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Here is an overview of the 20 chapters in Tarnsman of Gor:
1. A Handful of Earth
2. The Counter-Earth
3. The Tarn
4. The Mission
5. Lights of the Planting Feast
6. Nar the Spider
7. A Ubar's Daughter
8. I Acquire a Companion
9. Kazrak of Port Kar
10. The Caravan
11. The City of Tents
12. In the Tarn's Nest
13. Marlenus, Ubar of Ar
14. The Tarn Death
15. In Mintar's Compound
16. The Girl in the Cage
17. Chains of Gold
18. In the Central Cylinder
18. The Duel
The image below shows the most often used words and terms within Tarnsman of Gor. The larger the size, the more often the word or term occurs in the text.
You may remark my first name, and I assure you that it gave me quite as much trouble as it might you, particularly during my early school years, when it occasioned almost as many contests of physical skill as my red hair. Let us say simply that it is not a common name, not common on this world of ours. It was given to me by my father, who disappeared when I was quite young. I thought him dead until I received his strange message, more than twenty years after he had vanished. My mother, whom he inquired after, had died when I was about six, somewhere about the time I entered school. Biographical details are tedious, so suffice it to say that I was a bright child, fairly large for my age, and was given a creditable upbringing by an aunt who furnished everything that a child might need, with the possible exception of love.
Surprisingly enough, I managed to gain entrance to the University of Oxford, but I shall not choose to embarrass my college by entering its somewhat too revered name in this narrative. I graduated decently, having failed to astound either myself or my tutors. Like a large number of young men, I found myself passably educated, able to parse a sentence or so in Greek, and familiar enough with the abstractions of philosophy and economics to know that I would not be likely to fit into that world to which they claimed to bear some obscure relation. I was not, however, reconciled to ending up on the shelves of my aunt's shop, along with the cloth and ribbon, and so I embarked upon a wild, but not too wild, adventure, all things considered.
Being literate and not too dull, and having read enough history to tell the Renaissance from the Industrial Revolution, I applied to several small American colleges for an instructorship in history—English history, of course. I told them I was somewhat more advanced academically than I was, and they believed me, and my tutors, in their letters of recommendation, being good fellows, were kind enough not to disabuse them of this illusion. I believe my tutors thoroughly enjoyed the situation, which they, naturally, did not officially allow me to know they understood. It was the Revolutionary War all over again. One of the colleges to which I applied, one perhaps somewhat less perceptive than the rest, a small liberal arts college for men in New Hampshire, entered into negotiations, and I had soon received what was to be my first and, I suppose, my last appointment in the academic world.
In time I assumed I would be found out, but meanwhile I had my passage to America paid and a position for at least one year. This outcome struck me as being a pleasant if perplexing state of affairs. I admit I was annoyed by the suspicion that I had been given the appointment largely on the grounds that I would be faculty exotica. Surely I had no publications, and I am confident there must have been several candidates from American universities whose credentials and capacities would have far outshone my own, except for the desiderated British accent. Yes, there would be the round of teas and the cocktail and supper invitations.
I liked America very much, though I was quite busy the first semester, smashing through numerous texts in an undignified manner, attempting to commit enough English history to memory to keep at least a reign or so ahead of my students. I discovered, to my dismay, that being English does not automatically qualify one as an authority on English history. Fortunately, my departmental chairman, a gentle, bespectacled man, whose speciality was American economic history, knew even less than I did, or, at least, was considerate enough to allow me to believe so.
The Christmas vacation helped greatly. I was especially counting on the time between the semesters to catch up, or, better, to lengthen my lead on the students. But after the term papers, the tests, and the grading of the first semester, I was afflicted with a rather irresistible desire to chuck the British Empire and go for a long, long walk—indeed, even a camping trip in the nearby White Mountains. I borrowed some camp gear, mostly a knapsack and a sleeping bag, from one of the few friends I had made on the faculty—an instructor also, but in the deplorable subject of physical education. He and I had fenced occasionally and had gone for infrequent walks. I sometimes wonder if he is curious about what happened to his camp gear or to Tarl Cabot. Surely the administration of the college was curious, and angry at the inconvenience of having to replace an instructor in the middle of the year, for Tarl Cabot was never heard of again on the campus of that college.
My friend in the physical education department drove me a few miles into the mountains and dropped me off. We agreed to meet again in three days at the same place. The first thing I did was check my compass, as if I knew what I was up to, and then proceeded to leave the highway well behind me. More quickly than I realized, I was alone and in the woods, climbing. Bristol, as you know, is a heavily urbanized area, and I was not well prepared for my first encounter with nature. Surely the college, though somewhat rural, was at least one of the outworks of, say, material civilization. I was not frightened, being confident that walking steadily in any given direction would be sure to bring me to one highway or another, or some stream or another, and that it would be impossible to become lost, or at least for long. Primarily, I was exhilarated, being alone, with myself and the green pines and patches of snow.
I trudged along for the better part of two hours before I finally yielded to the weight of the pack. I ate a cold lunch and was on my way again, getting deeper into the mountains. I was pleased that I had regularly taken a turn or two around the college track.
That evening I dropped my pack near a rock platform and set about gathering some wood for a fire. I had gone a bit from my makeshift camp when I stopped, startled for a moment. Something in the darkness, to the left, lying on the ground, seemed to be glowing. It held a calm, hazy blue radiance. I put down the wood I had gathered and approached the object, more curious than anything else. It appeared to be a rectangular metal envelope, rather thin, not much larger than the normal envelope one customarily uses for correspondence. I touched it; it seemed to be hot. My hair rose on the back of my head; my eyes widened. I read, in a rather archaic English script inscribed on the envelope, two words—my name, Tarl Cabot.
It was a joke. Somehow my friend had followed me, must be hiding somewhere in the darkness. I called his name, laughing. There was no answer. I raced about in the woods a moment, shaking bushes, batting the snow from the low-hanging branches of pines. I then walked more slowly, more carefully, being quiet. I would find him!
Some fifteen minutes passed, and I was growing cold, angry. I shouted to him. I widened my search, keeping that strange metal envelope with its blue ambience the center of my movements. At last I realized he must have planted the odd object, left it for me to discover, and was probably on his way home by now or was perhaps camping somewhere nearby. I was confident he was not within earshot or he would have eventually responded. It was no longer funny, not if he was near.
I returned to the object and picked it up. It seemed to be cooler now, though I still had the distinct impression of warmth. It was a strange object. I brought it back to my camp and built my fire, against the darkness and cold. I was shivering in spite of my heavy clothing. I was sweating. My heart was beating. My breath was short. I was frightened.
Accordingly, slowly and calmly, I set about tending the fire, opened a can of chili, and set up sticks to hold the tiny cooking pot over the fire. These domestic activities slowed my pulse and succeeded in convincing me that I could be patient and was even not too much interested in the contents of the metal envelope. When the chili was heating, and not before, I turned my attention to the puzzling object.I turned it over and over in my hands and studied it by the light of the campfire. It was about twelve inches long and four inches high. It weighed, I guessed, about four ounces. The color of the metal was blue, and something of its ambience continued to characterize it, but the glow was fading. Also, the envelope no longer seemed warm to the touch. How long had it lain waiting for me in the woods? How long ago had it been placed there?
While I considered this, the glow faded abruptly. If it had faded earlier, I never would have discovered it in the woods. It was almost as if the glow had been connected with the intent of the sender, as if the glow, no longer needed, had been allowed to fade. "The message has been delivered," I said to myself, feeling a bit silly as I said it. I did not find my private joke very funny.
I looked closely at the lettering. It resembled some now outdated English script, but I knew too little about such things to hazard much of a guess at the date. Something about the lettering reminded me of that on a colonial charter, a page of which had been photocopied for an illustration in one of my books. Seventeenth century perhaps? The lettering itself seemed to be inset in the envelope, bonded in its metallic structure. I could find no seam or flap in the envelope. I tried to crease the envelope with my thumbnail, but failed.
Feeling rather foolish, I took out the can opener I had used on the chili can and attempted to force the metal point through the envelope. Light as the envelope seemed to be, it resisted the point as if I were trying to open an anvil. I leaned on the can opener with both arms, pressing down with all my weight. The point of the can opener bent into a right angle, but the envelope had not been scratched.
I handled the envelope carefully, puzzled, trying to determine if it might be opened. There was a small circle on the back of the envelope, and in the circle seemed to be the print of a thumb. I wiped it on my sleeve, but it did not disappear. The other prints on the envelope, from my fingers, wiped away immediately. As well as I could, I scrutinized the print in the circle. It, too, like the lettering, seemed a part of the metal, yet its ridges and lineaments were exceedingly delicate.
At last I was confident that it was a part of the envelope. I pressed it with my finger; nothing happened. Tired of this strange business, I set the envelope aside and turned my attention to the chili, which was now bubbling over the small campfire. After I had eaten, I removed my boots and coat and crawled into the sleeping bag.
I lay there beside the dying fire, looking up at the branch-lined sky and the mineral glory of the unconscious universe. I lay awake for a long time, feeling alone, yet not alone, as one sometimes does in the wilderness, feeling as if one were the only living object on the planet and as if the closest things to one—one's fate and destiny perhaps—lay outside our small world, somewhere in the remote, alien pastures of the stars.
A thought struck me with sudden swiftness, and I was afraid, but I knew what I must do. The matter of the envelope was not a hoax, not a trick. Somewhere, deep in whatever I am, I knew that and had known it from the beginning. Almost as if dreaming, yet with vivid clarity, I inched partly out of my sleeping bag. I rolled over and threw some wood on the fire and reached for the envelope. Sitting in the sleeping bag, I waited for the fire to rise a bit. Then I carefully placed my right thumb on the impression in the envelope, pressing down firmly. It answered to my touch, as I had expected it to, as I had feared it would. Perhaps only one man could open that envelope—he whose print fitted the strange lock, he whose name was Tarl Cabot. The apparently seamless envelope crackled open, almost with the sound of cellophane.
An object fell from the envelope, a ring of red metal bearing the simple crest "C." I barely noticed it in my excitement. There was lettering on the inside of the envelope, which had opened in a manner surprisingly like a foreign air-mail letter, where the envelope serves also as stationery. The lettering was in the same script as my name on the outside of the envelope. I noticed the date and froze, my hands clenched on the metallic paper. It was dated the third of February, 1640. It was dated more than three hundred years ago, and I was reading it in the sixth decade of the twentieth century. Oddly enough, also, the day on which I was reading it was the third of February. The signature at the bottom was not in the old script, but might have been done in modern cursive English.
I had seen the signature once or twice before, on some letters my aunt had saved. I knew the signature, though I could not remember the man. It was the signature of my father, Matthew Cabot, who had disappeared when I was an infant.
I was dizzy, unsettled. It seemed my vision reeled; I couldn't move. Things grew black for a moment, but I shook myself and clenched my teeth, breathed in the sharp, cold mountain air, once, twice, three times, slowly, gathering the piercing contact of reality into my lungs, reassuring myself that I was alive, not dreaming, that I held in my hands a letter with an incredible date, delivered more than three hundred years later in the mountains of New Hampshire, written by a man who presumably, if still alive, was, as we reckon time, no more than fifty years of age—my father.
Even now I can remember the letter to the last word. I think I will carry its simple, abrupt message burned into the cells of my brain until, as it is elsewhere said, I have returned to the Cities of Dust.
The third day of February, in the
Year of Our Lord 1640.
Tarl Cabot, Son:
Forgive me, but I have little choice in these matters. It has been decided. Do whatever you think is in your own best interest, but the fate is upon you, and you will not escape. I wish health to you and to your mother. Carry on your person the ring of red metal, and bring me, if you would, a handful of our green earth.
Discard this letter. It will be destroyed.
I read and reread the letter and had become unnaturally calm. It seemed clear to me that I was not insane, or if I was, that insanity was a state of mental clarity and comprehension quite apart from the torment that I had conceived it to be. I placed the letter in my knapsack.
What I must do was fairly obvious—make my way out of the mountains as soon as it was light. No, that might be too late. It would be mad, scrambling about in the darkness, but there seemed to be nothing else that would serve. I did not know how much time I had, but even if it was only a few hours, I might be able to reach some highway or stream or perhaps a cabin.
I checked my compass to get the bearing back to the highway. I looked uneasily about in the darkness. An owl hooted once, perhaps a hundred yards to the right. Something out there might be watching me. It was an unpleasant feeling. I pulled on my boots and coat, rolled my sleeping bag, and fixed the pack. I kicked the fire to pieces, stamping out the embers, scuffing dirt over the sparks.
Just as the fire was sputtering out, I noticed a glint in the ashes. Bending down, I retrieved the ring. It was warm from the ashes, hard, substantial—a piece of reality. It was there. I dropped it into the pocket of my coat and started off on my compass-bearing, trying to make my way back to the highway.
I felt stupid trying to hike in the dark. I was asking for a broken leg or ankle, if not a neck. Still, if I could put a mile or so between myself and the old camp, that should be sufficient to give myself the margin of safety I needed—from what I didn't know. I might then wait until morning and start off in the light, secure, confident. Moreover, it would be a simple matter to cover one's tracks in the light. The important thing was not to be at the old camp.
I had made my way perilously through the darkness for perhaps twenty minutes when, to my horror, my knapsack and bedroll seemed to burst into blue flame on my back. It was an instant's action to hurl them from me, and I gazed, bewildered, awe-stricken, at what seemed to be a furious blue combustion that lit the pines on all sides as if with acetylene flames. It was like staring into a furnace. I knew that it was the envelope that had burst into flame, taking with it my knapsack and bedroll. I shuddered, thinking of what might have happened if I had been carrying it in the pocket of my coat.
Strangely enough, now that I think of it, I didn't run headlong from the spot, though I can't see why, and the thought did cross my mind that the bright, flarelike luminescence would reveal my position, if it was of interest to anyone or anything. With a small flashlight I knelt beside the flakes of my knapsack and bedroll. The stones on which they had fallen were blackened. There was no trace of the envelope. It seemed to have been totally consumed. There was an unpleasant, acrid odor in the air, some fumes of a sort that I was not familiar with.
The thought came to me that the ring, which I had dropped in my pocket, might similarly burst into flame, but, unaccountably perhaps, I doubted it. There might be a point in someone's destroying the letter, but presumably there would be little point or no point in destroying the ring. Why should it have been sent if not to have been kept?
Besides, I had been warned about the letter—a warning I had foolishly neglected—but had been asked to carry the ring. Whatever it was, father or no, that was the source of these frightening events, it did not seem to wish me harm, but then, I thought, somewhat bitterly, floods and earthquakes presumably wish no one harm either. Who knew the nature of the things or forces that were afoot that night in the mountains, things and forces that might perhaps smash me, casually, as one innocently steps on an insect without being aware of it or caring?
I still had the compass, and that constituted a firm link to reality. The silent but intense explosion of the envelope into flames had caused me momentarily to become confused—that and the sudden return to the darkness from the hideous glaring light of the disintegrating envelope. My compass would get me out. With my flashlight I examined it. As the thin, sharp beam struck the face of the compass, my heart stopped. The needle was spinning crazily, and oscillating backward and forward, as if the laws of nature had suddenly been abridged in its vicinity.
For the first time since I had opened the envelope, I began to lose my control. The compass had been my anchor and trust. I had counted on it. Now it had gone crazy. There was a loud noise, but I now think it must have been the sound of my own voice, a sudden frightened shriek for which I shall always bear the shame.
The next thing I was running like a demented animal, in any direction, every direction. How long I ran I don't know. It may have been hours, perhaps only a few minutes. I slipped and fell dozens of times and ran into the prickly branches of the pines, the needles stabbing at my face. I may have been sobbing; I remember the taste of salt in my mouth. But mostly I remember a blind, headlong flight, a panic-stricken, unworthy, sickening flight. Once I saw two eyes in the darkness and screamed and ran from them, hearing the flap of wings behind me and the startled cry of an owl. Once I startled a small band of deer and found myself in the midst of their bounding shapes buffeting me in the darkness.
The moon came out, and the mountainside was suddenly lit with its cold beauty, white on the snow in the trees and on the side of the slope, sparkling on the rocks. I could run no further. I fell to the ground, gasping for breath, suddenly asking myself why I had ran. For the first time in my life I had felt full, unreasoning fear, and it had gripped me like the paws of some grotesque predatory animal. I had surrendered to it for just a moment, and it had become a force that had carried me, hurling me about as if I were a swimmer captured in surging waves—a force that could not be resisted. It had departed now. I must never surrender to it again. I looked around and recognized the platform of rock near which I had set my bedroll. I saw the ashes of my fire. I had returned to my camp. Somehow I'd known that I would.
As I lay there in the moonlight, I felt the earth beneath me, against my aching muscles and the body that was covered with the foul-smelling sheen of fear and sweat. I felt then that it was good even to feel pain. Feeling was the important thing. I was alive.
I saw the ship descend. For a moment it looked like a falling star, but then it suddenly became clear and substantial, like a broad, thick disk of silver. It was silent and settled on the rock platform, scarcely disturbing the light snow that was scattered on it. There was a slight wind in the pine needles, and I rose to my feet. As I did so, a door in the side of the ship slid quietly upward. I must go in. My father's words recurred in my memory: "The fate is upon you." Before entering the ship, I stopped at the side of the large, flat rock on which it rested. I bent down and scooped up, as my father had asked, a handful of our green earth. I, too, felt that it was important to take something with me, something which, in a way, was my native soil. The soil of my planet, my world.
Here is a cover gallery showing all the editions and printings of Tarnsman of Gor, sorted by year of publication. Click on any cover to see the book.
Here is a cover gallery showing all the editions and printings of Tarnsman of Gor, sorted by edition. Click on any cover to see the book.