bellatrys (bellatrys) wrote,

Return to the Planet of the Complete Bloody Psychopaths - Endgame.

aka "Outlaw of Gor, © 1967, John Norman

Oh, before I forget - we do find out what colour Tarl's eyes are in Book II -

"I first met Tarl Cabot at a small liberal arts college in New Hampshire, where we had both accepted first-year teaching appointments. He was an instructor in English history and I, intending to work for some three years to save money toward law school, had accepted an appointment as an instructor in physical education, a field which, to my annoyance, Cabot never convinced himself belonged in the curriculum of an educational institution. [LOLZ, subtle irony!]

We hiked a good deal, talked and fenced, and, I hoped, had become friends. I liked the young, gentle Englishman. He was quiet and pleasant, though sometimes he seemed remote, or lonely, somehow unwilling to break through that protective shield of formality behind which the educated Englishman, at heart perhaps as sentimental and hot-blooded as any man, attempts to conceal his feelings. [LOLZ, subtle irony + cartoon Britisher!]

Young Cabot was rather tall, a good-sized man, well-built, with an animal ease in his walk that perhaps bespoke the docks of Bristol, his native city, rather than the cloisters of Oxford, at one of whose colleges he had obtained his later education. His eyes were clear, and blue, direct and honest. He was fairly complected. His hair, lamentably perhaps, though some of us loved him for it, was red, but not merely red— it was rather a tangled, blazing affront to the proprieties of the well-groomed academician. I doubt that he owned a comb, and I would be willing to swear that he would not have used one if he had. All in all, Tarl Cabot seemed to us a young, quiet, courteous Oxford gentleman, except for that hair. And then we weren't sure.

OHNOES! His hair isn't just red, it's Evil Clown Hair!!!

This friend exists only to provide the framework of how we get the next installments of Tarl-Stu Cabbage's story after the Priest-Kings zap him back to Gor - sadly, there is never any indication that Tarl even remembers his existence, once he's on Counter-Earth. (I mean, he was just "the friend from work I borrowed the camping gear from," in the first book, never even named.) Alas, such is the fate of those who surround the 'Sue/'Stu - all must worship her/him and despair but cannot expect reciprocity or even recognition for their mystically-compelled love/lust...

It was almost seven years after I had known Tarl Cabot at the college when I saw him on the streets of Manhattan. By that time I had long ago saved the money I needed for law school and had not taught for three years. Indeed, I was then completing my studies at the school of law associated with one of New York's best known private universities.

He had changed very little, if at all. I rushed over to him and without thinking seized him by the shoulder. What happened next seemed almost too unbelievable to comprehend. He spun like a tiger with a sudden cry of rage in some strange tongue and I found myself seized in hands like steel and with great force hurled helplessly across his knee, my spine an inch from being splintered like kindling wood.

In an instant he released me, apologizing profusely even before recognizing me. In horror I realized that what he had done had been as much a reflex as the blinking of an eye or the jerking of a knee under a physician's hammer. It was the reflex of an animal whose instinct it is to destroy before it can be destroyed, or of a human being who has been tooled into such an animal, a human being who has been conditioned to kill swiftly, savagely, or be killed in the same fashion. I was covered with sweat. I knew that I had been an instant from death. Was this the gentle Cabot I had known?

"Harrison!" he cried. "Harrison Smith? He lifted me easily to my feet, his words rapid and stumbling, trying to reassure me. "I'm sorry," he kept saying, "Forgive me! Forgive me, Old Man!"

We looked at one another.

I believe the correct expression at this juncture is "Hoyay!"--?

Oh, and by-the-by, if we needed any further confirmation that Tarl Cabot is a cyborg and was never human at all (aside from the whole ropes-and-wood break before his limbs/20' fall onto rock w/o broken bones) - we learn in this that his camping trip in the White Mountains was in February. I had blanked this out, or mentally transposed it to the spring break, reading the first volume where it is a little ambiguous - I mean, there are only "patches of snow" around when he goes there, and he talks about how he needed Christmas break to recover from the stresses of teaching, and I'm sorry, but even in NH (where schools have been known to lengthen winter hols to save heat) Christmas vacation doesn't last thru Feb.

At the end of the semester, Cabot, like the rest of us, was weary of the academic routine, and was seeking some diversion. He decided to go camping— by himself— in the nearby White Mountains, which were very beautiful then, in the white, brittle splendor of a New Hampshire February.

I loaned him some of my camping gear and drove him into the mountains, dropping him off beside the highway. He asked me, and I am certain he was serious, to meet him at the same place in three days. I returned at the determined time, but he failed to keep the rendezvous. I waited several hours, and then returned at the same time the next day. Still he did not appear. Accordingly, then alarmed, I notified the authorities, and, by afternoon, a large-scale search was underway.

This is indicative of either extreme stupidity or a deathwish - or a level of cluelessness about New England winters that beggars belief, even from a philosophy professor. NY is not very far from us, and winters in Buffalo frex are even worse than ours. There are people here who go winter camping, yes. They are hardcore - and they prepare like you wouldn't believe for it, with antarctic rated gear, and backup, and all. People regularly die of hypothermia up there in the summer even now, getting off the trails without enough clothing, trusting to the weather on the foothills to be representative, and their cell-phones to get them un-lost. That his colleagues said "Sure, foreign newbie, here's a tent and groundcloth, have fun in the unfamiliar icy mountain ranges!" sounds like they seriously wanted him to die. I mean, perfect setup for a Cozy [New] English Murder Mystery!

(I am even MORE impressed with the piloting skills of the insectile aliens, though. Fish & Game would love to have them on call for when some ice-climber makes a bad step and has to be medevac'd to Boston...)

There isn't, despite all that, as much slashy subtext in this one as in the first, but there's enough John-Tarl-fixation on the wonderful noble manliness of noble men and their innate worthiness to be friends and comrades (even if enemies or strangers) to raise some eyebrows and make a few word choices humorous. After the Revolution:

Now only Andreas of Tor remained at my side.

He mopped back that mane of black hair like a larl's and grinned at me. "Well," said he, "I have tried the Mines of Tharna, and now I think I shall try the Great Farms."

"Good luck," I said.

I fervently hoped that he would find the auburn-haired girl in the camisk, gentle Linna of Tharna.

"And where are you off to?" asked Andreas lightly.

"I have business with the Priest-Kings," I said.

"Ah!" said Andreas, and was silent.

We faced one another under the three moons. He seemed sad, one of the few times I had seen him so. [Despite the fact that we were sent to die in the Arena, and then sent to slave away in the mines, Andreas was like Elan, always cheerful in the face of direst peril.]

"I'm coming with you," he said. [So much for the Quest to find his girlfriend...]

I smiled. Andreas knew as well as I that men did not return from the Sardar Mountains.

"No," I said. "I think you would find few songs in the mountains."

"A poet," said he, "will look for songs anywhere."

"I am sorry," I said, "but I cannot allow you to accompany me."

Andreas clapped his hands on my shoulders. "Hear, dull-witted scion of the Caste of Warriors," he said, "my friends are more important to me than even my songs."

I tried to be light. I feigned skepticism. "Are you truly of the Caste of Poets?"

"Never more truly than now," said Andreas, "for how could my songs be more important than the things they celebrate?"

I marveled that he had said this, for I knew that the young Andreas of Tor might have given his arm or years of his life for what might be a true song, one worthy of what he had seen and felt and cared for."

"I wish you well," I said, "— Poet."

He nodded. "I wish you well," he said, "— Warrior."

Perhaps both of us wondered that friendship should exist between members of such different castes, but perhaps both of us knew, though we did not say so, that in the hearts of men arms and song are never far distant.

Andreas lifted his arm. "Tal," he said, sadly. I wondered why he had said this, for it is a word of greeting.

"Tal," I said, returning the salute.

I think perhaps he had wanted to greet me once more, that he did not believe he would ever again have the opportunity.

So that's what the kids are calling it these days!

Right, enough fun-and-games. I should point out that this book, the first one, and the next five were all originally published by Ballantine, from what I can find online - and the next ones, through the late '80s, were published by DAW. This was mainstream SF, back in the good old days, and the not-so-olden-days, too.

First, a quick flash-back to one of Tarl-Stu's several "Me Spartacus" moments. This is after he has defeated the so-far-undefeated champion of the part of the Games Amusements (which all men of Tharna must go watch, or else be sent to the Arena themselves) where they put bull-horns on their silver kangs and make them fight to the death:

Everywhere I saw the silver masks, and heard the shrill command, "Slay him!" On every side I saw the merciless gesture, the extended right hand, palm turned inwards, the cruel, downward chopping motion. Those who wore the silver masks had risen to their feet, and the force of their cries pressed in on me like knives, the air itself seemed filled with the bedlam of their command, "Slay him!"

I turned and walked slowly to the center of the arena.

I stood there, ankle deep in the sand, covered with sweat and sand, my back open from the lash of the race, my side torn from the driving horn of Kron's yoke. I stood unmoving.

The fury of the stands was uncontrolled.

As I stood there in the center of the arena, alone, silent, aloof, not seeming to hear them, those hundreds, rather thousands, who wore the silver masks understood that their will had been spurned, that this creature alone on the sand beneath them had thwarted their pleasure. Standing, screaming, shaking their silver-gloved fists at me, they hurled their frustration, their invective and abuse on my head. The shrill rage of these masked creatures seemed to know no bounds, to verge on hysteria, on madness.

Calmly I waited in the center of the arena for the warriors. [Outlaw of Gor, Chapter 13]

Just so you know how utterly EBOL these unchained womenfolk are, so that you know what the noble John-Tarl does subsequently to them is no more than they deserve...

To my surprise she went to the tent flaps and closed them, tying them shut on the inside.

She turned to face me, breathless.

She was very beautiful under the lamp, against the rich hangings of the tent.

She picked up the two yellow cords and, holding them in her hands, knelt before me in the position of the Pleasure Slave.

"I am going to free you," I said.

Humbly she held the cords up for me to accept, her eyes bright, entreating, raised to mine.

"I am not of Tharna," I said.

"But I am," she said.

I saw that she knelt upon a scarlet rug.

"I am going to free you," I said.

"I am not yet free," she said.

I was silent.

"Please," she begged, "— Master."

And so it was that I took the cords from her hand, and in the same night Lara who had once been the proud Tatrix of Tharna became according to the ancient rites of her city my slave girl— and a free woman.

No, really, you're supposed to be thinking "That Tarl, what a chivalrous gentleman! What a real nice guy! She doesn't deserve him, the bitch/slut/ho!"

--Not Brokeback Tarnsman. Really.

So anyway, he heads off for the mountains of the Priest-Kings, not-slave-girl Lara in tow, and then decides that he can't finish his quest to confront them just yet, because (cue ominous music) nobody returns from the mountains of the Priest-Kings and this woman just won't stop clinging to him for some reason, so he decides he better take her home and see if he can't make her stay there, for her own good.

Lara stood beside me, clad as a free woman but not in the Robes of Concealment. She had shortened and trimmed one of the gracious Gorean garments, cutting it to the length of her knees and cutting away the sleeves so that they fell only to her elbows. It was a bright yellow and she had belted it with a scarlet sash. Her feet wore plain sandals of red leather. About her shoulders, at my suggestion, she had wrapped a cloak of heavy wool. It was scarlet. I had thought she might require this for warmth. I think she thought she might require it to match her sash. I smiled to myself. She was free.

I was pleased that she seemed happy.

She had refused the customary Robes of Concealment. She maintained that she would be more of a hindrance to me so clad. I had not argued, for she was right. As I watched her yellow hair swept behind her in the wind and regarded the joyful lineaments of her beauty, I was glad that she had not chosen, whatever might be her reason, to clothe herself in the traditional manner.

"Beautiful Lara," I said, "forgive me." I held her more closely. "I cannot take you to the Sardar. I cannot leave you here. You would be destroyed by beasts or returned to slavery."

"Must you return me to Tharna?" she asked. "I hate Tharna."

"I have no city to which I might take you," I said. "And I believe you can make Tharna such that you will hate it no longer." [You can see where this is going, right?]

"What must I do?" she said.

"That you must decide yourself," I said.

I kissed her.

"Holding her head in my hands I looked into her eyes.

"Yes," I said proudly, "you are fit to rule."

--That word "rule", Mister Cabot - I do not think it means what you think it means. So the happy noble Black Stallion Tarn comes back (even tho' he doesn't have his whistle, which is the only thing that tarns respond to) and you know, I wrote Black Stallion fanfic when I was 11 and it was embarrasingly bad, but not as Implausible and bathetic as this - and they head back to Tharna which is in the middle of ongoing uprisings of slaves who have found their balls thanks to the wise words and inspiring example of Tarl-Stu. Bareback, on a big slippery bird (which at least doesn't want to lunch on them any more, but still.)

As we flew, many were the fields of charred Sa-Tarna we saw below us. The tarn's shadow glided over the blackened frames of buildings, over broken pens from which livestock had been driven, over orchards that were now no more than felled trees, their leaves and fruit brown and withered.

On the back of the tarn Lara wept to see the desolation that had come to her country.

"It is cruel what they have done," she said.

"It is also cruel what has been done to them," I said.

She was silent.

[...]Perhaps in time, however, the undisciplined but courageous bands of slaves would have been scattered and destroyed by the units of Tharna, save that the very revolution which had begun in the mines and spread to the Great Farms now flamed in the city itself. Not only slaves of the city raised the banner of defiance but men of low caste, whose brothers or friends had been sent to the mines or used in the Amusements, now dared at last to seize the instruments of their trade and turn on guardsmen and soldiers. It was said the rebellion in the city was led by a short, powerful man with blue eyes and short-cropped hair, formerly of the Caste of Metal Workers. [this being of course the guy he spared in the Arena. There are no coincidences on Gor.]

Certain portions of the city had been burned to exterminate the rebellious elements and this cruel act of repression had only rallied confused and undecided men to the side of the rebels. Now it was said that entire portions of the city were in rebel hands. The silver masks of Tharna, when they were able, had escaped to the portions of the city still in the command of the soldiers. Many were reported to cower in the confines of the royal palace itself. The fate of those who had not escaped rebel hands was not clear.

They meet up with Tarl's old buds from the mine, who have brought laughter and light and joy to grim gray Tharna in between their rounds of sacking and pillaging and street-fighting with the usurper-Tatrix's guards - and dancing slave girls, too. Well, that's part of the laughter and light and joy that goes with FREEDOM!!!, right?

I wondered what impression the Kal-da shop would have on the true Tatrix of Tharna. [Kal-da is a spiced hot wine drink, which John-Tarl thinks is gross but better than no booze at all.]

Kron seized my arm and guided me to a table near the center of the room. Holding Lara by the hand I followed him. Her eyes were stunned but like a child's were wide with curiosity. She had not known the men of Tharna could be like this.

Kron clapped his hands again and to my surprise there was a sudden sound of bells and four terrified girls, obviously chosen for their beauty and grace, stood before our table clad only in the scarlet dancing silks of Gor. They threw back their heads and lifted their arms and to the barbaric cadence set by the musicians danced before us.

Lara, to my surprise, watched them with delight. [She's a Good Girl now, having embraced her Inner Woman, and thus fit to "rule" Tharna now...]

"Where in Tharna," I asked, "did you find Pleasure Slaves?" I had noted that the throats of the girls were encircled by silver collars.

Andreas, who was stuffing a piece of bread in his mouth, responded, his words a cheery mumble. "Beneath every silver mask," he averred sententiously, "there is a potential Pleasure Slave."

"Andreas!" cried Linna, and she made as if to slap him for his insolence, but he quieted her with a kiss, and she playfully began to nibble at the bread clenched between his teeth.

"Are these truly silver masks of Tharna?" I asked Kron, skeptically.

"Yes," said he. "Good, aren't they?"

"How did they learn this?" I asked.

He shrugged. "It is instinctive in a woman," he said. "But they are untrained of course."

I laughed to myself. Kron of Tharna spoke as might any man of any city of Gor— other than a man of Tharna.

"Why are they dancing for you?" asked Lara.

"They will be whipped if they do not," said Kron.

Lara's eyes dropped.

"You see the collars," said Kron, pointing to the slender graceful bands of silver each girl wore at her throat. "We melted the masks and used the silver for the collar."

Other girls now appeared among the tables, clad only in a camisk and a silver collar, and sullenly, silently, began to serve the Kal-da which Kron had ordered. Each carried a heavy pot of the foul, boiling brew and, cup by cup, replenished the cups of the men.

Some of them looked enviously at Lara, others with hatred. Their look said to her why are you not clad as we are, why do you not wear a collar and serve as we serve?

To my surprise Lara removed her cloak and took the pot of Kal-da from one of the girls and began to serve the men.

Some of the girls looked at her in gratitude for she was free and in doing this she showed them that she did not regard herself as above them.

"That," I said to Kron, pointing out Lara, "is the Tatrix of Tharna."

As Andreas looked upon her he said softly, "She is truly a Tatrix."

Linna arose and now began to help with the serving.

When Kron had tired of watching the dancers he clapped his hands twice and with a discordant jangle of their ankle bells they fled from the room.

John-Tarl convinces the rebels that no, they really SHOULD put Lara back on the throne as Tatrix, she will be a docile and obedient unifying puppet now this way they will get the government soldiers to throw down their arms and join them instead of fighting, once they reveal the treason of Dorna the Proud:

Kron watched the girl, who was unconscious of the conversation. Across the room she was serving Kal-da to the men whose cups were lifted to her.

"While she lives," said Kron, "the revolution is not safe."

"That is not true," I said.

"She must die," said Kron.

"No," I said. "She too has felt the chain and whip."

There was a murmur of astonishment from the men about the table.

"The soldiers of Tharna and her guardsmen will forsake the false Tatrix and serve the true Tatrix," I said.

"If she lives—" agreed Kron, looking at the innocent girl across the room.

"She must," I urged. "She will bring a new day to Tharna. She can unite both the rebels and the men who oppose you. She has learned how cruel and miserable are the ways of Tharna. Look at her!"

And the men watched the girl quietly pouring the Kal-da, willingly sharing the labors of the other women of Tharna. It was not what one would have expected of a Tatrix.

"She is worthy to rule," I said. [Again, I do not think it means what you think...]

"She is what we fought against," said Kron.

"No," I said, "you fought against the cruel ways of Tharna. You fought for your pride and your freedom, not against that girl."

Notice the ad-hoc characterization: it's the writing version of the Male Gaze, and we saw it with the first book, too. When Talena or Lara are against Tarl-stu, they're stupid, cowardly, feeble, ugly, cruel bitches, and this is expressed in everything they do and how they do or say it; when they embrace the Phallus and fall in love with him, everything they do from then on becomes ennobled and they themselves are wonderful. He really doesn't remember that Lara is an adult who presided over the Amusements in the Arena for years, sending thousands upon thousands of innocent visitors to their deaths in the mines or the Great Farms - now she's just His Girl, and it's all wiped away, she's "innocent".

This is what it's like, IRL, to star in someone else's Narrative, and it's really horrible. I've been there, done that, got the scars...

"We fought against the golden mask of Tharna," shouted Kron, pounding his fist on the table.
The sudden noise attracted the attention of the entire room and all eyes turned toward us. Lara, her back graceful and straight, set down the pot of Kal-da and came and stood before Kron.
"I no longer wear the golden mask," she said.
And Kron looked on the beautiful girl who stood before him with such grace and dignity, with no trace of pride or cruelty, or fear.
"My Tatrix," he whispered.

I cannot think of a better illustration of my longtime refusal to accept the manstream norm and the notion that the ideal state for me was marriage - that protection is a racket - than this. The price of this respect, this chivalrous reverence, in the Patriarchy, if you are a woman, -- is perfection. You must be perfectly beautiful, perfectly meek, perfectly docile, perfectly submissive, perfectly gentle, all the bleeding time. Otherwise, you deserve only to be whipped until you learn your natural place again.

Of course the army joins them, and of course they defeat Dorna's last loyalist, and of course she gets away to plot another day--

Then Dorna the Proud looked at me those yards across the roof.

The hatred she bore me, her cruelty, her pride, were as tangible as some physical phenomenon, like waves of heat or the forming of ice.

"Thorn died for you," I said.

She laughed. "He too was a fool, like all beasts."

I wondered how it was that Thorn had given his life for this woman. It did not seem it could have been a matter of caste obligation for this obligation had been owed not to Dorna but to Lara. He had broken the codes of his caste to support the treachery of Dorna the Proud.

I suddenly knew the answer, that Thorn somehow had loved this cruel woman, that his warrior's heart had been turned to her though he had never looked upon her face, though she had never given him a smile or the touch of her hand. And I knew then that Thorn, henchman though he might have been, dissolute and savage antagonist, had yet been greater than she who had been the object of his hopeless, tragic affection. It had been his doom to care for a silver mask.

See, he was a Nice Guy after all! even if Tarl did first meet him out on the plains hunting stray women for his own pleasure (but the girl fell in love with him so it's all good, if sad) and anyway, if you love an unattainable Bitch-Goddess you got to get your rocks off somehow, and noble John-Tarl would never deny a fellow-man his whores.

And so Tarl-Stu can ride off into the sunset on his Noble Black Stallion Tarn, Ubar of the Skies, leaving behind a happy, beautiful, joyously-reborn Tharna, and a wistful Queen who knows she can't follow him on his solitary quest to the fatal Mountains, but who is resolved to rule well and nobly in his memory:

"But let me now speak of Tharna.

Tharna is now a different city than it has ever been within the memory of living man.

Her ruler— the gracious and beautiful Lara— is surely one of the wisest and most just of rulers on this barbaric world, and hers has been the torturous task of reuniting a city disrupted by civil strife, of making peace among factions and dealing fairly with all. If she were not loved as she is by the men of Tharna her task would have been impossible.

As she ascended once more the throne no proscription notices were posted but a general amnesty was granted to all, both those who had espoused her cause and those who had fought for Dorna the Proud.

From this amnesty only the silver masks of Tharna were excepted.

Blood was high in the streets of Tharna after the revolt and angry men, both rebels and defenders, joined in the brutal hunt for silver masks. These poor creatures were hunted from cylinder to cylinder, from room to room.

When found they were dragged forth into the street, unmasked, cruelly bound together and driven to the palace at the point of weapons, their masks hanging about their necks.

Many silver masks were discovered hiding in obscure chambers in the palace itself and the dungeons below the palace were soon filled with chains of fair, lamenting prisoners. Soon the animal cages beneath the arena of the Amusements of Tharna had to be pressed into service, and then the arena itself.

Some Silver Masks were discovered even in the sewers beneath the city and these were driven by giant, leashed urts through the long tubes until they crowded the wire capture nets set at the openings of the sewers.

Other Silver Masks had taken refuge in the mountains beyond the walls and these were hunted like sleen by converging rings of irate peasants, who drove them into the center of their hunting circles, whence, unmasked and bound, they were herded to the city to meet their fate.

Most of the silver masks however, when it was understood their battle had been lost and the laws of Tharna were irrevocably shattered, came of their own free will into the streets and submitted themselves in the traditional fashion of the captive Gorean female, kneeling, lowering the head, and lifting and raising the arms, wrists crossed for binding.

The pendulum in Tharna had swung.

Gee, you wouldn't say that Norman has any deeply-cherished resentment against autonomous females, would you?

I myself had stood at the foot of the steps to the golden throne when Lara had commanded that the giant mask of gold which hung behind it be pried by spears from the wall and cast to the floor at our feet.

No more would that cold serene visage survey the throne room of Tharna.

The men of Tharna watched almost in disbelief as the great mask loosened, bolt by bolt, from the wall, leaned forward and at last, dragged down by its own weight, broke loose and plunged clattering down the steps of the throne, breaking into a hundred pieces.

Let it be melted," Lara had said, "and cast into the golden tarn disks of Tharna and let these be distributed to those who have suffered in our day of troubles."

"And add to the golden tarn disks," she had exclaimed, "tarn disks of silver to be formed from the masks of our women, for henceforth in Tharna no woman may wear a mask of either gold or silver, not even though she be Tatrix of Tharna herself!"

And as she had spoken, according to the customs of Tharna, her words had become the law and from that day forth no woman of Tharna might wear a mask.

In the streets of Tharna shortly after the end of the revolt the caste colors of Gor began to appear openly in the garments of the citizens. The marvelous glazing substances of the Caste of Builders, long prohibited as frivolous and expensive, began to appear on the walls of the cylinders, even on the walls of the city itself. Graveled streets are now being paved with blocks of colored stone set in patterns to delight the eye. The wood of the great gate has been polished and its brass burnished. New paint blazes upon the bridges.

Put women back in their rightful place under males, and business and the arts will flourish as never before!

Which is exactly what the social conservatives who run our government and own our mass media really do believe...

The sound of caravan bells is no longer strange in Tharna and strings of traders have found their way to her gates, to exploit this most surprising of all markets.

Here and there the mount of a tarnsman boasts a golden harness. On market day I saw a peasant, his sack of Sa-Tarna meal on his back, whose sandals were tied with silver straps.

I have seen private apartments with tapestries from the mills of Ar upon the walls; and my sandals have sometimes found underfoot richly colored, deeply woven rugs from distant Tor.

It is perhaps a small thing to see on the belt of an artisan a silver buckle of the style worn in mountainous Thentis or to note the delicacy of dried eels from Port Kar in the marketplace, but these things, small though they are, speak to me of a new Tharna.

In the streets I hear the shouting, the song and clamor that is typically Gorean. The marketplace is no longer simply some acres of tile on which business must be dourly conducted. It is a place where friends meet, arrange dinners, exchange invitations, discuss politics, the weather, strategy, philosophy and the management of slave girls.

One change that I find of interest, though I cannot heartily approve, is that the rails have been removed from the high bridges of Tharna. I had thought this pointless, and perhaps dangerous, but Kron had said simply, "Let those who fear to walk the high bridges not walk the high bridges."

Real men don't need womanly, soft things like safety railings on their skyscrapers. I wonder if Norman wears his seatbelt on the highway? There are people here who consider that a commie-tyrant intrusion on their freedom - true freedom is the right to make your neighbors scrub your smeared corpse off the public roadways at public expense...

One might also mention that the men of Tharna have formed the custom of wearing in the belt of their tunic two yellow cords, each about eighteen inches in length. By this sign alone men of other cities can now recognize a man of Tharna.

On the twentieth day following peace in Tharna the fate of the silver masks was determined.

They were herded, roped throat to throat, unveiled, wrists bound behind their backs, in long lines to the arena of the Amusements of Tharna. There they would hear the judgment of Lara, their Tatrix. They knelt before her— once proud silver masks, now terrified and helpless captives— on the same sparkling sand that had so often been stained with the blood of the men of Tharna.

Lara had thought long on these matters and had discussed them with many, including myself. In the end her decision was her own. I do not know that my own decision would have been so harsh, but I admit that Lara knew her city and its silver masks better than I.

Nothing like creating a female sock-puppet to justify your attitudes towards women!

I recognized that it was not possible to restore the old order of Tharna, nor was it desirable. Too I recognized that there was no longer any adequate provision— given the destruction of Tharna's institutions— for the indefinite shelter of large numbers of free women within her walls. The family, for example, had not existed in Tharna for generations, having been replaced by the division of the sexes and the segregated public nurseries.

Whoah, where did this concern for families suddenly come from? There wasn't any familial feeling in Ar, no mention of what the slavegirls do with their babies 'cause they're never around so you'd EXPECT some sort of creche arrangement wouldn't you? and Matthew Cabot didn't care about his son until he was all grown up...but hey, Family=Good! and Not Rearing Your Children = Unwomanly + Bad, so pile on the villainy and schmalz at once]

And too it must be remembered that the men of Tharna who had tasted her women in the revolt now demanded them as their right. No man who has seen a woman in Pleasure Silk, or watched her dance, or heard the sound of a belled ankle or watched a woman's hair, unbound, fall to her waist can long live without the possession of such a delicious creature. [Yeah, Tarl is SO progressive - not!]

Also it should be noted that it was not realistic to offer the silver masks the alternative of exile, for that would simply have been to condemn them to violent death or foreign enslavement.

In its way, under the circumstances, the judgment of Lara was merciful— though it was greeted with wails of lamentation from the roped captives.

Each silver mask would have six months in which she would be free to live within the city and be fed at the common tables, much as before the revolt. But within that six months she is expected to find a man of Tharna to whom she will propose herself as a Free Companion.

If he does not accept her as a Free Companion— and few men of Tharna will be in a mood to extend the privileges of Free Companionship to a silver mask— he may then, without further ado, simply collar her as his slave, or if he wishes he may reject her completely. If she is rejected she may propose herself similarly to yet another of the men of Tharna, and perhaps yet another and another.

After the six months, however— perhaps she has been reluctant to seek a master?— her initiative in these matters is lost and she belongs to the first man who encircles her throat with the graceful, gleaming badge of servitude. In such a case she is considered no differently, and treated no differently than if she were a girl brought in on tarnback from a distant city.

In effect, considering the temper of the men of Tharna, Lara's judgment gives the silver masks the opportunity, for a time, to choose a master, or after that time to be themselves chosen as a slave girl. Thus each silver mask will in time belong to a beast, though at first she is given some opportunity to determine whose yellow cords she will feel, on whose rug the ceremony of submission will take place.

Perhaps Lara understood, as I did not, that women such as silver masks must be taught love, and can learn it only from a master. It was not her intention to condemn her sisters of Tharna into interminable and miserable bondage but to force them to take this strange first step on the road she herself had traveled, one of the unusual roads that may lead to love. When I had questioned her, Lara had said to me that only when true love is learned is the Free Companionship possible, and that some women can learn love only in chains. I wondered at her words. [Outlaw of Gor, Chapter 26]

It's like he was writing the inspiration for Faludi's book Backlash, 25 years in advance.

Don't worry. I'm not getting the third one, I've seen all I need to know in the first two. Game, set, match. Femfans-1, DH-0

--Oh and hey, Dark Horse? I know how sufficiently advanced technology is supposed to be indistinguishable from magic, but outside the context of the story, you're supposed to know the difference and grasp it as a reader. There's no sorcery in the Gor books: the Priest-Kings are Superior Alien Life-Forms ruling the Goreans - their Insect Overlords, in fact. Not gods. Not wizards. They use force-fields, and space-ships, and other kinds of technology beyond our Terrestrial capabilities, but it isn't magic. Didn't you even read the damn books before you OCR'd them? Even Tarl-Stu Cabbagebrain can figure this one out.

Tags: badfic, chauvinism, fandom, gor, libertarianism, misogyny, sexism, worldbuilding, writing

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