people that was, to the Goreans’ knowledge, the most free, among the
fiercest, among the most isolated on the planet---“
--Nomads of Gor, p.6
The people of the cities of Gor consider various other cultures that live outside of the cities to be barbarians. This would include such peoples as the Red Savages of the Barrens, the Red Hunters of the polar north, the natives of the jungles near Schendi and the raiders of Torvaldsland. During the course of the Gorean series, Tarl Cabot visited many of these various barbarian groups but his first encounter was with the fierce Wagon Peoples. Nomads of Gor, the fourth book in the Gorean series, is the primary source for information on the Wagon Peoples. Based on my research, the Wagon Peoples seem to be an amalgamation of inspirations from two Earth cultures, the infamous Mongols as well as the gauchos of South America. Though the Mongol connection is the more obvious one, there is ample evidence to indicate the gauchos were a source for Norman as well.
The Wagon Peoples are nomadic, roaming across the vast, grassy prairies of the southern hemisphere. These prairies are largely treeless and often flat though there are some areas of small hills. The prairies teem with wildlife, from deadly prairie sleen, vicious predators, to tiny, brown prairie urts, scavengers. You will also find herds of kailiauk, tumits, and maybe even a larl that descended from the Ta Thassa Mountains. These prairies extend over 2500 pasangs from the coast of Thassa, at the Ta Thassa Mountains, to the southern foothills of the Voltai Range.
Due to their great size, these plains have a diverse climate with some of the more southern regions receiving snow in the winter. The northern regions, closer to the equator, do not receive any snow. Winter on the plains can be brutal, with harsh snowstorms and strong winds. The grass then dies or becomes frozen and nearly worthless. One must often dig deep beneath the snow to find a handful of useable grass. When the snow arrives, the Wagon Peoples must then move their bosks and wagons to the winter pastures, far north of Turia. It is not unusual for bosk to starve to death during this snowy trek, unable to garner sufficient grass. This also means that some wagons might have to be abandoned, as there is usually no time to train new bosk to pull the wagons.
The plains seem to extend as far north as the banks of the Cartius River. The Cartius River was once thought to be a tributary of the Vosk River, and is even stated as such in Nomads of Gor. But, Explorers of Gor showed this belief to be incorrect. The explorer Ramus eventually discovered that the Cartius and Thassa Cartius were different rivers and that the Cartius is not a tributary to the Vosk. The Cartius is actually an important subequatorial waterway that flows generally west by northwest. It enters the tropical rainforests and finally empties into Lake Ushindi. The regions of the Cartius may sometimes be referred to as either the eastern or western Cartius, dependent on which geographic area one is referring to. For example, one might refer to the valleys of the eastern Cartius. The western Cartius is located far from the cities of Gor.
The Cartius River derives its name from the direction, Cart, it lies from Ar. Cart is roughly equivalent to "southwest." Once, the great city of Ar, at the start of Tarnsman of Gor, claimed hegemony over all of the lands between the Vosk and the Cartius. But even then, the tarnsmen of Ar rarely fly south of the Cartius River. And even though Ar no longer claims hegemony over those lands, they still rarely fly beneath the river. When travelers do seek to cross the Cartius, they commonly do so on barges pulled by teams of domesticated river tharlarions. The bargemen, who claim to be a Caste though not all accept their claim, consist of interrelated clans. When the Wagon Peoples choose to cross the Cartius, they generally do not use the barges. Instead, they swim their bosk and kaiila across, while riding on the backs of the bosk. They will also float their wagons.
With the information from Nomads of Gor, we do gain a better understanding of some of the geography of the region. We understand that the lands of the Tahari are to the east of the southern plains. And we understand that the equatorial jungles only extend a certain distance east, and it is not necessary to cross those jungles to travel from the plains north toward Ar. It is also said that Ar is located hundreds of pasangs away, across the Cartius. When Tarl Cabot traveled from the Sardar Mountains to the plains, he generally traveled south and southwest, though more southwest. We should note that the popular map from the German editions of the Gor novels apparently places the Sardar in the wrong location, to the west of Ar. If this were accurate, then Tarl's directions from the Sardar to the plains would have placed him into Thassa. Tarl left the Sardar in Se'Var, a winter month in the northern hemisphere, and arrived in the Plains during their autumn.
In the midst of the plains is the great city of Turia, which must continually deal with the threat of the Wagon Peoples. Turia is described in more detail in its own essay, City of Turia (Essay #38). The plains may be called either the Plains of Turia or the Land of the Wagon Peoples, depending on who is speaking. There are others besides Turia and the Wagon Peoples who make their homes on the plains. There are a number of Peasants who own farms within these prairies, engaging in agriculture and animal husbandry. But, they do live in constant worry that the Wagon Peoples may attack them one day, burning and destroying their farms. It seems likely that most of these farms are located fairly close to Turia, helping to supply the city with food and providing a close refuge if the Peasants ever need to flee to safety.
The Wagon Peoples consist of four separate tribes: the Kassars, Kataii, Paravaci and Tuchuks. They often fight among each other, uniting only about once every ten years to conduct certain rituals. Some of the information provided in Nomads of Gor is specific to the Tuchuk tribe so we cannot be sure that all of that information will be applicable to the other tribes as well. It is likely too that these other tribes possess their own unique characteristics that the Tuchuks do not.
The Kassars, also known as the "Blood People," are led by Conrad, their Ubar. Their standard is a scarlet bola hanging from a lance. They also commonly carry red lacquered shields. Their brands symbolically represent their standard with three circles joined at the center by lines. Like all of the Peoples, they use the same brand for their slaves and bosk. The slave brand though is only about an inch high while a bosk brand forms a six-inch square. Bosk and slaves may be rebranded if a different tribes takes possession, though this seems more common with bosk than slaves. A slave that has been rebranded may diminish in value.
The Kataii are blacks and they are led by Hakimba, their Ubar, who is a lithe, strong man with brown eyes. Their standard is a yellow bow bound across a black lance. They also commonly carry yellow lacquered shields. Their brand is a bow facing to the left. Kataii are more reclusive than the other tribes, and Kataii are thus rarely seen in the encampments of the other tribes.
The Paravaci, also known as the "Rich People," are considered the wealthiest of the four tribes. During much of the timeframe of Nomads of Gor, Tolnus led them as their Ubar. But, he betrayed the other tribes and was later killed. It is unknown who succeeded him as Ubar of the Paravaci though someone took over shortly after the death of Tolnus. Their standard is a boskhead-shaped banner made of jewels strung on gold wire. It is extremely valuable. Their brand is an inverted isosceles triangle surmounted by a semicircle, symbolically representing the head of a bosk. The Paravaci sometimes wear jeweled belts on their necks to incite envy in others and accrue enemies. The purpose is to encourage attacks so the wearer can test his skills and need not tire himself seeking foes.
The Tuchuks, also known as the "Wily Ones," are led by Kamchak, their Ubar. Kamchak has a heavy, white face with fierce scarring and black eyes within an epicanthic fold. Six years before he was scarred, Kamchak spent time in Ar as a mercenary, spying upon the city's defenses for his tribe. During that time, he eventually became the First Sword of Ar, the most skilled swordsman in the city. The standard of the Tuchuks is a banner with four bosk horns. They also commonly carry black lacquered shields. Their brand is four bosk horns, resembling the letter "H."
The books make reference to numerous traits and quirks of the Tuchuks and some of them are presented here. "He would be both skillful and vain; he was Tuchuk." (Nomads of Gor, p.25) It is said that the Tuchuks seldom take anything at face value. Thus, they are generally suspicious of almost everything, often seeking hidden meanings, deceptions and such. "It is hard to outwit a Tuchuk in a bargain," remarked Harold, turning back, rather confidently." (Nomads of Gor, p.328) They haggle very well. Tuchuks are said not to make good spies, as they tend to be intensely loyal. "No Tuchuk, I knew, cares to be the butt of a joke, especially a Turian joke." (Nomads of Gor, p.97) To eat meat in the Tuchuk fashion, you hold the meat in your left hand and with your teeth. Then, using a quiva you cut pieces of meat you're your mouth for you to eat.
Few outsiders know the identity of the true Ubars of the Wagon Peoples for all of the tribes conceal this fact from outsiders. The tribes engage in misdirection, pretending that someone else is the actual Ubar. For example, at the start of Nomads of Gor, the alleged Ubar of the Tuchuks was Kutaituchik, who was actually Kamchak's father. He sat upon a gray robe, the throne of the Ubar, which is said to signify who was Ubar. The gray robe was a simple robe of boskhide, worn and tattered. It was likely fairly old. Those who were said to be of the First Wagon were of the household of this alleged Ubar. It may be the case that though that they were of the household of the actual Ubar as well. There were one hundred wagons in Kutaituchik's personal household, and most of those people were not related to him. Kutaituchik would hold court outside his huge wagon on a large dais.
Kutaituchik was a broad-backed man with small legs. His skin was a tinged yellowish brown. His eyes were set within an epicanthic fold and his head was largely bald, except for a black knot of hair descending from the back of his skull. He was dressed quite well, with a rich, ornamented robe of red bosk skin bordered with jewels. Around his neck he wore a chain, decorated with sleen teeth, holding a golden medallion with the sign of the Tuchuks. He also wore wide leather trousers and furred boots. There was a red sash around his waist that held a quiva. But, Kutaituchik was a kanda addict, often chewing on a string of rolled kanda leaf. Far too often, he seemed to be lost in a drug-induced haze. Saphrar of Turia introduced Kutaituchik to kanda, one reason why Kamchak despised Saphrar.
Kamchak fiercely loved his father, despite the kanda addiction. Unfortunately, Kutaituchik would be murdered, with fifteen to twenty arrows in him, by mercenary tarnsmen in the hire of Saphrar. These tarnsmen were seeking a golden sphere that was kept in Kutaituchik's wagon. Kutaituchik's body would later be cremated with his wagon, which may be the norm for the deaths of important people within the tribes. Kutaituchik was placed in his wagon, fixed in a sitting position with his weapons at hand. The wagon was filled with wood and dry grass and then drenched in fragrant oils. It was then set afire, the oils likely acting as an accelerant. The Tuchuk standard, which had stood outside Kutaituchik's wagon, was moved in a special wagon after the cremation. Kamchak would later seek revenge upon Turia for his father's death.
The four tribes of the Wagon Peoples are primarily herders of bosk, living off their meat and milk. Though some Goreans do drink kailla milk, especially in the Tahari, it is unknown if the Wagon Peoples also drink it. The tribes may restrict their milk drinking to only bosk milk. The tribes will not grow any food and will not eat anything that has touched the dirt. What that latter seems to mean is that they do not eat any food that is grown beneath the ground. As there are Wagon People seen to be eating fruit, they are apparently not restricted from eating all items that grow. Fruit commonly grows above ground so their dietary restriction seems more limited to foods that grow beneath the soil. Wagon People do hunt, and may also engage in some fishing, to acquire additional foods to supplement their bosk meat. Besides roasting fresh bosk meat, the tribes also eat dried bosk meat. This may be made into long strips that are as wide as a beam. While traveling, bosk meat might be stored between a saddle and the back of a kailla to keep it warm.
The tribes essentially do not engage in any manufacturing or metalworking and thus must often buy, trade or raid for certain items they need or desire. They engage in trade with Turia, usually acquiring highly prized metal and cloth items for bosk horn and hides. As no caravans, and few Merchants, travel to the Wagon Peoples, they must most often journey to Turia to seek needed goods. Besides bosk horn and hides, the tribes will also trade some of the myriad items they obtain from their raiding. Spring is their most active time for caravan raiding. The only two items they will not trade to Turia are a living bosk and a slave girl who once came from Turia.
Besides their mercantile relations, the tribes and Turia also sometimes engage in diplomatic relations, exchanging ambassadors. Such ambassadors receive the usual diplomatic immunity that is common for the cities of Gor. But, ambassadors from the Wagon Peoples are not fully accepted within Turia for they are not permitted to visit the administrative palace and meet the city ruler. It is said that the tribes are not worthy enough for such an honor. Instead, their ambassadors are entertained by the Merchant Caste, especially by Saphrar, one of the most important Merchants. But, the Wagon Peoples seemingly take no offense, as they and many others, believe the true power in Turia is held by the Merchant Caste. And the Merchants also entertain more lavishly than does the administration. When the tribesmen come to Turia, they bring many expensive gifts, a way to show disdain, that the tribes did not care for such wealth. Consequently, when Turian embassies visit the tribes, they also bring many gifts, trying to surpass what the tribes brought to them.
A few Merchants are permitted to trade with the Wagon People, to travel across the plains to their camps. But, for this privilege they must accept a tiny brand on their forearm. The Tuchuk brand is in the form of spreading bosk horns, and the other tribes probably have their own brands. This guarantees safe passage for the Merchant but only during certain seasons. Some entertainers, such as Singers, Musicians and Poets, can also receive this brand. But, the initial acquisition of this brand is very dangerous. You must first present yourself to the Peoples, showing your wares or performing your form of entertainment. If the tribes do not like what you have brought to them, they will likely deny you a brand and then slay you. The brand also carries a patina of shame as it suggests that you approach the tribes as a slave.
The Wagon People speak a dialect of Gorean, with a harsh accent, so they can be understood by most city dwellers. Though city dwellers consider them to be barbarians, the Wagon Peoples consider another group of people to be actual barbarians, those who cannot speak Gorean such as women brought from Earth. In addition, the Wagon Peoples consider ear piercing to be a barbaric act. The Wagon People also have disdain for city dwellers. " They are among the proudest of the people of Gor, regarding the dwellers of the cities of Gor as vermin in holes, cowards who must fly behind walls, wretches who fear to live beneath the broad sky, who dare not dispute with them the open, windswept plains of their world." (Nomads of Gor, p.4) This disdain seems to extend to most non-Wagon Peoples, and not just city dwellers.
"The Wagon Peoples, it is said, slay strangers." (Nomads of Gor, p.9). This is mostly true are few strangers are permitted into the camps of the Wagon People. It would be even rarer for a Wagon Person to make friends with a stranger. To signify such a friendship though, a Wagon Person will pick up a clump of earth and grass and then place it into the hand of the other. This is "…, the land on which the bosk graze, the land which is the land of the Tuchuks, …" (Nomads of Gor, p.26) Then, the Wagon Person will clasp their hands together over the dirt and grass. This creates a very strong bond. For example, Kamchak held earth and grass with Tarl and there was little, if anything, that Kamchak would not risk for his friend.
The books do not explicitly state that
the Wagon Peoples lack Home Stones, though there are also no passages stating
that they do possess them either. But, it should seem quite logical, based on
the concept of the Home Stone, that they would not possess such. Home Stones
are placed where one claims territory, on a specific piece of land. The Wagon
Peoples are nomadic though, claiming no particular piece of land as their own.
Though they range over the thousands of pasangs in the plains, there is no
specific area that is their permanent home. Thus, they would not have any one
place to lay a Home Stone. The books provide no examples of nomadic groups
that have Home Stones. Such would seem contrary to the very basis of the Home
Like the other barbarian cultures of Gor, the Wagon People do not possess a Caste system like many other Goreans. Every man is expected to be a warrior though there is no Red Caste among the Peoples. All males must also be able to ride a kaiila, hunt, and care for the bosk. Few of the tribes can swim though some have learned in the Cartius River. The men of the tribes are more generalists than specialists, though some of them do engage in a specialty as well. Certain clans exist that specialize in particular duties, though they are in addition, and not as a substitute, for their primary duties of war, hunting and herding. As they are clans, they are likely based on blood ties though this is not explicitly stated in the books.
Some of these clans include Healers, Torturers, Leather Workers, Salt Hunters, Camp Singers, Year Keepers, and Scarers. Additional clans may exist as well. There are Iron Masters who brand slaves but it is unsure whether they actually form a clan or not. Many of the listed clans are not described in any detail within the books. For most, we only understand their basic function. For example, obviously the Healers engage in medical arts but almost nothing is said concerning the nature of their medical practices. Is it more a form of herbalism, which would seem logical? We do know that the tribes sometimes avail themselves of actual Physicians as well as one did tend to Kutaituchik. There is another scene where Kamchak placed a dark, bluish powder placed into a drink, which served as a sleeping agent. It is unsure whether he obtained this from the Healers or from a Physician.
The tribes are the only Gorean culture to have a group of professional Torturers. These Torturers are very well trained in the arts of detaining life, interrogation and persuasion. Their services are used on both free and slave, either to extract information or to punish and kill. Slaves may also be impaled though it does not seem this is part of the duties of the Torturers. Torturers always wear hoods, even when not directly involved in their duties, unless their victim has received a sentence of death. In that case, they will remove their hood but will only permit the victim to see their face. These Torturers do not restrict their efforts to just the tribes. They sometimes hire out to the cities, mainly to Ubars and Initiates, who are interested in their skills.
There is a question as to whether women can belong to these clans or not. Or whether they can only belong to certain clans. The answers are not explicitly provided within the novels though there is some evidence to suggest that they do not belong to the clans, or at least are not active within the clans. First, the clan references all refer to men and not women. We do not have any examples of women in any of the clans. Second, if we examine the usual place of free women within the camps then it would tend to show they do not engage in the work of the clans. For example, would a woman, who cannot have scars, be allowed to place scars upon a man? Third, let us look at the example of the clan of the Year Keepers. It is specifically noted that the women keep a different calendar so that would seem safe to assume then that the Year Keepers are male.
The Wagon People do not trust important matters to paper because paper is fragile, and can be too easily destroyed or stolen. Thus, most of the People have developed excellent memories and have been trained since birth for such memory retention. This is common for many Goreans. Because of this, few of the tribes can actually read. Many of them use signs to signify their names and they also place such signs on the collars of their slaves. Despite their illiteracy, they have a large, complex oral literature. This is passed down through the generations by word of mouth, memorized anew by each new generation. These works are often recited by the clan of Camp Singers, also known as skalds.
The Wagon Peoples have two different calendar systems, one kept by the Year Keepers and the other by the free women. Year Keepers are the clan that memorizes the names of the years and some can recite several thousand consecutive years. The Year Keepers have a system that tallies years between each Season of Snows. One effect of this system is that the years tend to vary in length but that does not bother the Wagon People. These years are not numbered but are instead given names. Each year is named toward the end, based on something that happened to distinguish that year. Tarl Cabot spent time with the Tuchuks during two of their years and it was decided to name those years after him. They thus became the Year in Which Tarl Cabot Came to the Wagon Peoples and the Year in which Tarl Cabot Commanded a Thousand.
The free women keep a different calendar based on the phases of Gor's largest moon. This calendar lists fifteen moons, named for the fifteen varieties of bosk, such as the Moon of the Brown Bosk. One effect of this calendar system is that the months may occur in different seasons in different years. This though is not an issue of concern for the Wagon Peoples. On some wagons, this calendar is marked by a set of colored pegs or by a round, wooden plate bearing the image of the appropriate bosk.
The bosk is the most important creature to the Wagon People, a revered animal that is often said to be the Mother of the Wagon Peoples. They probably could not exist without it, at least not without radical changes to their entire way of life. The bosk is a huge, ox-like animal, with a vicious temper to match that of a sleen. It is a shaggy beast with a thick, humped neck. It has a wide head and tiny red eyes. It also possesses two long, horns that reach out from its head and suddenly curve forward to terminate in deadly points. Some of these horns, measured from tip to tip, exceed the length of two spears. There are fifteen varieties of bosk including the brown bosk, red bosk, black bosk, snow bosk and milk bosk. The books do not name all fifteen varieties. The bosk is indigenous to the plains near Turia though it is also commonly bred and raised by people all over Gor.
When a tribe is traveling as a group, the bosk herds form the vanguard, the front line, and rampart, a barricade, for the wagons. A number of outriders though will generally scout out the area in front of the herds. "The wagons are said to be countless, the animals without number." (Nomads of Gor, p.21) Though it may seem that way to someone watching the huge bosk herds and wagons pass, both assertions are incorrect though there are large numbers of both. "Then for the first time, against the horizon, a jagged line, humped and rolling like thundering waters, seemed to rise alive from the prairie, vast, extensive, a huge arc, churning and pounding from one corner of the sky to the other, the herds of the Wagon Peoples, encircling, raising dust into the sky like fire, like hoofed glaciers of fur and horn moving in shaggy floods across the grass, toward me." (Nomads of Gor, p.10) Each large herd is comprised of several smaller herds, watched over by their own riders.
Besides creating a huge cloud of dust, the approach of the herds also brings its own distinctive odor, a musky, pervasive and pungent scent combined with the smell of grass, dirt, dung, urine and sweat. Yet Tarl spoke eloquently about this odor. "The magnificent vitality of that smell, so offensive to some, astonished and thrilled me; it spoke to me of the insurgence and the swell of life itself, ebullient, raw, overflowing, unconquerable, primitive, shuffling, smelling, basic, animal, stamping, snorting, moving, an avalanche of tissue and blood and splendor, a glorious, insistent, invincible cataract of breathing and walking and seeing and feeling on the sweet, flowing, windswept mothering earth. And it was in that instant that I sensed what the bosk might mean to the Wagon Peoples." (Nomads of Gor, p.22)
The importance of the bosk to the
survival of the tribes cannot be underestimated. The tribes use basically
every part of the bosk, wasting nothing of any use. And these uses fulfill so
many functions for the tribes. Without the bosk, there would be many needs of
the tribes that would need to be addressed in other ways.
"Not only does
the flesh of the bosk and the milk of its cows furnish the Wagon Peoples with
food and drink, but its hides cover the domelike wagons in which they dwell;
its tanned and sewn skins cover their bodies; the leather of its hump is used
for their shields; its sinews form their thread; its bones and horns are split
and tooled into implements of a hundred sorts, from awls, punches and spoons
to drinking flagons and weapon tips; its hoofs are used for glues; its oils
are used to grease their bodies against the cold. Even the dung of the bosk
finds its uses on the treeless prairies, being dried and used for fuel."
(Nomads of Gor, p.5)
A terrible crime among the tribes is the wrongful killing of a bosk. If a person foolishly kills a bosk, then his punishment is to be either strangled to death by a leather thong or to be suffocated in the hide of the animal he killed. The key is obviously the definition of "foolishly" though it is not defined within the books. Now, if a person kills, for any reason at all, a bosk cow with unborn young then the punishment is even worse. The offender is staked out on the prairie, alive, in the path of the herd so that he will be trampled to death. In this case, even if the killing was inadvertent, an accident, you will still be punished.
The tribes use domesticated prairie sleen, as shepherds for the bosk and sentinels to protect their camps. These sleen also help to track down errant slaves. "They would be released with the fall of darkness to run the periphery of the herds, acting, as I have mentioned, as shepherds and sentinels. They are also used if a slave escapes, for the sleen is an efficient, tireless, savage, almost infallible hunter, capable of pursuing a scent, days old, for hundreds of pasangs until, perhaps a month later, it finds its victim and tears it to pieces." (Nomads of Gor, p.28) Prairie sleen are smaller than forest sleen, maybe only six to eight feet long, but can be just as vicious. Such guardian sleen are commonly kept caged during the day and then released at night. They will attack any trespassers without provocation, often killing them. This makes it extremely dangerous to approach their camps at night. And it prevents slaves from escaping at night as well. These trained sleen will respond only to the voice of its master. When their master dies, and no one else can command the sleen, it will then be slain and eaten.
The Peoples are nomadic but settle on occasion in large camps for a time. This becomes a City of Harriga, or Bosk Wagons. There are sufficient numbers of wagons so that it almost seems like a real city with streets and such. These wagons are drawn by a double team of bosk, four in a team, linked to a wagon tongue. Those tongues are joined together by tem-wood crossbars. The wagons are guided by eight straps, two for each of the four lead animals. The wagons are commonly tied in tandem fashion, in long columns and thus only the lead wagons need to be guided. The other wagons follow with leather thongs running from the rear of one wagon to the nose rings of the bosk in the next wagon, sometimes as much as thirty yards behind. A wagon may be guided by a woman or boy who walks beside the lead animals with a sharp stick.
The wagon box stands almost six feet off the ground and is often square, about the size of a large room. It is constructed from black, lacquered planks of tem-wood. The sides of the wagon box are perforated with arrow ports, for use of the horn bow. The rear wagon wheels are about ten feet in diameter while the front ones are only about eight feet. These rear wheels are more difficult to mire, often preventing the wagon from being stuck in mud. The front wheels permit an easier turning of the wagon. The wooden wheels, joined by axles of tem-wood, are commonly painted in vibrant colors and designs. Thick strips of boskhide form the wheel rims, and must be replaced three to four times a year. The exterior of the wagon box is also painted well, with great colors and designs. The wagons often compete to see who can create the boldest and most exciting wagon.
Inside the wagon box, there is a fixed, rounded tent-like frame, covered with painted and varnished bosk hides. These hides are usually richly colored with fantastic designs. The frame is made so that a walkway surrounds the dome, like a ship's bridge. The interior of the wagon is accessed from the back and while the wagon is moving, it is lashed shut to prevent dust and dirt from filtering inside. The interiors of wagons are as lavish as the outside, richly carpeted with tapestries and carpets on the walls. There may also be numerous chests and fine silks scattered around. The interior is commonly lit by hanging tharlarion oil lamps. In center of the wagon there is a small, shallow fire bowl, formed of copper, with a raised brass grating. Though it is sometimes used for cooking it is primarily there to provide heat. The smoke escapes through a smoke hole at the top of the frame and that hole is also shut when the wagon is moving.
In the Tuchuk camp, the largest wagon belonged to Kutaituchik, their ostensible Ubar. This vast wagon was situated on a large, flat-topped grassy hill, the highest land in the camp. The Tuchuk standard stood next to this wagon. One hundred huge, red bosk drew his wagon. These bosk were made to look well pampered with polished horns, glistening coats from combs and oils, nose rings set with jewels, and necklaces of precious stones hanging from their horns. In essence, the wagon is a vast platform set on numerous wheeled frames with a dozen large wheels at the edges. These wheels could turn the wagon but could not alone support its weight. The hides that form its enormous dome, maybe 100 feet high, are extremely colorful. Kutaituchik held court outside the wagon, on a large dais that was built about one foot off the ground. This dais was covered with dozens of thick rugs, sometimes four or five deep. To enter the dais, you had to remove your footwear and have your feet washed by male slaves.
The Wagon Peoples are a warlike people and often war among themselves. They also raid caravans that try to cross the Plains, usually those coming from or going to Turia. In addition, they sometimes travel toward other cities and areas, having gone as far north as Ko-ro-ba in the past. The books do mention one important historical incident, the Kaiila Wars. Many years ago, the exact time period not given, the Kaiila Wars were fought among the different tribes. The primary objective of these Wars was the acquisition of kaiila, the common mount of these peoples. But, the capture and acquisition of slaves occurred as well, an unintended side effect. The tribes soon realized the benefits of owning slaves so the idea became much more prevalent.
Male children are taught from a young age the ways of war and the hunt. "It was said a youth of the Wagon Peoples was taught the bow, the quiva and the lance before their parents would consent to give him a name, for names are precious among the Wagon Peoples, as among Goreans in general, and they are not to be wasted on someone who is likely to die, one who cannot well handle the weapons of the hunt and war. Until the youth has mastered the bow, the quiva and the lance he is simply known as the first, or the second, and so on, son of such and such a father." (Nomads of Gor, p.11) This creates a powerful incentive for the male children to excel. Otherwise, they fail to become fully accepted members of their society. This same type of education does not seem to occur with female children.
"The Wagon Peoples value courage above all else." (Nomads of Gor, p.16) The people of the tribes are expected to be courageous and they value courage in others as well. It is their primary virtue. "To a Tuchuk," said Harold, "success is courage-that is the important thing-courage itself-even if all else fails-that is success." (Nomads of Gor, p.273) It was Tarl's display of courage that earned him permission to stay with the Tuchuks. Even though Tarl admitted to feeling fear, the fact that he remained courageous, unflinching from possible death, impressed the tribesmen. Courage is not the absence of fear, but it depends on how one handles that fear.
This concern with courage is reflected in the infamous Scar Codes of the Wagon Peoples. You must earn these scars, and each such scar has a specific meaning attached to it. All of the tribes can read the meaning of these scars. The Courage Scar is a bright red scar and is always the highest scar on your face. It is obviously earned for showing courage and is a prerequisite for all other scars. Without this scar, you cannot pay court to a free woman, own a wagon, or own more than five bosk or three kailla. Not all wear their Courage Scar visibly though, depending on the circumstances, though it would be very rare. For example, Tarl earned a Courage Scar but never got one placed onto his face. Unfortunately, the names and meanings of the other possible scars were not provided in the books. For example, Kamchak bore seven scars on his face: red, yellow, blue, black, two more yellow, and one more black. We only know the meaning for the red scar. We do know that the other three Ubars were scarred differently from Kamchak.
Simply having these scars created is a
courageous act. Most of the scars are set in pairs, moving diagonally down
from the side of the head toward the nose and chin. The scars are worked into
the skin by needles and knives, using pigments and bosk dung, over a period of
several days. This is obviously painful and some men have even died while
having these scars affixed. The scars resemble corded chevrons. Such scarred
visages present a fearsome image to their foes. The tribes also have facial
tattooing but little is said about this matter and it is unknown if the
tattoos also possess meaning or whether they are purely decorative.
Though many might not believe the Wagon Peoples have an ordered military organization, they most certainly do. It is a rather simple system, breaking down into three different sized groups. These are known as the Oralu, Orlu and the Or. These terms translate respectively into the Thousand, Hundred and the Ten, which signifies the amount of warriors in each unit. Each warrior of the tribes is a member of an Or, each Or is a member of an Orlu and each Orlu is a member of an Oralu. Each warrior knows his place within his group so each group works very well together.
These units may be arranged in various formations, dependent upon the strategic and tactical needs at the time. For example, in one narrow formation, there was a column of Orlu units. Each Orlu unit was five warriors abreast in twenty rows. After each unit, there was left an empty space large enough to fit an Orlu. This formation and its spacing helped decrease the amount of dust that was raised by the mounted units. The spacing allows provided some time for the dust to subside after each unit, and thus not hindering the next unit in the column.
The leader of each of these three military units is called a Commander. In respect for these Commanders, the warriors of the tribes will smote their lances on their shield. They do this once for the Commander of an Or, twice for an Orlu, and three times for an Oralu. The Commander of a Thousand is the next level under the Ubar. At least for the Tuchuks, red is the color for their Commanders. For example, outside a Commander's wagon will be a standard of the tribe. The pole holding this standard is painted red, indicating this is the wagon of a Commander. There does not appear though to be any specific differentiation for the standard between the Commanders of the three units.
During the day, drums, bosk horns and motions of the standard dictate the movement of the military units of the tribes. Such methods can also be used to send messages at other times and not just during times of war. By night, this communication is conducted with drums, bosk horns and war lanterns slung on high poles carried by certain kaiila riders. The lanterns come in different colors such as red, yellow, green, and blue. The books though do not provide details on the specific meanings of these colors. When the initial bosk horns blow, signaling an attack is being made against the camps, everyone rushes to their places and positions, including the women.
When an attack is made, it is the duty of the free women to cover the fires and to prepare the men's weapons, bringing forth arrows, bows and lances. There is no need for them to retrieve the quivas as they are kept in the saddle sheathes on the kaiila. The bosk must also be hitched up, to prevent them from wandering off or getting in the way as well as so the wagons can be moved if necessary. The slaves are also chained, partially to prevent them from joining in on the attack. After these matters are completed, the women will ascend to the top of the wagons so that they can see the war lanterns. The women are capable of reading these signals as well as the men. These lanterns may indicate whether the wagons must be moved and if so, in what direction they should move. If Turians are attacking, it is known that they commonly will burn any and all wagons. In general, the women of the tribes do not engage in combat. At best, they might wait, armed with knives, for their men to toss them victims to kill. A single example of this was provided in the books and it is unsure whether this is common practice or was an isolated incident.
Most warfare on the plains is mounted combat, whether it is the tribes on their kaiila or Turians atop war tharlarion. Tarn cavalries only pose a rare threat, as the nearest tarn cavalries are located in Ar. The city of Turia does not possess their own tarn cavalries. At best, Turians could hire a band of mercenary tarnsmen though that does not seem to be a common occurrence. We do know that when attacking, the tribes may have commissary wagons, where their warriors can obtain food and drink, such as dried bosk meat and water. In battle, warriors of the tribes may sing war songs as well. One such song may be the Blue Sky Song, a Tuchuk song, that has a refrain "…that though I die, yet there will be the bosk, the grass and sky." (Nomads of Gor, p.263)
The Wagon Peoples lack siege engines and the skills to use them, thus making it more difficult for them to conquer fortified cities. Due to their lack of siegecraft, they most often surround a city, attacking anything that dares to leave or approach the city. But, when they are able to conquer a city, often through trickery, they usually annihilate it completely. They kill or enslave everyone, including the domestic animals. They may even poison the wells and salt the earth. It is said that some cities still lay in ruins that were conquered by the tribes hundreds of years ago.
A thousand years ago, united Wagon
Peoples carried their devastation to the very walls of both Ar and Ko-ro-ba.
Luckily, both cities were able to stop and push back the fierce tribes. But
such was never forgotten, by any of the tribes or cities. Then, during the
Nomads of Gor, the Tuchuks were able to conquer the city of Turia, a
city that had never been conquered before. Through trickery and force of arms,
the Tuchuks were able to take Turia but they did not annihilate it as they
often did to other places they conquered. Kamchak, Ubar of the Tuchuks,
decided to return their Home Stone to the Turians. This was done ostensibly so
the Wagon Peoples would always have an enemy but may also have been done in
part because Kamchak's mother was Turian. In addition, it was thought that
economically, the tribes needed Turia.
After the conquest of Turia, and the elevation of Kamchak to the position of Ubar, the reunification of the four tribes brought about some changes. Now, the Wagon Peoples rarely make raids on each other to acquire slaves. Instead, they raid other peoples and have allegedly traveled as far north as Venna and maybe even the Sardar. It is said that a woman is not safe within a thousand pasangs of the wagons. What this reunification also means is that a strike against the cities of Ar and Ko-ro-ba, or other major Gorean cities, could occur again one day. This does pose a security threat to the cities of Gor. Though, it is unknown how long Kamchak shall reign as Ubar San and whether he will call for such attacks.
The Wagon People use a variety of weapons in war and hunting. These include the lance, horn bow, quiva, rope and bola, all of which are usually carried when mounted. They rarely use swords. Many swords, such as the gladius, would be too short to be useful from the back of a kaiila, and mounted combat is the preferred method among the tribes. Despite the existence of some larger swords on Gor, such as the saber and scimitar, which would be effective while mounted, the tribes still prefer other weapons. This is partially due to their preferred style of combat, that they prefer not to approach an enemy any closer than what is needed for a bow, or maybe as close as the lance. Defensively, some men will wear conical helmets that are often fur rimmed. Some of these helmets may possess a net of colored chains that hang over the face with holes only for the eyes. This is obviously additional protection for the face. The men also use small, round leather shields that are lacquered to a glossy finish. The color of the lacquer indicates the identity of your tribe.
The three-weighted bola is a thrown weapon that consists of three long straps of leather, each about five feet long, terminating in a leather sack that contains a heavy, round metal weight. The bola can be targeted toward different areas of the body, dependent upon the caster's intentions. If it is thrown low, with its approximately ten-foot sweep, it is almost impossible to evade. It will then entangle a person or creature's legs, and could even break them. If it is targeted toward the torso, it can bind a person's arms to their body. More difficult throws could entail strangling a man around the neck or even crushing his skull. A Wagon Person commonly will entangle a foe with the bola and then kill him with a quiva. Bolas are also commonly used to hunt the tumit, a large flightless bird with a hooked beak as long as a forearm. The best season for hunting tumits occurs during the spring. There is even a bladed version of the bola that cuts as well as binds.
Horn bows are used by several different Gorean cultures. The horn bow of the Wagon Peoples is used primarily while mounted. It is a double-curved bow, about four feet long, and built of layers of bosk horn, bound and reinforced with metal and leather. The bow is banded with metal at seven points including at the grip. This metal is obtained through trade with the Turians, often in half-inch rolled strips. The leather on the bow is generally applied diagonally, except for at the grip where it is applied horizontally. On their saddle, they will have a lacquered, narrow, rectangular quiver with as many as forty arrows. A Wagon Person can commonly fire twenty arrows, accurately, in half an Ehn. The horn bow though lacks the range and power of a longbow or crossbow. But at close range, it is a fearsome weapon. One of the arrowheads used is called the Tuchuk barbed arrow, which is most likely used in warfare. Pile arrows are more common for hunting as it is easier to withdraw such an arrowhead from a wound.
The Kaiila lance is also used primarily while mounted. These lances are black, cut from the poles of young tem-wood trees. The lances are so flexible that they could be bent almost double before breaking. Rather than being couched, these lances are carried in the right fist. They are used for thrusting rather than the battering ram effect of European lances. They can be used almost as delicately and swiftly as a saber. A loose loop of boskhide, wound twice about the right wrist, helps the wielder retain the weapon. The lance is rarely thrown in battle. Some of these lances possess a rider hook, under the point, that can be used to dismount opponents.
The quiva is the almost legendary, balanced saddle knife of the Wagon Peoples of the prairies. It is about a foot in length, double edged, and tapers to a daggerlike point. The quiva is used more as a missile weapon than a hand-to-hand weapon. It is not necessary to throw it hard as its sharpness and weight do much of the work for you. As the Wagon Peoples do not engage in metalworking, they must acquire their quivas elsewhere. Consequently, most quivas are made in Ar and sold in sets of seven, as there are seven sheaths in the kaiila saddles of the Wagon Peoples. The quivas are made differently for each tribe of the Wagon Peoples. The quivas are almost always kept in the saddle sheaths, on the side of the saddle denoting which hand you use.
Despite the fact that they are manufactured in Ar, the quiva is apparently almost exclusively a weapon of the Wagon People. In the novels, Tarl Cabot is the only non-Wagon Person who is ever depicted using a quiva. The fact that it is referred to as a legendary or mystic weapon seems to elevate it beyond common status. Even the rare whip-knife of Port Kar is not said to be a legendary weapon, despite its rarity. Tarl Cabot even creates a carnival act out of his use of the quiva, a weapon that seems unfamiliar to most. Tarl is able to hit a thrown tospit at forty feet and at one hundred feet could hit a four-inch wide disk. Obviously if it were a common weapon, it would not seem so odd that Tarl was using a quiva. It would have been but a typical knife-throwing act.
The mount of the tribes is the southern kaiila, and it is trained to fight with its rider as one. Training to ride begins extremely early among the tribes. "The children of the Wagon Peoples are taught the saddle of the kaiila before they can walk." (Nomads of Gor, p.17) The southern kaiila are different in some ways from the desert kaiila or the kaiila of the red savages. The southern kaiila is a lofty, graceful and very agile animal. It has a long neck and though mammalian, it does not suckle its young. The mother instinctively delivers its young near game and the young will begin to hunt as soon as it can stand. It can easily outmaneuver a high tharlarion, which would give a tribesman an advantage against a Turian mounted on a high tharlarion. It is carnivorous but requires less food than a tarn for once it eats its fill, it won't eat for several days. It normally stands about twenty to twenty-two hands at the shoulder. They are fast creatures and can cover as much as six hundred pasangs a day, about 420 miles. They are commonly tawny-colored but some are also black. They have two large eyes, one on each side, and they are triply lidded. The third lid is transparent and allows them to travel in adverse weather like storms. At this time, it is at its most dangerous and often hunts then. They are trained to avoid the thrown spear and until it is proficient in this skill it is not allowed to breed. Those who cannot learn are killed. A kaiila saddle is big enough to hold a bound slave across it.
The clothes of the men of the tribes resemble much that was worn by the Mongols of Earth. They may have a leather jerkin, covered by a quilted jacket that may be trimmed with fur and have a fur collar. They might wear wide leather trousers held by a five-buckled belt. Their boots may be made of hide and trimmed with fur. They might wear a hood and cape of fur or a flopping cap of fur covering a conical steel helmet. While riding, they may also wear a soft, leather wind scarf to use against the wind and dust of the ride. In the coldest weathers, both men and women, free and slave, will wear furred boots and trousers, coats and ear-flapped caps that tie under the chin. Thus, it becomes difficult to differentiate between the free and slave though there may still be signs. Kajirae had long, unbound hair and their collar might be visible. Male slaves wore shackles, linked by a foot of chain.
The free women of the tribes are generally a dour and severe lot. They commonly wear long leather dresses, which reach down to about four inches above the ankles. They wear their hair in braids and they do not wear veils. Slaves must always keep their hair unbound. Free women cannot wear silk as it is for slaves only. It is said that any women who loves the feel of silk is a slave at heart. All women of the tribes, whether free or slave, wear nose rings. Their bosk also wear nose rings though their rings are heavy and gold unlike the tiny gold rings worn by the women, not unlike wedding rings of Earth. The tribes regard ear piercing as barbaric. Tuchuk women fear being caught by Turians who they know will pierce their ears. The free women also cannot receive scars. They tend to do many chores around the camps such as cooking, tending the pots that are hung on tem-wood tripods over dung fires. The free women hate and envy female slaves, thus may be cruel to them. The free women also do not fight in battle.
There also appear to be another group of free women within the Wagon Peoples, dissimilar to those just described. These are the women of the Wagon Peoples who have been specifically raised to be eventually placed at a stake in the Love War games. Such women are often spoiled, the men catering to their whims. In Nomads of Gor, Hereena is the primary example of this type of woman. She was a member of the First Wagon, and was a very beautiful woman with light brown skin and black eyes. Instead of the usual long, leather dress, she wore a brief leather skirt that was slit on the right side so that she could ride a kaiila. She also wore a sleeveless leather blouse and a crimson cape. Her wild, black hair was bound by a band of scarlet cloth. She did have a nose ring, like the rest of the women of the tribes. Hereena would become the Third Stake at the Love Wars, a slight gap in her teeth preventing her from being assigned to First Stake. A Turian officer representing the merchant Saphrar won her and then sold her to Saphrar. Harold of the Tuchuks would later steal her from Turia and keep her as his slave.
Most slaves are expected to do numerous chores around the camps. For example, they must groom the bosk as well as polish their horns and hooves. They must gather fodder and bosk dung as well as going off to fetch water, commonly using a leather bucket attached to a wooden yoke. A slave might have to travel four pasangs to reach the nearest stream. The wagons must be wiped and the wheels greased. The meat must be hammered and possibly even cooked. Besides their work duties, some kajirae may also learn how to dance, such as the love dances of the different tribes. The Dance of the Tuchuk Slave Girl is one dance, though it is not clear whether it is a love dance or not. Slaves may wear silk, though it is usually only done in the privacy of a wagon.
One of the highest prices ever paid for a slave was forty pieces of gold, four quivas, and a Kaiila saddle. This was paid by Albrecht, a Kassar, to regain a girl he lost in a wager to Kamchak. But, Kamchak would later pay an even greater price, ten thousand bars of gold, for a slave. Kamchak paid this amount to Albrecht to regain Aphris who had been captured by the Paravaci and then taken by Albrecht. But, as it was Turian gold, then some might say the price was not really high at all. Turian slaves are almost never freed though Dina, freed by Tarl, and Aphris, freed by Kamchak, were notable exceptions.
In the Wagon Peoples, their slaves are commonly clad in a clothing style called Kajir. For slave girls, this means they wear four articles of clothing, two red and two black. These items include the Chatka, Curla, Kalmak and Koora. The Curla is a red cord that is tied about the girl's waist. The Chatka, a long narrow strip of black leather, fits over this cord in the front, passes between the girl's legs and passes over the cord in the back. The Chatka is drawn tight. The Kalmak is a short, open, sleeveless vest of black leather and is donned after the first two items. Lastly, the Koora is placed on, a strip of red cloth, matching the Curla, that is worn as a headband. Slaves cannot braid or dress their hair so the Koora is the best they can do. For male slaves to be clad Kajir means only that they must wear the Kes, a short, sleeveless work tunic of black leather. The Wagon Peoples have few male slaves except for some on work chains.
The Wagon Peoples enjoy paga, wine and fermented milk curds. The latter is an alcoholic drink made from bosk milk and drank exclusively by the Wagon Peoples. Most other peoples would probably not care for such a drink. Their wine and paga may come in a bottle or a wineskin with a horn plug. The Wagon Peoples also have public slave wagons that are somewhat like a combination paga tavern and slave market. There is nothing else like it on Gor. Kajirae can be bought, sold and rented there. Some of these wagons may set up a curtained enclosure to display dancing slave girls. They charge a fee to see these dancers. As far as is known though, these wagons are restricted to the plains area. Though, it might be interesting to see such a wagon traveling across Gor.
The Wagon People, similar to many Goreans, love to gamble on almost anything. Stakes will vary, from money to possessions, including slaves. They might wager as many as twelve slaves on something as simple as the direction a bird might fly or the number of seeds in a tospit. When wagering on a kaiila race, they might even bet all of the bosk they own. It is considered to be a great honor for a woman, free or slave, to be made a stake in such gambling. In spear or lance gambling, the weapon is placed in the ground, point facing up. The tribesmen then walk with their mounts around it, ready to catch the spear or lance when it falls. The winner is the one who catches the weapon when it falls.
In another wagering game, a black lance is placed in the ground about four hundred yards away. A slave girl is placed into a circle, about eight to ten feet in diameter, formed by a bosk whip. The girl must run to the lance, trying to avoid capture, though most are not expected to actually reach it. Time is judged by the heartbeat of a standing kaiila with a man holding his hand on the side of the kaiila. The kaiila is near the whip circle. The kaiila rider will tell the slave to "run" and she receives a head start of fifteen heartbeats, which will normally take her about halfway to the lance. This count is done aloud. The count starts over from one when the first 15 heartbeats are over. At that point, a kaiila rider must then ride after the girl and use a bola to capture her and a binding thong to restrain her. He must return with her in as little time as possible back to the circle. 25 beats is considered a remarkable time. Commonly, during the initial head start, at about the count of ten, the kaiila rider will begin to slowly spin the bola, reaching maximum rate of revolution when he is later at full gallop, almost on the quarry. Some girls are specially trained to evade the bola and thus are often used in this wagering. If multiple men are to race on a side, then the first rider has the priority of honor though all of the riders score points in the same manner. The first rider is usually considered the more skillful rider.
Still another game is the lance and tospit. A wooden wand is fixed in the earth and a dried tospit is placed atop it. A kaiila rider will then charge toward the tospit and try to impale it on his lance. You earn points for how well you impale the tospit. If your lance strikes the tospit, but only knocks it off the wand instead of impaling it, that is worth only one point. If you impale the tospit but your strike is too hard and the tospit travels down the shaft of your lance, that is worth only two points. But, if you can just nip the tospit, the lance barely passing into it, then it is worth three points.
A deadlier variation of the lance and tospit is the living wand. Save for armed combat, this is considered the most dangerous of the games. In this variation, a slave, usually standing sideways, must hold the tospit in her mouth. The object is for a rider to hit the fruit with his lance without striking the girl. She will be killed if she moves or withdraws from the lance. Injuries to slaves are not that unusual. There is also a more difficult variation where the girl must stand facing the lance. This requires a delicate lance maneuver not to injure the girl, striking the center of the fruit.
The tribes even have spitting contests, seeing who can spit the farthest. Some will play a game with their Turian slaves. They will release the slave in sight of the city and let them run for the walls. Then they will chase them down using bolas. Even their children play a variety of games. For example, some children play a game with a cork ball and quiva, trying to strike the thrown ball. Most of these games help hone necessary skills and abilities in the hunt or war. Thus they serve a dual purpose.
Maybe the most important of their games though must be those of the Love War. The institution of the Love War is an ancient one, older even than the institution of the Omen Year, so well over 1000 years old. Every spring the games of Love War are held between the Wagon Peoples and Turia on the Plains of a Thousand Stakes, located some pasangs from Turia. "It might also be mentioned that the Turian warrior, in his opinion, too seldom encounters the warrior of the Wagon Peoples, who tends to be a frustrating, swift and elusive foe, striking with great rapidity and withdrawing with goods and captives almost before it is understood what has occurred." (Nomads of Gor, p.116) As they desire neutral adjudicators for these games, they invite judges and craftsmen from the city of Ar to officiate at the games. These individuals are guaranteed safe passage across the plains and are very well compensated, by both the Turians and Wagon Peoples. Their fee is often sufficient to support a man for a year in Ar.
The Plains of a Thousand Stakes is a huge area, with numerous stakes carefully spaced. Each stake is generally flat-topped, about six and a half feet high and seven to eight inches in diameter. The stakes are painted colorfully, trimmed and decorated. Retaining rings are bolted on the stakes and the key to the rings are kept two inches above the heads of the girls at the stakes. The stakes stand in two lines facing one another in pairs, separated by about fifty feet. Each stake in a line is separated by about thirty feet and the lines extend for over four pasangs, about three miles. This would mean there are over five hundred pairs of stakes. One of these lines is close to Turia while the other is close to the Plains. In between each pair of opposing stakes is a circle of about twenty-four feet in diameter. The grass is removed from this area and the ground is sanded and raked. This is where the men will battle.
About two hundred men from each of the four Wagon People tribes attend the games. Only the best warriors are permitted to compete and only the most beautiful women can be used as prizes. During Nomads of Gor, each of the tribes brought 100-150 women to the games. A Turian woman and Wagon Person woman are tied on opposite stakes, each positioned so that they can see either their city or the plains. There is a priority of these stakes as well, with First Stake being the most desirable. Then, a man of the Wagon People will battle a Warrior of Turia for possession of the women. The winner of the duel wins claim to the other's woman.
Though the Turian women often wear robes and veils, they may be face stripped at the request of any of the Peoples. Many of the Turian women also wear a Turian camisk under their robes, in case they are captured. When men of the same side wish to fight for the same staked woman, the combatant will be determined by rank, scars and prowess. But, most men will step aside if someone of superior rank and prowess chooses the same woman as them. Fighting for a stake is frowned upon by both sides, being seen as somewhat disgraceful especially in the presence of the enemy. In alternating years, each side gets to choose the weapon that will be used in combat and it appears that any weapon can be chosen. You can withdraw from the duel after the choice of weapon but before your name is officially entered in the lists. The Turians often choose certain weapons, in order to kill their foe and get the woman, including the buckler and dagger, ax and buckler, dagger and whip, ax and net, and two daggers provided that if the quiva is used it cannot be thrown. The overall winner is determined by which side won more of the other side's women. Each year, the overall winner varies. In Nomads of Gor, the Wagon Peoples won, gaining about 70% of the Turian women.
The Wagon Peoples acknowledge the existence and great power of the Priest-Kings but they do not worship or pray to them. In fact, they do not worship, in a traditional sense, anyone or anything. But, their closest spiritual reverence is directed toward the sky and they beseech the "Spirit of the Sky." In their myths, the rains descended from the sky and formed the earth, bosk and the Wagon Peoples. The men of the Wagon Peoples pray to this Spirit of the Sky only when they are mounted and have their weapons close at hand. They are not craven supplicants but instead pay homage to the sky as a warrior would to a Ubar, not as a slave to a master or even a servant to a god. There is an example of Tuchuk who drank and danced to please the sky. The Wagon Peoples hold the bosk and skill at arms as holy items. Their free women though are not permitted to pray.
The Wagon Peoples are superstitious and enamored with divination. Although they may claim not to have much faith in divination, they actually give such matters great consideration. There are two specific examples provided in the books that emphasize their reliance on such matters. First, an army of 1000 wagons once turned aside because a swarm of rennels, crab-like insects, failed to defend their broken nest, which had been crushed by the wheel of the lead wagon. Second, a Ubar lost the spur from his right boot and turned back his attack at the gates of Ar. Omen reading is very common, often accompanied by animal sacrifice. Haruspexes often perform their divinations for food and drink. The haruspexes who perform these divinations also allegedly possess other magical powers and can create items to perform magical spells. They thus sell items such as "…amulets, talismans, trinkets, philters, potions, spell papers, wonder-working sleen teeth, marvelous powdered kailiauk horns, and colored, magic strings that, depending on the purpose, may be knotted in various ways and worn about the neck." (Nomads of Gor, p.28)
The Wagon Peoples don't often unite because of hostilities among the peoples as they consider others even of the different tribes to be beneath them. They also relish their autonomy. But, despite these hostilities, every ten years they still gather together peaceably during what is called the Omen Year. This practice is more than one thousand years old. The term "Omen Year" is somewhat of a misnomer as it is not an actual year. It is actually a time period that occupies part of two of their regular years. This period is a time of truce, a time for trading, games and ritual. The period of the Omen Year lasts several months and consists of three separate phases.
The first phase is named the Passing of Turia and occurs during the autumn. During this phase, the four tribes of the Wagon People gather together and move their herds and wagons toward their winter pastures. These winter pastures are located north of Turia but south of the Cartius River. The second phase is named the Wintering and it entails the time the Wagon Peoples spend in the winter pastures, waiting for the season to change. The third phase is named the Return to Turia and it occurs in the spring, or as the Wagon People call it, the Season of Little Grass. The Wagon Peoples then head south, toward Turia, where they will finally end their journey at the Omen Valley.
It is unknown whether the same Omen Valley is used every ten years or whether they choose a different spot for each Omen Year. If it is the same, it may be deemed a time of sacred place. It is also unknown whether some Wagon Peoples remain there to guard it year round, or whether Turians, and others, know better than to invade or desecrate this area. As the Wagon Peoples are largely nomadic, it may make more sense that the location of the Omen Valley changes every ten years. Especially as it is located so close to the city of Turia.
The Omen Valley is nestled within a series of rolling hills. At the Valley, there will be a large grassy area, about two hundred yards in diameter, where hundreds of small, stone altars are located. Each of these altars will have a small bosk-dung fire with incense and will be manned by a haruspex, mostly readers of bosk blood and verr livers. At the perimeter of this grassy circle, there will be numerous tents as well as many animals tethered or caged, future sacrifices. The animals will include verr, tarsks, vulos, sleen, kaiila, and bosk. In the center of the field, there will be a large, circular stone platform and atop this will be a huge, four-sided altar approached by steps on all four sides. On each side, will be the sign of one of the four tribes of the Wagon Peoples. The chief haruspex of each tribe will presides at this central altar.
Over a period of several days, many animals will be sacrificed and the omens will be taken by the hundreds of haruspexes. The animals will not be wasted, as they will be later used for food. In the past, all of the Wagon Peoples also would sacrifice male slaves. But, that practice has largely stopped as most of the tribes feel that the hearts and livers of male slaves are not trustworthy. Only the Paravaci tribes sometimes still sacrifices male slaves. And they are often not permitted to do so during the Omen Year sacrifices. The primary goal of this entire omen taking is to determine whether the omens are favorable for the choosing of a Ubar San, a One Ubar, a Ubar of all the Wagons, a Ubar who would be High Ubar, a Ubar of all the Peoples.
The first omen taken is always conducted to determine whether it is propitious to take further omens. This initial omen taking will begin with an entreaty to the Spirit of the Sky. Each haruspex has a cage of vulos and will toss some grain to them. If the vulos eat the grain, then the omens are considered propitious. This initial phase is successful each Omen Year. This is probably due to the fact that the vulos are not permitted to eat for three days prior to the omen taking. Then, the regular sacrifices may begin. A daily tally will then be kept of the results of the omen taking. Once all of the sacrifices have been performed, a final tally is derived and it is determined whether a Ubar San will be chosen or not.
Because of the normal dissension among the four tribes, it is rare that a Ubar San is chosen. That does not usually bother the Wagon Peoples as they still see value in the Omen Year. It helps unite the tribes, if only briefly, allowing them to engage in trade, such as for bosk and slaves. At the start of the events in Nomads of Gor, there had not been a Ubar San in more than one hundred years. This will change as the novel occurs during an Omen Year and the omens state that a Ubar San should be chosen. Kamchak, Ubar of the Tuchuks is chosen to be that Ubar San. This may be due in part to the Tuchuks conquering the city of Turia as well as uncovering a traitor within the Paravaci tribe. Kamchak will also free his slave, Aphris, who will then become his Ubara Sana.
After being told he is now Ubar San, Kamchak makes the other Ubars pledge, which they all agree. "Each of you," he said, "the Kassars-the Kataii-the Paravaci-have their own bosk and your own wagons-live so-but in time of war-when there are those who would divide us-when there are those who would fight us and threaten our wagons and our bosk and women-our plains, our land-then let us war together-and none will stand against the Wagon Peoples-we may live alone but we are each of us of the Wagons and that which divides us is less than that which unites us-we each of us know that it is wrong to slay bosk and that it is right to be proud and to have courage and to defend our wagons and our women-we know that it is right to be strong and to be free-and so it is together that we will be strong and we will be free. Let this be pledged." (Nomads of Gor, p.334-35)
Here are a few people prominently mentioned in Nomads of Gor that are connected in one way or another to the Wagon Peoples.
Aphris of Turia, a member of the
Merchant Caste, was once the legal ward of Saphrar, another Merchant of Turia.
Aphris was to soon reach her majority and would thus take possession of vast
wealth, sufficient to make her the richest woman in all of Turia. Her father,
Tethrar, died in a Paravaci caravan raid several years before. With no other
family, the Merchant Caste appointed Saphrar as her guardian. Aphris was a
very beautiful woman with a fair complexion and deep, black, almond-shaped
eyes. She was also a haughty woman, used to luxury and disdainful of the
barbaric Wagon Peoples.
Two years prior to Nomads of Gor, Kamchak had presented to her a valuable diamond necklace but she insulted him. So, Kamchak vowed that he would enslave her one day. And Kamchak later found a way to make his vow a reality. At a Turian feast, Kamchak tricked Aphris, placing a steel, slave collar around her neck. This was all a ploy to get Aphris to offer herself up as a stake in the upcoming Love War. It was thought that Kamras, the Champion of Turia, would be able to kill Kamchak at the games. But, Kamchak was able to defeat Kamras, as few knew that Kamchak was superbly skilled with the short sword. Kamchak made Aphris his slave but eventually freed her to be his Ubara.
Elizabeth Cardwell once lived in New York City, working as a junior secretary in a large advertising agency. She was an attractive woman with dark hair and dark brown eyes. She was abducted, taken to Gor and left upon the plains. She was found by the Tuchuks who realized she wore a Turian message collar. She was enslaved by Kamchak and named Vella. The message she bore was a trap meant to lead to Tarl Cabot's death. But, the trap did not fool the wily Tuchuks. She was a pawn in the games of a mysterious man, a person who might have been Pa-Kur. Eventually, Kamchak gave her to Tarl and she would accompany him on further adventures.
Dina was a Kassar slave and a former citizen of Turia, a former Baker. She was very attractive with long, black hair and sturdy ankles. Her owner was Albrecht of the Kassars. She was an expert at avoiding the bola in a popular game of the Wagon Peoples. She had run over two hundred times in competition, not counting all of her practice, and previously reached the lance forty times and had never been caught in less than thirty-two beats of the kaiila. But, she had to run from Tarl Cabot during a wager. And Tarl was able to capture her in only seventeen beats. Tarl then took possession of her though he would later free her and return her to Turia. Dina would become a Baker once again in Turia.
Harold was a member of the Tuchuks yet he had little place among them. He was a young man, blond haired and blue-eyed. He had been born a Tuchuk but had been captured as a child and lived in Turia for some years before he was able to escape. His parents had died in the raid where Harold was captured. But, without a Courage Scar, no one would see him as a man. He did not own a wagon, bosk or kaiila. He wielded cast off weapons. So, he did odd jobs around the camp in exchange for food. He eventually travels to Turia with Tarl so he can steal a slave, the woman who was once Hereena. He is successful and thus earns his Courage Scar. Harold won the Courage Scar but did not have it put on immediately. He waited, helping to assist in the conquering of Turia by blocking the gate with a wagon so that it could not be closed and secured. After the conquest of Turia, he had his Courage Scar affixed.
Nomads of Gor was an interesting novel with a plot that had extremely important ramifications for all of Gor. Two to five years prior to the events of that novel, two men, close friends, were entrusted with an egg of the Priest-Kings. They delivered that egg, per their instructions, to the Wagon Peoples for safekeeping. But, shortly after doing so, the respective cities of these two men went to war. In the ensuing conflict, the two men killed each other. The Wagon Peoples kept the egg, awaiting the day when someone would come to return the egg to the Sardar. As the novel begins, we find that Tarl Cabot has journeyed to the Plains of the Wagon Peoples. Upon the request of Misk, a Priest-King, he has come to recover the egg of the Priest-Kings.
Through a display of courage, Tarl is accepted into the camp of the tribe of Tuchuks though he says nothing about his mission. Soon after his arrival, an Earth girl is found on the plains with a hidden message allegedly from the Priest-Kings. The message tells the Wagon People to kill Tarl. But they do not, distrusting the authenticity of the note. Tarl eventually learns much from the Tuchuks, traveling with them during the Omen Year. In the spring, shortly before the Love Wars, Tarl learns of a golden sphere held by the Tuchuks. This item is also sought by Saphrar, an important Turian Merchant.
As Kamchak seems reluctant to sell the golden sphere, Saphrar hires mercenaries to steal it. They do so, killing Kutaituchik in the process. For revenge, Kamchak then decides to besiege Turia though he does not receive any assistance from the other tribes. This was in part due to Turia sending envoys with lavish gifts to the other tribes to convince them that Turia harbored no ill intentions toward them. The siege dragged on and Kamchak eventually announced the withdrawal of his men, surprising Tarl who felt that Kamchak would never have given up.
So, Tarl and Harold, one of the Tuchuks, ventured together to Turia. Tarl hoped to recover the golden sphere while Harold desired to raid the Pleasure Gardens of Saphrar. Unfortunately, they were apprehended in the city but they did learn that a Paravaci had betrayed the tribes, allying with Saphrar. Tarl nearly died at the clutches of the yellow pool monster but was able to thwart the creature. Tarl and Harold then successfully escaped, after Harold acquired a slave girl, who once was Hereena of the Wagons.
Tarl later returned to Turia, only to be there when the Tuchuks invaded the city, using a ruse to hold the city gates open. Their warriors soon conquered the city, looting it, enslaving many Turian women. Yet Saphrar remained hidden away in his keep. As Kamchak waited out Saphrar, the Paravaci tribe attacked the wagons of the Tuchuks. They even killed their bosk, tearing out their gold nose rings. The Tuchuks valiantly defended themselves, though the situation looked grim. But, the Kataii and Kassars eventually decided to help the Tuchuks and the Paravaci were defeated.
Soon after, Kamchak confronted Saphrar and the Paravaci traitor, the Ubar Tolnus. Saphrar tried to use the golden sphere as a bargaining chip but Kamchak seemed to care nothing for it. In a scuffle over the sphere, Tolnus was bitten by Saphrar's poison teeth and soon died from the ost venom. Saphrar was fed to his own yellow pool monster. The egg was destroyed but it was learned that it was only a dyed tharlarion egg. Kamchak still possessed the true egg and later gave it to Tarl, finally believing that Tarl truly intended to deliver it to the Priest-Kings.
Kamchak left Turia, returning the city to its citizens. He felt that the Wagon Peoples needed Turia to exist. He was also declared by the Omens to be the Ubar San, uniting the four tribes. Tarl learned that much of this was a plan of Kamchak, a great wager. Kamchak had wanted to give the tribes a reason to unite. And Kamchak won his wager, accomplishing all he desired. Tarl then left the Tuchuks, taking the egg with him, to return it to the Sardar. Kamchak vowed to Tarl that if he ever needed any assistance, the Wagon Peoples would be there for him.
Nomads of Gor is also interesting as it may contain the return of Pa-Kur. Pa-Kur allegedly died in Tarnsman of Gor but his body was never found. Pa-Kur had a very distinctive look, one that few were likely to forget. "...I found myself staring up into a gray, lean, cruel face, a face that might have been made of metal. The eyes were inscrutable, as if they had been made of glass or stone and set artificially in that metallic mask of a countenance." (Tarnsman of Gor, p.136) Nomads of Gor would then present two people who saw someone who resembled Pa-Kur.
First, Elizabeth Cardwell met this
individual, while on Earth. He was responsible for her abduction. "With
him had been a tall, strange man, broad of shoulder with large hands, a
grayish face, eyes almost like glass." (Nomads of Gor, p.47) Then,
Saphrar of Turia had dealings with a mysterious man in Port Kar, the same man
that Elizabeth met. "A man met me," said Saphrar, "a tall
man-rather dreadful actually-with a face as gray as stone and eyes like
glass." (Nomads of Gor, p.196) This man refused to tell Saphrar his name.
And near the end of the book, Tarl and Kamchak discuss Pa-Kur, and
In Hunters of Gor, while in a fever, Tarl recalls his conversation with Kamchak as well as the descriptions provided by both Elizabeth and Saphrar. And Tarl finally cries out his own conclusion. "Pa-Kur is alive!" (Hunters of Gor, p.296) This mysterious man is mentioned in additional later books but no confirmation is ever given as to his actual identity. So he might or might not be Pa-Kur. We can only hope that a future Gor novel will finally resolve this question.