Hunters of Gor [Gor Series Book 8]
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by John Norman
Description: Former Earthman Tarl Cabot is now a powerful Tarnsman of the brutal and caste-bound planet of Gor, also known as Counter-Earth. He embarks on an adventure in the dangerous and mysterious wilderness of Gor, pitting his warrior's skills against treacherous outlaws, bandits and fighters. Three different women are working to bring change to Tarl's far-from-peaceful life on Gor: Talena, his one-time queen and first love; Elizabeth, his brave fighting partner; and the Amazonian Verna, chief of the fierce and wild panther women. As Tarl journeys through the wilderness, the fates of these three remarkable women will finally be decided. Coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the first book of the Gorean Saga, TARNSMAN OF GOR, E-Reads is proud to release the very first complete publication of all Gor books by John Norman, in both print and ebook editions, including the long-awaited 26th novel in the saga, WITNESS OF GOR. Many of the original Gor books have been out of print for years, but their popularity has endured. Each book of this release has been specially edited by the author and is a definitive text.
eBook Publisher: E-Reads, 1974
eBookwise Release Date: February 2002
124 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [515 KB]
Reading time: 349-489 min.
"It is not my wish," said Samos, looking up from the board, "that you journey to the northern forests."
I regarded the board. Carefully, I set the Ubar's Tarnsman at Ubar's Scribe Six.
"It is dangerous," said Samos.
"It is your move," said I, intent upon the game.
He threatened the Ubar's Tarnsman with a Spearman, thrust to his Ubar Four.
"We do not care to risk you," said Samos. There was a slight smile about his lips.
"We?" I asked.
"Priest-Kings and I," said Samos.
"I no longer serve Priest-Kings," said I.
"Ah, yes," said Samos. Then he added, "Guard your Tarnsman."
We played in the hall of Samos, a lofty room, with high, narrow windows. It was late at night. A torch burned in a rack above and behind me, to my left. The shadows flickered about the board of one hundred red and yellow squares. The pieces, weighted, seemed tall on the board, casting their shadows away from the flame, across the flat arena of the game.
We sat cross-legged on the floor, on the tiles, over the large board.
There was a rustle of slave bells to my right, locked on the left ankle of a girl.
Samos wore the blue and yellow robes of the Slaver. Indeed, he was First Slaver of Port Kar, and First Captain in its Council of Captains, which council, since the downfall of the four Ubars is sovereign in Port Kar. I, too, was a member of the Council of Captains, Bosk, of the House of Bosk, of Port Kar. I wore a white robe, woven of the wool of the Hurt, imported from distant Ar, trimmed with golden cloth, from Tor, the colors of the Merchant. But beneath my robe I wore a tunic of red, that color of the warriors.
To one side of the room, unclothed, his wrists manacled behind his body, his ankles confined in short chains, knelt a large man, a heavy band of iron hammered about his throat. He was flanked by two guards, standing slightly behind him, helmeted, Gorean steel at their sides. The man's head had, some weeks ago, been shaven, a two-and-one-half-inch stripe, running from the forehead to the back of his neck. Now, weeks later, tiny, dark hair was well reasserting itself. Save for the strip that had been shaved, his hair was black, and shaggy. He was powerful. He had not yet been branded. But he was slave. The collar proclaimed him such.
The girl knelt at the side of the board. She was clad in a brief bit of diaphanous scarlet silk, slave silk. Her beauty was well betrayed. Her collar, a lock collar, was yellow, enameled. She was dark-eyed, dark-haired.
"May I serve, Masters?" she asked.
"Paga," said Samos, absently, looking at the board.
"Yes," I said.
With a flash of slave bells, she withdrew. As she left, I noted that she passed by the kneeling male slave, flanked by his guards. She passed him as a slave girl, her head in the air, insolently, taunting him with her body.
I saw rage flash in his eyes. I heard his chains move. The guards took no note of him. He was well secured. The girl laughed, and continued on, to fetch paga for free men.
"Guard your Tarnsman," said Samos.
Instead I swept my Ubar to Ubar's Tarnsman One.
I looked into Samos' eyes.
He turned his attention again to the board.
He had a large, squarish head, short-cropped white hair. His face was dark from the sun, and wind-burned, and sea-burned. There were small, golden rings in his ears. He was a pirate, a slaver, a master swordsman, a captain of Port Kar. He studied the board.
He did not take the Ubar's Tarnsman with his Spearman. He looked up at me, and defended his Home Stone by bringing his Scribe to Ubar One whence it could control his Ubar's Tarnsman Three, controlling as well the killing diagonal.
"Talena, daughter of Marlenus of Ar, I learn, has been taken as slave to the northern forests," I said.
"Where did you obtain this information?" he asked. Samos was always suspicious.
"From a female slave, who was in my house," I said, "a rather lovely wench, whose name was Elinor."
"That El-in-or," he asked, "who is now the property of Rask of Treve?"
"Yes," I said. I smiled. "I got one hundred pieces of gold for her," I said.
Samos smiled. "Doubtless, for such a price," he said, "Rask of Treve will see that she repays him a thousand times that price in pleasure."
I smiled. "I do not doubt it." I returned my attention to the board. "Yet," said I, "it is my suspicion that between them there is truly love."
Samos smiled. "Love," he asked, "--for a female slave?"
"Paga, Masters?" asked the dark-haired girl, kneeling beside the table.
Samos, not looking at her, held forth his goblet. The girl filled the goblet.
I held forth my goblet, and she, too, filled mine.
"Withdraw," said Samos.
"Love or not," said Samos, studying the board, "he will keep her in a collar -- for he is of Treve."
"Doubtless," I admitted. And, indeed, I had little doubt that what Samos had said was true. Rask of Treve, though in love with her and she with him, would keep her rightless, in the absolute bondage of a Gorean slave girl -- for he was of Treve.
"It is said that those of Treve are worthy enemies," said Samos.
I said nothing.
"Those of Ko-ro-ba," he said, "have often found them so."
"I am Bosk, of Port Kar," I said.
"Of course," said Samos.
I moved my Ubar's Rider of the High Tharlarion to command the file on which the Home Stone of Samos lay richly protected.
"It is long since you have been the Free Companion of Talena, daughter of Marlenus," said Samos. "The Companionship, not renewed annually, is at an end. And you were once enslaved."
I looked at the board, angrily. It was true that the Companionship, not renewed, had been dissolved in the eyes of Gorean law. It was further true that, had it not been so, the Companionship would have been terminated abruptly when one or the other of the pledged companions fell slave. I recalled, angrily, with a burning shame, the delta of the Vosk, when I, though of the Warriors, once, on my knees, begged the ignominy of slavery to the freedom of honorable death. Yes, I, Bosk of Port Kar, had once been slave.
"It is your move," I said.
"You have no obligation," said Samos, "to seek the girl Talena."
I knew that. "I am unworthy of her," I said.
I had never forgotten her, the beautiful, olive-skinned, green-eyed Talena, so stunningly figured, such fantastic lips, the proud blood of Marlenus of Ar, Ubar of Ar, Ubar of Ubars, in her veins. She had been my first love. It had been years since we had touched.
"Priest-Kings tore me from her," I told Samos, hard-eyed.
Samos did not look up from the board. "In the game of worlds," he said, "we are not important."
"She was taken to the northern forests, I have learned," I said, "by the outlaw girl, Verna, to serve as bait for her capture of Marlenus of Ar, who is presumed to be concerned for her rescue." I looked up. "Marlenus, on a hunting expedition, with other animals, captured Verna, and her girls. He caged them and exhibited them, as trophies. They have escaped, and they wish their vengeance."
"You would do well to stay in Port Kar," said Samos.
"Talena is held slave in the northern forests," I told him.
"Do you still love her?" asked Samos, looking at me, directly.
I was startled.
For years Talena, the magnificent Talena, had been in my heart's deepest dreams, my first love, my never-forgotten love. She had burned in my memory, unforgettably. I recalled her from the fields near the Swamp Forest south of Ar, in the caravan of Mintar, at the great camp of Pa-Kur's horde, as she had been upon Ar's lofty Cylinder of Justice, as she had been in lamp-lit Ko-ro-ba, when, with interlocking arms, we had drunk the wines of the Free Companionship.
How could I not love Talena, the deep, and first love, the first beautiful love of my life?
"Do you love her?" asked Samos.
"Of course!" I shouted, angrily.
"It has been many years," said Samos.
"It matters not," I muttered.
"You are both, perhaps, other than you were."
"Do you care to dispute these matters with the sword?" I asked.
"I might," said Samos, "if you could establish the pertinence of the procedure to the issues involved."
I looked down, furious.
"It is possible," said Samos, "that it is an image you love, and not a woman, that it is not a person, but a memory."
"Those who have never loved," I told him bitterly, "must not speak of what they cannot know."
Samos did not seem angry. "Perhaps," he said.
"It is your move," I told him.
I glanced across the room. A few yards away, on the tiles, in her brief silk, the two-handled, bronze paga vessel beside her, knelt the slave girl, waiting to be summoned. She was dark-haired, and beautiful. She glanced at the chained male slave, and threw back her head, and smoothed her long, dark hair over her back. In his manacles, kneeling, between his guards, he regarded her. She observed him, and smiled contemptuously, and then looked loftily away, bored. Behind his back, in the irons he wore, I sensed his fists were clenched.
"What of Telima?" asked Samos.
"She will understand," I told Samos.
"I have information," said he, "that this evening, following your departure from your house, she returned to the marshes."
I leaped to my feet.
I was staggered. The room reeled.
"What did you expect her to do?" asked Samos.
"Why did you not tell me this?" I cried.
"What would you do, if I did?" he asked. "Would you chain her to the slave ring at your couch?"
I looked at him, enraged.
"She is a proud, and noble woman," said Samos.
"I love her--" I said.
"Then go to the marshes and search her out," said Samos.
"I -- I must go to the northern forests," I stammered.
"Builder to Ubara's Scribe Six," said Samos, moving a tall wooden piece toward me on the board.
I looked down. I must defend my Home Stone.
"You must choose," said Samos, "between them."
How furious I was! I strode in the torchlit hall, my robes swirling. I pounded on the stones of the wall. Could Telima not understand? Could she not understand what I must do? I had labored in Port Kar to build the house of Bosk. I stood high in this city. The curule chair at my high table was among the most honored and envied on Gor! What honor it was to be the woman of Bosk, merchant, admiral! And yet she had turned her back on this! She had displeased me! She had dared to displease me! Bosk! The marshes had nothing to offer her. Would she refuse the gold, the gems, the silks and silvers, and spilling coins, the choice wines, the servants and slaves, the security of the house of Bosk for the lonely freedoms and silences of the salt marshes of the Vosk's vast delta?
Did she expect me to Hasten after her, piteously begging her return, while Talena, once my companion, lay chained slave in the cruel green forests of the north! Her trick would not work!
Let her stay in the marshes until she had had her pretty fill, and then let her crawl whimpering back to the portals of the house of Bosk, whining and scratching like a tiny domestic sleen for admittance, to be taken back!
But I knew Telima would not come back.
"What are you going to do?" asked Samos. He did not lift his eyes from the board.
"In the morning," I said, "I leave for the northern forests."
"Tersites," said Samos, not looking up, "builds a ship, fit to sail beyond the world's end."
"I no longer serve Priest-Kings," I said.
I wiped my eyes on the sleeve of the woolen robe. I returned to stand above the board.
My Home Stone was threatened.
Yet I felt hard and strong. I wore steel at my side. I was Bosk. I was once of the Warriors.
"Home Stone to Ubar's Tarnsman One," I said.
Samos made the move for me.
I nodded my head to the chained, nude male slave, flanked by his guards, to one side.
"Is this the slave?" I asked Samos.
"Bring him forward," said Samos.
The two guards, helmeted, threw him to his feet, and half dragging him, half carrying him, their hands on his arms, brought him before us. Then they forced him again to his knees, and thrust his dark, shaggy head down to the tiles before our sandals.
The slave girl laughed.
When the guard removed his hand from the slave's hair, he straightened his back, and regarded us.
He seemed proud. I liked this.
"You have an unusual barber," said Samos.
The slave girl laughed again, delightedly.
The strip which had been shaven on his head, from the forehead to the back of the neck, signified that he had been captured, and sold, by the panther girls of the northern forests. It is among the greatest shames that a man can know, that he had been enslaved by women, who had then, when weary of him, sold him, taking their profit on him.
"It is said," said Samos, "that only weaklings, and fools, and men who deserve to be slave girls, fall slave to women,"
The man glared at Samos. I could sense, again, that, in his manacles, behind his back, his fists were clenched.
"I was once the slave of a woman," I told the man.
He looked at me, startled.
"What is to be done with you?" asked Samos.
I could see the heavy metal collar hammered about the man's neck, not uncommon in a male slave. His head would have been placed across the anvil, and the metal curved about his neck with great blows. "Whatever you wish," said the man, kneeling before us.
"How came you to be slave?" I asked.
"As you can see," he said, "I fell to women."
"How came it about?" I asked.
"They fell upon me in my sleep," he said. "I wakened to a knife at my throat. I was chained. They much sported with me. When they wearied of me, I was taken, leashed and manacled, to a lonely beach, at the edge of Thassa, bordering on the western edge of the forests."
"It is a well-known rendezvous point," said Samos. "It was there one of my ships picked him up, and others." He looked at the man. "Do you recall your price?"
"Two steel knives," said the man, "and fifty steel arrow points."
"And a stone of hard candies, from the kitchens of Ar," smiled Samos.
"Yes," said the man, through gritted teeth.
The slave girl laughed, and clapped her hands. Samos did not admonish her.
"What is to be your fate?" asked Samos.
"Doubtless to be a galley slave," he said.
The great merchant galleys of Port Kar, and Cos, and Tyros, and other maritime powers, utilized thousands of such miserable wretches, fed on brews of peas and black bread, chained in the rowing holds, under the whips of slave masters, their lives measured by feedings and beatings, and the labor of the oar.
"What were you doing in the northern forests?" I asked him.
"I am an outlaw," he said proudly.
"You are a slave," said Samos.
"Yes," said the man, "I am a slave."
The slave girl, in her brief silk, stood, holding the two-handled bronze paga vessel, that she might look down upon him.
"Few travelers journey through the northern forests," I said.
"Commonly," said he, "I plundered beyond the forests." He looked at the slave girl. "Sometimes," said he, "I plundered within them."
"At the time I was captured," said he, looking again at Samos, "I was trying chain luck."
"I thought that it was I who was hunting women," said he. "But it was they who were hunting me."
The girl laughed.
He looked down, angrily.
Then he lifted his head. "When am I to be sent to the galleys?" he asked.
"You are strong, and handsome," said Samos. "I expect that a rich woman might pay a good price for you."
The man cried out with rage, trying to struggle to his feet, fighting his chains. The guards, their hands in his hair, forced him hack to his knees.
Samos turned to the girl. "What should be done with him?" he asked her.
"Sell him to a woman!" she laughed.
The man struggled in his chains.
"Are you familiar with the northern forests?" I asked.
"What man is familiar with the forests?" he asked.
I regarded him.
"I can live in the forests," he said. "And hundreds of square pasangs, in the south and the west of the forest, I know."
"A band of panther women captured you?" I asked.
"Yes," he said.
"What was the name of the leader of this band?" I asked.
"Verna," said he.
Samos looked at me. I was satisfied. "You are free," I told the man. I turned to the guards. "Remove his chains."
The guards, with keys, bent to his manacles, and the double-chained iron clasps securing his ankles.
He seemed stunned.
The slave girl was speechless, her eyes wide. She took a step backward, clutching the two-handled paga vessel. She shook her head. I drew forth a pouch of gold. I handed five pieces of gold to Samos, purchasing the man.
He stood before us, without his chains. He rubbed his wrists. He looked at me, wonderingly.
"I am Bosk," I told him, "of the house of Bosk, of Port Kar. You are free. You may now come and go as you wish. In the morning, from the house of Bosk, in the far city, bordering the delta, I shall leave for the northern forests. If it pleases you, wait upon me there, near the great canal gate."
"Yes, Captain," said he.
"Samos," said I, "may I request the hospitality of your house for this man?"
"He will require food, clothing, what weapons he chooses, a room, drink." I looked at the man, and smiled. The stink of the pens was still upon him. "And, too, I suggest," said I, "a warm bath, and suitable oils."
I turned to the man.
"What is your name?" I asked him. He now had a name, for he was free.
"Rim," he said proudly.
I did not ask him his city, for he was outlaw. Outlaws do not care to reveal their city.
The slave girl had now stepped back two or three more paces, edging away. She was frightened.
"Stay!" I said to her, sharply. She cowered.
She was very beautiful in the bit of slave silk. I noted the bells locked on her left ankle. She was slender, dark-haired, dark-eyed. Her eyes were wide. She had exciting legs, well revealed by the slave-height of her brief silk.
"What do you want for her?" I asked Samos.
He shrugged. "Four pieces of gold," he said.
"I will buy her," I said. I placed four pieces of gold in Samos' hand.
She looked at me, terrified.
One of the guards had fetched Rim a tunic, and he drew it on his body. He belted the broad belt, with its large buckle. He shook his shaggy black hair.
He looked at the girl.
She looked at me, her eyes pleading.
My eyes were hard, and Gorean. She shook her head, trembling.
I gestured with my head toward Rim. "You are his," I told her.
"No! No!" she cried, and threw herself to my feet, weeping, her head to my sandals. "Please, Master! Please, Master!"
When she looked up, she saw my eyes, and read in them the inflexibility of a Gorean male.
Her lower lip trembled. She put her head down.
"What is her name?" I asked Samos.
"She will take whatever name I give her," said Rim.
She whimpered with anguish, bereft of a name. The Gorean slave, in the eyes of Gorean law, is an animal, with no legal title to a name.
"In what room shall we lodge this man?" asked one of the two helmeted guards.
"Take him," said Samos, "to one of the large rooms, well appointed, in which we lodge slavers of high rank, of distant cities."
"The Torian room?" asked the guard.
Samos nodded. Tor is an opulent city of the desert, well known for its splendors, its comforts and pleasures.
Rim lifted the girl to the feet by the hair, twisting her head and bending her body. "Go to the Torian room," he said, "and prepare me a bath, and foods and wines, and gather together whatever you might need, bells and cosmetics, and such, to please my senses."
"Yes, Master," said the girl.
He twisted her hair more. She winced, her back bent painfully. "Do you wish me to submit to you now?" she begged.
"Do so," said he.
She fell to her knees before him, and lifted her head to regard him. "I will be your slave," she said. Then, she knelt back on her heels, lowered her head, and lifted and extended her arms, wrists crossed, as though for binding. She was very beautiful. "I am your slave," she said, "--Master."
"Hasten to the Torian room," said Rim. "In its privacy, I will have use for my slave."
"May I not beg a name?" she asked.
He looked at her. "Cara," he said.
She had been named.
"Go, Cara," said he.
"Yes," she whispered, "Master." She leaped to her feet and, weeping, fled from the room.
"Captain," said Rim, regarding me. "I thank you for the wench."
I nodded my head.
"And now, noble Samos," said Rim, boldly, "I would appreciate the arousal of one in your employ, a metal worker, to remove this collar."
"Further," said Rim, "I would appreciate your sending me the key to Lady Cara's collar, that I may remove it, and providing another."
"Very well," said Samos. "How shall it be inscribed?"
"Let it say," suggested Rim, " 'I am the slave Cara. I belong to Rim, the Outlaw.' "
"Very well," said Samos.
"And, too," said Rim, "prior to my retiring to the Torian room, I would appreciate a sword, with sheath, a knife, and a bow, the great bow, with arrows."
Rim wished to be armed.
"Were you once of the Warriors?" I inquired.
He smiled at me. "Perhaps," he said.
I tossed him the pouch of gold, from which I had drawn the coins to purchase his freedom, and the arrogant, slender, red-silked girl for him, to be his slave.
He caught the purse, and smiled, and threw it to Samos, who caught it.
He turned away. "Lead me to your armory," said he, to one of the guards. "I require weapons."
He left, following the guards, not looking back.
Samos weighed the gold in his hand. "He pays well for his lodging," said Samos.
I shrugged. "Generosity," I said, "is the prerogative of the free man."
Gold had been nothing to Rim. I suspected, then, he might once have been of the Warriors.
"Do you think," asked Samos, "that you will ever see him again?"
"Yes," I said. "I think so."
We stood together in that lofty room, with its high, narrow windows, on the tiles, he in the robes of the Slaver, I in those of the Merchants, though beneath them the red of the Warriors.
The torches burned.
Samos and I looked down upon the board, with its hundred squares of red and yellow, the weighted, carved pieces.
"Ubar to Ubar Nine," said Samos. He looked at me.
I had planned well. "Ubar to Ubar Two," I said, and trained, robes swirling, and strode to the portal, whence I might leave the hall.
At the broad, bronze-linteled portal I turned.
Samos stood behind the board. He looked up at me, and spread his hands. "The game is yours," he said.
I regarded him.
"You will not reconsider?" he asked.
"No," I told him.
Copyright © 1974 by John Norman