Fifth Month
Passage Hand
Year 10,174 Contasta Ar


These are relevant references from the Books where Priest-Kings are mentioned.
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I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.

I wish you well,

It is not my intention here to provide every single reference to the Priest-Kings.
Instead it is simply my intent to provide a description so as to gain an understanding of them.

It had six legs and a great head like a globe of gold with eyes like vast luminous disks. Its two forelegs, poised and alert, were lifted delicately in front of its body. Its jaws opened and closed once. They moved laterally.

From its head there extended two fragile, jointed appendages, long and covered with short quivering strands of golden hair. These two appendages, like eyes, swept the room once and then seemed to focus on me.

They curved toward me like delicate golden pincers and each of the countless golden strands on those appendages straightened and pointed toward me like a quivering golden needle.

I could not conjecture the nature of the creature's experience but I knew that I stood within the center of its sensory field.

About its neck there hung a small circular device, a translator of some sort, similar to but more compact than those I had hitherto seen.

I sensed a new set of odors, secreted by what stood before me.

Almost simultaneously a mechanically reproduced voice began to emanate from the translator.

It spoke in Gorean.

I knew what it would say.

"Lo Sardar," it said. "I am a Priest-King."
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 75 - 76

The Priest-Kings have little or no scent of their own which is detectable by the human nostrils, though one gathers there is a nest odor by which they may identify one another, and that the variations in this nest odor permit identifications of individuals.

What in the passageways I had taken to be the scent of Priest-Kings had actually been the residue of odor-signals which Priest-Kings, like certain social insects of our world, use in communicating with one another.

The slightly acrid odor I had noticed tends to be a common property of all such signals, much as there is a common property to the sound of a human voice, whether it be that of an Englishman, a Bushman, a Chinese or a Gorean, which sets it apart from, say, the growling of animals, the hiss of snakes, the cry of birds.

The Priest-Kings have eyes, which are compound and many-faceted, but they do not much rely on these organs. They are, for them, something like our ears and nose, used as secondary sensors to be relied upon when the most pertinent information in the environment is not relayed by vision, or, in the case of the Priest-Kings, by scent. Accordingly the two golden-haired, jointed appendages protruding from their globelike heads, above the rounded, disklike eyes, are their primary sensory organs. I gather that these appendages are sensitive not only to odors but, due to a modification of some of the golden hairs, may also transform sound vibrations into something meaningful in their experience. Thus, if one wishes, one may speak of them not only as smelling but hearing through these appendages. Apparently hearing is not of great importance, however, to them, considering the small number of hairs modified for this purpose. Oddly enough few of the Priest-Kings whom I questioned on this matter seemed to draw the distinction clearly between hearing and smelling. I find this incredible, but I have no reason to believe they deceived me. They recognize that we have different sensory arrangements than they and I suspect that they are as unclear as to the nature of our experience as we are of theirs. In fact, though I speak of hearing and smelling, I am not sure that these expressions are altogether meaningful when applied to Priest-Kings. I speak of them smelling and hearing through the sensory appendages, but what the quality of their experience may be I am uncertain. For example, does a Priest-King have the same qualitative experience that I do when we are confronted by the same scent? I am inclined to doubt it, for their music, which consists of rhapsodies of odors produced by instruments constructed for this purpose, and often played by Priest-Kings, some of whom I am told are far more skillful than others, is intolerable to my ear, or I should say, nose.

Communication by odor-signals can in certain circumstances be extremely efficient, though it can be disadvantageous in others. For example, an odor can carry, to the sensory appendages of a Priest-King, much farther than can the shout or cry of a man to another man. Moreover, if not too much time is allowed to elapse, a Priest-King may leave a message in his chamber or in a corridor for another Priest-King, and the other may arrive later and interpret it. A disadvantage of this mode of communication, of course, is that the message may be understood by strangers or others for whom it is not intended. One must be careful of what one says in the tunnels of Priest-Kings for one's words may linger after one, until they sufficiently dissipate to be little more than a meaningless blur of scent.

For longer periods of time there are various devices for recording a message, without relying on complex mechanical devices. The simplest and one of the most fascinating is a chemically treated rope of clothlike material which the Priest-King, beginning at an end bearing a certain scent, saturates with the odors of his message. This coiled message-rope then retains the odors indefinitely and when another Priest-King wishes to read the message he unrolls it slowly scanning it serially with the jointed sensory appendages.

I am told that the phonemes of the language of Priest-Kings or, better, what in their language would correspond to phonemes in ours, since their "phonemes" have to do with scent and not sound, number seventy-three. Their number is, of course, potentially infinite, as would be the number of possible phonemes in English, but just as we take a subset of sounds to be English sounds and form our utterances from them, so they take a subset of odors as similarly basic to their speech. The number of English phonemes, incidentally, is in the neighborhood of fifty.

The morphemes of the language of Priest-Kings, those smallest intelligible information bits, in particular roots and affixes, are, of course, like the morphemes of English, extremely numerous. The normal morpheme, in their language as in ours, consists of a sequence of phonemes. For example, in English 'bit' is one morpheme but three phonemes, as will appear clear if given some reflection. Similarly in the language of the Priest-Kings the seventy-three "phonemes" or basic scents are used to form the meaning units of the language, and a single morpheme of Priest-Kings may consist of a complex set of odors.

I do not know whether there are more morphemes in the language of the Priest-Kings or in English, but both are apparently rich languages, and, of course, the strict morpheme count is not necessarily a reliable index to the complexity of the lexicon, because of combinations of morphemes to form new words. German, for example, tends to rely somewhat more on morpheme combination than does English or French. I was told, incidentally, that the language of the Priest-Kings does possess more morphemes than English but I do not know if the report is truthful or not, for Priest-Kings tend to be somewhat touchy on the matter of any comparisons, particularly those to their disadvantage or putative disadvantage, with organisms of what they regard as the lower orders. On the other hand it may well be the case that, as a matter of fact, the morpheme set of the language of Priest-Kings is indeed larger than that of English. I simply do not know. The translator tapes, incidentally, are approximately the same size, but this is no help, since the tapes represent pairings of approximate equivalents, and there are several English morphemes not translatable into the language of Priest-Kings, and, as I learned, morphemes in their language for which no English equivalents exist. One English expression for which no natural "word" in their language exists is, oddly enough, 'friendship', and certain of its cognates. There is an expression in their language which translates into English as 'Nest Trust', however, and seems to play something of the same role in their thinking. The notion of friendship, it seems to me, has to do with a reliance and affection between two or more individuals; the notion of Nest Trust, as nearly as I can understand it, is more of a communal notion, a sense of relying on the practices and traditions of an institution, accepting them and living in terms of them.

I followed the Priest-King for a long time through the passages.

For all its size it moved with a delicate, predatory grace. It was perhaps very light for its bulk, or very strong, perhaps both. It moved with a certain deliberate, stalking movement; its tread was regal and yet it seemed almost dainty, almost fastidious; it was almost as if the creature did not care to soil itself by contact with the floor of the passage.

It walked on four extremely long, slender, four-jointed stalks that were its supporting legs, and carried its far more muscular, four-jointed grasping legs, or appendages, extremely high, almost level with its jaw, and in front of its body. Each of these grasping appendages terminated in four much smaller, delicate hooklike prehensile appendages, which normally touched one another. I would learn later that in the ball at the end of its forelegs from which the smaller prehensile appendages extended, there was a curved, bladed, hornlike structure that could spring forward; this happens spontaneously when the leg's tip is inverted, a motion which at once exposes the hornlike blade and withdraws the four prehensile appendages into the protected area beneath it.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 77 - 81

The Priest-King rested back on the two posterior supporting appendages and with a small cleaning hook behind the third joint of one of his forelegs began to comb his antennae. "These are the tunnels of the Priest-Kings," it said.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 81

"Notice the energy bulbs," said the Priest-King. "They are for the benefit of certain species such as yourself. Priest-Kings do not need them."
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 82

I laughed, not so much because I supposed what it said was absurd, but because I supposed that, from the viewpoint of a Priest-King, what it said might well be true.

"It is interesting," said the Priest-King. "What you have just said does not translate."

"It was a laugh," I said.

"What is a laugh?" asked the Priest-King.

"It is something men sometimes do when they are amused," I said.

The creature seemed puzzled.

I wondered to myself. Perhaps men did not much laugh in the tunnels of the Priest-Kings and it was not accustomed to this human practice. Or perhaps a Priest-King simply could not understand the notion of amusement, it being perhaps genetically removed from his comprehension. Yet I said to myself the Priest-Kings are intelligent and I found it difficult to believe there could exist an intelligent race without humor.

"I think I understand," said the Priest-King. "It is like shaking and curling your antennae?"

"Perhaps," I said, now more puzzled than the Priest-King. "How stupid I am," said the Priest-King.

And then to my amazement the creature, resting back on its posterior appendages, began to shake, beginning at its abdomen and continuing upward through its trunk to its thorax and head and at last its antennae began to tremble and, curling, they wrapped about one another.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 82 - 83

The Priest-Kings themselves distinguish one another by scent but I, of course, would do so by eye.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 84

I observed their antennae and the general posturing and carriage of their long, graceful bodies.

They stalked about one another and some of their motions were almost whiplike. Upon occasion, undoubtedly as a sign of irritation, the tips of the forelegs were inverted, and I caught my first glimpse of the bladed, hornlike structures therein concealed.

I would learn to interpret the emotions and states of Priest-Kings by such signs. Many of these signs would be far less obvious than the ones now displayed in the throes of anger. Impatience, for example, is often indicated by a tremor in the tactile hair on the supporting appendages, as though the creature could not wait to be off; a wandering of attention can be shown by the unconscious movement of the cleaning hooks from behind the third joints of the forelegs, suggesting perhaps the creature is thinking of grooming, an occupation in which Priest-Kings, to my mind, spend an inordinate amount of time; I might note, however, in deference to them, that they consider humans a particularly unclean animal and in the tunnels normally confine them for sanitary purposes to carefully restricted areas; the subtlety of these signs might well be illuminated if the indications for a wandering of attention, mentioned above, are contrasted with the superficially similar signs which give evidence that a Priest-King is well or favorably disposed toward another Priest-King, or other creature of any type. In this case there is again the unconscious movement of the cleaning hooks but there is in addition an incipient, but restrained, extension of the forelegs in the direction of the object toward which the Priest-King is well disposed; this suggests to me that the Priest-King is willing to put its cleaning hooks at the disposal of the other, that he is willing to groom it. This may become more comprehensible when it is mentioned that Priest-Kings, with their cleaning hooks, their jaws and their tongues, often groom one another as well as themselves. Hunger, incidentally, is indicated by an acidic exudate which forms at the edges of the jaws giving them a certain moist appearance; thirst, interestingly enough, is indicated by a certain stiffness in the appendages, evident in their movements, and by a certain brownish tarnish that seems to infect the gold of the thorax and abdomen. The most sensitive indicators of mood and attention, of course, as you would probably gather, are the motions and tensility of the antennae.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 85 - 86

"I am Sarm," it said, "beloved of the Mother and First Born."

"Are you the leader of the Priest-Kings?" I asked.

"Yes," said Sarm.

"No," said Misk.

Sarm's antennae darted in Misk's direction.

"Greatest in the Nest is the Mother," said Misk.

Sarm's antennae relaxed. "True," said Sarm.

"I have much to speak of with Priest-Kings," I said. "If the one whom you call the Mother is chief among you, I wish to see her."

Sarm rested back on his posterior appendages. His antennae touched one another in a slightly curling movement. "None may see the Mother save her caste attendants and the High Priest-Kings," said Sarm, "the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Born."

"Except on the three great holidays," said Misk.

Sarm's antennae twitched angrily.

"What are the three great holidays?" I asked.

"The Nest Feast Cycle," said Misk, "Tola, Tolam and Tolama."

"What are these feasts?" I asked.

"They are the Anniversary of the Nuptial Flight," said Misk, "the Feast of the Deposition of the First Egg and the Celebration of the Hatching of the First Egg."

"Are these holidays near?" I asked.

"Yes," said Misk.

"But," said Sarm, "even on such feasts none of the lower orders may view the Mother only - Priest-Kings."

"True," said Misk.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 87

It was at this time that I first saw how Priest-Kings breathed, probably because Sarm's respiratory movements were now more pronounced than they had been hitherto. Muscular contractions in the abdomen take place with the result that air is sucked into the system through four small holes on each side of the abdomen, the same holes serving also as exhalation vents. Usually the breathing cycle, unless one is quite close and listens carefully, cannot be heard, but in the present case I could hear quite clearly from a distance of several feet the quick intake of air through the eight tiny, tubular mouths in Sarm's abdomen, and its almost immediate expellation through the same apertures.

Now the muscular contractions in Sarm's abdomen became almost unnoticeable and I could no longer hear the evidence of his respiratory cycle. The tips of his forelegs were no longer inverted, with the result that the bladed structures had disappeared and the small, four-jointed, hooklike prehensile appendages were again fully visible. Their tips delicately touched one another. Sarm's antennae were calm. He regarded me. He did not move.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 88 - 89

I would never find myself fully able to adjust to the incredible stillness with which a Priest-King can stand.

He reminded me vaguely of the blade of a golden knife.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 89

The syllabary of Priest-Kings, not to be confused with their set of seventy-three "phonemes," consists of what seems to me to be a somewhat unwieldy four hundred and eleven characters, each of which stands of course for a phoneme or phoneme combination, normally a combination. Certain juxtapositions of these phonemes and phoneme combinations, naturally, form words. I would have supposed a simpler syllabary, or even an experimentation with a nonscented perhaps alphabetic graphic script, would have been desirable linguistic ventures for the Priest-Kings, but as far as I know they were never made.

With respect to the rather complex syllabary, I originally supposed that it had never been simplified because the Priest-King, with his intelligence, would absorb the four hundred and eleven characters of his syllabary more rapidly than would a human child his alphabet of less than thirty letters, and thus that the difference to him between more than four hundred signs and less than thirty would be negligible.

As far as it goes this was not bad guesswork on my part, but deeper reasons underlay the matter. First, I did not know then how Priest-Kings learned. They do not learn as we do. Second, they tend in many matters to have a penchant for complexity, regarding it as more elegant than simplicity. One practical result of this seems to be that they have never been tempted to oversimplify physical reality, biological processes or the operations of a functioning mind. It would never occur to them that nature is ultimately simple, and if they found it so they would be rather disappointed. They view nature as a set of interrelated continua rather than as a visually oriented organism is tempted to do, as a network of discrete objects which must be somehow, mysteriously, related to one another. Their basic mathematics, incidentally, begins with ordinal and not cardinal numbers, and the mathematics of cardinal numbers is regarded as a limiting case imposed on more intuitively acceptable ordinalities. Most significantly however I suspect that the syllabary of Priest-Kings remains complex, and that experiments with unscented graphemes were never conducted, because, except for lexical additions, they wish to keep their language much as it was in the ancient past. The Priest-King, for all his intelligence, tends to be fond of established patterns, at least in basic cultural matters such as Nest mores and language, subscribing to them however not because of genetic necessity but rather a certain undoubtedly genetically based preference for that which is comfortable and familiar. The Priest-King, somewhat like men, can change its ways but seldom cares to do so.

And yet there is probably more to these matters than the above considerations would suggest.

I once asked Misk why the syllabary of Priest-Kings was not simplified, and he responded, "If this were done we would have to give up certain signs, and we could not bear to do so, for they are all very beautiful."
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 101 - 102

At last after I, sputtering and choking, had been duly cleansed and rinsed several times, and then it seemed several times again, the cage began to move slowly, mercifully, between vents from which blasts of hot air issued, and, eventually, it passed slowly between an assortment of humming projection points for wide-beam rays, some of which were visible to my eye, being yellow, red and a refulgent green.

I would later learn that these rays, which passed through my body as easily and harmlessly as sunlight through glass, were indexed to the metabolic physiology of various organisms which can infect Priest-Kings. I would also learn that the last known free instance of such an organism had occurred more than four thousand years before.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 107 - 108

The room was apparently large, for portions of it were lost in the shadows from the torch. What I could see suggested paneling and instrumentation, banks of scent-needles and gauges, numerous tiered decks of wiring and copper plating. There were on one side of the room, racks of scent-tapes, some of which were spinning slowly, unwinding their tapes through slowly rotating translucent, glowing spheres. These spheres in turn were connected by slender, woven cables of wire to a large, heavy boxlike assembly, made of steel and rather squarish, which was set on wheels. In the front of this assembly, one by one, thin metal disks would snap into place, a light would flash as some energy transaction occurred, and then the disk would snap aside, immediately to be replaced by another. Eight wires led from this box into the body of a Priest-King which lay on its back, inert, in the center of the room on a moss-softened stone table.

I held the torch high and looked at the Priest-King, who was rather small for a Priest-King, being only about twelve feet long.

What most astonished me was that he had wings, long, slender, beautiful, golden, translucent wings, folded against his back.

He was not strapped down.

He seemed to be completely unconscious.

I bent my ears to the air tubes in his abdomen and I could hear the slight whispers of respiration.
. . .

"Is it a mutation?" I asked.

"Of course not," said Misk.

"Then what is it?" I asked.

"A male," said Misk. He paused for a long time and the antennae regarded the inert figure on the stone table. "It is the first male born in the Nest in eight thousand years."

"Aren't you a male?" I asked.

"No," said Misk, "nor are the others."

"Then you are female," I said.

"No," said Misk, "in the Nest only the Mother is female."

"But surely," I said, "there must be other females."

"Occasionally," said Misk, "an egg occurred which was female but these were ordered destroyed by Sarm. I myself know of no female egg in the Nest, and I know of only one which has occurred in the last six thousand years."

"How long," I asked, "does a Priest-King live?"

"Long ago," said Misk, "Priest-Kings discovered the secrets of cell replacement without pattern deterioration, and accordingly, unless we meet with injury or accident, we will live until we are found by the Golden Beetle."

"How old are you?" I asked.

"I myself was hatched," said Misk, "before we brought our world into your solar system." He looked down at me. "That was more than two million years ago," he said.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 118

"He is a Priest-King," said Misk, "and has eight brains, modifications of the ganglionic net, whereas a creature such as yourself, limited by vertebrae, is likely to develop only one brain."
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 120

"Occasionally on Gor we destroy a city, selecting it by means of a random selection device. This teaches the lower orders the might of Priest-Kings and encourages them to keep our laws."

"But what if the city has done no wrong?" I asked.

"So much the better," said Misk, "for the Men below the Mountains are then confused and fear us even more but the members of the Caste of Initiates, we have found, will produce an explanation of why the city was destroyed. They invent one and if it seems plausible they soon believe it. For example, we allowed them to suppose that it was through some fault of yours - disrespect for Priest-Kings as I recall - that your city was destroyed."
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 123

"It is said below the mountains that Priest-Kings know all that occurs on Gor."

"Nonsense," said Misk. "But perhaps I shall show you the Scanning Room someday. We have four hundred Priest-Kings who operate the scanners, and we are accordingly well informed. For example, if there is a violation of our weapons laws we usually, sooner or later, discover it and after determining the coordinates put into effect the Flame Death Mechanism."

I had once seen a man die the Flame Death, the High Initiate of Ar, on the roof of Ar's Cylinder of Justice. I shivered involuntarily.

"Yes," I said simply, "sometime I would like to see the Scanning Room."

"But much of our knowledge comes from our implants," said Misk. "We implant humans with a control web and transmitting device. The lenses of their eyes are altered in such a way that what they see is registered by means of transducers on scent-screens in the scanning room. We can also speak and act by means of them, when the control web is activated in the Sardar."

"The eyes look different?" I asked.

"Sometimes not," said Misk, "sometimes yes."

"Was the creature Parp so implanted?" I asked, remembering his eyes.

"Yes," said Misk, "as was the man from Ar whom you met on the road long ago near Ko-ro-ba."

"But he threw off the control web," I said, "and spoke as he wished."

"Perhaps the webbing was faulty," said Misk.

"But if it was not?" I asked.

"Then he was most remarkable," said Misk. "Most remarkable."
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 125 - 126

"Why is this one egg so important?" I asked. "You have the stabilization serums. Surely there will be many eggs, and others will be female."

"It is the last egg," said Misk.

"Why is that?" I demanded.

"The Mother was hatched and flew her Nuptial Flight long before the discovery of the stabilization serums," said Misk. "We have managed to retard her aging considerably but eon by eon it has been apparent that our efforts have been less and less successful, and now there are no more eggs."

"I don't understand," I said.

"The Mother is dying," said Misk.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 130

I did not object to the time I spent with Sarm, however, for he taught me far more of the Nest in a much shorter time than would have otherwise been possible. With him at my side I had access to many areas which would otherwise have been closed to a human.

One of the latter was the power source of the Priest-Kings, the great plant wherein the basic energy is generated for their many works and machines.

"Sometimes this is spoken of as the Home Stone of all Gor," said Sarm, as we walked the long, winding, iron spiral that clung to the side of a vast, transparent blue dome. Within that dome, burning and glowing, emitting a bluish, combustive refulgence, was a huge, crystalline reticulated hemisphere.
. . .

Sarm stopped on the narrow iron railing circling the huge, glassy blue dome and straightened himself and turned to face me. With one brush of a foreleg he might have sent me hurtling to my death some hundreds of feet below. Briefly the antennae flattened themselves on his head and the bladelike projections snapped into view, and then the antennae raised and the bladelike projections disappeared.
. . .

At last we had reached the very apex of the great blue dome and I could see the glowing, bluish, refulgent, reticulated hemisphere far below me.

Surrounding the bluish dome, in a greater concentric dome of stone I saw walkway upon walkway of paneling and instrumentation. Here and there Priest-Kings moved lightly about, occasionally noting the movements of scent-needles, sometimes delicately adjusting a dial with the nimble, hooklike appendages at the tips of their forelegs.

I supposed the dome to be a reactor of some sort.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 143 - 144

I did not object to the time I spent with Sarm, however, for he taught me far more of the Nest in a much shorter time than would have otherwise been possible. With him at my side I had access to many areas which would otherwise have been closed to a human.

One of the latter was the power source of the Priest-Kings, the great plant wherein the basic energy is generated for their many works and machines.

"Sometimes this is spoken of as the Home Stone of all Gor," said Sarm, as we walked the long, winding, iron spiral that clung to the side of a vast, transparent blue dome. Within that dome, burning and glowing, emitting a bluish, combustive refulgence, was a huge, crystalline reticulated hemisphere.

"The analogy, of course," said Sarm, "is incorrect for there is no Home Stone as such in the Nest of Priest-Kings, the Home Stone being a barbarous artifact generally common to the cities and homes of Gorean humans."

I was somewhat annoyed to find the Home Stones, taken so seriously in the cities of Gor that a man might be slain if he did not rise when speaking of the Home Stone of his city, so airily dismissed by the lofty Sarm.

"You find it hard to understand the love of a man for his Home Stone," I said.

"A cultural oddity," said Sarm, "which I understand perfectly but find slightly preposterous."

"You have nothing like the Home Stone in the Nest?" I asked.

"Of course not," said Sarm. I noticed an involuntary, almost spasmlike twitch of the tips of the forelegs, but the bladed projections did not emerge.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 143 - 144

I supposed the dome to be a reactor of some sort.

I looked down through the dome beneath us. "So this is the source of the Priest-Kings' power," I said.

"No," said Sarm.

I looked up at him.

He moved his forelegs in a strange parallel pattern, touching himself with each leg at three places on the thorax and one behind the eyes. "Here," he said, "is the true source of our power."

I then realized that he had touched himself at the points of entry taken by the wires which had been infixed in the young Priest-King's body on the stone table in the secret compartment below Misk's chamber. Sarm had pointed to his eight brains.

"Yes," I said, "you are right."
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 145

"Is it as difficult to slay a Golden Beetle as a Priest-King?" I asked.

"I do not know," said Misk. "We have never slain a Golden Beetle, nor have we studied them."

"Why not?" I asked.

"It is not done," said Misk. "And," he said, peering down at me, his luminous eyes intent, "it would be a great crime to kill one."

"I see," I said.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 174 - 175

There was a Priest-King on guard whose antennae waved quizzically about as I drew the disk to a stop not twelve feet from him. His head was garlanded by a wreath of green leaves as had been that of Sarm, and also, like Sarm, there was about his neck, as well as his translator, the ceremonial string of tiny metal tools.

It took a moment for me to understand the Priest-King's consternation.

The tunic I wore carried no scent-patterns and for a moment he had thought that the transportation disk I rode was actually without a driver.

I could see the lenses of the compound eyes almost flickering as it strained to see, much as we might have strained to hear some small sound.

His reactions were almost those that a human might have had if he could hear something in the room with him but had not yet been able to see it.
At last his antennae fastened on me but I am sure the Priest-King was annoyed that he did not receive the strong signals he would have if I had been wearing my own scent-infixed tunic.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 210 - 211

Inching forward I saw, on the raised platform at this end of the room, the Mother.

For a moment I could not believe that it was real or alive. It was undoubtedly of the Priest-King kind, and it now was unwinged, but the most incredible feature was the fantastic extent of the abdomen Its head was little larger than that of an ordinary Priest-King, or its thorax, but its trunk was conjoined to an abdomen which if swollen with eggs might have been scarcely smaller than a city bus. But now this monstrous abdomen, depleted and wrinkled, no longer possessing whatever tensility it might once have had, lay collapsed behind the creature like a flattened sack of brownly tarnished golden ancient leather.

Even with the abdomen empty her legs could not support its weight and she lay on the dais with her jointed legs folded beside her.

Her coloring was not that of the normal Priest-King but darker, more brownish, and here and there black stains discolored her thorax and abdomen.

Her antennae seemed unalert, and lacked resilience. They lay back over her head.

Her eyes seemed dull and brown.

I wondered if she were blind.

It was a most ancient creature on which I gazed, the Mother of the Nest.

It was hard to imagine her, uncounted generations ago, with wings of gold in the open air, in the blue sky of Gor, glistening and turning with her lover borne on the high, glorious, swift winds of this distant, savage world. How golden she would have been.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 213

We were in the fifth week of the War in the Nest and the issue still hung in balance.

After the death of the Mother, Sarm and those who followed him, most of the Priest-Kings for he was First Born, fled from the chamber to fetch, as it was said, silver tubes.
. . .

Perhaps there were only a hundred Priest-Kings who rallied to the call of Misk and among them there were no more than a dozen silver tubes.

The headquarters for the forces of Misk lay in his compartment and there, pouring over the scent maps of the tunnels, he directed the placement of his defenses.

Thinking to overcome us with little difficulty the forces of Sarm, mounted on transportation disks, swept through the tunnels and plazas, but the Priest-Kings of Misk, hidden in rooms, concealed behind portals, firing from the ramps and the roofs of buildings in the open complexes, soon took fierce toll of Sarm's unwary and overconfident troops.

In such war the much larger forces of the First Born tended to be neutralized and a situation of infiltration and counterinfiltration developed, marked by frequent sniping and occasional skirmishes.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 229

I leaped between the bladed projections and cut halfway through its skull with my sword.

It began to shiver.

I stepped back.

So this was how a Priest-King might be slain, I thought, somehow here one must sever the ganglionic net in mortal fashion. And then it seemed to me not improbable that this might be the case, for the major sensory apparatus, the antennae, lie in this area.

Then, as though I were a pet Mul, the Priest-King extended his antennae toward me. There was something piteous in the gesture. Did it wish me to comb the antennae? Was it conscious? Was it mad with pain?

I stood not understanding and then the Priest-King did what he wished; with a toss of his great golden head he hurled his antennae against my blade, cutting them from his head, and then after a moment, having closed himself in the world of his own pain, abandoning the external world in which he was no longer master, he slipped down to the steel flooring of the ship, dead.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 251

Sarm lifted the bar and I sensed the murderous intensity that transformed his entire being, how each of those golden fibers like springs of steel would leap into play and the long bar would slash in a blur toward my body.

I crouched, sword in hand, waiting for the blow.

But Sarm did not strike.

Rather to my wonder the bar of steel lowered and Sarm seemed frozen suddenly in an attitude of the most rapt perception. His antennae quivered and tensed but not stiffly and each of the sensory hairs on his body lifted and extended. His limbs seemed suddenly weak.

"Kill it," he said. "Kill it."

I thought he might be telling himself to be done with me, but somehow I knew this could not be.

Then I too sensed it and I turned.

Behind me, inching its way up the narrow walkway, clinging with its six small legs, slowly lifting its heavy domelike golden body a step at a time, came the Golden Beetle I had seen below.

The mane hairs on its back were lifted like antennae and they moved as strangely, as softly, as underwater plants might lift and stir in the tides and currents of the cold liquid of the sea.

The narcotic odor emanating from that lifted, waving
mane shook even me though I stood in the midst of free air on the top of that great blue globe.

The steel bar fell from Sarm's appendage and slid from the top of the dome to fall with a distant crash far below in the rubble.

"Kill it, Cabot," came from Sarm's translator. "Kill it, Cabot, please." The Priest-King could not move. "You are human," said the translator. "You can kill it. Kill it, Cabot, please."

I stood to one side, standing on the surface of the globe, clinging to the rail.

"It is not done," I said to Sarm. "It is a great crime to kill one."

Slowly the heavy body with its domed, fused wings pressed past me, its tiny, tuftlike antennae extending towards Sarm, its long, hollow pincerlike jaws opening.

"Cabot," came from Sarm's translator.

"It is thus," I said, "that men use the instincts of Priest-Kings against them."

"Cabot, Cabot, Cabot," came from the translator.

Then to my amazement when the Beetle neared Sarm the Priest-King sank down on his supporting appendages, almost as if he were on his knees, and suddenly plunged his face and antennae into the midst of the waving manehair of the Golden Beetle.

I watched the pincerlike jaws grip and puncture the thorax of the Priest-King.

More rock dust drifted between me and the pair locked in the embrace of death.

More rock tumbled to the dome and bounced clattering to the debris below.

The very globe and walkway seemed to lift and tremble but neither of the creatures locked together above me seemed to take the least notice.

Sarm's antennae lay immersed in the golden hair of the Beetle; his grasping appendages with their sensory hairs caressed the golden hair; even did he take some of the hairs in his mouth and with his tongue try to lick the exudate from them.

"The pleasure," came from Sarm's translator. "The pleasure, the pleasure."

I could not shut out from my ears the grim sound of the sucking jaws of the Beetle.

I knew now why it was that the Golden Beetles were permitted to live in the Nest, why it was that Priest-Kings would not slay them, even though it might mean their own lives.

I wondered if the hairs of the Golden Beetle, heavy with the droplets of that narcotic exudate, offered adequate recompense to a Priest-King for the ascetic millennia in which he might have pursued the mysteries of science, if they provided an acceptable culmination to one of those long, long lives devoted to the Nest, to its laws, to duty and the pursuit and manipulation of power.

Priest-Kings, I knew, had few pleasures, and now I guessed that foremost among them might be death.

Once as though by some supreme effort of will Sarm, who was a great Priest-King, lifted his head from the golden hair and stared at me.

"Cabot," came from his translator.

"Die, Priest-King," I said softly.

The last sound I heard from Sarm's translator was - "The pleasure."

Then in the last spasmodic throb of death Sarm's body broke free of the jaws of the Golden Beetle and reared up once more to its glorious perhaps twenty feet of golden height.

He stood thusly on the walkway at the top of the vast blue dome beneath which burned and hissed the power source of Priest-Kings.

One last time he looked about himself, his antennae surveying the grandeur of the Nest, and then tumbled from the walkway and fell to the surface of the globe and slid until he fell to the rubble below.

The swollen, lethargic Beetle turned slowly to face me. With one stroke of my blade I broke open its head.

With my foot I tumbled its heavy body from the walkway and watched it slide down the side of the globe and fall like Sarm to the rubble below.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 274 - 276

The Priest-Kings shielded their antennae from the radiation of the sunlit heavens far above.

It sprang into my mind suddenly why they needed men, how dependent they were upon us.

Priest-Kings could not stand the sun!

I looked up at the sky.

And I understood as I had not before what must be the pain, the glory and the agony of the Nuptial Flight. His wings, she had said, had been like showers of gold.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 279

"I am not an engineer," said Al-Ka, "I do not know." He looked at me. "But it has to do with Ur Force."

"That secret," said Ba-Ta, "has been well guarded by Priest-Kings."

Misk lifted his antennae meditatively. "There is the Ur disruptor I constructed in the War," came from his translator. He and Kusk touched antennae quickly and held them locked for a moment. Then Misk and Kusk separated antennae. "The components in the disruptor might be realigned," he said, "but there is little likelihood that the power loop could be satisfactorily closed."

"Why not?" I asked.

"For one thing," said Misk, "the plant built by Muls is probably fundamentally ineffective to begin with; for another if it is constructed of parts stolen over centuries it would be probably impossible to achieve satisfactory component integration with the elements in the Ur disruptor."
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 282 - 283

Vika and I, clad in robes cut from the pelt of the snow larl I had slain, set out for the great black gate in the somber timber palisade that encircles the Sardar. It was a strange but rapid journey, and as we leaped chasms and seemed almost to swim in the cold air I told myself that Misk and his Priest-Kings and the humans that were engineers in the Nest were losing the battle that would decide whether men and Priest-Kings might, working together, save a world or whether in the end it would be the sabotage of Sarm, First Born, that would be triumphant and the world I loved would be scattered into fugitive grains destined for the flaming pyre of the sun.
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 292

Then I looked through the ruins of the palisade and over the fallen gate, at the smoke from the countless sacrificial fires that burned there, at the smoke from the swinging censers. No longer did it seem to pop apart and dissipate. Now it seemed to lift in slender strands toward the sky.

A cry of joy escaped my lips.

"What is it, Cabot?" cried Vika.

"Misk has won!" I cried. "We have won!"
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Page 294

About two hundred yards above the camp, toward the Sardar, whose crags could be seen looming in the background against the black, star-shattered night was a strange figure, outlined against one of the white, rushing moons of Gor.

There were gasps of astonishment and horror from all save myself. Men seized weapons.

"Let us rush on it and kill it!" they cried.

I sheathed my sword.

Outlined against the largest of Gor's three hurtling moons was the black silhouette, as sharp and keen as a knife, of a Priest-King.

"Wait here!" I shouted and I ran across the field and climbed the knoll on which it stood.

The two peering eyes, golden and luminous, looked down at me. The antennae, whipped by the wind, focused themselves. Across the left eye disk I could see the whitish seam that was the scar left from the slashing bladelike projection of Sarm.

"Misk!" I cried, rushing to the Priest-King and lifting my hands to receive the antennae which were gently placed in them.

"Greetings, Tarl Cabot," came from Misk's translator.

"You have saved our world," I said.

"It is empty for Priest-Kings," he said.

I stood below him, looking up, the wind lifting and tugging at my hair.

"I came to see you one last time," he said, "for there is Nest Trust between us."

"Yes," I said.

"You are my friend," he said.

My heart leaped!

"Yes," he said, "the expression is now ours as well as yours and you and those like you have taught us its meaning."

"I am glad," I said.

That night Misk told me of how affairs stood in the Nest. It would be long before the powers of the broken Nest could be restored, before the Scanning Chamber could function again, before the vast damages done to the Nest could be repaired, but men and Priest-Kings were even now at work, side by side.

The ships that had sped from the Sardar had now returned, for as I had feared, they were not made welcome by the cities of Gor, nor by the Initiates, and those who had ridden the ships had not been accepted by their cities. Indeed, the ships were regarded as vehicles of a type forbidden to men by Priest-Kings and their passengers were attacked in the name of the very Priest-Kings from which they had come. In the end, those humans who wished to remain on the surface had landed elsewhere, far from their native cities, and scattered themselves as vagabonds about the roads and alien cities of the planet. Others had returned to the Nest, to share in the work of its rebuilding.

The body of Sarm, I learned, had been burned in the Chamber of the Mother, according to the custom of Priest-Kings, for he had been First Born and beloved of the Mother.

Misk apparently bore him not the least ill will.

I was amazed at this, until it occurred to me that I did not either. He had been a great enemy, a great Priest-King, and had lived as he had thought he should. I would always remember Sarm, huge and golden, in the last agonizing minute when he had pulled free of the Golden Beetle and had stood upright and splendid in the crumbling, perishing Nest that he was determined must be destroyed.

"He was the greatest of the Priest-Kings," said Misk.

"No," I said, "Sarm was not the greatest of the Priest-Kings."

Misk looked at me quizzically. "The Mother," he said, "was not a Priest-King she was simply the Mother."

"I know," I said. "I did not mean the Mother."

"Yes," said Misk, "Kusk is perhaps the greatest of the living Priest-Kings."

"I did not mean Kusk," I said.

Misk looked at me in puzzlement. "I shall never understand humans," he said.

I laughed.

I truly believe it never occurred to Misk that I meant that he himself, Misk, was the greatest of the Priest-Kings.

But I truly believe he was.

He was one of the greatest creatures I had known, brilliant, courageous, loyal, selfless, dedicated.

"What of the young male?" I asked. "Was he destroyed?"

"No," said Misk. "He is safe."

For some reason this pleased me. Perhaps I simply was pleased that there had not been further destruction, further loss of life.

"Have you had the humans slay the Golden Beetles?" I asked.

Misk straightened. "Of course not," he said.

"But they will kill other Priest-Kings," I said.

"Who am I," asked Misk, "to decide how a Priest-King should live or die?"

I was silent.

"I regret only," said Misk, "that I never learned the location of the last egg, but that secret died with the Mother. Now the race of Priest-Kings itself must die."

I looked up at him. "The Mother spoke to me," I said. "She was going to tell me the location of the egg but could not "

Suddenly Misk was frozen in the attitude of utter attention, the antennae lifted, each sensory, hair alive on his golden body.

"What did you learn?" came from Misk's translator.

"She only said," I told him, "Go to the Wagon Peoples."

Misk's antennae moved thoughtfully. "Then," he said, "it must be with the Wagon Peoples - or they must know where it is."

"By now," I said, "any life in the egg would surely have perished."

Misk looked at me with disbelief. "It is an egg of Priest-Kings," he said. Then his antennae fell disconsolately. "But it could have been destroyed," he said.

"By this time," I said, "it probably has been."

"Undoubtedly," said Misk.

"Still," I said, "you are not sure."

"No," said Misk, "I am not."

"You could send Implanted Ones to spy," I suggested.

"There are no more Implanted Ones," said Misk. "We have recalled them and are removing the control nets. They may return to their cities or remain in the Nest, as they please."

"Then you are voluntarily giving up a valuable surveillance device," I said.

"Yes," said Misk.

"But why?" I asked.

"It is wrong to implant rational creatures," said Misk.

"Yes," I said, "I think that is true."

"The Scanning Chamber," said Misk, "will not be operational for an indefinite period - and even so we can scan only objects in the open."

"Perhaps you could develop a depth scanner," I suggested, "one that could penetrate walls, ground, ceilings."

"We are working on it," said Misk.

I laughed.

Misk's antennae curled.

"If you should regain your power," I asked, "what do you propose to do with it? Will you still set forth the law in certain matters for men?"

"Undoubtedly," said Misk.

I was silent.

"We must protect ourselves and those humans who live with us," said Misk.

I looked down the hill to where the campfire gleamed in the darkness. I could see human figures huddled about it, looking up at the hill.

"What of the egg?" asked Misk.

"What of it?" I asked.

"I cannot go myself," said Misk. "I am needed in the Nest and even so my antennae cannot stand the sun not for more than a few hours at most and if I so much as approached a human being it would probably fear me and try to slay me."

"Then you will have to find a human," I said to him.

Misk looked down at me.

"What of you, Tarl Cabot?" he asked.

I looked up at him.

"The affairs of Priest-Kings," I said, "- are not mine."
Priest-Kings of Gor     Book 3     Pages 310 - 314

Could I - Tarl Cabot, a human and mortal, find this object and, as Priest-Kings now wished, return it to the Sardar - return it to the hidden courts of Priest-Kings that it might there fulfill its unique and irreplaceable role in the destiny of this barbaric world - Gor, our Counter-Earth?

I did not know.

What is this object?

One might speak of it as many things, the subject of secret, violent intrigues; the source of vast strifes beneath the Sardar, strifes unknown to the men of Gor; the concealed, precious, hidden hope of an incredible and ancient race; a simple germ; a bit of living tissue; the dormant potentiality of a people's rebirth, the seed of gods - an egg - the last and only egg of Priest-Kings.

But why was it I who came?

Why not Priest-Kings in their ships and power, with their fierce weapons and fantastic devices?

Priest-Kings cannot stand the sun.

They are not as men and men, seeing them, would fear them.

Men would not believe they were Priest-Kings. Men conceive Priest-Kings as they conceive themselves.

The object - the egg - might be destroyed before it could be delivered to them.

It might already have been destroyed.

Only that the egg was the egg of Priest-Kings gave me occasion to suspect, to hope, that somehow within that mysterious, presumably ovoid sphere, if it still existed, quiescent but latent, there might be life.

And if I should find the object - why should I not myself destroy it, and destroy thereby the race of Priest-Kings, giving this world to my own kind, to men, to do with as they pleased, unrestricted by the laws and decrees of Priest-Kings that so limited their development, their technology? Once I had spoken to a Priest-King of these things. He had said to me, "Man is a larl to man; if we permitted him, he would be so to Priest-Kings as well."

"But man must be free," I had said.

"Freedom without reason is suicide," had said the Priest-King, adding, "Man is not yet rational."

But I would not destroy the egg not only because it contained life but because it was important to my friend, whose name was Misk and is elsewhere spoken of; much of the life of that brave creature was devoted to the dream of a new life for Priest-Kings, a new stock, a new beginning; a readiness to relinquish his place in an old world to prepare a mansion for the new; to have and love a child, so to speak, for Misk, who is a Priest-King, neither male nor female, yet can love.
Nomads of Gor     Book 4     Pages 7 - 8

"I think," I said, "I shall leave the Wagons soon - for I have failed in my mission on behalf of Priest-Kings."

"What mission is that?" inquired Kamchak innocently.

"To find the last egg of Priest-Kings," I said, perhaps irritably, "and to return it to the Sardar."

"Why do Priest-Kings not do their own errands?" asked Harold.

"They cannot stand the sun," I said. "They are not as men - and if men saw them they might fear and try to kill them - the egg might be destroyed.

"Someday," said Harold, "you must speak to me of Priest-Kings."

"Very well," I agreed.
Nomads of Gor     Book 4     Page 324

It would be at least another hour before I was ready to take wing for the Sardar, with the egg of Priest-Kings safe in the saddle pack of my tarn.
Nomads of Gor     Book 4     Page 341

Some months before, Elizabeth and I, the egg of Priest-Kings in the saddlepack of my tarn, had returned to the north from the Plains of Turia, the Land of the Wagon Peoples. In the vicinity of the Sardar Mountains I had brought the tarn down on the quiet, flat, gray-metal, disklike surface, some forty feet in diameter, of the ship, some two miles above the surface of Gor. The ship did not move, but remained as stationary in the sun and the whipping wind as though it were fixed on some invisible post or platform. Clouds like drifting fogs, radiant with the golden sunlight, passed about it. In the distance far below, and to the right, I could see, through the cloud cover, the black, snow-capped crags of the Sardar.

On the surface of the ship, tall and thin, like the blade of a golden knife, his forelegs lifted delicately before his body, his golden antennae blown in the wind, there stood, with the incredible fixity and alertness of his kind, a Priest-King.

I leaped from the back of the tarn and stood on the ship, in the radiant cloud-filtered sunlight.

The Priest-King took a step toward me on its four supporting posterior appendages, and stopped, as though it dared not move more.

I stood still, not speaking.

We looked on one another.

I saw that gigantic head, like a globe of gold, surmounted with wind-blown antennae, glistening with delicate sensory hair. If Miss Cardwell had been frightened, alone astride the tarn, bound for her safety to the saddle, she did not cry out nor speak, but was silent.

My heart was pounding, but I would not move. My breath was deep, my heart filled with joy.

The cleaning hooks behind the third joints of the Priest-King's forelegs lifted and emerged delicately, and extended toward me.

I looked on that great golden head and its two large, circular, disklike eyes, compound, and the light seemed to flicker among the multilensed surfaces. Across the left eye disk there was an irregular whitish seam.

At last I spoke. "Do not stand long in the sun," said I, "Misk."

Bracing himself against the wind, the antennae struggling to retain their focus on me, he took one delicate step toward me across the metal surface of the disk. Then he stood there, in his some eighteen feet of golden height, balancing on his four posterior, four-jointed supporting appendages, the two anterior, four-jointed grasping appendages, each with its four, delicate, tiny prehensile hooks, held lightly, alertly before his body in the characteristic stance of Priest-Kings. About the tube that joined his head to his thorax, on a slender chain, hung the small, round compact translator. "Do not stand so long in the sun," I said to him.

"Did you find the egg?" asked Misk. The great laterally opening and closing jaws, of course, had not moved. There was rather only a set of odors, secreted from his signal glands, picked up by the translator and transduced into mechanically reproduced Gorean words, each spoken separately, none with emotion.

"Yes, Misk," I said, "I have found the egg. It is safe. It is in the saddlepack of my tarn."

For an instant it seemed as though the great creature could not stand, as though he might fall; then, as though by an act of will, moving inch by inch through his body, he straightened himself.

I said nothing.

Delicately, slowly, the gigantic creature approached me, seeming to move only the four supporting appendages, until it stood near me. I lifted my hands over my head, and he, delicately, in the fog splendid with the sun, the smooth texture of his golden body gleaming, gently lowered his body and head, and with the tips of his antennae, covered with their sensitive, glistening golden hair, touched the palms of my hands.

There were tears in my eyes.

The antennae trembled against my hands. The great golden blade, his body itself, for a moment trembled. Again the cleaning hooks behind the third joint of each of the forelegs emerged, delicately, incipiently extended to me. The great compound eyes, on which Priest-Kings so seldom depended, were radiant; in that moment they glowed like diamonds burning in wine.

"Thank you," said Misk.

Elizabeth and I had remained with Misk in the Nest of Priest-Kings, that incredible complex beneath the Sardar, for some weeks.

He had been overjoyed at the receipt of the egg and it had immediately been given over to eager attendants that it might be incubated and hatched. I doubt that the Physicians and Scientists of the Nest had ever exercised more diligence and care in such matters than they lavished on that one egg, and perhaps rightfully so, for it represented the continuation of their kind.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Pages 58 - 60

Also, in the Nest, I met the male, who had no name, no more than the Mother has a name among the Priest-King kind. They are regarded as being above names, much as men do not think to give a name to the universe as a whole. He seemed a splendid individual, but very serious and very quiet.

"It will be fine," I said to Misk, "that there be a Father of the Nest, as well as eventually a Mother."

Misk looked at me. "There is never a Father of the Nest," said he.

I questioned Misk on this, but he seemed evasive, and I gather he did not wish to speak further to me on the matter, so, as he wished, I did not speak more of it.
Assassin of Gor     Book 5     Page 62

Then, to my horror, a large, golden creature, six-legged, supporting itself on its four long back legs, almost upright, stepped from the ship. It had large eyes and, I thought, antennae. It moved swiftly, delicately, almost daintily toward the ship and, bending down, disappeared inside. Some of the men followed it in.

In perhaps less than a minute the creature, and the men, emerged from the ship; they, together with their fellows, then swiftly re-entered the silverish ship. The hatches slid shut and the ship, almost simultaneously, lifted itself, silently, some hundred feet from the grass. Then it moved above the wreck of the black ship. There was a sudden, bluish flash, and a blast of almost incandescent heat. I put my head down. When I raised my head the silverish, disklike ship was gone. And so, too, was the wreck of the black ship. When I dared I went back to the site of the wreck. The depression in which it had lain, and the earth around, for some tens of feet, was scorched. But I could find nothing of the ship, not a bolt or a bit of quartz, not a thread of metal or a scrap of wire.
Captive of Gor     Book 7     Pages 40 - 41

The attitude of Priest-Kings toward Initiates, as I recalled, having once been in the Sardar, is generally one of disinterest. They are regarded as being harmless. They are taken by many Priest-Kings as an evidence of the aberrations of the human kind.
Marauders of Gor     Book 9     Page 29

Since the Nest War the probes of aliens had grown more bold, even on Gor; they had little difficulty in taking female slaves on Earth; gold, exchangeable for materials essential to their enterprises, was well guarded on Earth; it could seldom be obtained in quantities without attracting the attention of the agents of Priest-Kings; on the other hand, the women of Earth, dispersed, abundant, many of them beautiful, superb slave stock, the sort a Gorean master enjoys training to the collar, were, generally, unguarded; Earth took greater care to guard her gold than her females; accordingly, the women of Earth, unprotected, vulnerable, like luscious fruit on wild trees, were free for the pickings of Gorean slavers; a network, I gathered, existed for their selection and acquisition; Earth was helpless to prevent the taking of their most beautiful women; they were eventually sold naked from blocks in Gorean markets.
Marauders of Gor     Book 9     Page 163

Priest-Kings, who are not visually oriented organisms, find little difference between Kurii and men. To me this seems preposterous, for ones so wise as Priest-Kings, but, in spite of its obvious falsity, Priest-Kings regard the Kurii and men as rather similar, almost equivalent species. One difference they do remark between the human and the Kur, and that is that the human, commonly, has an inhibition against killing. This inhibition the Kur lacks.
Marauders of Gor     Book 9     Page 170

In the laws of Priest-Kings it was up to such species, those of Kurii and men, to resolve their differences in their own way.
Marauders of Gor     Book 9     Page 175

"Kurii have delivered to the Sardar an ultimatum."

"An ultimatum?" I asked.

"Surrender Gor, it said," said Samos.
. . .

"And how has the Sardar responded to this?" I asked. "Have they repudiated it, scoffingly, ridiculed the preposterousness of this demand?"

Samos smiled. "Misk, a Priest-King," said he, "one high in the Sardar, has asked Kurii for a further specification of details."

I smiled. "He is buying time," I said.

"Of course," said Samos.

"What response, if any, was made?" I asked.

"Surrender Gor," said Samos. "A repetition of the original imperative. Then there was communication silence."
. . .

"Nothing more has been heard from Kurii?" I asked.

"Nothing more," said Samos.

"Doubtless it is a bluff on the part of Kurii," I said.

"Priest-Kings would not well understand that sort of thing. They are quite rational generally, unusually logical. Their minds seldom think in terms of unwarranted challenges, psychological strategies, false claims."

Samos shrugged.

"Sometimes I think Priest-Kings do not well understand Kurii. They may be too remotely related a life form. They may not have the passions, the energies, the hatreds to fully comprehend Kurii."

"Or men," said Samos.

"Or men," I agreed. Priest-Kings surely had energies and passions, but, I suspected, they were, on the whole, rather different from those of men, or, indeed, those of Kurii. The nature of the sensory experience of Priest-Kings was still, largely, a mystery to me. I knew their behavioral world; I did not know the world of their inner experience. Their antennae were their central organs of physical transduction. Though they had eyes, they seldom relied upon them, and were perfectly at ease in total darkness. Lights, in the Nest, were for the benefit of humans and other visually oriented creatures sharing the domicile. Their music was a rhapsody of odors, many of which were, to human olfactory organs, not even pleasant. Their decorations were largely invisible lines of scent traced with great care on the interiors of their compartments. Their most intense, pleasurable experience was perhaps to immerse their antennae in the filamented, narcotic mane of the golden beetle, which would then, piercing them with its curved, hollow, laterally moving jaw-pincers, drain them of their body fluid, feeding itself, slaying them. The social bond of the Priest-Kings is Nest Trust. Yet, in spite of their different evolutionary background and physiology, they had learned the meaning of the word 'friend'; too, I knew, they understood, if only in their own way, love.
Tribesmen of Gor     Book 10     Pages 29 - 31

Since the time of the Nest War the intelligence and surveillance networks of the Priest-Kings had been severely impaired. Even had they not have been, their information, they, seldom leaving the Sardar, not being as humans, was little better than that of their human agents, widely separated in space and time.
Tribesmen of Gor     Book 10     Page 362

The Priest-kings, for thousands of years, had defended the system of the yellow star against the depredations of the prowling Kurii. Fortunes had shifted perhaps dozens of times, but never had the Kurii managed to establish a beachhead on the shores of this beautiful world. But some years ago, in the time of the Nest War, the power of the Priest-Kings was considerably reduced. I do not think the Kurii are certain of this, or of the extent of the reduction.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 8

Kurii, like Priest-Kings, often work through men, concealing themselves from those who would serve them. Samos, for example, had little inkling of the nature of Priest-Kings.
Beasts of Gor     Book 12     Page 143

Such creatures, I gathered, had no clear idea of the nature of Priest-Kings. They had not directly experienced Priest-Kings, only the power of Priest-Kings. Like burned animals they were wary of them. Priest-Kings, wisely, did not choose to directly confront such creatures. Not a little of the hesitancy and tentativeness of the militaristic incursions of such creatures was, I suspected, a function of their ignorance of, and fear of, the true nature and power of the remote and mysterious denizens of the Sardar. If such creatures should come to clearly understand the nature of the Priest-Kings, and the current restrictions on their power, in virtue of the catastrophic Nest War, I had little doubt but what the attack signals would be almost immediately transmitted to the steel worlds. In weeks the silver ships would beach on the shores of Gor.
Savages of Gor     Book 17     Pages 29 - 30

I recalled, long ago, in the Nest, when I had seen the dying Mother. "I see him, I see him," she had said, "and his wings are like showers of gold." She had then lain quietly on the stone. "The Mother is dead," had said Misk. Her last memory, interestingly, it seemed, had been of her Nuptial Flight. There was now, doubtless, a new Mother in the Nest. Yngvar and his fellows, unwittingly, I was confident, had witnessed the inauguration of a new dynasty among Priest-Kings.
Players of Gor     Book 20     Page 32

"As I understand it," said Mirus, who now joined the group, "the Priest-Kings enforce their laws by the Flame Death."
Prize of Gor     Book 27     Page 656

Something, you see, stands between the Kurii and their coveted world, a power, a form of life as far advanced beyond the Kur, as the Kurii are beyond those of Earth, as far as those of Earth would be beyond primitives beginning to learn pottery and weaving. The nature of this power is not clear to me, but it is seemingly quite real. It has its own world, I am told, a world not wholly unlike Earth. It is, in a sense, a sister world of Earth, though I gather it is not an offspring of the sun, as we suppose Earth to be, but rather entered its system long ago, following a search for a suitable star, much as nomads might have searched for lush grazing or fertile fields. It is spoken of in ancient records as the Antichthon, or Counter-Earth. Its name amongst some, amongst one or more of the rational species which inhabit it, is a strange one, one that is unclear to me - It is "Home Stone." But this mysterious word, so unintelligible and obscure, is perhaps best left undeciphered. So, we will, as occasion arises, obviate any distractive, attendant difficulties of exegesis by using, untranslated, its most common native name, which is Gor. The world will then be spoken of as Gor. The most common name for its primary, in the same most common native tongue, is Tor-tu-Gor, or "Light-Upon-the-Home-Stone." It would be doubtless fruitless to digress upon these semantic anomalies.

The utter masters of that world, which we will call Gor, are alleged to be the Sardar, an expression commonly translated as Priest-Kings, a word, we suppose, which tells us less of their nature than of the awe they inspire. Certainly it is a word suggesting power, perhaps of an unusually potent and unnatural sort, and mystery. One gathers the Priest-Kings are worshipped as gods, which flattery, if they have taken note of it, they apparently tolerate, and perhaps, for their own purposes, even indulge, and encourage. Priest-Kings, it is alleged, have mastered gravity, a force they can use for purposes as mighty as the forming, moving, and destroying of worlds, and purposes as trivial and convenient as visual and gravitational concealment, transportation, flight, work, and weaponry.
Kur of Gor     Book 28     Page 7

The Flame Death, with which they commonly enforce their laws, if nothing else, mitigates against agnosticism in this matter.

One thing about the Priest-Kings puzzles the Kurii, and that is why this mysterious life form seldom behaves otherwise than defensively. They will react sharply if not inevitably to border crossings, but they will not pursue the rebuffed invaders; they will not seek them out, and destroy them in their lairs.

Indeed, Priest-Kings are tolerant of the presence of Kurii on Gor itself, provided they respect their technology and weapon laws.

One supposes the Priest-Kings have a different sense of civilization than, say, humans, or Kurii, who will commonly pursue and exterminate an enemy.

Perhaps the Priest-Kings recognize the Kurii as a life form, rather as the human, and, as such, as something of interest, perhaps of value, if only scientifically.
Kur of Gor     Book 28     Page 9

The surveillance of Priest-Kings is rather efficient, as we have reason to know, but it is also, as we have reason to know, far from perfect, particularly so in recent years. Perhaps this has to do with transitions or dislocations in the Sardar, such as have been occasionally rumored. But perhaps not. It is hard to know. Surely small ships, at least, manned by humans, have frequently enough, of late, penetrated the atmosphere of Gor. Many, apparently detected, have been ignored. Others, pursued, have eluded their pursuers. I personally suspect that this lapse of attentiveness or this seemingly tolerant permissiveness, or this seeming lack of zeal, on the part of Priest-Kings, and their ships, presumably mostly automated and remotely controlled, has less to do with technological limitations than with some reordering of priorities in the Sardar, perhaps even with an acceptance of the general harmlessness of the ships involved, and a disinterest in their common cargoes. It may be a simple matter of balancing costs.
Kur of Gor     Book 28     Page 20

Priest-Kings, you see, seldom use their own ships in the vicinity of Gor's surface. They tend to protect their mystery or privacy zealously. The dark, palisaded Sardar itself, the abode of Priest-Kings, is sealed away. It is sacred, and forbidden.
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Page 78

I supposed it was possible that this man might be an agent of Priest-Kings. Doubtless they selected their human agents with an eye to probity and utility, not nobility, not honor. Too, the moralities of Priest-Kings might not be those of men, or of Kurii. Too, I knew there was a new dynasty in the Nest. The remnants of the older order might, by now, dispossessed and superseded, neglected and scorned, have long ago sought the pleasures of the Golden Beetle.
Swordsmen of Gor     Book 29     Pages 93 - 94

It was my understanding that a dialect of Gorean was spoken at the World's End, that the Priest-Kings had seen to this. By their mysterious power, and secret sky ships, it seems they had long ago placed Initiates amongst the Pani, perhaps centuries ago, who had taught them Gorean. These Initiates, as the legends went, had sought to exploit their prestige in an attempt to secure power, and had been done away with.
Mariners of Gor     Book 30     Page 318

"Thank the Priest-Kings," said Aktis, "that you have not encountered the intruders. Indeed, hire Initiates to petition the Priest-Kings that you do not do so."
Avengers of Gor     Book 36     Page 16

News on Gor was often delayed, incomplete, haphazard, distorted, or spurious, even altogether unavailable. How might one separate idle rumor from sober truth; how might one tell fact from fable, fear, and fancy? This had much to do with the technology laws of the Priest-Kings, who, it seemed, recognized the danger, both to themselves and other forms of life, of sharing a planet with human beings, belligerent and short-tempered, curious, greedy, selfish, skilled in waste, exploitation, thoughtlessness, pollution, and war. Did the Priest-Kings not regard us as an interesting, but simple, primitive, short-sighted species?

Who knows what might come of putting matches, bombs, and dynamite in nurseries, and madhouses?
Avengers of Gor     Book 36     Page 17

"Mariners, noble mariners," cried one of the women, extending her hand piteously, "succor, succor!"

"Glory to the Priest-Kings that you have seen us!" cried another.
Avengers of Gor     Book 36     Page 30

"By the Priest-Kings," said Archelaos, enthusiastically, his fist striking the table like a bird of prey, "let us give glad heed to our merchant friend from Brundisium, the noble Kenneth Statercounter."
Avengers of Gor     Book 36     Pages 54 - 55

Whereas I, in the interests of intelligibility, have often had recourse to directions apt to my native world, Earth directions, applied to Gor, such as north, south, and so on, Goreans orient their compasses, with its eight major divisions, to the Sardar Mountains, lair of the Priest-Kings, the gods of Gor. Ror is the first of the four divisions left of Ta-sardar-Var, which, in its orienting role, would be similar to our magnetic north. Clitus, Thurnock, and I went to the port rail.
Avengers of Gor     Book 36     Page 88

"Of what shall we speak?" she asked. "Of love, of fishing, of villages, of men, of Priest-Kings, of the mysteries of the universe? I warn you. I know little of Priest-Kings or the mysteries of the universe."
Avengers of Gor     Book 36     Page 99

"Many who are limited to the First Knowledge," said Sakim, "do not even know there is a Second Knowledge."

"And it is said," said Clitus, "that there is a Third Knowledge, known only to Priest-Kings."
Avengers of Gor     Book 36     Page 216

"Four corsair ships followed me," said Tab, "even in darkness, unerringly. it is uncanny. It speaks of the hands of Priest-Kings. I could not slip away."
Avengers of Gor     Book 36     Page 335

"May the Priest-Kings look with favor on the cheating and chicanery of your caste," he said.
Avengers of Gor     Book 36     Page 384

Perhaps there might be a pack odor amongst Kurii, as there was with urts, or a nest odor, as there was with Priest-Kings.
Warriors of Gor     Book 37     Page 232

"If their laws are unbroken," she said, "Priest-Kings do not intrude into the affairs of men."

"They sometimes do," I said.
Warriors of Gor     Book 37     Page 412

Usually, a translation device is used by Kurii who would converse with humans or humans who would wish to converse with Kurii. Similarly a translation device is commonly used between humans and Priest-Kings or between Kurii and Priest-Kings. The latter devices are far more sophisticated than the former devices because Priest-Kings commonly communicate with one another by a syllabary of some four hundred odor signals.
Warriors of Gor     Book 37     Page 483

"What it wanted of Decius Albus," I said, "an ally, one who would, to further his own interest, abet their schemes."

"They are powerful?" said Marlenus.

"Very much so," I said.

"Why then," he asked, "do they not simply seize Gor?"

"Priest-Kings are more powerful," I said.

"Then Gor has little to fear," said Marlenus.

"She has much to fear," I said. "Priest-Kings seldom interfere in the doings of other species. For example, commonly, as long as their technology laws are respected, and they themselves do not feel threatened, they let human beings love and kill one another much as they please. Similarly, they would be unlikely to intervene in wars between humans and Kurii. Thus, Gor might become a Kur world, with humans becoming an extinct or reduced species on this world, with the likely result of harming this world, and possibly, eventually, given technologies familiar on the artificial worlds, wresting it from the Priest-Kings themselves, a result unlikely to have been anticipated by the Priest-Kings."

"Why do the Priest-Kings not seek out and destroy the artificial worlds?" asked Marlenus.

"It is not their way," I said.
Warriors of Gor     Book 37     Page 575

In the beginning, I had taken it as no more than a bit of fog, or cloud, oddly low, some few feet wide, moving toward us. Then it spread itself like a hand, widely, reaching out, a hand with taloned fingers.

Han-leel, curious, annoyed, wary, turned about, knife ready.

He uttered a wild cry of alarm.

The hand began to close about him, like a closing fist. He slashed and stabbed at it wildly but it seemed his blade encountered no substance, no resistance; it was as if he rained blows on mist or fog, as if he sought vainly to draw blood from the air. Then it was as though the fog or cloud hardened and he was clutched in some uncanny fist, real or imaginary; he could scarcely move; the knife felt from his limp hand; I heard the cracking of bones; blood burst from his mouth and eyes, and then, weirdly, the fist and its clutched prey began to glow, and then, a moment later, there was a crackling and a roaring burst of flame, and then the flame faded, and I saw only ashes and blackened grass.
Treasure of Gor     Book 38     Page 590

"There are, are there not," I asked, "what are called the laws of the Priest-Kings?"

"Yes," he said, "laws whose breach is not accepted, the breach of which may be attended by fearful consequences, even by the Flame Death."

"The sort of thing which destroyed Han-leel?" I asked.

"It would seem, at least, to be similar," he said.
Treasure of Gor     Book 38     Pages 592 - 593


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