I gathered that my education was coming to an end. Perhaps it was in the lengthening of the rest periods; perhaps it was in the repetition of materials I had already encountered; perhaps it was something in the attitude of my instructors. I felt that I was nearly ready — but for what I had no idea. One pleasure of these final days was that I had begun to speak Gorean with the facility that comes from constant contact with and intensive study of a language. I had begun to dream in Gorean and to understand easily the small talk of my teachers among themselves when they were speaking for one another and not for the ears of an outlander. I had begun to think in Gorean as well, and after a time I was conscious of a deliberate mental shift involved in thinking in English. After a few English sentences or a page or so in one of my father's books, I would be at home again in my native tongue, but the shift was there, and necessary. I was fluent in Gorean. Once, when struck by the Older Tarl, I had cursed in Gorean, and he had laughed.

This afternoon, when it was time for our lesson, he was not laughing. He entered my apartment, carrying a metal rod about two feet long, with a leather loop attached. It had a switch in the handle, which could be set in two positions, on and off, like a simple torch. He wore another such instrument slung from his belt. 'This is not a weapon,' he said. 'It is not to be used as a weapon.'

'What is it?' I asked.

'A taro-goad,' he replied. He snapped the switch in the barrel to the «on» position and struck the table. It showered sparks in a sudden cascade of yellow light, but left the table unmarked. He turned off the goad and extended it to me. As I reached for it, he snapped it on and slapped it in my palm. A billion tiny yellow stars, like pieces of fiery needles, seemed to explode in my hand. I cried out in shock. I thrust my hand to my mouth. It had been like a sudden, severe electric charge, like the striking of a snake in my hand. I examined my hand; it was unhurt. 'Be careful of a tare-goad,' said the Older Tarl. 'It is not for children.' I took it from him, this time being careful to take it near the leather loop, which I fastened around my wrist.

The Older Tarl was leaving, and I understood that I was to follow him. We ascended a spiral staircase inside the cylinder and climbed for what must have been dozens of apartment levels. At last we emerged on the flat roof of the cylinder. The wind swept across the flat, circular roof, tugging one toward the edge. There was no protective rail. I braced myself, wondering what was to occur. Some dust blew against my face. I shut my eyes. The Older Tarl took a tarn whistle, or tarn call, from his tunic and blew a piercing blast.

I had never seen one of the taros before, except on the tapestry in my apartment and in illustrations in certain books I had studied devoted to the care, breeding, and equipment of tarns. That I had not been trained for this moment was intentional, as I later discovered.

The Goreans believe, incredibly enough, that the capacity to master a tam is innate and that some men possess this characteristic and that some do not. One does not learn to master a tare. It is a matter of blood and spirit, of beast and man, of a relation between two beings which must be immediate, intuitive, spontaneous. It is said that a tam knows who is a tarnsman and who is not, and that those who are not die in this first meeting.

My first impression was that of a rush of wind and a great snapping sound, as if a giant might be snapping an enormous towel or scarf; then I was cowering, awestricken, in a great winged shadow, and an immense tarp, his talons extended like gigantic steel hooks, his wings sputtering fiercely in the air, hung above me, motionless except for the beating of his wings.

'Stand clear of the wings,' shouted the Older Tarl.

I needed no urging. I darted from under the bird. One stroke of those wings would hurl me yards from the top of the cylinder.

The tam dropped to the roof of the cylinder and regarded us with his bright black eyes.

Though the tarn, like most birds, is surprisingly light for its size, this primarily having to do with the comparative hollowness of the bones, it is an extremely powerful bird, powerful even beyond what one would expect from such a monster. Whereas large Earth birds, such as the eagle, must, when taking flight from the ground, begin with a running start, the tarn, with its incredible musculature, aided undoubtedly by the somewhat lighter gravity of Gor, can with a spring and a sudden flurry of its giant wings lift both himself and his rider into the air. In Gorean, these birds are sometimes spoken of as Brothers of the Wind.

The plumage of tarns is various, and they are bred for their colors as well as their strength and intelligence. Black tares are used for night raids, white taros in winter campaigns, and multicolored, resplendent tares are bred for warriors who wish to ride proudly, regardless of the lack of camouflage. The most common tarn, however, is greenish brown. Disregarding the disproportion in size, the Earth bird which the tam most closely resembles is the hawk, with the exception that it has a crest somewhat of the nature of a jay's.

Taros, who are vicious things, are seldom more than half tamed and, like their diminutive earthly counterparts, the hawks, are carnivorous. It is not unknown for a tarn to attack and devour his own rider. They fear nothing but the taro-goad. They are trained by men of the Caste of Tarn Keepers to respond to it while still young, when they can be fastened by wires to the training perches. Whenever a young bird soars away or refuses obedience in some fashion, he is dragged back to the perch and beaten with the taro-goad. Rings, comparable to those which are fastened on the legs of the young birds, are worn by the adult birds to reinforce the memory of the hobbling wire and the tare goad. Later, of course, the adult birds are not fastened, but the conditioning given them in their youth usually holds, except when they become abnormally disturbed or have not been able to obtain food. The tam is one of the two most common mounts of a Gorean warrior; the other is the high tharlarion, a species of saddle-lizard, used mostly by clans who have never mastered tares. No one in the City of Cylinders, as far as I knew, maintained tharlarions, though they were supposedly quite common on Gor, particularly in the lower areas — in swampland and on the deserts.

The Older Tarl had mounted his tare, climbing up the five-rung leather mounting ladder which hangs on the left side of the saddle and is pulled up in flight. He fastened himself in the saddle with a broad purple strap. He tossed me a small object which nearly fell from my fumbling hands. It was a tam whistle, with its own note, which would summon one tarn, and one tam only, the mount which was intended for me. Never since the panic of the disoriented compass back in the mountains of New Hampshire had I been so frightened, but this time I refused to allow my fear the fatal inch it required. If I was to die, it would be; if I was not to die, I would not.

I smiled to myself in spite of my fear, amused at the remark I had addressed to myself. It sounded like something out of the Code of the Warrior, something which, if taken literally, would seem to encourage its believer to take not the slightest or most sane precautions for his safety. I blew a note on,the whistle, and it was shrill and different, of a new pitch from that of the Old Tarl.

Almost immediately from somewhere, perhaps from a ledge out of sight, rose a fantastic object, another giant tare, even larger than the first, a glossy sable tam which circled the cylinder once and then wheeled toward me, landing a few feet away, his talons striking on the roof with a sound like hurled gauntlets. His talons were shod with steel — a war tarn. He raised his curved beak to the sky and screamed, lifting and shaking his wings. His enormous head turned toward me, and.his round, wicked eyes blazed in my direction. The next thing I knew his beak was open; I caught a brief sight of his thin, sharp tongue, as long as a man's arm, darting out and back, and then, snapping at me, he lunged forward, striking at me with that monstrous beak, and I heard the Older Tarl cry out in horror, 'The goad! The goad!'

Chapter 4

The Mission

I THREW MY RIGHT ARM up to protect myself, the goad, attached by its strap to my wrist, flying wildly. I seized it, using it like a puny stick, striking at the great snapping beak that was trying to seize me, as if I were a scrap of food on the high, flat plate of the cylinder's roof. He lunged twice, and I struck it twice. He drew back his head again, spreading his beak, preparing to slash downward again. In that instant I switched the tare-goad to the «on» position, and when the great beak flashed downward again, I struck it viciously, trying to force it away from me. The effect was startling: there was the sudden bright flash of yellow glittering light, the splash of sparks, and a scream of pain and rage from the tam as he immediately beat his wings, lifting himself out of my reach in a rush of air that nearly forced me over the edge of the roof. I was on my hands and knees, trying to get back on my feet, too near the edge. The tam was circling the cylinder, uttering piercing cries; then he began to fly away from the city.

Without knowing why, and thinking I was better off to have the thing in retreat, I seized my tam whistle and blew its shrill note. The giant bird seemed almost to shudder in the air, and then he reeled, losing altitude, gaining it again. If he had not been simply a winged beast, I would have believed him to be struggling with himself, a creature locked inwardly in mental torture. It was the wild nature of the tarn, the call of the distant hills, the open sky, against the puny conditioning he had been subjected to, against the will of tiny men with their private objectives, their elementary psychology of stimulus and response, their training wires and taro-goads.

At last, with a wild cry of rage, the tam returned to the cylinder. I seized the short mounting ladder swinging wildly from the saddle and climbed it, seating myself in the saddle, fastening the broad purple belt that would keep me from tumbling to my death.

The tarn is guided by virtue of a throat strap, to which are attached, normally, six leather streamers, or reins, which are fixed in a metal ring on the forward portion of the saddle. The reins are of different colors, but one learns them by ring position and not color. Each of the reins attaches to a small ring on the throat strap, and the rings are spaced evenly. Accordingly, the mechanics are simple. One draws on the streamer, or rein, which is attached to the ring most nearly approximating the direction in which one wishes to go. For example, to land or lose altitude, one uses the four-strap which exerts pressure on the four-ring, which is located beneath the throat of the tarn. To rise into flight, or gain altitude, one draws on the one-strap, which exerts pressure on the one-ring, which is located on the back of the tam's neck. The throat- strap rings, corresponding to.the position of the reins on the main saddle ring, are numbered in a clockwise fashion.

The tam-goad also is occasionally used in guiding the bird. One strikes the bird in the direction opposite to which one wishes to go, and the bird, withdrawing from the goad, moves in that direction. There is very little precision in this method, however, because the reactions of the bird are merely instinctive, and he may not withdraw in the exact tangent desired. Moreover, there is danger in using the goad excessively. It tends to become less effective if often used, and the rider is then at the mercy of the taro.

I drew back on the one-strap and, filled with terror and exhilaration, felt the power of the gigantic wings beating on the invisible air. My body lurched wildly, but the saddle belt held. I couldn't breathe for a minute, but clung, frightened and thrilled, to the saddle-ring, my hand wrapped in the one-strap. The tarn continued to climb, and I saw the City of Cylinders dropping far below me, like a set of rounded children's blocks set in the gleaming green hills. I had never experienced anything like this, and if man ever felt godlike I suppose I did in those first savage, exhilarating moments. I looked below and saw the Older Tarl, mounted on his own tarn, climbing to overtake me. When he was near, he shouted to me, the words merry but indistinct in the rush of air.

'Ho, child,' he called. 'Do you seek to climb to the Moons of Gor?'

I suddenly realized I felt dizzy, or slightly so, but the magnificent black tarn was still climbing, though now struggling, his wings beating fiercely with frustrated persistence against the thinning, less resistant air. The hills and plains of Gor were a blaze of colors far below me, and it may have been my imagination, but it seemed almost as if I could see the curve of the world. I realize now it must have been the thin air and my excitement.

Fortunately, before losing consciousness, I drew on the four-strap, and the tam leveled out and then lifted his wings over his back and dropped like a striking hawk, with a speed that left me without breath in my body. I released the reins, letting them hang on the saddle ring, which is the signal for a constant and straight flight, no

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