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Passage Hand
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Year 10,170 Contasta Ar


Caste of Assassins



Here are relevant references from the Books where the Caste of Assassins is mentioned.
It is not meant to be anything other than the facts of the matter.
Arrive at your own conclusions.

I wish you well,
Fogaban






Supporting References

"A member of the Caste of Assassins," said the Older Tarl, gazing at the retreating speck in the distance. "Marlenus, who would be Ubar of all Gor, knows of your existence."
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 59


"The spies of Ar are effective," I said.
"More effective than the Assassins of Ar," she said.
"Pa-Kur, Ar's Master Assassin, was dispatched to kill you, but failed."
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 107


I noted with satisfaction that Pa-Kur, Master Assassin, proud leader of perhaps the greatest horde ever assembled on the plains of Gor, had need of Mintar, who was only of the Merchant Caste.
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 131


I had noticed that there was among the crowd one tall, somber figure who sat alone on a high, wooden throne, surrounded by tarnsmen. He wore the black helmet of a member of the Caste of Assassins.
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 133


"Were it not for the daughter of Marlenus," said Pa-Kur, his metallic face as placid as the quicksilver behind a mirror, "I would have slain you honorably. That I swear by the black helmet of my caste."
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 138


"On the highest ground in camp," said Mintar, "near the second ditch and across from the great gate of Ar. You will see the black banner of the Caste of Assassins."
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 175


I dyed my hair black and acquired the helmet and gear of an Assassin. Across the left temple of the black helmet I fixed the golden slash of the messenger.
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 176


Above them, at several places, flew the black banner of the Caste of Assassins.
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 182


It was as a warrior of Gor that I arose and donned the black helmet and the garments of the Caste of Assassins. I loosened my sword in its sheath, set my shield on my arm, and grasped my spear.
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 190


I wore the garb of the Caste of Assassins, and on the left temple of the black helmet was the golden slash of the messenger.
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 192


And, dark among these shapes, like shadows, I could see the somber black of members of the Caste of Assassins.
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 204


I had expected to be fired on immediately but suddenly remembered that I still wore the garb of the messenger. No Assassin would fire on me, and no one else would dare.
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 204


Those members of the Caste of Assassins, the most hated caste on Gor, who had served Pa-Kur, were taken in chains down the Vosk to become galley slaves on the cargo ships that ply Gor's oceans.
Tarnsman of Gor     Book 1     Page 215


Since the siege of Ar, when Pa-Kur, Master Assassin, had violated the limits of his caste and had presumed, in contradiction to the traditions of Gor, to lead a horde upon the city, intending to make himself Ubar, the Caste of Assassins had lived as hated, hunted men, no longer esteemed mercenaries whose services were sought by cities, and, as often by factions within cities. Now many assassins roamed Gor, fearing to wear the somber black tunic of their caste, disguised as members of other castes, not infrequently as warriors.
Outlaw of Gor     Book 2     Page 72


Without speaking the man took twenty pieces of gold, tarn disks of Ar, of double weight, and gave them to Kuurus, who placed them in the pockets of his belt. The Assassins, unlike most castes, do not carry pouches.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 4


Not for many years had the black tunic of the Assassins been seen within the walls of Ar, not since the siege of that city in 10,110 from its founding, in the days of Marlenus, who had been Ubar; of Pa-Kur, who had been Master of the Assassins; and of the Ko-ro-ban Warrior, in the songs called Tarl of Bristol.
For years the black of the Assassins had been outlawed in the city.
. . .
From that time the black of the Assassins had not been seen in the streets of Glorious Ar.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 6

Yet none would stand in the way of Kuurus for he wore on his forehead, small and fine, the sign of the black dagger.
When he of the Caste of Assassins has been paid his gold and has received his charge he affixes on his forehead that sign, that he may enter whatever city he pleases, that none may interfere with his work.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Pages 6 - 7


A peasant moved away that the shadow of the Assassin might not fall across his own.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 7


The men looked at the Assassin, who regarded them, one by one. Men turned white under that gaze. Some fled from the tables, lest, unknown to themselves, it be they for whom this man wore the mark of the black dagger.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 8


Scarcely a quarter of an Ahn had passed and the men who drank in that room had forgotten, as is the way of men, that a dark one sat with them in that room, one who wore the black tunic of the Caste of Assassins, who silently drank with them.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 9


He with the missing teeth laughed and looked about the crowd, his eyes bright, seeing that they waited with eagerness for his stroke.

But his laugh died in his throat as he looked into the eyes of Kuurus, he of the Caste of Assassins.

Kuurus, with his left hand, pushed to one side his bowl of paga.

Hup opened his eyes, startled at not yet having felt the deep, cruel movement of the steel. He too looked into the eyes of Kuurus, who sat in the darkness, the wall behind him, cross-legged, looking at him, no emotion on his face.

"You are a beggar?" asked Kuurus.

"Yes, Master," said Hup.

"Was the begging good today?" asked Kuurus.

Hup looked at him in fear. "Yes, Master," he said, "yes!"

"Then you have money," said Kuurus, and stood up behind the table, slinging the sheath of the short sword about his shoulder.

Hup wildly thrust a small, stubby, knobby hand into his pouch and hurled a coin, a copper tarn disk, to Kuurus, who caught it and placed it in one of the pockets of his belt.

"Do not interfere," snarled the man who held the hook knife.

"There are four of us," said another, putting his hand on his sword.

"I have taken money," said Kuurus.

The men in the tavern, and the girls, began to move away from the tables.

"We are Warriors," said another.

Then a coin of gold struck the table before the Assassin, ringing on the wood.

All eyes turned to face a paunchy man, in a robe of blue and yellow silk. "I am Portus," he said. "Do not interfere, Assassin."

Kuurus picked up the coin and fingered it, and then he looked at Portus. "I have already taken money," he said.

Portus gasped.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Pages 12 - 13


"Welcome, Killer," said the man, addressing the Assassin by what, for that caste, is a title of respect.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 14


"May I ask, Killer," asked Portus, "if you come to make the first killing or the second?"

"The second," said Kuurus.

"Ah!" said Portus.

"I hunt," said Kuurus.

"Of course," said Portus.

"I come to avenge," said Kuurus.

Portus smiled. "That is what I meant," he said, "that it is good those in the black tunic are once again amongst us, that justice can be done, order restored, right upheld."
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Pages 17 - 18


"You are of the Assassins?" he asked.

"Yes," I said, "it is my caste."

He pressed the piece of gold into my hand and turned away, stumbling from me, reaching out with his right hand to guide himself along the wall.

"Wait!" I cried. "You have won this! Take it!" I ran to him.

"No!" he cried, striking out wildly with a hand, trying to force me away. I stepped back. He stood there, panting, not seeing me, his body bent over, angry. "It is black gold," he said. "It is black gold." He then turned away, and began to grope his way from the place of the game.

I stood there in the street and watched him go, in my hand holding the piece of gold which I had meant to be his.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 38


The older Tarl, taking the knife by the hand guard withdrew it. It was a throwing knife, of a sort used in Ar, much smaller than the southern quiva, and tapered on only one side. It was a knife designed for killing. Mixed with the blood and fluids of the body there was a smear of white at the end of the steel, the softened residue of a glaze of kanda paste, now melted by body heat, which had coated the tip of the blade. On the hilt of the dagger, curling about it, was the legend "I have sought him. I have found him." It was a killing knife.
"The Caste of Assassins?" I had asked.
"Unlikely," had said the Older Tarl, "for Assassins commonly are too proud for poison."
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 42


I decided to go to Ar in the guise of an Assassin, by High Tharlarion, for Assassins are not commonly tarnsmen.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 79


"He frightens me," she wept. "He is of the black caste."
"Serve him wine," said he, "or you will be stripped and thrown into a pen of male slaves."
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 89


For example it is possible to breed a girl whose saliva will be poisonous; such a woman, placed in the Pleasure Gardens of an enemy, can be more dangerous than the knife of an Assassin.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 115


I had removed the livery of the black caste and had washed the sign of the dagger from my forehead.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 142


"Are you familiar with tarns?" asked Mip.
I thought for a moment. Some Assassins are, as a matter of fact, skilled tarnsmen. "Yes," I said, "I am familiar with tarns."
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 170


"You know I hunt," I said.
"Those of the black caste often hunt," said Mip.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 174


"You are up late, Killer," said he.
"I could not sleep," I said.
"I thought those of the black caste slept the soundest of all men," said Cernus.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 181


Flaminius looked at me, curiously. "It is seldom," he said, "that those of the black caste laugh."
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 267


There I had once more donned the black of the Assassin. There, once more, I had affixed on my forehead the mark of the dagger.
"The killer?" said Cernus, his voice breaking.
I said nothing.
"You are Tarl Cabot!" he cried. "Tarl Cabot of Ko-ro-ba!"
"I am Kuurus," I told him.
"You wear upon your forehead the mark of the black dagger," whispered Cernus.
"It is for you," I told him.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 382


the crossbow is the assassin's weapon, par excellence
Raiders of Gor     Book 6     Page 2


Aside from these common uses, sleen are put to other uses, too. In Thentis, for example, sleen are used to smell out contraband, in the form of the unauthorized egress of the beans for black wine from the Thentian territories. They are sometimes, too, used by assassins, though the caste of assassins itself, by their caste codes, precludes their usage; the member of the caste of assassins must make his own kill; it is in their codes.
Slave Girl of Gor     Book 11     Pages 186 - 187


Scormus of Ar paced angrily on the stage. He wiped the palms of his hands on his robe.
He would not look upon, nor touch, Centius of Cos in friendship. Such a simple gesture might weaken his intensity, the height of his hatreds, his readiness to do battle. His brilliance, his competitive edge, must be at its peak. Scormus of Ar reminded me of men of the caste of Assassins, as they sometimes are, before they begin their hunt. The edge must be sharp, the resolve must be merciless, the instinct to kill must in no way be blunted.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 86


I heard the dagger cutting at the canvas. He had elected flight, it seemed.
. . .
The cutting at the canvas, of course, had been a feint. He had shown an admirable coolness.
. . .
I thought him now of the assassins for the trick with the canvas was but a variant of the loosened door trick, left ajar as in flight, a lure to the unwary to plunge in his pursuit into the waiting blade.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Pages 101 - 102


"I am he," said the man, in fur jacket. "What do you want? Are you an assassin? You do not wear the dagger. What have I done?"
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 135


Little love is lost betwixt the castes of warriors and assassins. Each deems himself the superior of, and the natural foe, of the other. The sword of the warrior, commonly, is pledged to a Home Stone, that of the assassin to gold and the knife.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 136


"I see you are not of the assassins," I said. It is a matter of pride for members of that caste to avoid the use of poisoned steel. Too, their codes forbid it.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 141


The man stood in the doorway, in the somber garb of his caste.

"I see you wear the scarlet of the warrior," he said. It was true. I had awakened in the tunic of my caste. The furs had been taken from me.

"And you, my friend," said I, "are clothed now in the proper habiliments of your caste." He wore now, brazenly, the black of the Assassin. Over his left shoulder, looped on a ringed strap, he wore a blade, the short sword.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 347


He seemed slow. But I knew he did not come to his somber garb by any tardiness of action or hesitancy in deed. The training of the assassin is thorough and cruel. He who wears the black of that caste has not won it easily. Candidates for the caste are chosen with great care, and only one in ten, it is said, completes the course of instruction to the satisfaction of the caste masters. It is assumed that failed candidates are slain, if not in the training, for secrets they may have learned. Withdrawal from the caste is not permitted. Training proceeds in pairs, each pair against others. Friendship is encouraged. Then, in the final training, each member of the pair must hunt the other. When one has killed one's friend one is then likely to better understand the meaning of the black. When one has killed one's friend one is then unlikely to find mercy in his heart for another. One is then alone, with gold and steel.
. . .
The assassins take in lads who are perhaps characterized by little but unusual swiftness, and cunning, and strength and skill, and perhaps a selfishness and greed, and, in time, transform this raw material into efficient, proud, merciless men, practitioners of a dark trade, men loyal to secret codes the content of which is something at which most men dare not guess.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 358


"There is perhaps poison on your blade?" I said.

"My caste does not make use of poison," he said.

I then decided that it would not be easy to agitate him, perhaps impairing his timing, or making him behave in a hasty manner, too zealous for a quick kill.

"Fight," said the man at the side of the ring.

We met in the center of the ring. Our blades touched and parried.

"I received my early training in the city of Ko-ro-ba," I said.

Our blades touched one another.

"What is your Home Stone?" I asked.

"Do you think I am fool enough to talk with you?" he snarled.

"Assassins, as I recall," I said, "have no Home Stones. I suppose that is a drawback to caste membership, but if you did have Home Stones, it might be difficult to take fees on one whose Home Stone you shared."

I moved his blade aside.

"You are faster than I thought," I said.

Our blades swiftly met, a moment of testing. Then we stepped back, retaining our guard position.

"Some think the caste of assassins performs a service," I said, "but I find this difficult to take seriously. I suppose they could be hired in the service of justice, but it seems they could be as easily hired in the service of anything." I looked at him. "Do you fellows have any principles?" I asked.

He moved in, swiftly, too swiftly. I did not take advantage of it.

"Apparently staying alive is not one of them," I said.

He stepped back, startled.

"You were open there for a moment," I said. He knew it and I knew it, but I was not sure those in the tiers knew it. It is sometimes difficult to see these things from certain angles.

There were jeers from the tiered benches. They did not believe what I said.

I now stalked Drusus. He kept a close guard, covering himself well. It is hard to strike a man who elects defense. He limits himself, of course, in adopting this stratagem.

Now jeers against Drusus came from the benches. He began to sweat.

"Is it true," I asked, "that you, in attaining the black of your caste, once slew your friend?"

I pressed the attack, but in a courteous fashion. He defended himself well.

"What was his name?" I asked.

"Kurnock!" he suddenly cried out, angrily, and rushed toward me.

I sprawled him into the sand at my feet, and my blade was at the back of his neck.

I stepped back.

"Get up," I said. "Now let us fight seriously."

He leaped to his feet. I then administered to him, and to those in the tiers, a lesson in the use of the Gorean blade. They sat in silence.

Then, bloodied, Drusus, unsteadily, his sword arm down, wavered before me. He had been cut several times, as I had pleased.

He could no longer lift the blade. Blood ran down his arm, staining the sand.

I looked up to the mirror in the wall, that which I was confident was in actuality a one-way glass. I lifted my sword to that invisible window, in the salute of a Gorean warrior. I then turned again to face Drusus.

"Kill me," he said. "It is twice I have failed my caste."

I lifted the blade to strike him. "I will be swift," I told him.

I poised the steel.

"Let it be thus that an old debt owed to one named Kurnock is repaid," I said.

"That is the first time I failed my caste," said Drusus. I regarded him. "Strike," he said.

"I do not understand," I said.

"I did not kill Kurnock," he said. "He was no match for me. I could not bring myself to kill him."

I handed the sword to the third man on the sand.

"Kill me!" cried Drusus.

"Do you think a warrior can show less mercy than an Assassin?" I asked.

"Kill me," wept Drusus, and then, from the loss of blood, fell into the sand.

"He is too weak to be an assassin," I said. "Remove him."
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Pages 359 - 360


"We have failed," said Drusus.

I nodded in agreement. The strange common project of two men, of diverse and antagonistic, yet strangely similar castes, an Assassin and a Warrior, had failed.

"What is now to be done?" he asked.

"We must attempt to reach the chamber of Zarendargar," I said.

"It is hopeless," he said.

"Of course," I said. "But I must attempt it. Are you with me?"

"Of course," he said.

"But you are of the Assassins," I said.

"We are tenacious fellows," he smiled.

"I have heard that," I said.

"Do you think that only Warriors are men?" he asked.

"No," I said. "I have never been of that opinion."

"Let us proceed," he said.

"I thought you were too weak to be an Assassin," I said.

"I was once strong enough to defy the dictates of my caste," he said. "I was once strong enough to spare my friend, though I feared that in doing this I would myself be killed."

"Perhaps you are the strongest of the dark-caste," I said.

He shrugged.

"Let us see who can fight better," I said.

"Our training is superior to yours," he said.

"I doubt that," I said. "But we do not get much training dropping poison into people's drinks."

"Assassins are not permitted poison," he said proudly.

"I know," I said.

"The Assassin," he said, "is like a musician, a surgeon. The Warrior is like a butcher. He is a ravaging, bloodthirsty lout."

"There is much to what you say," I granted him. "But Assassins are such arid fellows. Warriors are more genial, more enthusiastic."

"An Assassin goes in and does his job, and comes out quietly," he said. "Warriors storm buildings and burn towers."

"It is true that I would rather clean up after an Assassin than a Warrior," I said.

"You are not a bad fellow for a Warrior," he said.

"I have known worse Assassins than yourself," I said.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Pages 412 - 413


"You do not wear the garb of the dark caste, nor do you have the black dagger painted upon your brow."
"I am not an Assassin," I said.
Savages of Gor     Book 17     Page 77


I jerked my body suddenly to the side, to evade the grasping left arm, seeking to hold the target in place for the short, low right-handed thrust of the knife, or the throat attack, if the assailant was right-handed, and of the assassins or the warriors.
. . .
The knife and arm, however, descending, passed over my body. The high stroke has various disadvantages. It begins from farther back and thus makes it difficult to use the left hand or arm to secure the target. It is easier to block. It does not have the same power as the short blow. The blade that has only six inches to move, with a full weight behind it, other things being equal, effects a deeper penetration than a blade which must move farther and has behind it primarily the weight of a shoulder and arm. Too, of course, the stab from a shorter distance at closer range, point-blank range, so to speak, is likely to be more accurate. The target, after the initiation of the blow, even if it is not held in place, has very little time, given the mathematics of reflexes, to shift its position. My assailant, I gathered, was neither of the assassins or warriors.
Players of Gor     Book 20     Pages 66 - 67


I did not think that Lurius of Jad, Ubar of Cos, would have done so. To be sure, Lurius seldom left the precincts of the palace in Telnus. More than one triumph in a Gorean city has been spoiled by the bolt of an assassin.
Magicians of Gor     Book 25     Page 90


"Why Assassins?" asked the pit master. "Why those of the black caste?"
"Efficiency, anonymity," said the officer.
Witness of Gor     Book 26     Page 547


"You have misled us again, have you not?" inquired the leader of the strangers.
"I do not understand," said the pit master.
"You are a brave man," said he, "to trifle with those of the black caste."
Witness of Gor     Book 26     Page 554


"I am not fond of those of the black caste," said the officer.
"Nor we of those of the scarlet caste," said the leader.
Witness of Gor     Book 26     Page 558


I expected the two men to turn about then, and run.
But they did not.
Rather they stood where they were. I then gathered something of the discipline of the black caste.
Witness of Gor     Book 26     Page 603

"Those of the black caste are famed for their prowess in hunting," said the officer of Treve.
Witness of Gor     Book 26     Page 626


"He was an excellent officer," said the pit master.
"Of his caste," said the officer of Treve.
"It is strange," said the pit master. "Had he chosen to save his man, by firing on what we took to be the beast, he would have killed the prisoner.
"Yes," mused the officer of Treve.
"What would you have done?" asked the pit master.
"I would have tried to save the man."
"Even at the risk of losing the quarrel, and not having time to reload before a putative attack?"
"Yes," said the officer of Treve.
"But he did not do so."
"No," said the officer of Treve.
"Why?"
"Castes differ," said the officer. He then, with his thumb, wiped away the dagger on the lieutenant's forehead. "He is no longer hunting," he said.
Witness of Gor     Book 26     Page 630


Many men, doubtless, and not the worst, might simply have rejoiced in their good fortune and, so to speak, enjoyed the repast with which they had been unexpectedly provided. Indeed, many Warriors might have done so. And one does not doubt but what a member of that other, though rarer, Gorean martial caste, though not held a high caste, the Assassins, might have done so. If one, anyone, were squeamish concerning the legalities, or etiquette, of the situation, he might have simply enslaved the women, and then put them to his pleasure.
Kur of Gor     Book 28     Page 59


Had his pursuers been unwary and unsuspecting men, or such beasts of another sort, he might have circled about and attempted, undetected, from the rear, to eliminate them one by one, certainly were they in single file and suitably separated. This is a common strategy with an unwary and unsuspecting line, but it is unlikely of success with, say, Warriors, or Assassins, as they are alert to, and familiar with, such procedures, often resorting to them themselves.
Kur of Gor     Book 28     Page 202


"You could kill me, swiftly, I have no doubt," said Peisistratus. "Those of your caste, as those of the Assassins, are skilled in such things. But would you do it here, now, and die under the blows of my men, a moment later? I see no considerable advance in either of our fortunes from such a precipitance."
Kur of Gor     Book 28     Page 287


The crossbow and power weapons were not included in the agons. It was felt that the use of neither weapon, however dangerous and effective it might be, required enough skill to qualify it for inclusion in an agon. In the case of the crossbow this seems to the writer a mistake. The writer feels that, beyond a certain point, skill with the crossbow is as respectable and rare as that with the great bow. The prejudice against the crossbow, the writer suspects, is due largely to the fact that it is, for obvious reasons, the assassin's weapon of choice.
Kur of Gor     Book 28     Page 631


Whereas brigands, assassins, and such will strike an unarmed man, the common Gorean would not be likely to do so.
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Page 37


"Who are these men?" I asked. They seemed a nondescript, but dangerous lot. There were some fifty men.
"Bandits, mercenaries, assassins, outcasts, men without captains, strangers, all strangers," he said.
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Page 42


"But I think you are of the warriors," he said.
"Perhaps of the assassins," I said.
"You do not have the eyes of an assassin," he said.
"What sort of eyes are those?" I asked.
"Those of a fee killer, an assassin," he said.
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Page 52


Those brought to Tarncamp were, I had gathered from Pertinax, mercenaries, bandits, brigands, thieves, murderers, wanderers, low men, cast-off men, men lost from Home Stones, and such. Many, I understood, had come from the occupational forces now expelled from Ar. The word of such men might be as the rustle of the wind amidst leech plants. Their loyalties would on the whole be to their own hides and purses. They would on the whole be as much for hire as the Assassins, save that the Assassin, once the dagger has been painted on his forehead, signaling he is hunting, is loyal to a fee.
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Page 244


Similarly, the crossbow can remain ready to fire, for Ahn at a time. It is thus useful in door-to-door fighting, in stalking, in ambush, and so on. It is the weapon par excellence of the caste of Assassins.
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Page 315


I recalled that those of the dark caste, the caste of Assassins, were often sober fellows, often denying themselves much of what most prized as giving meaning to life. Theirs was a narrow, dark life. Few held slaves. Some, before the hunt, would use a woman, briefly, ruthlessly, unfeelingly, leaving her shuddering, crumpled, and broken, sobbing, at their feet, before honing the selected blade, one of six, before painting the dagger on their forehead, that crowds might part uneasily before them, that taverns might fall silent, that children might flee, that men might bolt their doors. For whom is the dagger painted? Seldom did those of the dark caste drink ka-la-na or paga. The eye must be sharp, the senses acute, the hand steady. The hunt must be cold, passionless, rational, deliberate, relentless. Seldom did they recreate themselves with the bodies of slaves. Muchly they stayed to themselves. Each seemed to dwell in the cave of his own intent, as though in a cell, a cell in a large, dark, walled household, from whose gates he might emerge, a grayness at dawn, an enigma at noon, a darkness in the darkness of the night. I thought them less than human, more than human, perhaps, best, other than human. I wondered if they had feelings. Even the venomous ost had feelings. Were they beasts? But beasts had feelings. It was said they were immune, like knives, to compassion. Surely there was no place for such things in the gloom and solemnity of their pursuits. Might one not more profitably implore a stone for mercy? In their dark, narrow world what light was there? Did they live with hate, or even without hate, as in a winter without even cold? Did they know pleasure? I did not know. They lived for the kill. Perhaps they took pleasure in that. I did not know. They were of the dark caste, of the Assassins. I recalled one I had met, long ago, on the height of the Central Cylinder in Ar, Pa-Kur, master of the Assassins. He had leapt from the height of the Cylinder and the body, it seemed, had been lost amongst the crowds below. It had, in any event, never been recovered. Doubtless it had been torn to pieces by the crowd. He was gone. Gor was safer without him. Men had feared even his shadow.
A second one of the fellows had now stood up.
They did not wear the Assassin's black. I did not think the dagger was borne on their foreheads. They were unhelmeted. Had the dagger been in evidence men, even drunk, would have drawn away from them, regarded them, clutched at their weapons, however clumsily.
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Pages 414 - 415


"I am troubled by one thing," said Lord Nishida.
"What is that?" I asked.
"One," he said, "is of the dark caste."
"The Assassins," I said.
"I fear so," smiled Lord Nishida.
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Page 424


I thought of the assassins of the medieval Middle East. The caste of assassins was quite different. They were not dupes, fools, madmen, too stupid to understand how they had been manipulated by others, young men drunk with the wine of death, who think they will somehow thrive in the cities of dust. Against such mindless puppets, such naive fools, such lunatics, manipulated by those who send them forth, sitting safe in their mountain fastness, safe in their lair of prevarication and deceit, it is difficult to defend oneself. But the Gorean Assassin, he of the Black Caste, is not a naive, twisted, deluded, managed beast serving the purposes of others, but a professional killer. He wishes to kill and vanish, to live, to kill again. Otherwise he is no more than a clumsy oaf, a failure, having accomplished no more than might have a desperate, simple, misguided fool. If he himself dies, he has botched his work, he has failed, he has shamed his caste.
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Page 432


One or more, I had gathered, were spies, and one was possibly of the dark caste, the Assassins.
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Page 475


The two Pani who had just entered the forest returned. One carried a crossbow.

"The assassin's weapon," said Lord Nishida.

"A weapon commonly employed by assassins," I granted him.

"We could not find the arm," said one of the Pani, he without the crossbow. "It was a sleen attack," said the other. "The beast must have carried it away, into the trees, to feed."

"We caught the scent of a sleen in the vicinity earlier," said a mercenary, one of the guards.

"Apparently the bowman did not," said a fellow.

"Nor would he," I said.

"Double the guard," said Lord Nishida.

"Behold," said one of the Pani, indicating with the shaft of his long glaive the figure brought recently to the road. "This man is dead."

"He bled to death," said a mercenary.

"Unfortunate," said Lord Nishida. "We might have learned much from him."

A man drew the wadded, blood-soaked cloth from the inert body.

"Well, Tarl Cabot, tarnsman," said Lord Nishida, "we have solved one of our problems."

"How is that?" I asked.

"We have discovered our assassin," said Lord Nishida. "This man, whose head is still muchly in his helmet, is Lykourgos, and this other, he with the crossbow, is Quintus, so one or the other, perhaps both, are of the Assassins."

"Both may have attempted the work of the assassin," I said, "but neither, I fear, are of the Assassins."

"How so?" asked Lord Nishida, interested.

"This man," I said, indicating he who had been caught beneath the chin by the edged buckler, "rushed clumsily from the darkness. He lacked the skill one would expect from a professional at dark work, and the other, he with the crossbow, did not risk a miss, preferring to leave the strike to the knife of his confederate, he himself then serving muchly as support, either for a second strike, or, more likely, to disconcert any who might too quickly approach, to cover the retreat of his companion. The professional assassin, I would suppose, would have trusted to his own quarrel, and not waited. Too, the professional assassin will usually choose to work alone, depending on himself, no others."
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Pages 484 - 485


Neither of the newcomers spoke, for their kind is efficient. They do quietly, and swiftly, what they have come to do. In such situations speaking is unnecessary, and sometimes dangerous, as it costs time. A moment of indulgence, of clever vanity, can cost one one's life. There are caste codes pertaining to such matters.
This was not a typical hunt, I gathered, in which the tunic is worn openly, the sign emblazoned publicly upon the brow, the prey helpless, cornered, as vulnerable as a vulo.
The cloaks parted and two crossbows, together, the quarrels set, were smoothly, swiftly raised.
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Page 4


"Did you see?" asked the taverner's man. "They wore the dagger."
"Yes," said a fellow.
That had been obvious only when the hoods had been disarranged in the stranger's attack. When hunting, it is common for members of the black caste, the Caste of Assassins, to paint a black dagger on their forehead.
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Page 5


"Who are you," asked a man, "that those of the black caste would come secretly, silently, upon you?"
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Page 5


They are of the scarlet caste. Such men, at the least, like the Assassins, are likely to kill quickly, and cleanly.
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Page 102


He slipped the sheath from his left shoulder, and, grasping it, drew his blade, easily, casually. It made no sound, as the sheath was lined. This is not uncommon with the sheath of an Assassin's weapon, this permitting the weapon's noiseless departure.
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Page 103


"A challenge has been issued," said Seremides. "I do not accept its rejection. That is my right."
"An Assassin's right," I said.
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Page 108


"You think he is a spy, or an Assassin?" I said.
"Quite possibly," said Cabot.
"Why?" I asked.
"Perhaps I think he would look well in black," said Cabot.
I did not respond.
"I examined his quarters," said Cabot. "I discovered a small brush, and a tiny vial of black paint."
"To paint the dagger," I said.
"It would seem so," he said.
"Then," said I, "he is of the Assassins."
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Page 204


Initiates,
. . .
Assassins sought their blessing.
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Page 30


"My men," said the captain, "went to the Court of Assassins in Brundisium. Two had been hired, but they did not report back."
"Nor will they," said the stranger.
"That is known to me," said the captain. "Their bodies were washed ashore."
"You are in danger," I said to the stranger. "The Assassins will come to avenge their own."
"No," said the captain, "at least not those of the Court of Brundisium, unless more coin is put forth. Vendetta is not their way. Their fellows took fee and failed to earn it. They are not to be avenged. They failed. They are disgraced. They are no longer of the Court."
"Cineas," said the stranger, "may not even know they failed."
"He must know," I said.
"In any event," said the captain, "my men, amongst whom is Tatsu, perhaps known to Callias, for he was on the great ship, arranged certain matters with the Court of Assassins."
"I know him," said the stranger.
"What matters?" I asked the captain.
"Two of the black caste were hired to seek out Cineas, and slay him," said the captain. "I do not think they have yet found him."
"What was the fee?" asked the stranger.
"A silver tarsk, each," said the captain.
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Pages 501 - 502


"Assassins now seek Cineas?" said the stranger.
"The dagger has been painted," said the captain. "Inquiries are being made."
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Pages 502 - 503


"When one learns that," said the stranger, "that one is sought, by the black caste, it is often too late."
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Page503


The two fellows in shabby garments had now approached, the talmits no longer bound about their foreheads. I saw on each forehead the simple mark, the sign of the black dagger. One of them rolled the body over, and then looked to the stranger.

"You have killed him," said the man, straightening up.

The stranger shrugged.

"Therefore," said the man, "the killing is yours."

Each of the men then, from their purse, removed a silver tarsk, and placed it in the hand of the stranger.

"I want no money for his blood," said the stranger. "I would rather he had found the gate, and fled the city."

"Still," said one of the fellows, "the killing is yours."

"Consider it yours," said the stranger, "as you hurried him onto my sword."

The two members of the Black Court of Brundisium regarded one another.

"Suppose," said the stranger, "one in fear of you, dreading discovery each day, unwilling to accept such misery longer, or to frustrate you, put himself upon his own sword, or, in fleeing, drowned, or fell from some cliff, would the killing not be yours?"

"It would," said one of the fellows, "and the fee might be kept."

"Keep it then," said the stranger, and returned the two coins, first one, and then the other.

Each returned the coin to his own purse, and then wiped from his forehead the dagger.

More than one man breathed then more easily, for those of the Black Court no longer wore the dagger.
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Pages 508 - 509


"If there is a concern here," said a man, "it is to be taken up as a matter between you and the Black Court."
I saw that this did not much please Demetrion. The business of the Black Court was not one in which men lightly dabbled. In many cases one was not even sure who was, and who was not, a member of the black caste. I recalled, from the tale of the stranger, that some evidence had suggested that Tyrtaios, who may have had much to do with the attempted desertion, and who had disappeared from the castle of Lord Temmu, might be of the Assassins.
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Pages 510 - 511


Assassins are not blinded by dreams. They do not draw their weapons irresponsibly, in righteousness, in drunkenness, in rage. They consider matters, bide their time, and, when ready, paint the dagger. They do not kill for ideals, or dreams. They kill for coin.
Smugglers of Gor     Book 32     Page 105

"Perhaps," he said, regarding me narrowly, "you are an assassin, seeking your flighted quarry."
"I am not of the dark caste," I said.
Smugglers of Gor     Book 32     Page 141


I leaped back, and the large body fell at our feet. The blow had been unhesitant, efficient, unwavering, swift, clean, firm, deep to the hilt, exact, powerful, a blow worthy of the dark caste itself.
Smugglers of Gor     Book 32     Page 221


"Would that I could have witnessed that," he said. "To see terror on the countenance of one's prey is an exquisite pleasure."
"A pleasure, perhaps," I said, "familiar to those of the dark caste, when the victim first sees the dagger painted on the hunter's brow."
Smugglers of Gor     Book 32     Page 238


"Let him go," said Tyrtaios. "The larls will find him. You could not improve upon their work."
"But it would be their work, not mine," I said.
"Ah," said Tyrtaios. "You are of the dark caste."
"No," I said.
Smugglers of Gor     Book 32     Page 239


"You are perhaps an Assassin," I said.
"No," he said. "Are you?"
"No," I said.
"Several in the camp," he said, "think you are of the dark caste."
Smugglers of Gor     Book 32     Page 259


No one was near the fire.
This bespoke wisdom, whether of an enemy or friend. Let others be illuminated in that tiny light if they were so unwary. Darkness is the friend of assassins, of arrows springing from the night, and it may form the shield and shelter of the fugitive who might, upon the arrival of unwelcome intruders, slip away unseen.
Rebels of Gor     Book 33     Page 33


When summoned by Lord Temmu, several days ago I had arrived at his holding on tarnback. I did not know what had become of that tarn. I had little doubt that Tyrtaios, into whose hands I had been given, to be later delivered to Lord Yamada, was familiar with the reins and saddle of a tarn. If he were of the black caste, as I suspected, that would almost be taken for granted.
The Assassin is expected to move with silence, stealth, and swiftness, and depart similarly.
Rebels of Gor     Book 33     Page 164


"On the continent," I said, "there is the Caste of Assassins."
"Interesting," said the shogun.
"They do not conceal their faces," I said.
"But perhaps they conceal their caste," said the shogun.
"Sometimes," I said.
Rebels of Gor     Book 33     Page 262


I feared he would be an unlikely match for the dangerously skilled Tyrtaios, who, I was confident, was of the black caste, trained in tenacity and guile. The entitlements appertaining to the black dagger are not bestowed lightly.
One earns one's position in the black ranks by slaying one's competitors.
Rebels of Gor     Book 33     Page 278


I recalled how dismayed I had been when, en route to the palace road, to free Haruki and his fellows, if possible, I had seen the two tarns streaking northward, and one mounted doubtless by dangerous and pertinacious Tyrtaios, who, I feared, possessed the subtlety, training, and weaponry of the darkest of castes. I knew the black dagger was not easily attained; it is won in but one way, the ascent, as it is said, of the nine steps of blood. In many cities the caste is outlawed, but there are those, in such cities or elsewhere, who will pay for its services.
Rebels of Gor     Book 33     Page 295


"Take my sword," said Pertinax. "in your hands it is an efficient tool of death."
"And in yours," I said. "Give me, rather, your knife."
Pertinax handed me the knife hilt first.
"Is the knife not a more likely weapon for an assassin?" I said. "Consider how easily it is concealed and how, well flung, it greets its target."
Rebels of Gor     Book 33     Page 392


"How four men slain?" asked a man.
"He of the dark caste was displeased, muchly so," said the first man.
"His quarry eluded him?" said a fellow.
"Apparently," said the first man.
"Why four slain?" asked a fellow, apprehensively.
"He of the dark caste made inquiries," said the first man. "They proved fruitless. None knew the whereabouts of the quarry."
"And so four were slain?" said a man.
"He of the dark caste was displeased," said the first man.
"So four men were slain," said one of the men.
"Each with a thrust to the heart," said the first man.
"Where is he of the dark caste?" asked a fellow, his voice shaking.
"He is gone," said the first man. "We do not know where."
"He of the dark caste simply withdrew?" said a man.
"Yes," said the first man.
"Undetained?" said a man.
"One does not interfere with one of the dark caste, when he is hunting," said the first man.
"Guardsmen?" inquired one of the men.
"Nor they," said the first man.
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Pages 132 - 133


I had seen this man before, this large-handed, lean, hard man, on the wharf at Victoria, from my cage, he passing by, feral, wary and taciturn, men withdrawing from his path. He had inquired of my dealer the location of the tavern of Tasdron. To be sure, he was now dressed differently, rather nondescriptively, in a tan, pocketed work tunic. He wore, as well, a wide, double-buckled belt, from which a dagger, in its sheath, was suspended, and ankle-high, cord-laced street sandals. About his throat was a laborer's brown sweat scarf, which might be raised about the face, to protect one from dust, or conceal the features. When I had seen him before, that morning in Victoria, he had been clad differently, more somberly, in a sable tunic, a cape, high, black, bootlike sandals. He had been armed, a short sword in its scabbard slung from the left shoulder, rather than across the body. In his left arm, cradled, had been a black helmet. In his appearance there had been a particular oddity that I recalled well. I took it to be a caste mark, or festive design. In black, painted or inked in place, small and delicate, on his forehead, was the image of an unsheathed dagger, Certainly now there was no sign of such a design or device on his forehead.
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Pages 220 - 221


On the journey itself, my master wore nondescript garments, suggestive of no caste in particular.
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Page 222


I wore a black tunic, and a black collar.
Two slaves, similarly clad and collared, but free of impediments, both exquisite, were serving the tables.
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Page 228


Some dozen or so men, in black dinner robes, were reclining on the supper couches; some attending to the circle of sand, others differently occupied, chatting, sipping ka-la-na, sampling assorted viands proffered by the serving slaves. The men at the tables, those attentive, those bemused, those bored, those testing and savoring beverages and dishes, wore dark chaplets upon their brow, these woven from somber dark leaves, muchly different from the tangles of aromatic blossoms worn by many Goreans at festive suppers. There was little of brightness or color in this place. It was muchly different from the bold and striking colors that, in bold display, characterize so many Gorean rooms, halls, and domiciles.
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Page 228


"Light the torches, the lamps," said a fellow from a table across the sand. He wore the somber robes and dark chaplet of the others but seemed more dour, more formidable, more terrible, surely in a way the others did not. I had seen him enter the room, and the others, including my master, Tyrraios, had stood, acknowledging his presence, and did not resume their positions until he had taken his place on his couch, a higher couch than the others. I gathered his presence was not usual in this place, but that he was a guest of sorts, perhaps a visitor to these precincts. In entering, he had passed closely to me, so closely that his somber robe had touched me, and I had drawn back, chilled. He stopped, stood near me, and looked down at me. I looked away, quickly, putting my head down. His skin seemed unusual, grayish, his eyes were as unexpressive as glass, He was a large man, and moved easily. The head, a large head, had moved a little, gently swaying, as he had entered, scanning the room. It reminded me, oddly, of the movement of another form of life, the movement of the head of a snake.

Before he had taken his position, one of the men had said, "We are honored that you appear in our court."

"We are honored," had then said the others, including my master. Shortly after that the two men with daggers had entered the circle of sand. Both had bowed to the strange figure, and then withdrawn to opposite sides of the circle of sand.

Slaves, the two who were serving the supper, and some others, similarly lovely similarly long-haired, similarly clad and collared, hastened to kindle torches and lamps, and, shortly, the room was well lit.

The body of one of the two men who had trod the now-reddened sand was dragged away.

The other approached the high couch and knelt before it, head down.

"Bring him a robe, a supper robe, and a chaplet," said he on the high couch.

Slaves soon adorned the man.

"Come, join me on the high couch," invited he on the high couch.

This invitation was greeted with a murmur of surprise by several of those assembled. I gathered that this sort of recognition was unusual in this place.

The fellow from the sand, startled, awed, and elated, had soon ascended the high couch, to join the dark figure reclining there, as though enthroned.

"Give me the dagger," said the imposing figure on the high couch.

The dagger was instantly surrendered to him.

He of the high couch then reached to the head of the fellow and, by the hair, pulled him to the knife, which was thrust through the supper robe, to the heart.

"You were clumsy," said he of the high couch.

The eyes of the fellow were wide, and then empty and he expired without a sound, and was thrust from the supper table to the sand. I saw the blood, the staining of the rent garment, the dark chaplet fallen to the sand. The body was removed.

"Master," I whispered, in horror, to Tyrraios.

"The kill is to be clean," said Tyrraios. "We are not butchers."

"I had thought he would have reached the fourth step," said a man.

"No," said another.

"Master," I said.

"Yes," he said.

"This place," I said, "is the Black Court of Brundisium."

"Yes," he said.

"But what," I asked, "is the Black Court of Brundisium?"

"You are, indeed, a naive barbarian," he said.

"Please, Master," I said.

"It is little different from other black courts," he said.

"Master," I begged, looking up, the chain on my neck.

"This is a chapter house," he said, "of the black caste, the caste of Assassins."
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Pages 229 - 231


It may be useful to speak briefly of the nature of a black court.

As you have doubtless surmised, there is, and remains, much on this unusual, perilous, lovely world of which I am unaware, or, at least, too little informed.

A black court, I gather, is named for the color of the caste of Assassins, which is black. The caste is sometimes spoken of, when men dare to speak of it, as the black caste, or the sable caste. In many Gorean cities it is unwelcome, even outlawed. For example, it is outlawed in Ar and in Market of Semris. Its outlawry in Ar, I gather, followed an unsuccessful attempt by an army led by Pa-Kur, a high Assassin, to seize that great city, the largest, richest, and most populous in Gor's northern hemisphere. The city it seems, was in disarray, and its Ubar challenged, following the temporary loss of its Home Stone, purloined by an unidentified tarnsman during the revels of the Planting Feast. Supposedly instrumental in the defeat of Pa-Kur and the restoration of the Ubar of the city to power was a figure known in the songs as Tarl of Bristol, which figure, as many such figures recounted in such songs, is presumably legendary. The hostile army, in some of the scrolls, is spoken of as the Horde of Pa-Kur, which disparaging epithet occurs in common parlance, doubtless reflecting the truism that history is likely to reflect the views of the victors. The outlawry of the caste of Assassins in Market of Semris may have been an independent act, or may have followed the example of Ar. In any event, it seems that "black courts" exist in a number of cities, though surely not all, either openly, as in Brundisium, or, one supposes, sometimes, where outlawed, secretly.

The existence of a "black caste," on a world such as Gor, is not as surprising, inexplicable, or unconscionable, as it might seem. Indeed, it is highly likely that, long ago, in the beginning, the caste was formed to supply a need, or perform a role within society that was perceived as being not only fully justified, but desirable. On Gor there are no, or few, "nations" in the sense that one of my former world would be likely to think of as nations. Similarly there is no international law. Law for most practical purposes, reaches no further than the swords of a given polity. The common Gorean polity is the town, village, or city, and whatever territory about the polity to which it can extend its hegemony. In this sense, polities may appear on maps but not borders. The territory controlled by a polity is likely, historically, to wax and wane with the fortunes of the polity. The nearest things to nations would seem to be the large island Ubarates, such as Tyros and Cos, where the sea forms natural barriers, or borders, so to speak, but even there power seems centered in particular cities, such as Kasra and Jad. A saying I have heard seems germane here, "the laws of Cos march with the spears of Cos." Two further aspects of the Gorean way might also be considered, first, the suspicion and hostility obtaining amongst diverse polities, which militates against cooperation and assistance, and the limits of Gorean law, even within a polity as Goreans tend to be radically independent and likely to resent the intrusion of others, even a polity, into what are regarded as their own concerns or affairs. For example, vendettas occasionally take place amongst families, in which the polity and others, respecting the wishes of the participants, decline to intervene.

Given such considerations, and the consequent difficulty, frequently recognized, of obtaining justice, satisfaction, or vengeance, as the case may be, one can well understand the existence of an order of men, itinerant, independent, dedicated, armed, and skilled, for hire. Such men may, for example, pursue a fugitive from city to city with impunity regardless of caste, warfare, and Home Stone. Few will interfere with the hunting Assassin, sable-clad, dagger on brow, passing amongst them, going quietly about his work. Similarly, few would challenge the wind, or the dark sky from which lighting might strike.

Some Assassins are particular in accepting their commissions, but, clearly, others are not. One might accept a handful of copper tarsks to do justice, at least as he understands it, whereas another, for a purse of gold, might kill an administrator, murder a business rival, or eliminate a competitive legatee. Some rich men pay local black courts not to accept commissions against them.

There seems little doubt that over the years the black courts became less scrupulous in the commissions they accepted. The original image of the elite mercenary, hired to do good and carry right into otherwise inaccessible precincts, supplying a needed service not otherwise available, became transformed into that of the contemporary black caste, an order of skilled, dangerous men particular about little else but their fees.

It might be noted, in passing, that the black caste is jealous of what it regards as its prerogatives. It will seek out and kill other hired killers. It does not favor competition, and wishes to maintain, in effect, its monopoly in that area. It might also be noted, again in passing, that the black caste, as a matter of policy, does not concern itself with members who might be slain while about their work. There is no notion of vengeance or seeking retribution involved. It might be regretted that a fee is lost, but nothing else. One who is slain in his work is regarded as having failed, and, in virtue of this, is denied any further consideration. It will, on the other hand, hunt an individual who might, in its view, have gratuitously slain one of its members.

In my time in the black court I occasionally witnessed the admission of clients who sought the services of the "dark sword." Other clients, by means of messengers, may request a discreet interview with a representative of the caste, in which fees might be negotiated and arrangements made. As is understandable, certain individuals would not wish to be noticed entering the precincts of the court. Slaves were not privy to such interviews, either within or outside the court.

As I suppose is clear, the caste of Assassins is not a typical caste. For example, there were no free women in the black court. Companionship is forbidden to members of the caste. Membership, as with the Warriors, with which caste the Assassins are often compared, is not earned by birth, but by deeds. In the case of the dark caste, however, there is no devotion to the codes of honor, which might spare a disabled foe, which might temper victory, say, with the recognition of opposed valor, no generous companionship of the blade, no brothers in arms. Friendship is frowned upon. Emotion is eschewed. Such things are alleged to weaken the will, to soften resolve, to stay the hand the fraction of an Ihn that might compromise the strike. The Assassin is to be much alone. Like the forest panther, he is commonly a solitary hunter. He is to have no associations, connections, interests, or entanglements that might distract, compromise, or impair his capacity to discharge the requirements of his office, the fulfillment of his commission. His life belongs to the caste. His allegiance is to be undivided. He is to devote himself to his skills, and to his tools, the dagger, the quarrel, the wire noose, the dart, the brewing of poisons, to deception, patience, disguise, and ruthlessness. One applies, one trains, one strives, and one is either accepted or rejected, and the rejected have commonly perished in trials of arms.

The black caste is generally feared, and loathed.

Who then would seek admission to such a despised caste?

Perhaps the feared, and loathed.

But, too, in some, is there not an attraction to dark power, and the gratification of inspiring apprehension?

But admission is not easily purchased. Few are permitted to compete, and of those who are permitted to compete, few live to don the sable tunic. It is not easy to climb the nine steps of blood.

There is no place in the caste, incidentally, for the inept and dull, for thugs, vandals, and bullies, for the naively, simplistically brutal, for the petty, or the merely cruel and greedy, for the refuse of a city's gutters, for those regarded as the unworthy. Few survive to carry the "dark sword."

Doubtless there are reasons why one, perhaps despairing and ruined, might seek entrance into dreaded precincts.

Amongst applicants might be found the dishonored and failed, the disappointed and abandoned, the despised and hated, the hopeless and resigned, the mocked and ridiculed, ones who have fled from Home Stones, who have repudiated codes, perhaps fugitives who seek a sanctuary behind dark walls, possibly seekers of thrills, possibly mercenaries intent on bartering steel for gold, without compunction, perhaps those seeking approval for their pathological instincts that, suitably exercised, will be condoned, even celebrated.

It is hard to say.

Much in the black court is secret. If they have codes, I do not know what they would be, saving perhaps a relentless fidelity to a commission. For example, slaves were not permitted to witness training, not that I would have cared to do so, certainly following the killing I had seen at the banquet, nor attend instructions, even while serving, addressed to the candidates. I have seen the plates of weapons and devices borne to the training chambers, the daggers, the balanced throwing knives, the easily concealed hook knife, the swords, the darts, the loops of wire, the chain garrotes, and, in particular, the crossbow and quarrel, the favored striking weapon of the caste, which may be easily concealed beneath a cloak, and in whose guide a quarrel may wait for Ahn, like the ost, before it strikes.

I was some days in the black court.

My master, for I was not owned by the court, frequently occupied himself in the city, I think in the vicinity of the wharves, presumably waiting for, or searching for, the mysterious shipment that was supposed to arrive at Brundisium, claimedly deriving from a "steel world." I had no idea what might be the contents of this shipment, or its importance, or what it might have to do with me, or with my first master, Kurik, of Victoria.

In the meantime I was kept busy in the court, cleaning, scrubbing, laundering, assisting in the kitchen, and serving at the common meals. The first girl was stern, but fair. She played no favorites. That I was a barbarian did not adversely affect my treatment, as it might easily have done in many situations. I was grateful to her. The slaves are at the disposal of the men, as one would expect, but I, as a private slave, a status envied by my collar-sisters, was reserved to my master. On the other hand, he made little use of me, apparently busying himself in various disguises, conducting inquiries in the city, attempting to garner useful gossip, or intelligence, at various taverns, and so on. Accordingly, most nights I lay in my kennel, untouched, and, I confess, as a slave, deprived, and miserable. We need the touch of our masters. Men have made us so. We are no longer ours, but theirs.

I will recount an anecdote, or two, which, in their way, might shed some light on the nature of a black court. First, let it be understood that the edifice that houses the black court is not large, but it does have a formidable, menacing aspect. It is like a small fortress in the city with high, dark walls, with a moat, a drawbridge, and a portcullis, a heavy, vertically barred, reinforced gate that may be raised or lowered by means of a windlass. The court's position is isolated, in a sense, as, even within the city, it occupies an area of unplanted ground on all sides. This area is several yards in width, and, as it is open, it affords no cover to any who might approach the court, and its moat.

"You two," said the first girl, "go to the salt market, at the east gate, to the vendor, Porus, and return with a stone of salt."

"As we are, in the black collar?" asked the other girl.

"I will have it so," said the first girl. "Here is the sack. When it is filled, have its contents weighed carefully."

"Porus switched you, yesterday, did he not?" asked the other girl, amused.

"Perhaps," said the first girl.

"Come along," said the other girl.

I had no idea, of course, of the best route to the east gate.

"Why am I coming along?" I asked her.

"Someone must carry the salt," she said.

"Why not you?" I asked.

"I am not a barbarian," she said.

"I see," I said.

This was the first time, since my arrival at the black court, that I had been allowed outside the court.

I did not think of escape, of course, as I was collared. Tunicked, collared, and marked, there is no escape for the Gorean slave girl. The best she might hope for would be to fall into the hands of a new master, who would know she has fled a former master. How heavy then would be her chains, how cruel the stroke of the lash! Too, the recovered slave girl risks at least a severe beating, but perhaps, as well, a hamstringing, or being disposed of, perhaps being fed to sleen, or being cast, naked and bound, amongst writhing, ravenous leech plants. But I did not even wish to escape, for I had found myself on this perilous, beautiful world. I had learned something on Gor, of which I had been unaware, or, better, not completely or fully aware, on my former world, that I belonged in a slave collar. How thrilled I was to be so reduced, so shamed, so owned! I dare not speak for other women, being a mere slave, but, for me, it was right. I wanted the collar, and belonged in it, and was in it. I loved that it was on my neck, closed and locked. It was there. I could not remove it. I did not wish to remove it. I was a slave.

Let other women scorn me, if they wish.

I loved being a slave.

How glorious to be a property, helpless, and owned by men!

How free I was!

I was a slave.

"Have you money?" I asked.

I had not seen the first girl hand her any money. Too, as far as I could tell, she had no coin, or coins, in her mouth, nor clutched in her hand.

"No," she said.

"I do not understand," I said.

"Do not concern yourself," she said.

We continued on for a time. I held the empty sack, four times folded. We turned onto a large street.

"Beware," I whispered, "a free woman approaches." She walked regally, and carried a switch.

"Keep your eyes down," my companion whispered. "Do not make eye contact. You do not see her. She does not see you."

"Let us go to the side of the street, and kneel, head down," I said. I had no wish to feel a switch.

"Now look up," she said, a moment later merrily.

I did so.

"She is gone," I said, looking about. "The free woman is gone."

"Not really," said my companion. "She merely went to the other side of the street."

"Why?" I asked.

"We wear the black tunic, the black collar," she laughed.

As we continued on our way, even men tended to avoid us. We did receive, as some passed us by, closely, dark looks, and we noted sneers of contempt, but no one seemed interested in interacting with us, neither free men nor free women.

"The men do not seem to regard us with appetition, frankly and appraisingly," I said, puzzled. Certainly this was muchly different from my former experiences on open streets, as in Ar, and was muchly different from the common experiences of slave girls on open streets. One of the pleasures of being a Gorean male, I had gathered, was the inspective perusal of frequently encountered kajirae, in markets, in the plazas, on the boulevards and in lesser thoroughfares, kajirae running errands, chained to public slave rings, conveniently located, awaiting the return of masters, and so on. Do not such slaves dress up a city? Indeed, when visiting dignitaries are about, citizens are encouraged to set their girls, attractively tunicked, wandering about the city that a suitable impression may be conveyed to the visitors. Surely these lovely slaves contribute, like parks and well-designed, colorful buildings, to the beauty of a city indeed, the number and quality of slave girls is taken as evidence of a city's taste, success, power, wealth, and prowess in warfare. Some of the girls so displayed may even have been obtained from the dignitary's
own city. But that matters not, for, once collared, a slave is a slave.

"No," said my companion. "They are uneasy with the black court, and many fear it."

"I do not like being ignored," I said.

"Vain slave," she said.

What slave is not pleased to be the object of interest and regard, to know that she is looked upon and desired, that she stirs and heats the blood of men, that they would like to have her at their slave ring?

"Surely we are not sent forth commonly as we are now," I said.

"Not at all," she said, turning left.

I recalled there was nothing on my collar, but that it would be recognized, for its black enamel, and that I would be returned to the court. I would be left, helplessly bound, by the court, presumably at the edge of the moat, before the then-raised drawbridge. Apparently no reward would be expected, or proffered. On the other hand, court slaves, when sent forth from the court, were commonly tunicked nondescriptly and opaquely, and put in a collar that did bear a legend. That legend, I was informed, would return me to an address unlikely to be recognized as having anything to do with the black court, from which address I would then be, in due time, returned to the court.

"Why now?" I asked.

"Our first girl," she said, "was not pleased to have been switched by Porus, the salt merchant."

"We are seldom pleased to be switched," I said.

"He is not even a desirable master," she said.

"Oh," I said.

"It is not far," she said.

The salt in the local markets is obtained from the sea. Large pans are set forth with a thin film of sea water, which, as it evaporates, leaves the salt behind, which is then scraped together, and sent to the markets of the city.

"We are here," she said.

The fellow looked up, quickly, shrewdly, from amongst the kegs of salt, amidst which he sat, and turned white.

"Tal, noble Master," said my companion, kneeling. "We would like a stone of salt."

I knelt, too.

"That is four tarsk-bits," he said, cautiously.

"It is to be weighed out, carefully," said my companion.

"Four tarsk-bits," he said.

"Give the noble master the sack, that he may weigh out the salt," said my companion.

I made to hand the sack to the fellow who was, I gathered, Porus, but he thrust it away.

"Four tarsk-bits," he said.

My companion then rose and I, decidedly uneasy, for we had not been given permission to rise, rose to my feet, as well. I knew nothing else to do.

"Come, Phyllis," she said. "There is nothing for us to do now but return to the court, and inform the masters that Porus, the salt merchant, he who deals near the east gate, declined to weigh salt for us."

She then backed away, a step or two, as did I, and turned to leave.

We had scarcely gone three steps when Porus called out to us, "Wait, sweet kajirae," he said, "I did but jest."

Shortly thereafter we left his impromptu place of business, amongst the kegs, I bearing a bulging bag of salt, one which, we noted, bore well over a stone's weight of the sparkling mineral, sometimes called the diamond of the sea.

"The first girl will be pleased," said my companion. "Her switching cost him four tarsk-bits."

"She was not recognized as being of the court," I said.

"Of course not," she said. "Even free women are unlikely to strike a girl in the black tunic."

"Surely," I said, "those of the black caste, as others, purchase goods."

"Commonly," she said, "but when they are in the dark habiliments, it is not unknown for merchants, and others, unrequested, to force goods upon them, as gifts."
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Pages 232 - 240


Tomorrow then my guise will be that of a blind beggar, depending on his guide slave.
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Page 248


"Beware!" I said. "My master is not blind. The bandage he wore is a hoax! His sight is as keen as that of the tarn! He is as dangerous as the larl in rutting time. He hunts you. He is of the black caste!"

"I thought," said he, "the black caste might be involved. They prove to be excellent agents, well worth their pay."
. . .

"He seeks you," I said. "He intends you harm, death. Do not loiter here! Run! He is of the dark caste! You are hunted! Neither dismiss nor ignore this threat! You are not dealing with an ordinary man! He is of the dark caste! He is one who has ascended the nine steps of blood."
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Pages 258 - 259


Black wine is expensive.
The plants from which its seeds are obtained apparently grow favorably, perhaps even most favorably, on the slopes of the Thentis Mountains, an area under the jurisdiction of the mountain city of Thentis. The trade in black wine is closely controlled by the so-called "vintners" of Thentis. For example, it is forbidden to take viable black-wine seeds or plants from the vicinity of Thentis. And, as one would suppose, the sale of the roasted seeds from which the black wine is brewed is carefully supervised and regulated. Doubtless some smuggling occurs. Where such plants are found, illegitimately planted, at least from the point of view of the Thentis "vintners," they are uprooted and destroyed. Similarly, smugglers, if apprehended, are often dealt with harshly, by impalement, or servitude in the mines, quarries, or galleys. This policing is commonly done by representatives of the "vintners" of Thentis, but it is sometimes hired out to the caste of Assassins, which constitutes the nearest thing to an international police force on Gor, a force subject neither to the constraints of walls, borders, or Home Stones.
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Page 404


"It was no Taurentian," said Kurik. "It was an Assassin, a member of the Black Caste, in the uniform of a Taurentian, Tyrtaios, by name."
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Page 473


On his right was Drusus Andronicus, long-armed, handsome, and stalwart, in suitable scarlet, betokening his caste, who stood high in the house, and, on his left, clad openly, brazenly, unapologetically, in the hues of the night, was Tyrtaios, of the caste whose members acknowledge no Home Stone, the caste of Assassins.
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Page 545


"It would not matter much if you were an excellent swordsman, or not," said Tyrtaios. "It might take a moment longer, another parry, another thrust. My skills reach beyond excellent. I fear only two swords on Gor, that of the High Master of the Caste of Assassins, and that of an obscure warrior who, long ago, on the roof of the Central Cylinder of Ar, bested him."

"Then only one," said Kurik, "for the High Master, bested, defeated, must have been slain."

"No," said Tyrtaios. "He escaped."
Plunder of Gor     Book 34     Page 551


"I trust those of the sable caste do not betray their fees," said the thing.

"Did we do so," said the man, "fees would not be forthcoming."
Quarry of Gor     Book 35     Page 293


"On this world," said the man in the bow of the boat, "there is a quaint social artifact, taken seriously by some. Perhaps that is involved. It is called honor."

"Interesting," said the beast. "I trust you are not inhibited by such a pointless, mundane trammel."

"It is overcome in the third of the Nine Steps of Blood," said the man in the boat. "One betrays a comrade."

"I see," said the beast.

"It is done but once," said the man. "Else the sable caste could not prosper. To do it a second time means death."

"Then you, too, have an honor," said the beast.

"Of a sort, to the caste," said the man.

"A narrower, darker honor?" said the beast.

"If you like," said the man.
Quarry of Gor     Book 35     Pages 294 - 295


"Do not, mighty being, trust those of the sable caste," said Bruno of Torcadino. "They are treacherous, exploitative, and greedy for gold. They are thieves and killers, loathed and despised even at the World's End. They proffer empty promises and drain your resources. There is no search for men, no seeking of ships, no gathering of tools of war."
Quarry of Gor     Book 35     Page 298


"Noble leader, great Pa-Kur, confederate of beasts, Lord of the Black Caste," said Addison Steele, "the slave will be of little use, as she cannot speak."
Quarry of Gor     Book 35     Page 302


"You are unlikely to know me, kajira," said he at whose feet I knelt. "Do not be concerned. Many do not know me. Many have not even heard of me, save for brief, whispered words, spoken in private. I am Pa-Kur, of the Black Caste, the Caste of Assassins, Master of a hundred Black Courts. The Black Caste is the noblest and most essential of castes. It eschews borders and repudiates Home Stones. It knows no city as its own, and thus claims all cities. Without it, how could justice be done and wrongs righted Where law fails and judges err, what but the blade and quarrel can speak? Let insult be answered and slander avenged. The verdict of steel is sufficient and conclusive."

I knew too little of Gor to understand this. I had heard of the sable caste, of the black caste, but, until this night, I had never knowingly met a representative of the caste. Do they not mingle amongst men unnoted, until the hunt is nearly concluded, until the black dagger is placed on the forehead? Certainly he who called himself Pa-Kur spoke highly of the caste. Why then, if its aim was so exalted and its ideals so high, was it so dreaded, feared, and shunned?
Quarry of Gor     Book 35     Pages 303 - 304

































The Quarry of Gor

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