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(This is a trilogy of short stories, centered upon a determined Peasant and his vengeance against the raiders of Treve.)
Treve and the Ox (Part 1)
"It is difficult to know what the mists of the morning may bring. Much depends upon what man is. Much depends upon what he shall decide himself to be." (Explorers of Gor, p.230)
I shall steal the Home Stone of Treve.
This is my silent chant, one I repeat each day. It is my singular goal, my only reason to live. I desire to rip out the heart of Treve and end its miserable existence.
I am a Peasant. An Ox on which the Home Stone rests. One who makes the fields fruitful. A simple man from the lowest of Castes.
But even we have dreams.
It began on the finest of mornings. The sun shone brightly and the harvest was near complete. My wonderful Companion, Dyra, had just announced that she was pregnant with our second child. I felt a wealthy man.
Then the sky filled with shadows.
Tarnsmen. Raiders from Treve. Zads! They refused to engage in agriculture so they stole the fruits of others' labors. They swarmed at harvest time, stealing our grains, vegetables and fruits. What they could not carry away, they burned or otherwise destroyed. This was to prevent their enemies from having sufficient stores to support a winter campaign against them.
There was little that I could do. I was proficient with a staff but could not hope to defeat a unit of rarii on tarns. I raced for cover, scanning the fields for my woman and son. I grew frantic when I did not see them. I called out their names and then heard a faint call from the orchards.
I ran toward that direction. The tarnsmen struck, ignoring me as they claimed my harvest. The orchards were at the far end of my farm so it would take a couple Ehn for me to reach it. As I neared the orchard, I spied Dyra and my son, Onarius. And I saw a Treve raider next to them.
I screamed and tried to run even faster, my chest pained with my efforts.
The Warrior backhanded my eight-year old son and he felt to the ground. The Warrior then grabbed Dyra and bound her within a few Ihn. He threw her across the saddle of his tarn, mounted the bird and took to the skies.
As I burst into the orchard, I was too late. I bellowed out my rage at the raider and heard only a chuckle in reply.
Tears welled in my eyes as I turned to tend to my son.
Onarius lay on the grass, apparently unconscious. The Warrior's strike had not seemed that potent though I knew little of a Warrior's true strength. I knelt in the grass and took my son into my arms. That is when I noticed the wetness beneath my son's head. It was blood.
I looked down into the grass and saw a blood splattered stone. His head must have struck it. As I felt at that wound, I understood its seriousness. There was not a Physician nearby.
My boy was going to die.
I cradled his limp body in my arms and wept. It was dark before I stopped.
I buried my son that night. I had lost my companion, my son and my unborn child. My farmhouse had been torched. My harvest had been stolen or destroyed. My few animals, a bosk and a few verr, had been slaughtered. Everything of any meaning to me had been stolen from me.
And Treve was the thief.
They must pay!
I was not the only Peasant who had lost his harvest. I was not the only Peasant who lost family members. The raiders had struck this region hard. They would be well set for another winter's stay in their mountain coign.
The victims commiserated together, many vowing vengeance. I knew they would not do anything. Their words came from their heart but practicality would soon set in. What could a group of Peasants do against the powerful city of Treve? They would begrudgingly return to their lives and pray it did not happen again.
But I was different.
A fire burned within my chest. My vow of vengeance was not empty. I truly intended to strike back at the heart of the Enemy. I wanted Treve to suffer. I wanted Treve to die.
I had no army to conquer Treve. I was but one man, a simple Peasant. Yet, Tarl Cabot had shown what a single man could accomplish. He had stolen the Home Stone of mighty Ar.
I would do the same to Treve. Steal their Home Stone and thus destroy their city.
I spent a couple Hands helping my neighbors repair and rebuild their homes. We shared what food still remained. We supported each other in our grief.
I then gathered a few things from the ashen remains of my home. I retrieved my secret cache of coins, almost five silver tarsks. It had taken several years to accumulate that hoard.
I was moving to the city of Vonda. I needed the resources only a city could provide to commence any plan for my revenge.
In Vonda, I obtained a room in a cheap insula. The room was hot and cramped. Insects were a bit of a nuisance but a few frevets roamed the halls to eliminate them. My needs were few so the room was sufficient.
I spent the next four days contemplating my situation, trying to devise a plan of action. Was it even possible? Was I only living a fantasy?
There had to be a way. If the Home Stone of glorious Ar could be taken, then even Treve's could not be safe. Somehow, someway, I would do it.
Treve was a hidden city, located somewhere in the Voltai Mountains. The few outsiders permitted entrance, some merchants and ambassadors, had to enter the city hooded so they did not know the location of the city. They would then not be permitted to leave any of the cylinders of Treve. They could not walk its streets. They were not allowed to observe anything that might help them later locate the city. They could not observe any local landmarks. Any attempt to circumvent their rules led to the violator's death.
The city could only be reached by tarn. Actually, an experienced mountaineer might be able to reach it but it would be extremely difficult. The Voltai also possessed its own dangers. Larls prowled its slopes and other bandit fortresses dotted the mountains.
The Warriors of Treve were fierce men, skilled at arms and superb Tarnsmen. Tarn patrols would continually scout for interlopers.
If I wished to succeed, I must be very patient.
I needed to learn new skills, probably join a new Caste. My life as a Peasant had not taught me how to steal a Home Stone. I fought well with a staff but did not want to rely on those skills against a gladius. I did not know how to fly a tarn. I did not know how to read. I knew only agriculture.
Preparations would take years. But, I had nothing else to do with my life. I would have patience. I would carefully tend to the fire in my chest, maintaining its presence but ensuring it did not rage out of control.
Which Caste to choose?
Becoming a Tarnsman is the obvious choice. But I decided against it. The direct, forceful approach would not work. It would be pitting their strength against a similar force. Tarl Cabot might have been able to do it but I couldn't. I also learned on the farm that force was always a last resort. Pushing a stubborn bosk to get it to move never worked. You needed to entice him to move.
I needed to be more subtle. I needed to convince Treve to welcome me into their city, to make them want me.
Initiate? The highest ranking members acquired some potent magics. But that would take a very long time and I doubt Treve would care for an Initiate.
Scribe? Physician? Builder? All would be necessary in Treve but they offered nothing extraordinary.
What appealed to Warriors? War, slaves and paga.
I smiled. That meant Weaponsmith, Slaver or Brewer.
They generally stole all the slaves they desired so scratch Slaver. A good Weaponsmith or Brewer though might work. But which to choose?
My natural abilities, skills and knowledge acquired as a Peasant made Brewer the better choice. I knew all about Sa-Tarna and other grains. That information would be very useful in creating good paga.
I began hanging around paga taverns and breweries trying to glean bits of knowledge. I wanted some background before I sought to raise my Caste.
After some time, I then petitioned to join the Caste of Brewers. Both the city High Council and the Brewer's Caste needed to give their approval. I underwent several questioning sessions to assess my skills and knowledge. They also delved into my reasons for wishing to become a Brewer. My tragic story touched their sympathies and they understood why I might want to change castes. I did not mention my plans for revenge. I did not mention that it had been Treve raiders.
The entire process took several weeks. In the end, they accepted me. I began my apprenticeship, learning the essential skills of my new trade. No other apprentice worked half as hard as I. My labors resulted in rapid progress. My mentors were impressed and the other apprentices were envious.
Five years passed.
My time was spent first learning the basics and then experimenting. I tried to create variations of paga, different tastes, different textures. I was devoted to creating the perfect paga, a taste fine enough for the Priest-Kings. I wanted Ubars to swoon over my brew. I worked night and day.
My new recipes started earning money and my reputation in Vonda grew. I had even surpassed the skill of some of my teachers. To promote my products, I gave out frequent free samples. I donated barrels to the outlying farms and villages. I made sure that the taverns that catered to foreigners and visitors were stocked with my potables. I wanted my name to spread.
And I continued to work on even better brews.
Within two years, I was one of the most famous brewers in northern Gor. I had even received orders from distant Turia. I sold my wares to Merchants who I knew dealt with Treve. I supplied farms where I knew Treve would be sure to raid. They had to have known of my reputation by now.
I then made it known I sought my own brewery. I needed financial backing and was not adverse to relocation. And then I waited.
The offers poured in from dozens of cities. But not from Treve.
Each offer tried to best the others. I played off the vying cities, delaying and delaying. Cities began to drop out of the bidding as the price got too high. Ar was making the best offers and I gave indications that was where I would likely go.
Treve hated Ar. I was hoping that maybe they would intervene if only to deprive Ar of my services.
It came down to Thentis and Ar. Thentis then dropped out. I made plans to journey to Ar to settle the final negotiations. Then Treve made an offer.
I had done it.
Treve was mine.
I did not immediately accept the offer from Treve. I allowed Ar to make a counteroffer. I knew Treve would match whatever Ar proposed. Ar grew weary of the matter and withdrew. I accepted Treve's offer, hiding my smiles within myself.
They had investigated me. But, they found no reason to mistrust me. They saw a simple Brewer. They did not realize their raiders had stolen my companion, with my unborn child, and killed my son. They saw me as harmless.
They saw exactly what I wanted them to see.
I was taken to Treve, hooded. Once within the city, I underwent several interrogations, not ordinary questioning. Despite their investigation into my past, they still were not taking any chances. Innate paranoia. But my answers satisfied them.
I was finally accepted and made a citizen. I swore on the Home Stone of Treve, kissing it. I now knew what it looked like.
I then consulted with some Builders telling them what I needed for my brewery. I consulted with some Merchants and told them the ingredients and equipment I would need. I met the other Brewers in the city. They were a bit cold to me, possibly some professional jealousy.
And I got to freely walk the streets of Treve.
It was strange to see free women walking the streets without bodyguards or veils. But, what need did they have for such things? Treve was not raided by others. It was a safe city.
The Warriors seemed to be well respected. Was it not them who provided food for the rest of the populace? Was not Rask of Treve an honored hero? The Ubar of Treve was loved by his people.
All of the people seemed happy. They seemed oblivious to the harm the raiders caused. They were actually quite callous to the fates of others. Damn them all.
My plan was simple. The simpler the better as there was less that could go wrong. The Home Stone was kept atop the highest Cylinder. Only three guards manned that post. An attack was very unlikely so there was little need for added security.
Gaining access to the Cylinder was not a problem.
I would taint a batch of special paga with a drug that would render a man unconscious with only a few sips. I would deliver a special gift to the men guarding the Home Stone. They would indulge in at least one cup and that would be sufficient.
While they were unconscious, I would sneak in, kill the sleeping guards and steal the Home Stone. I would then hide it in a barrel of paga that was destined to be sold to another city.
As easy as a sneeze.
A year passed. The brewery was completed and was churning out barrels and barrels of paga. I was very generous with providing samples to the Warriors. I had become a very well-liked citizen. My paga was served in every tavern in the city.
Some of it was exported at exorbitant rates.
I had learned the patrol schedules for the Cylinder holding the Home Stone. I knew who was most likely to succumb to my tainted paga. I was nervous because it seemed like it would be so easy.
But I never considered that I might meet my son.
The unborn son I never knew. He was now eight-years old, the spitting image of his mother. I had no question in my mind as to his identity. He even had my chin. I saw him in the market, playing with a few other boys. I watched him for two Ahn as he played.
A rarius approached him and the child rushed to his side, hugging him tightly. It had to be his new "father." The two went off and I followed them. This was not a Warrior I knew. I followed them to their Cylinder and I noted the street.
A few questions later to some of the Warriors I knew and I learned his name and a brief history. Patrocles. A talented Tarnsman who had been scouting and mapping out the Voltai Mountains for most of the last year. His son was Talen and the boy's mother had been dead for five years. He was not the same Tarnsman who had captured my companion.
This complicated matters. I wanted my son. Yet, he did not even know I existed. I spent the next few Hands finding out all I could about Talen and his "family." I found that he was a very happy child with a loving family. He had three brothers and sisters. He would be a Warrior one day.
What could I offer him? I would have to kidnap him and flee from Treve, living as a fugitive. He would have a bitter man as his father. He would have no real future. He would eventually resent and maybe even hate me.
I could not tear him from the happiness he had found. I loved him too much for that.
How could I now destroy Treve? Would that not also destroy my son's life? His future?
I knew my plan would succeed.
Could I go through with it? I had to make a choice.
I went searching for the raider you had killed Onarius and taken Dyra. I learned he died two years ago in a raid near Tharna. I could not even get revenge on him.
Did I really want my son to become a raider and destroy families? In the long run, would it be better for Treve to die now?
He was my flesh and blood though I never knew him. And I loved him. Yet, a fire burnt within my chest, an urgent need for vengeance. I closed my eyes and prayed.
Six days later, I carried a small keg of tainted paga to the Cylinder of the Home Stone. The guards eagerly sampled my wares and within Ehn they were all unconscious. I walked passed them and to the rooftop where the Home Stone lie. I picked it up and held it in my hands, that simple rock with a "tau" chiseled into it. The soul of the city.
I just needed to kill the guards so there would be no witnesses. I could then leave and hide the Home Stone. The next day it would be sent out of the city in a barrel of paga destined for Thentis. I would have destroyed Treve. My vengeance would be complete.
Then why was I not happy?
Twenty Ehn later, I called in a favor. I asked Sulla, a Tarnsman, to give me a late night flight. He obliged, never asking me my reasons. We later set down in a grassy field to have some paga. Sulla drank the tainted paga and went to sleep. I then stole away into the darkness, seeking the nearest village or town.
One month later I was safely in the city of Ar.
Let us travel back to Treve one month ago. The guards at the Home Stone Cylinder would have eventually woke. I had not killed them. They would have immediately reported the incident to the Ubar. The scene would have been examined and a search begun to find me. They would have no luck until many Ahn later when Sulla returned. They would consider sending out a search party but would assume I had too much of a head start.
The Ubar would stare at the Home Stone and have one of his men check it to ensure that it was authentic. The Home Stone would be wet and they would soon realize that I had urinated on it. At that moment, they would understand it all.
They would know that I could have stolen the Home Stone and escaped with it. They would know that a Brewer had beaten them. They would know the contempt I had shown for them by urinating on their Home Stone. And they would do little about it.
They would cover the matter up. They would not want anyone else to know. They would not pursue me for then they would worry of what I would say. If they did hear that I was talking, then they would come after me, but not until then. Sulla and the Cylinder guards would be executed for their failure.
The Ubar would never forget.
I now found that the fire within my chest had smoldered out. I was actually happy once again. I had attained a form of vengeance and beaten my Enemy. And my son was happy.
I then sold my paga brewing recipes, bought a small house in the countryside and lived simply.
I was a satisfied Peasant.