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THEMA: The Sardar Pilgrimage by Jason Aristocrat

The Sardar Pilgrimage by Jason Aristocrat 6 Jahre, 4 Monate her #20

#1

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step".
- Barbarian proverb


Sitting in the great library of Callera one night, alone in the gloom of a single midnight candle, browsing the scrolls in preparation of my up-coming Law studies, one short entry in the Articles of Gorean Law launched itself from the page like an arrow and pierced me to the core. Article 17 of Gorean Law states:

"17. Every citizen must journey, at least once, to the Sardar Mountains before they are twenty-five years old. The Initiate Caste monitors who goes and who does not. The Initiates also teach that misfortunes will strike a city if their youth try to avoid this sacred obligation. Sometimes the Initiate Caste will ask a person to make the journey at a specific time. In some cities and islands, such as Teletus, your family will receive a gold tarn disk if you make the journey when the Initiates request it."

Reading this I immediately wondered why every citizen must make the pilgrimage to Sardar and yet, the Initiate Caste will decide who goes? How can it be that the Initiates choose who goes, knowing that at the same time, those who do not make the pilgrimage risk causing "misfortune for their city"? Obviously not everyone undertakes the pilgrimage - indeed, hardly anyone. I know this because of the many people I have met in my travels around the world as a scientist. So is this merely one of the controls of an ancient White power structure? Or is there something more to it? And what does it reveal about the influence of the White Caste Initiates?

In recent times as an explorer of Gor, I cannot recall encountering anyone outside my own family who ever mentioned this article of law, observed its clear direction or knowing anyone who had. Yet both my parents have been on the Sardar pilgrimage as have others in my enormous family, but I only found out about it by asking them. My parents were quite indifferent about it all and spoke in an offhand manner. And this from the elders of the great Boa family, one of the leading and largest legal families in the Gor. My own Father is High Scribe of Callera, an accomplished and widely-respected Magistrate. My mother, father and older sister Madi are of a select few in the world with the Knowledge, the First and the Second Knowledge and much more besides. In my youth, the whole Boa family would spend many hours discussing and debating a range of legal arguments, their resolution and consequent verdicts. And yet this intriguing Article 17 - the Sardar Pilgrimage - was never mentioned during my childhood, until this time. Both Mother and Father know Gorean Law better than most in the Blue Caste and consequently, the bulk of the other castes. So for me to stumble upon article 17 unprepared was a surprise.

Despite my family's timeless foundation in the Blue Caste, I chose to break ranks. Deviating from centuries of family tradition, I pursued medicine and science as a younger man at the Kasra Academy, far from my Callerian home, trained first in medicine as a Green in Kasra and later turning to science and exploration. The scientist in me feels compelled to experience the Sardar pilgrimage described in Article 17 out of a self-indulgent curiosity. After all, I have never seen Sardar. During my past explorations I have spent hours and hours watching the behaviour of animals in the wild or staring, lost in wonder at the tiny fronds of an exotic new plant species. The prospect of exploring Sardar and all its wonders, was too great a temptation.

Earlier this year, having been a member of an expedition up the Great Vosk River to trace its source, I took part in a court trial of sorts, conducted by Taluna women near Gimli. It was reminiscent of dozens of similar experiences among the Wagon people, in the Tahari Desert, with Mamba people and other folks in the wilder corners of Gor. Among such savages, I found justice to be efficiently and hurriedly dispensed without a hint of emotion. Their Law is observed and the penalty is imposed with scant regard for extenuating circumstances or other considerations. In contrast, I have always considered the Law of civilized places, such as the great cities, to be as swift and as sure as it is among the wild tribes. But whilst a city's justice system is indifferent to the offender, it is compassionate to the victim and seeks to be generous to society more broadly. This is a crucial difference in my mind between Justice in the great cities and punishment among the wild people. Witnessing justice practiced by savage peoples has left me feeling that Gorean Law is to be cherished. Ours is a wild and dangerous world and yet most cities provide a haven where the Law will truly protect its citizens. I have taken a fresh path in my life since returning home to Callera following years of exploration. To my surprise and delight, I have recently discovered that I share my parents' love of the Law, justice and wisdom. Now, enrolled in the Academy in Olni, my new course is Law-bound. Therefore with a legal mind to it, the paradox of the Sardar ceremony in Article 17 and the White Caste's role in it presents an entirely new fascination. What mechanisms created and still sustain the power of the Initiates? How do they extend their influence so deeply into the Law, a legal system that is, for the most-part, shared by most societies across Gor? Is White power real or illusionary, actual or imagined?

"A journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step". Those words, written on a decrepit copy of a Barbarian Earth scroll in the Library at Kasra that I saw many years ago, have given me a framework for approaching new experiences. Confronting Article 17, my goal became first hand-experience of Sardar and the mysterious Whites, whose fates seem irrevocably interwoven. The Laws of Gor would still be waiting for me and so Law School could wait too. Besides, it was still some months before I was to move to Olni and begin my studies. Another adventure will not be wasted. "It is otherwise idle time well spent", I reasoned.

At the time I resolved to undertake the Sardar pilgrimage, I had only met one Initiate, who was introduced by a mutual friend. The Priest was 'Stari' of the Order of the Blue Flame. I had looked for the White Caste everywhere but they are few and far between, rarely congregating in larger numbers, only ever among their own kind, and in far-away, lonely places. One suspects they seek out solitude to keep their secrets safe. But Stari never let on. He preferred to ask the questions or say nothing at all. At Stari's invitation, I traveled to his remote jungle island with the exotic name of 'Unkunga', where I painstakingly inched my way through a deep, dark, mostly silent jungle. The sun hardly shone in the green, leafy depths and as I furtively made my way forward, taking great care not to soil my best robes, which I had worn specially for the meeting with the priest. A host of languid snakes sagged from the treetops, sneering at me. Self-consciously I trod with care, avoiding puddles as best I could so as not to spoil my expensive new boots. I cursed myself for my vanity. At last I discovered a solemn and lonely-looking temple embedded within the jungle gloom. Sad, lost, lonely, stony place, its faltering stone columns slouched like exhausted old guards, overrun with the crippling vines of age. It made my blood run cold.

Upon reaching the Temple gate, I found myself face to face with the 'Blessed One', Stari. Awkwardly I stood before him, fidgeting, shifting from foot to foot. Handsomely turned out in my Blue Caste finery, I was dressed to impress, to look powerful, confident and commanding. My robes displayed my Caste's badges of rank set against a bold backdrop of blue. But I felt no power nor confidence nor command in his company. In fact I looked and felt as ridiculous as a strutting tarn chick, putting on a naive, adolescent and pointless display of virility. Bald, bearded, ancient Stari wore a blank white robe. He stood motionless, statuesque, gazing at me with a serene and annoyingly enviable air of peace about him. An eeriness and a nagging fear crawled over me in that still and silent place, in the presence of this unnerving old man. My mind surged with a thousand imagined wonders and horrors waiting in ambush in the giant jungle that loomed around the temple like silent spectators at a Thrall match, lusting after violence.

Stari promptly answered the first part of the puzzle that I had encountered in Article 17's Sardar Pilgrimage reference, namely, that "The Initiate Caste monitors who goes and who does not". After a few polite conversational pleasantries to launch our meeting, discussing the Law and my up-coming studies, Stari readily proclaimed that I was not yet eligible to go to Sardar, because I had never participated in a religious ceremony, had not met an Initiate before now and had not yet been blessed. It occurred to me that this was also true of almost everyone I knew outside my own Boa family and I shared a joke with myself about the hundreds of homestones across the land that must be visited by Article 17's "misfortune". Perhaps this failure in observance explains the miseries of the world, I mused. And so it was revealed to me first-hand that the Whites are the gatekeepers to the Sardar pilgrimage. To be eligible, one must first participate in their ceremonies. I can see the design objective in it of ensuring a dependable supply of potential White Caste followers. The other possibility was extortion of payment, to which there is a passing reference at the end of article 17 - "In some cities and islands, such as Teletus, your family will receive a gold tarn disk if you make the journey when the Initiates request it." What is the significance of is this monetary reference, right at the end of Article 17?

Upon hearing his judgment of 'Not-Yet-Competent', I assumed that my Sardar expedition was off. And next, I awaited a proposed price for gaining further access to the quest. However neither of these occurred. "You cannot go to Temple Sardar because you have not been blessed," explained Stari. "It would be an affront to the Priest Kings. Sardar is the highest temple, closest to the Priest Kings". I did my best to present no emotional reaction to the verdict, practicing my long-studied technique of feigning indifference. It is a skill handed down, probably unintentionally, through my extensive 'True-Blue-Caste' Boa family. To this day, I believe my eldest brother Scar to be the supreme master of the technique.

Until that moment, I had not considered the significant of Sardar or why it had been chosen in ancient times as a holy site. Stari-The-White then commanded, "First, you will go to Landa. There you will be instructed by the High Initiate, Adilokos. You will take part in the ritual and be blessed. Adilkos will decide when - if - you can proceed to Sardar". And with that very simple and emphatic verdict, the meeting was over. A tiny scroll, containing instructions and directions, was slipped into my hand, so subtly that I only noticed later that I held it. Stari led me to the temple gate and I found my painful way through the jungle thickets back to the dock. Later, as I stood on the deck of the Callera-bound ship, watching shadowy Unkunga Island melt into the horizon, I was still processing what had occurred with this weird White. Various images of the High Initiate Adilokos competed for my imagination and I raced to recall references to Landa with its onion-shaped crystal domes and lush gardens.

I pondered what was yet to come on my journey to far-off Sardar.
Letzte Änderung: 6 Jahre, 4 Monate her von Haron Strom.

Aw: The Ssardar Pilgrimage by Jason Aristocrat 6 Jahre, 4 Monate her #22

#2


While preparing for my law studies, I chanced upon a certain Article 17 of Gorean Law which states: "Every citizen must journey, at least once, to the Sardar Mountains before they are twenty-five years old. The Initiate Caste monitors who goes and who does not. The Initiates also teach that misfortunes will strike a city if their youth try to avoid this sacred obligation."

This law teased me with its curious twist, that only the White Caste can determine who goes, and perversely thereby, put the homes of all who are refused at risk, or so the law states. This religious superstition, this quirky curse, putting in an appearance in a scroll brimming with rational Gorean laws, immediately intrigued me and I resolved to do the Sardar pilgrimage like my parents and others in the Boa family, before I started at the Law School at Olni. And besides, I will be 25 upon my next birthday, so according to the Law, I am due. Above all, I wanted to uncover at least some of the mysteries of these reclusive Whites and unravel the secret of their ancient power.

To find out what was involved in the Sardar quest, I made the journey to a lonely tropical island to consult with an Initiate I had been told about, the venerable Stari the White, who explained that I would first have to take instruction from the High Initiate in Landa, participate in a ceremony and be 'blessed' before I was eligible to go on pilgrimage to Sardar.

On returning home to Callera, I shared the news with my family. My eldest brother Scar could not have cared less, merely scoffing at the mention of Initiates and changing the subject to his new hunting speer. My older sister Madi was alarmed at the news. She has the Second Knowledge and I have always suspected that there is a mystic quality to her that she studiously conceals behind a veil of Blue respectability, peppered with occasional skittishness. She talked about the dangers of Sardar and warned me never to proceed beyond the great gate there, because certain death waits in ambush. I asked how she knew so much about it but her answers were vague and deliberately incomplete.

My Mother Gabi, one of the most stoic women I have ever known, took me by surprise with her reaction. "Oh Colton, you only just got home," she protested. "Two years you have been away on your scientific expeditions to the Tahari and Torvaldsland or some ghastly jungle somewhere. And now you are about to set off again?" But I sensed that her objection to the Sardar trip had little to do with my absence from the family home and much more to do with the Sardar pilgrimage itself. My Father too, Callera's High Scribe and Magistrate, Baja Boa, seemed none too pleased with my Sardar quest and the fact that I would spend time with Whites. A skeptical Blue through and through, the patriarch of our vast Boa clan masterfully masked his misgivings and offered only two pieces of advice for the trip. "Take two swords", he said. "And always keep a hidden blade on your person." Baja also bade me to keep a record of all ceremonies for entry into the great library of Callera, to which I complied.

And so my enigmatic family left me feeling as though I was going into combat rather than a religious ceremony.

On the day of my departure, we were joined by other members of the Boa clan who came to see me off. I would be carried by a Tarn to the river, where I would travel to the coast and onward to Landa in the far, far south of the world. My Grandmother Dahra , the High Physician of Callera, her husband, another of my brothers, Caleb and Scar and my sister-in-law Casey were there too. Mother shoved tiny bundles of food into my hand as she clutched my wrist, urging me to take tremendous care around the clerics of Landa. My sister Madi hovered nervously close by. My twin sister Ashton seemed relaxed and happy for me. She knew as little about what lay in store as I did. My father stood watching calmly, but I could tell he was controlling himself with his customary iron-clan discipline, which I have always admired and sought to cultivate in myself, so far with little success. He took me gently but firmly by the shoulders and looked at me the way he did when I was only a little boy. For a moment, I felt once more like a child, about to experience something potentially dangerous, but oblivious to the threat. In those days, my parents stood by to allow the dangerous experience to occur, while also ensuring that no lasting harm could come to me. His eyes seemed to say that he would not be on hand to pull me out of trouble this time. He embraced me without saying a word and his embrace felt as if he were bidding me farewell, as though he feared that he would never see me again.

Scrambling aboard the giant bird behind the Tarnsman who would steer it and arranging my few belongings in the pouches provided, I put on my biggest and most confident-looking smile for the benefit of my family and they returned reassuring smiles of their own. I had a very attentive last look at the imposing, grey walls of Callera, crowned with flags and at the towering cylander buildings, the angular dome of the great library and the soaring green mountaintops that stand guard over the city. I did not believe in the possibility of death. The notion was still only a vague and abstract concept in my mind then. I knew I would see Callera again - and soon. But just in case, I made a special effort to appreciate my home as fully as I could at that very moment.

With enthusiastic waves and shouts of "Safe paths!", coarse jokes about men who wear white from my brother Scar and the gripping gaze of my father, we parted company. The Tarnsman coaxed the bird, which spread its massive wings and with a piercing angry screech, we were hoisted quickly into the air. We rocked gently to the hypnotic rhythm of the great bird's wings as we sped up and away from the ground, from my home and my family. I have left Callera many times in the past to go to Medical School, to embark on expeditions. But never was there a parting like this one. This journey was intimidating - not because of what I knew was waiting or me, but because of what I did not yet know.

Aw: The Sardar Pilgrimage by Jason Aristocrat 6 Jahre, 4 Monate her #23

#3

A BLESSING, A BACKPACK AND A MAP


I am on a quest to uncover some of the secrets of the White Caste and at the same time complete the arduous Sardar Pilgrimage. A student of Law and formerly a scientist and explorer, the Sardar quest intrigues me on many levels. Why does the White Caste command such a dominating role in the curious Article 17 in Gorean Law, which prescribes that all people must complete the Sardar Pilgrimage before their 25th birthday? And why is it that only the Whites can determine who goes on pilgrimage and who does not? Having found the High Initiate of Landa through a White called Stari to set me on the path, I left my home in Callera and began this quest with its uncertain end.

After a very long and tedious journey, tormented with multiple delays, I finally made landfall at Landa, where I found Adilokos, the High Initiate, in his lofty temple atop a hill that dominates the city. I was admitted into an opulent chamber, bejeweled with rare gems encrusted into the walls to form exotic patterns. Adilokos was far from the secretive White that I had expected, given that Caste's reputation for exclusiveness and elusiveness. Indeed, he was relaxed, cheerful and downright friendly. If not for his bald head, stark white robes and that curious cylindrical head dress, he might have been like any middle-aged man that I have met many times before.

Adilokos was already well informed about me, doubtless having received a dossier of sorts from his colleague, the shadowy Stari, whom I had met in his jungle temple on the Island of Unkunga and through whom I had found Adilokos in Landa. In a rather business-like manner, but not without friendliness, he spelled out what was required of a pilgrim on the path to Sardar.

"You will visit ten sacred sites en route to Sardar," he explained. "You will stay in each of the ten places, until you make a personal discovery, relevant and comprehensible only to yourself. At last you will find Sardar. And then - only then - will your quest will be accomplished."

This ordinary man suddenly underwent a peculiar transformation. His demeanor went from the every-day to trance-like. "Kneel!", he commanded me. I did so. He recited a benediction of sorts, uttering the following words:

"O Priest-Kings, Holy and Mighty, see this man, earnest and young, desiring to make the arduous journey to honor You. Give him strength of purpose, stability of mind and hand, and the will to carry through on what he has promised in his intent. Bless him, I beseech Thee, O Priest-Kings, and strengthen him, guide him on his way and lead him safely home. Hear me O Priest-Kings! Ta Sardar Gor!"

He produced a small golden box from his robes, opened it and dipped a finger into the yellow oil within. He traced a circle on my forehead, saying "I anoint you, Pilgrim, with the Sign of the Priest-Kings. May you persevere and do honor to them."

Not knowing the correct words, I merely answered, "Thank you Blessed One."

Adilokos closed the box and set it on the table. "You will succeed, if you have the perseverance to see it through. The Sardars are a wonderful sight."

And with that simple evocation, he had blessed me and my pilgrimage. I had anticipated a much longer, more elaborate ceremony, requiring recitations of holy words on my part. And yet, the process of a blessing seemed to be straightforward, even routine.

Adlikos led me from the temple down the Landa's docklands, where he handed me a backpack and a long, plain-looking wooden walking staff with tassels at one end and a spike at its base. "Your journey will take you through many places, through forests and sometimes you'll have to find a small camp or another accommodation for the night. This staff takes you to the places alongside the pilgrimage route. In most places you'll be most welcome but not in all.

"As you complete each stage of the pilgrimage, you will receive a ring that will be added to your staff. The pilgrim is known by the staff he carries and his progress is measured by the rings adorning its crown," he explained. "A bronze ring will appear on the staff for each place you visit. After three places, you will find a silver ring on the top of the staff and a gold ring will appear after you reach 10 holy places".

I sought to question him, asking, "Who will give me the rings, how are they fastened to the end of the staff and how long must I stay in each place....?". But it was in vain. Adilokos' expression told me that he clearly knew the answers, but did not feel it was appropriate that I should know them - at least not now. A few thousand more questions jostled to get out of my mouth but Adilokos, High Initiate of Landa, declared the meeting at an end. From nowhere, two armed red guards, bristling with weapons, appeared and took up their appointed station either side of the High Initiate of Landa. Then, with a big smile and sincere wishes of good fortunate and safe paths, the white-robed man of peace, flanked by two red-clan men-of-war, turned and vanished through the city gate, leaving me alone on the dock.

I sat down on the dock and opened the backpack Adilokos had given me to rummage through its contents. I found a map - another simple pleasure I share with my father Baja - and began planning the itinerary for my Pilgrimage to Sardar.

Aw: The Sardar Pilgrimage by Jason Aristocrat 6 Jahre, 4 Monate her #24

#4

THE MAP IS NOT THE TERRITORY


I sat alone on the dock at Landa watching the sun go down over the sea, reflecting on the events of the last few weeks. It was probably on a calm night much like this that I sat alone in the great library of Callera, my home, surrounded by the scrolls of Gorean Law, to which I have dedicated myself in recent times. Born into a prominent Blue Caste family, I am soon to attend the Law School at Olni to become a Magistrate. But before that, I am embarked on the great Sardar Pilgrimage. Since discovering the seemingly obscured article 17 of Gorean Law that requires all to undertake the Sardar Pilgrimage before their 25th birthday, I have committed to seizing this sacred obligation as an opportunity to explore more of the world and discover more of the nature of the Priest Kings through the portal of the White Caste Initiates and their inexplicable grasp on Gorean Law.

For hours I sat watching as the sun sluggishly sank into the sea. I could almost hear a distant steamy hiss as the sun reclined languidly into its Southern Thassa bath. Glancing occasionally at the map of the Sardar quest, given to me along with a walking staff by Adilokos, the High Initiate of Landa, I reheard over and over that White Caste's words during our meeting that afternoon when he blessed me and set me on the path. I had asked him about the appearance of the White Caste in article 17 of the Law and why it was that Initiate Law and Civil Law had merged in this particular statute.

"Blessed One," I said, "I am embarking on this journey because of something I read in a law scroll at home. Article 17 prescribes that the youth of all cities be encouraged to go on pilgrimage to Sardar. The law explains that only the White Caste can determine who goes and who does not. It continues to say that those cities whose youth do not go risk bringing 'misfortune' to their city. As a law student, I found the entry slightly superstitious and out-of-character for a law scroll. Can you enlighten me?

He answered this as though the question were expected. "Well, on a metaphysical level one risks the displeasure of the Priest Kings by refusing to go." he said. "But there is a more 'scientific' reason to go". He put a special emphasis on the word "scientific" and it was clear to me that the term was carefully chosen for my benefit, given my original training as a Green and later as a scientist-explorer.

"For one, it encourages all of Gor to meet on a common ground," he continued. "All Free will, it is to be hoped, have the same experiences, thus causing people to bond together more readily. But also, it encourages respect. One who obeys laws, will be less likely to get into trouble".

This very obvious rationale had never occurred to me. I had assumed a power-play of sorts, a means through which the White's could reinforce their influence over the lives of all the world. And yet, this prescription of fellowship, this simple mechanism to pursue the hopes of a better world through interaction and understanding between all the warring states, this very personal way each person can contribute to a happier world, was a design that I had previously never encountered in the science or society of Gor.

"I see the wisdom in it," I said in a whisper, as I stared blindly into an unseen truth.

Adilokos looked mildly amused. "Travel brings experience, young Colton Boa," he said. "You know this as an experienced scientist and explorer. And experience brings understanding, which brings compassion, which brings wisdom. Soon you will study the Law in the great Academy in Olni. And yet all those scrolls, all those professors, those debates, those writings, will not bring you wisdom. Knowledge is only the beginning of wisdom - not the end of it. Examine the maps in your backpack. You will find descriptions of landscapes, but these are not the landscapes themselves. Reading a map will not give you contact with the territory. No, you must go there. The map is not the territory."

His words echoed in my mind.

Bracing myself against the chill, I suddenly noticed that the sun was now rising. It was morning! I had been churning the encounter with Adilokos over and over in my mind all night and into the dawn. I stood and carefully flexed my suddenly aching legs, yawning with sleepiness and cold. I caught my little finger in the tiny ring on the top of my staff. As if stung by a hornet, I recoiled in shock at the sudden appearance of a tiny brass ring on the top of the staff, which was certainly not there when it was first handed to me. Where had it come from? Who had placed it there? I am positive that I never slept the whole night long. Looking frantically around in search of someone who may have placed it there, I desperately tried to explain this anomaly, this ring that had appeared from nowhere, exactly as Adilokos had described.

Perhaps this was the beginning of wisdom, I thought. I remembered the slaves I had known and their serenity upon willingly handing themselves over to a Master's charge, their submission that yields for them a liberation at surrendering all responsibility and choice to a dominator in whom they invest explicit trust. Was this tiny ring like a Pilgrim's collar? Had I knowingly or unknowingly given myself like a kajirus to the Priest Kings? Or had I fallen upon the first element in the power of the Initiates? Step 1: Amaze the pilgrim with the seemingly magical appearance of a tiny ring atop a simple staff, conjured up no doubt, by some unknown Priest King technology, known only to the Whites.

I was comforted that my scientific objectivity and legal skepticism had not failed me entirely. And yet, the ring appeared to me as a souvenir of my first personal discovery that Adilokos had foretold. I perceived in myself a shift in attitude. Waning was the scientific, rationalistic desire to probe and dissect. Fading was the cynicism of a lawyer and the trepidation I experienced from my family's reaction to news of my Sardar quest. In its place was a growing willingness to be open and yield to this experience, a preparedness to stop judging and analysing the Whites. Leaving my mindset to one side, there was now a shiny new ring, marking the top of my Pilgrim staff with my first discovery. I was on my way.

Now I will trudge across all Gor, visiting ten sacred sites, culminating in the fulfillment of the pilgrimage upon my arrival in far-off Sardar. I looked at my map and chose my first destination deep in the desert, a territory I already knew quite well. Despite having not slept overnight, I cantered happily to the waiting ships at the dock and chuckled to myself as the 1st mate beckoned me aboard as if expecting me. "You're just in time," he smiled. "We're headed you way." And with that, I was on my way to the Oasis of the Nine Wells, deep in the Tahari Desert.

Aw: The Sardar Pilgrimage by Jason Aristocrat 6 Jahre, 4 Monate her #25

#5

THE DEATHLESS BOY

I am on the Sardar pilgrimage, which according to law, all citizens should undertake before their 25th birthday. I am on the pilgrimage out of a sense of scientific curiosity and an equal measure of adventure. I hope also to discover more about the mysterious Priest Kings and their servants, the White Caste Initiates of Gor.

After meeting the High Initiate of Landa, Adilokos, and receiving his blessing for my quest, I took ship eastwards to the mainland coast and the small and unremarkable marketplace with the unremarkable name as Gorean Recruit Centre, which was the next stop in my odyssey. There I managed to strike a wonderful bargain with a trader, exchanging my fine blue silk neck scarf for a sturdy leather water bag. Barter is not one of my strengths. In the past, I have always sent a slave to haggle, satisfied to pay whatever price was proposed. My Blue Caste aristocratic sensibilities had always been mildly offended by haggling, so to be able to swap something useless for something useful was a good experience.

My next destination was the Oasis of the Nine Wells deep in the desert. I met a group of fellow pilgrims who were of the wagon people, not especially well known in these parts, that was making its way towards the Oasis of the Nine Wells too. Against my advice, the group insisted on walking by day and sleeping by night in the habit of their beasts, whose routines set the pace of the life of Wagon people. Reluctantly, I acquiesced. Sometimes walking, sometimes riding, I chatted amiably with these relaxed and confident people, exchanging stories and sharing meals in the cool of the night. The caravaners had an inexplicably abundant supply of milk and bosk meat and despite my best efforts to locate their cache, I could only capitulate to their hospitality and get comfortable with the mystery.

I have been to the desert before on earlier scientific expeditions to map the terrain and collect samples of medicinal plants, so this landscape was not alien to me. I am quite tall and of slender build and my skin is very dark. The desert seems strangely familiar to me and I enjoy its stark, baking beauty. The heat was excruciating and some of the wagon men removed their heavy garments in a bid to cool off. I did my best to warn them of the risk they ran of dehydration and sunburn, but it seems that some of their men are as stubborn and contrary as their beloved bosk. It was necessary for us to pause once in a while so that those who were struck down with heat exhaustion and sunburn were allowed time to recover. Thereafter, they decided that it might be better to heed the advice of the dark stranger among them, who might know a thing or two about the desert, despite not being of their clan. It was after the third of their number had succumbed to the heat, their head man announced his decision that the caravan would now rest by day and proceed by night. This struck me as a wise decision (if only I had thought of that).

Traveling with the wagon people, I realised that I am not without experience. I am not the youngster I once was. Although not quite 25 years old, years of study and exploration have cultivated some considerable knowledge of the world and its different peoples. I discovered that my knowledge can be shared for the benefit of others.

We reached the Nine Wells at sunrise, having walked through the night out of the heat and were received through the main gate when the guards spied the pilgrim staffs we each bore. At that moment, I noticed a second brass ring was now stuck fast around the walking staff, but I was so tired and hungry, I hardly gave it any thought. Sinking sleen-like into a huge communal bath in the city, we weary pilgrims soaked in the cool relief of the city's comforts and celebrated the successful completion of our trek across the sand. After eating, I made for the library in search of a copy of their Laws, which my father bade me collect on my travels. I found many copies of the common laws of Gor, but otherwise only a few uninteresting rules pertaining specifically to the Oasis, that are typical of almost everywhere I have gone in my travels.

Two days later, it was time to move on. This time leaving at sunset, we set our faces to our next destination, the Oasis of Sand Sleen.

Another tiny wonder appeared on the Pilgrims staff I carried, the one given to me by Adilokos, High Initiate of Landa at the start of my journey. On the trek so far, soon after I decided to leave each stop on my pilgrimage, I discovered another tiny brass ring had materialised on the rod, fixed fast around its girth, with no telltale sign as to how it got there. On the morning that I stepped laboriously across the baking sands making my way towards the Oasis of Sand Sleen, I discovered that the two brass rings that had appeared on the staff were now gone and in their place was a single gleaming silver ring, exactly as Adilokos had predicted. I had now visited three sacred sites on the ten-step pilgrimage to Sardar and so had earned a silver ring.

At the gates of the Oasis of the Sand Sleen, I saw the same pilgrim's sign that I had found at previous locations, welcoming me to the city, but exhorting me to honour the laws of the land. The city is much like the other oases I have visited in the desert: Sparcely appointed, several wall-less communal structure and evidence of the designers' dedication to providing all available oppulance in such a stark and forbidding environment. Here again were the communal baths, a cool, marbled library, fountains and squat houses with a generous rooftop space and tiny windows. I encountered hardly a single soul here who would even acknowledge my presence, much less talk with me. This may have something to do with my pilgrim's staff. Perhaps these people had had unhappy encounters with pilgrims before me. But one small boy, who I later learned was very old and very wise, greeted me with a winning grin as I approached the library in search of local laws. He looked small for his age, dark-skinned like me, with sparkling brown eyes that shone from his face like a pair of nightsky stars. His name was Markendeya. He said, "Welcome Pilgrim. Have you eaten?" (to some, this may seem an odd thing to say but it is a local greeting among some of the more isolated desert tribes).

We made ourselves comfortable in the library and he asked me about my quest so far. And I asked him about himself. He had a very youthful appearance, little more than a child in my eyes. And yet I was amazed when he casually remarked that he was nearly 100 years old! "You are having a joke at my expense," I said. "Surely you cannot be yet 12". As we talked, he slowly revealed to me that many, many years ago, as a child he had made a monumental discovery. He had come to understand that death does not exist. Death had always been a remote and largely irrelevant notion to me and I had never contemplated my own mortality. To hear this youngster talk about life and death in such terms was beyond my experience.

He told me that life and death are only illusions. He explained that most of us are prisoners in a cage of our own making, a trap of our physical senses. All that we know, all that we perceive, all that we think and all that we say are interpretations of that which we see, hear, touch, smell and taste - and consequently, so too are our tyrannical, unpredictable and ungovernable emotions. "Every thought, belief, value and attitude we have is composed of those physical inputs", he explained. Timeless Markendeya , the deathless boy told me that death, like life, is the supreme expression of this sensory entrapment. "Death is negligence. It is a tharlarion crouching the the brush. It is idleness, confusion. Death is desire, need, longing and fear. As individuals, we do not know how this fleeting, tiny physical life will end and it is the not-knowing that terrifies us. We are mortified by the smell of death, the look of it, the feeling of loss and helplessness. And yet death itself dies. When your body cannot sustain your timeless spirit any longer, when at last it falls away, discarded, no longer needed, when elemental forces consume and redeploy the essence of your redundant dead body - when finally no trace of it remains, then death itself dies. Death is not eternal. It is temporary."

This was a massive concept to take in and sensing that I was wrestling with the thought, Markendeya paused. We sat in silence for a long time - a very long time, before he continued. "Likewise, life too is illusionary. You think you are Colton Boa, son of Baja and for the time-being, on one level at least, you are. But it has not been for a long time and will not last much longer. But Colton Boa, you have been alive forever and you will remain alive forever. You are not one soul on your own, unique, isolated and struggling. You are at one with the entirety of existance. You have always been and always will be. But not as this tiny packet of skin, in which you find yourself right now. You are, always have been, everything. You are, always have been, everywhere. The man who understands the temprorary nature of the physical world and who can commune with the entire universe will find peace and wisdom. And he will liberate himself from the ilusionary dungeon of death. He comes closer to this when he sits quietly alone and contemplates infinity".

There was another long silence before Markendeya rose, rested one hand on my head and said, "This journey you are on, young Colton Boa, is not like any you have known before. No maps will aid you now, nor anything you were told you in a classroom, nothing you ever read, nothing external to you will be of any use to you. Your goal is not out there in the wilderness. It is deep inside you. With time and practice and patience, you will achieve it".

The ageless boy left the library, disappearing out into the blinding glare of the sun, leaving me alone and suspended in the embrace of this fresh quandary. But now, my legal and scientific minds were silent and this stirring new mindset was finding its voice. Rather that racing to reveal and comprehend, I found myself reclining into the welcoming embrace of resignation. I caught a glimpse of something secret, something hding from me just out of plain sight. Whilst it was invisible, somehow I know it was there. And one day, it would reveal itself to me.

I fiddled absent-mindedly with the Pilgrim's staff and was not surprised to discover a fresh new bronze ring had joined its silver companion around the shaft.

Aw: The Sardar Pilgrimage by Jason Aristocrat 6 Jahre, 4 Monate her #26

#6

MUGGED IN PORT KAR


What is the connection between the Priest Kings, the Gorean White Caste Initiates and their relationship with Law? It was the discovery of Article 17 of Gorean Law that triggered my decision to go on the Sardar Pilgrimage before my 25th birthday, which Article 17 prescribes. My motive for doing so was intellectual curiosity and a fondness for travel and adventure. But the further I went on this 10-stage journey, the more I got out of the experience - little of which was expected.


After weeks moving from oasis to oasis, my time in the desert was over and I made my way back to the coast to take ship north in the direction of Sardar and thence on to my home in Callera. With my passage secured on a north-bound round ship, I consulted my trusty map to review the remainder of my quest. We sailed port to port, overnighting on Kamba Island and then at Balnakeil, acquiring new rings for the Pilgrim staff I carried at each stage, before our ship reached Port Kar late at night. I had read about this place, where pirates, rensers and sea captains plied their own form of trade across gleaming Thassa. I asked some of our ship's crew where they liked to go, if there was a favourite haunt in Port Kar. But they just gave each other a knowing look, as if sharing a private joke and said that they would prefer to remain on board rather than go ashore in Port Kar to sniff out the aromas and sensations of the town, which is the sailor's way the world over. But I was bored with the confinement of the ship and so I told the captain that I would go into the town alone. "We set sail with the dawn tide," he said. "By all means sleep in a tavern if you prefer but be certain to be on board before sunrise or we will sail without you".

Making my way through silent, empty streets, I sought out an inn. No street torches were lit, no fire-light glowed through the household windows. It was extremely dark and as I cautiously felt my way through the darkness, I became aware of an unwelcome presence. Combat training with my brothers years ago and some limited experience of battle had endowed me with a modicum of the warrior's sixth sense, the ability to detect pending danger. Whilst I may have been tempted to dismiss the sensation as fear of the dark, to my alarm, the pilgrim staff began to subtly vibrate as if trying to warn me. I was being hunted. I recalled my father's advice the day I left home, warning me to take two blades with me on pilgrimage and I thought gratefully about the dual Acheron Gladius blades about my waist and the secret stiletto blade, hidden in my right boot.

I turned unknowingly into an alley and my heart sank when it was apparent that I was facing a dead end. The staff in my hand vibrated more vigorously now and my ears and eyes strained to detect the approaching threat. There was a moment of perfect silence while I held my breath and I heard the tiniest sound of movement behind me and then the softest sound of a blade, I judged it to be a dagger, being withdrawn from its scabbard. In a single, swooping movement, I swung the Pilgrim staff in an arc around me at head height and it connected with the unseen assailant with a sickening crack. A man's voice screamed in pain and anger. I lurched back the way I had come in a bid to escape the ally but in so doing, I collided with the attacker and fell. I heard him scrambling in the dark, struggling to regain his footing and then came the swish of his blade through the air as he struck out randomly in hopes of cutting me. I half-crawled, half-flopped along the ally towards the opening when a strong hand grabbed my ankle. I kicked back savagely and felt my boot tangle with a large hood before my heel finally connected with a soft, squishy splat with the man's nose. I also heard the clang of his dagger falling on the cobble stones. He released me from his grip, no doubt to nurse his injured nose and loudly cursed me again. I got to my feet and ran to the open end of the ally, frantic to reach some form of light, where I could see my attacker, draw my swords and defend myself. But upon reaching the ally entrance, I thought twice about a fight in the dark in a narrow ally with a foe that doubtless knew these streets better than I did and who was probably better equipped for these conditions. So I ran as best I could through the gloomy streets, backtracking towards the comparative safety of the town square, where I had a chance of defending myself.

A giant tree with cushioned seats ringing its base, dominated the town square. I took up a defensive position, a squat, double-edged Acheron blade in each hand, all my senses rigged and ready for combat, anticipating the appearance of the ally-way-attacker. I stood there in fighting stance for some time, constantly scanning all approaches. But the man who attacked me never appeared. After several minutes, it was clearly time to return to the ship, which I did, having enjoyed enough of the the welcoming delights of Port Kar.

At dawn, the ship set sail and I was very glad to see the last of this pit of outlaws, footpads and cut-throats. Our next destination was RarIR.
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