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(#49, Version 5.0)
"I never trust a man until I know what he eats." (Explorers of Gor, p.383)
Explorers of Gor, book #13, details the exploration of the jungles of Gor. Several geographical features are discovered and named during the events of this novel. The novel also depicts another plot of the Kurii and their agents. We see the return of the "invisibility ring" that first surfaced during the events of Tribesman of Gor. The jungles of this book resemble the Africa of Earth in many ways. Undoubtedly, the inland dialects, the languages of the jungles, resemble the Earth Bantu or Swahili languages of Africa. It is a fascinating book of exploration and this scroll shall describe much about those jungles. Unfortunately, many details about the jungles were also omitted from the books.
The jungles of Gor are located in the equatorial region of Gor, just north of Schendi. Several important waterways lead into this region. The Cartius is a subequatorial river that generally flows west by northwest, entering the jungle region and emptying into Lake Ushindi. It was once thought that the Cartius was a tributary of the Vosk River but it is not. The subequatorial Cartius is a different waterway from the Thassa Cartius. The explorer, Ramus, discovered this difference. The earlier Gor novels, most specifically Nomads of Gor, fails to differentiate between these two rivers. They state that the Cartius does flow into the Vosk, which is not true. In these novels, you should substitute the Thassa Cartius for the Cartius. The Thassa Cartius is the actual tributary of the Vosk. This is important when you are discussing Ar as that city claims the land between the Vosk and the Cartius. In actuality, they claim the land down to the Thassa Cartius and not the actual Cartius.
Lake Ushindi is a large lake in the jungles. "Ushindi" is a word in the inland dialect, not in Gorean, and it means "victory." It received its name for some victory, over two hundred years ago, on its shores. The name of the tiny kingdom or ubarate that won that victory is unknown. This lake is drained by two rivers, the Kamba and Nyoka. To the west of Lake Ushindi are floodlands, marshes and bogs. Much of their water drains into this lake. Further east, past the marshes and bogs, is Lake Ngao. Shaba, a Scribe and Cartographer, was the first civilized man to circumnavigate Lake Ushindi. In certain areas of Lake Ushindi that are frequented by vicious tharlarion there are high poles without platforms. Certain criminals may be rowed out to these poles and left there, clinging to them for their very lives. The black Ubar, Bila Huruma, uses these poles to decrease crime within his ubarate.
The Kamba River is a wide, leisurely river that flows from Lake Ushindi and exits into Thassa. "Kamba" is a word in the inland dialect, not in Gorean, and it means "rope." The Nyoka River is also a wide, leisurely river that flows from Lake Ushindi but it exits into Schendi harbor and thus into Thassa. "Nyoka" is a word in the inland dialect, not in Gorean, and it means "serpent." The Nyoka travels for about two hundred pasangs from Ushindi to Schendi. For many villages along these rivers and the shores of Lake Ushindi, fishing is their major source of livelihood. Very little of this fish is ever exported from Schendi.
Lake Ngao is as large as Lake Ushindi, if not even bigger. "Ngao" is a word in the inland dialect, not in Gorean, and it means "shield." It was named by Shaba because its shape resembles the normal shields wielded by those of the jungles. These shields are long and oval shaped. Shaba was the first civilized person to circumnavigate this lake. The Ngao is fed by a major river, located at its eastern extremity, called the Ua River. The Ua River was discovered and named by Shaba as well. "Ua" is a word in the inland dialect, not in Gorean, and it means "flower." The Ua is at least as large as the Vosk River. It has many falls and cataracts that make it very difficult to cross. Shaba named these the "falls and cataracts of Bila Huruma." The source of the river is Lake Shaba.
Lake Shaba was unknown by civilized men until the events of Explorers of Gor. It is a huge lake, bigger than either Ngao or Ushindi. It is located thousands of Gorean feet above sea level so it is evident that when ascending the Ua, you are climbing higher and higher. It was discovered by Shaba who at first named it Lake Bila Huruma, after the black Ubar, Shaba's friend. But, when Shaba dies at the end of Explorers of Gor, Bila chooses to rename it Lake Shaba in memory of his friend. The lake contains a number of large stone figures. They are the torsos and heads of black men, with shields on their arms and spears in their hands. The stone is weathered and covered with the signs of age. Lichen and mosses are growing in patches on the figures. The figures stand about thirty to forty feet out of the water. At the eastern edge of the lake is a landing that is about four hundred yards wide and a hundred yards deep. The landing leads to a flight of steps and into a vast, ruined city. Most of the walls and columns are crumbling and covered in vines. There are more statues as well. There is one chamber that once might have been for the enslavement and training of women. The walls are covered in mosaics of slave captures, slavery scenes, slave dancing, sex, and more. No one knows much about the civilization that once lived here and it must have vanished many years ago.
The jungles have attracted a number of explorers, much as Africa did during the nineteenth century. Ramani is a black Geographer from Anango. Ramani first suggested that the Cartius and the Thassa Cartius were not the same rivers given their respective elevations. He was the teacher of Shaba. Upon Shaba's death, he was sent the journals and maps of Shaba's explorations. Ramus is an explorer from Tabor. He located the source of the Thassa Cartius about five years after Shaba circled Lake Ushindi. Ramus led a small expedition into the jungles. Over a period of nine months, he battled and traded his way through the jungles until he reached the Ven highlands, the source of the Thassa Cartius.
Like his teacher, Shaba was also a Geographer from Anango, one of the foremost explorers on Gor. He accumulated an impressive list of achievements. He was the first civilized man to circumnavigate Lake Ushindi. He discovered that the Cartius enters this lake but that only the Kamba and Nyoka Rivers exit it. He was the first civilized man to circumnavigate Lake Ngao. He named that Lake, discovered and named the Ua River, and discovered Lake Shaba. He was a close friend of Bila Huruma. He was also an agent of the Priest-Kings. Shaba was a large and tall man. He had long thin hands with delicate fingers. His face appeared refined but the eyes were hard and piercing. His cheekbones had tribal tattooing. It was thought that he knew how to use a sword. While in the jungles, he wore a robe of green and brown with slashes of black. This would likely be effective camouflage within the vegetation of the jungle. He also wore a fang ring on the first finger of his left hand.
During Explorers of Gor, Shaba was given the Kur invisibility ring to deliver to the Sardar but he did not do so. Tarl Cabot went after Shaba to retrieve the ring. Tarl thought that Shaba might be working for the Kurii. Shaba took the ring so he could more easily explore the jungles and find the source of the Ua River. The invisibility would seem like magic to most of the tribes within the jungles. It would also be an effective escape route. Shaba simply believed that the ring would do more good than simply sitting within the Sardar. Shaba does discover the source of the Ua River but soon after he is murdered by an agent of the Kurii. The Kurii agent though retrieves a false invisibility ring, one that would trigger a powerful explosion when activated. Tarl was able to retrieve the authentic ring.
A jungle is a land covered by dense tropical vegetation. The area north of Schendi certainly qualifies as this. The jungle is not generally an impenetrable area though there are some such sections. This area is also a rainforest. A rainforest is simply a jungle with a high annual rainfall, commonly at least one hundred inches per year. In this Gorean area, there are usually two heavy rain during each day, one in the late afternoon and one late at night, commonly an Ahn or so before midnight. The rains are often accompanied by violent winds ranging from 110-120 pasangs an Ahn. Due to its location on the equator, the rainforest does not experience a winter. Instead, it has a dry season, a time of lesser rains than the rest of the year. There are thought to be two dry seasons and two rainy seasons each year.
The farmers in the rainforest must do their primary planting at the start of the dry season because of the lesser rains. During the rainy season, any seeds they planted would likely be washed away by the constant downpours. Because of these heavy rains, farmers must move their fields every two to three seasons as the land will quickly get depleted of minerals and nutriments by the constant rains. Entire villages must move due to this situation. Farmers in this region are more like gardeners than actual farmers. The infertility of the land is a primary reason why large population centers have not developed in the interior regions. The land will not support a large permanent settlement for any substantial length of time. Thus, small villages are the norm.
The rainforest generally steams with humidity and it is often difficult to make a fire. At night, the rainforest is cooler and more bearable. There is an incredible variety of trees and vegetation within the rainforest. There are more than fifteen hundred types of palm trees alone. There are some palm trees that have leaves that are twenty feet long. The fan palm, which is more than twenty feet high, spreads its leaves like an opened fan. The leaves then catch rainwater at the base of each leaf. A leaf can hold up to a liter of water. The liana vine and carpet plants are also sources of water in the jungles. The vine of the liana might hold a liter of water. The carpet plant has tendrils that can be used as a water source. The pod tree has an inner bark that is used by some people to make bark cloth. There are many colorful and fragrant flowers within the jungle as well.
There are three separate ecological zones within the rainforest, differentiated by their height from the ground. One zone is the "emergents" which is the highest level occupying a region from about one hundred twenty-five Gorean feet to two hundred Gorean feet. It is primarily occupied by birds but there may also be some monkeys, tree urts, snakes and insects living there. Another zone is the "canopy" which is the green cover that makes the main "ceiling" of the jungle. This region ranges from about sixty to one hundred twenty-five Gorean feet. This area is occupied by many birds and also such animals as snakes, monkeys, gliding urts, leaf urts, squirrels, long-tailed porcupines, lizards, sloths, arachnids and insects. The last zone is the "ground zone" which spans from the ground up to sixty Gorean feet. There are many birds here as well as such animals as tarsiers, jit monkeys, black squirrels, leaf urts, jungle varts, giani, armored gatch, slees, ground urts, several varieties of tarsk, six varieties of anteater, twenty kinds of small, single-horned tabuk, jungle larls, jungle panthers, many smaller catlike predators, and zeders. Sleen though do not exist within the rainforest. For further information concerning the animals of the rainforest, see my scroll, Animals of Gor.
There are numerous villages within the jungles and the greatest union of villages is controlled by Bila Huruma, the black Ubar. Bila united the six ubarates of the southern shore of Lake Ushindi. He also collects tribute from the confederacy of a hundred villages on the northern shores of the lake. The tribute is primarily in kailiauk tusks and women. His control over the northern shores region is substantial but not total. Bila is a brilliant leader, a man of vision. His Ubarate is well organized, with districts and governors, courts, spies and messengers. He also has a well organized army that is well trained and disciplined. On a personal basis, Bila also has over two hundred companions and twice that many slaves.
He uses an efficient drum system for long distance communication. Many villages in the jungles use similar systems. It is not difficult to read if you are fluent in the inland languages. The inland dialect refers generally to the language of the Ushindi region though many other different dialects and languages exist in the jungles. Some of those languages are very different than that in Ushindi. These languages are very different than Gorean. Only about five to eight percent of the population of Schendi can speak the inland language. The analogues to the major vowel sounds are found in the drum notes, which differ depending on where the hollowed, grooved log is struck. The rhythm of the drum messages is also the rhythm of the inland speech. A drum relay can give an effective long distance communication. A message can be conveyed over hundreds of pasangs in less than an Ahn.
Bila is an extremely large man with long arms. His cheeks and across the bridge of his nose are a swirling path of tribal tattoos. He is adorned in gold armlets, bracelets and anklets. He wears the pelts of a yellow panther around his loins. He has a necklace of panther teeth. He often wears a gigantic cloak of yellow and red feathers from the crested lit and the fruit tindel. It can take up to a hundred years to make such a cloak. This cloak is only worn by a Ubar. On his head, he wears an elaborate headdress, made mostly of long, white curling feathers of the Ushindi fisher. It resembles the common headdress of the askari and symbolizes that the Ubar is also an askari. "Askari" is a word in the inland dialect that means "warrior" or "soldier." The phrase "askari hodari" means "brave soldier or warrior."
At this court, Bila will sit upon a royal stool of black lacquered wood mounted on the horns of a kailiauk. The men of his court are mostly black. Many wear ornate headdresses and animal skins. Most also have facial tattooing. This tattooing helps to differentiate tribes, villages and districts within the jungles. Some of the men even have brass plugs in their lips. The court area itself is a large round room, about one hundred feet wide. It has a high conical ceiling of interwoven branches and grass that is about seventy feet high. Bila will sit at court and mediate and judge disputes from his subjects. His wazir, second in command, was Msaliti. But, Msaliti was an agent of the Kurii. He would later perish, eaten by a pack of carnivorous fish.
Bila Huruma has a grand plan to construct a canal that would join Lake Ushindi and Ngao. He wanted to open the Ua River to Thassa. But, the lakes are separated by more than four hundred pasangs so this is a massive undertaking. The plan of his engineers called for the placement of two low, parallel walls, maybe some five to six feet high and about two hundred yards apart. The area within the waters was to be drained and readied, using draft tharlarion and large scoops, for the digging of the main channel. Bila also wants to drain the marshes and bogs between the two lakes to make the land fit for farming. Most of the men who have been working on the canal were actually not slaves. Most are debtors and criminals or men given over in the work levies. Thousands of these men have died working on the canal from the heat, hostile tribes, insects, and tharlarion. Shaba had helped Bila by exploring this region to determine its potential.
Bila had demanded levies of men from all of the villages under his control. He had even demanded a levy from the city of Schendi. Schendi initially refused to comply with the levy and tried to bolster its meager defenses against the army of Bila. But, Schendi is not a fortified city and its military forces are few. It knew that if Bila and his army attacked, the city would fall. Thus, Schendi eventually relented and supplied some men to Bila. But, after the events of Explorers of Gor, Bila decided to no longer assess a levy against Schendi. Bila realized the importance of the port city for his future plans and decided that more friendly dealings might be advantageous.
One matter that may have helped to change Bila's mind in this respect was the appointment of his new wazir, Ayari. Ayari was a thief in Schendi and ended up on working on Bila's canal, a victim of the work levy of Schendi. Ayari's father used to live in the village of Nyuki, on the northern shore of Lake Ushindi. Nyuki is noted for its honey. His father was accused of stealing melon's from the village chief and he fled to Schendi. Five years later, he returned to Nyuki and bought Ayari's mother. They moved to Schendi where Ayari was raised. Ayari learned both Gorean and some of the inland dialects. He escapes from the canal with Tarl Cabot and aids him in his journey through the jungles. Bila decides to make Ayari his wazir, realizing Ayari's usefulness in a number of aspects.
The Ukungu region lies to the northeast on the coast of Lake Ngao. It is an area coastal villages that speak the same or similar dialects. The language of Ukungu is closely related to that of Ushindi. The vocabulary is very similar but the pronunciations are often different. The central village of the Ukungu region is Nyundo. When you enter a village in this area, you always enter on the right. This leaves your side open toward another's blade and thus shows your peaceful intentions. Kisu used to be the Mfalme, or chief, of the Ukungu. Mfalmes generally do not speak to commoners. Kisu opposed Bila Huruma so Bila bought off the other chieftains of the region and they deposed Kisu. Aibu became the new Mfalme and he was loyal to Bila though he would more realistically be a district administrator than an actual chief. Kisu left the area with two hundred loyal askaris and continued his resistance to Bila. Mwoga became Aibu's wazir and his ambassdor to Bila's court. Aibu sent Tende, his daughter, to become a companion to Bila.
Kisu would eventually be captured and placed to work on the canal. He would escape the canal with Ayari and Tarl. After the events at Lake Shaba, Kisu would return to Nyundo. Mwoga now claims to be chieftain as he poisoned Aibu. Kisu challenges him and they battle with spears. Small leather strips usually sheath the blades of spears of most askaris. On their shields, there is commonly a tuft of feathers at one point of the oval shield. If the tuft is at the top of the shield, it signifies that the warrior is hunting humans. If it is at the bottom, the warrior is hunting animals. Kisu kills him quickly. Bila now recognizes Kisu as the Mflame of Ukungu and allows the region to remain free and not under the hegemony of Bila. He also gives Tende to Kisu to keep as a slave.
There are a few unique peoples within the jungles. These include:
Mamba People: "Mamba" is an inland dialect word that means "tharlarion." It generally refers to the predatory river tharlarion in the region. The Mamba people resemble tharlarion as they are cannibals who file their teeth. These may be the only known cannibals on Gor.
Pygmies: These people are no taller than five feel tall and weigh no more than eighty pounds. Though their features are negroid their skin color is more coppery than dark brown or black. They wear loincloths with vine belts. From the loops on their belts they hang hand knives and small implements. They carry spears and nets, fish, hunt and make cloth. They speak their own language. Tarl Cabot encounters one group of pygmies and it is unclear if other bands of pygmies exist elsewhere in the jungles. These pygmies were the slaves of a band of talunas and had been taught Gorean by them. Due to their small size, the talunas had overpowered them. Tarl showed the pygmies how they could earn their freedom and enslave the talunas. The pygmies were successful.
Talunas: These are white-skinned girls who chose to live in the jungles. They come from various cities to the south of the jungles, some free women, some escaped slaves. They bear some similarities to the panther girls of the northern forests. The word "taluna" is never translated in the books so we cannot say that "taluna" means "panther." Talunas wear brief animal skins, necklaces of claws, and sometimes gold adornments. They live in small thatched huts in small bands. They are not known to have dancing circles like the panther girls. Talunas despise slave girls and this one band that Tarl encountered had enslaved a group of pygmies. There is little indication of how many taluna bands exist and what differences may exist between them.
Here are a few additional tidbits concerning the jungles of Gor.
filimbi: This is a word in the inland dialect that means "flute."
knife branding: Some tribes on the Ua river practice this form of branding. They use a small curved knife and cut a girl's thigh in a small design. They then apply an orange powder onto the wound to color the scar.
collars: Instead of normal collars, many in the jungles use neck belts. Each belt has a disk to mark the identity of the owner.
silk: Silk is unknown within the jungles.