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(#56, Version 5.0)
The Vosk River is a very important riverway on Gor. It is one of the largest rivers on Gor, at points up to forty pasangs (28 miles) wide. The river flows westward and empties into Thassa at the Tamber Gulf, forming the Vosk Delta. The Vosk River almost divides the northern hemisphere into the lands owned by Ar and those owned by other cities such as Ko-ro-ba and Thentis. Ar battles Cos and Tyros for supremacy on the river while those towns and cities located on the river vie for their independence.
The Vosk River has a number of tributaries and it is possible that the books do not name all of them. The Olni River is a major tributary far to the east on the Vosk and the Salerian Confederation controls the Olni. The Verl River flows northwestward into the Vosk. Tabuk's Ford is a major town located at the basin of the Verl River. The Issus River is another northwestward flowing river. The city of Torcodino uses aqueducts to bring water from the Issus though it is more than one hundred pasangs away. The Cartius, an important subequatorial river, was once thought to be a tributary of the Vosk. But, the explorer Ramus discovered that was not true. He also discovered that the Cartius and the Ta-Thassa Cartius, also known simply as the Thassa Cartius, Rivers were different. The Ta-Thassa Cartius is a tributary of the Vosk and joins the Vosk near the town of Ven.
The Vosk River has its share of marine predators, including sharks and river tharlarion. One of the most unusual and dangerous creatures of the Vosk is a turtle. Certain hook-beaked turtles of the Vosk are massive creatures though no actual size is ever given. They are carnivorous and nearly impossible to kill. It is unknown if they are large enough to pose a danger to a ship or not but most assuredly a swimmer would be in dire straits if he encountered one.
At the western end of the river lies the Vosk Delta, a vast marsh and swamp that is over five hundred pasangs (350 miles) long. The depth of its waters ranges from deep enough for an average ship to pass down to a few inches. The average depth though is commonly three to five feet. It is extremely difficult to navigate and its channels change frequently, sometimes almost overnight. Visibility is limited due to the proliferation of the ubiquitous rence plants. Though Port Kar claims sovereignty over the delta, the Rencer Caste actually controls much of the delta, especially now that they use the long bow. The Rencers are not kind to strangers traveling through the delta. Due to the delta's nature, it is almost impossible to maneuver a ship from the Vosk River, through the delta and to Thassa. It would certainly not be cost efficient for Merchant ships to attempt.
For all intensive purposes, the Vosk River is isolated from Thassa. This means that ships from Thassa, such as raiders from Cos, Tyros or Port Kar cannot sail up the delta to attack the Vosk. Conversely, Vosk River ships cannot sail to Thassa to engage in trade. Thus it is both a blessing and a curse. To construct a navigable channel through the delta would be a formidable engineering feat. It would require the acquiescence of Port Kar and the Rencers. There are no guarantees either would give their permission. Such a channel was never proposed within the books. The closest such engineering feat is the work of Bila Huruma in the jungles near Schendi to construct a channel between two lakes that were over four hundred pasangs apart.
As Ar is landlocked, the Vosk River is very important to it. Ar's navy basically consists of some ships on the Vosk, mostly wharfed at Ar's Station. Ar has long claimed hegemony over the southern bank of the Vosk. Ar's Margin of Desolation reached to the edge of the Vosk so most of the towns of the Vosk are located on the northern bank. But, Ar's claims have not gone uncontested. Both Cos and Tyros have also claimed control over the Vosk. They have supported Vosk River pirates in raids against Ar ships. This would all change with the formation of the Vosk League and then the Cosian invasion of Ar's Station.
The most direct route from Ar to the Vosk is the Viktel Aria, which means "Ar's Triumph" or the "Triumph of Ar." Also known as the Vosk Road, it is a large military road that leads directly from Ar to Ar's Station. The road is built like a wall set into the ground and is marked off by pasang stones. There are deep ditches beside most of the road, except at cross-roads and turnoffs. These ditches are meant to cause difficulties for people trying to bring supply wagons onto the road from the east or west. The road is intended to enable Ar to mobilize its armed forces quickly.
There are twenty major towns on the Vosk River, mostly on the northern bank, and an unknown number of smaller towns. There is one city on the Vosk located at the junction of the Olni River. That city, Lara, is a part of the Salerian Confederation. The other three cities of the Confederation are located on the Olni River but the Confederation does have a major impact on the Vosk River region. River pirates were once a constant threat on both the Vosk and Olni but the formations of the Salerian Confederation and the Vosk League have nearly wiped them out.
The Salerian Confederation, also known as the Four Cities of Saleria, consists of the cities of Lara, Port Olni, Ti and Vonda. They are all located on the northern bank of the Olni. The term "Saleria" refers generally to the fertile lands to either side of the Olni River. It also refers to the lands the Confederation claims as its own. The term derives from the meadow of Salerius, located on the northern bank of the Olni between Vonda and Port Olni. It is there where the treaties that created the Confederation were signed. The purpose of the Confederation was to protect river shipping from pirates. Port Olni and Ti were actually the first two cities to unite against river pirates. The other two cities would later join in and the Confederation would be founded.
The city of Ti is the farthest city from the juncture of the Vosk and Olni. It is the largest and most populous of the Confederation cities. Because of that, it was made the principal city of the Confederation. Ti is ruled by an Administrator, Ebullius Gaius Cassius, who is of the Warrior Caste. He is also the High Administrator of the Confederation. Ebullius has five sons and his youngest is Thandar, the Commander of his troops. Another well known citizen of Ti is Reginald, the Administrator of the Players Caste.
Port Olni is closer to the Vosk than Ti. We do not know the identity of the Administrator of Port Olni. Sometime before the formation of the Confederation, Port Olni once burned Fort Haskins in the Thentis Mountains. Over 200 years ago, Port Olni and Ti once fought a war against each other, primarily over the acquisition of slaves. At that time, Port Olni was led by a Tatrix. Ti was victorious and the Market of Semris played an important role as a supply ally for Ti. In Ti, there is a frieze commemorating the war and the Market of Semris has a smaller copy of the frieze.
The frieze in the Market of Semris is described in the books. To one side of the main square, there is a large sculptured group of five male warriors bearing shields, helmets and spears. At their feet, amidst other treasures are two naked women. About the base of the sculpture is an encircling frieze, broken down into five main pictures that depict the story of the war. The first picture shows a group of irate heralds or ambassadors standing before a Tatrix on her throne. The irate men are from Ti and the Tatrix is of Port Olni. The second picture depicts armies on a plain in front of a city, Port Olni. The third shows a raging battle in progress. The fourth shows the humbled representatives of Port Olni in front of the camp throne of the victorious general of Ti. Ti has been victorious in the battle. The men of Port Olni are bearing gifts for the conquerors, including animals, grain, precious goods and the Tatrix. The Tatrix is kneeling, still clothed and wearing a tiara. The last picture shows the victory feast. The Tatrix is besides the general though now she is stripped to her waist. A plaque next to the monument explains its significance.
Vonda is closer to the Vosk than Port Olni. Vonda has public baths. The Lady Florence of Vonda owns a villa about forty pasangs southwest of the city. She breeds and raises tharlarions and her stables are considered to be one of the finest. During the events of Fighting Slave of Gor and Rogue of Gor, Vonda allied itself with Cos. This triggered a war between Ar and Vonda. As Vonda has no tarnsmen, they hired the mercenary company of Artemidorous of Cos to provide tarn support. There was a major engagement south of Vonda, involving over 4000 men. Vonda used tharlarions and phalanxes against the forces of Ar. But Ar's forces were comprised of "squares" possibly the Torian Squares. This gave the forces of Ar greater mobility than the phalanx and enabled them to avoid the tharlarion cavalry. In this engagement, Ar purposely retreated to a prearranged location. This was a rocky area, with many slopes and crevices. Phalanxes lose much of their advantage in such uneven terrain and Ar was aware of this. Ar then retaliated and defeated the forces of Vonda. Soon after this battle, the city of Vonda was captured by Ar which looted and burned the city. The House of Andronicus was one of those places burned and destroyed.
Forces from Lara and Port Olni then moved toward Vonda to help expel Ar. Ti had so far held off from committing any troops. While the forces of Lara moved north, tarnsmen from Ar flew into Lara. They looted the city some and also drove off the pirates who had entered the city to take advantage of the chaotic situation. They could have burnt the city as they did Vonda but Ar did not wish war with the Confederation. Lara's forces then returned to their city. Later, there was a battle northeast of Vonda between Ar and forces of Port Olni and Ti. The forces of Ti were led by Thandar. After two days of battle, both sides withdrew and rested for a few days. Haruspexes from both sides then met on neutral ground to determine the next course of action. They read the omens and agreed that both sides should withdraw although Vonda and Cos disagreed with their readings. Neither Ar or the Salerian Confederation really wanted a major war.
Lara is located at the junction of the Vosk and Olni rivers. It is of major strategic importance as it is the gateway between the Vosk River towns and the Confederation. It could potentially stop all shipping between the two groups. One inn, in Lara, is the inn of Strobius. It is a large, stout inn though not a very good one. Ar could have destroyed the city but showed mercy. This would help the Confederation's decision not to engage in a major war with Ar.
Since the formation of the Confederation, piracy on the Olni is now largely nonexistent. This is due in large part to Lara as they are able to blockade pirate ships from being able to safely escape to the Vosk. The Confederation has grown into a major power in the north. Due to Ar's expansionistic desires, the Confederation fears and distrusts Ar. They do not wish to become a part of Ar's empire. Thus, they have supported Cos to help protect them against the predations of Ar. They feel they have much less reason to fear Cos as it is located far out on Thassa. Cos would have great difficulty attacking the Confederation due to the distances involved.
For many years, the towns on the Vosk River were separate entities. But, this made them susceptible to the voracious pirates that also prowled the waters of the Vosk. The pirates often had their own well-defended fortresses on the river. They had worked out arrangements with other pirate captains, dividing up territories and forming alliances. A typical pirate captain might own eight to ten ships and have three to four hundred men behind him. Polyclitus was one such captain and his stronghold was near the town of Turmus. Policrates was another such captain and he controlled forty ships and about 2000 men. His lieutenant was Kliomenes, a feared man on the river. Ragnar Voskjard may have been the strongest pirate on the Vosk. He had three fleets, consisting of a total of 150-160 ships and thousands of men.
The pirates sometimes would ally together for large-scale assaults on the river towns. When they wished to do so, a pledge symbol was passed around to confirm the matter. This symbol was a topaz, actually two pieces of a stone that fit perfectly together. When it was together, it formed a beveled rectangle, about the size of two fists. Each piece had a certain "discoloration" that when the pieces were joined, the discolorations became the image of a river galley. The courier of the topaz often went masked when traveling to protect his identity. The courier might be a traitor within one of the river towns and protecting his identity was thus important.
The events of the Jason Marshall trilogy, Fighting Slave of Gor, Rogue of Gor, and Guardsman of Gor, depict a grand battle against the Vosk River pirates and the formation of an alliance, between the Vosk River towns, called the Vosk League. Many of the river towns once paid tribute to the pirates, essentially a form of extortion. At one point, the town of Victoria decided to refuse to pay this tribute any further. The pirates thus decided to assault Victoria and show the other towns what would happen if their tribute was denied. The topaz was sent out to unite Policrates and Ragnar Voskjard against Victoria. This was the first time in ten years that this had been done.
A group of men, from different river towns, allied together to try to prevent the two pirate groups from uniting. A massive chain was stretched across the river just west of the town of Port Cos. The mountings and pylons for the chain were constructed at night so as to not arouse suspicion. The chain had originally come from Cos. It had been brought overland, around the delta and then placed on a ship at Turmus. Various Vosk towns provided ships to aid in the defense of the chain and prevent the ships of Voskjard from uniting with Policrates. Although Port Cos had fifty ships and Ar's Station had forty-five, Port Cos only brought thirty ships to the chain and Ar's Station only brought ten. They wished to hold some back to defend their towns in case of attack. Seven additional ships came to the chain, two from Victoria, Jort's Ferry and Point Alfred and one from Fina. Unfortunately, only the sailors on the Port Cos ships were experienced in naval warfare. Most of the others were used to simple merchant sailing.
Guardsman of Gor describes this epic river battle between the pirates and the Vosk town ships. The fleet of the Voskjard attacks the defending river town ships at the chain. The defenders are able to defeat and capture a number of the pirate ships though eventually some of the pirate ships do get past the chain. The defenders then disguise their ships, pretending to be Voskjard ships, and try to enter the stronghold of Policrates. His stronghold is guarded by an iron sea gate. The defenders though are permitted entrance and are then able to capture the fortress. They then wait for the remnants of the real Voskjard fleet to arrive at the stronghold of Policrates. When it does arrive, the defenders are able to destroy most of the Voskjard ships.
But the pirate leaders, Policrates and Voskjard, remained at large. Policrates only had forty ships remaining and Voskjard only had twenty. They decided to attack Victoria anyways for vengeance. When they arrived in the town, it appeared deserted. They were then ambushed by the armed residents of Victoria. The pirates retreated to their ships but then found their escape route blocked by a fleet of ships from many of the river towns. The pirates were defeated and captured. Both Policrates and Voskjard were enslaved and then sold. Their strongholds were burnt and destroyed. The stranglehold of the pirates on the Vosk had been broken.
In 10127 C.A., after this battle, nineteen Vosk River towns formed the Vosk League, an alliance to protect against piracy. These nineteen towns included Port Cos, Victoria, Turmus, Ven, Tetrapoli, Tafa, Fina, Ragnar's Hamlet, Hammerfest, Sulport, Sais, Siba, Jasmine, Point Alfred, Jort's Ferry, Forest Port, Iskander, Tancred's Landing and White Water. The treaties were signed on the wharves of Victoria. Victoria was appointed the capital of the League and a High Council for the League was formed. Callimachus, once a Warrior of Port Cos, was appointed the Commander of the League's forces.
Representatives from Cos and the Salerian Confederation did not choose to attend the ceremonies. The only major town on the Vosk that did not join the League was Ar's Station. Envoys from Ar did attend the ceremonies and they were supportive of the intent of the League. But, Ar would not permit Ar's Station to join. Ar was worried about losing its control on the Vosk if Ar's Station was permitted to join.
Ar's Station was established around 10114 C.A. on the south bank of the Vosk. It was founded to be an outpost and trading station for Ar. It was situated near the site where the Master Assassin, Pa-Kur, amassed his army to attack Ar in 10110 C.A. Ar's Station was considered an outpost of Ar and not an official colony. This meant that it did not have a Home Stone of its own and shared the Home Stone of Ar. In usual Gorean colonization, there is a faction in a city that due to overpopulation, political dissension or other reasons may decide to found their own city. Prior to moving, they will usually create a charter, constitution and laws. They will also obtain their own Home Stone. The colony will maintain some ties with the original city but will ultimately retain its independence.
The citizens of Ar's Station were unhappy that they could not join the Vosk League. As a partial consolation, they received one half of the topaz. The topaz had once been the Home Stone of Victoria but over a hundred years ago it was stolen by pirates. The Home Stone was broken in half and then used as a pledge symbol for the pirates. Although the topaz had been recovered from the pirates, Victoria chose to obtain a new Home Stone. Aemilianus, a Captain of the Guardsmen of Ar's Station, was given a piece of the topaz and so was Calliodorus, a Captain of Port Cos. This was so that they would remember that they had once fought together as comrades. Prior to the battle against the pirates, Ar's Station and Port Cos had been rivals.
Port Cos was a true colony, founded by settlers from Cos over one hundred years ago. Its connections to Cos now are primarily historical and cultural. It has few economic or legal ties to Cos. It also possesses its own Home Stone. Port Cos has probably the strongest navy on the Vosk. This is in part due to the skill and experience of their seamen, many who were native Cosians, mercenaries or veterans of the Cosian navy on detached duty. Most of the other river towns have merchant ships and few war ships.
The new friendship of Ar's Station and Port Cos becomes quite evident during the events of Renegades of Gor. During the Cos/Ar war, Cos opts to invade Ar's Station. The Cosian forces are led by Policrates, the pirate leader who had been enslaved at the end of Guardsman of Gor. Myron, Polemarkos of Temos and cousin to the Ubar of Cos, freed Policrates from a slave galley. Despite a valiant defensive effort, Ar's Station is conquered, burnt and the Home Stone taken. Now this touches upon an apparent and important error in the novels. As Ar's Station is only an outpost, and not a colony, it is not supposed to have its own Home Stone. It is supposed to share the Home Stone of Ar. Yet, it has a Home Stone of its own in Renegades of Gor.
Now, if Ar's Station had acquired its own, independent Home Stone after the events of Guardsman of Gor, it would have been able to join the Vosk League. The Home Stone could simply be an error but does play an important role in the plot of the latter books. The only other solution would revolve around the hierarchical nature of Home Stones. Though you might own a personal Home Stone, you might also fall under the umbrella of another Home Stone such as your village, town or city Home Stone. Thus, you would have multiple Home Stones. Ar's Station may have their own town Home Stone but it may be subject to the greater sphere of the Home Stone of Ar. They would lose certain independence then due to the higher obligation of the Home Stone of Ar.
Many of the fleeing refugees from Ar's Station were taken in by Port Cos. They were bitter because Ar had not come to their aid. The presence of traitors within Ar ensured that Cos was not opposed when it attacked Ar's Station. Rumors then circulated that Ar's Station had in fact surrendered to Cos long before Ar could get troops to them. People in Ar thus viewed Ar's Station as traitorous. The Home Stone of Ar's Station was taken to Ar and publicly displayed on the Avenue of the Central Cylinder. Citizens and visitors to Ar could spit upon and revile the Home Stone. In Magicians of Gor, Tarl Cabot lends a hand to help recover the Home Stone. The illusionist, Boots Tarsk-Bit, is persuaded to use his sleight of hand tricks to steal the Home Stone and then deliver it to Port Cos.
What happens next will have to await the future publication of additional Gor novels. It does seem likely though that Ar's Station, angry at their abandonment by Ar, may choose to declare their independence. Then, they would likely join the Vosk League. Even if Ar is able to oust Cos, they would not have the resources to force Ar's Station back under their control.
Little information is given for most of the towns on the Vosk. We must realize that these are only towns so they are on a much smaller scale than places like Thentis, Ko-ro-ba or Tor. They also all appear to be run by Administrators not Ubars. They rely on river trade though many of the towns have few ships. Most of the towns are located on the northern bank of the Vosk. Drifters are common in these towns, sometimes men fleeing their pasts. Personal questions are commonly not asked. The Vosk River towns, in order from east to west, include White Water, Tancred's Landing; Iskander, Forestport, Ar's Station, Jort's Ferry, Point Alfred, Jasmine, Siba, Sais, Sulport, Hammerfest, Ragnar's Hamlet. Fina, Victoria, Tafa, Port Cos, Tetrapoli, Ven and and Turmus.
White Water is the most eastern city on the Vosk River. From Lara, you must travel on a barge canal to bypass the rapids and reach it. The town of White Water, located on the northern bank, received its name due to those rapids. Traveling west, the next towns you will encounter, in order, are Tancred's Landing, Iskander and Forestport. All three are on the northern bank. You would then reach Ar's Station, though it is on the southern bank.
The next two towns, Jort's Ferry and then Point Alfred, are on the northern bank. Both tend to support Ar's Station and Ar. The next five cities in line include Jasmine, Siba, Sais, Sulport and Hammerfest. Ragnar's Hamlet is next, though contrary to its name it is actually a good-sized town. It was once a tiny village but it has expanded over the years. Fina is next in line and like many of the river towns, does a good trade in slaves. On the Fina waterfront, there are some stout, log warehouses used to store kajirae. They are double-walled with tiny barred windows. The girls are kept naked and ankle chained while within the warehouses. These are common in many of the river towns. The Brewery of Lucian is also located close to Fina.
The next town in line is Victoria, once a slave market and den of thieves. It was once a major outlet for river pirates to sell their ill-begotten goods. Victoria though would eventually become the capital of the Vosk League. The pirates had stolen the Home Stone of Victoria over a hundred years ago. They broke it in half and used the topaz as a pledge symbol. Once the pirates were defeated, and the topaz recovered, Victoria chose not to use it again as their Home Stone. They chose a new one by picking a common stone from the shore of the Vosk. Thus, Victoria lacked a Home Stone for over one hundred years.
The Administrator of Victoria is Tasdron, a Merchant, and the owner of a tavern off the avenue of Lycurgus. Other taverns include the tavern of Cleanthes and the Pirates's Chain, a miserable little place near the wharves and owned by Hibron. There are many slave sales barns in the town such as the one owned by Lysander. The spring and summer are the busiest seasons as that is the time of the busiest river traffic. This was once also the time when the pirates were most likely to sell their loot. One infamous street in the town is the Street of the Writhing Slave. The street begins at the wharves, winds through a commercial district and then through a hilly, residential section. Many renters and dealers in Coin Girls keep their kennels on this street. Thus, free women tend to avoid it.
After Victoria comes the town of Tafa. West of Tafa is then Port Cos. Port Cos was founded over a century ago from settlers from Cos. It has its own Home Stone and is largely independent of Cos, especially now that it is part of the Vosk League. As you approach Port Cos, you will first see its pharos, a tall, cylindrical tower located at the most southwestern point of the harbor. The pharos is about 150 feet high and tapers as it climbs until it is about 20 feet in diameter at the top. It is painted yellow and red in horizontal sections. These represent the Caste colors of the Builders and Warriors. The Builders supervised the construction of the pharos and the Warriors maintain its facilities. At night, the pharos serves as a beacon for ships. Port Cos has a number of paga taverns included the Dina (owned by Simonides), Veminium (owned by Agathocles), Larma (owned by Panicrates), Cage, Jewels of Telnus, Artemidorus' Cargo, Secret Basement, Hold, Scarlet Whip, and the Tavern of the Collar of the Two Chains. Agathocles and Paincrates are brothers.
The last three towns on the Vosk are, in order, Tetrapoli, Ven and Turmus. Tetrapoli was originally four separate towns; Ri, Teibar, Heiban and Azdak. Legend states that these towns were originally founded by four brothers. Eventually, the towns consolidated. The four town names have been maintained for the four districts of the town. The word "tetrapoli" means "four cities" or "four towns." Ven is on the southern bank of the Vosk, at the junction of the Ta-Thassa Cartius. The battle of Teslit was fought, over two hundred years ago, between Ven and Harfax. It occurred near the village of Teslit that is located halfway between the Vosk and Holmesk. Turmus, on the northern bank, is the last major river town on the Vosk before the delta.
The recent creations of the Salerian Confederation and the Vosk League may be signaling a significant change in Gorean politics. For the longest time, Gorean city-states have been fiercely independent. They have refused alliances, preferring to remain on their own. But, it seems the beginning of a new era may be coming. As some Gorean towns and cities band together, it may lead others to do the same. But, time will tell if the Priest-Kings react to this new situation. The Priest-Kings have long preferred Gorean to remain separate and independent. They stopped Ar from getting too large. Will they do the same to these burgeoning new alliances? Or will such alliances be permitted until they threaten the balance of Gor.