'The High Castes in a given city,' said my father, 'elect an administrator and council for stated terms. In times of crisis, a war chief, or Ubar, is named, who rules without check and by decree until, in his judgment, the crisis is passed.'

'In his judgment?' I asked skeptically.

'Normally the office is surrendered after the passing of the crisis,' said my father. 'It is part of the Warrior's Code.'

'But what if he does not give up the office?' I asked. I had learned enough of Gor by now to know that one could not always count on the Caste Codes being observed.

'Those who do not desire to surrender their power,' said my father, 'are usually deserted by their men. The offending war chief is simply abandoned, left alone in his palace to be impaled by the citizens of the city he has tried to usurp.'

I nodded, imagining a palace, empty save for one man sitting alone on his throne, clad in his robes of state, waiting for the angry people outside the gates to break through and work their wrath.

'But,' said my father, 'sometimes such a war chief, or Ubar, wins the hearts of his men, and they refuse to withdraw their allegiance.'

'What happens then?' I asked.

'He becomes a tyrant,' said my father, 'and rules until eventually, in one way or another, he is ruthlessly deposed.' My father's eyes were hard and seemed fixed in thought. It was not mere political theory he spoke to me. I gathered that he knew of such a man. 'Until,' he repeated slowly, 'he is ruthlessly deposed.'

The next morning it was back to Torm and his interminable lessons.

In large outline Gor, as would be expected, was not a sphere, but a spheroid. It was somewhat heavier in its southern hemisphere and was shaped somewhat like the Earth like a rounded, inverted top. The angle of its axis was somewhat sharper than the Earth's, but not enough to prevent its having a glorious periodicity of seasons. Moreover, like the Earth, it had two polar regions and an equatorial belt, interspersed with northern and southern temperate zones. Much of the area of Gor, surprisingly enough, was blank on the map, but I was overwhelmed trying to commit as many of the rivers, seas, plains, and peninsulas to memory as I could.

Economically, the base of the Gorean life was the free peasant, which was perhaps the lowest but undoubtedly the most fundamental caste, and the staple crop was a yellow grain called Sa-Tarna, or Life Daughter. Interestingly enough, the word for meat is Sa-Tassna, which means Life-Mother. Incidentally, when one speaks of food in general, one always speaks of Sa-Tassna. The expression for the yellow grain seems to be a secondary expression, derivative. This would seem to indicate that a hunting economy underlay or was prior to the agricultural economy. This would be the normal supposition in any case, but what intrigued me here, perhaps for no sufficient reason, was the complex nature of the expressions involved. This suggested to me that perhaps a well-developed language or mode of conceptual thought existed prior to the primitive hunting groups that must have flourished long ago on the planet. People had come, or had been brought to Gor possibly, with a fully developed language. I wondered at the possible antiquity of the Voyages of Acquisition I had heard my father speak of. I had been the object of one such voyage, he, apparently, of another.

I had little time for speculation, however, as I was trying to bear up under an arduous schedule which seemed designed to force me to become a Gorean in a matter of weeks or perhaps see me die in the attempt. But I enjoyed those weeks, as one is likely to when learning and developing oneself, though to what end I was still ignorant. I met many Goreans, other than Torm, in these weeks — free Goreans, mostly of the Caste of Scribes and the Caste of Warriors. The Scribes, of course, are the scholars and clerks of Gor, and there are divisions and rankings within.the group, from simple copiers to the savants of the city.

I had seen few women, but knew that they, when free, were promoted or demoted within the caste system according to the same standards and criteria as the men, although this varied, I was told, considerably from city to city. On the whole, I liked the people I met, and I was confident that they were largely of Earth stock, that their ancestors had been brought to the planet in Voyages of Acquisition. Apparently, after having been brought to the planet, they had simply been released, much as animals might be released in a forest preserve, or fish stocked free in a river.

The ancestors of some of them might have been Chaldeans or Celts or Syrians or Englishmen brought to this world over a period of centuries from different civilizations. But the children, of course, and their children eventually became simply Gorean. In the long ages on Gor almost all traces of Earth origin had vanished. Occasionally, however, an English word in Gorean, like «ax» or 'ship,' would delight me. Certain other expressions seemed clearly to be of Greek or German origin. If I had been a skilled linguist, I undoubtedly would have discovered hundreds of parallels and affinities, grammatical and otherwise, between Gorean and various of the Earth Languages. Earth origin, incidentally, was not a part of the First Knowledge, though it was of the Second.

'Torm,' I once asked, 'why is Earth origin not part of the First Knowledge?'

'Is it not self-evident?' he asked.

'No,' I said.

'AH!' he said, and closed his eyes very slowly and kept them shut for about a minute, during which time he was apparently subjecting the matter to the most intense scrutiny.

'You're right,' he said at last, opening his eyes. 'It is not self-evident.'

'Then what do we do?' I asked.

'We continue with our lessons,' said Torm.

The caste system was socially efficient, given its openness with respect to merit, but I regarded it as somehow ethically objectionable. It was still too rigid, in my opinion, particularly with respect to the selection of rulers from the High Castes and with respect to the Double Knowledge. But far more deplorable than the caste system was the institution of slavery. There were only three statuses conceivable to the Gorean mind outside of the caste system: slave, outlaw, and Priest-King. A man who refused to practice his livelihood or strove to alter status without the consent of the Council of High Castes was, by definition, an outlaw and subject to impalement.

The girl I had originally seen had been a slave, and what I had taken to be the jewelry at her throat had been a badge of servitude. Another such badge was a brand concealed by her clothing. The latter marked her as a slave, and the former identified her master. One might change one's collar, but not one's brand. I had not seen the girl since the first day. I wondered what had become of her, but I did not inquire. One of the first lessons I was taught on Gor was that concern for a slave was out of place. I decided to wait. I did learn, casually from a Scribe, not Torm, that slaves were not permitted to impart instruction to a free man, since it would place him in their debt, and nothing was owed to a slave. If it was in my power, I resolved to do what I could to abolish what seemed to me a degrading condition. I once talked to my father about the matter, and he merely said that there were many things on Gor worse than the lot of slavery, particularly that of a Tower Slave.

Without warning, with blinding speed, the bronze headed spear flew toward my breast, the heavy shaft blurred like a comet's tail behind it. I twisted, and the blade cut my tunic cleanly, creasing the skin with a line of blood as sharp as a razor. It sunk eight inches into the heavy wooden beams behind me. Had it struck me with that force, it would have passed through my body.

'He's fast enough,' said the man who had cast the spear. 'I shall accept him.'

This was my introduction to my instructor in arms, whose name was also Tarl. I shall call him the Older Tarl. He was a blond Viking giant of a man, a bearded fellow with a cheerful, craggy face and fierce blue eyes, who strode about as though he owned the earth on which he stood. His whole body, his carriage, the holding of his head bespoke the warrior, a man who knew his weapons and, on the simple world of Gor, knew that he could kill almost any man who might stand against him. If there was one outstanding impression I gathered of the Older Tarl in that first terrifying meeting, it was that he was a proud man, not arrogant, but proud, and rightfully so. I would come to know this skilled, powerful, proud man well.

Indeed, the largest part of my education was to be in arms, mostly training in the spear and sword. The spear seemed light to me because of the gravity, and I soon developed a dexterity in casting it with considerable force and accuracy. I could penetrate a shield at close distance, and I managed to develop a skill sufficient to hurl it through a thrown hoop about the size of a dinner plate at twenty yards. I was also forced to learn to throw the spear with my left hand.

Once I objected.

'What if you are wounded in the right arm?' demanded the Older Tarl. 'What will you do then?'

'Run?' suggested Torm, who occasionally observed these practice sessions.

'No!' cried the Older Tarl. 'You must stand and be slain like a warrior!'

Torm tucked a scroll, which he had been pretending to read, under his arm. He wiped his nose sagely on the sleeve of his blue robe. 'Is that rational?' he asked.

The Older Tarl seized a spear, and Torm, lifting his robes, hastily departed the training area.

In despair, with my left arm I lifted another spear from the spear-rack, to try once more. Eventually, perhaps more to my surprise than that of the Older Tarl, my performance became almost creditable. I had increased my margin of survival by some obscure percentage.

My training in the short, stabbing sword of the Goreans was as thorough as they could make it. I had belonged to a fencing club at Oxford and had fenced for sport and pleasure at the college in New Hampshire, but this current business was serious. Once again, I was supposed to learn to wield the weapon equally well with either hand, but, again, I could never manage to develop the skill to my genuine satisfaction. I acknowledged to myself that I was inveterately, stubbornly right=handed, for better or worse.

During my training with the sword, the Older Tarl cut me unpleasantly a number of times, shouting out, annoyingly enough, I thought, 'You are dead!' At last, near the end of my training, I managed to break through his guard and, pulling my stroke, to drive my blade against his chest. I withdrew it bright with his blood. He flung down his sword with a crash on the stone tiles and clasped me to his bleeding chest, laughing.

'I am dead!' he shouted in triumph. He slapped me on the shoulders, proud as a father who has taught his son chess and has been defeated for the first time.

I also learned the use of the shield, primarily to meet the cast spear obliquely so that it would deflect harmlessly. Toward the end of my training I always fought with shield and helmet. I would have supposed that armor, or chain mail perhaps, would have been a desirable addition to the accouterments of the Gorean warrior, but it had been forbidden by the Priest-Kings. A possible hypothesis to explain this is that the Priest-Kings may have wished war to be a biologically selective process in which the weaker and slower perish and fail. to reproduce themselves. This might account for the relatively primitive weapons allowed to the Men Below the Mountains. On Gor it was not the case that a cavern-chested toothpick could close a switch and devastate an army. Also, the primitive weapons guaranteed that what selection went on would proceed with sufficient slowness to establish its direction, and alter it, if necessary.

Besides the spear and sword, the crossbow and longbow were permitted, and these latter weapons perhaps tended to redistribute the probabilities of survival somewhat more broadly than the former. It may be, of course, that the Priest-Kings controlled weapons as they did simply because they feared for their own safety. I doubted that they stood against one another, man to man, sword to sword, in their holy mountains, putting their principles of selection to the test in their own cases. Incidentally, speaking of the crossbow and longbow, I did receive some instruction in them, but not much. The Older Tarl, my redoubtable instructor in arms, did not care for them, regarding them as secondary weapons almost unworthy for the hand of a warrior. I did not share his contempt, and occasionally during my rest periods had sought to improve my proficiency with them.

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