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The Kur race once had a planet of its own, but somehow it was rendered unviable, either destroyed or desolate, apparently by the Kurs’ own hands. So they searched for a new home and found not one but two suitable planets—planets they set their minds to conquering. But these planets, Earth and its sister planet Gor, the Counter-Earth, were not undefended. The Kur attempted their conquest four times, only to be beaten back by the mysterious Priest-Kings, rulers of Gor. As the Kurii lurk deep within an asteroid ...
The Kur race once had a planet of its own, but somehow it was rendered unviable, either destroyed or desolate, apparently by the Kurs’ own hands. So they searched for a new home and found not one but two suitable planets—planets they set their minds to conquering. But these planets, Earth and its sister planet Gor, the Counter-Earth, were not undefended. The Kur attempted their conquest four times, only to be beaten back by the mysterious Priest-Kings, rulers of Gor. As the Kurii lurk deep within an asteroid belt, awaiting the chance to seize their prize, their attention is drawn to a human, Tarl Cabot. Tarl was once an agent of Priest-Kings but is now their prisoner, held captive in a secret prison facility. But what is their interest in Tarl Cabot?
Rediscover this brilliantly imagined world where men are masters and women live to serve their every desire.
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 non-dominant. Under certain unusual circumstances the non-dominant 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.
Excerpted from Kur of Gor by John Norman. Copyright © 2009 John Norman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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