'He' s drunk,' I said to the bartender. I took Cabot firmly by the arm. He didn' t seem to be angry any longer, and I could see that he intended no one any harm. My touch seemed to snap him out of his strange mood. He handed the ruined truncheon meekly back to the bartender.

'I' m sorry,' said Cabot. 'Really.' He reached into his wallet and pressed a bill into the bartender' s hands. It was a hundred dollar bill. We put on our coats and went out into the February evening, into the light snow.

Outside the bar we stood in the snow, not speaking. Cabot, still half-drunk, looked about himself, at the brutal electric geometry of that great city, at the dark, lonely shapes that moved through the light snow, at the pale glimmering headlights of the cars.

'This is a great city,' said Cabot, 'and yet it is not loved. 'How many are there here who would die for this city? How many who would defend to the death its perimeters? How many who would submit to torture on its behalf?' 'You' re drunk,' I said, smiling.

'This city is not loved,' he said. 'Or it would not be used as it is, kept as it is.'

He walked sadly away.

Somehow I knew that this was the night on which I would learn the secret of Tarl Cabot.

'Wait!' I cried to him suddenly.

He turned and I sensed that he was glad that I had called to him, that my company on that night meant a great deal to him.

I joined him and together we went to his apartment. First he brewed a pot of strong coffee, and act for which my swirling senses were more than grateful. Then without speaking he went into his closet and emerged carrying a strongbox. He unlocked this with a key which he carried on his own person, and removed a manuscript, written in his own clear, decisive hand and bound with twine. He placed the manuscript in my hands. It was a document pertaining to what Cabot called the Counter-Earth, the story of a warrior, of the siege of a city, and of the love of a girl. You perhaps know it as Tarnsman of Gor.

When, shortly after dawn, I had finished the account, I looked at Cabot, who, all the time, had been sitting at the window, his chin on his hands, watching the snow, lost in what thoughts I could scarcely conjecture. He turned and faced me.

'It' s true,' he said, 'but you need not believe it.'

I didn' t know what to say. It could not, of course, be true, yet I felt Cabot to be one of the most honest men I had ever known.

Then I noticed his ring, almost for the first time, though I had seen it a thousand times. It had been mentioned in the account, that simple ring of red metal, bearing the crest of Cabot.

'Yes,' said Cabot, extending his hand, 'this is the ring.'

I gestured to the manuscript. 'Why have you shown me this?' I asked. 'I want someone to know of these things,' said Cabot simply.

I arose, now conscious for the first time of a lost night of sleep, the effects of the drinking, and of the several cups of bitter coffee. I smiled wryly. 'I think,' I said, 'I' d better go.'

'Of course,' said Cabot, helping me on with my coat. At the doorway he held out his hand. 'Good-bye,' he said.

'I' ll see you tomorrow,' I said.

'No,' he said. 'I am going again to the mountains.'

It was in February, at this time, that he had disappeared seven years before.

I was shocked into clear consciousness. 'Don' t go,' I said.

'I am going,' he said.

'Let me come with you,' I said.

'No,' he said, 'I may not come back.'

We shook hands, and I had the strange feeling that I might never see Tarl Cabot again. My hand was clenched firmly on his, and his on mine. I had meant something to him, and he to me, and now as simply as this it seemed that friends might part forever, never to see or talk to one another again. I found myself in the bleak white hallway outside his apartment, blinking at the exposed bulb in the ceiling. I walked for some hours, in spite of my fatigue, thinking, puzzling about these strange things of which I had heard.

Then suddenly I turned and, literally, ran back to his apartment. I had left him, my friend. To what I had no idea. I rushed to the door of the apartment and pounded on it with my fists. There was no answer. I kicked in the door, splintering the lock from the jamb. I entered the apartment. Tarl Cabot was gone!

On the table in that small furnished apartment was the manuscript I had read through the long night — with an envelope fastened under the twine. The envelope bore my name and address. Inside was the simple note: 'For Harrison Smith, should he care to have it.' Dismal, I left the apartment, carrying the manuscript which was subsequently published as Tarnsman of Gor. That and memory were all that remained of my friend, Tarl Cabot. My examinations came and were successfully completed. Later, following more examinations, I was admitted to the bar in New York State, and I entered one of the immense law offices in the city, hoping to obtain eventually enough experience and capital to open a small practice of my own. In the rush of working, in the interminable, demanding jungle of detail required in my trade, the memory of Cabot was forced from my mind. There is perhaps little more to say here, other than the fact that I have not seen him again. Though I have reason to believe he lives.

Late one afternoon, after work, I returned to my apartment. There — in spite of the locked doors and windows — on a coffee table before the settee, was a second manuscript, that which now follows. There was no note, no explanation.

Perhaps, as Tarl Cabot once remarked, 'The agents of the Priest-Kings are among us.'

Chapter Two: RETURN TO GOR

Once again, I, Tarl Cabot, strode the green fields of Gor.

I awakened naked in the wind-swept grass, beneath that blazing star that is the common sun of my two worlds, my home planet, Earth, and its secret sister, the Counter-Earth, Gor.

I rose slowly to my feet, my fibers alive in the wind, my hair torn by its blasts, my muscles each aching and rejoicing in their first movements in perhaps weeks, for I had again entered that silver disk in the White Mountains which was the ship of the Priest-Kings, used for the Voyages of Acquisition, and, in entering, had fallen unconscious. In that state, as once long before, I had come to this world.

I stood so for some minutes, to let each sense and nerve drink in the wonder of my return.

I was aware again of the somewhat lesser gravity of the planet, but this awareness would pass as my system accomodated itself naturally to the new environment. Given the lesser gravity, feats of prowess which might seem superhuman on earth were commonplace on Gor. The sun, as I remembered it, seemed a bit larger than it did when viewed from the earth, but as before it was difficult to be altogether sure of this.

In the distance I could see some patches of yellow, the Ka- la-na groves that dot the fields of Gor. Far to my left I saw a splendid field of Sa-Tarna, bending beautifully in the wind, that tall yellow grain that forms a staple in the Gorean diet. To the right, in the far distance, I saw the smudge of mountains. From their extent and height, as far as I could judge, I guessed them to be the mountains of Thentis. From them, if this were true, I could gather my bearings for Ko-ro-ba, that city of cylinders to which, years ago, I had pledged my sword.

So standing, the sun upon me, without thinking I raised my arms in pagan prayer to acknowledge the power of the Priest- Kings, which had once again brought me from Earth to this world, the power which once before had torn me from Gor when they were finished with me, taking me from my adopted city, my father and my friends, and from the girl I loved, dark- haired beautiful Talena, daughter of Marlenus, who had once been the Ubar of Ar, the greatest city of all known Gor.

There was no love in my heart for the Priest-Kings, those mysterious denizens of the Sardar Mountains, whoever or whatever they might be, but there was gratitude in my heart, either to them or to the strange forces that moved them.

That I had been returned to Gor to seek out once more my city and my love was, I was sure, not the spontaneous gesture of generosity, or of justice, that it might seem. The Priest- Kings, Keepers of the Holy Place in the Sardar Mountains, seeming knowers of all that occurred on Gor, masters of the hideous Flame Death that could with consuming fire destroy whatever they wished, whenever they might please, were not so crudely motivated as men, were not susceptible to the imperatives of decency and respect that can upon occasion sway human action. Their concern was with their own remote and mysterious ends; to achieve these ends, human creatures were treated as subservient instruments. It was rumoured they used men as one might use pieces in a game, and when the piece had played its role it might be discarded, or perhaps, as in my case, removed from the board until it pleased the Priest-Kings to try yet another game.

I noticed, a few feet from me, lying on the grass, a helmet, shield and spear, and a bundle of folded leather. I knelt to examine the articles. The helmet was bronze, worked in the Greek fashion, with a unitary opening somewhat in the shape of a Y. It bore no insignia and its crest plate was empty.

The round shield, concentric overlapping layers of hardened leather riveted together and bound with hoops of brass, fitted with the double sling for carrying on the left arm, was similarly unmarked. Normally the Gorean shield is painted boldly and has infixed in it some device for identifying the bearer' s city. If this shield were intended for me, and I had little doubt it was, it should have carried the sign of Ko-ro-ba, my city. The spear was a typical Gorean spear, about seven feet in height, heavy, stout, with a tapering bronze head some eighteen inches in length. It is a terrible weapon and, abetted by the somewhat lighter gravity of Gor, when cast with considerable force, can pierce a shield at close quarters or bury its head a foot deep in solid wood. With this weapon groups of men hunt even the larl in its native haunts in the Voltai Range, that incredible pantherlike carnivore which may stand six to eight feet high at the shoulder.

Indeed, the Gorean spear is such that many warriors scorn lesser missile weapons, such as the longbow or crossbow, both of which are not uncommonly found on Gor. I regretted, however, that no bow was among the weapons at my disposal, as I had, in my previous sojourn on Gor, developed a skill with such weapons, and admittedly a fondness for them, a liking which had scandalised my former master-at-arms.

I recalled him with affection, the Older Tarl. Tarl is a common name on Gor. I looked forward eagerly to seeing him again, that rough, Viking giant of a man, that proud, bearded, affectionately belligerent swordsman who had taught me the craft of arms as practised by the warriors of Gor. I opened the leather bundle. In it I found the scarlet tunic, sandals and cloak which constitute the normal garb of a member of the Caste of Warriors. This was as it should be, as I was of that caste, and had been since that morning, some seven years ago, when in the Chamber of the Council of High Castes I had accepted weapons from the hands of my father, Matthew Cabot, Administrator of Ko-ro-ba, and had taken the Home Stone of that city as my own.

For the Gorean, though he seldom speaks of these things, a city is more than brick and marble, cylinders and bridges. It is not simply a place, a geographical location in which men have seen fit to build their dwellings, a collection of structures where they may most conveniently conduct their affairs.

Вы читаете Outlaw of Gor
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату