I now inform you that what I write of my own experience I know to be true, and that what I have accepted on authority I believe to be true, but I shall not be offended if you disbelieve, for 1, too, in your place, would refuse to believe. Indeed, on the small evidence I can present in this narrative, you are obliged, in all honesty, to reject my testimony or at the very least to suspend judgment. In fact, there is so little probability that this tale will be believed that the Priest-Kings of Sardar, the Keepers of the Sacred Place, have apparently granted that it may be recorded. I am glad of this, because I must tell this story. I have seen things of which I must speak, even if, as it is said here, only to the Towers.

Why have the Priest-Kings been so lenient in this case — those who control this second earth? I think the answer is simple. Enough humanity remains in them, if they are human, for we have never seen them, to be vain; enough vanity remains in them to wish to inform you of their existence, if only in a way that you will not accept or be able to consider seriously. Perhaps there is humor in the Sacred Place, or irony. After all, suppose you should accept this tale, should learn of the Counter-Earth and of the Voyages of Acquisition, what could' you do? You could do nothing, you with your rudimentary technology of which you are so proud — you could do nothing at least for a thousand years, and by that time, if the Priest-Kings choose, this planet will have found a new sun, and new peoples to populate its verdant surface.

Chapter 3

The Tarn

'HO!' CRIED TORM, THAT MOST improbable member of the Caste of Scribes, throwing his blue robes over his head as though he could not bear to see the light of day. Out of the robes then popped the sandy-haired head of the scribe, his pale blue eyes twinkling on each side of that sharp needle of a nose. He looked me over. 'Yes,' he cried, 'I deserve it!' Back went the head into the robes. Muffled, his voice reached me. 'Why must 1, an idiot, be always afflicted with idiots?' Out came the head.

'Have I nothing better to do? Have I not a thousand scrolls gathering dust on my shelves, unread, unstudied?'

'I don't know,' I said.

'Look,' he cried in actual despair, waving his blue robed arms hopelessly at the messiest chamber I had seen on Gor. His desk, a vast wooden table, was piled with papers and pots of ink, and pens and scissors and leather fasteners and binders. There was no square foot of the chamber that did not contain racks of scrolls, and others, hundreds perhaps, were piled like cord wood here and there. His sleeping mat was unrolled, and his blankets must not have been aired for weeks. His personal belongings, which seemed to be negligible, were stuffed into the meanest of the scroll racks.

One of the windows into Torm's chamber was quite irregular, and I noted that it had been forcibly enlarged. I imagined him with a carpenter's hammer, angrily cracking and banging away at the wall, chipping away the stone that more light might enter his room. And always under his table a brazier filled with hot coals burned near the feet of the scribe, perilously close to the scholarly litter with which the floor was strewn. It seemed that Torm was always cold or, at best, never quite warm enough. The hottest days would be likely to find him wiping his nose on the sleeve of his blue robes, shivering miserably and lamenting the price of fuel.

Torm was of slight build and reminded me of an angry bird which enjoys nothing so much as scolding squirrels. His blue robes were worn through in a dozen spots, only two or three of which had been ineptly attacked by thread. One of his sandals had a broken strap that had been carelessly knotted back together. The Goreans I had seen in the past few weeks had tended to be meticulous in their dress, taking great pride in their appearance, but Torm apparently had better things on which to spend his time. Among these things, unfortunately, was berating those like myself who were hapless enough to fall within the ambit of his wrath.

Yet, in spite of his incomparable eccentricities, his petulance and exasperation, I felt drawn to the man and sensed in him something I admired — a shrewd and kind spirit, a sense of humor, and a love of learning, which can be one of the deepest and most honest of loves. It was this love for his scrolls and for the men who had written them, perhaps centuries before, that most impressed me about Torm. In his way, he linked me, this moment, and himself with generations of men who had pondered on the world and its meaning. Incredible as it may seem, I did not doubt that he was the finest scholar in the City of Cylinders, as my father had said.

With annoyance, Torm poked through one of the enormous piles of scrolls and at last, on his hands and knees, fished out one skimpy scroll, set it in the reading device — a metal frame with rollers at the top and bottom and, pushing a button, spun the scroll to its opening mark, a single sign.

'Al-Ka!' said Torm, pointing one long, authoritative finger at the sign. 'Al-Ka,' he said.

'Al-Ka,' I repeated.

We looked at one another, and both of us laughed. A tear of amusement formed along the side of his sharp nose, and his pale blue eyes twinkled.

I had begun to learn the Gorean alphabet.

In the next few weeks I found myself immersed in intensive activity, interspersed with carefully calculated rest and feeding periods. At first only Torm and my father were my teachers, but as I began to master the language of my new home, numerous others, apparently of Earth stock, assumed responsibility for my lessons in special areas. Torm's English, incidentally, was spoken with a Gorean accent. He had learned our tongue from my father. Most Goreans would have regarded it as a worthless tongue, since it is nowhere spoken on the planet, but Torm had mastered it, apparently only for the delight of seeing how living thought could express itself in yet another garb.

The schedule that was forced upon me was meticulous and grueling, and except for rest and feeding, alternated between times of study and times of training, largely in arms, but partly in the use of various devices as common to the Goreans as adding machines and scales are to us.

One of the most interesting was the Translator, which could be set for various languages. Whereas there was a main common tongue on Gor, with apparently several related dialects or sub languages, some of the Gorean languages bore in sound little resemblance to anything I had heard before, at least as languages; they resembled rather the cries of birds and the growls of animals; they were sounds I knew could not have been produced by a human throat. Although the machines could be set for various languages, one term of the translation symmetry, at least in the machines I saw, was always Gorean. If I set the machine to, say, Language A and spoke Gorean into it, it would, after a fraction of a second, emit a succession of noises, which was the translation of my Gorean sentences into A. On the other hand, a new succession of noises in A would be received by the machine and emitted as a message in Gorean.

My father, to my delight, had taped one of these translation devices with English, and accordingly it was a most useful tool in working out equivalent phrases. Also, of course, he and Torm worked intensively with me. The machine, however, particularly to Torm's relief, allowed me to practice on my own. These translation machines are a marvel of miniaturization, each of them, about the size of a portable typewriter, being programmed for four non-Gorean languages. The translations, of course, are rather literal, and the vocabulary is limited to recognitions of only about 25,000 equivalencies for each language.

Accordingly, for subtle communication or the fullest expression of thought, the machine was inferior to a skilled linguist. The machine, however, according to my father, retained the advantage that its mistakes would not be intentional, and that its translations, even if inadequate, would be honest.

'You must learn,' Torm had said matter-of-factly, 'the history and legends of Gor, its geography and economics, its social structures and customs, such as the caste system and clan groups, the right of placing the Home Stone, the Places of Sanctuary, when quarter is and is not permitted in war, and so on.'

And I learned these things, or as much as I could in the time I was given. Occasionally Torm would cry out in horror as I made a mistake, incomprehension and disbelief written large on his features, and he would then sadly take up a large scroll, containing the work of an author of whom he disapproved, and strike me smartly on the head with it. One way or another, he was determined that I should profit by his instruction.

Oddly enough, there was little religious instruction, other than to encourage awe of the Priest-Kings, and what there was, Torm refused to administer, insisting it was the province of the Initiates. Religious matters on this world tend to be rather carefully guarded by the Caste of Initiates, who allow members of other castes little participation in their sacrifices and ceremonies. I was given some prayers to the Priest-Kings to memorize, but they were in Old Gorean, a language cultivated by the Initiates but not spoken generally on the planet, and I never bothered to learn them. To my delight, I learned that Torm, whose memory was phenomenal, had forgotten them years ago. I sensed that a certain distrust existed between the Caste of Scribes and the Caste of Initiates.

The ethical teachings of Gor, which are independent of the claims and propositions of the Initiates, amount to little more than the Caste Codes — collections of sayings whose origins are lost in antiquity. I was specially drilled in the Code of the Warrior Caste.

'It's just as well,' said Torm. 'You would never make a Scribe.'

The Code of the Warrior was, in general, characterized by a rudimentary chivalry, emphasizing loyalty to the Pride Chiefs and the Home Stone. It was harsh, but with a certain gallantry, a sense of honor that I could respect. A man could do worse than live by such a code.

I was also instructed in the Double Knowledge — that is, I was instructed in what the people, on the whole, believed, and then I was instructed in what the intellectuals were expected to know. Sometimes there was a surprising discrepancy between the two. For example, the population as a whole, the castes below the High Castes, were encouraged to believe that their world was a broad, flat disk. Perhaps this was to discourage them from exploration or to develop in them a habit of relying on commonsense prejudices — something of a social control device.

On the other hand, the High Castes, specifically the Warriors, Builders, Scribes, Initiates, and Physicians, were told the truth in such matters, perhaps because it was thought they would eventually determine it for themselves, from observations such as the shadow of their planet on one or another of Gor's three small moons during eclipses, the phenomenon of sighting the tops of distant objects first, and the fact that certain stars could not be seen from certain geographical positions; if the planet had been flat, precisely the same set of stars would have been observable from every position on its surface.

I wondered, however, if the Second Knowledge, that of the intellectuals, might not be as carefully tailored to preclude inquiry on their level as the First Knowledge apparently was to preclude inquiry on the level of the Lower Castes. I would guess that there is a Third Knowledge, that reserved to the Priest-Kings.

'The city-state,' said my father, speaking to me late one afternoon, 'is the basic political division on Gorhostile cities controlling what territory they can in their environs, surrounded by a no-man's land of open ground on every side.'

'How is leadership determined in these cities?' I asked.

'Rulers,' he said, 'are chosen from any High Caste.'

'High Caste?' I asked.

'Yes, of course,' was his answer. 'In fact, in the First Knowledge, there is a story told to the young in their public nurseries, that if a man from Lower Caste should come to rule in a city, the city would come to ruin.'

I must have appeared annoyed.

'The caste structure,' said my father patiently, with perhaps the trace of a smile on his face, 'is relatively immobile, but not frozen, and depends on more than birth. For example, if a child in his schooling shows that he can raise caste, as the expression is, he is permitted to do so. But, similarly, if a child does not show the aptitude expected of his caste, whether it be, say, that of physician or warrior, he is lowered in caste.'

'I see,' I said, not much reassured.

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