the foolish and proud?

Then suddenly I ceased to pity myself, and I was shocked, for looking into the eyes of the robed figure I saw human warmth in them, tears for me. It was pity, the forbidden emotion, and yet he could not restrain himself. Somehow the power I had felt in his presence seemed to have vanished. I was now only in the presence of a man, a fellow human being even though he wore the sublime robes of the proud Caste of Initiates.

He seemed to be struggling with himself, as though he wanted to speak his own words and not those of the Priest-Kings. He seemed to shake with pain, his hands pressed against his head, trying to speak to me, trying to tell me something. One hand stretched out to me, and the words, his own, far from the ringing authority of his former tones, were hoarse and almost inauduble.

'Tarl of Ko-ro-ba,' he said, 'throw yourself upon your sword.' He seemed ready to fall, and I held him.

He looked into my eyes. 'Throw yourself upon your sword,' he begged. 'Would that not frustrate the will of the Priest-Kings?' I asked. 'Yes,' he said.

'Why do you tell me this?' I demanded.

'I followed you at the siege of Ar,' he said. 'On the Cylinder of Justice I fought with you against Pa-Kur and his assassins.'

'An Initiate?' I asked.

He shook his head. 'No,' he said, 'I was one of the guards of Ar, and I fought to save my city.'

'Ar the Glorious,' I said, speaking gently.

He was dying.

'Ar the Glorious,' he said, weak, but with pride. He looked at me again. 'Die now, Tarl of Ko-ro-ba,' he said, 'Hero of Ar.' His eyes seemed to begin to burn in his head. 'Do not shame yourself.'

Suddenly he howled like a tortured dog, and what happened then I cannot bring myself to describe in detail. It seemed as though the entire inside of his head began to burst and burn, to bubble like some horrid vicious lava inside the crater of his skull.

It was an ugly death — his for having tried to speak to me, for having tried to tell me what was in his heart.

It was becoming light now, and dawn was breaking across the gentle hills that had sheltered Ko-ro-ba. I removed the hated robes of the Initiates from the body of the man and carried the naked body far from the road. As I began to cover it with rocks, I noted the remains of the skull, now little more than a handful of shards. The brain had been literally boiled away. The morning light flashed briefly on something golden among the white shards. I lifted it. It was a webbing of fine golden wire. I could make nothing of it, and threw it aside.

I piled rocks on the body, enough to mark the grave and keep predators away.

I placed a large flat rock near the head of the cairn and, with the tip of my spear, scratched this legend on it. 'I am a man of Glorious Ar.' It was all I knew about him.

I stood beside the grave, and drew my sword. He had told me to throw myself upon it, to avoid my shame, to frustrate for once the will of the might Priest-Kings of Gor.

'No, Friend,' I said to the remains of the former warrior of Ar. 'No, I shall not throw myself upon my sword. Nor shall I grovel to the Priest-Kings nor live the life of shame they have allotted me.' I lifted the sword toward the valley where Ko-ro-ba had stood. 'Long ago,' I said, 'I pledged this sword to the service of Ko-ro-ba. It remains so pledged.'

Like every man of Gor I knew the direction of the Sardar Mountains, home of the Priest-Kings, forbidden vastness into which no man below the mountains, no mortal, may penetrate. It was said that the Supreme Home Stone of all Gor lay within those mountains, that no man had looked upon a Priest-King and lived.

I resheathed my sword, fastened my helmet over my shoulder, lifted my shield and spear and set out in the direction of the Sardar Mountains.

Chapter Six: VERA

The Sardar Mountains, which I had never seen, lay more than athousand pasangs from Ko-ro-ba. Whereas the Men Below the Mountains, as the mortals are called, seldom enter the mountains, and do not return when they do, many often venture to their brink, if only to stand within the shadows of those cliffs that hide the secrets of the Priest-Kings. Indeed, at least once in his life every Gorean is expected to make this journey. Four times a year, correlated with the solstices and equinoxes, there are fairs held in the plains below the mountains, presided over by committees of Initiates, fairs in which men of many cities mingle without bloodshed, times of truce, times of contests and games, of bargaining and marketing. Torm, my friend of the Caste of Scribes, had been to such fairs to trade scrolls with scholars from other cities, men he would never have seen were it not for the fairs, me of hostile cities who yet loved ideas more than they hated their enemies, men like Torm who so loved learning that they would risk the perilous journey to the Sardar Mountains for the chance to dispute a text or haggle over a coveted scroll. Similarly men of such castes as the Physicians and Builders make use of the fairs to disseminate and exchange information pertaining to their respective crafts. The fairs do much to unite intellectually the otherwise so isolated cities of Gor. And I speculate that the fairs likewise do their bit toward stabilising the dialects of Gor, which might otherwise in a few generations have diverged to the point of being mutually unintelligible — for the Goreans do have this in common, their mother tongue in all its hundred permutations, which they simply refer to as the Language, and all who fail to speak it, regardless of their pedigree or background, of their standards or level of civilisation, are regarded as almost beyond the pale of humanity. Unlike the men of Earth, the Gorean had little sensitivity to race, but much to language and city. Like ourselves, he finds his reasons for hating his fellow-men, but his reasons are different.

I would have given much for a tarn in my journey, though I knew no tarn would fly into the mountains. For some reason neither the fearless hawklike tarns, nor the slow-witted tharlarions, the draft and riding lizards of Gor, would enter the mountains. The tharlarions become unmanageable and though the tarn will essay the flight the bird almost immediately becomes disoriented, uncoordinated, and drops screaming back to the plains below. Gor, sparsely inhabited by human beings, teems with animal life, and in the next weeks I had no difficulty in living by hunting. I supplemented my diet with fresh fruit picked from bushes and trees, and fish speared in Gor' s cold, swift- flowing streams. Once I brought the carcass of a tabuk, one of Gor' s single-horned, yellow antelopes, which I had felled in a Ka-la-na thicket, to the hut of a peasant and his wife. Asking no questions, as was suitable given the absence of insignia on my garments, they feasted me on my own kill, and gave me fiber, and flints and a skin of wine. The peasant on Gor does not fear the outlaw, for he seldom has anything worth stealing, unless it be a daughter. Indeed, the peasant and outlaw on Gor live in an almost unspoken agreement, the peasant tending to protect the outlaw and the outlaw sharing in return some of his plunder and booty with the peasant. The peasant does not regard this as dishonest on his part, or as grasping. It is simply a way of life to which he is accustomed. It is a different matter, of course, if it is explicitly known that the outlaw is from a city other than one' s own. In that case he is usually regarded as an enemy, to be reported to the patrols as soon as possible. He is, after all, not of one' s city.

As was wise I avoided cities in my long journey, though I passed several, for to enter a city without permission or without satisfactory reason is tantamount to a capital crime, and the punishment is usually a swift and brutal impalement. Pikes on the walls of Gorean cities are often surmounted with the remains of unwelcome guests. The Gorean is suspicious of the stranger, particularly in the vicinity of his native walls. Indeed, in Gorean the same word is used for both stranger and enemy.

There was reputedly one exception to this generally prevalent attitude of hostility towards the stranger, the city of Tharna, which, according to rumour, was willing to engage in what on Gor might be accounted the adventure of hospitality. There were many things supposedly strange about Tharna, among them that she was reportedly ruled by a queen, or Tatrix, and, reasonably enough in the circumstances, that the position of women in that city, in contrast with most Gorean custom, was one of privilege and opportunity.

I rejoiced that in at least one city on Gor the free women were not expected to wear the Robes of Concealment, confine their activities largely to their own quarters, and speak only to their blood relatives and, eventually, the Free Companion.

I thought that much of the barbarity on Gor might perhaps be traced to this foolish suppression of the fair

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