These are relevant references from the Books where Urt People are mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
I clutched the bars of the narrow cell window, looking out onto the courtyard. I stood on a table which I had dragged to the side of the wall, in order to be able to look out. Behind me, on his straw, crouched the small, narrow-shouldered, spindle-legged representative of the urt people.
"Look, look?" squeaked the creature on the straw below me.
It scratched about on the straw, backwards with its feet, while looking up at me.
I turned about and reached down, extending my hand to it. Agilely it scurried across the stone floor of the cell and leapt to the table on which I stood. Then, clinging to my arm, and boosted by my hand, it seized the bars beside me, thrusting its forearms through and about them, clinging to them, using them to support its weight.
"Back against the wall, on your knees!" said a voice.
The representative of the urt people and I complied. It was time to be fed.
The jailer then left.
The representative of the urt people regarded me, narrowly, furtively, fearfully.
I rose to my feet and fetched my food. I put it on the table, and sat down at the table, on one of the benches.
The representative of the urt people then scurried to his food and, by one edge of the tray, with a scraping noise of metal on stone, dragged it quickly over to his straw. He ate hurriedly, watching me carefully. He feared, I suppose, that I might take his food from him. To be sure, it would not have been difficult to do, had I wished to do so.
I looked back at the representative of the urt people. He suddenly scurried back to his straw, crouching on it, looking up at me. He had been approaching the table quite closely. He had finished his meal. It seemed reasonable to suppose then that he had intended, or hoped, his own food gone, to steal some of mine, that to be accomplished while my attention was distracted by the passage of the Kur in the hall. I smiled. The little creature was doubtless indeed familiar with the routines, the possibilities and opportunities, of prison life.
It turned its eyes away from mine, not wanting to meet them. It pretended to be examining its straw for lice.
It was one of the urt people. It had a narrow, elongated face and rather large, ovoid eyes. It was narrow-shouldered and narrow-chested. It had long, thin arms and short, spindly legs. It commonly walked, or hurried, bent over, its knuckles often on the ground, its head often moving from side to side. This low gait commonly kept it inconspicuous among the large, migratory urt packs with which it commonly moved. Sometimes such packs pass civilized areas and observers are not even aware of the urt people traveling with them. The urt packs provide them with cover and protection. For some reason, not clear to me at that time, the urts seldom attack them. Sometimes it would rear up, straightly, unexpectedly, looking about itself, and then drop back to a smaller, more bent-over position. It was capable of incredible stillness and then sudden, surprising bursts of movement.
I made a small clicking noise, to attract its attention.
Immediately, alertly, it turned its head toward me.
I beckoned for it to approach.
It suddenly reared upright, quizzically.
"Come here," I said, beckoning to it.
When it stood upright it was about three and a half feet tall. "Do not be afraid," I said. I took a slice of hard larma from my tray. This is a firm, single-seeded, applelike fruit. It is quite unlike the segmented, juicy larma. It is sometimes called, and perhaps more aptly, the pit fruit, because of its large single stone. I held it up so that he could see it. The urt people, I understood, were fond of pit fruit. Indeed, it was for having stolen such fruit from a state orchard that he had been incarcerated. He had been netted, put in a sack and brought here. That had been more than six months ago. I had learned these things from the jailer when he had thrust the creature in with me. The creature approached, warily. Then it lifted its long arm and pointed a long index finger at the fruit. "Bet! Bet!" it said. "Pay! Pay!"
"No," I said. "I made no bet with you." It was referring, I gathered, to the Kur baiting which had taken place this morning in the courtyard, visible from our window. It had probably picked up the expressions from the crowd. I did not know if it understood the concepts of betting and paying or not.
"I do not owe this to you," I said. "It is mine."
The creature shrank back a bit, frightened.
"But I might give it to you," I said.
It looked at me.
I broke off a piece of the pit fruit and handed it to him. He ate it quickly, watching me.
"Come here," I said. "Up here." I indicated the surface of the table.
He leapt up to the surface of the table, squatting there.
I broke off another bit of the hard fruit and handed it to him. "What is your name?" I asked.
He uttered a kind of hissing squeal. I supposed that might be his name. The urt people, as I understood it, commonly communicate among themselves in the pack by means of such signals. How complicated or sophisticated those signals might be I did not know. They did tend to resemble the natural noises of urts. In this I supposed they tended to make their presence among the urts less obvious to outside observers and perhaps, too, less obvious, or obtrusive, to the urts themselves. Too, however, I knew the urt people could, and did upon occasion, as in their rare contacts with civilized folk, communicate in a type of Gorean, many of the words evidencing obvious linguistic corruptions but others, interestingly, apparently closely resembling archaic Gorean, a language not spoken popularly on Gor, except by members of the caste of Initiates, for hundreds of years. I had little difficulty, however, in understanding him. He seemed an intelligent creature, and his Gorean was doubtless quite different from the common trade Gorean of the urt people. It had doubtless been much refined and improved in the prison. The urt people learn quickly. They are rational. Some people keep them as pets. I think they are, or at one time were, a form of human being. Probably long ago, as some forms of urts became commensals with human beings, so, too, some humans may have become commensals, traveling companions, sharers at the same table, so to speak, with the migratory urt packs.
"What do they call you here?" I asked.
"Nim, Nim," it said.
"I am called Bosk," I said.
"Bosk, Bosk," it said. "Nice Bosk. Pretty Bosk. More larma! More larma!"
I gave the creature more of the hard larma.
"Good Bosk, nice Bosk," it said.
I handed it another bit of larma.
"Bosk want escape?" it asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Bad men want do terrible thing to Bosk," it said.
"What?" I asked.
"Nim Nim afraid talk," it said.
I did not press the creature.
"Few cells have table," it said, fearfully. "Bosk not chained."
I nodded. "I think I understand," I said. Not being chained, and because of the table, I had been able to witness the cruel spectacle in the courtyard. That I supposed now, given the hints of the small creature, was perhaps intended to give me something to think about. I shuddered. Much hatred must I be borne in this place.
"More larma!" said the creature. "More larma!"
I gave it some more larma. There was not much left. "They intend to use me in the baiting pit," I speculated.
"No," said the creature. "Worse. Far worse. Nim Nim help."
"I don't understand," I said.
"Bosk want escape?" it asked.
"Yes," I said.
"More larma," it said. "More larma!"
I gave it the last of the larma.
"Bosk want escape?" it asked.
"Yes," I said.
"Nim Nim help," it said.
"There!" squealed the small creature. "There! There! The people! Nim Nim escape! Nim Nim free!"
We had emerged through a cut between two rocky outcroppings and ascended a small hill. It was near the tenth Ahn the Gorean noon. We had left the city, emerging well beyond the walls early this morning. We were naked. The lower portion of my body was covered with dirt and blood from our trek through the brush. It, too, had been cut from the stones and sides of the narrow sewers through which we had made our way. "Nim Nim good urt," he had told me. "Urts find way!"
"It is hard to see," I said.
"Nim Nim see," said the small beast, clutching at my wrist with both of its hands. It began to pull me through the room. Once my foot splashed into the shallow concave approach to a cistern. There was a smell in the place. This area, I suspected, was probably more in the nature of a sump beneath the prison than a bath. In a few moments my eyes could make out things reasonably well. The eyes of the urt people, I gathered, adjusted very quickly to darkness. This may be an adaptive specialization, having to do with the fact that urt packs are often active at night.
"Here, here," said the small creature, eagerly. It pulled me to a grating in the floor. "Nim Nim not strong enough!"
I fixed my hands about the bars of the grating. I pulled at it. It seemed very solidly anchored in the cement. It did pull up a bit at one edge. It was extremely heavy. I was not surprised that the small creature could not move it. I wondered if many men could have moved it.
"Pull! Pull!" said Nim Nim.
"I cannot move it," I said.
"Pull! Pull!" said Nim Nim.
I crouched down, getting my legs under me. Then, largely using the force of my legs, pushing up with them, I pulled against the bars. The side which had lifted before a bit, now, a little at a time, to my elation, with small sounds of loosening, breaking mortar, rose upward. The mortar, perhaps, in years of drainage here, if the area did function largely as a sump for the prison, might have been loosened.
"See! See!" whispered Nim Nim.
I thrust the heavy grating, loose now, to the side.
Nim Nim scuttled into the dark, circular crevice. In a moment, half sickened by the stench, my body moving against the slimy sides of the opening, I followed him.
We stood now, in the neighborhood of noon, on a small hill, some pasangs from the walls of Brundisium. We had emerged through rocky outcroppings below. There was much stone in this area. It could have been quarried. Much of this stone, in its great surrounding, irregular alignments, seemed almost to form the serrated ridge of some vast, ancient, natural bowl, now muchly crumbled and weathered. These outcroppings, with their breaks and openings, encircled an area perhaps more than two pasangs in width. Guided by Nim Nim, who had sometimes ridden upon my back, and other times upon my shoulders, I had come to this place. Now he had leaped down from my shoulders. "Nim Nim safe now!" he cried, pointing downward into the shallow, muchly-encircled valley below. In that broad, sweeping, concave area I could see what Nim Nim called the "people." Never before had I seen an urt pack that huge. It must have contained four or five thousand animals.
"Hold!" called a voice, authoritatively.
I turned suddenly, swiftly about.
"Good trick! Good trick!" cried Nim Nim. "Nim Nim good urt! No pit for Bosk! Worse! Much worse! Nim Nim help! Nim Nim help!"
I felt sick. I remembered his words in the cell. I had not immediately understood, I had then supposed that he meant to help me escape, as indeed, clearly, later, seemed to be the intent of his words. Now I understood that it had been no accident he had been put in with me. He had been, from the beginning, the partisan of my enemies.
"Nim Nim help!" he cried, delightedly. "Nim Nim help! Nim Nim good urt! Now Nim Nim free!"
"Kneel, Bosk of Port Kar," said Flaminius. I knelt. With Flaminius were the jailer, and his other fellows. Several had set crossbows trained on me. More importantly, one held the leashes of three snarling sleen.
I looked down at the urt pack in the valley below. "I was brought here, deliberately, of course," I said.
"Of course," said Flaminius, "But even if you had not chosen to follow our little friend's advice in this matter, we could have apprehended you easily anywhere in the vicinity, and then brought you here, as we wished."
"The sleen," I said.
"Certainly," he said. "Look." He signaled to one of the men standing by the fellow with the sleen. He drew forth from a sack the ragged tunic I had worn in the cell.
"Clever," I said.
Outside the entrance to the cubicle of the bathing cisterns, before being prodded within by the spears of our keepers, Nim Nim and I had been forced to strip. We had then been herded into the darkness and the door closed and locked behind us. It had all seemed very natural. I now realized that it had been part of the plan of Flaminius. After the door had been closed behind us the clothing, or at least mine, had doubtless been taken down to the sleen pens. Then it was only necessary; later, to pick up our trail outside the city, at the termination of one of the conduits, where it would empty into one of the long, half-dry drainage ditches about a half pasang outside the walls.
"Look," grinned Flaminius, and he signaled again to the fellow who held the rags I had worn.
He held them near the sleen. Instantly, furiously, snarling, they seized the garment, tugging and tearing at it.
"Enough!" said Flaminius.
The fellow freed the garment from the sleen, shouting at them, half tearing it away from them. Even though he was their keeper and they were doubtless trained to obey him, and perhaps only him, it was not easy for him to regain the garment.
Flaminius then took the garment, and looked at me. "Behold, Bosk of Port Kar," he laughed, "naked and kneeling before us, outwitted, terrified into the desire for escape, then led to believe his escape was successful, then his hopes dashed, now realizing how he was never out of our grasp. Behold the stupid, outwitted fool!"
I was silent.
"Are you not curious as to your fate?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
Flaminius then threw me the garment he had taken from the sleen keeper. It was in shreds, little more than dangling tatters, from the teeth of the ravaging, contesting sleen. "Put it on," he said. "No, do not rise. Draw it on as you kneel."
The men laughed at me as I knelt before them then, a few dangling tatters about my neck and body. The sleen eyed me eagerly.
"Would not the stroke of the sword be quicker?" I asked.
"Yes, but not as amusing," said Flaminius.
"Perhaps you should draw back, that you not be injured in the charge of the sleen," I suggested.
"Remain kneeling," he warned me.
"I am somewhat mystified about many things," I said. "Perhaps this is an opportune moment to request an explanation. May I inquire, accordingly, what might be your interest in me, or that of your party? Why, for example, was the fellow named Babinius sent against me in Port Kar? What was the point of that? Similarly, why should there have been an interest in Brundisium in my apprehension? Who, or what, in Brundisium, has this interest in me, and why?"
"You would like me to respond to your questions, would you not?" he asked.
"Yes," I said.
"I do not choose to do so," he said.
I clenched my fists. Those with him laughed.
"But do not think that we are not capable of acts of incredible kindness, or that mercy is beyond our ken," he said.
"Oh?" I said.
"We are willing to permit you a choice of fates," he said. "And we are willing to give you a certain amount of time, to agonize over them."
"I do not understand," I said.
"Surely you do not think it is an accident that we used our little friend here in our plans? Surely you do not think it is a mere coincidence that you have been brought to this place?"
"I suppose not," I said. I shuddered.
Nim Nim leaped up and down gleefully. "Nim Nim help. Nim Nim good urt!" he squealed.
"Go, little urt," said Flaminius, kindly. "Run to your people." "Nim Nim smart!" it cried. "Nim Nim trick pretty Bosk!"
"Hurry home, little urt," said Flaminius, kindly.
Nim Nim looked up at me with his ovoid eyes, set in that small, elongated face. "Worse than pit," he said to me, "worse, far worse. Nim Nim help. Nim Nim trick pretty Bosk. Too bad, pretty Bosk!"
"Hurry, hurry," urged Flaminius.
"You will now turn about, slowly, on your knees," said Flaminius to me. "You will then rise slowly and slowly descend the hill. You will go to the edge of the urt pack. We will remain, for a time, here on the hill. You will be under our observation at all times. If you should attempt to run or move to one side, as though thinking of skirting the pack, we will immediately release the sleen. You must then, if you wish, enter the urt pack. If you do not wish to do this we will, after a time, release the sleen, and they will set upon you wherever they find you. Is this all clear?"
"Yes," I said.
"I wonder what you will choose," said Flaminius.
"I bet he will enter the pack," said one of the men.
"I wager he will wait for the sleen," said another.
"Do not permit us to sway your decision," said Flaminius, "but it has been our usual experience in similar situations, that the individual involved waits until the sleen are almost upon him and then, seemingly almost uncontrollably, runs into the pack.
To be sure, it would probably have been better for him if he had waited for the sleen."
"Sleen are quicker," said one of the men.
"Few have the courage, however, to wait for them," said another.
"What will you do, Bosk of Port Kar?" asked Flaminius.
"I do not know," I said.
"An excellent answer," said Flaminius. "Many men think they know what they will do, but when the moment comes it seems it does not always turn out as they expected. Sometimes he who thinks he is brave learns he is a coward, and sometimes, too, I suppose, he who thought himself a coward learns that he is brave."
I turned away from them, slowly, on my knees, and then rose to my feet.
"Slowly, slowly now," said Flaminius.
I began to walk slowly down the hill, toward the urt pack. Nim Nim had not yet entered it. I supposed he might be waiting to see what I might do.
I went to within a few yards of the edge of the pack. Most of the animals did not pay me any attention. A few regarded me suspiciously. I did not, of course, infringe the perimeter of their group, or approach within a critical distance. I looked back to the crest of that low hill. I could see Flaminius there, and his men, and the sleen. I had a few Ehn, doubtless, before they were released. I was supposed to be spending that time, it seemed, agonizingly pondering which fate I would choose for myself. Needless to say, I was not enthusiastic about either of the obvious alternatives. I looked at the urt pack. I had never seen one so large. It contained a very large number of animals. The smell of it even was oppressive. I looked to the ends of the pack; they extended for about a quarter of a pasang on either side of me. If I were to run for them the sleen, doubtless, would be immediately freed. They could be upon me in a matter of Ihn. I looked across the pack. It was some two or three hundred yards across. I did not think that even sleen would be able to make it through them. No, it did not seem likely that even sleen could make it through such a dense thicket of large, vicious creatures. I fingered the tattered garment I wore. Sleen, I knew, are indefatigable hunters, fearless, tenacious trackers, very tenacious trackers.
I looked over to Nim Nim, a few yards from me, much closer to the pack. He was obviously prepared, if I approached him, to dart into the pack.
"Nim Nim safe here!" he called. He pointed to the pack. "The people do not hurt Nim Nim!"
I wondered if somewhere in that vast pack of animals there might be other representatives of the urt people. If there were, however, they were keeping themselves concealed. They do not always stay with the pack, of course, but almost always they remain in its vicinity, seldom gone from it for long. Nim Nim, as I recalled, had been netted in a state orchard.
"Are you sure these are your people?" I asked, curious about the matter. Urts looked much alike from my point of view. To be sure, I supposed one could come to distinguish them individually after a time.
"Yes," said Nim Nim proudly. "There is," and he made a whistling sound, "and there is," and there again he made a piping, hissing, whistling noise, pointing out two urts. "And there is" he said, adding in another noise, "our leader!" He had indicated a large, dark-furred, broken-tusked urt, a gigantic creature for this type of animal, with small eyes and a silvered snout.
I did not doubt that Nim Nim knew what he was talking about. This was surely his pack. There could be no doubt about it.
"The people tear Bosk to pieces!" called Nim Nim. "The people do not hurt Nim Nim! Nim Nim is of the people. Nim Nim safe!"
I looked back at the crest of the hill. The sleen had not yet been released.
"Nim Nim trick pretty Bosk!" he said. "Nim Nim smart! Nim Nim free now! Nim Nim safe!"
I wondered how it was that the urt people could travel with the urt packs. I knew that even strange urts were often torn to pieces when they attempted to approach a new pack. How, then, could the urt people, who were obviously human, or something like human, run with impunity with them? It made no sense. But there must be an explanation, a reason, I thought, some sort of empirical, scientific explanation or reason. Perhaps something had been selected for, somehow, in the recognition and acceptance dispositions of the urt people and the packs. I saw the leader of the pack, he identified as that by Nim Nim, looking at me. I doubted that it could see me too well. Urts tend to be myopic. He had his nose lifted toward me. I saw it twitching and sniffing. Suddenly the hair rose on the back of my neck. "Do not enter the pack!" I called out to Nim Nim. "Don't!"
"Pretty Bosk want to hurt Nim Nim!" he cried. He moved toward the pack. "Don't go into the pack!" I cried out to him. "I am staying here! I am not approaching! I will not hurt you! Do not enter the pack!"
Nim Nim had been caught in a state orchard. He had been imprisoned in Brundisium. That had been at least six months ago. I remembered the laughter of the men on the hill, as Nim Nim had hurried down to join the pack. Too, I thought of the stately, delicate, golden Priest-Kings in their tunneled recesses and chambers underlying the Sardar Mountains. "Do not enter the pack!" I cried.
Nim Nim darted into the pack.
"No!" I cried. It seemed almost as though he was wading in beasts. Then the animals seemed to draw apart about him and he was left standing as though in a dry pool, an empty place, an isolated, lonely place surrounded by tawny waters, waters which seemed somehow, inexplicably, to have drawn back about him, waters with eyes and teeth, ringing him. I saw that he did not understand what was going on.
"Come out!" I called to him. "Come out, while you can!"
Eyes regarded him on all sides. I saw those narrow, elongated snouts lifted towards him, the nostrils twitching and flaring.
Nim Nim began to utter reassuring noises to the urts. He began to whistle and hiss at them. In this fashion I supposed the urt people might speak with one another. Perhaps, too, some of these were signals used by the urts themselves. The animals, I could see, were becoming more and more excited. They were now quivering. There was an almost feverish intensity in their reactions.
"Come out!" I called to him.
There was suddenly from one of the urts an angry, intense, shrill, high-pitched, hideous squeal. In an instant, almost like an electric shock, a movement seemed to course through the animals in the circle. Indeed, this tremorlike reaction, like a shock, seemed to move through the entire pack. Its passage's swift route was actually visible in the animals, like a wave spreading along, and registered in, their backs and fur, in their sudden stillness, then in the sudden alertness of them, then in the quivering agitation which seemed to transform the entire pack, hitherto seemingly so tranquil, suddenly into a restless, roiling lake of ugly energy.
"Come out!" I screamed at him.
Another animal in the circle ringing Nim Nim now took up that angry, hideous, ear-splitting squeal, then another, and another. They began to quiver uncontrollably; their eyes bulged in their sockets; their fur erected, with a crackle of static electricity; their ears laid back, flattened, against the sides of their heads. Every animal in that vast pack was now oriented toward that location, that sound. Several of the other animals began to press eagerly toward the sound, some even crawling and scrambling over the backs of others. Every animal in that circle about Nim Nim had now taken up that horrifying squeal. It, too, was now being taken up by the entire pack. It reverberated in the area, striking against the nearby cliffs, the stones and outcroppings, rebounding, resounding, again and again in that natural bowl, torturing the ear, tearing and shocking the air, seeming as though it must afright and terrify even the clouds themselves, which seemed to flee before it, perhaps even the sky, and a world. I suspected it could be heard in distant Brundisium.
I cupped my hands to my mouth. "Come out!" I screamed.
"I cannot!" he screamed.
The animals then charged, swarming in upon him. He tried to run between them, to reach the edge of the pack. I saw him fall twice, and each time get up. By the time he came near the edge of the pack he had lost a foot and a hand. He could not now fall, however, because of the animals pressing about him. Several had their teeth fastened in his body, tearing at him, eating. By the time he was within a few feet of me he had lost half of his face. His head rolled wildly on his shoulders. I was not even sure he was still alive then until I saw his eyes. In fury I sprang towards him, tearing urts back and away from him. I caught some by the scruff of the neck and others by the hind legs and hurled them back into the pack. Tearing at him they seemed oblivious of me. I was among them. I caught one and thrusting my arms under its forelegs and clasping my hands together behind its neck, broke its neck. I threw it behind me. Other urts pressed forward, many of them squealing and trying to clamber over their fellows, in order to reach what was now left of Nim Nim. I then, my legs brushing against urts, backed from the pack. I saw, between pressing tawny bodies, parts of Nim Nim being dragged backwards, back into the pack. I now stood, breathing heavily, at the edge of the pack. I trembled. I threw up into the grass.
Clearly, as I now understood, the recognition and acceptance disposition of the pack was connected with smell. There must be, in effect, a pack odor. If something had this it would be accepted, if it lacked it, it would not be accepted. Indeed, the lack of the pack odor apparently triggered the attack response. The hideous squeal which was so terrifying, so shrill and piercing, which had such an effect on the other animals, was presumably something like a stranger-in-our-midst signal, a stranger-recognition signal, so to speak. It, too, presumably, was intimately involved in the pack's general response, its defense response, or stranger-rejection response, so to speak. Clearly, it played a role in calling forth the attack response, or in transmitting its message to the other members of the pack.
I looked at the pack. It was now relatively calm. There was no sign of Nim Nim.
I looked back to the men at the crest of the hill. They had not yet released the sleen. Perhaps they wanted me to have a bit more time to think about things, a bit more time to anticipate what might occur to me, before they released the animals.
I then began, again, to press through the urts, wading through the pack. Once, a few yards before me and to my right, I saw a small, elongated head rise up suddenly, peering at me. Then, as suddenly as it had appeared, it disappeared. Again, then, I could see only the animals. This was the only concrete sign I had to suggest that there might be urt people traveling with the pack.