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Book Quotes Regarding Tarns


      "The Goreans believe, incredibly enough, that the capacity to master a tarn is innate and that some men possess the 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.
      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.
      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 it's 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 mostly resembles is the hawk, with the exception that it has a crest somewhat of the nature of a jay's.
      Tarns, who are vicious things, are seldom more than half tamed and, like their diminutive earthly counterparts, the hawks, are carnivorous. It is not unknown for a tarn to attack and devour his own rider."

Tarnsman of Gor, pgs 51 & 52

      "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 beak to the sky and screamed, lifting and shaking his wings. His 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!"
      I threw my right arm up to protect myself, the goad, attached by it's strap to my wrist, flying wildly. I seized it, using it like a puny stick, striking at the great snapping beak that was trying to seize me, as if I were a scrap of food on the high, flat plate of the cylinder's roof. He lunged twice, and I struck it twice. He drew back his head again, spreading his beak, preparing to slash downward again. In that instant I switched the tarn-goad to the "on" position, and when the great beak flashed downward again, I struck it viciously, trying to force it away from me. The effect was startling: there was the sudden bright flash of yellow glittering light, the splash of sparks, and a scream of pain and rage from the tarn as he immediately beat his wings, lifting himself out of my reach in a rush of air that nearly forced me over the edge of the roof. I was on my hands and knees, trying to get back on my feet, too near the edge. The tarn was circling the cylinder, uttering piercing cries; then he began to fly away from the city.
      Without knowing why, and thinking I was better off to have the thing in retreat, I seized my tarn whistle and blew it's shrill note. The giant bird seemed almost to shudder in the air, and then he reeled, losing altitude, gaining it again. If he had not been simply a winged beast, I would have believed him to be struggling with himself, a creature locked inwardly in mental torture. It was the wild nature of the tarn, the call of the distant hills, the open sky, against the puny conditioning he had been subjected too, against the will of tiny men with their private objectives, their elementary psychology of stimulus and response, their training wires and tarn-goads."

Tarnsman of Gor, pgs 53-55

      "At last, with a wild cry of rage, the tarn returned to the cylinder. I seized the short mounting ladder swinging wildly from the saddle and climbed it, seating myself in the saddle, fastening the broad purple belt that would keep me from tumbling to my death.
      The tarn is guided by virtue of a throat strap, to which is attached, normally, six leather streamers, or reins, which are fixed to 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 on the four-ring, which is located beneath the throat of the tarn. To rise into flight, or gain altitude, one draws on 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 also 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, moves in that direction. There is very little precision in this method, however, because the reactions of the bird are merely instinctive, and he may not withdraw in the exact tangent desired. Moreover, there is danger in using the goad excessively. It tends to become less effective if often used, and the rider is then at the mercy of the tarn."

Tarnsman of Gor, pgs 55 & 56

      "That tarn," he said, "was bred for you, specially selected from the best broods of the finest of our war tarns. It was with you in mind that the keepers of the tarns worked, breeding and crossbreeding, training and retraining."
      "I thought," I said, "on the roof it would kill me. It seems the tarn keepers do not train their prodigies as well as they might."
      "No!" cried the Older Tarl, "The training is perfect. The spirit of the tarn must not be broken, not that of a war tarn. He is trained to the point where it is necessary for a strong master to decide whether he shall serve him or slay him. You will come to know your tarn, and he will come to know you. You will be as one in the sky, the tarn the body, you the mind and will. You will live in an armed truce with your tarn. If you become weak or helpless, he will kill you. As long as you remain strong, his master, he will serve you, respect you, obey you." He paused. "We were not sure of you, your father and myself, but today I am sure. You have mastered a tarn, a war tarn. In your veins must flow the blood of your father, once Ubar, War Chieftain, now Administrator of Ko-ro-ba, this City of Cylinders."

Tarnsman of Gor, pg 58

      "Where is the tarn?" I repeated, more interested at the moment in the fate of my fierce mount than in the ridiculous piece of rock I had risked my life to obtain. "I don't know," she said, "nor do I care." "What happened?" I wanted to know. . .
      . . ."I was trying to bring the tarn back to Ar," said the girl. "I was never on a tarn before. I made mistakes. It knew it. There was no tarn-goad." I gestured, and Nar removed his mandibles from the girl's throat.
      "We were somewhere over the swamp forest," said the girl, "when we flew into a flock of wild tarns. My tarn attacked the leader of the flock."
      She shuddered at the memory, and I pitied her for what must have been a horrifying experience, lashed helpless to the saddle of a giant tarn reeling in a death struggle for the mastery of a flock, high over the trees of the swamp forest.
      "My tarn killed the other," said the girl," and followed it to the ground, where he tore it to pieces." She shook with the memory. "I slipped free and ran under the wing and hid in the trees. After a few minutes, his beak and talons wet with blood and feathers, your tarn took flight. I last saw him at the head of the tarn flock." That was that, I thought. The tarn had turned wild, all his instincts triumphant over the tarn whistle, the memory of men.
      "And the Home Stone of Ar?" I asked. "In the saddle pack," she said, confirming my expectation. I had locked the pack when I had placed the home stone inside, and the pack is an integral part of the tarn saddle. When she had spoken her voice had burned with shame, and I sensed the humiliation she felt at having failed to save the Home Stone. So now the tarn was gone, returned to his natural wild state, the Home Stone was in the saddle pack, and I had failed, and the daughter of the Ubar had failed, and we stood facing one another on a green knoll in the swamp forest of Ar."

Tarnsman of Gor, pgs 88 & 89


      "In several cases, tarns have devoured their own masters, and it is not unusual for them, when loosed for feeding, to attack a human being with the same predatory zest they bestow on the yellow antelope, the tabuk, their favorite kill, or the ill-tempered, cumbersome bosk, a shaggy, long-haired wild ox of the Gorean plains."

Outlaw of Gor, pg 125

      "Tabuk!" I cried to the plumed giant. "Tabuk!"
      The tabuk is the most common Gorean antelope, a small graceful animal, one-horned and yellow, that haunts the Ka-la-na thickets of the planet and occasionally ventures daintily into its meadows in search of berries and salt. It is also one of the favorite kills of a tarn.
      "The cry of "Tabuk!" is used by the tarnsman on long flights when time is precious, and he does not wish to dismount and free the bird to find prey. When he spots a tabuk in fields below, or, indeed, any animal in the prey range of the tarn, he may cry "Tabuk!" and this is the signal that the tarn may hunt. It makes it's kill, devours it, and the flight resumes, the tarnsman never leaving the saddle."

Outlaw of Gor, pg 126

      "The Tabuk-cry is the only word to which a tarn is trained to react. Beyond this it is all a matter of the tarn-straps and the tarn-goad. I bitterly criticized myself for not having conditioned the bird to respond to voice commands. Now of all the times, without a harness and saddle, such a training would have been invaluable.
      A wild thought occurred to me. When I had borne Talena home from Ar to Ko-ro-ba I had tried to teach her the reins of the tarn-harness and help her, at least with me at hand, to learn to master the brute.
      In the whistling wind, as the need arose, I had called the straps to her. "One-strap!", "Six-strap!" and so on, and she would draw the strap. That was the only association between the voice of man and the arrangements of the strap harness which the tarn had known. The bird, of course, could not have been conditioned in so short a time, nor for that matter had it even been my intention to condition the bird, for I had spoken only for the benefit of Talena. Moreover, even if it had been the case that the bird had been inadvertently conditioned in that short of time, it was not possible that it would still retain the memory of that casual imprinting, which had taken place more than six years ago.
      "Six-strap!" I cried. The great bird veered to the left and began to climb slightly.
      "Two-strap!" I called, and the bird now veered to the right, still climbing and at the same angle.
      "Four-strap!" I called, and the bird began to drop toward the earth, preparing to land.
      "One-strap!" I laughed, delighted, bursting with pleasure, and the plumed giant, that titan of Gor, began to climb steeply.
      I said no more and the bird leveled off, its wings striking the air in great rhythmical beats, alternating occasionally with a long, soaring, shallow glide. I watched the pasangs flow by below, and saw Tharna disappear in the distance.
      Spontaneously, without thinking, I threw my arms around the neck of the great creature and hugged it. It's wings smote on, unresponsive, paying me no attention. I laughed, and slapped it twice on the neck. It was, of course, only another of the beasts of Gor, but I cared for it. Forgive me if I say that I was happy, as I should not have been in the circumstances, but my feelings are those that a tarnsman would understand. I know of a few sensations so splendid, so godlike, as sharing the flight of a tarn.
      I was one of those men, a tarnsman, who would prefer the saddle of one of those fierce, predatory titans to the throne of a Ubar.
      Once one has been a tarnsman, it is said, one must return again and again to the giant, savage birds. I think that this is a true saying. One knows that one must master them or be devoured. One knows that they are not dependable, that they are vicious. A tarnsman knows that they may turn upon him without warning. Yet the tarnsman chooses no other life. He continues to mount the birds, to climb to their saddle with a heart filled with joy, to draw up the one-strap and, with a cry of exultation, to urge the monster aloft. More than the gold of a hundred merchants, more than the countless cylinders of Ar, he treasures those sublime, lonely moments, high over the earth, cut by the wind, he and the bird as one creature, alone, loftily, swift, free. Let it be said simply I was pleased, for I was on tarnback again."

Outlaw of Gor, pgs 129-131

      "Do not fear," I said and grimly strode toward the perch where I knew there would be the great black tarn, the majestic tarn of Ko-ro-ba, my Ubar of the Skies.
      Approaching him we heard a wild tarn scream, of hate and challenge, and we stopped.
      I beheld in its compound, strewn about its perch, more than five men, or the remains of such.
      "Yellows," said one of the men with the crossbow, "who tried to slay the bird."
      "It is a War Tarn," said another. I saw the blood on the beak of the bird, its round black eyes, gleaming wild. "Beware," said one of men, "even if you be Gladius of Cos, for the tarn has tasted blood."
      I saw that even the steel shod talons of the bird were bloodied. Watching us warily it stood with one set of talons hooked over the body of a Yellow. Then, not taking its eyes from us, it put down it's beak and tore an arm from the thing beneath its talons.
      "Do not approach," said one of the men. I stood back. It is not wise to interfere with the feeding of a tarn."

Assassin of Gor, pg 351

      "I stepped toward the great black tarn. It was at the foot of its perch. it was chained by one foot. The run of the chain was perhaps twenty-five feet. I approached slowly, holding my hands open, saying nothing. It eyed me.
      "The bird does not know him," said one of the men, he who had suggested I might be a spy of the Yellows. "Be still," whispered the leader of the group. "He is a fool," whispered another.
      "That," agreed the leader, "or Gladius of Cos." The tarn, the great, fierce saddle bird of Gor, is a savage beast, a monster predator of the high, blue skies of this harsh world; at best it is scarce half domesticated; even tarnsmen seldom approach them without weapons and tarn-goad; it is regarded madness to approach one that is feeding; the instinct of the tarn, like those of many predators, are to protect and defend a kill, to the death; Tarn Keepers, with their goads and training wires, have lost their lives with even young birds, trying to alter or correct this covetousness of its quarry; the winged majestic carnivores of Gor, her tarns, do not care to share their kills, until perhaps they have gorged their fill and carry then remnants of their repast to the encliffed nests of the Thentis or Voltai Ranges, there to drop meat into the gaping beaks of white tarnlings, the size of ponies.
      "Stand back!" warned the leader of the men. I stepped forward, until I stood within the ambit of the tarn's chain. I spoke softly. "My Ubar of the Skies," I said," you know me." I approached more closely, holding my hands open, not hurrying.
      The bird regarded me. In its beak there hung the body of a Yellow. "Come back!" cried one of the crossbowmen, and I was pleased that it was he who had thought I might be a spy for the Yellows. Even he did not care for what might now occur.
      "We must ride, Ubar of the Skies," said I, approaching the bird. I took the body of the man from its beak and laid it to one side. The bird did not attempt to strike me. I heard the men behind me gasp with wonder."

Assassin of Gor, pgs 352 & 353

      "We saw tarnsmen, in flight, riding down running girls, the tarns no more than a few feet from the grass, beating their wings screaming.
      Often a tarn would clutch the girl in its talons and alight. The tarnsman would then leap from the saddle and force the bird's talons from it's prey, binding the hysterical girl's wrists and fastening her to a saddle ring, then remounting and hunting another. One man had four girls bound to his saddle. Another would fly low and to the side of the running girl, and a beat of the tarn's great wings would send her rolling and sprawling for a dozen yards across the grass. Before she could arise, the tarnsman would be upon her, binding her. Another would strike the victim in the small of her back with the butt of his spear, felling her, numbing her, for the binding fiber. Others, flying low and to the side, roped the girls as they ran, using their slender ropes of braided leather, familiar to all tarnsman. Such warriors to not even deign to dismount to bind their fair prisoners. They haul them to the saddle, in flight, there securing them, stripping them and fastening them to the binding rings.
      It is a favorite sport of tarnsmen to streak their tarn over an enemy city and, in such a fashion, capture an enemy girl from one of the city's high bridges, carrying her off, while the citizens scream in fury, shaking their fists at the bold one. In moments her garments flutter down among the towers and she is his, bound on her back across the saddle before him, his prize. If he is a young tarnsman, and she is his first girl, he will take her back to his own city, and display her for his family and friends, and she will dance for him, and serve him, at the Collaring Feast.
      If he is a brutal tarnsman, he may take her rudely, should he wish, above the clouds, above her own city, before even his tarn has left its walls. If he should be even more brutal, but more subtly so, more to be feared by a woman, he will, in the long flight back to his city, caress her into submission, until she has no choice but to yield herself to him, wholly, as a surrendered slave girl. When he then unbinds her from the saddle rings, she, so devastatingly subdued, well knows herself his."

Captive of Gor, pgs 227 & 228

      "I was gagged and hooded, utilizing the devices of the ball-gag, the strap, the leather covering, the buckles and lock, as I had been when first leaving the house of my training. There were very good reasons for this, as I later learned. I was to be transported by tarn basket. When a girl cannot see and cannot communicate, it is much easier to manage her. I was taken out into the courtyard, gagged, hooded, and manacled. Then I was put on my belly in the dirt. I knew nothing about what was going on. Then I heard a succession of wild, startling sounds, like the snapping of great sheets and it seemed I was in the midst of a whirlwind, mad, choking dust swirling up about me. I tried to rise, but a man's foot pressed me back to the dirt. I also heard a sudden, shrill, terrifying, piercing scream. It was not a human noise, but the cry of something terribly large and fierce. It could only be, I conjectured, some sort of giant bird. I lay trembling in the dirt, helpless, the man's foot on my back. I would learn it was indeed a large bird, one called a "tarn." And, I would later learn, it was not even a warrior's mount, bred for swiftness and aggressiveness, a war tarn, but a mere draft tarn. I had been gagged, and hooded, and manacled, and put on my belly, because the first sight of such a beast, at close hand, I was told, not unoften, in its size and ferocity, and terribleness, produces a miasma of terror in a female, and she is unwilling to even approach it, whips being often necessary."

Dancer of Gor, pgs 147 & 148

Additional reading: An aerial battle from the books - "Her Price is Steel!"