Caste of Physicians
Here are relevant references from the Books where the Caste of Physicians is mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
I was also instructed in the Double Knowledge - that is, I was instructed in what the people, on the whole, believed, and then I was instructed in what the intellectuals were expected to know. Sometimes there was a surprising discrepancy between the two. For example, the population as a whole, the castes below the High Castes, were encouraged to believe that their world was a broad, flat disk. Perhaps this was to discourage them from exploration or to develop in them a habit of relying on commonsense prejudices something of a social control device.
On the other hand, the High Castes, specifically the Warriors, Builders, Scribes, Initiates, and Physicians, were told the truth in such matters, perhaps because it was thought they would eventually determine it for themselves, from observations such as the shadow of their planet on one or another of Gor's three small moons during eclipses, the phenomenon of sighting the tops of distant objects first, and the fact that certain stars could not be seen from certain geographical positions; if the planet had been flat, precisely the same set of stars would have been observable from every position on its surface.
The Chamber of the Council is the room in which the elected representatives of the High Castes of Ko-ro-ba hold their meetings. Each city has such a chamber. It was in the widest of cylinders, and the ceiling was at least six times the height of the normal living level. The ceiling was lit as if by stars, and the walls were of five colors, applied laterally, beginning from the bottom - white, blue, yellow, green, and red, caste colors. Benches of stone, on which the members of the Council sat, rose in five monumental tiers about the walls, one tier for each of the High Castes. These tiers shared the color of that portion of the wall behind them, the caste colors.
The tier nearest the floor, which denoted some preferential status, the white tier, was occupied by Initiates, Interpreters of the Will of the Priest-Kings. In order, the ascending tiers, blue, yellow, green, and red, were occupied by representatives of the Scribes, Builders, Physicians, and Warriors.
Torm, I observed, was not seated in the tier of Scribes, I smiled to myself. "I am," Torm had said, "too practical to involve myself in the frivolities of government," I supposed the city might be under siege and Torm would fall to notice.
I was pleased to note that my own caste, that of the Warriors, was accorded the least status; if I had had my will, the warriors would not have been a High Caste. On the other hand, I objected to the Initiates being in the place of honor, as it seemed to me that they, even more than the Warriors, were nonproductive members of society. For the Warriors, at least, one could say that they afforded protection to the city, but for the Initiates one could say very little, perhaps only that they provided some comfort for ills and plagues largely of their own manufacture.
Four times a year, correlated with the solstices and equinoxes, there are fairs held in the plains below the mountains, presided over by committees of Initiates, fairs in which men of many cities mingle without bloodshed, times of truce, times of contests and games, of bargaining and marketing.
Torm, my friend of the Caste of Scribes, had been to such fairs to trade scrolls with scholars from other cities, men he would never have seen were it not for the fairs, men of hostile cities who yet loved ideas more than they hated their enemies, men like Torm who so loved learning that they would risk the perilous journey to the Sardar Mountains for the chance to dispute a text or haggle over a coveted scroll. Similarly men of such castes as the Physicians and Builders make use of the fairs to disseminate and exchange information pertaining to their respective crafts.
Flaminius looked at me, with a certain drunken awe. Then he rose in his green quarters tunic and went to a chest in his room, from which he drew forth a large bottle of paga. He opened it and, to my surprise, poured two cups. He took a good mouthful of the fluid from one of the cups, and bolted it down, exhaling with satisfaction.
"You seem to me, from what I have seen and heard," I said, "a skilled Physician."
He handed me the second cup, though I wore the black tunic.
"In the fourth and fifth year of the reign of Marlenus," said he, regarding me evenly, "I was first in my caste in Ar."
I took a swallow.
"Then," said I, "you discovered paga?"
"No," said he.
"A girl?" I asked.
"No," said Flaminius, smiling. "No." He took another swallow. "I thought to find," said he, "an immunization against Dar-Kosis."
"Dar-Kosis is incurable," I said.
"At one time," said he, "centuries ago, men of my caste claimed age was incurable. Others did not accept this and continued to work. The result was the Stabilization Serums."
Dar-Kosis, or the Holy Disease, or Sacred Affliction, is a virulent, wasting disease of Gor. Those afflicted with it, commonly spoken of simply as the Afflicted Ones, may not enter into normal society. They wander the countryside in shroudlike yellow rags, beating a wooden clapping device to warn men from their path; some of them volunteer to be placed in Dar-Kosis pits, several of which lay within the vicinity of Ar, where they are fed and given drink, and are, of course, isolated; the disease is extremely contagious. Those who contract the disease are regarded by taw as dead.
"Dar-Kosis," I said, "is thought to be holy to the Priest-Kings, and those afflicted with it to be consecrated to Priest-Kings."
"A teaching of Initiates," said Flaminius bitterly. "There is nothing holy about disease, about pain, about death." He took another drink.
"Dar-Kosis," I said, "is regarded as an instrument of Priest-Kings, used to smite those who displease them."
"Another myth of Initiates," said Flaminius, unpleasantly.
"But how do you know that?" I queried.
"I do not care," said Flaminius, "if it is true or not. I am a Physician."
"What happened?" I asked. "For many years," said Flaminius, "and this was even before 10,110, the year of Pa-Kur and his horde, I and others worked secretly in the Cylinder of Physicians. We devoted our time, those Ahn in the day in which we could work, to study, research, test and experiment. Unfortunately, for spite and for gold, word of our work was brought to the High Initiate, by a minor Physician discharged from our staff for incompetence. The Cylinder of Initiates demanded that the High Council of the Caste of Physicians put an end to our work, not only that it be discontinued but that our results to that date be destroyed. The Physicians, I am pleased to say, stood with us. There is little love lost between Physicians and Initiates, even as is the case between Scribes and Initiates. The Cylinder of the High Initiate then petitioned the High Council of the City to stop our work, but they, on the recommendation of Marlenus, who was then Ubar, permitted our work to continue." Flaminius laughed. "I remember Marlenus speaking to the High Initiate. Marlenus told him that either the Priest-Kings approved of our work or they did not; that if they approved, it should continue; if they did not approve, they themselves, as the Masters of Gor, would be quite powerful enough to put an end to it."I laughed. Flaminius looked at me, curiously. "It is seldom," he said, "that those of the black caste laugh." "What happened then?" I asked.
Flaminius took another drink, and then he looked at me, bitterly. "Before the next passage hand," said he, "armed men broke into the Cylinder of Physicians; the floors we worked on were burned; the Cylinder itself was seriously damaged; our work, our records, the animals we used were all destroyed; several of my staff were slain, others driven away." He drew his tunic over his head. I saw that half of his body was scarred. "These I had from the flames," said he, "as I tried to rescue our work. But I was beaten away and our scrolls destroyed." He slipped the tunic back over his head.
"I am sorry," I said.
Flaminius looked at me. He was drunk, and perhaps that is why he was willing to speak to me, only of the black caste. There were tears in his eyes.
"I had," he said, "shortly before the fire developed a strain of urts resistant to the Dar-Kosis organism; a serum cultured from their blood was injected in other animals, which subsequently we were unable to infect. It was tentative, only a beginning, but I had hoped I had hoped very much."
"The men who attacked the Cylinder," I said, "who were they?"
"Doubtless henchmen of Initiates," said Flaminius. Initiates, incidentally, are not permitted by their caste codes to bear arms; nor are they permitted to injure or kill; accordingly, they hire men for these purposes.
"Were the men not seized?" I asked.
"Most escaped," said Flaminius. "Two were seized. These following the laws of the city, were taken for their first questioning to the courts of the High Initiate." Flaminius smiled bitterly. "But they escaped," he said.
"Did you try to begin your work again?" I asked.
"Everything was gone," said Flaminius, "the records, our equipment, the animals; several of my staff had been slain; those who survived, in large part, did not wish to continue the work." He threw down another bolt of Paga. "Besides, said he, "the men of Initiates, did we begin again, would only need bring torches and steel once more."
"So what did you do?" I asked.
"I do not think so," I said.
"Superstition," said he, "proclaimed as truth, will always conquer truth, ridiculed as superstition."
"Do not believe it," I said.
"And I laughed," said Flaminius, "and I realized that what moves men is greed, and pleasure, and power and gold, and that I, Flaminius, who had sought fruitlessly in my life to slay one disease, was a fool."
"You are no fool," said I.
"No longer," said he. "I left the Cylinder of Physicians and the next day took service in the House of Cernus, where I have been for many years. I am content here. I am well paid. I have much gold, and some power, and my pick of Red Silk Girls. What man could ask for more?"
"Flaminius," I said.
He looked at me, startled. Then he laughed and shook his head. "No," said he, "I have learned to despise men. That is why this is a good house for me." He looked at me, drunkenly, with hatred. "I despise men!" he "That is why I drink with you."
"One thing more to this little story," said Flaminius. lifted the bottle to me.
"What is that?" I asked.
"At the games on the second of En'Kara, in the of Blades," said he, "I saw the High Initiate, Complicius Serenus."
"So?" said I.
"He does not know it," said Flaminius, "nor will he learn for perhaps a year."
"Learn what?" I asked.
Flaminius laughed and poured himself another drink. "That he is dying of Dar-Kosis," he said.
"I will call one of the Caste of Physicians," I whispered to her. Surely Flaminius, drunk, might still be in the house.
"No," she said, reaching for my hand.
"Why have you done this?" I cried in anger.
She looked at me in mild surprise. "Kuurus," she said, calling me by the name by which she had known me in the house. "It is you, Kuurus."
"Yes," I said. "Yes."
"I did not wish to live longer as a slave," she said.
"Tell Ho-Tu," she said, "that I love him."
I sprang to my feet and ran to the door. "Flaminius!" I cried. "Flaminius!"
A slave running past stopped on my command. "Fetch Flaminius!" I cried. "He must bring blood! Sura must live!"
Flaminius seemed shaken. He looked to me, and I to him. Flaminius looked down.
"You must live," I said to him.
"No," he said.
"You have work to do," I told him. "There is a new Ubar in Ar. You must return to your work, your research."
"Life is little," he said.
"What is death?" I asked him.
He looked at me. "It is nothing," he said.
"If death is nothing," I said, "then the little that life is must be much indeed."
He looked away. "You are a Warrior," he said. "You have your wars, your battles."
"So, too, do you," said I, "Physician."
Our eyes met.
"Dar-Kosis," I said, "is not yet dead."
He looked away.
He laughed bitterly.
"The little that men have," I said, "is worth your love."
"Who am I to care for others?" he asked.
"Long ago," he said, looking down, "I knew Flaminius."
"I," I said, "know him now."
He looked into my eyes. There were tears in his eyes, and in mine.
"I loved Sura," said Flaminius.
"So, too, did Ho-Tu," I said. "And so, too, in my way, did I
"I will not die," said Flaminius. "I will work."
I had been given the thousand double tarns of gold for the victory in the Ubar's race. I saw Flaminius briefly in the room of the court. Eight hundred double tarns I gave to him that he might begin well his research once more.
"Press your own battles," said I, "Physician."
"My gratitude," said he, "Warrior."
"Will there be many who will work with you?" I asked, remembering the dangers of his research, the enmity of the Initiates.
"Some," said Flaminius. "Already some eight, of skill and repute, have pledged themselves my aids in this undertaking." He looked at me. "And the first, who gave courage to them all," said he, "was a woman, of the Caste of Physicians, once of Treve."
"A woman named Vika?" I asked.
"Yes," said he, "do you know her?"
"Once," said I.
"She stands high among the Physicians of the city," he said.
"You will find her, I think," I said, "brilliantly worthy as a colleague in your work."
The building where I would wait on these days was the house of a physician. I was taken through a corridor to a special, rough room, where slaves were treated. There my camisk would be removed. On the first day the physician, a quiet man in the green garments of his caste, examined me, thoroughly. The instruments he used, the tests he performed, the samples he required were not unlike those of Earth. Of special interest to me was the fact that this room, primitive though it might be, was lit by what, in Gorean, is called an energy bulb, an invention of the Builders. I could see neither cords nor battery cases. Yet the room was filled with a soft, gentle, white light, which the physician could regulate by rotating the base of the bulb. Further, certain pieces of his instrumentation were clearly far from primitive. For example, there was a small machine with gauges and dials. In this he would place slides, containing drops of blood and urine, flecks of tissue, a strand of hair. With a stylus he would note readings on the machine, and, on the small screen at the top of the machine, I saw, vastly enlarged, what reminded me of an image witnessed under a microscope. He would briefly study this image, and then make further jottings with his stylus. The guard had strictly forbidden me to speak to the physician, other than to answer his questions, which I was to do promptly and accurately, regardless of their nature. Though the physician was not unkind I felt that he treated me as, and regarded me as, an animal. When I was not being examined, he would dismiss me to the side of the room, where I would kneel, alone, on the boards, until summoned again. They discussed me as though I were not there.
When he was finished he mixed several powders in three or four goblets, adding water to them and stirring them. These I was ordered to drink. The last was peculiarly foul.
"She requires the Stabilization Serums," said the physician.
The guard nodded.
"They are administered in four shots," said the physician.
He nodded to a heavy, beamed, diagonal platform in a corner of the room. The guard took me and threw me, belly down, on the platform, fastening my wrists over my head and widely apart, in leather wrist straps. He similarly secured my ankles. The physician was busying himself with fluids and a syringe before a shelf in another part of the room, laden with vials.
I screamed. The shot was painful. It was entered in the small of my back, over the left hip.
They left me secured to the table for several minutes and then the physician returned to check the shot. There had been, apparently, no unusual reaction.
I was then freed.
"Dress," the physician told me.
I gratefully donned the camisk, fastening it tightly about my waist with the double-loop of binding fiber.
I wanted to speak to the physician, desperately. In his house, in this room, I had seen instrumentation which spoke to me of an advanced technology, so different from what I had hitherto encountered in what seemed to me a primitive, beautiful, harsh world. The guard, with the side of the butt of his spear, pressed against my back, and I was thrust from the room. I looked over my shoulder at the physician. He regarded me, puzzled.
Outside the other four girls and their guard were waiting. I was leashed, given a burden, and, together, we all returned to Targo's compound.
I thought I saw a small man, garbed in black, watching us, but I was not sure.
We returned, similarly, to the physician's house on the next four days. On the first day I had been examined, given some minor medicines of little consequence, and the first shot in the Stabilization Series. On the second, third and fourth day I received the concluding shots of the series. On the fifth day the physician took more samples.
"The serums are effective," he told the guard.
"Good," said the guard.
On the second day, after the shot, I had tried to speak to the physician, in spite of the guard, to beg him for information.
Rim, from his own pouch, handed up to her a tiny steel half crescent, ground from the blade of a shaving knife. Part of it, wrapped in physician's tape, was bent and fitted behind her two fingers. The blade, as it projected from between her two fingers, was almost invisible.
"Master?" asked Tina.
I got to my feet, determined not to be fooled. But when Tina stumbled against me, before I realized it, neatly, the purse strings had been cut.
I wondered, too, on the nature of my affliction. I had had the finest wound physicians on Gor brought to attend me, to inquire into its nature. They could tell me little. Yet I had learned there was no damage in the brain, nor directly to the spinal column. The men of medicine were puzzled. The wounds were deep, and severe, and would doubtless, from time to time, cause me pain, but the paralysis, given the nature of the injury, seemed to them unaccountable.
Then one more physician, unsummoned, came to my door.
"Admit him," I had said.
"He is a renegade from Turia, a lost man." had said Thurnock.
"Admit him," I had said.
"It is Iskander," whispered Thurnock.
I knew well the name of Iskander of Turia. I smiled. He remembered well the city that had exiled him, keeping still its name as part of his own. It had been many years since he had seen its lofty walls. He had, in the course of his practice in Turia, once given treatment outside of its walls to a young Tuchuk warrior, whose name was Kamchak. For this aid given to an enemy, he had been exiled. He had come, like many, to Port Kar. He had risen in the city, and had been for years the private physician to Sullius Maximus, who had been one of the five Ubars, presiding in Port Kar prior to the assumption of power by the Council of Captains.
Sullius Maximus was an authority on poetry, and gifted in the study of poisons. When Sullius Maximus had fled the city, Iskander had remained behind. He had even been with the fleet on the 25th of the Se'Kara. Sullius Maximus, shortly after the decision of the 25th of Se'Kara, had sought refuge in Tyros, and had been granted it.
"Greetings, Iskander," I had said.
"Greetings, Bosk of Port Kar," he had said.
The findings of Iskander of Turia matched those of the other physicians, but, to my astonishment, when he had replaced his instruments in the pouch slung at his shoulder, he said," The wounds were given by the blades of Tyros."
"Yes," I said," they were."
"There is a subtle contaminant in the wounds," he said.
"Are you sure?" I asked.
"I have not detected it," he said. "But there seems no likely explanation."
"A contaminant?" I asked.
"Poisoned steel," he said.
I said nothing.
"Sullius Maximus," he said, "is in Tyros."
"I would not have thought Sarus of Tyros would have used poisoned steel," I said. Such a device, like the poisoned arrow, was not only against the codes of the warriors, but, generally, was regarded as unworthy of men. Poison was regarded as a woman's weapon.
"Sullius Maximus," he said, "invented such a drug. He tested it, by pin pricks, on the limbs of a captured enemy, paralyzing him from the neck down. He kept him seated at his right side, as a guest in regal robes, for more than a week. When he tired of the sport he had him killed."
"Is there no antidote?" I asked.
"No," said Iskander.
"Then there is no hope," I said.
"No," said Iskander, "there is no hope."
"Perhaps it is not the poison." I said.
"Perhaps," said Iskander.
"Thurnock," said I, "give this physician a double tarn, of gold."
"No," said Iskander, "I wish no payment."
"Why not?" I asked.
"I was with you," he said," on the 25th of Se'Kara."
"I wish you well, Physician," I said.
"I wish you well, too, Captain," said he, and left.
The tall man crouched down beside us, irritably. One of the men with him wore the green of the physicians. The tall man looked at us. As naked female slaves we averted our eyes from his. I smelled the straw.
"Wrist-ring key," said the tall man.
The merchant handed him the key that would unlock the wrist rings.
"Leave the lamp and withdraw," said the tall man. The short merchant handed him the lamp and, frightened, left the room.
The men crouched down and crowded about the auburn-haired girl. I heard them unlock one of her wrist rings.
"We are going to test you for pox," he said. The girl groaned. It was my hope that none on board the Clouds of Telnus had carried the pox. It is transmitted by the bites of lice. The pox had appeared in Bazi some four years ago. The port had been closed for two years by the merchants. It had burned itself out moving south and eastward in some eighteen months. Oddly enough some were immune to the pox, and with others it had only a temporary, debilitating effect. With others it was swift, lethal and horrifying. Those who had survived the pox would presumably live to procreate themselves, on the whole presumably transmitting their immunity or relative immunity to their offspring. Slaves who contracted the pox were often summarily slain. It was thought that the slaughter of slaves had had its role to play in the containment of the pox in the vicinity of Bazi.
"It is not she," said the physician. He sounded disappointed. This startled me.
"Am I free of pox, Master?" asked the auburn-haired girl.
"Yes," said the physician, irritably. His irritation made no sense to me.
The tall man then closed the auburn-haired girl's wrist again in its wrist ring. The men crouched down about me. I shrank back against the wall. My left wrist was removed from its wrist ring and the tall man pulled my arm out from my body, turning the wrist, so as to expose the inside of my arm.
I understood then they were not concerned with the pox, which had vanished in the vicinity of Bazi over two years ago.
The physician swabbed a transparent fluid on my arm. Suddenly, startling me, elating the men, there emerged, as though by magic, a tiny, printed sentence, in fine characters, in bright red. It was on the inside of my elbow. I knew what the sentence said, for my mistress, the Lady Elicia of Ar, had told me. It was a simple sentence. It said; "This is she." It had been painted on my arm with a tiny brush, with another transparent fluid. I had seen the wetness on the inside of my arm, on the area where the arm bends, on the inside of the elbow, and then it had dried, disappearing. I was not even sure the writing had remained. But now, under the action of the reagent, the writing had emerged, fine and clear. Then, only a moment or so later, the physician, from another flask, poured some liquid on a rep-cloth swab, and, again as though by magic, erased the writing. The invisible stain was then gone. The original reagent was then again tried, to check the erasure. There was no reaction. The chemical brand, marking me for the agents with whom the Lady Elicia, my mistress, was associated, was gone. The physician then, with the second fluid, again cleaned my arm, removing the residue of the second application of the reagent.
The men looked at one another, and smiled. My left wrist was again locked in its wrist ring.
"Am I free of the pox, Masters?" I asked.
"Yes," said the physician.
I lifted the strung beads to the square-jawed man with short, closely cropped white hair. His face was wind-burned and, in each ear, there was a small golden ring. To one side, cross-legged, sat he who was Bosk of Port Kar. Near him, intent, watchful, was Clitus Vitellius. Beside the man before me, the man with white, short-cropped hair, who was Samos of Port Kar, chief among the captains of the Council of Captains of Port Kar, was a slender, gray-eyed man, clad in the green of the caste of physicians. He was Iskander, said once to have been of Turia, the master of many medicines and one reputed to be knowledgeable in certain intricacies of the mind.
I knelt back on my heels. There were two other slave girls in the room, in slave silk, collared, kneeling to one side, waiting to serve the men, should they desire aught. I was naked, as I had been when I had strung beads for he called Belisarius in a house in Cos.
Samos put the beads before him on a tiny table. He looked at them, puzzled.
"Is this all?" he asked.
"Yes, Master," I said.
Iskander, of the physicians, had given me of a strange draft, which I, slave, must needs drink.
"This will relax you," he had said, "and induce an unusual state of consciousness. As I speak to you your memory will be unusually clear. You will recall tiny details with precision. Further, you will become responsive to my suggestions."
I do not know what the drug was but it seemed truly effective. Slowly, under its influence, and the soothing, but authoritative voice of Iskander, I, responsive to his suggestions, obedient to his commands, began to speak of the house of Belisarius and what had occurred there. I might, in my normal waking state, have recalled much of what had occurred there, even to the words spoken, but, in the unusual state of consciousness which Iskander, by means of his drug and his suggestions, had induced in me even the most trivial details, little things which a waking consciousness would naturally and peremptorily suppress as meaningless, unimportant, were recalled with a lucid, patient fidelity. Notes had been taken by a thin, blond slave girl in a brief, blue tunic, named Luma. Her tunic suggested that she might once have been of the scribes. Her legs were pretty. She knelt close to Bosk of Port Kar.
"What does it matter," Samos had asked Iskander, "whether a word is spoken before or after another?"
"It may matter much," said Iskander. "It is like the mechanism of the crossbow, the key to a lock. All must be in order; each element must be in place, else the quarrel will not loosen, else the lock will not open."
"This seems strange to me," said Samos.
"It is strange to you because it is unfamiliar to you," said Iskander, "but in itself it is no more strange than the mechanism of the crossbow, the mechanism of the lock. What we must do is reconstruct the mechanism, which, in this case is a verbal structure, a dialogue, which will release, or trigger, the salient behavior, the stringing of the beads."
"Could she not simply be commanded to recount the order of the beads?" inquired Bosk of Port Kar.
I could not do so.
"No," said Iskander, "she cannot do so, or can only do so imperfectly."
"Why?" asked Samos. "Is the drug not sufficient?"
"The girl has been carefully prepared," said Iskander. "She is under powerful counter-suggestion in that particular. We might, in time, break through it, but we have no assurance that we would not tap a false memory, set within her mind to deceive or mislead us. What I would suspect we would encounter would be overlays of memories, the true with the false. Our best mode of procedure appears to be to reconstruct the trigger behavior."
"You suspect then," asked Bosk, "that several arrangement orders of beads might be in her memory?"
"Yes," said Iskander, "each of which, I suspect, would be correlated with a different message."
"We would, thus," said Bosk, "not know which of the messages was the true message."
"Precisely," said Iskander. "But we do know the trigger sequence will release the crucial message."
"Otherwise," said Bosk, "the intended recipient of the message would also not know which message was the one intended for communication."
"Correct." said Iskander.
"Proceed then," said Samos, "in your attempts to reconstruct the trigger, or the key, in this matter."
Iskander had then continued his questioning of me.
I lifted the strung beads to the square-jawed man with short, closely cropped white hair, Samos, of Port Kar.
I knelt back on my heels.
Samos put the beads on the small table before him.
"Is this all?" he asked.
"Yes, Master," I said.
"It is meaningless," he said.
"It is the necklace," said Iskander. "I have done what I can. Should it bear an import, it is up to others to detect it."
"We do not know where he is," said Bosk. He looked at Iskander, of the Physicians. "If we should be able to seize he who is spoken of as Belisarius, do you think we could derive the cipher key from him?"
"Perhaps," said Iskander, "but I suspect that a spoken word, uttered by Belisarius himself, would, by suggestion, remove the cipher key from his mind."
"Could the enemy be so subtle?" asked Samos.
Iskander, of the Physicians, pointed to me. "I think so," said he. "You see what their power is in such matters."
I looked down.
"Could we, by the use of drugs, obtain it?" asked Samos.
"Perhaps," said Iskander, "but presumably we would encounter numerous keys. Who knows?"
Two men from the desk of the nearest wharf praetor, he handling wharves six through ten, a scribe and a physician, boarded the ship. The scribe carried a folder with him. He would check the papers of Ulafi, the registration of the ship, the arrangements for wharfage and the nature of the cargo. The physician would check the health of the crew and slaves. Plague, some years ago, had broken out in Bazi, to the north, which port had then been closed by the merchants for two years. In some eighteen months it had burned itself out, moving south and eastward. Bazi had not yet recovered from the economic blow. Schendi's merchant council, I supposed, could not be blamed for wishing to exercise due caution that a similar calamity did not befall their own port.
The scribe, with Ulafi, went about his business. I, with the crew members, submitted to the examination of the physician. He did little more than look into our eyes and examine our forearms. But our eyes were not yellowed nor was there sign of the broken pustules in our flesh.
"Bring in the slaves," said the physician.
One seaman held Sasi's rope taut, above the deck ring. Another undid the bowline which fastened the rope to the ring. Shoka, with a hook on a pole, drew Sasi back to the rail. He put aside the pole, and, one hand about her waist, drew her to him, lifting her then over the rail. He placed her on her back on the deck, her ankles still bound, her wrists, still tied, back over her head.
The physician bent to examine her.
Shoka then retrieved the pole and extended it outward, to draw the blond-haired girl back to the rail.
She was very beautiful. Her eyes, briefly, met mine as Shoka lifted her over the rail. He placed her on her back, beside Sasi, her wrists and ankles, like those of Sasi, still tied. Her arms, like Sasi's, elbows bent, were back and over her head.
Curious, the physician touched her again, She whimpered, squirming. "She's a hot one," said the physician.
"Yes," said Ulafi.
The girl looked at the physician with horror, tears in her eyes. But he completed her examination, looking into her eyes, and examining the interior of her thighs, her belly, and the interior of her forearms, for marks.
Then the physician stood up. "They are clear," he said. "The ship is clear. All may disembark."
"Excellent," said Ulafi.
The scribe noted the physician's report in his papers and the physician, with a marking stick, initialed the entry.
I could smell perfumes and their mixings in the long shop behind the counter. There, at various benches, attending to their work, measuring and stirring, were apprentice perfumers. Though one is commonly born into a caste one is often not permitted to practice the caste craft until a suitable apprenticeship has been served. This guarantees the quality of the caste product. It is possible, though it is seldom the case, that members of a caste are not permitted to practice specific caste skills, though they may be permitted to practice subsidiary skills. For example, one who is of the Metalworkers might not be permitted to work iron, but might be permitted to do such things as paint iron, and transport and market it. Caste rights, of course, such as the right to caste support in time of need and caste sanctuary, when in flight, which are theirs by birth, remain theirs. The women of a given caste, it should be noted, often do not engage in caste work. For example, a woman in the Metalworkers does not, commonly, work at the forge, nor is a woman of the Builders likely to be found supervising the construction of fortifications. Caste membership, for Goreans, is generally a simple matter of birth; it is not connected necessarily with the performance of certain skills, nor the attainment of a given level of proficiency in such skills. To be sure, certain skills tend to be associated traditionally with certain castes, a fact which is clearly indicated in caste titles, such as the Leatherworkers, the Metalworkers, the Singers, and the Peasants. A notable exception to the generalization that women of a given caste normally do not engage in caste work is the caste of Physicians, whose women are commonly trained, as are the boys, in the practice of medicine. Even the physicians, however, normally do not admit their women to full practice until they have borne two children. The purpose of this is to retain a high level of intelligence in the caste. Professional women, it is well understood, tend not to reproduce themselves, a situation which, over time, would be likely to produce a diminution in the quality of the caste. Concern for the future of the caste is thus evinced in this limitation by the physicians on the rights of their women to participate without delay in the caste craft. The welfare of the caste, typically, takes priority in the Gorean mind over the ambitions of specific individuals. The welfare of a larger number of individuals, as the Goreans reason, correctly or incorrectly, is more important than the welfare of a smaller number of individuals. I do not argue this. I only report it.
"My thanks, Lady Teela," said Turbus Veminius, proprietor of the shop, accepting coins and handing to a robed woman a tiny vial of perfume. She then left.
The woman of the Physicians, at the age of fifteen, in many cities, wears two bracelets on her left wrist. When she has one child one bracelet is removed; when she has a second child the second bracelet is removed. She may then, if she desires, enter into the full practice of her craft.
Turbus Veminius then turned his attention to another customer.
Caste is important to the Gorean in ways that are difficult to make clear to one whose social structures do not include the relationships of caste. In almost every city, for example, one knows that there will be caste brothers on whom one may depend. Charity, too, for example, is almost always associated with caste rights on Gor. One of the reasons there are so few outlaws on Gor is doubtless that the outlaw, in adopting his way of life, surrenders caste rights. The slave, too, of course, has no caste rights. He stands outside the structure of society. He is an animal. It is said on Gor that only slaves, outlaws and Priest-Kings, rumored to be the rulers of Gor, reputed to live in the remote Sardar Mountains, are without caste. This saying, however, it might be pointed out, as Goreans recognize, is not strictly true. For example, some individuals have lost caste, or been deprived of caste; some individuals have been born outside of caste; certain occupations are not traditionally associated with caste, such as gardening, domestic service and herding; and, indeed, there are entire cultures and peoples on Gor to whom caste is unknown. Similarly, caste lines tend sometimes to be vague, and the relation between castes and subcastes. Slavers, for example, sometimes think of themselves as being of the Merchants, and sometimes as being a separate caste. They do have their own colors, blue and yellow, those of the Merchants being white and gold. Too, are the bargemen of the Southern Cartius a caste or not? They think of themselves as such, but many do not see the matter in the same light. There are, on Gor, it might be mentioned, ways of raising and altering caste, but the Gorean seldom avails himself of these. To most Goreans it would be unthinkable to alter caste. He is generally too proud of his caste and it is too much a part of him for him to think in such terms. It is, too, recognized that all, or most, of the castes perform necessary, commendable or useful functions. The Leatherworker, accordingly, does not spend much time envying the Metalworker, or the Metalworker the Leatherworker, or either the Clothworker, and so on. All need sandals and wallets, and clothes, and metal tools. Each does, however, tend to think of his own caste as something special, and, somehow, I suspect, as being perhaps a little bit preferable to the others. Most Goreans are quite content with their castes; this is probably a function of caste pride. I have little doubt but what the caste structure contributes considerably to the stability of Gorean society. Among other things it reduces competitive chaos, social and economic, and prevents the draining of intelligence and ambition into a small number of envied, prestigious occupations. If one may judge by the outcome of Kaissa tournaments, amateur tournaments as opposed to those in which members of the caste of Players participate, there are brilliant men in most castes.
"Let us have the attestation!" cried Mirus, forcing the two fellows apart.
Tamirus approached me. He wore green robes. I did not know at that time but this indicated he was of the caste of physicians. That is a high caste. If I had known he was of high caste I might have been a great deal more frightened than I was. Most Goreans take caste very seriously. It is apparently one of the socially stabilizing forces on Gor. It tends to reduce the dislocations, disappointments and tragedies inherent in more mobile structures, in which men are taught that they are failures if they do not manage to make large amounts of money or excel in one of a small number of prestigious professions. The system also helps to keep men of energy and high intelligence in a wide variety of occupations, this preventing the drain of such men into a small number of often artificially desiderated occupations, this tending then to leave lesser men, or frustrated men, to practice other hundreds of arts the survival and maintenance of which are important to a superior civilization. Provisions for changing caste exist on Gor, but they are seldom utilized. Most Goreans are proud of their castes and the skills appropriate to them. Such skills, too, tend to be appreciated by other Goreans, and are not looked down on. My virginity had been checked at various times. Teibar had done it on Earth, in the library; it had been done in the house of my training, shortly after I had arrived there; it had been done outside Brundisium, by the wholesaler there, and in Market of Semris twice, once when I had arrived there, by the men of Teibar of Market of Semris, and once before I had left, by Hendow's man. It had also been checked when I had arrived here, and again, this afternoon, before I had been bedecked in these beads I wore, slave beads.
"How are you, my dear?" asked Tamirus.
"Very good, Master," I said. "Thank you, Master."
"On your back, idiot," said Tupita.
I looked at her, angrily.
By the leashes, pulling up and twisting, to my surprise, handling me quite easily, with surprising expertness, she and Sita pulled me up, half on my feet, and then brought me back, gasping, off balance, and lowered me to my back. I had not realized their skill, nor how easily I could he controlled by the two leashes. There are many tricks, of course, with leashes, in the management of slaves. Tupita held down my right wrist, and Sita my left wrist.
"Throw your legs apart or we will do this differently," said Tupita.
I obeyed, on my back, on the dancing floor. There are various attitudes in which the virginity of a girl may be checked. The least embarrassing to her is probably this one.
Tamirus was careful with me, and gentle. He checked twice, delicately.
"Thank you, Master," I said to him, gratefully.
He stood up. "It is as certified by the house of Hendow," he said. "The slave is a virgin."
"I know those you mean," he said. "No, they were the stabilization serums. We give them even to slaves."
"What are they?" I asked.
"You do not know?" he asked.
"No," I said.
"They are a discovery of the caste of physicians," he said. "They work their effects on the body."
"What is their purpose?" I asked.
"Is there anything in particular which strikes you generally, statistically, about the population of Gor?" he asked.
"Their vitality, their health, their youth," I said.
"Those are consequences of the stabilization serums," he said.
"I do not understand," I said.
"You will retain your youth and beauty, curvaceous slave," he said. "That is the will of masters."
"I do not understand," I said, frightened.
"Ageing," he said, "is a physical process, like any other. It is, accordingly, accessible to physical influences. To be sure, it is a subtle and complex process. It took a thousand years to develop the stabilization serums. Our physicians regarded ageing as a disease, the drying, withering disease, and so attacked it as a disease. They did not regard it as, say, a curse, or a punishment, or something inalterable or inexplicable, say, as some sort of destined, implacable fatality. No. They regarded it as a physical problem, susceptible to physical approaches. Some five hundred years ago, they developed the first stabilization serums."