'That is true,' said the second. 'Stay as a Tatrix, and our swords are bound in your service. Flee as a slave and you give up your right to command our metal.'

'Fools!' she cried.

The Dorna the Proud looked at me those yards across the roof.

The hatred she bore me, her cruelty, her pride, were as tangible as some physical phenomenon, like waves of heat or the forming of ice. 'Thorn died for you,' I said.

She laughed. 'He too was a fool, like all beasts.'

I wondered how it was that Thorn had given his life for this woman. It did not seem it could have been a matter of caste obligation for this obligation had been owed not to Dorna but to Lara. He had broken the codes of his caste to support the treachery of Dorna the Proud.

I suddenly knew the answer, that Thorn somehow had loved this cruel woman, that his warrior' s heart had been turned to her though he had never looked upon her face, though she had never given him a smile or the touch of her hand. And I knew then that Thorn, henchman though he might have been, dissolute and savage antagonist, had yet been greater than she sho had been the object of his hopeless, tragic affection. It had been his doom to care for a silver mask.

'Surrender,' I called to Dorna the Proud.

'Never,' she responded haughtily.

'Where will you go and what will you do?' I asked.

I knew that Dorna would have little chance alone on Gor. Resourceful as she was, even carrying riches as she must be, she was still only a woman and, on Gor, even a silver mask needs the sword of a man to protect her. She might fall prey to beasts, perhaps even to her own tarn, or be captured by a roving tarnsman or a band of slavers.

'Stay to face the justice of Tharna,' I said.

Dorna threw back her head and laughed.

'You too,' she said, 'are a fool.'

Her hand was wrapped in the one-strap. The tarn was moving uneasily. I looked behind me and I could see that Lara now stood near, watching Dorna, and that behind her Kron and Andreas, followed by Linna, and rebels and soldiers, had ascended to the roof.

The silver mask of Dorna the Proud turned to Lara, who wore no mask, no veil. 'Shameless animal,' she sneered, 'you are no better than they — beasts!'

'Yes,' said Lara, 'that is true.' 'I sensed this in you,' said Dorna. 'You were never worthy to be Tatrix of Tharna. I alone was worthy to be true Tatrix of Tharna.'

'The Tharna of which you speak,' said Lara, 'no longer exists.' Then as if with one voice soldiers, guardsmen and rebels lifted their weapons and saluted Lara as true Tatrix of Tharna.

'Hail Lara, true Tatrix of Tharna!' they cried, and as was the custom of the city, five times were those weapons brandished and five times did that glad shout ring out.

The body of Dorna the Proud recoiled as if struck by five blows. Her silver-gloved hands clenched in fury upon the one-strap and beneath those shimmering gauntlets I knew the knuckles, drained of blood, were white with rage.

She looked once more at the rebels and soldiers and guardmen and Lara with a loathing I could sense behind the impassive mask, and then that metal image turned once more upon me.

'Farewell, Tarl of Ko-ro-ba,' she said. 'Do not forget Dorna the Proud for we have an account to settle!'

The hands in their gloves of silver jerked back savagely on the one-strap and the wings of the tarn burst into flight. The carrying basket remained a moment on the roof and then, attached by its long ropes, interwoven with wire, it slid for a pace or two and lurched upward in the wake of the tarn. I watched the basket swinging below the bird as it winged its way from the city.

Once the sun flashed upon that silver mask.

The the bird was only a speck in the blue sky over the free city of Tharna. Dorna the Proud, thanks to the sacrifice of Thorn, her captain, had made good her escape, though to what fate I dared not conjecture.

She had spoken of settling an account with me.

I smiled to myself, reasoning that she would have little opportunity for such matters. Indeed, if she managed to survive at all, she would be fortunate not to find herself wearing an ankle ring on some slaver' s chain. Perhaps she would find herself confined within the walls of some warrior' s Pleasure Gardens, to be dressed in silk of his choosing, to have bells locked on her ankles and to know no will other than his; perhaps she would be purchased by the master of a Paga Tavern, or even of a lowly Kal-da shop, to dance for, and to serve and please his customers.

Perhaps she might be purchased for the scullery in a Gorean cylinder and discover her life to be bounded by the tile walls and the steam and soap of the cleaning tubs. She would be given a mat of damp straw and a camisk, leavings from the tables of the dining rooms above, and lashings if she should dare to leave the room or shirk her work.

Perhaps a peasant would buy her to help with the ploughing. I wondered, if this happened, if she would bitterly recall the Amusements of Tharna. If this miserable fate were to be hers, the imperious Dorna the Proud, stripped and sweating, her back exposed to the ox whip, would learn in harness that a peasant was a hard master.

But I put from my mind these thoughts as to what might be the fate of Dorna the Proud.

I had other things with which to occupy my mind.

Indeed, I myself had business to attend to — an account to settle — only my affairs would lead me to the Sardar Mountains, for the business to which I must attend was with the Priest-Kings of Gor.


Inscribed in the City of Tharna, the Twenty-Third day of En' Kara in the Fourth Year of the Reign of Lara, Tatrix of Tharna, the Year 10,117 from the Founding of Ar.

Tal to the men of Earth -

In these past days in Tharna I have taken the time to write this story. Now that it is told I must begin my journey to the Sardar Mountains. Five days from now I shall stand before the black gate in the palisades that ring the holy mountains.

I shall strike with my spear upon the gate and the gate will open, and as I eneter I will hear the mournful sound of the great hollow bar that hangs by the gate, signifying that another of the Men Below the Mountains, another mortal man, has dared to enter the Sardar.

I shall deliver this manuscript to some member of the Caste of Scribes whom I shall find at the Fair of En' Kara at the base of the Sardar. From that point whether or not it survives will depend like so many other things in this barbaric world I have come to love — on the inscrutable will of the Priest-Kings.

They have cursed me and my city.

They have taken from me my father and the girl I love, and my friends, and have given me suffering and hardship, and peril, and yet I feel that in some strange way in spite of myself I have served them — that it was their will that I came to Tharna. They have destroyed a city, and in a sense they have restored a city.

What manner of things they are I know not, but I am determined to learn. Many have entered the mountains and so many must have learned the secret of the Priest-Kings, though none has returned to tell it.

But let me now speak of Tharna.

Tharna is now a different city than it had ever been within the memory of living man.

Her ruler — the gracious and beautiful Lara — is surely one of the wisest and most just of rulers on this barbaric world, and hers has been the tortuous task of reuniting a city disrupted by civil strife, of making peace among factions and dealing fairly with all. If she were not loved as she is by the men of Tharna her task would have been impossible. As she ascended once more the throne no proscription notices were posted but a general amnesty was granted to all, both those who had espoused her cause and those who had fought for Dorna the

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