Kur of Gor: An Excerpt

Kur of Gor: The Tale Begins

Chapter, the First: The Containment Device

He thrust violently against the close, curving, transparent walls, howling with rage.

We can understand such emotions.

They are not strange to us.

In his own language his name was said to be Tarl Cabot.

Such things do not really much matter, with such creatures. Nonetheless, to themselves, and to some of their kind, they seem of much importance. I do not know, of course, whether it was important to him, or not. Perhaps some microorganisms arrange their cilia in some bizarre fashion, and then understand themselves as being somehow thereby exalted. Are names so important? Perhaps. But is that which is named not more important? One does not know with such creatures. I think they are strange.

They cannot tell themselves from their names, nor do they care to do so. They name themselves, and things, and think thereby to acquire them. They do not do so.

They have names; reality does not.

How is it, in any event, that they so invest themselves with such importance? What a piteously naive arrogance is therein displayed.

Are they truly so unaware of their small place in the yard of existence, so ignorant of the length of space and the breadth of time, of the flight of galaxies, of the journeys of streaming light, perhaps touching nothing for a hundred thousand years; are they unaware even of the patience of stone, cogitating its memories of a molten youth? It is hard to accept that they are the offspring of stars, a freshened reconfiguration of antique components long ago expelled into the darkness, but are we not all such?

They are so tiny, and so generally useless, an active rash on quietude, a small noise, perhaps brave in its way, in the night.

But are we not, in our way, as well?

When the Nameless One stirred the cauldron of stars did it intend them? Are they not a lapse of sorts? Might it have been distracted at the time? But in what workshop or cauldron was formed the Nameless One itself? From what unseen seas was it itself cast forth, beached on shores burnt by drifting, incandescent tides, and from whence came these, the tides, the continents, these, too, children of the mystery?

Before the Nameless One, you see, is the Mystery.

It is that which was, and that which is, and that which will be. And none have lifted its veil.

I suppose it is offensive to conceive that we are brothers to that woeful life form, the human, one so disgusting and treacherous in its diverse paths, one so despicable in its intolerable vanity. How absurd, how repulsive, one supposes, that we are siblings in virtue of the parentage of stars.

But then we may console ourselves that we are siblings, too, to the diatom, to the smallest living thing, to the worm in the sea, the mote in the air.

But how small, how trivial, is the human.

How easily might he be struck by some astral debris, not noticing him. Or fall prey to a prolific, invasive mite, a thousand mutations from an eye or claw, a mite not even visible to his eye.

And how despicable, how contemptible, is the human!

A spawn of greed, an embracer of comfort, a seeker of ease, a blemish on the world, a wart of vanity, a stranger to honor.

One who guards his mind, fearing it will awaken.

One who guards his mind, as one might guard a prisoner.

One who so treasures his mind that he dares not use it.

His bulwark is stupidity.

And what labor is not expended in its preservation!

How mighty is the sweet shield of ignorance!

How fearfully and carefully he burnishes it!

He is a herd animal. He is unworthy of the stars.

Yet there is in that life form a spark of awareness, for all its frivolity and frailty, for all its egregious contumely and its hideous ineptitude, a flicker of mind, however reluctant, in a largely oblivious, somnolent world. It is one of the rare places the universe has stirred, and awakened, and opened its eye, and looked upon itself, startled to learn that it exists.

Does it recoil, seeing itself in the human?

Surely it rejoices, seeing itself in us, we who are worthy of it.

It is conscious in countless minds, of course, in that of the mouse, and cat, in that of the urt and verr, in that of the barracuda, in that of the viper and leopard, in that of the hith and larl.

But we are most worthy of it.

In us is its nature most fully manifested. Are we not the outward form of its inward horror, or essence? Are we not the choice fruits of its inward terrors, the splendid robes of its dark, shrieking soul? In us, it finds its fangs, and talons, its hunger, its indifference, its terribleness, its sublimity, its rage, its glory.

And it is through our eyes that it sees the stars.

One day, perhaps, the human will disband his herds and be free. One day, perhaps even the human will lift his head, and see the stars.

They are there.

I am personally, you see, not ill disposed to the human.

If I were I should not tell this story, which deals primarily with some humans, and something not human, with the monster.

And, of course, with the Kurii.

I wonder if you know of them.

They know of you.

You could not understand our name for the human with whom we will begin. In fact, you would not even know it was uttered. One might use our name for the human, of course, but you could not pronounce it. For example, if a leopard or a lion, or a larl or a sleen, had a name for you you would doubtless not recognize it as a name, let alone as your name. We will, accordingly, refer to that individual with whom we shall begin by that name by which other humans might know him, namely, as Tarl Cabot, or, as some will have it, Bosk, of Port Kar.

He pounded again, and again, at the transparent walls, until his hands bled.

Bruised, and bewildered, he sank down then, naked, inside the bottlelike container. Such containers taper toward the bottom, that wastes may drain from them. They taper, too, toward the top. Near the top a tube descends periodically, automatically, through which liquid, if the occupant chooses to live, may be drawn by the mouth into his body. The entire facility is automated, though one supposes some supervisory personnel may be in attendance, if only by means of olfactory devices, listening devices, cameras, or such. Certainly one seldom sees them. The tube’s descent is indicated by an odor. The corridors are commonly empty and silent. One may conjecture, occasionally, from the outside, that within the containers there is sound, this being surmised from the expressions of the occupant, the motions and configurations of his mouth, the gestures of his limbs, such things. The container is rather oval, or ovoid, rounded, ascending rather vertically, but narrowing, rounded, toward the top and bottom. The diameter, in measurements likely to be familiar to the reader, would be something like four feet, whereas the container, as a whole, is something like eight feet in height, though much of this space is not conveniently utilizable, given the tapering at the top and bottom. In such a container one sleeps as one can. Indeed a soporific gas may be entered into the container remotely, which suggests there is some actual surveillance of the containers. Too, the air in the container may be drawn from the container, should one wish, say, to terminate an occupant, clear the space for a new occupant, and so on. Too, it might be noted that the corridor itself, as most of the structure, is airless. This contributes to the incarcerational efficiency of the facility.

Various life forms may be kept in such containers.

From where he was contained, the human in question, Tarl Cabot, could see several tiers of similar containers, several of them occupied. He did not realize at the time the absence of air outside the container, as the container itself contained a regulated, breathable atmosphere. And probably some of the other life forms did not understand that either. One supposes, incidentally, that there were diversities in the container atmospheres, as, upon inspection, there appeared to be substantial dissimilarities amongst their occupants.

In the human species, aside from some unusual specimens, there are two sexes. Commonly both collaborate in replication. Interestingly, the biological functions of conception, gestation, and nurturance in the human species are all centered in a single sex, that of the female. Among the Kurii, on the other hand, the procedures of replication are conveniently divided amongst three, or, if you like, four sexes. There is the dominant, the submissive, and the nurturant, who gestates and nurtures, until the child is mature enough to chew and claw its way free. At that point it is ready for meat. It is not clear if the nurturant was a naturally evolved entity or if it was the result of biological engineering long ago, in the Kurii’s original world, or one of its worlds, for it may have destroyed more than one. Indeed, the technology of the nurturant might have been obtained from another species. It is not known. These thing are lost in the prehistory of a species, so to speak, or at least in the time from which no histories remain. The fourth sex, if one may so speak, is the nondominant. Under certain unusual circumstances the nondominant becomes a dominant. It is very dangerous at such times, even to dominants.

The individual, Tarl Cabot, doubtless called out a number of times, angrily, requesting an explanation or justification for the predicament in which he had so unexpectedly found himself. That would be only natural. From outside the container, of course, given the container and the near vacuum of the corridor, he could not be heard, nor, it seemed, was there anyone there to listen. He may not have recognized this, or, if he suspected it, he might have supposed that somehow sounds from within the container might be conveyed, doubtless by means of some listening device, to some point at which they might be audited, or recorded, for future audition. On the other hand, given the emptiness of the corridor, and the absence of intelligible communication from an outside source, he had no assurance that his demands, protests, or such, were anywhere registered, or even that they might be of the least interest to anyone or anything.

Needless to say this can be unsettling.

Indeed, it can derange certain sorts of minds. The instincts of many caged animals, on the other hand, are more healthy. Understanding themselves trapped, they are patient, and wait. Beyond a certain interval they do not exhaust their resources, but conserve them, almost lethargically, for a given moment, for the sudden movement, for the lunge, the movement to the throat. So, after a time, Tarl Cabot, who was not particularly disanalogous to such beasts, became quiescent, at least as far as external observation might detect. This was in conformance, incidentally, with certain recommendations of his caste codes. One can learn much, even from the codes of humans. He was, as we learned, of what on Gor amongst humans is referred to as the scarlet caste. This is a high caste, doubtless because it is armed. Individuals of this caste are of great value to their cities, their employers, their princes, so to speak. Indeed, they are indispensable in their way; have they not, however unintentionally, secured the foundation of law; have they not, however unbeknownst to themselves, raised from the mire of brutishness, insecurity, and terror the towers of civilization? Surely it is they who must man the walls and defend the bridges, who must police the streets and guard the roads, and who will in sunlight, or in darkness and storms, carry forth the standards. They are unusual men and seldom understand their own nature, nor need they. Perhaps it is better that they do not. Let them laugh and fight, and drink and quarrel, and seek their slaves in conquered cities and taverns, and chain them and put them to their feet, and not inquire into the dark and mighty processes which have bred them, which have made them so real, and necessary. And so they are encouraged to emulate the stealth and savagery of the larl, the cunning and tenacity of the sleen, the vigilance and swiftness, the alertness, of the mighty tarn. They are companions to discipline; they are hardened to short rations, long watches, and the march; they are inured to the exigencies of camp and field; and trained to fight, and kill, preferably swiftly and cleanly. They do not know how they came to be, but they would not be other than they are. They are more beast than man, and more man than beast. They are, so to speak, dangerous beasts with minds. And such have their utilities. We may laud them or despise them. They are called Warriors.

Life is very real where they live it, at the edge of a sword.

The reader may be interested in obtaining an account, however superficial, of certain events antecedent to the incarceration of the individual, Tarl Cabot.

It is rumored that within recent years certain tumults or transitions have taken place in the realm of Priest-Kings. I do not know whether that is true or not. Who is to say what thrones may have been toppled, what crowns seized? Surely such things, coups, insurrections, fatalities, suppressions, and such, are not unknown even within the benign civilizations of the habitats. And are they not useful in subverting stagnation, and improving bloodlines? And if such things occurred, it is not impossible that they may have had a role in this business. Again, one does not know. On the other hand, such things, such conjectured events, bloody or otherwise, are not strictly germane to this history.

The individual, Tarl Cabot, had, it seems, upon occasion proved to be of some value to Priest-Kings. In some eyes, though not in his, we may conjecture, he was even taken as an agent of Priest-Kings. And certainly, whether this be so or not, one may well suppose that any behavior of his which might have been deemed counter to the interests or policies of those mysterious beings would not have been likely to be generously countenanced.

We can understand these things.

In this respect I do not think we are so unlike the Priest-Kings, whoever, or whatever, they may be.

In the north of Gor, in its polar regions, inhabited sparsely by tribes of humans known as the Red Hunters, recognizable by the small blue spot at the base of their spine, it is said that he, this Tarl Cabot, once encountered a great war general of the Kurii, Zarendargar, whose name, for convenience, we have transliterated into phonemes hopefully accessible to at least some readers of this tale, certainly in this translation. Colloquially, doubtless with a certain crudity, he, Zarendargar, was spoken of as “Half-Ear.” And, of course, few of the Kurii who ascend high in the rings will be without certain blemishes. A certain area of the polar region was at that time being used as staging area, under the command of the aforementioned Zarendargar, a staging area with munitions and such, for an attack on the Sardar enclave, destined to suddenly, decisively, and irremediably terminate the rule of Priest-Kings, destroying them in their own most-favored haunts or lairs. It had taken better than a century for this materiel, bit by bit, to be secretly assembled. One can well understand then its preciousness and importance to the Steel Worlds, its relevance to their projects, and such. The staging area, however, was destroyed, and somehow, in some way, Tarl Cabot seems to have been involved in its destruction. It was supposed at the time that Zarendargar was destroyed in the explosion, or conflagration, or such. But this turned out to be mistaken. When it became clear that Zarendargar had survived the destruction of the staging area, a death squad was dispatched from the Steel Worlds to hunt him down and kill him, for he had, after all, failed the people. The policies and decisions connected with the transmission of the death squad were controversial, incidentally, in the councils of the Steel Worlds, and the decree of termination, some months later, would be rescinded. This, of course, could not have been anticipated by the personnel of the Death Squad. Representatives of the Death Squad contacted Samos of Port Kar, clearly an agent of Priest-Kings, and Tarl Cabot, for assistance in hunting down and executing Zarendargar. It was assumed naturally that this assistance would be readily tendered for Zarendargar was well understood to be significant amongst the Kurii and a relentless, dedicated, and dangerous foe of Priest-Kings. The putative location of the at-that-time-fugitive Zarendargar was the vast prairies of the Gorean Barrens. Tarl Cabot, however, instead of lending his assistance to the Death Squad, himself entered the dangerous Barrens to warn Zarendargar and, if possible, protect him. This effort, of course, was not only contrary to the desires of the Death Squad, but, too, seemed clearly to be an act not in the best interests of Priest-Kings. On whose side, so to speak, was this mysterious, unpredictable, ungoverned Tarl Cabot? Was he an agent of Priest-Kings? Was he an agent of Kurii? If he was an agent, it seems he was his own agent, or an agent of honor, for, long ago, it seems, he and Zarendargar had shared paga.

In any event Tarl Cabot, having returned from the Barrens, and having learned later of his putative outlawry, resolved to leave the maritime city of Port Kar, only to return when it might be safe to do so, this intelligence to be gathered from agreed-upon secret signals to be displayed on the holding of his friend, Samos, of Port Kar.

Tarl Cabot remained at large, so to speak, for some time.

The surveillance of Priest-Kings is rather efficient, as we have reason to know, but it is also, as we have reason to know, far from perfect, particularly so in recent years. Perhaps this has to do with transitions or dislocations in the Sardar, such as have been occasionally rumored. But perhaps not. It is hard to know. Surely small ships, at least, manned by humans, have frequently enough, of late, penetrated the atmosphere of Gor. Many, apparently detected, have been ignored. Others, pursued, have eluded their pursuers. I personally suspect that this lapse of attentiveness or this seemingly tolerant permissiveness, or this seeming lack of zeal, on the part of Priest-Kings, and their ships, presumably mostly automated and remotely controlled, has less to do with technological limitations than with some reordering of priorities in the Sardar, perhaps even with an acceptance of the general harmlessness of the ships involved, and a disinterest in their common cargoes. It may be a simple matter of balancing costs. It is hard to know. Our information is clearly incomplete, and conjectural. On the whole, Priest-Kings seem tolerant of other life forms, their activities, partialities, and such. Indeed, they may even look with approbation, given the apparent current infrequency of their voyages of acquisition, or collection, on the introduction of additional human life forms to the world. To be sure, the chains of human females brought to Gor might conceivably, eventually, in some centuries, depress certain relevant markets. At that point presumably only carefully selected, high-quality merchandise would be brought to her shores. But one knows little about such things.

Eventually, however, we may conjecture that the presence of Tarl Cabot was detected. This may have been a matter of chance. On the other hand, he may have been sought for ardently, perhaps because of the heinousness of his offense, his treasonous concern for the welfare of an enemy. Perhaps he was to be used as an example. It is not known.

We now find him, at any rate, naked, in his container, in perfect custody.

He is completely helpless, and fully at the mercy of his captors, or keepers. In this respect he is not much unlike the human females whom men of his sort, on Gor, are wont to keep for their work and pleasure. They, of course, are not at the mercy of captors or keepers, but of owners, and masters. They are owned, you see. They are properties, possessions. Also, they are legally, and in the eyes of all, animals. And as such, as any other form of such an animal, an owned animal, for example pigs or verr, they are subject to barter, exchange, gifting, sale, and such. They are spoken of as slaves.

Whereas Kurii may own humans, and several do, they do not think of them as “slaves,” no more than men of Gor would think of their verr and kaiila as slaves, or those of, say, Earth, would think of their pigs and horses, or cattle, as slaves. They are simply domestic animals. The slave, then, from the Gorean view, is a domestic animal, but a particular type of domestic animal, one different, obviously, from other types, such as the verr or kaiila. Thus, not all domestic animals are slaves, but all slaves are domestic animals. Too, many Gorean men seem to be as fond, or even more fond, of their slaves than of, say, their sleen or kaiila, animals commonly much more expensive. To be sure, they master them with firmness, and do not let them forget that they are only slaves. That is seemingly the Gorean way.

Tarl Cabot was not certain how long he had been incarcerated in the heavy, narrow, glassine container. Nor are we. It was perhaps some days, or weeks. Given the absence of clocks, the unknown periodicity of feedings, if they were periodized, the nature of the soporific gas, and such, it would be hard to say.

The gravity in the venue, the Prison Moon, was currently indexed to that of its mother world, Gor, to which it was a satellite. We are not clear, given the small size of the moon, a mere several pasangs in diameter, how this was managed. It is done differently, certainly, and perhaps more primitively, in the cylinders and spheres, in the Steel Worlds. The capabilities of the Priest-Kings, whoever or whatever they may be, are not well understood. Certainly it would not do to underestimate either their power, resolve or sagacity. Four times the Kurii erred in this regard, and their mistakes were costly. That such, the Priest-Kings, have form, and can interact with matter, however, seems obvious. The Prison Moon, for example, seems to make that clear, as it is obviously an artificial moon, with its architectural steel, its absorbing cells, its focusing and power mirrors, its shielding, and such, one perhaps once used for purposes of extra atmospheric observation, perhaps low-gravity experiments, and such. It seems unlikely that it was originally designed as a facility for the retention and storage of life forms, or, if you like, as a maximum-security prison for, say, particular prisoners.

Shortly before the unexpected disruption, one which seems to have taken even Priest-Kings unawares, this seemingly adding indisputable and welcome evidence as to their limitations and vulnerability, two human females were entered into the container in question.

It is clear they were females, as the human species is characterized by an obvious and radical sexual dimorphism.

It is seldom difficult to tell a human female from a human male.

Their sexes are quite different.

Too, as is common in the human species, these two females were considerably smaller than the average male, and considerably weaker.

That tends to be a characteristic of the human female.

Size and strength are common features of the human male, and accordingly the human female, smaller and weaker, often seeks to secure and protect herself within the shelter of these features.

These two females were in some respects similar, and in other respects quite different. Both were, as we understand it, of the sort which would be attractive, even excruciatingly so, to a human male. One was darkly pelted, with brown eyes, and the other was lightly pelted, or blondishly pelted, with blue eyes. Both were young, the darkly pelted one perhaps a bit older than the other. Each was, as tests later demonstrated, healthy and fertile. Each, too, was characterized by delicate, even exquisite, features, of a sort so clearly different from the coarse type found commonly in the human male. This has perhaps to do with several millennia of sexual selection. Too, both were, as humans understand such things, deliciously figured, this, too, doubtless having to do with generations of sexual selection. Indeed, the figures of both were nearly, if not quite, at what merchants in these matters refer to as the optimum block measurements for their size and weight. Block measurements, taken presale, are commonly, and in some cities this is required by law, included in a female’s sales information. They are often available, as well, before the female is put on the block, hence the name ‘block measurements’. Needless to say, too, given the female’s subjection to severe regimens of rest, diet, and exercise, it is almost assured, as is desired, by attention to these “block measurements,” that she will come to the block in excellent condition, healthy, vital, and well-curved. That is the way she is to be sold. She is, after all, merchandise, and, hopefully, good merchandise. Too, we may suppose, being healthy, each had the needs and desires of a healthy female, and, considering their selection, may have had these drives, and such, in an acute fashion, even uncomfortably so, which would render them particularly sexually vulnerable. Gorean slavers, for example, often pay close attention to such things. After all, most men buy women for pleasure.

Both of these females were of the sort, then, which, on Gor, would be of interest to buyers. They were typical of the females found in Gorean markets, and were perhaps, we suspect, given their insertion into the container, somewhat above average. Presumably both would have gone for a good price, and certainly so if they had been brought within suitable block measurements, to which, as noted, they were already in close approximation.

At the time that these females were entered into the small compass of the container Tarl Cabot was sedated, and thus unaware of their insertion into his small world.

They, too, at the time, must have been sedated.

The corridor was doubtless pressurized prior to their insertion into the container, and then returned to its near-vacuum condition.

This was done shortly prior to the disruption, as well.

That was seen to.

I have mentioned that the females were quite different, and you must understand that these differences pertained to far more than their pelting, eye color, and such. Before I discourse, however briefly, on certain of these differences, I mention something you, or some of you, may find of interest. That is that the human female, and the male, as well, for that matter, is relatively hairless. This may be an adaptation to facilitate heat loss in long-distance pursuit and pack hunting, or, again, it may have to do merely with preferences involved in sexual selection, or both. It is hard to know about such things. A consequence of this lack of hair, or fur, is that the species, in its wanderings and migrations, certainly into colder areas, must clothe itself. This seems to have been done first by taking the skins and fur of other animals, with which the Nameless One, if it was concerned at all with such matters, had refused to provide them, and later particularly by the utilization of plant fibers, and such. Clothing also, it seems, interestingly, is often worn by the species even when it is not climatologically indicated, and, indeed, sometimes when it is even uncomfortable. It can serve, of course, as a decoration, a symbol of status, a concealment of provocative or vulnerable areas, and so on. The harnesses and accouterments of the Kurii are presumably not dissimilar, at least in some of these respects. Female slaves may or may not be clothed, of course, as the master pleases. This increases their sense of vulnerability, and dependence. The female slave is seldom unaware of her condition but, too, interestingly, seldom does she wish to be. Her bondage may be her terror, but more often it is her meaning and joy. This apparently has to do with a variety of genetic antecedents and endowments, dispositions and complementarities, selected for in the long and interesting course of human evolution. One does not note with surprise that such complementarities should occur in a species so sexually dimorphic. Indeed, one would expect them. When they are clothed, the female slaves, it is often minimally, and provocatively. This reminds them, too, of their bondage, and is sexually stimulatory not only to the masters but to the chattels, as well. The pelting of the Kur female, of course, on the other hand, is thick, abundant, rich, and glossy, and, in season, heavy. How could a human female even begin to compare with a Kur female in beauty, let alone in power or ferocity? Her fangs for example, are negligible. The human female could not, for example, in three or four Ihn, tear loose a limb from a terrified, struggling tabuk.

But now to the more important aspects which characterized the new additions to Tarl Cabot’s container.

Neither, in effect, at least as yet, was Gorean…

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