The plumage of tarns is various, and they are bred for their colours as well as their strength and intelligence. Black tarns are used for night raids, white tarns in winter campaigns, and multicoloured, resplendent tarns are bred for warriors who wish to ride proudly, regardless of the lack of camouflage. The most common tarn, however, is greenish brown. Disregarding the disproportion in size, the Earth bird which the tarn most closely resembles is the hawk, with the exception that it has a crest somewhat of the nature of a jay's.
who are vicious things, are seldom more than half
tamed and, like their diminutive counterparts the hawks, are carnivorous. It is
not unknown for a tarn to attack and devour his own
rider. They fear nothing but the tarn-goad. They are trained by men of the
Caste of Tarn Keepers to respond to it while still young, when they can be
fastened by wires to the training perches. Whenever a young bird soars away or
refuses obedience in some fashion, he is dragged back to the perch and beaten
with the tarn-goad. Rings, comparable to those which are
fastened on the legs of the young birds, are worn by the adult birds to
reinforce the memory of the hobbling wire and the tarn-goad. Later, of
course, the adult birds are not fastened, but the conditioning given them in
their youth usually holds except when they become abnormally disturbed or have
not been able to obtain food. The tarn is one of the two most common mounts of
a Gorean warrior; the other is the high tharlarion, a species of saddle-lizard,
used mostly by clans who have never mastered tarns. No one in the City of
Older Tarl had mounted his tarn, climbing up the
five-rung leather mounting ladder which hangs on the left side of the saddle
and is pulled up in flight. He fastened himself in the saddle with a broad
purple strap. He tossed me a small object which nearly fell from my fumbling
hands. it was a tarn whistle, with its own note, which
would summon one tarn, and one tarn only, the mount which was intended for me.
Never since the panic of the disoriented compass back in the mountains of
I smiled to myself in spite of my fear, amused at the remark I had addressed to myself. It sounded like something out of the Code of the Warrior, something which, if taken literally, would encourage its believer to take not the slightest or most sane precautions for his safety. I blew a note on the whistle, and it was shrill and different, of a new pitch from that of the Older Tarl.
Almost immediately from somewhere, perhaps from a ledge out of sight, rose a fantastic object, another giant tarn, even larger than the first, a glossy sable tarn which circled the cylinder once and then wheeled towards me, landing a few feet away, his talons striking on the roof with a sound like hurled gauntlets. His talons were shod with steel - a war tarn. He raised his curved beak to the sky and screamed, lifting and shaking his wings. His enormous head turned towards me, and his round, wicked eyes blazed in my direction. The next thing I knew his beak was open; I caught a brief sight of his thin, sharp tongue, as long as a man's arm, darting out and back, and then, snapping at me, he lunged forward, striking at me with that monstrous beak, and I heard the Older Tarl cry out in horror, 'The goad! the goad!'
I threw my right arm up to protect myself, the goad, attached by its strap to my wrist, flying wildly. I seized it, using it like a puny stick, striking at the great snapping beak that was trying to seize me, as if I were a scrap of food on the high, flat plate of the cylinder's roof. He lunged twice, and I struck it twice. He drew back his head again, spreading his beak, preparing to slash downward again. In that instant I switched the tarn-goad to the 'on' position, and when the great beak flashed downward again, I struck it viciously, trying to force it away from me. The effect was startling: there was the sudden bright flash of yellow glittering light, the splash of sparks, and a scream of pain and rage from the tarn as he immediately beat his wings, lifting himself out of my reach in a rush of air that nearly forced me over the edge of the roof. I was on my hands and knees, trying to get back to my feet, too near the edge. The tarn was circling the cylinder, uttering piercing cries; then he began to fly away from the city.
Without knowing why, and thinking I was better off to have the thing in retreat, I seized my tarn whistle and blew its shrill note. The giant bird seemed almost to shudder in the air, and then he reeled, losing altitude, gaining it again. If he had not been simply a winged beast, I would have believed him to be struggling with himself, a creature locked inwardly in mental torture. It was the wild nature of the tarn, the call of the distant hills, the open sky, against the puny conditioning he had been subjected to, against the will of tiny men with their private objectives, their elementary psychology of stimulus and response, their training wires and tarn-goads.
At last, with a wild cry of rage, the tarn returned to the cylinder. I seized the short mounting ladder swinging wildly from the saddle and climbed it, seating myself in the saddle, fastening the broad purple belt that would keep me from tumbling to my death.
The tarn is guided by virtue of a throat strap, to which are attached, normally, six leather streamers, or reins, which are fixed in a metal ring on the forward portion of the saddle. The reins are of different colours, but one learns them by ring position and not colour. Each of the reins attaches to a small ring on the throat strap, and the rings are spaced evenly. Accordingly, the mechanics are simple. One draws on the streamer, or rein, which is attached to the ring most nearly approximating the direction one wishes to go. For example, to land or lose altitude, one uses the four-strap which exerts pressure on the four-ring, which is located beneath the throat of the tarn. To rise into flight, or gain altitude, one draws on the one-strap, which exerts pressure on the one-ring, which is located on the back of the tarn's neck. The throat-strap rings, corresponding to the position of the reins on the main saddle ring, are numbered in a clockwise fashion.
The tarn-goad also is occasionally used in guiding the bird. One strikes the bird in the direction opposite to which one wishes to go, and the bird, withdrawing from the goad, moves in that direction. There is very little precision in this method, however, because the reactions of the bird are merely instinctive, and he may not withdraw in the exact tangent desired. Moreover, there is danger in using the goad excessively. It tends to become less effective if often used, and the rider is then at the mercy of the tarn.
drew back on the one-strap and, filled with terror and exhilaration, felt the
power of the gigantic wings beating on the invisible air. My body lurched
wildly, but the saddle belt held. I couldn't breathe for a minute, but clung,
frightened and thrilled, to the saddle-ring, my hand wrapped in the one-strap.
The tarn continued to climb, and I saw the City of
'Ho, child,' he called. 'Do you seek to climb to the Moons of Gor?'
I suddenly realised I felt dizzy, or slightly so, but the magnificent black tarn was still climbing, though now struggling, his wings beating fiercely with frustrated persistence against the thinning, less resistant air. The hills and plains of Gor were a blaze of colours far below me, and it may have been my imagination, but it seemed almost as if I could see the curve of the world. I realise now it must have been the thin air and my excitement.
Fortunately, before losing consciousness, I drew on the four-strap, and the tarn levelled out and then lifted his wings over his back and dropped like a striking hawk, with a speed that left me without breath in my body. I released the reins, letting them hang on the saddle-ring, which is the signal for a constant and straight flight, no pressure on the throat strap. The great tarn snapped his wings out, catching the air under them, and smoothly began to fly a straight course, his wings beating slowly but steadily in a cruising speed that would soon take us far beyond the towers of the city. The Older Tarl, who seemed pleased, drew near. He pointed back towards the city, which was now several miles in the distance.
'I'll race you,' I cried.
'Agreed!' he shouted, wheeling his tarn in the instant he spoke, and turning him to the city. I was dismayed. His skill was such that he had taken a lead that it would be impossible to overcome. At last I managed to turn the bird, and we were streaking along in the wake of the Older Tarl. Certain of his cries drifted back to us. He was urging his tarn to greater speed by a series of shouts intended to communicate his excitement to his winged mount. The thought flashed through my mind that tarns should be trained to respond to voice commands as well as to the numbered straps and the tarn-goad. That they had not been seemed astounding to me.
I shouted to my tarn, in Gorean and in English. 'Har-ta! Har-ta! Faster! Faster!'
The great bird seemed to sense what I intended, or perhaps it was merely his sudden realisation that the other tarn was in the lead, but a remarkable transformation swept over my sable, plumed steed. His neck straightened and his wings suddenly cracked like whips in the sky; his eyes became fiery and his every bone and muscle seemed to leap with power. In a dizzying minute or two we had passed the Older Tarl, to his amazement, and had settled again in a flurry of wings on the top of the cylinder from which we had departed a few minutes before.
'By the beards of the Priest-Kings,' roared the Older Tarl as he brought his bird to the roof, 'that is a tarn of tarns!'
The tarns, released, winged their way back to the tarn cots, and the Older Tarl and I descended to my apartment. He was bursting with pride. 'What a tarn!' he marvelled. 'I had a full pasang start, and yet you passed me!' The pasang is a measure of distance on Gor, equivalent to approximately .7 of a mile. 'That tarn,' he said, 'was bred for you, specially selected from the best broods of the finest of our war tarns. It was with you in mind that the keepers of the tarns worked, breeding and crossbreeding, training and retraining.'
'I thought,' I said, 'on the roof it would kill me. It seems the tarn keepers do not train their prodigies as well as they might.'
'No!' cried the Older Tarl. 'The training is perfect. The spirit of the tarn must not be broken, not that of a war tarn. He is trained to the point where it is necessary for a strong master to decide whether I had never seen one of the tarns before, except on the tapestry in my apartment and in illustrations in certain books I had studied devoted to the care, breeding, and equipment of tarns. That I had not been trained for this moment was intentional, as I later discovered. The Goreans believe, incredibly enough, that the capacity to master a tarn is innate and that some men possess this characteristic and that some do not. One does not learn to master a tarn. It is a matter of blood and spirit, of beast and man, of a relation between two beings which must be immediate, intuitive, spontaneous. It is said that a tarn knows who is a tarnsman and who is not, and that those who are not die in this first meeting.
My first impression was that of a rush of wind and a great snapping sound, as if a giant might be snapping an enormous towel or scarf; then I was cowering, awe-stricken, in a great winged shadow, and an immense tarn, his talons extended like gigantic steel hooks, his wings sputtering fiercely in the air, hung above me, motionless except for the beating of his wings.
'Stand clear of the wings,' shouted the Older Tarl.
I needed no urging. I darted from under the bird. One of those wings would hurl me yards from the top of the cylinder.
The tarn dropped to the roof of the cylinder and regarded us with his bright black eyes.
Though the tarn, like most birds, is surprisingly light for its size, this primarily having to do with the hollowness of the bones, it is an extremely powerful bird, powerful even beyond what one would expect from such a monster. Whereas large Earth birds, such as the eagle, must, when taking flights from the ground, begin with a running start, the tarn, with its incredible musculature, aided undoubtedly by the somewhat lighter gravity of Gor, can with a spring and a sudden flurry of its giant wings, lift both himself and his rider into the air. In Gorean, these birds are sometimes spoken of as Brothers of the Wind.
he shall serve him or slay him. You
will come to know your tarn, and he will come to know you. You will be as one
in the sky, the tarn the body, you the mind and will. You will live in an armed
truce with the tarn. If you become weak or helpless, he will kill you. As long
as you remain strong, his master, he will serve you, respect you, obey you.' He
paused. 'We were not sure of you, your father and myself,
but today I am sure. You have mastered a tarn, a war tarn. In your veins must
flow the blood of your father, once Ubar, War Chieftain, now Administrator of Ko-ro-ba, this City of
It took three days to reach the environs of the city of
I would have given much for a tarn in my journey, though I knew no tarn would fly into the mountains. For some reason neither the fearless hawklike tarns, nor the slow-witted tharlarions, the draft and riding lizards of Gor, would enter the mountains. The tharlarions become unmanageable and though the tarn will essay the flight the bird almost immediately becomes disoriented, uncoordinated, and drops screaming back to the plains below.
Gor, sparsely inhabited by human beings, teems with animal life, and in the next weeks I had no difficulty in living by hunting. I supplemented my diet with fresh fruit picked from bushes and trees, and fish speared in Gor's cold, swift-flowing streams. Once I brought the carcass of a tabuk, one of Gor's single-horned, yellow antelopes, which I had felled in a Ka-la-na thicket, to the hut of a peasant and his wife. Asking no questions, as was suitable given the absence of insignia on my garments, they feasted me on my own kill, and gave me fiber, and flints and a skin of wine. Outlaw of Gor, page 48
I would have given much for a tarn in my journey, though I knew no tarn would fly into the mountains. For some reason neither the fearless hawklike tarns, nor the slow-witted tharlarions, the draft and riding lizards of Gor, would enter the mountains. The tharlarions become unmanageable and though the tarn will essay the flight the bird almost immediately becomes disoriented, uncoordinated, and drops screaming back to the plains below. Outlaw of Gor, page 184
Eight tarns were flying in this race, and, hooded, they were brought forth on low, sideless wheeled platforms, drawn by horned tharlarion. The carts were painted in faction colors. The rider rode on the cart beside his bird, dressed in the silk of his faction.
The tarns were, of course, racing tarns, a bird in many ways quite different from the common tarns of Gor, or the war tarns. The differences among these tarns are not simply in the training, which does differ, but in the size, strength, build and tendencies of the bird. Some tarns are bred primarily for strength and are used in transporting wares by carrying basket. Usually these birds fly more slowly and are less vicious than the war tarns or racing tarns. The war tarns, of course, are bred for both strength and speed, but also for agility, swiftness of reflex, and combative instincts. War tarns, whose talons are shod with steel, tend to be extremely dangerous birds, even more so than other tarns, none of whom could be regarded as fully domesticated. The racing tarn, interestingly, is an extremely light bird; two men can lift one; even its beak is narrower and lighter than the beak of a common tarn or a war tarn; its wings are commonly broader and shorter than those of the other tarns, permitting a swifter take off and providing a capacity for extremely abrupt turns and shifts in flight; they cannot carry a great deal of weight and the riders, as might be expected, are small men, usually of low caste, pugnacious and aggressive. Racing tarns are not used by tarnsmen in war because they lack the weight and power of war tarns; meeting a war tarn in flight, a racing tarn would be torn to pieces in moments; further, the racing tarns, though marvelous in their particular ways, lack the stamina of the common tarn or the war tarn; their short wings, after a flight of perhaps only fifty pasangs, would begin to fail; in a short distance dash, of course, the racing tarn would commonly be superior to the war tarn. Assassin of Gor, page 143-144
The tarn, the great, fierce saddlebird of Gor, is a savage beast, a monster predator of the high, blue skies of this harsh world; at best it is scarce half domesticated; even tarnsmen seldom approach them without weapons and tarn goad; it is regarded madness to approach one that is feeding; the instincts of the tarn, like those of many predators, are to protect and defend a kill, to the death; Tarn Keepers, with their goads and training wires, have lost their lives with even young birds, trying to alter or correct this covetousness of its quarry; the winged majestic carnivores of Gor, her tarns, do not care to share their kills, until perhaps they have gorged their fill and carry then remnants of their repast to the encliffed nests of the Thentis or Voltai Ranges, there to drop meat into the gaping beaks of white tarnlings, the size of ponies. Assassins of Gor, page 352-353
The small bow, interestingly, has never been used among tarnsmen; perhaps this is because the kailla is almost unknown above the equator, and the lesson of kaiilaback fighting has not been much available to them; perhaps it is because of tradition, which weighs heavily in Gorean life, and even in military affairs for example, the phalanx was abandoned only after more than a century of attempts to preserve and improve it; or perhaps the reason is that range is commonly more important to tarnsmen in flight than maneuverability of the bow. I suspect, however, that the truest reason is that tarnsmen, never having learned respect for the small bow, tend to despise such a weapon, regarding it as unworthy a Warrior's hand, as being too puny and ineffective to win the approval of a true Gorean fighting man. Some of the riders of the Steels, I recalled, seeing it among the belongings of Gladius of Cos, had jested with me about it, asking if it were a toy, or perhaps a training bow for a child; these men, of course, had never, on kaiilaback, and it is just as well for them, met Tuchoks. It seemed to me that combat on kaiilaback, and combat on tarnback, had much in common, I suspected that the small bow, though it had never been proven in battle on tarnback, might prove that it had worth in the Gorean skies as well as on the dusty, southern plains; I had further, in many nights of training with my tarn, taught it to respond to a variety of voice commands, thus freeing my hands for the use of weapons. Commonly, the tarn responds only to one voice command, that of "Tabuk," which tends, roughly, to mean "Hunt and feed"; further, I would have liked to use the Tuchuk temwood thrusting lance from the saddle of a tarn. The tarnsman commonly carries, strapped to the saddle, a Gorean spear, a fearsome weapon, but primarily a missile weapon, and one more adopted to infantry. The tarnsmen, of course, centuries before, had been developed from land forces; it had always seemed to me that the tarn cavalries of Gor might be considerably improved by a judicious alteration of weapons and training practices; however, I had never had a command of tarnsmen of my own, and my ideas were of little interest, even to the tarnsmen of Ko-ro-ba, my city.
The Tuchuk horn bow was now strung, the quiver attached to the saddle, with the rope and bola. I wore my sword; I carried the killing knife I had taken from the back of Mip: lastly, thrust in my belt, was the double-edged quiva, the Tuchuk saddle knife.
There was a sudden clang of the judge's bar and the rope stretched before the tarns was jerked away.
The tarns, with the exception of my own, hurled themselves screaming, wings snapping, from the perches and streaked for the first of the side rings. Assassins of Gor, page 365-366-367
The tarn can scarcely be taken from the sight of land. Even driven by
tarn goads he will rebel. These tarns had been hooded. Whereas their instincts
apparently tend to keep them within the sight of land, I did not know what
would be the case if they were unhooded at sea, and
there was no land to be found. Perhaps they would not leave the ship. Perhaps
they would go mad with rage or fear. I knew tarns had destroyed riders who had
attempted to ride them out Over Thassa from the
shore. But I hoped that the tarns, finding themselves out of the sight of land,
might accommodate themselves to the experience. I was hoping,
that, in the strange intelligence of animals, it would be the departure from
land, and not the mere positioning of being out of the sight of land, that
would be counter-instinctual for the great birds.
Doubtless I would soon know.
I leaped down to the saddle of the unhooded tarn. It screamed as I fastened the broad purple safety strap. The tarn goad was looped about my right wrist. I wrapped the wind scarf about my face.
“If I can control the bird," I said , ..follow me, and keep the instructions I have given you."
“Let me ride first," said Terence of Treve.
I smiled. Why would one who had been a tamsman of Ko-ro-ba, the Towers of the Morning, let one of Treve, a traditional enemy, take the saddle of a tarn before him? it would not do, of course, to tell him this.
"No," I said.
There was a pair of slave manages wrapped about the pommel of the saddle, also a length of rope. These things I thrust in my belt.
I gestured and the tarn hobble, fastening the right foot of the great bird to a huge bolt set in the ship's keel, was opened.
I drew on the one-strap.
To my delight the tarn, with a snap of its wings, leaped from the hold. He stood on the deck of the round ship, opening and closing his wings, looking about himself, and then threw bark his head and screamed. The other tarns below in the hold, some ten of them, shifted and rattled their hobbles.
The sleet struck down cutting my face.
I drew again on the one-strap and again the bird's wings snapped, and he was on the long, sloping yard on the round ship's foremast.
His head was very high and every nerve in his body seemed alert, but puzzled. He looked about himself.
I did not hurry the bird.
I slapped the side of its neck, and spoke to it, gently, confidently.
I drew on the one-strap. The bird did not move. His talons clutched the sloping yard.
I did not use the tarn goad.
I waited for some time, stroking it, and talking to it.
And then, suddenly, I gave a cry and jerked on the one-strap and the bird, by training and instinct, flung itself into the sleeting wind and began to climb the dark, running sky.
I was again on tamback!
The bird climbed until I released the one-strap and then it began to circle. Its movements were as sure and as swift as though it might have been over the familiar crags of the Voltai or the canals of Port Kar.
I tested its responses to the straps. They were immediate and eager. And suddenly I realized that the bird was trembling with excitement and pleasure, finding itself swift and alive and strong in a new world to his senses.
Already, below me, I saw tarns being unhooded, and the straps that bound their beaks being unbuckled, and cast aside. Riders were climbing into the saddles. I saw tarns leaping to the decks of the round ships, and I saw the knotted ropes being attached to the saddles, and picked seamen, experts with the sword, five to a rope, taking their positions. And besides these seamen, each tarnsman, tied to his saddle, carried a shielded, protected ship's lantern, lighted, and, in the pockets of leather aprons, tied together and thrown across the saddles numerous clay flasks, corked with rags. These flasks I knew, were filled with tharlarion oil, and the rags that corked them had been soaked in the same substance.
Soon, behind me, there were some hundred tarnsmen, and below each, dangling, hanging to the knotted ropes, were five picked men.
I saw that the fleets of my fifth wave, the two fleets of forty ships apiece, under the command of Chung and Nigel, were well engaged in their strikes on the flanks of the great fleet.
At this time, before their numbers could have been well ascertained by the enemy, before the enemy could be much aware of anything more than the unexpected flanking attacks, I, followed by the tarnsmen, with the picked seamen, darted through the sleeting, windy skies over the locked fleets.
In the turmoil below, primarily of tam ships locked in battle, and the great round ships trying to close with enemy tam ships, I saw, protected by ten tam ships on each side, and ten before and ten behind, the flagship of Cos and Tyros. It was a great ship, painted in the yellow of Tyros, with more than two hundred oarsmen.
It was the ship of Chenbar. It would carry, besides its oarsmen, who were all free, fighting men, some one hundred bowmen, and another hundred men, seamen, artillery men, auxiliary personnel and officers.
I drew on the four-strap. Almost instantly the ship was the center of a great beating of wings and descending tarns.
My own tarn landed on the stern castle itself, and I leaped from its back. Raiders of Gor, page 273 to 276
Far away, through the sky, from the east of Laura, following the forest line, there came a flight of tarnsmen, perhaps forty of them, mounted on the great, fierce, hawklike saddlebirds of Gor, the huge, swift, predatory, ferocious tarns, cadled Brothers of the Wind. The men seemed small on the backs of the great birds. They carried spears, and were helmeted. Shields hung on the right sides of the saddles. Captive of Gor, page 84
Beyond the compound of Haakon of Skjern I could see the compound of his tarns, where, hobbled, the great birds beat their wings, threw back their heads and screamed, and tore at the great pieces of bosk thrown before them. Sometimes they tore at their hobbles and struck at their keepers with their pounding, snapping wings, with hurricanes of dust and small stones, could hurl a man from his feet. Those great rending beaks and pressing, ripping talons could tear him in two as easily as the great thighs of bosk on which they fed. Even separated as I was by three walls of bars, that of their compound, that of the far wall of Haakon's compound, and that of our common wall, these birds terrified me. The northern beauties of Haakon, too, I was pleased to see, cowered away from that side of their compound. Sometimes when one of the great birds screamed, several of them would scream, too, and run, huddling away against our bars, or flying into their log dormitory. I do not know why it is that women fear tarns so terribly, but we do. But most men do, too. It is a rare man who will approach a tarn. It is said that the tarn knows who is a tarnsman and who is not, and if one approaches him who is not, he will seize him and rip him to pieces. It is little wonder that few men approach the beasts. I had seem tarn keepers, but , except for Haakon of Skjern, I had seen no tarnsmen. They were wild men, of the caste of warriors, who spent much of their time in the taverns of Laura, fighting and gambling and drinking, while slave girls, excited and with shining eyes, served them and pressed about them, begging to be noticed and ordered to the alcoves. It was no wonder that some men, even warriors, hated and envied the arrogant, regal tarnsmen, one night rich, the next impoverished, always at the elbow of adventure, and war and pleasure, wearing their pride and their manhood in their walk, in the steel at their side and the look in their eyes. Captive of Gor, page 91-92
Often a tarn would clutch the girl in its talons and alight. The tarnsmen would then leap from the saddle and force the bird's talons from its prey, binding the hysterical girl's wrists and fastening her to a saddle ring, then remounting and hunting another. One man had four girls bound to his saddle. Another would fly low and to the side of the running girl, and a beat of the tarn's great wings would send her rolling and sprawling for a dozen yards across the grass. Before she could arise, the tarnsman would be upon her, binding her. Another would strike the victim in the small of her back with the butt of his spear, felling her, numbing her, for the binding fiber. Others, flying low and to the side, roped the girls as they ran, using their slender ropes of braided leather, familiar to tarnsmen. Such warriors do not even deign to dismount to bind their fair prisoners. They haul them to the saddle, in flight, there securing them, stripping them and fastening them to the binding rings. Captive of Gor, page 227, 228
We heard, again, the screaming of the ul outside the building. The tarns in the tarn cot moved about. The ul will not attack a tarn. The tarn could tear it to pieces. Savages of Gor, page 19
heard a sudden, striking, thudding sound. It was almost as though half of a
kaiila had been suddenly dropped to the earth. It was a sound which, when one
has once heard it, one is not likely to mistake it for another. The vibrations
were felt through the walls of the pit.
"It is here," I said.
The girl, looking up, suddenly screamed with fear. A large, bright, round eye peered through the opening in the ceiling of the pit.
A beak, yellowish, some two feet in length, scimitar like, poked into the pit.
We heard a taloned foot cutting at the sod and poles over our head.
"We are safe here!" cried the girl.
"No," I said.
The beak again entered the pit and pushed downward. It poked against the girl's body. She screamed. It snapped at her and she shrank back, to the opposite end of the pit, covering her head, screaming. This excited the predator. Half of its head thrust into the pit, after her. Then it screamed, too, a shril scream, and, withdrawing its head, it began to cut and tear at the roof of the pit. I saw a talon emerge through the sod roof of the pit. I saw a talon emerge though the sod roof. I saw poles lifting and splintering.
In this moment, its attention fastened on the girl, on tearing away the obstacle which lay between him and her. I thrust through the smaller opening and, with a swirl of rope and two hitches, fastened the hobbling log on its right leg. I then screamed and thrust at it, and it spun about. I fended its beak away with my forearm.
"Well done!" cried Cuwignaka, sprining up from the grass. He interposed himself, and a lance, between me and the predator. The beak snapped the lance off short. Hci, swinging ropes, crying out, emerged, too, from the nearby grass. Cuwignaka and I backed off. The bird, smiting its wings, darted towards us but, screaming, fell short on its belly in the grass, feathers flying about. It only then realized it was impeded. It turned about, wildly, the leg, and rope, turning under him. Cuwignaka struck it on the beak with the shaft of the lance, distracting it. Hci, running up, struck it with the coils of rope in his hand. The bird, then, rising up, wings beating, took flight, jerking the hobbling log from the pit, tearing it up through the sod roof and poles.
"Strong! Strong! Marvelous!" cried Cuwignaka.
He had not understood the strength of such a creature.
Struggling, wings beating, screaming, the bird, lunging and falling, and climbing again, fought the weight. It struggled to perhaps a hundred feet in the air and then, bit by bit, the log swinging, fighting, it began to lose altitude. Cuwignaka and Hci ran beneath it, in the grass. I wiped sweat from my forehead. I was elated. Blood Brothers of Gor, page 326 – 327
The bird soared
towards us and then, several yards away, turned its wings, braking, and hovered
for a moment in the air, its clawed dropping, and then landed.
We closed our eyes, briefly, against the storm of wind and dust which temporarily assaulted us.
Mira threw her hand before her mouth and screamed. "Withdraw," I told her.
I went forward and seized the guide-ropes, or reins, of the tarn, as the Kinyanpi fashion them, seen clearly to be based on the jaw ropes used generally in the Barrens by the red savages to control kaiila. This suggests that the Kinyanpi had probably domesticated kaiila before tarns and that their domestication of the tarn was achieved independently of white practice, as exemplified, say, by the tarnsmen of such cities as Thentis. The common guidance apparatus for tarns in most cities is an arrangement involving two major rings and six straps. The one-strap is drawn for ascent, and the four-strap for descent, for example. Blood Brothers of Gor, page 340
could have done this?" asked Cuwignaka, in awe.
I heard Mira, a few yards behind us, throwing up in the grass.
"I am not sure," I said.
Hci came up to join us, from where he had been crouching down in the grass.
"Aiii," he muttered.
"What do you think?" asked Cuwignaka.
"Never have I seen anything like this," said Hci. To be sure it was awesome to contemplate the forces and pressures that could have done it.
The tarn, besides its rude bridle, wore a girth strap.
I glanced back at Mira. She was on her hands and knees in the grass, sick.
She was correct that she had seen legs. The knees were thrust under the girth strap. There were also thighs and a lower abdomen. There was no upper body.
"I do not understand this," said Cuwignaka, in a whisper.
"Only something from the medicine world could have done this," said Hci.
I looked up, scanning the sky. Whatever had done this must still be about, somewhere.
"Why has the bird landed?" asked Cuwignaka.
"It is a domestic tarn," I said. "Probably it wishes to be freed of the remains of the rider. It saw men."
"I am uneasy," said Cuwignaka.
"I, too," said Hci.
"This is great boon for us," I said. "Remove the legs from the girth strap."
"How is that?" asked Cuwignaka. He and Hci removed the legs from the girth strap and discarded them in the grass. Sleen could find them later.
I patted the tarn on the neck. "This is a domestic tarn," I said. "It is trained. Not only will it be unnecessary to break it but it will be of great use, in a brace harness, in training the two tarns we have already caught." This is a common method of training new tarns. Blood Brothers of Gor, page 340-341
"It is no
use!" cried Hci, a few yards away, on tarnback, some two hundred yards above the rolling
grasslands beneath us. On my right, urging his tarn ahead,
"They are gaining!" cried Hci. "They will catch us!" It was now half an Ahn past dawn.
I looked back over my shoulder. Five riders, men of the Kinyanpi, pursued us, relentlessly. We heard their whooping behind us.
We were slowed by the lines we held. Behind each ofus, strung together by neck ropes, swpt five tarns. The Kinyanpi hobble lines had not been well guarded. In the vicinity of a Yellow-Knife camp, their allies, amongst tribes unfamiliar with tarns, they had feared nothing. We did not expect that such laxity would be repeated in the future. Blood Brothers of Gor, page 375
have a plan!" I said. "Go! Go!" Then, remonstrating no further
with them, I swing the tarn about, I jerked back on
the reins, then held them back. Beating its mighty wings the bird hung almost
motionless in the air,its
back a steep line. From beneath the girth rope I drew forth an object which I
had placed there, which had been pressed between the girlth
rope and the body of the tarn. It was the large black feather which I had obtained
in the vicinity of the tarn pit, days ago, that feather the possession of which
had so distressed my friend, Hci. I brandished it
over my head, grasping it in the middle, like a spear or banner.
That feather, I had hoped, would be even more meaningful, more terrifying, to the Kinyanpi than to Hci.
It was a feather of a sort with which I thought they, the Kinyanpi, might be even too familiar.
Belief in the medicine world, I hoped, would hold as potent a sway over the minds of the Kinyanpi as it seemed to over the minds of so many of the red savages, friends and foes alike.
The leader of the Kinyanpi, when some fifty yards from my tarn, suddenly drew back on the reins of his tarn, and held it in the hovering postion. His fellows joined him. He pointed at me. They shouted among themselves, over the beating of the birds' wings.
I held the feather up, prominently, almost brandishing it. I wanted them to make no misake about it.
I did not reach for weapons. What need had he of weapons who comtrolled the medicine of Wakanglisapa? And what medicine or weapons might hope to prevail against it?
Unfortunately, when the leader had drawn back his tarn he had seemed to do so more in surprise than fear. It was more as though he had been taken unaware than frightened. I had hoped they would all retreat in terror. Unfortunately, they were not doing so.
The birds, wings snapping and striking, their backs almost vertical, the men leaning forward on them, were an impressive sight.
I rejoiced in one thing. Each moment was precious. Cuwignaka and Hci, each moment, were speeding farther and farther away.
I then, to my dismay, sw the five riders freeing their weapons. It was clearly their intention to attack.
They were brave men.
Too, I had perhaps miscalculated. If the feather was not that of Wakanglisapa they would assume they had nothing to fear. If it was the feather of Wakanglisapa, then why should they not attempt to capture it, to secure its mighty medicine for themselves?
The five riders then broke their formation by swerving to the side and began to circle, to build up momentum, and then, soon, they had brought their birds onto an attack course.
I thrust the feather back under the girth rope, angrily, cursing. Much good had it done me! I strung the small bow at my side. I drew forth three arrows from the tabukhide quiver behind my left hip. I put one arrow to the string. I held two with the bow.
They were coming swiftly.
Their formation resembled the perimeters of a geometrical solid. Their point rider would pass withing lance range. The other four riders were somewhat behind him, on the left and right, top and bottom. Whatever adjustment is made to meet the point rider will presumably provide at least one of the following, flanking riders with an exploitable advantage.
I would try to pass swiftly through the formation, compounding the velocities and, in the passage, turn back to fire over my left shoulder.
I must wait for the exact moment to speed the tarn forward. They must expect me to hold my ground.
The lead rider was now in the neighborhood of a hundred yards away. I saw the lance lower, the Herlit feathers on it torn backward in the wind against the shaft. It reminded me for a moment of the ears of a sleen, laid back in its attack.
Another few yards and I must snap the reins of the tarn, kicking back at it, screaming, startling it forward.
I kicked back but then, suddenly, drew back on the reins. The tarn, arrested in its lunge, screamed, rearing back, starled, wild, in the air. I was flung back. I held my seat.
The lead rider, when only a few yards away, had jerked back wildly on the reins of his tarn. I saw him swerving up, and to my right, and then back. He was not even looking at me. He was looking at something, apparently, behind me. His face seemed contorted with terror. He swung his tarn about and began to flee. Almost at the same time the flanking riders had, in seeming terror, in disarray, their formation lost, burst like a star about me and then, frantically, on all sides of me, their tarns about and, like their leader, sped away.
I turned about on the back of the tarn. I saw nothing. Only the clouds, the sky.
I shuddered, seemingly suddenly chilled, and then turned the tarn about.
I set a course away from Two Feathers, in case I was followed. Then later, I would make suitable adjustments.
The sky seemed clear. The early morning air was fresh and cool. Blood Brothers of Gor, page 377 to 379
I did not take with
me the tarn I had captured in the tarn country. I thought it preferable that
it, a trained bird, be left with the Kaiila. Tarns were precious to them,
particularly in connection with acquiring new tarns. They would need every
tarn, I conjectured, which they could obtain. Indeed, I suspected that they
would soon attempt to obtain them even through channels of trade. As the
appearance of kaiila in the Barrens, long ago, had wrought a social and
cultural revolution among the tribes, so, too, I suspected, now might the tarn.
The tarn, as the kaiila before it, might now bring about a transformation on
the prairies. I was apprehensive when I thought of the skills of red savages on
the kaiila. How
fearsome might they then
become astride the mighty tarn. Yet, it seemed to me that the mastery of the
tarn, in its way, was perhaps the key to assuring the continued stability of
the Barrens. If tribes without tarns could not hold their own against those who
had them, then these other tribes would presumably be forced from their lands
and into westward migration or so, it seemed clear that the integrity of the Ihanke itself might be threatened. Too often in the
histories of worlds had the displacements of peoples become the prelude to
lengthy and bloody wars. Stability's key, in the paradoxes of martial reality,
is commonly combative parity. Blood Brothers of Gor, Page 477