These are the relevant references from the Books where, what I call Greased Wineskin, 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 saw some fellows gathered about a filled, greased wineskin. There was much laughter. I went over to watch. He who manages to balance on it for a given time, usually an Ehn, wins both the skin and its contents. One pays a tarsk bit for the chance to compete. It is extremely difficult, incidentally, to balance on such an object, not only because of the slickness of the skin, heavily coated with grease, but even more so because of its rotundity and unpredictable movements, the wine surging within it. "Aiii!" cried a fellow flailing about and then spilling from its surface. There was much laughter. "Who is next?" called the owner of the skin. This sort of thing is a sport common at peasant festivals, incidentally, though there, of course, usually far from a city, within the circle of the palisade, the competition is free, the skin and wine being donated by one fellow or another, usually as his gift to the festival to which all in one way or another contribute, for example, by the donation of produce, meat or firewood.
Magicians of Gor Book 25 Page 36
"Ai!" cried a fellow a few yards away, tumbling off the filled, greased wineskin. He would not win the skin and its contents. There was much laughter.
"Next!" called the owner of the skin. "Next!" As it cost a tarsk bit to try the game I think he had already made more than the cost of the wineskin and its contents.
I wondered if I could balance on the skin. It is not easy, of course, given the surgent fluid and the slippery surface.
Another fellow addressed himself to the task, but was on his back in the dirt in an instant. There was more laughter about the skin.
"An excellent effort," called the owner of the skin, "would you care to try again?"
"No," said the fellow.
"We will hold you while you mount," volunteered the owner. But the fellow waved good-naturedly and left.
"A tarsk bit," called the owner. "Only a tarsk bit! Win wine, the finest ka-la-na, a whole skin full, enough to treat your entire village."
"I will try," said a fellow, determinedly.
I walked over to the circle to watch.
The fellow was helped to the surface of the wineskin. But only an Ihn or so later he tumbled off into the dirt. Fellows about slapped their thighs and roared with laughter.
"Where is more wine?" called one of his friends. There was laughter.
How odd it was, I thought, that these folks, who had so little, and might, were it not for the forces of Ar, such as they were, between Cos and the city, be in mortal jeopardy, should disport themselves so delightedly.
I watched another fellow being helped to the surface of the skin.
I supposed it might be safe, now, to return to the tent. Presumably, by now, it would not be a violation of decorum to return to the tent. Indeed, by now, Marcus and Phoebe might be asleep. Marcus usually slept her at his feet, in which case her ankles would be crossed and closely chained, or at his thigh, in which case, she would be on a short neck chain, fastened to his belt. A major advantage of sleeping the girl at your thigh is that you can easily reach her and, by the hair, or the chain, if one is used, pull her to you in the night. These measures, however, if they were intended to be precautions against her escape, were in my opinion unnecessary. Phoebe, as I have suggested, was held to her master by bonds compared to which stout ropes, woven of the strongest, coarsest fibers, and chains or iron, obdurate, weighty and unbreakable, were mere gossamer strands. She was madly, helplessly, hopelessly in love with her master. And he, no less, rebellious, moody, angry, chastising himself for his weakness, was infatuated with his lovely slave.
The fellow struggled to stay on the bulging, shifting wineskin, and then slipped off. He had actually done quite well. Nearly had he won the wine.
There was applause about the small circle.
I heard a fellow advertising the booth of a thought reader. This reader probably read coins. One, presumably without the knowledge of the reader or a confederate, selects one coin from several on a tray or platter, usually tarsk bits, and then, holding it tightly in his hand, concentrates on the coin. Then, after the coin has been replaced on the tray or platter, the thought reader turns about and, more often than not, far more than the probabilities would suggest, locates the coin. One then loses one's tarsk bit. If the reader selects the wrong coin, one receives all the tarsk bits on the tray or platter, usually several. I assumed there must be some sort of trick to this, though I did not know what it was. Goreans, on the other hand, often accept, rather uncritically, in my mind, that the reader can actually read thoughts, or usually read them. They reason that if one fellow can see farther than another, and such, why can't someone, similarly, be able to "see" thoughts. Similarly, less familiar with tricks, prestidigitation, illusions, and such, than an Earth audience, some Goreans believe in magic. I have met Goreans who really believed, for example, that a magician can make a girl vanish into thin air and then retrieve her from the same. They accept the evidence of their senses, so to speak. The taking of auspices, incidentally, is common on Gor before initiating campaigns, enterprises, and such. Many Goreans will worry about such things as the tracks of spiders and the flights of birds. Similarly, on Gor, as on Earth, there is a clientele, particularly in uncertain, troubled times, for those who claim to be able to read the future, to tell fortunes, and such.
"Noble Sir!" called the owner of the wineskin. "What of you?"
I regarded him, startled.
"A tarsk bit a chance!" he invited me. "Think of the whole skin of wine for you and your friends!"
A skin of wine might bring as much as four or five copper tarsks.
"Very well," I said.
There was some commendation from others about.
"Good fellow," said more than one fellow.
"Surely you do not intend to wear your sandals," said the owner of the wineskin.
"Of course not," I said, slipping them off. I then rubbed my feet well in the dirt near the skin.
"Let me help you up," said the fellow.
"That will not be necessary," I said.
"Here, let me help you," he said.
"Very well," I said. I had not been able to get on the skin.
"Are you ready?" asked the owner, steadying me.
"- Yes," I said. I wished Lecchio, of the troupe of Boots Tarsk-Bit, were about. He might have managed this.
"Ready?" asked the owner.
"Yes," I said.
"Time!" he cried, letting go of me.
"How well you are doing!" he cried, at which point I slipped from the skin. I sat in the dirt, laughing.
"How marvelously he did!" said a fellow. "Has he gotten on the skin yet?" asked another, a wag, it seems. "He has already fallen off," he was informed. "He did wonderfully," said another. "Yes," said another, "he must have been on the skin for at least two Ihn." I myself thought I might have managed a bit more than that. To be sure, on the skin, an Ihn seems like an Ehn. Before one becomes too critical in these matters, however, I recommend that one attempt the same feat. To be sure, some fellows do manage to stay on the skin and win the wine.
"Next?" inquired the owner of the wineskin.
I looked about, and picked up my sandals. I had scarcely retrieved them when I noticed a stillness about, and the men looking in a given direction. I followed their gaze. There, at the edge of the circle, emerged from the darkness, there was a large man, bearded, in a tunic and cloak. I took him as likely to be of the peasants. He looked about himself, but almost as though he saw nothing.
"Would care to try your luck?" asked the owner of the wineskin. I was pleased that he had addressed the fellow.
The newcomer came forward slowly, deliberately, as though he might have come from a great distance.
"One tries to stand upon the skin," said the owner. "It is a tarsk bit."
The bearded man then stood before the owner of the wineskin, who seemed small before him. The bearded fellow said nothing. He looked at the owner of the wineskin. The owner of the wineskin trembled a little. Then the bearded man placed a tarsk bit in his hand.
"One tries to stand on the skin," said the owner again, uncertainly.
The large man looked at him.
"Perhaps you will win," said the owner.
"What are you doing?" cried the owner.
No one moved to stop him, but the large man, opening his cloak, drew a knife from his belt sheath and slowly, deliberately, slit the skin open. Wine burst forth from the skin, onto the ankles of the large fellow, and, flowing about, seeking its paths, sank into the dirt. The dust was reddened. It was not unlike blood.
The large fellow then sheathed his knife, and stood on the rent, emptied skin.
"I have won," he said.
"The skin is destroyed," said the owner. "The wine is lost."
"But I have won," said the bearded man.
The owner of the rent skin was silent.
"Twenty men were with me," said the large, bearded man. "I alone survived."
"He is of the peasant levies!" said a fellow.
"Speak, speak!" cried men, anxiously.
"The skin is rent," said the man. "The wine is gone."
"Speak!" cried others.
The fellow pulled his cloak away and put it over his arm.
"He is wounded!" said a man. The left side of the fellow's tunic was matted with blood. The cloak had clung to it a bit, when he removed it.
"Speak!" cried men.
"I have won," said the man.
"He is delirious," said a fellow.
"No," I said.
"I have won," said the man, dully.
"Yes," I said. "You have stood upon the skin. You have won."
"But the skin is gone, the wine is gone," said a fellow.
"But he has won," I said.