Beasts of Gor
The mount of the Wagon Peoples, unknown in the northern hemisphere of Gor, is the terrifying but beautiful kaiila.
The kaiila is a silken, carnivorous, lofty creature, graceful long-necked and smooth gaited. It is a viperous and undoubtedly mammalian, though there is no suckling of the young. The young are born vicious and by instinct, as soon as they can struggle to their feet, they hunt, it is an instinct of the mother, sensing the birth, to deliver the young animal in the vicinity of game. With the domesticated kaiila, a bound verr or a prisoner might be cast to the newborn animal. The kaiila, once it eats its fill, does not touch food for several days.
The kaiila is extremely agile, and can easily outmaneuver the slower, more ponderous high tharlarion. It requires less food, of course, than the tarn. A kaiila, which normally stands about twenty to twenty-two hands at the shoulder can cover as much as six hundred pasangs in a single day's riding.
The head of a kaiila bears two large eyes, one on each side, but these eyes are triply lidded, probably an adaptation to the environment which occasionally is wracked by serve storms of wind and dust; the adaptation, actually a transparent third lid permits the animal to move as it wishes under conditions that force other prairie animals to back into the wind or, like the sleen, to burrow into the ground. The kaiila is most dangerous under such conditions, and, as if it knew this, often uses such times for its hunt.
A full description of the Kur can be found in the book Beast of Gor pages 364-370. The following are quotes of reference on the Kur:
My delirium this time, interestingly to me, had been much different than it had when, long ago, the poison had first raged in my body. At that time I had been miserable, and weak, even calling out to a woman, who was only a slave, to love me. But, somehow, in the North, in Torvaldsland, I had changed. This I knew.
There was a different Tarl Cabot than ever there had been. Once there had been a boy by his name, one with simple dreams, naive, vain, one shattered by betrayal of his codes, the discovery of a weakness, where he thought there was only strength. That boy had died in the delta of the Vosk; in his place had come Bosk of Port Kar, ruthless and torn, but grown into his manhood: and now there was another, one whom I might, if I wished, choose to call again Tarl Cabot. I had changed. Here, with the Forkbeard, with the sea, the wind, in his hall and in battle, I had become, somehow , much different. In the North my blood had found itself, learning itself; in the north I had learned strength, and how to stand alone.
I thought of the Kurri. They were terrible foes. Suddenly, incredibly, I felt love for them. I recollected the head of the giant Kur, mounted on its stake, in the ruins of the hall of Svein Blue Tooth. One cannot be weak who meets such beasts. I laughed at the weakness instilled into the men of earth. Only men who are strong, without weakness, can meet such Beasts. One must match them in strength, in intellect, in terribleness, in ferocity. In the north I had grown strong. I suddenly realized the supreme power of the united Gorean will, not divided against itself, not weak, not crippled like the wills of earth. I felt a surge of power, of unprecedented, unexpected joy. I had discovered what it was to be Gorean. I had discovered what is was, truly, to be male, to be a man. I was Gorean.
(Marauders of Gor pg. 290)
In the doorway, silhouetted against flames behind them we saw great, black, shaggy figures Then one leapt within the hall. In one hand it carried a gigantic ax, whose handle was perhaps eight feet long, whose blade, from tip to tip, might have been better than two feet in length; on its other arm it carried a great, round, iron shield, double strapped; it lifted it, and the ax; its arms were incredibly long, perhaps some seven feet in length; about its left arm was a spiral band of gold; it was the Kur which had addressed the assembly. It threw back its head and opened its jaws, eyes blazing, and uttered the blood roar of the aroused Kur; then it bent over, regarding us, shoulders hunched, its claws leaping from its soft, furred sheaths; it then laid its ears back flat against the sides of its great head. no one could move. then, other Kurri behind it, crowding about it, past it, it shrieked, lips drawn back, with a hideous sound, which, somehow, from its lips and mien, and mostly from its eyes, I took to be a sign of pleasure, of anticipation; I would learn later that this sound is instinctively uttered by Kurii when they are preparing to take blood.
(Marauders of Gor pg. 203)
This description of the Larl is taken from Tarnsman of Gor page 148.
When the larl hunts alone, it hunts silently, never uttering a sound until the sudden roar that momentarily precedes its charge, the roar calculated to terrify the quarry into a fatal instant of immobility. But tonight a pride of larls was hunting, and the Cries of the three beasts were driving cries, herding the prey, usually several animals, toward the region of silence, herding them in the direction from which no cries would come, the direction in which the remainder of the pride waited.
The light of the three moons was bright that night, and in the resultant exotic patchwork of shadows below, I caught sight of one of the larls, padding softly along, its body almost white in the moonlight. It paused, lifted its wide, fierce head, some two or three feet in diameter, and uttered the hunting scream once more. Momentarily it was answered, once from about two pasangs to the west and once from about the same distance to the southwest. I2 appeared ready to resume its pace when suddenly it stopped, its head absolutely motionless, its sharp, pointed ears tense and lifted. I thought perhaps he had heard the tarn, but he seemed to show no awareness of us.
I brought the bird somewhat lower, in long, slow circles, keeping the larl in view. The tail of the animal began to lash angrily. It crouched, holding its long, terrible body close to the ground. It then began to move forward, swiftly but stealthily, its shoulders hunched for ward, .its hind quarters almost touching the ground. Its ears were lying back, flat against the sides of its wide head. As it moved, for all its speed, it placed each paw carefully on the ground, first the toes and then the ball of the foot, as silently as the wind might bend grass, in a motion that was as beautiful as it was terrifying.
The larl is a predator, clawed and fanged, quite large, often standing seven feet at the shoulder. I think it would be fair to say that it is substantially feline; at any rate its grace and sinuous power remind me of the smaller but similarly fearsome jungle cats of my old world.
The resemblance is, I suppose, due to the mechanics of convergent evolution, both animals having been shaped by the exigencies of the chase, the stealth of the approach and the sudden charge, and by the requirement of the swift and devastating kill. If there is an optimum configuration for a land predator, I suppose on my old world the palm must go to the Bengal tiger; but on Gor the prize belongs indisputably to the mountain larl; and I cannot but believe that the structural similarities between the two animals, though of different worlds, are more than a matter of accident.
The larl's head is broad, sometimes more than two feet across, and shaped roughly like a triangle, giving its skull something of the cast of a viper's save that of course it is furred and the pupils of the eyes like the cat's and unlike the viper's, can range from knifelike slits in the broad daylight to dark, inquisitive moons in the night.
Whe pelt of the larl is normally a tawny red or a sable black. The black larl, which is predominantly nocturnal, is manned, both male and female. The red larl, which hunts whenever hungry, regardless of the hour, and is the more common variety, possesses no mane. Females of both varieties tend generally to be slightly smaller than the males, but are quite as aggressive and sometimes even more dangerous, particularly in the late fall and winter of the year when they are likely to be hunting for their cubs. I had once killed a male red larl in the Voltai Range within pasangs of the city of Ar.
(Priest-Kings of Gor, pg. 17)
This description of the Tarn is taken from Tarnsman of Gor pages 51-53.
The Goreans believe, incredibly enough, that the capacity to master a tarn is innate and that some men possess this characteristic and that some do not. One does not learn to master a tarn. It is a matter of blood and spirit, of beast and man, of a relation between two beings which must be immediate, intuitive, spontaneous. It is said that a tarn knows who is a Tarnsman and who is not, and that those who are not die in this first meeting.
My first impression was that of a rush of wind and a great snapping sound, as if a giant might be snapping an enormous towel or scarf; then I was cowering, awestricken, in a great winged shadow, and an immense tarn, his talons extended like gigantic steel hooks, his wings sputtering fiercely in the air, hung above me, motionless except for the beating of his wings.
"Stand clear of the wings," shouted the Older Tarl. I needed no urging. I darted from under the bird. One stroke of those wings would hurl me yards from the top of the cylinder. The tarn dropped to the roof of the cylinder and regarded us with his bright black eyes.
Though the tarn, like most birds, is surprisingly light for its size, this primarily having to do with the comparative hollowness of the bones, it is an extremely powerful bird, powerful even beyond what one would expect from such a monster. Whereas large Earth birds, such as the eagle, must, when taking flight from the ground, begin with a running start, the tarn, with its incredible musculature, aided undoubtedly by the somewhat lighter gravity of Gor, can with a spring and a sudden flurry of its giant wings lift both himself and his rider into the air. In Gorean, these .birds are sometimes spoken of as Brothers of the Wind.
The plumage of tarns is various, and they are bred for their colors as well as their strength and intelligence. Black tarns are used for night raids, white tarns in winter campaigns, and multicolored, resplendent tarns are bred for warriors who wish to ride proudly, regardless of the lack of camouflage. 'The most common tarn, however, is greenish brown. Disregarding the disproportion in size, the Earth bird which the tarn most closely resembles is the hawk, with the exception that it bas a crest somewhat of the nature of a jay's.
Tarns, who are vicious things, are seldom more than half tamed and; like their dim;native earthly counterparts, like hawks, are carnivorous. It is not unknown for a tarn to attack and devour his own rider. They fear nothing but the tarn-goad. They are trained by men of the Caste of Tarn Keepers to respond to it while still young, when they can be fastened by wires to the training perches. Whenever a young bird soars away or refuses obedience in some fashion, he is dragged back to the perch and beaten with the tarn-goad. Rings, comparable to those which are fastened on the legs of the young birds, are worn by the adult birds to reinforce the memory of the hobbling wire and the tarn-goad. Later, of course, the adult birds are not fastened, but the conditioning given them in their. youth usually holds, except when they become abnormally disturbed or have not been able to obtain food. The tarn is one of the two most common mounts of a Gorean warrior; the other is the high tharlarion, a species of saddle lizard, used mostly by clans who have never mastered tarns. No one in the City of Cylinders, as far as I knew, maintained tharlarions, though they were supposedly quite common on Gor, particularly in the lower areas-in swampland and on the deserts.
The Older Tarl had mounted his tarn, climbing up the five-rung leather mounting ladder which hangs on the left side of the saddle and is pulled up in flight. He fastened himself in the saddle with a broad purple strap. He tossed me a small object which. nearly fell from my fumbling hands. It was a tarn whistle, with its own note, which would summon one tarn, and one tarn only, the mount which was intended for me. Never since the panic of the disoriented compass back in the mountains of New Hampshire had I been so frightened, but this time I refused to allow my fear the fatal inch it required. If I was to die, it would be; if I was not to die, I would not.
I smiled to myself in spite of my fear, amused at the remark I had addressed to myself. It sounded like something out of the code of the Warrior, something which, if taken literally, would seem to encourage its believer to take not the slightest or most sane precautions for his safety. I blew a note on the whistle, and it was shrill and different, of a new pitch from that of the Old Tarl.
Almost immediately from somewhere, perhaps from a ledge out of sight; rose a fantastic object, another giant tarn, even larger than the first, a glossy sable tarn which circled the cylinder once and then wheeled toward me, landing a few feet away, his talons striking on the roof with a sound like hurled gauntlets. His talons were shod with steel-a war tarn. He raised his curved be to the sky and screamed, lifting and shaking his wings? s enormous head turned toward me, and his round, wicked eyes blazed in my direction. The next thing I knew his beak was open; I caught a brief sight of his thin,sharp tongue, as long as a man's arm; darting out and back, and then, snapping at me, he lunged forward, striking at me with that' monstrous beak, and I heard the Older Tarl cry out in horror, "The goad! The goad!"
The tarn is guided by virtue of a throat strap, to which are attached, normally, six leather streamers, or reins, which are fixed in a metal ring on the forward portion of the saddle. The reins are of different colors, but one learns them by ring position and not color. Each of the reins attaches to a small ring on the throat strap, and the rings are spaced evenly. Accordingly, the mechanics are simple. One draws on the streamer, or rein, which is attached to the ring most nearly approximating the direction in which one wishes to go. For example, to land or lose altitude, one uses the four-strap which exerts pressure an the four-ring, which is located beneath the throat of the tarn. To rise into flight, or gain altitude, one draws an the one-strap, which exerts pressure on the one-ring, which is located on the back of the tarn's neck. The throat-strap rings, corresponding to the position of the reins on the main saddle ring, are numbered in a clockwise fashion.
The tarn-goad alas is occasionally used in guiding the bird. One strikes the bird in the direction opposite to which one wishes to go, and the bird, withdrawing from the goad, moues in that direction.
(Tarnsman of Gor pg. 55)