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THEMA: The Sardar Pilgrimage by Jason Aristocrat

Aw: The Sardar Pilgrimage by Jason Aristocrat 6 Jahre, 4 Monate her #27

#7

THE BLUE KURR OF RARIR


I was approaching the end of the Pilgrimage to Sardar, having been to seven out of the ten sacred sites in the desert and the coastal islands. My Pilgrim's staff, a gift from Adilokos, High Initiate of Landa, where I started this quest, now boasted two silver rings and a bronze ring, which had appeared there on their own without any evidence of a human hand at work at the end of each stop along the way. I had met fascinating and diverse people from all over the world including mysterious Initiates and a seemingly magical boy, very young, yet very old, who shared with me his perspective on the true nature of life and death. I had faced danger on land and sea and along the way, had discovered more and more about my own nature and of things both seen and unseen. Having started this odyssey with a scientific mind, I had now unlocked another mentality that I did not know I possessed. Closer to the end of the journey than the beginning, my thoughts once again took me home to Callera, to my parents, brothers and sister and the others of the Boa family. How will it be to return home after this expedition, so different from the excursions of the past? I felt that I had certainly changed but will the metamorphosis of Colton please or alienate my kinfolk?


On a calm sea and powered by a running southerly wind, we reached RarIR and went ashore. As the crew busied themselves with securing and re-provisioning the ship, I climbed the hill from the dock to the bridge that crossed a steep gorge with a narrow channel of water flowing swiftly below it. This bridge granted access to the city gate. There, I came across a well-dressed man accompanied by two kajira, kneeling in 'Tower' pose. The great gate was ajar and it seemed to me that the thin metal implement in the man's hand had been used to pick the lock. Sensing that something illegal was afoot, I sat on the stone railing of the bridge and adopted the long-studied feline, disinterested demeanor I had learned from my father, while closely scrutinising the stranger in a bid to guess his intention. Seeing that I had witnessed his infraction, the man eyed me cautiously and was probably composing some plausible cover story to disguise his offense.

Then came a remarkable being, the like of which I had never seen. At the far end of the bridge approaching from behind us strode a massive, blue snarling Kurr. He stood one-and-a-half times my height and I am reckoned to be quite tall, like my brothers. Gargantuan muscles bulges from his long arms, torso and haunches. He carried a strange-looking crossbow, strapped across his back. His tiny blue eyes, which appeared almost colourless against his sky-blue fur, studied the scene as he closed on the now nervous man, his terrified kajirae - and me.

"Who broke Gates?", growled the Kurr in a guttural, baritone voice.

The man, who by this time had hidden his lock-picking tool, approached the beast and raised an open hand. "Tal Sir. I come asking for assistance and shelter. I have coin and seek a harbour." And then the pox-ridden bastard had the nerve to accuse me, saying, "I think he broke the gates, Sir," pointing at me. I continued to present an air of distance and disinterest.

The Kurr continued to hold the man in his stare. "I smell you on my gate. Think you broke it."

"I did indeed touch it as I walked through," said the man, regaining his composure and apparently enacting a well-rehearsed routine for such situations.

Then the Kurr turned to me and grinned. "What do you say? This skin male accuses you of breaking into RarIR."

"I have only just arrived," I said. "I am a pilgrim on my way to Sardar and this city is one of the 10 stations on the way. I have not touched your gates."

The Kurr's tiny blue eyes flashed and he grinned widely as if savouring the human meal he was about to enjoy. He folded his enormous arms over his continental chest. "Someone lies."

Now the man, who had clearly picked the lock, took on an almost playful air. "Perhaps it was broken before we both arrived," he offered with a shrug, as if it didn't really matter. "Maybe the culprit is still inside the gates. If you move quickly you may find them."

The Kurr shook his head. "That is not likely. Why is it when the gate's broken, I find you? I smell you on the gates, not the other," (meaning me). He grinned again baring his fangs. "Maybe I should flay you in quarters and force feed you to your girls before I sell them off."

The man put on a good impression of supreme confidence. He sighed. "I am only seeking shelter. Do you happen to have an inn for weary travelers?"

But the Kurr cracked his knuckles and snarled slowly, "You've been judged guilty for attack on RarIR property. As Kurr of these lands, I give you one chance to give up peacefully or I will rend your flesh and feast on what falls to the ground."

In a flash, the man had drawn his sword and made to strike out at the Kurr, who effortlessly and instantly dispatched the wretch, sending his kajirae scattering in panic and fleeing for their lives across the bridge and away. I dreaded the prospect of witnessing the beast devouring the fallen man limb from limb but the Kurr hoisted the body up over the wall and we heard it fall with an awkward splash into the waters far below. He turned to me and invited me into the city, becoming suddenly more friendly, if not still every bit as fearsome.

"What is your name, my big blue friend?", I asked the mighty Kurr as he led me to the inn.

"Just call me Kur for now," he answered with a grin, "I'll tell you my name when it's right." He rubbed his shoulder. "Blast it all. I was hungry too."

"Those slave girls might have made a good meal for you. But I think that scrawny man might have given you a sour stomach", I said.

He smirked. "Enough spices and herbs, you could eat anything. Just not the rotten meat".

"Well then Kurr, I am glad we can rely on that sensitive nose of yours, otherwise you might have gone for me!", I joked.

We came to a cosey inn, not so cosey as to be unimpressive, but homely enough to make a stranger welcome. Kurr produced some Ramberry cakes, a few slices of Tarskbraten and a mug of ale to go with it. He did not eat but was content to watch me, somewhat fascinated as I tucked into the meal. His glistening black nose twitched from left to right and his sapphire eyes blinked repeatedly. Then he suddenly sneezed. "So many scents!" he said in his gravelly deep voice. "I tend to keep my distance here. I smell the meat cooking, the strong ales and spirits, incense and the lingering scent of mating," he chuckled.

We relaxed some more, having the inn to ourselves and I asked him to tell me his story. "You are the first of your kind that I have ever met, Kurr. I have of course heard about your tribe, but I never looked upon one of your folk with my own eyes".

"My tribe," he began with a sad look on his face, "were slaughtered to the last Kurr you see here before you." His great jaw hung half open and his stringy lip-less mouth drooped. I felt a deep compassion for the massive blue beast and the loss of his clan. Despite his awesome appearance, his powerful body and gnashing teeth, despite the effortless ease with which he felled the lock-picker at the city gate without a moment's hesitation, it was plain to see that Kurr was a thinking, feeling being who was once a playful cub, frolicking with his fellow pups under the watch of loving parents and a thriving clan. Had he been a man like me, I would have naturally felt pity, but with this one, the feelings of sorrow ran deep.

"You are all alone in the world, Kurr?," I asked softly.

"There is no female from my tribe left. No one to carry on the legacy. So I simply wander and hunt. I live out in the wilds beyond the city walls. The scents of this town are a bit much for me."

"Yes I can well imagine," I said, trying to be brighter. "Such a powerful and acute nose."

Kurr went on to tell me of that terrible day when his tribe was set upon by a human hunting party, the merciless way the invaders chased down and exterminated everyone, even the she-Kurii, even the cubs, until not one of the blue beastmen remained - none, except for my friend Kurr. By blind luck or perhaps due to some intervention from the Priest Kings themselves, Kurr was spared. But he was also condemned to live alone or in the near company of humans, members of that race who had brought his kinfolk and his line to a brutal end. As he told me his tragic tale, I wondered if maybe Kurr's life was a pilgrimage of sorts. It dawned on me that all of us, all sentient beings, were unwitting pilgrims on a lifelong quest, each distinct from the other.

We chatted pleasantly the whole day after that about all manner of things, pausing for occasional meals, introductions to other townfolk as they came and went and for a short tour of RarIR. Kurr asked me about the pilgrimage, how anyone in their right mind could believe in something so fanciful as Priest Kings and what difference this long arduous journey would make to me, was it really worth the trouble? I did not try to convince him one way or the other, but was content to grant him his point of view in return for him granting me mine, which he readily did.

When the time came for me to return to the ship, Kurr accompanied me to the dock, much to the astonishment and alarm of the ship's crew. Most of them were appalled by his appearance, however Captain Arjuna clapped and laughed, hailing the Kurr warmly, acknowledging him and his noble breed.

I climbed aboard as the crew cast off and waved to my gigantic blue friend. "Farewell Kurr. Be well. May you find a mate and be blessed with a thousand cubs of your own," I called.

"Safe paths to you, Colton of Callera," he replied. "And good luck to you on your pilgrimage to Sardar!"

As the ship pulled away from the dock, Kurr called out to me again. "KOWIN", he shouted. "My name. It's Kowin".

Aw: The Sardar Pilgrimage by Jason Aristocrat 6 Jahre, 4 Monate her #28

#8 Final

THE GOLD RING


The end of my pilgrimage was now in sight. Having been to eight of the ten sacred sites, I was closing in on my final destination in far off Sardar before making the short trek home to nearly Callera. I embarked on this pilgrimage because I wanted to understand more about the Priest Kings and the role of the Initiates, whose influence still exists in Gorean City Law as faint echoes of a long-forgotten past. But as I have progressed through the stages of the quest, I have learned things about myself that never would have presented themselves to me had I read a thousand scrolls or attended all the schools and all the lectures in all the world. The lessons of this adventure have included patience, compassion, flexibility, courage and a willingness to reason my way through mysteries with an intuitive rather than a legal or scientific mind.


The ship put into Olni, the penultimate stage of my ten-fold path and here I parted company with Captain Arjuna and the crew of his ship, the Southern Cross. I know Olni well, as I am enrolled here at the Law School and will soon commence my studies to follow my father Baja into legal practice. After the best night's sleep I have enjoyed since leaving my home in Callera, such a long time ago, I made my way downstairs for breakfast in the open-air dining area of the Olni inn. But today, it was time to press on and finish this thing I had started. Right after breakfast, I donned my backpack and my old friend, the Pilgrim staff and I faced the north-wes. I glancied at the unannounced appearance of a new bronz rings that had grafted itself onto the staff with the others. By now it seemed so normal and predictable, it came as no surprise any more. Soon there will be a gleaming golden ring to replace the others, marking the end of my pilgrimage, I thought.

For days I hiked and hiked through the midlands; through forests, alongside lakes and rivers, crossing lofty mountains, drawing nearer and nearer to my ultimate goal - the sacred temple at Sardar. Passing a string of Panther and Taluna camps, taking care not to come too close to their wooden walls, I made lonely camp by a creek close to the Valkyrie Panthers. Keeping watch through the night, I was visited by a Panther woman calling herself Fox. I shared some of my rations with her and she offered a kayak with which I could shorten my last leg to Sardar by a day. I gratefully accepted her gift. The next morning, I squeezed my long legs into the tiny water craft and wobbled my way along the stream bound for Sardar.

By noon, I was gawking, amazed at the most divinely beautiful cliffs and waterfalls adorning the stream on the approach to Sardar. I was in the presence of the most superb wilderness that could have been designed by supreme beings - too beautiful for Gor, too perfect to be a part of the world. Exotic birds sang a sweet, seductive song. Lush, opulent trees reclined over the waterway, like so many distinguished Green Caste diners at an Ubar's banquet.

Rounding a bend in this idyllic river, at long last, I caught a glimpse of the gleaming spike that crowned my obsession - the squat, white obelisk that was the Temple of Sardar. I hitched the kayak to a low-hanging tree and scrambled up the long, steep embankment to the pathway, cut into the curve of the hill above me. Suddenly taken aback by my travel-worn appearance, I self-consciously brushed down my clothes, sweeping away as much mud and grime as I could, ran my fingers through my hair trying to make myself respectable. If about to come face-to-face with Priest Kings, Colton Boa would be presentable. I took off my backpack and rummaged for the white shirt and pants - AND the blue shoulder sash that I wanted to wear to mark myself as a son of the Blue Caste. I would walk barefoot into the temple as if I were an Initiate, blank and unadorned, except for that blue sash.

Draping the sash over my shoulder, my father Baja came to mind, his still, silent strength. Understated yet powerful. Proud but not conceited. And my mother Gabi, the generous, the kind, the wise. In my heart, I would take them both with me into the temple. I also thought of Stari the White, who at first refused me access to Sardar until I had completed the pilgrimage. And then the other white-clad man, I thought of Adilokos, the smiling priest who put me on the path to Sardar and handed me the Pilgrim's staff that I have cradled throughout this journey, my companion through the ten stages of the pilgrimage.

I approached the temple. It was like an up-turned goblet, round and ancient and white, only as big as one very large chamber with a roof that soared up in a spiral, culminating in a spike tower. I found a tiny wooden doorway on the shadowed side of the pointed dome and entered a remarkable room. Its bell-shaped shell gave voice to extraordinary acoustic effects. The slip-noise of my bare foot on the marble floor or even a tiny gasp were amplified and modified into new, inconceivable combinations of sound, almost musical. The light, as it pierced the white-washed dome-room from various angles, composed a visual-musical accompaniment on the shiny, concave walls. Set against the backdrop of an oval window, half-silhouetted in the sunlight, a single, enormous golden ring stood on its edge on a pedestal. It was wider that my outstretched arms.

I beheld the great ring for a time, appreciating the physical perfection of the circle and my idle fingers felt out the shape of the now single golden ring wrapped around the Pilgrim Staff. There was no ceremony here, no sacred words, no Initiates nor, I am sorry to say, Priest Kings. The ring stared down at me like a Magistrate - inscrutable and silent. Nothing happened. Silence upon silence. Standing in the prismed stillness, I felt as if I had been the butt of some elaborate practical joke. But then it dawned on me that the pilgrimage is not about getting a new badge of office. It was not an initiation into a secret society or a test for worthiness. It is not the gaining of power. It is a framework for self-disclosure. The ring represented to me the essential truth. That of flow. Movement and experience. Cause and consequence. Hot and cold. Love and hate. An enduring circular flow that feeds life and at the same time destroys it. So the ring represented the continuum of wisdom - not the attainment of it. It too is in a circular flow. I am not at the beginning nor the end. Like everyone else, pilgrim or not, I am on the way. Each of us proceeds according to their gifts.

And so the quest was over. It ended in a single circular room, dominated by the great gold ring. Feeling relieved, relaxed, I left the temple and returned to my waiting kayak. All my wondering about Priest Kings, Initiates and obscure entires in Law stood like plaintiffs before a Magistrate, demanding a verdict. Which way to go now? Back to science? No. Despite the cleanliness and certainty of it, science cannot examine what it cannot measure or observe. Towards the Whites then? No. Whilst I understood them better and more admired their discipline and serenity, I am not one of them and never will be.

All that remained was for me to make my way home and somehow carry on with my life. I pushed off and paddled my way back up the river. I no longer consulted my map or wondered about Article 17. And I no longer noticed the rings adorning the Pilgrim Staff. Stroke by stroke, I continued my odyssey, heading homeward to Callera and as always, to an uncertain future.
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