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The forests of northern Gor, also known as the High Forests, cover hundreds of thousands of square pasangs. The forests are located north of the Laurius River and extend as far north as the start of the border of Torvaldsland. The forests also extend eastward, past the northern ridges of the Thentis Mountains and the lands of the Barrens, and no one is sure how far east they actually extend. They extend west to the very shores of Thassa. The forests are a vast, unmapped wilderness. In general, no one claims sovereignty over the entire forest though certain cities, such as Port Kar, do lay claim to sections so they may engage in logging.
The forests contain a multitude of different types of trees and vegetation. Certain portions of the forests vary greatly from other sections so it is hard to generalize about the landscape you will encounter in the forests. There is a lot of diversity in this huge area. The most common tree in the forests is the reddish Tur tree that may grow to two hundred feet or more. Tur trees bear some similarity to the great redwoods of Earth. The forests are also the home to many different animals including panthers, sleens, tabuk, tarsk and hith. In addition, the forests are the haven for various outlaws, including panther girls, and the forest people. The forest people are an indigenous people who have chosen to reside within the great forests. Little is said of them in the books. Due to the various animals and peoples of the forests, it can be a very perilous area to visit. Despite the dangers, people often come to the northern forests for logging, hunting or trade.
The Laurius River is a long river that winds across northern Gor, bordering the northern forests. It slowly flows west though near its end it tends to incline some to the southwest, emptying into Thassa at the port city of Lydius. The Laurius has a number of small tributaries that extend into the forests. Ships from Lydius may travel the length of the Laurius to visit sections of the northern forests. The Laurius can also be crossed at a number of different points through the use of barges. These barges take people to the edge of the northern forests or to settlements on the north bank of the Laurius. They usually charge a free person one silver tarsk to cross and an additional copper for each animal or slave. Past the city of Laura, the Laurius River becomes rougher and less navigable, especially near the end the summer season.
Lydius is a port city controlled by the Merchant Caste. It is a city of contrasts, combining the roughness of the north regions with the luxuries and civilization of the cities to the south. For example, it is one of the only cities in the northern regions that possesses public baths. Lydius contains a mint and this mint is the only one within a thousand pasangs of Torvaldsland. Many Gorean cities own or rent buildings in Lydius. Thus, the population of Lydius contains a diverse mix of different origins and cultures. Much wood and hides are brought down the Laurius River to be sold in Lydius. The nearest major town to the east of Lydius is Vonda of the Salerian Confederation. One of the taverns of Lydius given in the books is the tavern of Sarpedon.
Laura is a small port city, northeast of Koroba, on the northern bank of the Laurius river. It is located about two hundred pasangs inland from the city of Lydius. It is primarily a trading city and it is the only civilized area within a large region. The city is comprised mostly of wooden warehouses and taverns. Stone is not a common building material in Laura as wood is so much more plentiful and cheap. There are quarries to the east of Laura but the stone is still less commonly used. Primarily, raw materials and rough goods, such as wood and hides, are sold here as there is little market for the luxury items of Gor. Laura also acts as a major base and restocking area for many who wish to travel into the northern forests.
Along the length of the Laurius River and up the northern coast of Thassa, following the border of the forests, there can be found a number of exchange points where outlaws, including panther girls, can display items for sale to passing ships. Most of the items for sale are slaves though other items may also be found. At each spot, there is often a pair of sloping wooden beams, positioned in an upside-down "V" shape. These are very large and heavy structures. Iron rings have been set in these beams to restrain and display slaves that are for sale. The early spring is best time to use these exchange points so that newly purchased slaves can be readied for the busy summer season. The summer is often the busiest season for selling slaves in the cities below the Laurius. Male and female outlaws have an unwritten truce concerning these exchange points. They will not attack, hinder or try to enslave each other at these places. With this truce, the exchange points become practical and effective. If these points were not safe, then their usefulness for trade would greatly diminish and thus harm all outlaws. The outlaws would be largely unable to engage in trade thus diminishing the quality of their lives.
A man who refuses to practice his Caste or tries to change his Caste, without the consent of the High Council, is by definition an outlaw. Other men, who lose their Caste for various other reasons, may also end up as outlaws. A few men even choose to be outlaws. But, most Goreans despise outlaws. Caste is so vitally important to Goreans that a life without their Caste looks quite dismal. A Caste gives a man a support group that will aid him in times of need. An outlaw though is on his own. He has no Caste or Home Stone. He may wear any identifying devices on his clothes or weapons. He has no one to rely on no matter what the circumstances. The penalties for outlaws are also extreme. If an outlaw tries to enter a city, the common sanction is impalement. In the northern forests, common penalties for captured outlaws include hanging and hamstringing. Thus, many outlaws seek refuge in the wilderness areas of Gor, especially in the northern forests and various mountain ranges such as the Voltai. They then commonly live a precarious existence, hunting, raiding and trading.
Not all outlaws are males. All of the above reasons apply to women becoming outlaws as well. Some women, including escaped kajirae and free women, voluntarily opt for outlaw status and flee to the northern forests. They wish to escape their lives for a number of different reasons and seek the freedom of the forests. Many of these women have banded together in small groups and have become known as panther girls or forest girls. They construct their own camps and shelters, each band claiming a certain territory. Usually to join an established band, you must fight and kill an existing member. Panther girls live primarily by hunting though they also engage in slaving and trade. Panther girls are considered outlaws and subject to the same penalties as male outlaws, though more often than not a captured panther girl will be enslaved rather than killed. Thus, the cities are not safe for them and they must remain in the forests.
Panther girls commonly dress themselves in the skins of forest panthers, from which they derive their name. They hunt a number of other animals as well but it is their panther hunting that has brought them the most infamy. They do not wear leather outfits, robes of concealment, veils or tunics. They do not seek to hide their bodies either as their panther skin outfits are often quite scanty. Some girls may wear gold or shell ornaments, such as necklaces, bracelets and armlets. They are skilled hunters, employing the bow and spear, and may be quite proficient in the use of these weapons. They also commonly carry a sleen knife and may also use clubs. Panther girls though do not wield swords. They use weapons more appropriate for their strength and abilities.
Panther girls are arrogant and proud, having little respect for anyone besides themselves. They despise female slaves and will treat them with great cruelty. They hate free women as well regarding all non-panther girls as weak and worthless. They hate men but have more respect for them than for women. Though panther girls are arrogant and disrespectful toward men, they do not call them "males" in the books. The distinction between "males" and "men" does not really exist on Gor. It is not a concept they understand so it would not be an insult they would use. Panther girls sit cross-legged like men and will even do so at an exchange point knowing that men find it disrespectful.
Panther girls attempt to capture and enslave any men who enter the forests. Obviously they will avoid large groups of well-armed men, preferring to attack lone men or those in small groups. If they do capture a man, they commonly shave a strip down his heads. The strip is about two to two and a half inches wide and is done to humiliate them, to mark them as having been captured by a panther girl. It is called the degradation stripe. Men who escape from the panther girls may wear a hat to cover their shame until the hair grows back. It is said "…that only weaklings, and fools, and men who deserve to be slave girls, fall slave to women." (Hunters of Gor, p.13)
Panther girls may rape their male slaves and it seems very likely that they use slave wine. There is no indication of any pregnant panther girls or children living with the panther girls. Children would greatly interfere and hinder their lives. As slave wine now lasts forever, or until a releaser is given, then only a single dose is needed at some point in their lives. If panther girls were the maternal type, they would most likely never have fled to the forests. Once the panther girls grow tired of their male slaves, they will usually sell them at the exchange points.
Each band of panther girls will commonly have a semi-permanent camp, especially in the winter. Each band will know the borders of the territories claimed by other bands. The different bands do not get along well and there are often battles between the different groups. For the most part, these bands are small groups though there are a couple large ones. A typical camp will consist of conical, thatched huts of woven saplings. The camp will also be surrounded by a wall of sharpened stakes. There will be a single gate, fastened with vines, to allow entry into the camp. In the center of the camp will be a cooking hole, surrounded by a circle of flat stones. During the day, while the panther girls are off hunting, the camps are largely empty until they return near dusk. In the winter time, the camps will be busier much more of the time.
Each band will also have a dancing circle located outside their camps, sometimes close though sometimes a few pasangs away. This is commonly a clearing of grass, maybe twenty-five to thirty yards in diameter. At one side of the clearing is a slave post, about five feet high and seven inches thick. There are two heavy metal rings in this post, one about two feet off the ground and the other about three and a half feet. On the top front of the post is a crude carving of opened slave bracelets. In the center of the circle are four heavy stakes, about six inches high, that form a small but good-sized square. At night, under the light of the three moons, the panther girls will dance naked and wildly, like slaves would, inside the circle. They dance when their suppressed womanhood becomes too much to handle. Their need to dance becomes intense and they must dance or go mad.
To many, this indicates the dichotomy of the panther girls. Though they wish to act as men, their hearts yearn to be women, collared women. Panther girls fear being enslaved by men but they cannot deny that part of them that desires to be a woman. There is a panther girl saying that: "Any girl who permits herself to fall to men desires in her heart to be their slave." (Hunters of Gor, p.133) But, it is also said by male Goreans that panther girls, once conquered, make incredible slaves. "Indeed they make superb slaves. They bring high prices in the markets. They are only girls desperate to fight their femininity. When they are no longer permitted to do this they have no choice but to become marvelous women and slaves. A conquered panther girl is one of the most abject and delicious, and joyful, of slaves." (Beasts of Gor, p.240) For this reason, many Gorean men come to the northern forests to hunt panther girls or to purchase them at the exchange points from male outlaws or even panther girls. One band of panther girls is not adverse from selling captured panther girls from another band.
As it is for all women, men have devised a myriad of ways to capture panther girls. A number of these methods entail capturing panther girls at their camps. Obviously, this first means that you must locate a panther girl camp and that is not always easy. A simple, though lengthy method, is to besiege the camp. Eventually, hunger and thirst may force the panther girls to surrender to their besiegers. This is generally not a preferred method of capture. Some men might set fire to a camp, forcing the girls to flee the safety of the camp. This is very dangerous though as fire is not easily controlled. A forest fire is a heinous crime on Gor and few men would attempt this method. One of the bravest methods, one that requires much skill in stealth, is to attempt to enter the camp at night while the panther girls sleep. Panther girl sentries must be the first girls captured and it must be done as silently as possible. Then, a hut by hut search must be done, continuing to capture each girl as silently as can be done. The less the amount of men used to do this means the more glory to the captors.
At exchange points, panther girls will generally trade slaves and animal pelts for a number of items they desire. They may also trade any items they acquired through the capture of men or slaves. Panther girls often seek such items as candies, knives, arrow points, spear points, armlets, bracelets, necklaces, mirrors, slave nets, slave traps, and other types of slave steel. These are all items they cannot obtain from the forests. Because there is little sugar in the forest, except in some berries, simple hard candies are very valuable to them. Panther girls are not wealthy and live very simple lives. They do not acquire much coinage and have little use for it even if they did possess some. They also do not use mounts while in the forests. Thus they have no need for tarns, tharlarion or kaiila. Most of those animals would have difficulties operating in the dense forests anyways.
Panther girls are not the same as talunas. Though there are some similarities, the two terms are not interchangeable. Taluna is not a word in the Gorean language. It is from an inland dialect of the jungles near Schendi. Talunas and panther girls have a number of cultural differences. For more information on talunas, please see Education Scroll #49, Jungles of Gor.
Men also come to the northern forests to hunt animals, not just panther girls. Marlenus, Ubar of Ar, often goes to the northern forests on hunting expeditions. There are numerous small game and birds that can be hunted as well as some larger game animals such as panthers, sleen, tabuk and tarsk. Hunting is an exciting yet dangerous pursuit. The addition of the predatory panther girls makes hunting even more dangerous in the northern forests.
The forest panther is a tawny-colored animal that is very common in the forests. Though they hunt largely at night they are not invariably nocturnal. They will hunt whenever they are hungry or irritable. Panthers will usually only attack men if provoked or if there are very hungry and there is no other prey around. Though they are capable of climbing trees, they generally locate the scent of prey on the ground. Spears and bows are the most common weapons used to hunt them. This appears to be the prey of choice for panther girls though it is not the only animal they hunt. There are many varieties of sleen on Gor, including a forest one. The forest sleen is a large animal, either brown or black pelted. More information on the sleen, and the other animals of the forest, can be found on Education Scroll #18, Animals of Gor.
The northern forests can provide much excitement to your role-play. Hunting expeditions are a primary activity in this region and the many dangers of the forests will make it even more thrilling. The forests are also immense and can hide many different matters. Escaped criminals may be hidden within its depths. Lost treasures may be secreted away in its expanses. Interaction with outlaws or panther girls at exchange points or within the forests can also lead to enjoyment. Don't restrict your role-play to taverns and cities. Get out into the wilderness and explore the varied world of Gor.