These are the relevant references from the Books where Love War 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,
It was early in the morning, several days after Saphrar's banquet, that Kamchak and myself, among some hundreds of others of the Four Wagon Peoples, came to the Plains of a Thousand Stakes, some pasangs distant from lofty Turia.
We moved slowly, walking the kaiila, in four long lines, the Tuchuks, the Kassars, the Kataii, the Paravaci, some two hundred or so warriors of each. Kamchak rode near the head of the Tuchuk line. The standard bearer, holding aloft on a lance a representation of the four bosk horns, carved from wood, rode near us. At the head of our line, on a huge kaiila, rode Kutaituchik, his eyes closed, his head nodding, his body swaying with the stately movement of the animal, a half chewed string of dangling from his mouth.
Beside him, but as Ubars, rode three other men, whom I took to be chief among the Kassars, the Kataii, the Paravaci, I could see, surprisingly near the forefront of their respective lines, the other three men I had first seen on coming to the Wagon Peoples, Conrad of the Kassars, Hakimba of the Kataii and Tolnus of the Paravaci. These, like Kamchak, rode rather near their respective standard bearers. The standard of the Kassars is that of a scarlet, three-weighted bola, which hangs from a lance; the symbolic representation of a bola, three circles joined at the center by lines, is used to mark their bosk and slaves; both Tenchika and Dina wore that brand; Kamchak had not decided to rebrand them, as is done with bosk; he thought, rightly, it would lower their value; also, I think he was pleased to have slaves in his wagon who wore the brand of Kassars, for such might be taken as evidence of the superiority of Tuchuks to Kassars, that they had bested them and taken their slaves; similarly Kamchak was pleased to have in his herd bosk, and he had several, whose first brand was that of the three-weighted bola; the standard of the Kataii is a yellow bow, bound across a black lance; their brand is also that of a bow, facing to the left; the Paravaci standard is a large banner of jewels beaded on golden wires, forming the head and horns of a bosk its value is incalculable; the Paravaci brand is a symbolic representation of a bosk head, a semicircle resting on an inverted isosceles triangle.
I do not know if there are, by count, a thousand stakes or not on the Plains of a Thousand Stakes, but I would suppose that there are that many or more. The stakes, flat-topped, each about six and half feet high and about seven or eight inches in diameter, stand in two long lines facing one another in pairs. The two lines are separated by about fifty feet and each stake in a line is separated from the stake on its left and right by about ten yards. The two lines of stakes extended for more than four pasangs across the prairie. One of these lines is closest to the city and the other to the prairies beyond. The stakes had recently been, I observed, brightly painted, each differently, in a delightful array of colors; further, each was trimmed and decorated variously, depending on the whim of the workman, sometimes simply, sometimes fancifully, sometimes ornately. The entire aspect was one of color, good cheer, lightheartedness and gaiety. There was something of the sense of carnival in the air. I was forced to remind myself that between these two lines of stakes men would soon fight and die.
I noted some of the workmen still affixing small retaining rings to some of the stakes, bolting them one on a side, usually about five feet to five and a half feet from the ground. A workman sprang a pair shut, and then opened them with a key, which he subsequently hung from a tiny hook near the top of the stake.
I heard some musicians, come out early from Turia, playing a light tune behind the Turian stakes, about fifty yards or so away.
In the space between the two lines of stakes, for each pair of facing stakes, there was a circle of roughly eight yards in
Moving boldly now among the Wagon Peoples were vendors from Turia, selling their cakes, their wines and meats, even chains and collars.
Kamchak looked at the sun, which was now about a quarter of the way up the sky.
"Turians are always late," he said.
From the back of the kaiila I could now see dust from Turia. "They are coming," I said.
Among the Tuchuks, though dismounted, I saw the young man Harold, he whom Hereena of the First Wagon had so sorely insulted at the time of the wagering with Conrad and Albrecht. I did not, however, see the girl. The young man seemed to me a strong, fine fellow, though of course unscarred. He had, as I mentioned, blond hair and blue eyes, not unknown among the Tuchuks, but unusual. He carried weapons. He could not, of course, compete in these contests, for there is status involved in these matters and only warriors of repute are permitted to participate. Indeed, without the Courage Scar one could not even think of proposing oneself for the competition. It might be mentioned, incidentally, that without the Courage Scar one may not, among the Tuchuks, pay court to a free woman, own a wagon, or own more than five bosk and three kaiila. The Courage Scar thus has its social and economic, as well as its martial, import.
"You're right," said Kamchak, rising in the stirrups. "First the warriors."
On long lines of tharlarion I could see warriors of Turia approaching in procession the Plains of a Thousand Stakes. The morning sun flashed from their helmets, their long tharlarion lances, the metal embossments on their oval shields, unlike the rounded shields of most Gorean cities. I could hear, like the throbbing of a heart, the beating of the two tharlarion drums that set the cadence of the march. Beside the tharlarion walked other men-at-arms, and even citizens of Turia, and more vendors and musicians, come to see the games.
Oh the heights of distant Turia itself I could see the flutter of flags and pennons. The walls were crowded, and I supposed many upon them used the long glasses of the Caste of Builders to observe the field of the stakes.
The warriors of Turia extended their formation about two hundred yards from the stakes until in ranks of four or five deep they were strung out in a line as long as the line of stakes itself. Then they halted. As soon as the hundreds of ponderous tharlarion had been marshaled into an order, a lance, carrying a fluttering pennon, dipped and there was a sudden signal on the tharlarion drums. Immediately the lances of the lines lowered and the hundreds of tharlarion, hissing and grunting, their riders shouting, the drums beating, began to bound rapidly towards us.
"Treachery!" I cried.
There was nothing living on Gor I knew that could take the impact of a tharlarion charge.
Elizabeth Cardwell screamed, throwing her hands before her face.
To my astonishment the warriors of the Wagon Peoples seemed to be paying very little attention to the bestial avalanche that was even then hurtling down upon them. Some were haggling with the vendors, others were talking among themselves.
I wheeled the kaiila, looking for Elizabeth Cardwell, who, afoot, would be slain almost before the tharlarion had crossed the lines of the stakes. She was standing facing the charging tharlarion, as though rooted to the earth, her hands before her face. I bent down in the saddle and tensed to kick the kaiila forward to sweep her to the saddle, turn and race for our lives.
"Really," said Kamchak.
I straightened up and saw that the lines of the tharlarion lancers had, with much pounding and trampling of the earth, with shouting, with the hissing of the great beasts, stopped short, abruptly, some fifteen yards or so behind their line of stakes.
"It is a Turian joke," said Kamchak. "They are as fond of the games as we, and do not wish to spoil them."
I reddened. Elizabeth Cardwell's knees seemed suddenly weak but she staggered back to us.
Kamchak smiled at me. "She is a pretty little barbarian, isn't she," he said.
"Yes," I said, and looked away, confused.
Elizabeth looked up at us, puzzled.
I heard a cry from the Turians across the way. "The wenches!" he cried, and this shout was taken up by many of the others. There was much laughing and pounding of lances on shields.
In a moment, to a thunder of kaiila paws on the turf, racing between the lines of stakes, scattering sand, there came a great number of riders, their black hair swirling behind them, who pulled up on their mounts, rearing and squealing, between the stakes, and leaped from the saddle to the sand, relinquishing the reins of their mounts to men among the Wagon Peoples.
They were marvelous, the many wild girls of the Wagons, and I saw that chief among them was the proud, beauteous Hereena, of the First Wagon. They were enormously excited, laughing. Their eyes shone. A few spit and shook their small fists at the Turians across the way, who reciprocated with good-natured shouts and laughter. I saw Hereena notice the young man Harold among the warriors and she pointed her finger imperiously at him, gesturing him to her.
He approached her. "Take the reins of my kaiila, Slave," she said to him, insolently throwing him the reins.
He took them angrily and, to the laughter of many of the Tuchuks present, withdrew with the animal.
The girls then went to mingle with the warriors. There were between a hundred and a hundred and fifty girls there from each of the four Wagon Peoples.
"Hah!" said Kamchak, seeing now the lines of tharlarion part for a space of perhaps forty yards, through which could be seen the screened palanquins of Turian damsels, borne on the shoulders of chained slaves, among them undoubtedly men of the Wagon Peoples.
Now the excitement of the throng seemed mostly to course among the warriors of the Wagon Peoples as they rose in their stirrups to see better the swaying, approaching palanquins, each reputedly bearing a gem of great beauty, a fit prize in the savage contests of Love War.
The institution of Love War is an ancient one among the Turians and the Wagon Peoples, according to the Year Keepers antedating even the Omen Year. The games of Love War, of course, are celebrated every spring between, so to speak, the city and the plains, whereas the Omen Year occurs only ever tenth year. The games of Love War, in themselves, do not constitute a gathering of the Wagon Peoples, for normally the herds and the free women of the peoples do not approach one another at these times; only certain delegations of warriors, usually about two hundred from a people, are sent in the spring to the Plains of a Thousand Stakes.
The theoretical justification of the games of Love War, from the Turian point of view, is that they provide an excellent arena in which to demonstrate the fierceness and prowess of Turian warriors, thus perhaps intimidating or, at the very least, encouraging the often overbold warriors of the Wagon Peoples to be wary of Turian steel. The secret justification, I suspect, however, is that the Turian warrior is fond of meeting the enemy and acquiring his women, particularly should they be striking little beasts, like Hereena of the First Wagon, as untamed and savage as they are beautiful; it is regarded as a great sport among Turian warriors to collar such a wench and force her to exchange riding leather for the bells and silks of a perfumed slave girl. It might also be mentioned that the Turian warrior, in his opinion, too seldom encounters the warrior of the Wagon Peoples, who tends to be a frustrating, swift and elusive foe, striking with great rapidity and withdrawing with goods and captives almost before it is understood what has occurred. I once asked Kamchak if the Wagon Peoples had a justification for the games of Love War. "Yes," he had said. And he had then pointed to Dina and Tenchika, clad Kajir, who were at that time busy in the wagon. "That is the justification," said Kamchak. And he had then laughed and pounded his knee. It was only then that it had occurred to me that both girls might have been acquired in the games; as a matter of fact, however, I later learned that only Tenchika had been so acquired; Dina had first felt the thongs of a master beside the burning wagons of a caravan in which she had purchased passage. Now, looking on the approaching palanquins, I supposed that so once, in veil and silks, had ridden the lovely Tenchika, and so, too, as far as I knew, might have ridden the lovely Dina, had she not fallen earlier and otherwise to the chains of Kassar warriors. I wondered how many of the proud beauties of Turia would this night tearfully serve barbarian masters; and how many of the wild, leather-clad girls of the Wagons, like Hereena, would find themselves this night naught but bangled, silken slaves locked behind the high walls of distant, lofty Turia.
One by one the screened palanquins of the damsels of Turia were placed on the grass and a serving slave placed before each a silken mat that the inmate of the palanquin, in stepping from her seclusion, might not soil the toe or heel of her sandal or slipper.
The wagon girls, watching this, some of them chewing on fruit or stalks of grass, jeered.
One by one, clad in the proud arrays of resplendent silks, each in the Robes of Concealment, the damsels of Turia, veiled and straight-standing, emerged from their palanquins, scarcely concealing their distaste for the noise and clamor about them.
Judges were now circulating, each with lists, among the Wagon Peoples and the Turians.
As I knew, not just any girl, any more than just any warrior, could participate in the games of Love War. Only the most beautiful were eligible, and only the most beautiful of these could be chosen.
A girl might propose herself to stand, as had Aphris of Turia, but this would not guarantee that she would be chosen, for the criteria of Love War are exacting and, as much as possible, objectively applied. Only the most beautiful of the most beautiful could stand in this harsh sport.
I heard a judge call, "First Stake! Aphris of Turia!"
"Hah!" yelled Kamchak, slapping me on the back, nearly knocking me from the back of my kaiila.
I was astonished. The Turian wench was beautiful indeed, that she could stand at the first stake. This meant that she was quite possibly the most beautiful woman in Turia, certainly at least among those in the games this year.
In her silks of white and gold, on cloths thrown before her, Aphris of Turia stepped disdainfully forward, guided by a judge, to the first of the stakes on the side of the Wagon Peoples. The girls of the Wagon Peoples, on the other hand, would stand at the stakes nearest Turia. In this way the Turian girls can see their city and their warriors, and the girls of the Wagons can see the plains and the warriors of the Wagon Peoples. I had also been informed by Kamchak that this places the girl farther from her own people. Thus, to interfere, a Turian would have to cross the space between the stakes, and so, too, would one of the Wagon Peoples, thus clearly calling themselves to the attention of the judges, those officials supervising the games.
The judges were now calling names, and girls, both of the Wagon Peoples and of Turia, were coming forward.
I saw that Hereena, of the First Wagon, stood Third Stake, though, as far as I could note, she was no less beautiful than the two Kassar girls who stood above her.
Kamchak explained that there was a slight gap between two of her teeth on the upper right hand side in the back. "Oh," I said.
I noted with amusement that she was furious at having been chosen only third stake. "I, Hereena of the First Wagon, am superior," she was crying, "to those two Kassar she-kaiila!"
But the judge was already four stakes below her.
The selection of the girls, incidentally, is determined by judges in their city, or of their own people, in Turia by members of the Caste of Physicians who have served in the great slave houses of Ar; among the wagons by the masters of the public slave wagons, who buy, sell and rent girls, providing warriors and slavers with a sort of clearing house and market for their feminine merchandise. The public slave wagons, incidentally, also provide Paga. They are a kind of combination Paga tavern and slave market. I know of nothing else precisely like them on Gor. Kamchak and I had visited one last night where I had ended up spending four copper tarn disks for one bottle of Paga. I hauled Kamchak out of the wagon before he began to bid on a chained-up little wench from Port Kar who had taken his eye.
I looked up and down the lines of stakes. The girls of the Wagon Peoples stood proudly before their stakes, certain that their champions, whoever they were to be, would be victorious and return them to their peoples; the girls of the city of Turia stood also at their stakes, but with feigned indifference.
I supposed, in spite of their apparent lack of concern, the hearts of most of the Turian girls were beating rapidly. This could not be for them an ordinary day.
I looked at them, veiled and beautiful in their silks. Yet I knew that beneath those Robes of Concealment many wore the shameful Turian camisk, perhaps the only time the hated garment would touch their bodies, for should their warrior lose this match they knew they would not be permitted to leave the stake in the robes in which they came. They would not be led away as free women.
I smiled to myself, wondering if Aphris of Turia, standing so loftily at the stake, wore beneath the robes of white and gold the camisk of a slave girl. I guessed not. She would be too confident, too proud.
Kamchak was working his kaiila through the crowd toward the first stake.
I followed him.
He leaned down from the saddle. "Good morning, little Aphris," he said cheerily.
She stiffened, and did not even turn to regard him. "Are you prepared to die, Sleen?" she inquired.
"No," Kamchak said.
I heard her laugh softly beneath the white veil, trimmed with silk.
"I see you no longer wear your collar," observed Kamchak.
She lifted her head and did not deign to respond.
"I have another," Kamchak assured her.
She spun to face him, her fists clenched. Those lovely almond eyes, had they been weapons, would have slain him in the saddle like a bolt of lightning.
"How pleased I shall be," hissed the girl, "to see you on your knees in the sand begging Kamras of Turia to finish you!"
"Tonight, little Aphris," said Kamchak, "as I promised you, you shall spend your first night in the dung sack."
"Sleen!" she cried. "Sleen! Sleen!"
Kamchak roared with laughter and turned the kaiila away.
"Are the women at stake?" called a judge.
From down the long lines, from other judges, came the confirming cry. "They are at stake."
"Let the women be secured," called the first judge, who stood on a platform near the beginning of the stake lines, this year on the side of the Wagon Peoples.
Aphris of Turia, at the request of one of the minor judges, irritably removed her gloves, of silk-lined white verrskin, trimmed with gold, and placed them in a deep fold of her robes.
"The retaining rings," prompted the judge.
"It is not necessary," responded Aphris. "I shall stand quietly here until the sleen is slain."
"Place your wrists in the rings," said the judge, "or it shall be done for you."
In fury the girl placed her hands behind her head, in the rings, one on each side of the stake. The judge expertly flipped them shut and moved to the next stake.
Aphris, not very obviously, moved her hands in the rings, tried to withdraw them. She could not, of course, do so. I thought I saw her tremble for just an instant, realizing herself secured, but then she stood quietly, looking about herself as though bored. The key to the rings hung, of course, on a small hook, about two inches above her head.
"Are the women secured?" called the first judge, he on the platform.
"They are secured," was relayed up and down the long lines.
I saw Hereena standing insolently at her stake, but her brown wrists, of course, were bound to it by steel.
"Let the matches be arranged," called the judge.
I soon heard the other judges repeating his cry.
All along the lines of stakes I saw Turian warriors and those of the Wagon Peoples press into the area between the stakes.
The girls of the wagons, as usual, were unveiled. Turian warriors walked along the line of stakes, examining them, stepping back when one spit or kicked at him. The girls jeered and cursed them, which compliment they received with good humor and pointed observations on the girls' real or imaginary flaws.
At the request of any warrior of the Wagon Peoples, a judge would remove the pins of the face veil of a Turian girl and push back the hood of her robes of concealment, in order that her head and face might be seen.
This aspect of the games was extremely humiliating for the Turian girls, but they understood its necessity; few men, especially barbarian warriors, care to fight for a woman on whose face they have not even looked.
"I would like to take a look at this one," Kamchak was saying, jerking a thumb in the direction of Aphris of Turia. "Certainly," remarked the nearest judge.
"Can you not remember, Sleen," asked the girl, "the face of Aphris of Turia?"
"My memory is vague," said Kamchak. "There are so many faces."
The judge unpinned her white and gold veil and then, with a gentle hand, brushed back her hood revealing her long, lovely black hair.
Aphris of Turia was an incredibly beautiful woman.
She shook her hair as well as she could, bound to the post.
"Perhaps now you can remember?" she queried acidly.
"It's vague," muttered Kamchak, wavering, "I had in mind I think the face of a slave - there was, as I recall, a collar - "
"You tharlarion," she said. "You sleen!"
"What do you think?" asked Kamchak.
"She is marvelously beautiful," I said.
"There are probably several better among the stakes," said Kamchak. "Let's take a look."
He started off, and I followed him.
I suddenly glimpsed the face of Aphris of Turia contort with rage and she tried to free herself. "Come back here!" she cried. "You sleen! You filthy sleen! Come back! Come back!" I heard her pulling at the rings and kicking at the post.
"Stand quietly," the judge warned her, "or you will be forced to drink a sedative."
"The sleen!" she cried.
But already several of the other warriors of the Wagon Peoples were inspecting the unveiled Aphris of Turia.
"Aren't you going to fight for her?" I asked Kamchak.
"Certainly," said Kamchak.
But he and I, before we finished, had looked over each of the Turian beauties.
At last he returned to Aphris.
"It's a sorry lot this year," he told her.
"Fight for me!" she cried.
"I do not know if I will fight for any of them," he said, "they are all she-sleen, she-kaiila."
"You must fight!" she cried. "You must fight for me!"
"Do you ask it?" inquired Kamchak, interested.
She shook with rage. "Yes," she said, "I ask it."
"Very well," said Kamchak, "I will fight for you."
It seemed then Aphris of Turia leaned back for an instant in exhausted relief against the stake. Then she regarded Kamchak with pleasure. "You will be slain by inches at my feet," she said.
Kamchak shrugged, not dismissing the possibility. Then he turned to the judge. "Do any wish to fight for her but me?" he asked.
"No," said the judge.
When more than one wish to fight for a given woman, incidentally, the Turians decide this by rank and prowess, the Wagon Peoples by scars and prowess. In short, in their various ways, something like seniority and skills determines, of two or more Turians or two or more warriors of the Wagons, who will take the field. Sometimes men fight among themselves for this honor, but such combat is frowned upon by both the Turians and those of the Wagons, being regarded as somewhat disgraceful, particularly in the presence of foes.
"She must be plain indeed," remarked Kamchak, looking closely again at Aphris.
"No," said the judge, "it is because she is defended by Kamras, Champion of Turia."
"Oh, no!" cried Kamchak, throwing his fist to his forehead in mock despair.
"Yes," said the judge, "he."
"Surely you recall?" laughed Aphris merrily.
"I had had much Paga at the time," admitted Kamchak. "You need not meet him if you wish," said the judge.
I thought that a humane arrangement that two men must understand who it is they face before entering the circle of sand. It would indeed be unpleasant if one suddenly, unexpectedly found oneself facing a superb, famed warrior, say, a Kamras of Turia.
"Meet him!" cried Aphris.
"If no one meets him," said the judge, "the Kassar girl will be his by forfeit."
I could see that the Kassar girl, a beauty, at the stake opposite Aphris of Turia was distressed, and understandably so. It appears she was to depart for Turia without so much as a handful of sand kicked about on her behalf.
"Meet him, Tuchuk!" she cried.
"Where are your Kassars?" asked Kamchak.
I thought it an excellent question. I had seen Conrad about, but he had picked out a Turian wench to fight for some six or seven stakes away. Albrecht was not even at the games. I supposed he was home with Tenchika.
"They are fighting elsewhere!" she cried. "Please, Tuchuk!" she wept.
"But you are only a Kassar wench," pointed out Kamchak.
"Please!" she cried.
"Besides," said Kamchak, "you might look well in Pleasure Silk."
"Look at the Turian wench!" cried the girl. "Is she not beautiful? Do you not want her?"
Kamchak looked at Aphris of Turia.
"I suppose," he said, "she is no worse than the rest."
"Fight for me!" cried Aphris of Turia.
"All right," said Kamchak. "I will."
The Kassar girl put her back against the stake, trembling with relief.
"You are a fool," said Kamras of Turia.
I was a bit startled, not realizing he was so close. I looked at him. He was indeed an impressive warrior. He seemed strong and fast. His long black hair was now tied behind his head. His large wrists had been wrapped in boskhide straps. He wore a helmet and carried the Turian shield, which is oval. In his right hand there was a spear. Over his shoulder was slung the sheath of a short sword.
Kamchak looked up at him. It was not that Kamchak was particularly short, but rather that Kamras was a very large man.
"By the sky," said Kamchak, whistling, "you are a big fellow indeed."
"Let us begin," proposed Kamras.
At this word the judge called out to clear the space between the stakes of Aphris of Turia and the lovely Kassar wench. Two men, from Ar, I took it, came forward with rakes and began to smooth the circle of sand between the stakes, for it had been somewhat disturbed in the inspection of the girls.
Unfortunately for Kamchak, I knew that this was the year in which the Turian foeman might propose the weapon of combat. Fortunately, however, the warrior of the Wagon Peoples could withdraw from the combat any time before his name had actually been officially entered in the lists of the games. Thus if Kamras chose a weapon with which Kamchak did not feel at ease, the Tuchuk might, with some grace, decline the combat, in this forfeiting only a Kassar girl, which I was sure would not overly disturb the philosophical Kamchak.
"Ah, yes, weapons," Kamchak was saying, "what shall it be the kaiila lance, a whip and bladed bola, perhaps the quiva?"
"The sword," said Kamras.
The Turian's decision plunged me into despair. In all my time among the wagons I had not seen one of the Gorean short swords, so fierce and swift and common a weapon among those of the cities. The warrior of the Wagon Peoples does not use the short sword, probably because such a weapon could not be optimally used from the saddle of the kaiila; the saber, incidentally, which would be somewhat more effective from kaiilaback, is almost unknown on Gor; its role, I gather, is more than fulfilled by the lance, which may be used with a delicacy and address comparable to that of a blade, supplemented by the seven quiva, or saddle knives; it might further be pointed out that a saber would barely reach to the saddle of the high tharlarion; the warrior of the Wagon Peoples seldom approaches an enemy more closely than is required to bring him down with the bow, or, if need be, the lance; the quiva itself is regarded, on the whole, as more of a missile weapon than a hand knife. I gather that the Wagon Peoples, if they wanted sabers or regarded them as valuable, would be able to acquire them, in spite of the fact that they have no metalworking of their own; there might be some attempt to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Wagon Peoples, but where there are gold and jewels available merchants, in Ar and elsewhere, would see that they were manufactured and reached the southern plains. Most quivas, incidentally, are wrought in the smithies of Ar. The fact that the saber is not a common weapon of Wagon Peoples is a reflection of the style, nature and conditions of warfare to which they are accustomed, a matter of choice on their part rather than the result of either ignorance or technological limitation. The saber, incidentally, is not only unpopular among the Wagon Peoples but among the warriors of Gor generally; it is regarded as being too long and clumsy a weapon for the close, sharp combat so dear to the heart of the warrior of the cities; further it is not of much use from the saddle of a tarn or tharlarion. The important point, however, in the circumstances was that Kamras had proposed the sword as the weapon of his encounter with Kamchak, and poor Kamchak was almost certain to be as unfamiliar with the sword as you or I would be with any of the more unusual weapons of Gor, say, the whip knife of Port Kar or the trained varts of the caves of Tyros. Incidentally, Turian warriors, in order to have the opportunity to slay a foe, as well as acquire his woman, customarily choose as the weapon of combat in these encounters, buckler and dagger, ax and buckler, dagger and whip, ax and net, or the two daggers with the reservation that the quiva, if used, not be thrown. Kamras, however, appeared adamant on the point. "The sword," he repeated.
"But I am only a poor Tuchuk," wailed Kamchak.
Kamras laughed. "The sword," he said, yet again.
I thought, all things considered, that the stipulation of Kamras regarding weapons was cruel and shameful.
"But how would I, a poor Tuchuk," Kamchak was moaning, "know anything of the sword?"
"Then withdraw," said Kamras, loftily, "and I will take this Kassar wench slave to Turia."
The girl moaned.
Kamras smiled with contempt. "You see," he said, "I am Champion of Turia and I have no particular wish to stain my blade with the blood of an urt."
The urt is a loathsome, horned Gorean rodent; some are quite large, the size of wolves or ponies, but most are very small, tiny enough to be held in the palm of one hand.
"Well," said Kamchak, "I certainly would not want that to happen either."
The Kassar girl cried out in distress.
"Fight him, filthy Tuchuk!" screamed Aphris of Turia, pulling against the retaining rings.
"Do not be uneasy, gentle Aphris of Turia," said Kamras. "Permit him to withdraw branded braggart and coward. Let him live in his shame, for so much the richer will be your vengeance."
But the lovely Aphris was not convinced. "I want him slain," she cried, "cut into tiny pieces, the death of a thousand cuts!"
"Withdraw," I advised Kamchak.
"Do you think I should," he inquired.
"Yes," I said, "I do."
Kamras was regarding Aphris of Turia. "If it is truly your wish," he said, "I will permit him to choose weapons agreeable to us both."
"It is my wish," she said, "that he be slain!"
Kamras shrugged. "All right," he said, "I will kill him." He then turned to Kamchak. "All right, Tuchuk," he said, "I will permit you to choose weapons agreeable to us both."
"But perhaps I will not fight," said Kamchak warily.
Kamras clenched his fists. "Very well," he said, "as you wish."
"But then again," mused Kamchak, "perhaps I shall."
Aphris of Turia cried out in rage and the Kassar wench in distress.
"I will fight," announced Kamchak.
Both girls cried out in pleasure.
The judge now entered the name of Kamchak of the Tuchuks on his lists.
"What weapon do you choose?" asked the judge. "Remember," cautioned the judge, "the weapon or weapons chosen must be mutually agreeable."
aid, "what it would be like to hold a sword."
The judge nearly dropped the list.
"I will choose the sword," said Kamchak.
The Kassar girl moaned.
Kamras looked at Aphris of Turia, dumbfounded. The girl herself was speechless. "He is mad," said Kamras of Turia.
"Withdraw," I urged Kamchak.
"It is too late now," said the judge.
"It is too late now," said Kamchak, innocently.
Inwardly I moaned, for in the past months I had come to respect and feel an affection for the shrewd, gusty brawny Tuchuk.
Two swords were brought, Gorean short swords, forged in Ar.
Kamchak picked his up as though it were a wagon lever, used for loosening, the wheels of mired wagons.
Kamras and I both winced.
Then Kamras, and I give him credit, said to Kamchak, "Withdraw." I could understand his feelings. Kamras was, after all, a warrior, and not a butcher.
"A thousand cuts!" cried the gentle Aphris of Turia. "A piece of gold to Kamras for every cut!" she cried.
Kamchak was running his thumb on the blade. I saw a sudden, bright drop of blood on his thumb. He looked up.
"Sharp," he said.
"Yes," I said in exasperation. I turned to the judge. "May I fight for him?" I demanded.
"It is not permitted," said the judge.
"But," said Kamchak, "it was a good idea."
I seized Kamchak by the shoulders. "Kamras has no real wish to kill you," I said. "It is enough for him to shame you. Withdraw."
Suddenly the eyes of Kamchak gleamed. "Would you see me shamed?" he asked.
I looked at him, "Better, my friend," I said, "that than death."
"No," said Kamchak, and his eyes were like steel, "better death than shame."
I stepped back. He was Tuchuk. I would sorely miss my friend, the ribald, hard-drinking, stomping, dancing Kamchak of the Tuchuks. In the last moment I cried out to Kamchak, "For the sake of Priest-Kings, hold the weapon thus!" trying to teach him the simplest of the commoner grips for the hilt of the short sword, permitting a large degree of both retention and flexibility. But when I stepped away he was now holding it like a Gorean angle saw.
Even Kamras closed his eyes briefly, as though to shut out the spectacle. I now realized Kamras had only wished to drive Kamchak from the field, a chastened and humiliated man. He had little more wish to slay the clumsy Tuchuk than he would have a peasant or a potmaker.
"Let the combat begin," said the judge.
I stepped away from Kamchak and Kamras approached him, by training, cautiously.
Kamchak was looking at the edge of his sword, turning it about, apparently noting with pleasure the play of sunlight on the blade.
"Watch out!" I cried.
Kamchak turned to see what I had in mind and to his great good fortune, as he did so, the sun flashed from the blade into the eyes of Kamras, who suddenly threw his arm up, blinking and shaking his head, for the instant blinded.
"Turn and strike now!" I screamed.
"What?" asked Kamchak.
"Watch out!" I cried, for now Kamras had recovered, and was once again approaching.
Kamras, of course, had the sun at his back, using it as naturally as the tarn to protect his advance.
It had been incredibly fortunate for Kamchak that the blade had flashed precisely at the time it had in the way it had.
It had quite possibly saved his life.
Kamras lunged and it looked like Kamchak threw up his arm at the last instant as though he had lost balance, and indeed he was now tottering on one boot. I scarcely noticed the blow had been smartly parried. Kamras then began to chase Kamchak about the ring of sand. Kamchak was nearly stumbling over backward and kept trying to regain his balance. In this chase, rather undignified, Kamras had struck a dozen times and each time, astoundingly, the off-balance Kamchak, holding his sword now like a physician's pestle, had managed somehow to meet the blow.
"Slay him!" screamed Aphris of Turia.
I was tempted to cover my eyes.
The Kassar girl was wailing.
Then, as though weary, Kamchak, puffing, sat down in the sand. His sword was in front of his face, apparently blocking his vision. With his boots he kept rotating about, always facing Kamras no matter from which direction he came. Each time the Turian struck and I would have thought Kamchak slain, somehow, incomprehensibly, at the last instant, nearly causing my heart to stop, with a surprised, weary little twitch, the blade of the Tuchuk would slide the Turian steel harmlessly to the side. It was only about this time that it dawned on me that for three or four minutes Kamchak had been the object of the ever-more-furious assault of Turia's champion and was, to this instant, unscratched.
Kamchak then struggled wearily to his feet.
"Die, Tuchuk!" cried Kamras, now enraged, rushing upon him. For more than a minute, while I scarcely dared to breathe and there was silence all about save for the ring of steel, I watched Kamchak stand there, heavy in his boots, his head seeming almost to sit on his shoulders, his body hardly moving save for the swiftness of a wrist and the turn of a hand.
Kamras, exhausted, scarcely able to lift his arm, staggered backward.
Once again, expertly, the sun flashed from the sword of Kamchak in his eyes.
In terror Kamras blinked and shook his head, thrashing about wearily with his sword.
Then, foot by booted foot, Kamchak advanced toward him. I saw the first blood leap from the cheek of Kamras, and then again from his left arm, then from the thigh, then from an ear.
"Kill him!" Aphris of, Turia was screaming. "Kill him!"
But now, almost like a drunk man, Kamras was fighting for his life and the Tuchuk, like a bear, scarcely moving more than arm and wrist, followed him about, shuffling through the sand after him, touching him again and again with the blade.
"Slay him!" howled Aphris of Turia!
For perhaps better than fifteen minutes, patiently, not hurrying, Kamchak of the Tuchuks shuffled after Kamras of Turia, touching him once more and ever again, each time leaving a quick, bright stain of blood on his tunic or body. And then, to my astonishment, and that of the throng who had gathered to witness the contest, I saw Kamras, Champion of Turia, weak from the loss of blood, fall to his knees before Kamchak of the Tuchuks. Kamras tried to lift his sword but the boot of Kamchak pressed it into the sand, and Kamras lifted his eyes to look dazed into the scarred, inscrutable countenance of the Tuchuk. Kamchak's sword was at his throat. "Six years," said Kamchak, "before I was scarred was I mercenary in the guards of Ar, learning the walls and defenses of that city for my people. In that time of the guards of Ar I became First Sword."
Kamras fell in the sand at the feet of Kamchak, unable even to beg for mercy.
Kamchak did not slay him.
Rather he threw the sword he carried into the sand and though he threw it easily it slipped through almost to the hilt. He looked at me and grinned. "An interesting weapon," he said, "but I prefer lance and quiva."
There was an enormous roar about us and the pounding of lances on leather shields. I rushed to Kamchak and threw my arms about him laughing and hugging him. He was grinning from ear to ear, sweat glistening in the furrows of his scars.
Then he turned and advanced to the stake of Aphris of Turia, who stood there, her wrists bound in steel, regarding him, speechless with horror.