YOUR EDITORS ARE PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE THIS, THE FIRST AUTHORIZED TERRAN PRINTING OF ONE OF THE TALES OF JER'OK-TA OF THE ARANDA, THE LEGENDARY FIGURE FROM THE MYTHOS OF THE GEMINI SYSTEM.
THE TALES OF JER'OK, SOMETIMES KNOWN AS LORD OF TWO WORLDS, HAVE BEEN TRANSLITERATED FROM THE TAE BY A TERRAN CONFEDERAL WHOSE IDENTITY IS HELD SECRET BY ORDER OF THE CONFEDERATION. IT IS KNOWN, HOWEVER, THAT THIS TERRAN WAS ONCE THOUGHT LOST IN THE GEMINI SYSTEM WHILE IN CONFEDERATION SERVICE. IT IS BELIEVED CONTACT WAS THEN MADE WITH A HIGH-RANKING OFFICER OF THE GEMINI GALACTIC SERVICE, DIYALAN COMMAND. IN THE COURSE OF SUBSEQUENT YEARS A COMPANIONSHIP IS SAID TO HAVE ENDURED BETWEEN THOSE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE TERRAN AND GEMINI SYSTEMS. AS A RESULT, NUMEROUS TALES FROM THE LEGEND OF JER'OK HAVE BEEN BROUGHT TO THE TERRAN AUDIENCE.
THE AUTHENTICATED TALES OF JER'OK ARE NARRATED IN A STYLE QUAINTLY ARCHAIC TO THE MODERN TERRAN EAR, PRESUMABLY BECAUSE TRANSLITERATED AS DIRECTLY AS THE TWO LANGUAGES PERMIT. FOR ANY WHO REMAIN UNFAMILIAR WITH THE NEWEST MEMBER OF THE CONFEDERATION, GEMINI IS A BINARY SOLAR SYSTEM ASSOCIATED WITH THE LAGOON NEBULA. THERE ARE THREE CLASS M PLANETS, ALL INHABITED BY VARIETIES OF HUMANKIND (HOMO SAPIENS TRANSOLARI). HUMANKIND ARE INDIGENOUS TO BOTH CHIMUR AND ARES AND WERE INTRODUCED CENTURIES AGO ON ASHTAR. ANY STANDARD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF GALACTIC HISTORY WILL PROVIDE ADDITIONAL DATA FOR THE INTERESTED READER.
JER'OK-TA OF THE ARANDA REMAINS A SHADOWY FIGURE IN GEMINI LITERATURE. IF, AS SOME ASSERT, JER'OK IS THE PSEUDONYM OF AN ACTUAL PERSONAGE, HIS TRUE IDENTITY HAS NEVER BEEN REVEALED. HIS HISTORICITY REMAINS IN DOUBT AMONG SERIOUS SCHOLARS, BOTH OF GEMINI AND ELSEWHERE IN THE GALAXY.
TO DATE THE FULL LEGEND OF JER'OK-TA HAS NOT BEEN COMPILED, AND NO CHRONOLOGY OF THE SALIENT EVENTS OF HIS LIFE HAS BEEN RELIABLY ESTABLISHED. THERE IS SOME SUSPICION THAT MANY EXPLOITS OF LESSER HEROES MAY BE MISTAKENLY ATTRIBUTED TO THE JER'OK CANON. NEVERTHELESS, THERE IS SOME CONSENSUS AMONG SCHOLARS: JER'OK WAS BORN OF NOBLE CHIMURIAN PARENTS SOMEHOW MAROONED ON ASHTAR'S LARGEST CONTINENT. SOME STUDENTS CLAIM HIS FATHER WAS TUATHAN AND PERHAPS EVEN OF THE HOUSE OF THE HIGH KING. THE INFANT JER'OK WAS ORPHANED ON ASHTAR. THERE ARE HINTS OF MURDER AND EVEN TREASON BY A MEMBER OF THE FAMILY IN THE DEATHS OF THEN-LORD AND LADY "CHARWICK."
JER'OK'S OWN FIRST TWENTY YEARS (GEMINI STANDARD) ARE SHROUDED IN MYSTERY. AGAIN ACCORDING TO SCHOLARLY CONSENSUS, HE WAS FOSTERED BY A BAND OF ARANDA, THE PRO-HOMINID "HUNTERFOLK" (PSEUDOHOMO SYLVATI, TENTATIVE) WHOSE EXISTENCE IS WELL DOCUMENTED AND WHOSE PALEOANTHROPOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE HAS BECOME THE RECENT SUBJECT OF MANY POPULAR WORKS OF VARYING QUALITY.
WHATEVER MAY HAVE OCCURRED DURING JER'OK'S INFANCY AND YOUTH, ALL THE VERSIONS OF THE LEGEND BRING HIM TO CHIMUR IN THE COMPANY OF GUY LOCKE, AN OFFICER IN THE DIYALAN COMMAND OF GEMINI'S FLEET. THROUGH THE EFFORTS OF THIS LOCKE, WHOSE HISTORICITY HAS BEEN TENTATIVELY ESTABLISHED, JER'OK EVENTUALLY SUCCEEDED TO THE VENERABLE CHARWICK BARONY OF TUATHA. HIS MARRIAGE TO THE ARENE, AMBER LAXTON, CONNECTS THE JER'OK LEGEND WITH THAT OF THE FOLK-HERO, BLANE LAXTON, SAID TO BE THE FATHER OF AMBER. LAXTON IS KNOWN TO HAVE MET HIS DEATH ON ASHTAR, APTLY KNOWN IN POPULAR PARLANCE AS THE PRIMEVAL PLANET. THE SOLE KNOWN ISSUE OF THE MARRIAGE OF JER'OK AND AMBER IS BEST KNOWN AS BLANE OR SOMETIMES GAREL, SOMETHING OF A LEGENDARY FIGURE HIMSELF.
JER'OK'S "CIVILIZED" ALTER EGO IS KNOWN IN THE LEGEND AS LEEDE SOUTHERLY, LORD CHARWICK. SOME CLAIM HE WAS BELATEDLY NAMED A PRINCE OF THE HUA, AT ONCE INDICATIVE OF HIS HIGH BIRTH AND OF HIS PROFOUND ALIENATION FROM HUMANKIND. IN THE TRADITION OF THE ANCIENT HEROES OF CLASSICAL TERRAN LITERATURE, JER'OK'S GREAT AND UNIQUE STRENGTHS AND HIS FATAL FLAW STEM FROM THE SAME SOURCE: THE SHADOWY EVENTS OF HIS FORMATIVE YEARS.
AT LEAST ACCORDING TO TRADITION, JER'OK FREQUENTLY SERVED THE HIGH KING ON SENSITIVE MISSIONS FOR WHICH HIS UNIQUE PERSONALITY WAS IDEALLY SUITED. UNFORTUNATELY, THAT PERSONALITY ALSO CAUSED MORE THAN ONE ESTRANGEMENT WITH THE THRONE OF CHIMUR. THERE ARE NUMEROUS REFERENCES TO PROLONGED DISAPPEARANCES. THERE ARE EVEN HINTS OF TREASON, NOT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN HIS LINEAGE.
IT IS UNIVERSALLY HELD THAT JER'OK ONCE STOOD TRIAL FOR HIS LIFE, APPARENTLY AS A RESULT OF SOME BETRAYAL, POSSIBLY BY AMBER BUT MORE LIKELY BY LOCKE OR THE HIGH KING HIMSELF. THE GOVERNMENT OF CHIMUR IS NOTABLY RETICENT WHEN APPROACHED WITH EVEN THE MOST SERIOUS ENQUIRIES ATTEMPTING TO VERIFY OR REFUTE THE EXISTENCE OF ANY ACTUAL PEER WHO MIGHT BE ASSOCIATED WITH THE JER'OK LEGEND.
EVENTUALLY JER'OK DISAPPEARED INTO THE UNEXPLORED JUNGLES OF ASHTAR. TRADITION HOLDS THAT HE MAY STILL LIVE, AN IMMORTAL, BUT CERTAIN OF THE RECOGNIZED SCHOLARS HOLD
THAT HE WAS SACRIFICED TO THE GODS OF DALON. (SEE DALON SUBTITLE UNDER ASHTAR ENTRIES IN STANDARD ENCYCLOPEDIAS OF THE GEMINI SYSTEM.) THERE IS EVEN LESS AGREEMENT ON THE FATE OF AMBER.
REAL OR LEGEND, THE ULTIMATE FATE OF JER'OK-TA CANNOT NOW BE DEFINITELY ESTABLISHED, IN PART BECAUSE OF THE LACK OF ANY ACCEPTABLE CHRONOLOGY PLACING HIM IN GEMINI HISTORY. UNTIL SUCH TIME AS HERETOFORE-UNDISCOVERED MANUSCRIPTS ARE REVEALED AND AUTHENTICATED, THE NUMEROUS GAPS IN THE LEGEND _ OR LIFE _ OF JER'OK MUST REMAINED UNFILLED EXCEPT THROUGH THE QUESTIONABLE CONTRIBUTIONS OF THE MORE TRIVIAL POPULAR WORKS OF ROMANTIC FICTION. IN ONE SENSE THESE GAPS AND, INDEED, THE ULTIMATE FATE OF THE PRINCIPALS ARE INCIDENTAL TO THE LEGEND OF JER'OK-TA, FOR THE TRUE ESSENCE OF THE LEGEND LIES IN THE STRENGTH OF THIS FERAL MAN'S CHARACTER AND IN THE BOND OF LOVE THAT UNITES THIS LATTER-DAY WILD MAN WITH HIS TRUE "MATE".
IN THIS ADVENTURE FROM THE LEGEND OF THE LORD OF TWO WORLDS JER'OK MEETS HIS DESTINY IN A FINAL ESTRANGEMENT FROM THE THRONE OF CHIMUR'S HIGH KING AND FROM ALL THINGS OF GEMINI'S CIVILIZATIONS.
The Admiral stared at me over the rim of his beaker. He took one more swallow of the ancient Terran brew and paused. But he did not speak. It was not the first time I have asked the question. And it always makes him uncomfortable. Usually he finds one way or another to avoid answering. Not that I have any real complaint.
From the Journals of the Terran
As I waited for the Admiral's narrative to begin, I looked about the cantina he had chosen for our meeting. It was a friendly place, if a little overdone. A large weathered board hung outside with a crude representation of Terra's extinct horse, notifying all who would pass within that the establishment was the Pub of Murphy's White Horse. For all the excessive quaintness, the place was crowded, and, like the Admiral, I enjoy the flavor of ancient Terra that filled the warm and crowded room.
This morning the Admiral and I successfully concluded our mission together. This is only the second opportunity the Admiral and I have had to spend a portion of our limited free time in modern Inland here on Terra. The whole atmosphere has been highly conducive to a lengthy discourse on Jer'ok and his mate (or as he sometimes named her, his lady-wife), Amber, an Arene who first met him during the ill-fated socioanthropology expedition to Ashlar that killed her father, Mentor Blane Laxton.
We ordered another round. As the Admiral collected his thoughts, I found myself remembering highlights from the legend as I have earlier recorded for transliteration.
The first time the Admiral and I met, he had told me of Jer'ok's background and how he had progressed from pro-hominid to Tuathan gentleman with a claim not only to the Tuathan throne but also to that of the Chumarian High King himself. Only the lost years on primitive Ashlar held the "Lord of Two Worlds" from fulfilling his birthright as a Prince of the Hua – that and a decided preference for the ways of his childhood and youth.
As a result of his unique talents Jer'ok's enemies were legion. Through it all Sir Leede remained a taciturn man who never cared to make public his service to the planet of his birth or to the throne of Chimur. This trait was most welcome to Lord Charwick's sovereign. I have always felt the high king took advantage . . . .
But I was doing it again. In my mind Jer'ok always becomes very real, despite the Admiral's inevitable protestations that he is merely legend. Those protestations too often take the annoying form of sardonic, if not blatantly sarcastic humor, whenever I have persisted in a demand for explanations or detail unlikely to be of the fabric from which legends are woven.
Always in the past, whenever I inquire about the present whereabouts of Jer'ok and Amber, the Admiral becomes uncomfortable. Sometimes he laughs at my earnest queries, but it is a laughter that never seems quite to ring true. Often, it seems I detect an edge of underlying sadness. For whatever reason, each time in the past, the Admiral has put me off with another of Jer'ok's seemingly countless adventures. This time, though, I think it may be different. Tonight the Admiral eyed me quite soberly, as though he had reached a decision. This time I have reason to believe he will reveal to me the destiny of the Lord of Two Worlds.
"Jer'ok has gone the way of all legends," he began. The Admiral tossed off the last of his drink. He settled more comfortably and absently tended his pipe before continuing, a habit I still find mildly eccentric.
"Jer'ok would not have known the face, but the name would have brought a snarl to his lips. Derk Aliyan was distantly related to the late Larin Aliyan by blood, but was his brother by temperament. . . . "
"Larin Aliyan," I actually choked on my own drink. "Wasn't he the Kryptane who . . . "
"Yes, he was," the Admiral said.
The sounds of the cantina drifted into the void left by our sudden silence as I thought of the implications for Jer'ok and Amber. Larin Aliyan had been an adept agent of his homeland. He had first encountered Jer'ok of the Hunterfolk when the latter had assumed the role of ally to the Sanaca. That was before Jer'ok had accepted his Tuathan title. Few knew his identity then. The bitter archenemies were to meet on several other occasions before Jer'ok ultimately killed the unprincipled felon. But not before both Jer'ok and his mate had more than once nearly died at his hands.
I felt the Admiral’s regard as the bitter memories sped through my mind. The fact that this is the one part of the legend he had never related in any detail was all too suggestive. I looked up to meet his eyes. To my dismay my colleague's carefully schooled features did not quite succeed in concealing what I still believe was grief. Once again I have cause to wonder what his part in this – legend – might be.
"What happened?" I asked, conveniently forgetting that he had been in the process of telling me just that when I interrupted.
His voice dropped to a funereal whisper currently popular in the entertainments we carry on board ship: "There is every reason to believe that Larix Aliyan, through his kin, Derk, reached from the grave to destroy the Lord of Two Worlds."
My companion grinned and I almost laughed, but somehow the tone did not sound at all extravagant. I actually sensed the hair at the back of my neck bristling. Deliberate melodramatics aside, I know the Admiral too well. Even in the telling of the legend of Jer'ok he is more inclined to understatement than to dramatics. (I must confess to some elaboration on my part in the transliterations.)
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