Assassin of Gor [Gor Series Book 5]
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by John Norman
Description: Welcome to Gor, a parallel Earth, where social norms are exotic and the way of life is brutal. In the fifth book in the Gorean Series, the deadly assassin Kuurus is intent on a bloody mission of vengeance. His adventure takes him from the caste of the pleasure-slaves, which are rigorously trained in the rules and techniques of sexual ecstasy, to the brutal arenas where humans participate in deadly hand-to-hand combat. He witnesses violence, conflict and uncertainty, as the inhabitants of Counter-Earth are forced to confront their destinies--no matter how exalted or debased. 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, 1970
eBookwise Release Date: February 2002
157 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [591 KB]
Reading time: 402-563 min.
KUURUS, OF THE CASTE OF ASSASSINS, crouched on the crest of the small hill, leaning with both hands on the shaft of his spear, looking down into the shallow valley, waiting. He would not yet be welcome.
In the distance he could see the white walls, and some of the towers, of the city of Ko-ro-ba, which was being rebuilt. It is an old word in Gorean, Ko-ro-ba, meaning a village market, though few considered its archaic meaning. Kuurus looked on the city. It had once been destroyed by Priest-Kings, but now it was being rebuilt. Kuurus was not much interested in such matters. His was the Caste of Assassins. He had been called to this place. In the early part of the eighth Gorean hour the distant white walls took the sun and blazed like light in the green hills. The Towers of the Morning, thought Kuurus, the Towers of the Morning.
The Assassin shifted a bit and turned his attention again to the valley, where the men below were almost ready.
The logs had been prepared and carefully placed. There were hundreds of them, trimmed and squared, mostly of Ka-la-na wood, from the sweet-smelling wine trees of Gor. They crossed one another in the intricate traditional patterns, spaces between to permit the rush of air, forming a carefully structured, tiered, truncated pyramid.
Kuurus observed, curious, as the last log was placed by two men in the red of Warriors.
Then free women, veiled and in Robes of Concealment, each carrying a jar or canister, approached the structure. Even from where Kuurus waited he could smell the perfumed oils, the unguents and spices, which the women, climbing and moving about the pyramid slowly, as though on stairs, sprinkled about or poured over the wood.
Beyond the wood, toward the city, Kuurus could see the procession. He was surprised for, judging from the colors of the garments of those who marched, it contained men of many castes, perhaps all castes of the city, only that he did not see among them the white of the Caste of Initiates. That puzzled Kuurus, for normally men of the Initiates are prominent in such events.
These men of Ko-ro-ba, he knew, when their city had been destroyed by Priest-Kings, had been scattered to the ends of Gor but, when permitted by Priest-Kings, they had returned to their city to rebuild it, each bearing a stone to add to its walls. It was said, in the time of troubles, that the Home Stone had not been lost, and it had not. And even Kuurus, of the Caste of Assassins, knew that a city cannot die while its Home Stone survives. Kuurus, who would think little of men on the whole, yet could not despise such men as these, these of Ko-ro-ba.
The procession did not chant, nor sing, for this was not a time for such things, nor did it carry boughs of Ka-la-na, nor were the sounds of the sista or tambor heard in the sunlight that morning. At such a time as this Goreans do not sing nor speak. They are silent, for at such a time words mean nothing, and would demean or insult; in such a time there can be for Goreans only silence, memory and fire.
The procession was led by four Warriors, who supported on their shoulders a framework of crossed spears, lashed together, on which, wrapped in the scarlet leather of a tarnsman, lay the body.
Kuurus watched, unmoved, as the four Warriors carried their scarlet burden to the height of the huge, sweet-smelling, oil-impregnated pyre.
Averting their eyes the Warriors threw back the scarlet leather that the body might lie free on the spears, open to the wind and sun.
He was a large man, Kuurus noted, in the leather of a Warrior. The hair, he remarked, was unusual.
The procession and those who had been earlier at the pyre now stood back from it, some fifty yards or so, for the oil-impregnated wood will take the torch quickly and fiercely. There were three who stood near the pyre; one wore the brown robes of the Administrator of a City, the humblest robes in the city, and was hooded; another wore the blue of the Caste of Scribes, a small man, almost tiny, bent now with pain and grief; the last was a very large man, broad of back and shoulder, bearded and with long blond hair, a Warrior; yet even the Warrior seemed in that moment shaken.
Kuurus saw the torch lit and then, with a cry of pain, thrown by the Warrior onto the small mountain of oiled wood. The wood leaped suddenly alive with a blaze that was almost a burst of fire and the three men staggered backward, their forearms thrown across their eyes.
Kuurus bent down and picked up a stalk of grass and chewed on it, watching. The reflection of the fire, even in the sunlight, could be seen on his face. His forehead began to sweat. He blinked his eyes against the heat.
The men and women of Ko-ro-ba stood circled about the pyre, neither moving nor speaking, for better than two Ahn. After about half an Ahn the pyre, still fearful with heat and light, had collapsed with a roar, forming a great, fiercely burning mound of oil-soaked wood. At last, when the wood burned only here and there, and what had been the pyre was mostly ashes and glowing wood, the men of a dozen castes, each carrying a jar of chilled wine, moved about, pouring the wine over the fire, quenching it. Other men sought in the ashes for what might be found of the Warrior. Some bones and some whitish ash they gathered in white linen and placed in an urn of red and yellow glass. Kuurus knew that such an urn would be decorated, probably, since the man had been a Warrior, with scenes of the hunt and war. The urn was given to him who wore the robes of the Administrator of the City, who took it and slowly, on foot, withdrew toward Ko-ro-ba, followed by the large blond Warrior and the small Scribe. The ashes, Kuurus judged, since the body had been wrapped in the scarlet leather of a tarnsman, would be scattered from tarnback, perhaps over distant Thassa, the sea.
Kuurus stood up and stretched. He picked up his short sword in its scabbard, his helmet and his shield. These he slung over his left shoulder. Then he picked up his spear, and stood there, against the sky, on the crest of the hill, in the black tunic.
Those who had come to the pyre had now withdrawn slowly toward the city. Only one man remained near the smoking wood. He wore a black robe with a stripe of white down the front and back. Kuurus knew that it would be this man, who wore the black, but not the full black, of the Assassin, who would deal with him. Kuurus smiled bitterly to himself. He laughed at the stripe of white. Their tunic, said Kuurus to himself, is as black as mine.
When the man near the smoking wood turned to face him, Kuurus descended the hill. He was now welcome. Kuurus smiled to himself.
The man did not greet him, nor did Kuurus lift his hand to the man, palm inward, saying "Tal."
The man was a strange man, thought Kuurus. His head was totally devoid of hair, even to the lack of eyebrows. Perhaps he is some sort of Initiate, thought Kuurus.
Without speaking the man took twenty pieces of gold, tarn disks of Ar, of double weight, and gave them to Kuurus, who placed them in the pockets of his belt. The Assassins, unlike most castes, do not carry pouches.
Kuurus looked curiously down at the remains of the pyre. Only a bit of wood now, here and there, missed by the chilled wine, clung to flame; some of the logs, however, still smoked, and others held as though within themselves the redness of the fire they remembered; but most were simply charred, now dead, stained with the oil, wet from the wine.
"Justice must be done," said the man.
Kuurus said nothing, but only looked at the man. Often, though not always, they spoke of justice. It pleases them to speak of justice, he said to himself. And of right. It eases them and gives them peace. There is no such thing as justice, said Kuurus, to himself. There is only gold and steel.
"Whom am I to kill?" asked Kuurus. "I do not know," said the man.
Kuurus looked at him angrily. Yet he had in the pockets of his belt twenty gold tarn disks, and of double weight. There must be more.
"All we know is this," said the man, handing him a greenish patch.
Kuurus studied the patch. "It is a faction patch," said he. "It speaks to me of the tarn races of Ar."
"It is true," said the man.
The faction patches are worn in Ar by those who favor a given faction in the racing. There are several such factions, who control the racing and compete among themselves, the greens, the reds, the golds, the yellows, the silvers.
"I shall go to Ar," said Kuurus.
"If you are successful," said the man, "return and you will receive a hundred such pieces of gold."
Kuurus looked at him. "If it is not true," he said, "you will die."
"It is true," said the man.
"Who is it," asked Kuurus, "that was slain? Who is it that I am to avenge?"
"A Warrior," said the man.
"His name?" asked Kuurus.
"Tarl Cabot," said the man.
Copyright © 1970 by John Norman