just inches above the terrified heads of the celebrants.

Boldly I dipped my tarn downward, into the midst of the cylinders, just another of the wild tarnsmen of Ar. I brought him to rest on one of the steel projections that occasionally jut forth from the cylinders and serve as tam perches. The great bird opened and closed his wings, his steel-shod talons ringing on the metal perch as he changed his position, moving back and forth upon it. At last, satisfied, he brought his wings against his body and remained still, except for the alert movements of his great head and the flash. of those wicked eyes scrutinizing the streams of men and women on the nearby bridges.

My heart began to beat wildly, and I considered the facility with which I might yet wing my way from Ar. Once a warrior without a helmet flew near, drunk, and challenged me for the perch, a wild tarnsman of low rank, spoiling for a fight. If I had yielded the perch, it would have aroused suspicion immediately, for on Gor the only honorable reply to a challenge is to accept it promptly.

'May the Priest-Kings blast your bones,' I shouted, as cheerfully as I could, adding, for good measure, 'and may you thrive upon the excrement of tharlarions!' The latter recommendation, with its allusion to the loathed riding lizards used by many of the primitive clans of Gor, seemed to please him.

'May your tarn lose its feathers,' he roared, slapping his thigh, bringing his tarp to rest on the perch. He leaned over and tossed me a skin bag of Paga, from which I took a long swig, then hurled it contemptuously back into his arms. In a moment he had taken flight again, bawling out some semblance of a song about the woes of a camp girl, the bag of Paga flying behind him, dangling from its long straps.

Like most Gor compasses, mine contained a chronometer, and I took the compass, turned it over, and pressed the tab that would snap open the back and reveal the dial. It was two minutes past the twentieth hour! Vanished were my thoughts of escape and desertion. I abruptly forced my taro into flight, streaking for the tower of the Ubar.

In a moment it was below me. I dropped immediately, for no one without good reason rides a tarn in the vicinity of the tower of a Ubar. As I descended, I saw the wide, round roof of the cylinder. It seemed to be translucently lit from beneath a bluish color. In the center of the circle was a low, round platform, some ten paces in diameter, reached by four circular steps that extended about the perimeter of the platform. On the platform, alone, was a dark robed figure. As my tarn struck down on the platform and I leaped from its back, I heard a girl's scream.

I lunged for the center of the platform, breaking under my foot a small ceremonial basket filled with grain, kicking from my path a Ka-la-na container, splashing, the fermented red liquid across the stone surface. I raced to the pile of stones at the center of the platform, the girl's screaming in my ears. From a short distance away I heard the shouts of men and the clank of arms as warriors raced up the stairs to the roof. Which was the Home Stone? I kicked apart the rocks. One of them must be the Home Stone of Ar, but which? How could I tell it from the others, the Home Stones of those cities which had fallen to Ar?

Yes! It would be the — one that would be red with Ka-la-na, that would be sprinkled with the seeds of grain! I felt the stones in frenzy, but several were damp and dotted with the grains of Sa-Tama. I felt the heavily robed figure dragging me back, tearing at my shoulders and throat with her nails, pitting against me all the fury of her enraged body. I swung back, forcing her from me. She fell to her knees and suddenly crawled to one of the stones, seized it up, and turned to flee. A spear shattered on the platform near me. The Guards were on the roof!

I leaped after the heavily robed figure, seized her, spun her around and tore from her hands the stone she carried. She struck at me and pursued me to the tarn, which was excitedly shaking his wings, preparing to forsake the tumultuous roof of the cylinder. I leaped upward and seized the saddle ring, inadvertently dislodging the mounting ladder. In an instant I had attained the saddle of the tarn and drew back savagely on the one strap. The heavily robed figure was trying to climb the mounting ladder, but was impeded by the weight and ornate inflexibility of her garments. I cursed as an arrow creased my shoulder, as the tam's great wings smote the air and the monster took to flight. He was in the air, and the passage of arrows sang in my ears, the cries of enraged men, and the long, piercing, terrified scream of a girl.

I looked down, dismayed. The heavily robed figure was still clinging desperately to the mounting ladder. She was now clear of the roof, swinging free below the tarn, with the lights of Ar dropping rapidly into the distance below her. I drew my sword from its sheath, to cut the mounting ladder from the saddle, but stopped, and angrily drove the blade back into its sheath. I couldn't afford to carry the extra weight, but neither could I bring myself to cut the ladder free and send the girl hurtling to her death.

I cursed as the frenzied notes of taro whistles drifted up from below. All the tarnsmen of Ar would be flying tonight. I passed the outermost cylinders of Ar and found myself free in the Gorean night, streaking for Ko-ro-ba. I placed the Home Stone in the saddle pack, snapping the lock shut, and then reached down to haul in the mounting ladder.

The girl was whimpering in terror, and her muscles and fingers seemed frozen. Even after I had drawn her to the saddle before me and belted her securely to the saddle ring, I had to force her fingers from the rung of the mounting ladder. I folded the ladder and fastened it in its place at the side of the saddle. I felt sorry for the girl, a helpless pawn in this sorry man's game of empire, and the tiny animal noises she uttered moved me to pity.

'Try not to be afraid,' I said.

She trembled, whimpering.

'I won't hurt you,' I said. 'Once we're beyond the swamp forest, I'll set you down on some highway to Ar. You'll be safe.' I wanted so to reassure her. 'By morning you'll be back in Ar,' I promised.

Helplessly, she seemed to stammer some incoherent word of gratitude and turned trustfully to me, putting her arms around my waist as though for additional security; I felt her trembling, innocent body against mine, her dependence on me, and then she suddenly locked her arms around my waist and with a cry of rage hurled me from the saddle. In the sickening instant of falling I realized I had not fastened my own saddle belt in the wild flight from the roof of the Ubar's cylinder. My hands flung out,grasping nothing, and I fell headlong downward into the night.

I remember hearing for a moment, fading like the wind, her triumphant laughter. I felt my body stiffening in the fall, setting itself for the impact. I remember wondering if I would feel the crushing jolt, and supposing that I would. Absurdly, I tried to loosen my body, relaxing the muscles, as if it would make any difference. I waited for the shock, was conscious of the flashing pain of breaking through branches and the plunge into some soft, articulated yielding substance. I lost consciousness.

When I opened my eyes, I found myself partially adhering to a vast network of broad, elastic strands that formed a structure, perhaps a pasang in width, and through; which at numerous points projected the monstrous trees of the swamp forest. I felt the network, or web, tremble, and I struggled to rise, but found myself unable to gain my feet. My flesh adhered to the adhesive substance of the broad strands. Approaching me, stepping daintily for all its bulk, prancing over the strands, came one of the Swamp Spiders of Gor. I fastened my eyes on the blue sky, wanting it to be the last thing I looked upon. I shuddered as the beast paused near me,and I felt the light stroke of its forelegs, felt the tactile investigation of the sensory hairs on its appendages. I looked at it, and it peered down, with its four pairs of pearly eyes quizzically, I thought. Then, to my astonishment, I heard; a mechanically reproduced sound say, 'Who are you?'

I shuddered, believing that my mind had broken at.

last. In a moment the voice repeated the question, the volume of the sound being slightly increased, and then added, 'Are you from the City of Ar?'

'No,' I said, taking part in what I believed must be some fantastic hallucination in which I madly conversed with myself. 'No, I am not,' I said. 'I am from the Free City of Ko-ro-ba.'

When I said this, the monstrous insect bent near me, and I caught sight of the mandibles, like curved knives. I tensed myself for the sudden lateral chopping of those pincer like jaws. Instead, saliva or some related type of secretion or exudate was being applied to the web in my vicinity, which loosened its adhesive grip. When freed, I was lifted lightly in the mandibles and carried to the edge of the web, where the spider seized a hanging strand and scurried downward, placing me on the ground. He then backed away from me on his eight legs, but never taking the pearly gaze of his several eyes from me.

I heard the mechanically reproduced sound again. It said, 'My name is Nar, and I am of the Spider People.' I then saw for the first time that strapped to his abdomen was a translation device, not unlike those I had seen in Ko-ro-ba. It apparently translated sound impulses, below my auditory threshold, into the sounds of human speech. My own replies were undoubtedly similarly transformed into some medium the insect could understand. One of the insect's legs twiddled with a knob on the translation device. 'Can you hear this?' he asked. He had reduced the volume of the sound to its original level, the level at which he had asked his original question.

'Yes,' I said.

The insect seemed relieved. 'I am pleased,' he said. 'I do not think it is appropriate for rational creatures to speak loudly.'

'You have saved my life,' I said. 'Thank you.'

'My web saved your life,' corrected the insect. He was still for a moment, and then, as if sensing my apprehension, said, 'I will not hurt you. The Spider People do not hurt rational creatures.'

'I am grateful for that,' I said.

The next remark took my breath away.

'Was it you who stole the Home Stone of Ar?'

I paused, then, being confident the creature had no love for the men of Ar, answered affirmatively.

'That is pleasing to me,' said the insect, 'for the men of Ar do not behave well toward the Spider People. They hunt us and leave only enough of us alive to spin the Cur-Ion Fiber used in the mills of Ar. If they were not rational creatures, we would fight them.'

'How did you know the Home Stone of Ar was stolen?' I asked.

'The word has spread from the city, carried by all the rational creatures, whether they crawl or fly or swim.' The insect lifted one foreleg, the sensory hairs trembling on my shoulder. 'There is great rejoicing on Gor, but not in the city of Ar.»

'I lost the Home Stone,' I said. 'I was tricked by her I suppose to be the daughter of the Ubar, thrown from my own tarn, and saved from death only by your web. I think tonight there will again be gladness in Ar, when the daughter of the Ubar returns the Home Stone.'

The mechanical voice spoke again. 'How is it that the daughter of the Ubar will return the Home Stone of Ar when you carry in your belt the tarn-goad?'

Suddenly I realized the truth of what he had said and was amazed that it had not occurred to me before. I imagined the girl alone on the back of the fierce tarn, unskilled in the mastery of such a mount, without even a tarn-goad to protect herself if the bird should turn on her. Her chances of survival seemed now more slim than if I had cut the ladder over the cylinders of Ar when she hung helplessly in my power, the treacherous daughter of the Ubar Marlenus. Soon the tarn would be feeding. It must have been light for several hours.

'I must return to Ko-ro-ba,' I said. 'I have failed.'

'I will take you to the edge of the swamp if you like,' said the insect. I assented, thanking him, this rational creature who lifted me gently to his back and moved with such dainty rapidity, picking his way exquisitely through the swamp forest.

We had proceeded for perhaps an hour when Nar, the spider, abruptly stopped and lifted his two forelegs into the air, testing the odors, straining to.sift out

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