Read Renegades of Gor Online

Authors: John Norman

Tags: #Science Fiction, #Fiction, #General, #Fantasy, #Adventure

Renegades of Gor

23 Renegades of GorRenegades of Gor

John Norman

Chronicles of Counter-Earth Volume 23

1
     
The Road; The Slave

(pg.7) In a sudden flash of lightning, showing the driving rain, the wagons, the

crowd on the road, I saw ahead, above me, and to my left, about a half of a

pasang forward, on its stony plateau, the inn of the Crooked Tarn.

“There is less than a pasang to go,” said a man near me.

“They will have no places left,” said another.

“You could not afford them, if they did,” said the first man.

“We will camp on the lee side,” said another, “and water the beasts in the

moat.”

“Wagons will already be circled there,” said another.

When groups are traveling together the wagons are often arranged in a circle,

end to end, tongues inward, narrowing gaps between the “sections” of the

improvised rampart, and chained together, the front axle of the next, the camp,

and the draft animals, and any accompanying livestock, within the circle. This

forms a wagon fort or laager. The circle contains more interior space than any

other geometrical figure, so the camp is thus as large as possible, given the

number of wagons. Too, as every point on the circumference is normally visible

from, and equidistant from, the center, this facilitates defense, for example,

the prompt and pertinent deployment of reserves. This arrangement, incidentally,

is not common with the southern wagon peoples, such as Tuchuks, if only because

of the vast numbers (pg. 8) of wagons. There the wagons congregate almost to

form wagon cities. It is fairly typical, however, with some of the less numerous

wagon peoples of the north, such as the tribes of the Alars, particularly when

separated from one another on the march, though there one might note the circle

is often very large and as many as four or five wagons deep.

There was another flash of lightning, and an earsplitting crash of thunder.

Ahead, and on the plateau of the inn, I saw the large wooden sign, on its

chains, jerked in the wind, striking about, pelted with rain. It was in the form

of a malformed tarn, its neck crooked, almost vulturelike, the right leg, with

its talons, much larger than the left, and outstretched, grasping. Such signs

are not untypical of Gorean hostelries, as many Goreans, particularly those of

the lower castes, cannot read.

Then again it seemed the world was plunged into darkness and there was little

except driving rain and the creaking of wagons.

I had put my cloak over my head. The wagon I was walking beside was to my left.

It kept to the left side of the road, as it was moving north on what, in this

latitude, was usually called the Vosk Road, but farther south was generally

knows as the Vitkel Aria. My cloak hung down from my head about my shoulders,

and thence fell to my waist. I had shortened the straps of the sword sheath,

hitching it high, the hilt now before my left shoulder, under the cloak. I kept

one hand, from beneath my cloak, on the side of the wagon. In this way I was

less likely to stumble in the darkness, and the cold, driving rain. The other

hand, my right, held my cloak about my neck. My pack was in the wagon.

To my right, in the line of traffic moving south, I suddenly heard cursing and

the startled, protesting bellowing of a tharlarion. There were shouts. There was

a creaking of wood, and the slick squeak of an engaged, leather-lined brake shoe

pressing against the iron rim of a wheel. “Jump!” cried someone. There was then

a sound of sliding, and then, after a moment, that of a wagon tipping heavily

into mud. The tharlarion, probably thrown from its feet, was squealing in its

harness.

I pulled my pack from the wagon I was trekking beside (pg.9) and, feeling about,

locating the side of the next wagon moving south, felt around it, and went to

the side of the road. Another tharlarion moved past me. I reached out and felt

its wet scales. In another flash of lightning I saw the wagon in the ditch,

tipped on its side, its canvas-covered, roped-down load bulging against the

restraining cover, the tharlarion also in its side, lying tangled in its

harness, its feet flailing, its long neck craning about.

A man thrust past me, holding an unshuttered dark lantern beneath his cloak.

Rain was pouring over the brim of his felt hat. Two others were behind him. They

slipped down the side of the ditch. “The axle is broken,” said one of the men to

the driver. The driver had another fellow with him, too. I stood on the road, at

its edge. I felt about with my foot. There were missing stones there. That was

probably where the wheel had missed the road. There, I supposed, had loosened,

given the heavy traffic and the storm. The wagon, it seemed, had slipped down

the embankment, dragging the beast after it. I stayed where I was for a moment.

It seemed to me odd that three men, one with a dark lantern, should be so

quickly upon the scene.

“Beware,” cried the driver through the rain to the men below me, beside the

wagon. “I carry a Home Stone in this wagon.”

The three men looked at one another, and then backed away. They would not choose

to do business with one who carried a Home Stone, even though they were three to

two. It was as I had speculated. There were road pirates. Possibly the stones

had been deliberately loosened.

“Gentlemen,” I called down to them. “Lift your lantern.”

They looked upward. I let my cloak fall to the sides so that they could see the

scarlet of my tunic.

“Hold your places!” I called.

They stood where they were. I might pursue one. None of them cared to risk being

that one.

I slipped down the embankment to join them.

I tossed my pack to the side of the slope.

I took the lantern from the fellow in the broad-brimmed felt hat, and handed it

to the fellow of the driver. I did not draw my sword. It was not necessary.

(pg.10) “Unharness the tharlarion,” I said to the driver. “Get it on its feet.”

He went around to the front of the wagon.

I took the leader of the three men in hand. “You have a wagon nearby,” I said to

him. “You two fetch it.”

“It is not on the road,” said one of the fellows.

I flung the leader to his belly in the mud and put my foot on his back.

“Get the wagon!” he said.

They hurried away.

“Do you think they will return?” I asked.

He was silent.

I moved my foot to the back of his neck and pressed his face down into the muddy

water. He pulled up, sputtering. “Yes!” he said. “Yes!”

He was correct. In a few Ehn the two fellows returned, leading a tharlarion

drawing another wagon. As I had anticipated, it had not been far away.

“Empty your wagon out,” I told the two. “And place the cargo of this wagon in

what was once yours.”

They did so. As I had anticipated the contents of their wagon was a miscellany

of cheap loot, taken from other wagons, and from refugees moving south on the

Viktel Aria, from the vicinity of Ar’s Station, on the Vosk.

The driver, his tharlarion freed, and on its feet, hitched it before the other

beast, in tandem. It knew his voice, and would respond more readily as the lead

beast.

“Give your purses to the driver,” I said.

They did so.

I myself took the contents of a metal coin box removed from their wagon and

emptied it into my wallet. It contained several coins, the loot, probably, of

better than several days’ work. To be sure, most of the coins there were small,

such as would be likely to weight only a threadbare purse. The number, however,

more than compensated for the generally unimpressive denominations. There must

have been the equivalent there of seventeen or eighteen silver tarsks.

I located the stones which were missing from the edge of the road. They were in

the ditch below their place, half sunk in the mud. Apparently they had been

removed deliberately from the road, and might be replaced, thence to be removed

again, at will, to (pg.11) again jeopardize the integrity of the road, their

absence in the darkness in effect, constituting a trap. The three fellows, with

my encouragement, in the rain, replaced them.

I again took them to the bottom of the ditch, by the overturned wagon.

“Kneel there,” I told the three of them, “between the wheels, with your backs to

the bottom of the wagon.”

They complied, kneeling with the bottom of the overturned wagon behind them.

From this position it would be difficult for them to bolt.

“Take everything, but let us go!” begged the leader.

“I am thinking,” I told him, “of tying you naked on your back, over the tongue

of the wagon, and fastening your two fellows, on their backs, stripped, over the

wheels. It might be amusing to spin them about.”

They regarded one another, frightened.

“But you are not female slaves,” I mused.

“Men would find us with the loot about, and impale us!” said the leader.

That was not improbable. Thieves are often dealt with harshly on Gor.

“Do not condemn us to death!” begged the leader.

“Strip,” I ordered them.

I then tied their hands behind their backs. Ropes were found in the wagon and we

tied them by the necks to the back of the wagon. Verr, too, and female slaves,

and such, are often tethered to the back of wagons.

“In the south,” said the driver, from the wagon box, “there are work gangs. We

can probably get something for them there.”

“Stay the traffic on the road, as you can, for an Ehn,” I said to the fellow of

the driver. “We will get the wagon back on the road.

“I doubt two tharlarion can pull this grade from the ditch, with this weight,

with the footing,” said the driver.

“Hurry to it,” I said to the fellow of the driver. “We shall try it.”

He scrambled up the embankment, the lantern in one hand, clutching at knots of

wet grass with the other, slipping, sliding back, then regaining his feet, then

reaching the surface. (pg.12) In the ditch we were ankle deep in water. The rain

continued to pour down in torrents. It ran from the pitched surface of the road

downward, in tiny rivers; it struck into the swirling ditch water, lashing it

into foam, dashing it upwards, its impact registered in thousands of overlapping

circles and leaping crowns of water. We saw the lantern, in the fellow’s hand,

at the surface, swinging. “Hold! Hold!” he cried in the storm. I think he then

literally seized the harness of the next tharlarion. “Hold!” he cried.

“We will never make it,” said the driver.

“Try,” I said. “Besides we have three stout fellows here who can turn about and

put their backs into it.”

“If the wagon slips,” said the leader of the brigands, “we could be crushed,

mangled beneath the wheels!”

“See it does not slip,” I said.

There were angry shouts now from the delayed line, moving south.

“Hurry!” I said to the driver.

He moved about the wagon and climbed to the wagon box. I heard, in a moment, his

shouting to the lead beast, and the crack of the tharlarion whip. The whip,

incidentally, seldom falls on the beast. Its proximity, and noise, are usually

more than sufficient. Too, it often functions as an attention-garnering device,

a signal, so to speak, preparing the beast for the sequent issuance of verbal

commands, to which it is trained to respond. Too, of course, like a staff of

office, a rod, a baton, or scepter, it is an authority device. To be sure, the

device has its authority largely in virtue of what it genuinely stands for, and

what it can do. Much the same, incidentally, can be said for the whip in the

master/slave relationship. There, too, normally, it seldom falls on the woman.

it is not necessary that it do so. She sees it, and knows what it can do. That

is usually more than sufficient. She will have felt it at some time, of course,

so that her understanding in the matter will be more than theatrical. She knows,

of course, that if she is in the least bit displeasing or recalcitrant, it will

be used upon her. Indeed, she knows that she might be, from time to time, placed

beneath it, if only that she may be reminded that she is a slave. It is my

belief that women have an instinctual understanding of the whip.

The wagon lurched ahead.

(pg.13) it would attempt its rendezvous with the road by an ascendant diagonal.

The brigands were jerked forward, by the neck, behind it. One lost his footing

and was dragged for a few feet, through the ditch water, part way up the slope.

“Put your backs to it,” I told the captives.

“Look out!” cried someone from the road, above, perhaps a fellow come forward,

inquiring concerning the delay, dismounted from one of the other wagons.

“Look out!” cried another.

“It is tipping!” cried the leader of the brigands in terror.

I tried to set myself on the slope, but slipped back, and the wagon slid

sideways toward me, the wheels tearing lines in the grass, tilting. Then I got

solid footing and, my hands pressing against the side of the wagon, righted it.

“Who is down there?” called a fellow from the surface of the road.

I saw lanterns lifted, up on the road.

“There is a gang of five men on the other side of the wagon,” said a fellow. “It

Other books

Baking by Hand by Andy King
My Fair Temptress by Christina Dodd
Mountain Charm by Logan, Sydney
Commander-In-Chief by Mark Greaney, Tom Clancy
And Then You Die by Iris Johansen
Step Into My Parlor by Jan Hudson
Behind The Wooden Door by Emily Godwin
Paradox by A. J. Paquette