooden block from which they now find themselves, to their horror, being sold. Who knows what women, freshly branded, hooded and braceleted, chained in the slave wagons, pass to and from Ar?
Passing clown a corridor, trailing after Ho-Tu, we stopped briefly to peer into a large room. In this room I saw two slave girls, clad in yellow livery with yellow collars, as Elizabeth normally was, kneeling opposite one another. One girl was dictating from a piece of record paper held in her hand and the other girl was copying it rapidly on a second piece of record paper. The speed with which this was done informed me that some form of shorthand must be being used. Elsewhere in the room there were some free men, Scribes I gathered though they were stripped to the waist, who were inking, using a silk-screen process, large sheets of layered, glued rag paper. One of them held the sheet up inspecting it, and I saw that it was a bill, which might be pasted against a public building, or on the public boards near the markets. It advertised a sale. Other such sheets, hanging on wires, proclaimed games and tarn races. The common thread in these various matters was that the House of Cernus was involved, either in presenting the sale or in sponsoring the races or games.