Here are relevant references from the Books where Kal-da is mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
In wandering through the streets, I came at last to a squat portal in the wall of a cylinder. On each side of the door, in a small niche sheltered from the drizzle, there sputtered the yellow flame of a small tharlarion oil lamp. By this flickering light I could read the faded lettering on the door; KAL-DA SOLD HERE.
Kal-da is a hot drink, almost scalding, made of diluted Ka-la-na wine, mixed with citrus juices and stinging spices. I did not care much for this mouth-burning concoction, but it was popular with some of the lower castes, particularly those who performed strenuous manual labor. I expected its popularity was due more to its capacity to warm a man and stick to his ribs, and to its cheapness (a poor grade of Ka-la-na wine being used in its brewing) than to any gustatory excellence. But I reasoned on this night of all nights, this cold, depressing wet night, a cup of Kal-da might go well indeed. Moreover, where there was Kal-da there should be bread and meat. I thought of the yellow Gorean bread, baked in the shape of round, flat loaves, fresh and hot; my mouth watered for a tabuk steak or, perhaps, if I were lucky, a slice of roast tarsk, the formidable six-tusked wild boar of Gor's temperate forests. I smiled to myself, felt the sack of coins in my tunic, bent down and pushed the door open.
I descended three steps, and found myself in a warm, dimly lit, low-ceilinged room, cluttered with the low tables common on Gor, around which huddled groups of five or six of the gray-robed men of Tharna. The murmur of conversation ceased as I entered. The men regarded me. There seemed to be no warriors in the room. None of the men appeared to be armed.
I must have seemed strange to them, a scarlet-clad warrior, bearing weapons, suddenly entering, a man from another city unexpectedly in their midst.
"What is your business?" asked the proprietor of the place, a small, thin, bald-headed man wearing a short-sleeved gray tunic and slick black apron. He did not approach, but remained behind the wooden counter, slowly, deliberately wiping the puddles of spilled Kal-da from its stained surface.
I had hardly settled myself behind the table when the proprietor had placed a large, fat pot of steaming Kal-da before me. It almost burned my hands to lift the pot. I took a long, burning swig of the brew and though, on another occasion, I might have thought it foul, tonight it sang through my body like the bubbling fire it was, a sizzling, brutal irritant that tasted so bad and yet charmed me so much I had to laugh.
And laugh I did.
The men of Tharna who were crowded in that place looked upon me as though I might be mad. Disbelief, lack of comprehension, was written on their features. This man had laughed. I wondered if men laughed often in Tharna.
It was a dreary place, but the Kal-da had already made it appear somewhat more promising.
"Talk, laugh!" I said to the men of Tharna, who had said not a word since my entrance. I glared at them. I took another long swig of Kal-da and shook my head to throw the swirling fire from eyes and brain. I seized my spear from the wall and pounded it on the table.
"If you cannot talk," I said, "if you cannot laugh, then sing!"
They were convinced they were in the presence of one demented. It was, I suppose, the Kal-da, but I like to think, too, it was just impatience with the males of Tharna, the intemperate expression of my exasperation with this gray, dismal place, its glum, solemn, listless inhabitants. The men of Tharna refused to budge from their silence.
"Do we not speak the Language?" I asked, referring to the beautiful mother tongue spoken in common by most of the Gorean cities. "Is the Language not yours?" I demanded.
"It is," mumbled one of the men.
"Then why do you not speak it?" I challenged.
The man was silent.
The proprietor arrived with hot bread, honey, salt and, to my delight, a huge, hot roasted chunk of tarsk. I crammed my mouth with food and washed it down with another thundering draught of Kal-da.
"Proprietor!" I cried, pounding on the table with my spear.
"Yes, Warrior," cried he.
"Where are the Pleasure Slaves?" I demanded.
The proprietor seemed stunned.
"I would see a woman dance," I said.
The men of Tharna seemed horrified. One whispered, "There are no Pleasure Slaves in Tharna."
"Alas!" I cried, "not a bangle in all Tharna!"
Two or three of the men laughed. At last I had touched them.
"Those creatures that float in the street behind masks of silver," I asked, "are they truly women?"
"Truly," said one of the men, restraining a laugh.
"I doubt it," I cried. "Shall I fetch one, to see if she will dance for us?"
The men laughed.
I had pretended to rise to my feet, and the proprietor, with horror, had shoved me back down, and rushed for more Kal-da. His strategy was to pour so much Kal-da down my throat that I would be unable to do anything but roll under the table and sleep. Some of the men crowded around the table now.
"Where are you from?" asked one eagerly.
"I have lived all my life in Tharna," I told them.
There was a great roar of laughter.
Soon, pounding the time on the table with the butt of my spear, I was leading a raucous round of songs, mostly wild drinking songs, warrior songs, songs of the encampment and march, but too I taught them songs I had learned in the caravan of Mintar the Merchant, so long ago, when I had first loved Talena, songs of love, of loneliness, of the beauties of one's cities, and of the fields of Gor.
The Kal-da flowed free that night and thrice the oil in the hanging tharlarion lamps needed to be renewed by the sweating, joyful proprietor of the Kal-da shop. Men from the streets, dumbfounded by the sounds which came from within, pressed through the squat door and soon had joined in. Some warriors entered, too, and instead of attempting to restore order had incredibly taken off their helmets, filled them with Kal-da and sat cross-legged with us, to sing and drink their fill.
The lights in the tharlarion lamps had finally flickered and gone out, and the chill light of dawn at last bleakly illuminated the room. Many of the men had left, more had perhaps fallen on the tables, or lay along the sides of the room. Even the proprietor slept, his head across his folded arms on the counter, behind which stood the great Kal-da brewing pots, at last empty and cold. I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. There was a hand on my shoulder.
"Wake up," demanded a voice.
"He's the one," said another voice, one I seemed to remember.
I struggled to my feet, and confronted the small, lemon-faced conspirator.
"We've been looking for you," said the other voice, which I now saw belonged to a burly guardsman of Tharna. Behind him in their blue helmets stood three others.
"He's the thief," said the lemon-faced man, pointing to me. His hand darted to the table where the bag of coins lay, half spilled out in the dried puddles of Kal-da.
Thus borne aloft, from street to street, in the midst of joyous shouting, weapons raised on all sides in salute, my ears ringing with the plowing song, once a song of the freeholds of Tharna, long since supplanted by the Great Farms, I found myself brought to that fateful Kal-da shop I remembered so well, where I had dined in Tharna and had awakened to the treachery of Ost. It had become a headquarters of the revolution, perhaps because men of Tharna recalled that it was there they had learned to sing.
There, standing before the low doorway, I looked once more upon the squat, powerful figure of Kron, of the Caste of Metal Workers. His great hammer was slung from his belt and his blue eyes glistened with happiness. The huge, scarred hands of a metal worker were held out to me.
Beside him, to my joy, I saw the impudent features of Andreas, that sweep of black hair almost obliterating his forehead. Behind Andreas, in the dress of a free woman, unveiled, her throat no longer encircled by the collar of a state slave, I saw the breathless, radiant Linna of Tharna.
Andreas bounded past the men at the door and rushed to me. He seized me by the hands and dragged me to the with joy.
"Welcome to Tharna!" said he. "Welcome to Tharna!"
"Yes," said Kron, only a step behind him, seizing my arm. "Welcome to Tharna!"
I ducked my head and shoved open the heavy wooden door of the Kal-da shop. The sign KAL-DA SOLD HERE had been repainted in bright letters. Also, smeared across the letters, written with a finger, was the defiant rallying call of the rebellion "Sa'ng-Fori."
I descended the low, wide steps to the interior. This time the shop was crowded. It was hard to see where to step. It was wild and noisy. It might have been a Paga Tavern of Ko-ro-ba or Ar, not a simple Kal-da shop of Tharna. My ears were assailed by the din, the jovial uproar of men no longer afraid to laugh or shout.
The shop itself was now hung with perhaps half a hundred lamps and the walls were bright with the caste colors of the men who drank there. Thick rugs had been thrown under the low tables and were stained in innumerable places with spilled Kal-da.
Behind the counter the thin, bald-headed proprietor, his forehead glistening, his slick black apron stained with spices, juices and wine, busily worked his long mixing paddle in a vast pot of bubbling Kal-da. My nose wrinkled. There was no mistaking the smell of brewing Kal-da.
From behind three or four of the low tables, to the left of the counter, a band of sweating musicians sat happily cross-legged on the rug, somehow producing from those unlikely pipes and strings and drums and disks and wires the ever intriguing, wild, enchanting beautiful barbaric melodies of Gor.
I wondered at this for the Caste of Musicians had been, like the Caste of Poets, exiled from Tharna. Theirs, like the Caste of Poets, had been a caste regarded by the sober masks of Tharna as not belonging in a city of serious and dedicated folk, for music, like Paga and song, can set men's hearts aflame and when men's hearts are aflame it is not easy to know where the flame may spread.
As I entered the room the men rose to their feet and shouted and lifted their cups in salute.
Almost as one they cried out, "Tal, Warrior!"
"Tal, Warriors!" I responded, raising my arm, addressing them all by the title of my caste, for I knew that in their common cause each was a warrior. It had been so determined at the Mines of Tharna.
Behind me down the stairs came Kron and Andreas, followed by Lara and Linna.
I wondered what impression the Kal-da shop would have on the true Tatrix of Tharna.
Kron seized my arm and guided me to a table near the center of the room. Holding Lara by the hand I followed him. Her eyes were stunned but like a child's were wide with curiosity. She had not known the men of Tharna could be like this.
From time to time as one of them regarded her too boldly she dropped her head and blushed.
At last I sat cross-legged behind the low table and Lara, in the fashion of the Gorean woman, knelt beside me, resting on her heels.
When I had entered the music had briefly stopped but now Kron clapped his hands twice and the musicians turned to their instruments.
"Free Kal-da for all!" cried Kron, and when the proprietor, who knew the codes of his caste, tried to object, Kron flung a golden tarn disk at him. Delightedly the man ducked and scrambled to pick it up from the floor.
"Gold is more common here than bread," said Andreas, sitting near us.
To be sure the food on the low tables was not plentiful and was coarse but one could not have known this from the good cheer of the men in the room. It might have been to them food from the tables of the Priest-Kings themselves. Even the foul Kal-da to them, reveling in the first intoxication of their freedom, was the rarest and most potent of beverages.
Other girls now appeared among the tables, clad only in a camisk and a silver collar, and sullenly, silently, began to serve the Kal-da which Kron had ordered. Each carried a heavy pot of the foul, boiling brew and, cup by cup, replenished the cups of the men.
Some of them looked enviously at Lara, others with hatred. Their look said to her why are you not clad as we are, why do you not wear a collar and serve as we serve?
To my surprise Lara removed her cloak and took the pot of Kal-da from one of the girls and began to serve the men.
Some of the girls looked at her in gratitude for she was free and in doing this she showed them that she did not regard herself as above them.
"That," I said to Kron, pointing out Lara, "is the Tatrix of Tharna."
As Andreas looked upon her he said softly, "She is truly a Tatrix."
Liana arose and now began to help with the serving.
When Kron had tired of watching the dancers he clapped his hands twice and with a discordant jangle of their ankle bells they fled from the room.
Kron lifted his cup of Kal-da and faced me. "Andreas told me you intended to enter the Sardar," he said. "I see that you did not do so."
Kron meant that if I had entered the Sardar I would not have returned.
And the men watched the girl quietly pouring the Kal-da, willingly sharing the labors of the other women of Tharna. It was not what one would have expected of a Tatrix.
"She is worthy to rule," I said.
"She is what we fought against," said Kron.
"No," I said, "you fought against the cruel ways of Tharna. You fought for your pride and your freedom, not against that girl."
"We fought against the golden mask of Tharna," shouted Kron, pounding his fist on the table.
The sudden noise attracted the attention of the entire room and all eyes turned toward us. Lara, her back graceful and straight, set down the pot of Kal-da and came and stood before Kron.
"I no longer wear the golden mask," she said.
And Kron looked on the beautiful girl who stood before him with such grace and dignity, with no trace of pride or cruelty, or fear.
"My Tatrix," he whispered.
"I thought," said Petrucchio, "that you two were going toward Pseudopolis, not back the other way."
"We were," said Chino, "but Lecchio here forgot a ball of yarn, having left it in a Kal-da shop."
It was here, on the road, we would stay for the night.
I was looking forward to meat and kal-da.
Later, after supper, and a cup of hot kal-da, this doing much to restore my spirits and reconcile me to the day's travails, rather than immediately retiring to a damp tarpaulin and the hard, chill, soaked boards of a wagon, a respite to which I had earlier looked forward, I took it upon myself to make the rounds of the march.
This wine is unworthy to celebrate our understanding. Too, could I really suppose that the Admiral of the Fleet of the Farther Islands, the First Captain of Sybaris, High Officer of Cos, could not tell the difference between a decent wine and a ka-la-na worthy at best to fortify common kal-da?
"The kal-da is now drinkable," said Clitus, following a careful sip. We had set the three mugs beside us on the bench, waiting for them to cool. I had had my first cup of kal-da in far Tharna, long ago.
"Perhaps over a mug of kal-da?" he said.
"Not paga?" I asked.
"Kal-da," he said.
I found his insistence interesting. To be sure, it was early afternoon, and many paga taverns would not yet be open. Kal-da shops do tend to open much earlier, many even serving a day's first meal. Still, kal-da shops are patronized largely by the lower castes. Could it be then that he did not wish to be observed by, say, another scribe when conversing with me? Kal-da shops, incidentally, like paga taverns, serve a variety of foods, not just the beverage they are named for. Kal-da itself, a drink usually served uncomfortably hot, at least in my opinion, is made from diluted ka-la-na wine, usually of an inferior grade, mixed with citrus juices, such as those of larmas and tospits, and strong, often fiery, spices. It is a robust, fortifying drink popular with manual laborers. Some individuals of the higher castes, both men and women, keep some on hand, presumably for medicinal purposes.
The nearest kal-da shop to the Garden of the Hinrabians was on South Market Street, the Golden Tospit. It was a small, neat place with, at least at this time of day, few customers. My host, though I was apparently paying for the kal-da, selected a small table toward the back of the shop, about which we sat, cross-legged. The table, I noted, would not be visible from outside, from the street.
I had gone to the interior counter of the shop and placed two tarsk-bits on the yellow, enameled coin plate resting on the worn, brown, stained surface. A bit later the kal-da master, a short, fat fellow who seemed to know my companion, emerged from a side door, perhaps having heard the click of the coins in the plate and dipped his ladle into the simmering pot behind the counter and filled two mugs with the brew.
I now, carefully, placed the mug before me.
It would take time to cool.
"No serving slaves," I said.
"This place is small," he said. "And slaves cost money, and they must be fed and kept, even clothed, if one wishes to do so."
"Still," I said.
"This is a kal-da shop," he said, "not a paga tavern."
"Some kal-da shops have serving slaves," I said.
"The Golden Tospit," he said, "is noted for the quality of its kal-da."
"I am sure it is," I said.
He then took a careful but clear drought of the drink. As he lifted his mug of thick brew to me, pleasantly, I, too, given the seemingly obvious demands of convivial courtesy, tempered with a certain element of circumspection, joined him.
"Excellent," he said.
I supposed there was a time and place for kal-da, but I was not sure that this was either a time or place for it.
A silver tarsk, I supposed, might buy a great deal of kal-da.
"How many of you have tasted the Ta wine of Telnus?" I asked.
From their uneasiness, and the looks they exchanged, I gathered that few, if any, had had that experience. Ta wine is far from the extremely rare, almost legendary Falarian, but it is expensive and rare.
"Perhaps one of you has not had that pleasure," I said. "Yet, for a consideration it could be yours."
"What consideration?" asked my interlocutor, he whom I supposed was an officer of some sort, probably the highest remaining amongst them.
"The Ta wine of Telnus," I said, "as you may surmise, is not grown in Telnus, a port, but inland, on certain of the protected, guarded wine terraces of Cos. It is called the Ta wine of Telnus because it is commonly shipped through that port."
"What was that disgusting wine you put in the flagons?" he asked, grimacing, apparently reacting to an unpleasant memory.
"It was not the fabled Ta wine of Telnus," I admitted.
"Nor Falarian," he said.
"I do not really know what it was," I said. "But it had much to commend it. It was recently fermented and cheap."
"It was terrible," he said. "It reminded me of the wine used in cheap kal-da."
"That is it," I said. "I remember now. It was called the Star of the Sky of Ka-la-na. Supposedly it forms a fine base for kal-da."
"It was terrible," said Seremides.
"It was cheap," I said, somewhat defensively.