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At the Core of Mars
By Seth Kallen Deitch
copyright 1999 S.K.Deitch
A Prince of Earth
I will, in time, explain the method of how I have been able to address the inhabitants of the twentieth century. Suffice it to say that a method became available to me and addressing my remote ancestors became both possible and desirable.
My name is Julian, officially Robin Harold Julian 68th, Prince-Jemdar of Earth, and the Protector of Vah-Nah as well as several equally important sounding titles and that alone should inform you of some of the circumstances of my life. I bear the name Julian with a certain amount of pride, but also with the clear knowledge that I have personally done nothing to create the reputation which it signifies.
Julian is the name of the house of the Yank-Jemdar of Earth and has been for some six hundred odd years ever since Julian 20th, the Red Hawk started the revolution that would result in reclaiming our world from the Kalkars of Vah-Nah.
Some day, I will be Jemdar for as much as that is worth. The position has been largely ceremonial for two centuries. The fact is that the Julians are the pampered pets of the Terran nation. We live graciously, we have what we want, the people love us and we incite no controversy. For me, life has held opportunity for everything I could possibly want save for that which I want the most, adventure.
Adventure! I have learned not to even mention the word in the presence of my father! He is ever willing to dismiss and deride my strange craving. Every young man once sought to toss off the bonds of his world and seek something greater, unknown and dangerous, but this has slowly been bred out of our race as we have advanced through time and grown to know more of the world.
In the era before the coming of the Kalkars, humanity had become briefly aware of the existence of the inhabitants of Barsoom and Pellucidar but had that knowledge stripped from us during our cruel oppression. That awareness was won back through difficult exploration by men who are as remotely in the past from me as is Christopher Columbus from your age.
Today, SanFrancisco the capital city of Earth stands almost directly above the city of Greenwich in Pellucidar and can be reached in a small fraction of an hour by underground rail. The average person can holiday on Amtor or might very well have a second house in the restored and irrigated countrysides of Vah-Nah. The would be adventurer who wishes to travel to Barsoom need only purchase a ticket and may, if he has the means, make the passage in pampered luxury. I myself took the first part of my university in Greater Helium before I returned to Earth to continue my studies.
To a young man, who craves the unknown, this world of my age seems tame and lacking in that which a young fellow of my sort needs the most, that hated word. Adventure.
Barsoom holds political sway over all of the worlds outward from the sun from itself although they have only developed Thuria, Cluros and Eurobus with a few of its moons to any degree. Earth controls the Moon and the inner worlds of Pellucidar and Vah-Nah under the direct government of the Jemdarate and administrates Amtor as a protectorate with its own local Jemdar. The two Solar governments have lived with peaceful, friendly relations for as long as anyone on Earth cares to remember.
For a fellow of my temperament, this was a perfectly awful situation. There were no new worlds to conquer. There was no good fight to fight.
All my life, I had immersed myself in the tales of the great heroes of the past. Gilgamesh, Alexander, Robin Hood, John Carter, John Clayton (Lord Greystoke), Julian the Red Hawk, all of these men got to live the life I craved but was seemingly forever cut off from me.
Or so it was until one day two years ago.
A day like any other it was. I was to make two appearances, one to speak to a civic association in London and another to be interviewed by the "personality press" on the Jemdar s palace grounds.
As the aircar was whisking my secretary Man-tan-ko, a Vaga, and myself over the Atlantic Ocean a radio message arrived. Voiced in official language that left no doubt as to its gravity, I was asked to return to SanFrancisco.
And appear before my father, the Jemdar.
Even having grown up around it, I was still impressed by the Jemdar s audience room at the palace. No man could not be, for its design was for that very purpose. It was here, at least symbolically, that all humans of Earth knew resided the very soul of their race. When Man-tan-ko and I entered the room we were surprised to be greeted with a full honor guard and I saw that standing with my father was the President who was the true political head of state of the Jemdarate of Earth. With the two of them stood a Barsoomian in a metal laden harness wearing the yellow bordered cloak that signified that he was a messenger of the Jeddak of Jeddaks, The Warlord of Barsoom. Of course, the "metal" was purely decorative, signfying his office, nothing more. Barsoomians born after the 24th century were raised with their historic grand martial tradition as nothing more than quaint folklore. He was Nomar Tomak, a high attendant of the Jeddak s court who I had met on several occasions during my university days. Normally a jovial fellow, he favored me with not so much as a smile on this day.
My father was the first to break the silence. "My son, I am sorry to have brought you back to court with so little warning, but this is a somber day and you are called upon to perform your duties as a crowned prince. You must travel to Barsoom without delay and stand as Earth's representative on a very bleak occasion. After a brief illness, the Grand Jedarra of Barsoom has passed away. You must attend her state funeral."
I was stunned. Barsoomians live ten times longer than Earthmen, a fact which most of us take easily in stride, but sometimes that strange fact is brought home to us with alarming clarity. This was just such a time.
The Grand Jeddara was like a human monument who s years of life had encompassed all of the greatest years of our history. To call her a monument, unfortunately, obscures the fact that she was also a woman of great beauty and wisdom who her devoted husband never ceased to refer to as "incomparable". She was Dejah Thoris, the Heliumite princess who helped her husband reclaim a dying world! I had known her, and like so many others learned that to know her is to love her. Beyond a doubt, she was the most admired woman in the Solar Worlds. Now she had died and an era had come to a close.
I would go and stand with the Jeddak as he bid farewell to his wife. The Jeddak himself was a man with a strange history. It was his claim that he had originated on Earth although his life span exceeded even that of the Barsoomians who he had come to live among and eventually rule. His name was John Carter. He was the Warlord of all of Barsoom, a planet which he had known in his earlier life by the name Mars. No one had referred to the planet by that name in hundreds of years. It was a place name as out dated as the name Cathay would have been to people of your century.
Nomar Tomak provided for my passage aboard the great Barsoomian ship which rested on the water in SanFrancisco bay. The passage to Barsoom would be swift beyond the imagining of you to whom I address this tale. I would appear before the court at Helium in a mere two days.
Even at that, the journey seemed long indeed with the dark mood which ruled the ship s crew. The blackness of the space outside our ports mirrored the feelings that every Barsoomian had in his heart.
When we finally entered the atmosphere of Barsoom, I was finding that even on this sad occasion, I looked forward to seeing the wonders of Helium once more. When the city of Greater Helium with Lesser Helium in view some seventy five miles beyond came into view on the horizon, I was somewhat surprised, although in retrospect I don t know why, by the number of airships which filled the sky overhead. People had come from every corner of Barsoom to say a final goodbye to the Grand Jedarra.
Even in mourning, the Barsoomian nobility wore bright silks and glittering metal. These were a warrior people by temperament and their honored dead were given tribute by showing that the Barsoomian heart beats ever strong.
John Carter himself met me in one of the palace gardens and clasped my hand firmly. Ignoring his own grief, he inquired after the health of my father and the progress of my studies. I was always flattered by any interest the Jeddak showed in me. He had checked in on me frequently in my university days, but my awe of him never lessened. A person in the twentieth century could only imagine what knowing him was like. It was as if Julius Caesar was still alive and walked among us.
"My father is in good health," I told him, "and I have only a year before my degree is completed. I m sure that I shall have much use for it when I become a paper ruler."
John Carter s frown made me instantly regret my flippant remark.
"Lad," he said, "even though you are to be spared the responsibility of governing your people, they shall still look to you for wisdom and as a symbol of excellence. You must not disappoint them."
I looked sheepish before the great man. "I only wish that I, like you, had earned the right to rule."
John Carter had once told me that the world had become too tame for him. He felt that he had become superfluous living among a human race that was at peace with itself. He once told me, "The title 'Warlord' has become something of a joke in the ongoing absence of war. These days it makes more sense to call me simply the First Jeddak, or Jeddak of Jeddaks, for I have become a man of politics rather than a man of the sword."
Now in these days following his greatest loss, he had become a subdued, quiet man, more given to keeping his own council rather than involving himself deeply in the day to day affairs of government. The high jeds did most of the governing these days.
He looked deep into my eyes and gave a wry smile followed by a deep sigh. "Yes, there it is, the warrior spirit. I thought it had died out among the people of my home world. Your turn will come, I can feel it and I am rarely wrong about this. Remember this. When it comes to you that you are thoroughly beaten, that you can do no more, when hope is gone check to see if you can yet draw a breath. If you can then all is not lost. You may still conquer as long as you are still alive. When you are in that dark place, say it aloud as I have had to several times even in these last few sad days, I still live! "
"I still live." I repeated. It seemed rather tepid advice from a man of such far reaching experience. I would have expected something that was a bit more of a revelation than that. Nonetheless, it had come from the Jeddak of Jeddaks so I resolved to remember it anyway.
The funeral itself drew over a half million people in the great square of Helium city with several millions more listening by wireless. Further by means of sophisticated Gridley wave transmitters, it was heard by persons on every Solar planet.
I, like every other person in the crowd, was moved deeply by the sight of the inert form of Dejah Thoris, still grandly beautiful in her eternal repose. The Barsoomian funeral, was itself a comparatively recent tradition, less than a Barsoomian lifetime ago. In the Grand Jedarra s youth, it had been the tradition for persons near death (or merely tired of life) to let themselves drift down the river Iss (they thought) into the hands of the gods. When John Carter discredited this belief , it precipitated the most important religious crisis in the history of Barsoom. In the centuries since, the Barsoomians, with some exceptions, have adopted a humanist philosophy. They recognize that, today, their symbolic acts exist for the benefit of the human population, not the gods.
As I stood with the other prominent mourners I heard a disturbance behind me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a young woman run from the thick of the crowd with a look of mortal dread in her eyes.
John Carter also saw the girl and called out "Tamla!" It was then that I realized the girl was Tamla of Helium the eight (Barsoomian) year old thrice great grand daughter of the Jeddak. She had been well known as a difficult child and as she had grown older she had become tomboyish and positively wild. Tamla was the subject of much gossip for having taken on the habit of wearing a man s style of harness and metal. complete with real, not decorative, weapons.
The girl s disposition was of no account at this moment, however, for she was in obvious peril. John Carter had already drawn his sword as had his son, Carthoris and his close friends Kantos Kan and Tars Tarkas. All of them took a step backward, however when they saw what emerged from the crowd in pursuit of the girl. It resembled a Barsoomian Green man although its skin was a dark nut brown and its tusks pointed directly outward from its face like twin spikes. Its intermediate set of limbs were specialized as a pair of leathery wings, which, as it cleared the knot of people, it spread and began to beat vigorously. From the base of his spine emerged a long tail with a small flat fin at the end, perhaps to aid it in steering. It was almost instantly out of the reach of even the long sword of Tars Tarkas. John Carter, Tars Tarkas and the rest gave chase as the girl started to run directly toward me with the nightmarish thing a mere few feet behind her. A scant second before the girl could reach me, the flying man scooped her up and with powerful strokes of its huge wings raised himself high aloft with the girl screaming in panic firmly held in his hands. Without thinking I jumped straight upward with all the strength my legs could provide. In the Barsoomian gravity, this was enough to propel me some fifty feet and into reach of the creature s tail. Kantos Kan had drawn a powerful Barsoomian pistol, but The Jeddak stayed his hand lest he accidentally shoot Tamla or myself. I was being furiously whipped back and forth in the wind as I clung to the flying man s tail with my self preservation foremost in my mind.
Aloud I cried at the top of my lungs, "I still live!" How hard I tried to believe that that would help.
As the palace dwindled behind us, I saw a flyer rise from its roof to give chase and prayed that I could hang on long enough for it to reach us.
The flying creature was eager to be rid of the extra weight that I was adding to his load. The air car With John Carter et.al. aboard was gaining on us rapidly preventing his escape.
It placed Tamla upon his back and drew a pistol which he attempted to aim at me by firing upside down between his own legs. I jerked aside at the last second causing him to wound his own tail but doing me no particular harm. He was more successful with his second shot which was directed at the pursuing flyer. The car dropped from the sky to come to a skidding halt on the mossy plain below. I could see that none of the occupants were injured from the crash, but it was also clear that their chase was at an end.
I attempted to call to Tamla, but my efforts were by necessity infrequent as most of my effort was involved in merely hanging onto the flailing tail.
At a point when I thought that the creature was becoming tired enough to have to put the two of us down, a strange feature appeared on the horizon. It looked like a pillar made of clouds reaching high into the atmosphere. As we approached the peculiar feature it resolved into a great, slowly rotating whirlwind. It was not at all like the funnel storms that could be seen on Earth, for this disturbance was both much wider and much slower. It stood in one place churning up a circular cloud of dust.
Tamla cursed loudly and then called back to me "It is the road to Dhaimira!"
Before I had a real chance to mull over the unusual statement, we were sucked into the whirlwind. It was at that time that the flying creature seized the opportunity to shake me free of his tail. Without warning, I was falling freely through the air. Tamla held tightly to the winged monster as he dove straight for the ground. I dove afterward knowing that my only hope for staying alive was to once again grab onto the beast's tail or some other part of him.
After a short time it occurred to me that we should have long since hit the ground but we simply kept falling. The swirling storm around us had grown progressively darker and its rotation ever slower. I realized now that the sensation of plummeting was being replaced by one of floating.
In the distance, far below me I still could see Tamla astride her abductor. To my horror, I observed her to pull a sword from her harness and drive it to the hilt into the torso of the creature. This was an act of insanity, plain and simple. Up until this time, at least she had had a slim chance of surviving this strange ordeal, but now she had slain the only thing in the air with us capable of independent flight.
Then something even stranger happened. Tamla kicked free of the creature and started to rise upward toward me. I suddenly found myself disoriented and dizzy. I had thought that she was below me, while now I seemed to be sure that I was below her and we were both somehow rising although the direction of our motion had not altered in the least.
Tamla slowly worked her way toward me until she was able to grasp my hand. I asked her "What was that creature?"
"His name was Ranth Lankos. He was a jomad in the employ of Savjoda."
"I see." I said. It was an absolute lie, I had no conception of what she was talking about. For the time, I brushed off that answer and asked another question. "Do you know what is happening to us?"
"We are passing through the doorway to Dhaimira."
Before I could elaborate on my question, we suddenly burst into full daylight. We were soaring into the sky above a rolling blue sea as might be seen on earth but never upon dry Barsoom! We reached an elevation of some five hundred feet before we started to fall toward the water. A fall from such an altitude would surely have killed us on Earth, but under the lesser gravity of Barsoom, which seemed lesser still in this particular place, we only had the wind knocked from us as we struck the water of the warm sea.
The dead body of the jomad precipitated into the water near us and we were able to hang onto it for floatation while we got out bearings. we both espied a nearby island and started to kick that we would propel ourselves toward it. I was slightly surprised to see that Tamla was aquatinted with the art of swimming which is an almost unheard of skill among the children of dry Barsoom.
Upon reaching shore, we rid ourselves of the hideous corpse and then both fell into an exhausted slumber there on that alien beach.
I knew not weather it was morning or afternoon when I awoke, for the lighting was exactly the same as when I fell asleep. I surveyed my surroundings while I sat. I looked out on a calm ocean which seemed to have no horizon. Scanning the sky, I saw a number of colors which varied quite a bit from the standard shades of blue and cloud. There were a great variety of muted greens and browns which made me realize that it was land, not sky that I looked out upon. It was another inside out world but notably unlike either Vah-Nah or Pellucidar, both of who's vistas I was well familiar with.
Tamla was nowhere to be seen but she soon appeared with the body of a small scaly, multi-legged animal that looked like it might well have been a cross between a rat and a millipede. "Welcome to Dhaimira." She said in matter of fact tones.
"Dhaimira. Within Barsoom?"
"Yes, another world sheltered within Barsoom."
I now looked upon Tamla of Helium carefully for the first time. I knew her to be sixteen or seventeen (Earth) years of age, but she carried herself with a sureness that belied her extreme youth. She was really quite a beautiful girl, a quality that was in no way lessened by the fact that she affected the harness and metal of a man. Along with a full sized sword, she wore a dagger and a radium pistol like a warrior of old. In the days some nine hundred years past when John Carter first appeared on Barsoom, it was the manner in which all men accoutered themselves. Today, at least in the great cities, most men would go about unarmed, which would have been unthinkable in olden times.
The girl continued. "I have been here before. The opening we came through was not there before, nor was the one that I accidentally was drawn into it when I came too close attempting to investigate it with a flyer. Savjoda has a method of opening a "road" as he calls them, almost wherever he needs one. Four months I spent in this strange world and I discovered that a plot of supreme evil was underway instigated by some of the inhabitants of this unknown region.
Savjoda, "The Conqueror" as he arrogantly styles himself, has aroused the Jomad tribes with the promise of untold riches on the surface world of Barsoom. Dhaimira, as this inner world is known, has no metals. Even a tiny scrap of iron is worth a king's ransom. The steel of my sword is worth the entire treasury of a great nation in this world. Savjoda has neglected, in a calculated fashion, to tell his jomad minions that Barsoom regards water almost as highly as Dhaimira regards metal, for his true goal is to rule both the inside and the outside of this planet!"
"Ha!", I said. "A small chance he will have against John Carter!"
"The blood of John Carter runs also in my veins! It has occurred to me that I might solve this problem on my own without the help of the Jeddak."
I must admit that I found myself liking this feisty girl. She was ready to take on a whole world on her own, so great was her craving for adventure! Nonetheless, she was obviously more full of youthful exuberance than wisdom.
"Do you think that a young lass, even in the metal of a fighting man, can stop this 'Savjoda' person?" The humor of it brought to me a welcome laugh in this otherwise dire situation.
I instantly regretted my words when I saw the effect that they had had on Tamla. Her cheeks flushed and her eyes ran with tears of anger. She unbuckled her harness and cast it aside leaving herself wearing naught but her flawless copper colored skin. Now I could see that beneath her perfect and delightful feminine curves was a wiry musculature, which would have served any warrior quite well.
"I will fight you hand to hand in only our skin and you shall see what kind of a warrior this 'young lass' is!"
I was taken aback. "A gentleman would never deign to fight a lady in such a way, certainly not a princess!" said I.
Her high pitched voice lowered to a growl. "You are a gentleman and a prince. I am a lady and a princess. I am in every way your equal." And then in a voice of command, "Strip!" The girl, it seemed, would feel dishonored if I did not comply with her bizarre demand.
I removed my clothing and stood toe to toe with the girl who barely reached my shoulder. I promised myself that I would treat her carefully. I only needed to hold her down and that I should take care not to humiliate her without necessity. I merely had to teach her a much needed lesson. Before I was done thinking these thoughts, I found myself on my back in the sand. she now straddled my supine form and rained blows upon my face and chest. It was only with great effort that I was able to throw her off the first time. Again we stood toe to toe now half squatting in a wrestler's stance. I resolved to be more careful this time. She had obviously caught me off guard. With lightning speed a heel made contact with my solar plexus and I folded in the middle. As I gasped for breath another blow struck me where my neck joined my head and I went face down on the beach. I found I could not raise myself because the little slip of a girl now sat on my back and was twisting my arm up behind my neck.
"Cry for mercy!" She ordered, but again I managed to throw her off. I though I had her pinned a few moments later, but a well calculated thrust from her knee distracted me long enough for her to gain her freedom. While I grappled with the girl I was constantly struck by the strange feeling of the uncompromising strength of her muscles which rippled beneath her soft and sweet smelling skin. In truth, I am sure that the prolonged contact with that skin caused me more than once to lose a throw from lack of concentration.
And so it went for the better part of an hour, neither one of us being able to best the other. At long last we both collapsed covered with scratches and bruises and drenched in sweat. I think that each had a respect for the other that had been lacking before. She was no longer just a silly teenager to me and, I believe, I was no longer just a pampered prince to her. The truth I had to face was that I was nearly twice her size and could not best her. It was she who possessed the greater skill.
After we had caught our respective breaths, Tamla silently set herself to gutting the small creature she had killed for dinner. She impressed me by expertly striking fire with the steel of her sword and a pebble she picked up from the beach. When cooked, the animal tasted like a combination of lobster and mutton. Tamla said it was know here as a vrodak. It lived the first part of its life like a fish in the sea, but it came out on land to breed where it deposited its eggs in trees. This one was a hatchling, a full grown one would be about the size of a sheep.
We stayed on the island for a period of time that would have been a day and a night had the Sun ever set, but, like the luminous orb of Pellucidar, it hung forever motionless at zenith.
On the second day I saw a flock of birds winging toward our island and pointed it out to Tamla.
"There are no 'birds' in Dhaimira." She said. "Those are a party of jomads."
Without any real conciousness of the act, we reached out and clasped each other's hands as we watched them grow ever closer.
They alit smoothly hitting the beach at a run. Both Tamla and I were well trained in meeting strangers and put on our most regal poses. Were we not of the ruling class of our respective worlds?
About fifty feet from us they slowed to a walk and the two at the outermost flanks drew pistols but didn t point them at us.
The winged men were dressed in tight fitting trousers with wide leather belts. From those belts were suspended a variety of weapons and tools, not all of which I could easily identify and none of which were made from metal. In fact, they wore no metal save for some tiny pieces that were set like jewels in bone, wood or ceramic ornaments. When standing, the wings of the jomads folded neatly against their backs giving them the look of having a curiously elongated torso. The tails were held aloft with the fin at the tip being pressed into service as a sunshade. They stood about 10 feet tall each and showed a clear relationship to the green men of the surface world in the general structure of their faces and bodies. The face of the jomads had the same large side positioned eyes and tube like ears as the green men as well as their slot like nostrils. The major difference was that their tusks pointed outward sideways from their faces or, as was the case with two of those in this group, downward and curled like a ram s horns. This was, in fact, the style of tusks worn by the one who addressed Tamla.
"Tamla of Helium. You have been returned to us, but you seem to have a new aspect about your person." The language was perfectly ordinary Barsoomian.
Tamla eyed the jomad with an arched brow. "You will find that I am not merely the soft and frightened girl you remember, Jos Gantos. I am a warrior now."
The jomad gave a deep and resonant laugh. "Savjoda will be pleased! He will acquire a little warrior as well as a wife!"
"Wife!" I exclaimed.
"So he might wish." Said Tamala in a deeply sarcastic tone.
"And Savjoda, the conqueror of Dhaimira, and very soon, Barsoom, gets what he wishes." He then looked about the beach. "Where is Ranth Lankos?"
"He has been repaid for the many insults he chose to favor me with." The princess lip was curled in contempt.
The jomad turned his eyes toward me. "You will be executed for killing a member of Savjoda s guard."
"Pardon?" I queried. I wondered just how quickly the sentence was to be carried out.
"It was I", Said the princess, "that ran a blade through the brute s heart."
The jomad looked puzzled. This is the time I chose to speak up. "She killed him because he abducted her from the city of Helium against her will!"
The winged man struck me across the face and I fell to the ground. "Never." He said. "Never presume that Savjoda acts other than properly! If he commands the presence of any person, then that person must be brought into his presence."
With that, Tamla and I were lifted from the ground and into the sky by the band of jomads. Tamla was cradled in the arms of one of them while I was merely dangled by my wrists.
Thankfully the trip was only a few miles to a neighboring island.
The island was smaller than the one that we first landed on but much more densely populated. The tiny piece of land, less than a square mile, I estimated, had several hundreds of jomads milling around on it.
We were placed down among a knot of the flapping and shouting creatures. Most of them differed significantly from the members of the party which had picked us up. They were obviously female and many of them were pregnant. In this regard, they were different from all other humans on Barsoom which typically laid eggs which hatched almost fully developed young. Many of the jomad females had something that was never seen on this world, that being helpless infants at the breast.
Tamla and I were placed into a cage that had bars made from a very dense wood behind one of the tents that the jomads used for homes. We were both stripped of every metal object on our persons which left me having to hold up my trousers by hand for lack of a belt buckle and my shoes were now held on with twisted lengths of twine. Tamla, on the other hand was left virtually nude. Actually, I think in this case "naked" is the more appropriate term. She looked helpless and terrified without her harness and weapons and sat hugging herself in a corner of the cage. For the first time, she really looked like a young girl in need of my protection. The feisty posturing was gone.
"Tamla", I said. "The situation looks hopeless, we are the prisoners of a band of grotesque horrors! Furthermore, all of Barsom is soon to be overrun by the armies of this Savjoda person and no one on the surface even suspects that they exist! The only force at work to stop them is a pampered prince and a girl barely more than a child, both of whom are imprisoned in this cage who's fates are virtually sealed! I will most likely be killed and you shall be forced into a life of cocubinage! " I rolled my eyes and hung open my mouth in a comic imitation of utter fear. "What would John Carter say in a situation like this?"
The girl looked up at me and cracked a slight smile through her tears. I smiled back and that was all it took for her to laugh out loud. "I still live!" She proclaimed grandly. We both laughed then, the emotional tension of our situation somewhat eased, at least for the moment.
The jomads milled about and fought over the pieces of metal which they had stolen from us. At one point a couple of rather ugly brown fish which were distinguished by having two tails each were tossed into our cage. They were uncooked and we were hungry enough not to care.
I asked Tamla to fill me in on as much as she could about Dhaimira and what was going on here.
"Savjoda has told me some things and I have picked up other parts of the story from some of the jomads.
"Dhaimira is, in many ways, a new world. Over a million years ago, the Orovars discovered it and made contact with its native civilization. The entrance at that time was beneath one of the oceans and a special ship, on which was equipped to travel underwater, was used to cross from Barsoom into Dhaimira. An Orovar general named Donak Jotar decided to make himself Jeddak of all Dhaimira and moved a great force of men into the interior world. Over a period of one hundred years, Donak Jotar's army wiped out the civilization which ruled the islands of this world. His brutality was legendary and the Orovars exiled him to Dhaimira never to return to the surface of Barsoom. Without the metals and technology of the surface world, Jotar's people fell into savagery and lost the ways of farming. All they could do to support themselves was catch fish which they had to do by hand because they had no metal hooks. As time went on, the fish learned to avoid the waters closest to the islands inhabited by these people and they were forced to swim farther and farther out to sea to catch their food. Those who could not perfect great swimming skills drowned, while those who did, lived to have many children. After many thousands of years, these people came to have webbed hands and feet and the ability to actually breath underwater. after somewhat longer, they stopped returning to land altogether. Their descendants are now known as the darmayoks or fish men. They were the only people on Dhaimira up until five hundred years ago.
"Savjoda came into Dhaimira around that time. He is a Jasoomian like John Carter and like the Jeddak, he is also ageless. He once told me that because of peculiarities of his up bringing, the specifics of which he never aquainted me with, he had never been fully comfortable with his own kind. He came here , and using the knowledge of great scientists, engineers and doctors of the past, he set out to create a world which would be his and his alone.
"He populated the islands with animals from the surface and also with animals brought from Jasoom. There are islands where the wild thoats brouse side by side with elephants and where tigers compete for the same prey as banths. He has an almost Barsoomian rapport with animals. I do not believe that he actually possesses our telepathic ability, but I think he has something just as good. Even a maddened zitidar will do his bidding when he calmly asks it. To help him maintain things in this world, he used an ancient technology perfecting the work of the great Ras Thavas to create a synthetic race of caretakers, the jomads. For the first century or so, every other jomad child was a horrible monster, but ceaseless experimentation finally led him to a strain that bred true. In time he created two other races to help him build this world.
"He would visit the surface every so often to find out about the affairs of men, but rarely stayed too long, mostly because he could not afford to have John Carter find out that he was here on Barsoom and discover the existence of Dhaimira."
The girl was now becoming animated in her narrative. "I m sure that at first, his motives might have been noble, but at some point, he became consumed with his own power in this world. All in Dhaimira answered to him and he had to answer to no one. Savjoda is the god of this world."
How did this Earth man come to be on this world? How was it that men from my planet had come to have such impact on the history of Barsoom? First John Carter, then the great warrior and surgeon Vad Varo and now, it seems that this man called Savjoda has called Barsoom his home for centuries. If we could not break the bars of this cage I would soon find out.
Breaking free was the problem of the moment and the solution presented it self in an unexpected form. One of the fish which had been our meal had a length of tough sinewy fiber running along its spine. Tamla saw this and extracted it discovering in the process that no amount of pulling would part it. Stretched to its full length and pulled taught, it took on all the characteristics of a piano string.
When the lucky jomad who had become the owner of her sword came by to check on us, he saw Tamla lying supine clutching her stomach. I called to him. "Help! One of the fish must have been poisonous! Please help her!"
"This is just a trick." Said the jomad.
At this point I was called upon to do some of my best acting. "Yes. Of course, why should care? She is Savjoda's bride, not yours." I saw all of his thought processes reflected in an instant on that ugly face. He had a very clear idea as to what form Savjoda's wrath might take. He cautiously reached in through the bars to poke Tamla gently with the sword. It was at that moment Tamla sat up and threw the length of fish gut with one end weighted with a bone from the fish to loop around the jomad's arm. I grabbed the other end and both Tamla and I pulled with all our might.
The jomad's hand, sword and all, was neatly severed from his wrist which started fountaining blood. His bellow of shock and pain was cut short when I picked up the fallen sword and ran it through his throat.
As quickly as we could, we chopped through the bars. In a short time, we both stood again unrestrained on the ground. As I had lost my belt buckle, I found it convienient to discard my trousers and in their place fashioned a short kilt from the fabric of my shirt. My shoes, also useless without their buckles, I threw out as well. I was now almost as naked as Tamla, but what little garment I had, I could move in without danger of tripping.
Our next problem would be to find our way off the island before the jomads noticed that we had gotten free.
The Open Sea
We fled into a thickly forested area right behind the camp. It was not large at all, maybe a few hundred square yards. It could not be long before the jomads discovered our escape and their dead compatriot. We could expect them to be searching for us in an hour or less. The stand of trees ended abruptly at a shear cliff against which waves broke some hundred or so feet below. It looked like this was our only rout off the island.
Among the strange vegetation of this forest were some of the most peculiar trees I had ever seen. This particular species grew its woody trunk in the form of a great bowl which separated into branches as it grew upward. This tree, which grew on islands in a vast salty sea had evolved a very efficient way of holding onto fresh water. Its leaves were so constructed as to direct rainwater into the great bowl shaped depression which in some of the trees formed a good sized pond. It was almost like a forest of leafy champagne glasses.
Seeing these trees gave me an idea. I knew that if we attempted to merely float away from the island on a log, we would quickly be spotted by jomads on the wing, that is, unless we could contrive some way of being invisible from the air. The unique design of this flora provided that exact thing.
Taking turns so that we might provide maximum constant effort, Tamla and I felled one of the bowl trees using her sword like an axe. The tree spilled a large amount of stinking, sludge filled water as it came down. It was our good fortune that the bowl shaped section didn't break when it hit the ground.
After trimming off the branches, using all the effort we could muster, we inched the great mass of wood up to the edge of the cliff. We then cut two logs each large enough to float one of us. First the logs and then the great wood bowl went over the cliff and started to drift out to sea. Holding hands, Tamla and I jumped after them.
It took only a few strokes in the water for us to catch up with the drifting wood.
Tamla said, looking at the cup like tree floating on the waves, "This will make a fine boat, Julian, but the jomads will see us easily."
"Not the way I have it planned."
I had her help me invert the tree trapping a large amount of air underneath and then we slid the two logs underneath as well. Finally, we ourselves followed. Now we floated on the water with a wooden dome over our heads. The tree floated rather low in the water. "Now we look just like a piece of flotsam that no one would look twice at.
It was in fact harder than it sounded. All of our strength was consumed holding the wooden camouflage upright and we had to take frequent rests from our kicking that we were using to drive ourselves forward. Furthermore, we had to stop from time to time to tip the bowl tree up to admit fresh air at the risk of exposing ourselves. This was done by one of us first swimming underneath the water just beyond out "boat" and checking the sky for jomads. Having seen that all was clear, we would tip thwe thing over to float open side up and then turn it back over trapping as much air underneath as possible. One or the other of us also had to make occasional trips outside to check our direction and look for land.
Checking our direction was problematic. We had no compass and the sky of Dhaimira had no stars by which to navigate. Tamla informed me that Dhaimiran navigators used cloud formations to find their way and they would also use powerful telescopes due to the fact that every spot in this world was visible save for that small area which was on the opposite side of the sun. While it was true that clouds at one time or another would obscure much of the surface, one could still tell, if one had the proper skills, that is, what sorts of clouds form over land and which over water. These, regrettably, were not skills possessed by either my companion or myself.
Tamla hoped to spot one of the "continents" of this world called Keltrolna. Keltrolna was actually an island which was a little larger than all of the Japanese isles put together. It was the second largest single body of land in Dhaimira. More importantly, it was mostly uninhabited.
Tamla thought she had spotted its distinctive outline on the second day of our escape and since that time we had been trying to drive ourselves in that direction. The clouds seemed to indicate that there was a current which might propel us toward it some miles ahead.
We had now spent over four days either partially or entirely submerged in water and it was draining our energy. We were able to catch, but not cook various fish and crustaceans as well as a certain type of fleshy mollusk that proved to be something of a delicacy. Tamla said it was called froi-ayk , and that it was a favorite food of the darmayoks.
I had been wondering if we would see some of these darmayoks on this journey. I wondered if I wanted to. Tamla had never met any, and therefore she could not tell me if the were prone to friendly relations or not.
My curiosity was to be satisfied with unexpected celerity.
We had reached such a distance from the island that I decided turning the tree bowl side up and getting in above the water would have benefits which would outweigh the risks. Now we were dry, but also constantly exposed to the never setting sun. For Tamla, and other red Barsoomians, this was not a great problem, for the copper colored pigment in their skins protected them from sunburn. My fair skin, however, took little time before it started to redden to an alarmingly different shade from that of the princess. I spent some time scouting about for anything that might be pressed into service as a sun shade. As luck would have it We found some floating weeds which rather closely resembled the giant kelp of Earth, which I was able to weave into an imperfect, but serviceable cover for about half the open area of our makeshift boat.
We were still, I estimated, several days away from encountering the current which we hoped would carry us to the shores of Keltrolna. Both Tamla an I were suffering from dysentery, malnutrition and the effects of exposure to the elements. The only way for us to provide any impetus at all to our voyage was to get out and push by kicking in the water, but as the days wore on, we had less and less strength to spare for that endeavor.
On what I guessed was our twelfth day out, we saw lights in the water moving in patterns. They came closer to our little craft and I could now see that the lights were some sort of glowing objects held by creatures of some sort.
I croaked to Tamla. "Darmayoks!" She lay asleep beneath the shade and I had to call to her twice more before she bestirred herself. By the time she got to the side to look over, the fish men were quite close enough for me to see the whites of their eyes. That was still a bit of a distance, but their eyes were very large.
The creatures were clearly related to men, but the features of their faces were quite inhuman. Their teeth were long and very thin and they had several closely packed rows of them. Their faces had no nose on the front but their was an opening near the crown of the head which I later would learn served that function. They had no external ears at all. Their skin was glossy white and utterly smooth and they had instead of feet, broad flippers. There was only one free toe, that being elongated and very muscular. When swimming, the darmayoks locked those two toes together fusing the feet into a single powerful fluke which could drive them through the water at great speeds. Their arms were boneless and tentacle like, dividing into fingers near the tips. The number of finger varied from individual to individual.
Before we could count to ten, they surrounded our little craft. Being so weak from our ordeal, we made no protest as two of them pulled themselves aboard. They examined both of us closely, almost insultingly so.
After they satisfied themselves regarding our condition, one of them produced a large dipper and ladled up a generous portion of water from over the side. Into this he sprinkled a few drops of liquid from a container on a thong around he neck and then handed it to me. I started to refuse, thinking that he was ignorant of the fact that I could not drink brine when I saw something wondrous. The salt had solidified and precipitated to the bottom of the dipper. Tasting the water, I found that it was as fresh as if it had come from a mountain stream. I gave it to Tamla who drained it and another similar then I did likewise.
The darmayoks didn t speak the standard Barsoomian language although Tamla said that some of their words sounded somewhat familiar, but very archaic.
It was lucky for us that Tamla had a talent for art. Using the tip of her sword, she laboriously etched a map of the nearby regions of Dhaimira. She then marked the island of Keltrolna with an X and indicated he best estimate of our current position and drew a line to show that Keltrolna was our destination.
It took some time, but they were finally made to understand and somehow made us to understand that they intended to help us. Strangly, the fabled Barsoomian telepathic facility did not seem to work here within Dhaimira, so Tamla was restricted to what she could understand and explain in words and gestures. I remembered that Barsoomian visitors to Pellucidar and Vah-Na reported experiencing the same sort of thing. Perhaps there was some sort of radiation from the internal sun that suppressed it.
Centuries ago, scientists had learned that the internal luminous orbs of the inside worlds were not stars like the greater sun which sits at the center of our swarm of worlds. The suns of Vah-na and Pellucidar cannot be approached even in heat proof flyers. There is a barrier of violent winds of luminous gas which confuses instruments and damages ships. We do know that these orbs are quite small and cannot possibly produce their light and heat by violently smashing atoms together in the same way that the Sun does. For instance, the sun of Pellucidar has been measured to be somewhat less than one and one half miles in diameter.
The asteroid belt that fills an orbit between Barsoom and Eurobus is known to be the remains of a world who s internal sun exploded some million years ago. The event was documented by Barsoomian astronomers at the time but it was not until our modern age that the reason for the calamity was uncovered. Impressive cultures had inhabited both the inside and the outside of that world and their scientists knew in advance of the impending tragedy. Explorers from Earth and Barsoom found fragmentary records of those peoples among the asteroids and discovered that they had intended to leave their world and colonize Barsoom or Eurobus. There is no evidence that they succeeded.
The darmayoks brought up to the surface several very large fish, which they attached to our poor raft with ropes, made from woven seaweed.
These "dray fish" were to be managed like a team of horses by a darmayok who mounted the lead fish and urged the team to pull. The rest of our companions dove back into the sea and we saw them no more as the last one drove the fish and us toward the shores of Keltrolna.
An Instant of Night
Our rate of travel was greatly increased and before another two days (by my reckoning) had passed, we were in sight of the western coast of Keltrolna.
Unlike the islands that I had seen up until this point, Keltrolna appeared to be lushly forested and populated by a great variety of animals. Here, it looked like Tamla and I would be able to find food and water and plan our escape unmolested.
The darmayok bid us farewell and took his fishes back to the sea, leaving us on the shore all but naked and out only tool being Tamla's sword.
The problem of clothing was solved when we were able to ambush a couple of animals which were totally unfamiliar to Tamla, but quite commonplace to me, which made them all the more strange. They were jackrabbits of a type quite common in North America, but to the Barsoomian lass, they were exotic indeed.
We spent several hours scraping the hides to make at least some brief clothing for ourselves, although I was much more concerned with this than was Tamla who had worn the vastly more revealing Barsoomian style clothing her entire life. She told me that, since she had abandoned the silks and jewelry of women, she had no use for clothing at all except for a sturdy weapons harness. She merely tied one of the rabbit hides into a diaper like garment that held to her hip a tube made from a bamboo-like reed, which served as a scabbard for her sword. To tell the truth, I had had mixed feelings about her covering herself anyway.
I myself made a loincloth from some of the hide and then set to work cooking the meat which was tender and delicious.
We slept for the first time since our appearance in Dhaimira in shade and well fed.
I awoke with a start. We were in pitch darkness. All around were the panicked cries of the animals. Before I was even fully awake, a new light had brightened the sky, but it wasn't the sun.
Tamla touched me gently and I twitched from surprise. "Savjoda is opening a road." She whispered.
"But what happened to the sun?"
"He uses the sun somehow. Its light and heat disappears when he creates a road and then reappears as it closes. Sometimes when a road is left open for too long and then is closed, there are mighty storms for days because of the sudden change in temperature all over the world at once."
As we watched in wonder a heatless swirling light infused the whole world and a broad beam shot toward a point on the surface across the world from us. Briefly, I saw the stars through a place that was once only blue sea, then suddenly the sun was back.
"Magic?" I asked.
"That, or a science so advanced that the difference between it and magic is unimportant. He does it with a machine bigger than one of the new atmosphere plants, and that is the part of it that rests on the ground. There is also a portion of it which orbits close about the sun like a small planet. They are in contact by radio."
Five hundred years ago, John Carter had commissioned three new atmosphere plants, each three times the size of the old one. Since that time, the Barsoomian environment had been improving dramatically. It had even been said that someday the seas might come back. Those plants were the largest machines ever built, or so I had thought up until now.
"This man wields great power. Perhaps he can conquer all of Barsoom." For the first time I had doubts as to the ability of even the unified forces of all who hold allegiance to John Carter to stand up against the power of this man who could extinguish and re-light the sun at will.
Savjoda, I thought, the name sounded Barsoomian, but Tamla said he came from Earth. He controlled several branches of what could only be described as "super science". Not only could he create his own people to do his bidding and move entire populations of animals across the gulf between worlds, he could also open holes in the planet and close them at will. I got a rather serious headache when I really thought about it.
I found myself wishing again and again for my watch which had been taken from me by the metal greedy jomads. Tamla and I could have lived in that primal and beautiful land for a week or for several months and I had no way of knowing.
The jungle was filled with animals of all sorts, Earthly, Barsoomian (although some were of types thought to have been long extinct) and some which I could only assume were native to Dhaimira. The Dhaimiran animals tended to have boneless appendages that were rather tentacle-like. Nonetheless, some of them were quite fleet of foot and had great manual dexterity as well. When hunting some of them, we had to be wary of our prey flinging stones at us to discourage their pursuit. One creature in particular, we were never able to catch. It was almost the size of a man with a trio of expressive eyes set in circle on its forehead. It had six limbs which served as either arms or legs. It was covered in fine bluish hair and had a large parrot-like beak. Because it spent most of its time swinging through the trees and giving forth with loud hoots, I named it an "ape-squid". We later learned that these creatures were quite social and, where there was enough food, they would live in large colonies.
The princess of Mars and the prince of Earth were becoming comfortable denizens of the jungle. Only on occasion did my mind return to the problem of Savjoda or did I worry about the fact that we were lost in a strange world, for in many ways, this jungle was the most idyllic of homes.
Tamla and I grew to have a deep unspoken communication and that in spite of the absence of her native Barsoomian telepathy. The more time I spent with her and building a strong partnership with her, I realized that my feelings had grown beyond mere friendship. Of course, in the absence of any way to formalize such a relationship, I felt it was best to keep my own council on the subject. In retrospect, I can now see that this was a mistake.
Without my knowledge, although, I have been told many times since that I must have been a fool not to see the signs, Tamla had come to see me in much the same way that I saw her. Because of my reservations, however, she would find me remote whenever she tried to get close. Please remember that this was a young girl prone to all of the emotions that go with that condition, no matter how valiant a warrior she might also have been.
I started seeing in her behaviors for which I had no explanation. Over minor disagreements, she would suddenly become highly emotional sometimes bursting into tears and running off for hours at time.
Strangely, or so I thought at the time, the edge of conflict which had seeped into our relationship ended suddenly and without explanation.
We had caught and killed an ulsio which had been periodically raiding our campsite for food and were discussing how its hide should be used. I had thought that several strong slingshots could be made from it while Tamla insisted that we needed to use all of it to repair holes in the small tent we used for storing food. She thought this fitting since it had been that very ulsio who had chewed those holes. It not being a matter of great import, and my dearly wishing not to experience another outburst from Tamla, I decided to yield the point to her as graciously as possible.
"It shall be as you say, my princess." I said. Her reaction was most unexpected. She had been looking down at the skinned carcass of the ulsio and her head snapped up, her eyes locking on mine.
"What did you say?" she asked. She had a slight smile working at the corners of her mouth.
For an instant, I thought I had once again found a way to anger her without trying. Resignedly, I sighed deeply and said. "I'm certain that you heard me correctly the first time, my princess." It was only on their repetition that the import of my words struck me. I felt the heat of a deep blush in my cheeks. I had learned many years ago that using the term 'my princess' was a declaration of love in the old Barsoomian custom.
Although I had caught myself off guard, I also knew that I had no regrets regarding what I had said, even inadvertently.
Gathering my wits as best as I could, I asked Tamla of Helium, "Might I borrow your sword for a moment?" Without a word, she removed it from its rustic sheath and handed it to me. I hefted the weapon for a moment and then laid it at her feet.
In spite of the idyllic setting that my life now took place in, I could not forget that Savjoda was out there and planning the conquest of Barsoom.
Two more times, we witnessed the opening of roads to the surface world. Both openings were brief, too brief to allow a major invasion of the surface, but certainly things were happening. The most important thing was that these openings were reminders that Savjoda s plans moved forward while we did nothing.
In Dhaimira, as I have stated before, there are virtually no metals, yet somehow, we had to make the tools that would allow us to either escape this world or catch up with Savjoda. Barsoom is far older than Earth and the ways of the primitive much farther behind the Barsoomians than the inhabitants of Earth. It is for that reason that Tamla barely comprehended the concept of stone tools.
On Earth, even as recently as the reign of the Kalkars, men had chipped knives and axes out of flint, while Barsoom had lived in the age of steel for millions of years. Tamla reacted to my inept efforts of making tools from stone as if I had performed a magic trick.
It took me a few tries to make a useable axe-head, but I got quite a bit of practice due to the fact that they wore out quite quickly. The task of constructing a sturdy boat fell mostly to myself. Having been raised on the dry sea bottoms of Barsoom, the young princess understood little of the theory behind watercraft.
Over time, a seaworthy craft took shape. I cooked tree sap to pitch the hull and carved pegs to hold the boards together. The joined and pitched boards were then covered with animal hide as was a roofed enclosure inside the craft itself. I made a sail from large leaves sewn together. Tamla and I sailed on a few short excursions from our camp to survey the coast and work out problems with the boat s construction.
In spite of the fact that Keltrolna was quite small compared to any of Earth s continents, it was still of impressive size and variety. We spent some time exploring all along the western coast where we saw many wonders.
We had few really good choices for how we should proceed. Tamla thought that we should head into the South Polar region where she thought there might some sort of route into the Sea of Omean and from there we might reach the Sea of Korus. I, on the other hand thought that the course most likely to succeed would be to make for Savjoda s capital and wait to see if we could get back when he next opens a road.
We devoted ourselves to the study of what might be called Dhaimiran "astronomy". We had to create a clear map of our world but we were subject to the sorts of limitations that were usually faced by astronomers, that is the vicissitudes of the weather. We also had no telescope although that was not too much of a handicap. Dhaimira s diameter is approximately three thousand miles making it only slightly larger than Vah-Nah. The shell of Barsoom was rather thicker by proportion than that of Earth which encloses Pellucidar. The result of this was that the atmosphere was considerably easier to see through than that of Pellucidar. On the other hand, the sun effectively blanked out a larger portion of the sky than did the sun of Pellucidar. Luckily for us, our camp was located very near the equator and we were able to see both polar regions. We discovered two things. The first was that we could not tell with any certainty the direction of the planet s rotation, therefore, we remained unsure as to which pole was which. The second of which was the presence of land masses located over both poles making a direct sea passage to the surface unlikely.
This is a copy made from the first map we made in western Keltrolna. The land of Keltrolna can be seen to encircle all the other lands and waters, for this is how it appeared from our vantage.
this is the best surmise I could make of the actual shape of the lands of Dhaimira if they were to be laid out flat. Geprodna is at the top of the map and Keltrolna is on the right hand side.
We reluctantly determined that seeking out Savjoda offered us the best chance of escape. We had, through our geographical explorations found a place that we believed to be Savjoda s base of operations. It was almost on the exact opposite side of the world from us. This made me wonder why we entered Dhaimira where we did. Were there other plans for Tamla aside from those stated by the jomads?
I contrived a clock of sorts, really more like an ancient sand glass. It dribbled a stream of sand from one container to another over a period of approximately 4000 resting heartbeats. I arbitrarily decided to call a period where we reversed the containers twenty times a day and thirty of those periods a month . Both Tamla and I felt much better with a method of time-keeping, although now that we had one, we became aware of how fast the time was going by.
It took us half a month to prepare supplies for our voyage. They consisted of dried meats and wild vegetables and many skins filled with spring water.
The darmayoks had left us a vial of their water purification chemical, but we felt it was best to regard that as emergency stores. Also, the water skins made good ballast and helped keep the boat from rocking too far in one direction or the other.
We reluctantly determined that seeking out Savjoda offered us the best chance of escape. We had, through our geographical explorations found a place that we believed to be Savjoda s base of operations. It was almost on the exact opposite side of the world from us. This made me wonder why we entered Dhaimira where we did. Were there other plans for Tamla aside from those stated by the jomads?
I contrived a clock of sorts, really more like an ancient sand glass. It dribbled a stream of sand from one container to another over a period of approximately 4000 resting heartbeats. I arbitrarily decided to call a period where we reversed the containers twenty times a "day" and thirty of those periods a "month". Both Tamla and I felt much better with a method of time-keeping, although now that we had one, we became aware of how fast the time was going by.
It took us half a month to prepare supplies for our voyage. They consisted of dried meats and wild vegetables and many skins filled with spring water.
The darmayoks had left us a vial of their water purification chemical, but we felt it was best to regard that as emergency stores. Also, the water skins made good ballast and helped keep the boat from rocking too far in one direction or the other.
We set out on a calm sea using only the map we had prepared for navigation. Frequent overcast weather made our progress slow and before more than five days had passed, we were forced to land at the first island we saw to wait until we could get our bearings.
The island was lushly forested with the leafy cup trees, not unlike the one we made our escape from the jomads in, each with its own little pond. There was ample hunting and forage for us to eat well and replenish stocks as we needed.
Beyond the forest that lined the coast was a savanna interrupted by occasional trees and watering holes. The ground cover was both Earthly grasses as well as Barsoomian yellow moss, thus we were not overly surprised to see that the land was shared by elephants and wildebeest as well as wild thoats and zitidars. Here were also various beasts, which were of obviously Dhaimiran origin, some of which were too fleet of foot for us to get a clear look at. We also spotted lions and calots which convinced us that it would be better for us to return to the coastal forest.
After some time, we determined that we were on a large island that Tamla identified as Penshodai. This island sat at one end of an archipelago that reached all the way to Geprodna.
If we stayed in the region of these islands for our journey, we would always be near land and in shallow, warm waters, but we would also be more exposed to discovery by Savjoda s jomad minions. Even so, the limitations of our boat and our dependence on being able to see our destination militated against attempting a long voyage on the open ocean. Thus it was that we agreed to make our journey along the line of islands.
We spent some time on Penshodai attempting to catalog animals and plants in hopes of making some sense out of the strange natural history of Dhaimira. While the great majority of animals were either Barsomian or Terrestrial, as well as native Dhaimiran, there were also examples of creatures from Amtor and some which simply didn t easily fit into any biology that I knew about. On one day we saw a tribe of vagas crossing the savanna. Unlike my dear friend Man-tan-ko, these vagas went about nearly nude and were armed with heavy clubs. While it was possible that they might have been able to give us valuable information, they also looked dangerous enough that approaching them would have been imprudent.
So far, of the intelligent life we had encountered in Dhaimira, only the darmayoks had shown us any civility therefore we were quite cautious no matter how much our curiosity might be peaked.
A few days before we were expecting to put out to sea again, we saw a remarkable sight. The tribe of vagas was again on the grassland beyond the forest, but on this occasion, they had strange creatures mounted on their backs. It was Tamla who reached the correct conclusion before I did.
"The vagas are slaves to those creatures." She said.
The vaga is a sentient being native to Vah-Nah which closely resembles the centaurs of Earthly myth. When humans first encountered them, they were barbarian tribes who survived on the nearly dead planes of Vah-Nah by cannibalism. That was centuries ago when that world was close to absolute death right before the Kalkar invasion of Earth. When Earth men returned to Vah-Nah, a program of wholesale land reclamation and irrigation along with many imported plants and animals restored that little world to something like its former glory. Today, the vagas are a farming and herding people who reap the rewards of the now rich soil of Vah-Nah. In Dhaimira, they apparently played a different role.
The creatures that were mounted on the vagas were unlike almost anything either Tamla or I had ever seen. Each one was more or less the size of a man and in that way alone they resembled humans. The body was a flexible cylinder that appeared to have no bony frame at all, for it seemed to be able to bend in any direction. There were eight tentacle-like limbs, the lower four of which served as legs while the upper four served as arms. The limbs were arranged in pairs that worked so closely together that they gave the appearance of having only two arms and two legs. The legs ended in oval pads while the arms terminated with pliant, spatulate manipulators resembling nothing so much as they did the trunk of an elephant. Each "hand" had three jointless fingers. The head was round and rather smaller looking than it seemed like it ought to be. There was no mouth, a pair of openings near the top which I thought must be ears and a recessed circle in the center of the face which contained three eyes. This head was set on a neck that could vary amazingly in length to the point that the creature could stretch to half again its height. They had brilliant pink skin that darkened to deep blue at the ends of the limbs and the top of the head. They wore clothing that was in rich colors and decorated with precious stones.
Looking upon these creatures, I realized that they bore the same relationship to the "squid-apes" that we had seen in Keltrolna, as do Earth men to the great apes of Africa.
As they coursed along the moss cover plane, they were accompanied by a mob of smaller creatures which dashed between the legs of the vagas. They were eight legged and had a behavior similar to that of hunting hounds. Loud honking calls issued from them, perhaps to help them find their way about with echoes like a bat, for they had no eyes. In my mind I named them "horn-dogs".
Although we took pains to remain hidden, the "horn-dogs" became aware of our presence and alerted the riders by pointing in the same manner as a dog from my home world might. The creatures turned their vaga mounts and galloped toward our hiding place. We turned to run only to find one of the hound-like horrors behind us. It blared a loudly raucous note and we were soon flushed into the open and surrounded by the riders.
Tamla drew her sword, but I signaled her to put it away. She understood. We were greatly outnumbered and she was not John Carter. Between us there was but a single sword. The mounted beings had what looked enough like weapons to warrant caution. They had not the sheen of steel, but swords still hung at their belts, as did peculiar triple barreled pistols. They appeared to be fabricated from some sort of stone.
Without protest we allowed one of the riderless vagas to lift us to his back with the knowledge that any other action could well cost us dearly.
One of the riders gave a curt order in a language I had never heard before and the entire party was in motion amidst the blaring and hooting of the horn-dogs. We were underway for most of an hour (as nearly as I could tell) when we reached a grouping of buildings which resembled in shape, but not size, a number of different sized kegs standing on end.
The Buildings were made from the same glossy material as the weapons. We were carried into one of the smaller buildings and deposited in a room where another of the tentacled creatures awaited us.
It looked us over speculatively, making a rather personal examination of the two of us. At one point, Tamla decided that the exam had become far too intrusive and drew her sword. A tentacle flashed almost faster than the eye could see to snatch the weapon from her hand.
"Steel." It said in clear Barsoomian. Is voice sounded like it was spoken by a hive full of bees.
Tamla gave a low, animalistic growl and made as if to leap at the creature. I held her back.
The creature continued. "This is enough steel to buy this city. You would do better for yourself in Dhaimira to sell it rather than fight with it."
"The value of good Heliumite steel", said Tamla, "is beyond any number of tanpi."
The creature made a strange sound, almost like a mechanical meshing of gears. Apparently this was its equivalent of a chuckle. "You should know that you are the guests of the Yan of Kotab."
"Kotab? Is that the name of your people?"
"We are called doyaks. Kotab is the only remaining doyak nation since the coming of Savjoda. We exist only as a small population now, but once, Dhaimira was our world."
I saw an oportunity to get more information about Savjoda. "Did he wipe out your people?"
"My people were almost extinct when Savjoda came. It was we who he first contacted in Dhaimira. He arrived in this world alone and naked an became its ruler and brought a nearly dead world back to life! The price has been that we have had to endure all of these alien creatures. They were necessary though, because so many of the Dhaimiran species had died out that life no longer had balance in Dhaimira, our world was in its last days. Savjoda now speaks of restoring the world which he says is above ours."
"Have you met this Savjoda?" I asked.
"It was at this very hive that he first appeared."
The creature continued to examine us and in the course of this examination, we discovered that its name was Fomas-67. "Fomas" apparently signified physician. He spoke several languages, a discipline which would have been unheard of on Barsoom. Barsoom has no linguists for the language of the surface world is universal and has been for thousands upon thousands of years. Fomas-67 spoke his native tongue as well as Barsoomian and to my surprise, The modern language of Earth as well as several dead languages such as French, English and a number of more obscure tongues from Asia (Chinese, Japanese and Malay) and Africa (Mande, Ibo, Bantu, Waziri). He also had some Amtorian as well as Kalkar and Vaga. How he knew these languages was mystery enough, but the question of why was even more so. Apparently this Savjoda was well traveled in the solar system and had shared much knowledge with the doyaks.
Fomas-67 Proved to be rather cordial. He had no axe to grind with us, he merely was under orders to examine any unusual life that his people came in contact with. Savjoda insisted that the doyaks do this because of their scientific turn of mind. They were in fact, a good deal more intelligent than human beings. There was a reason for this, the doyaks had a brain that grew for their entire life and that lifetime was usually several thousand years. Fomas-67 was relatively young at fifteen hundred years.
I was curious as to how they kept track of time without any astronomical references.
"We created an artificial unit of time and built the Master Clock. It does more than merely keep track of passing time. It also can alter the relationship between time and space. A copy of the Master Clock is at the heart of Savjoda s mechanism for opening the roads between the worlds."
Tamla asked, How can a clock do that?
Fomas-67 answered patiently. The sun of our world is sort of a hole in space and time. Our scientists have found that any body of mass that is heavy enough will engender a doorway in space at its center of mass. The Moon of Earth is about the smallest a body can be to have this effect take place. The opening leads to the center of the greatest mass within a particular grouping of bodies such as our solar system. In ours, that body is the Sun. As the worlds condensed from the primordial nebula they developed extra-dimensional openings into the center of what would become the Sun. When the Sun ignited there was a sudden flash of energy into those dimensional doorways. The primordial planets first melted from the heat and then swelled like balloons from expanding gasses until the interior of the bubbles had retreated far enough from the source of heat to cool back to a solid shell. This is how the worlds we know today were born. In the fullness of time, life was germinated on one or both surfaces of the bubble planets.
I freely admit that my mouth hung open upon hearing this. For centuries, the greatest minds of Earth, Barsoom and Amtor had devised theory upon theory to explain the entirety of the observed solar system, but all had seemingly insuperable flaws. When Pellucidar was discovered, Albert Einstein declared the existence of the internal sun flatly impossible and the internal world violated the predicted behavior of gravity in the light of his studies, thus he was obliged to start from scratch. He never arrived at a satisfactory theory to account for Pellucidar. By the time Vah-Nah was discovered Einstein was long dead, but the questions raised by the internal worlds were more alive than ever. For almost a thousand years id had remained one of the greatest mysteries of science, but the doyaks had known all along.
Savjoda was in the world called Pellucidar when he discovered that the direction of the doorways could be turned. We had known about it for quite some time and had used that fact to the advantage of our world. Our first experiment was to bring the Jasoomian, John Carter to the surface of Barsoom. We knew that he was the person who would ultimately save that world from total environmental collapse. We needed a similar person in Dhaimira and would have brought one here, but because the roads let us see through time and space, we knew that he was going to find his way here on his own. That person was Savjoda.
Tamla now asked, How did you even know about other worlds if your race never saw the stars?
Again, Fomas-67 made the strange grinding gears sound. My race is not native to Dhaimira, although we have been here for many millions of years. We are descended from a colony from the world that was once known as Otala. Their civilization occupied both the inner and the outer surface of their world. It was the Otalans who first discovered how to redirect the space/time road at the center of the world. We believe that shortly after the colony was placed here, Otalan scientists started to experiment with varying the size of the road. Apparently, they succeeded to a greater degree than planned and the sun was suddenly greatly expanded in power. In less than a second, a civilization millions of years old was wiped out when the entire planet simply exploded. The remnants of Otala are the asteroids which orbit between Barsoom and Eurobus.
We could have asked Fomas-67 questions for hours, nay, days hed we been allowed to, but it was not to be, at least for the moment. Two other doyaks appeared at the door to inform Fomas-67 that Savjoda had been informed of our presence and wanted us conveyed to him at once.
Things I didn't Know were Happening
In Helium, tensions were high.
John Carter, who was still distraught over the loss of his beloved wife, had also to contend with decaying relations between Earth and Barsoom.
Julian 67th, jemdar of Earth was, in the words of the diplomats, "highly concerned" regarding the disappearance of his son. The feelings of the Terran President were more ominous. The longtime era of peaceful relations between Earth and Mars was threatened.
The jeddak had also to contend with the loss of Tamla, a favorite, but troubled descendant. Her mother, Delah Kodal, who was the great, great grand daughter of his own daughter Tara, appeared at court each day to remind him that her daughter was still missing and his failure to find her. Tensions were also growing within his family.
Carter had sent missions out covering the entire planet, personally leading many of them until exhaustion threatened to claim him. To complicate things, he had gotten word that Ras Thavas, the so-called "mastermind" of Barsoom had vanished at the moment that he needed him most. Ras Thavas, the ever-elusive, two-thousand year old scientist had been sought to consult on the kidnapping of Tamla of Helium and the associated disappearance of Julian 68th the prince jemdar of Earth only for it to be discovered that he himself had vanished.
John Carter now sat alone in his apartments at the palace in Greater Helium, his grey eyes reflecting an infinite sadness. His beloved princess taken from him by age, his closest friends, Kantos Kan and Tars Tarkas and even his own son, Carthoris, elderly and no doubt soon to follow her and all the adventure having been slowly bled from his life, John Carter was faced with an unfamiliar emotion, that of feeling sorry for himself. In truth, any kind of introspection was more or less alien to his nature. Carter was far from unintelligent, but he was, in a way, uncomplicated. All he had ever asked from life was that he would be able to fight, laugh and love. His current life had no enemies to fight, no woman to love and little to laugh about. Curling his lip sardonically, he muttered, "I still live".
On Earth, The Jemdarate itself was in crisis. The President had now twice appeared before the parliament to argue against the continued royal succession. Never before had the heir to the throne been victim of such a crime as it now appeared had come to pass. While peace had been the rule between the two great empires, there had been some ongoing points of contention. Both planets claimed mining rights on Mercury. Barsoom had placed a colony on the surface of Earth's moon against the wishes of the Jemdarate. John Carter had stated that the Jemdarate only had claim to Vah-Nah, while the dead surface of the Moon was unclaimed. Also there was public discontent within the Jemdarate regarding the Barsoomian failure to abolish slavery. There was much made of the fact that the jeddak's previous allegiance, although over one thousand years ago, had been to a government which had revolted to preserve that very questionable institution. To now have an Earthly prince who was supposedly a guest of the Barsoomian government, vanish only added to existing tensions.
The Grand Council of Jeddaks met to discuss the rising tensions with Earth. They started plans for evacuating the Lunar colony and heavily armed ships were placed on orbit of Barsoom.
Earth openly sent an expeditionary force to Mars to "render aid" in the search for the princess Tamla and the prince Julian 68th. The Speaker of the Grand Council, Carthoris, jeddak of Helium declared that Barsoomian authorities required no help in the search and politely refused permission for the earth ships to come into Barsoomian orbit or to land on the surface. The President of the Jemdarate responded that their government would take a dim view of Barsoomian efforts to thwart Earth's attempt to recover the prince. John Carter was alarmed. Earth and Barsoom were rapidly heading into a dangerous situation which could easily escalate into war. This would not be the kind of war that was fought bravely hand to hand as a true warrior fights, but a war fought mostly at great distances with bombs and rockets that would claim the lives of many innocents and do nothing to test the metal of those involved. How easy it would be to lay low these two great civilizations! John Carter knew that he must prevent it, yet he had no means of doing so.
The expeditionary force of the Jemdarate fell into orbit around Mars challenged only by words, for John Carter and the Council had ordered that the first shot fired would not come from a Barsoomian. A single small vessel descended to the surface just outside of the gates of Greater Helium. From that vessel emerged seven men, one of them a diplomat in formal attire, six of them heavily armed soldiers. As they approached the city gate, a second, larger ship descended from the sky to alight about a haad away from the city. It was a troop carrier.
There was some dickering, but finally the diplomat with only two of his "honor guard" were admitted into Helium and into the chamber of the Grand Council of Jeddaks.
The diplomat, Jayman Zandrik by name, made what started out to be an impassioned appeal for the safe return of the prince, but also contained several references to a number of perceived slights against the Jemdarate. He informed the Council, and John Carter, for he had entered the chamber when he heard that Zandrik had arrived, that their efforts at finding the prince were woefully inadequate and their government felt it was best to take over the search themselves. Then he came out and said flatly that any attempt at interference by the Barsoomians would be treated as an act of war.
There was an explosion of voices within the council and in some cases, more than voices. Had not the jeddak of Warhoon been restrained (no easy job, it took fifteen red men to hold back that single green man), he would have instantly beheaded Jayman Zandrik for his temerity.
John Carter stood up, his face white with rage. This was not an emotion frequently seen in the normally cool-headed warlord. "Jayman Zandrik," he began, "as you are empowered to speak for you government, so I am for mine. If it is your intention to end centuries of peace by bringing armed men to this world, you will not find us unready. While my people have lived in peace for a very long time, our national character was forged in warfare and knows it well. Engage us at your own great peril! This meeting has concluded." With those words, he stalked from the room followed by all the jeddaks. For a minute or so, Zandrik and his guards stood in the chamber alone. They had to return to the city gate on their own where they were escorted back to their ship. They were offered no hospitality in the city.
As that day passed into night, word was gotten to the armies of Barsoom to get themselves to a state of maximum readiness. John Carter ordered that if anyone emerged from the larger ship it should be fired upon.
Just before dawn broke, John Carter was awakened. A message carried on a Gridley wave had been detected. The source could not be determined, but the content of the message was that Tamla and Julian were safe.
The jeddak was taken to the communications office in the palace and a recording of the message was played for him. The voice was that of a man. Clear and educated, it conveyed a sense of great assurance and purpose. "I hope that this communication may reach the ears of John Carter, warlord of Barsoom. I am Savjoda, of Earth, now lord of Dhaimira and I wish to inform you that princess Tamla of Helium and prince jemdar Julian 68th are well and healthy in my care. Do not fear for their safety."
A second voice then came on. "John Carter, I shall not have to identify myself as I am sure you know my voice well." Indeed he did, it was the voice of Ras Thavas, the so-called "mastermind" of Barsoom. While generally good-intentioned, Ras Thavas put learning above all things and did not always worry about how individuals might be effected by his actions. "I cannot describe to you the astonishing things which have come to light, but rest assured that the greatest discovery in the history of Barsoom has been made! We shall contact you again very soon."
That morning, Jayman Zandrik was summoned into a private audience with John Carter. He was expecting to receive either permission to deploy his troops or a declaration of hostilities. He certainly was not expecting to be played a sound recording from a strange personage named "Savjoda" claming to be an Earthman now living in a place called "Dhaimira". Although greatly perplexed, he took a copy of the message and departed. That afternoon, both ships left the surface of Barsoom.
The Troubled Sky
Tamla and I were provided with clothing in the form of loose fitting shirts and tight fitting trousers not unlike those worn by the jomads only of a size and cut to fit our bodies. We and Fomas-67 were escorted by several other doyaks to a flyer on the flat roof of the largest of the buildings. The flyer was clearly of Barsoomian design, but the controls were all marked in English, an archaic language from earth, the handiwork of Savjoda, no doubt. To our surprise, Fomas-67 returned the sword to Tamla before we set off. He was, I am certain, quite able to take it from her again if she tried anything.
The doyak physician handled the flyer expertly and brought us to a very great height as we left the island of Penshodai behind us. We were heading in the direction of southern Geprodna where I had spotted something that looked like it might be a city when Tamla and I were engaged in our "astronomical" studies. I was smugly pleased that I seemed to have been right about that location's importance.
The flyer hurtled through the sky at incredible speed and it seemed that we would be in the presence of the man who stood at the center of these strange events when the unexpected transpired. The sun went out.
Fomas-67 made a rumbling noise deep within his torso signaling, no doubt, his disorientation. The disorientation was shared by all of us, for we could not tell up from down, the entire world had gone black. When we saw the "road" appear emerging from where the sun once was, we realized that we were descending toward the sea in a spiral.
Once there was a source of light, Fomas-67 was able to straighten out our flight path. He said, "Something is amiss. Savjoda usually keeps our community apprised as to when he opens a road. This opening is unscheduled.
Tamla was still catching her breath from the tailspin. "What does that mean?" she asked.
"I m not certain. Perhaps some kind of emergency prompted the need or perhaps Savjoda is no longer in control of the machinery. We cannot be sure until we reach his city."
Blue Barsoomian sky appeared momentarily where once there was a patch of sea and then once again they were plunged into darkness. In a few seconds, the sun again ignited. Fomas-67 decided to continue toward the western coast of Geprodna so that we might find out what had happened.
It wasn t, it turned out, going to be that simple.
They were just dots at first, mere flyspecks in the distance, but they quickly resolved into clarity. Jomads in a "V" formation like migrating geese on Earth. Fomas-67 quickly turned the flyer to avoid the flock and we immediately saw that another was approaching us from the left, only this one was much closer, less than half a mile distant.
The speed of the flying jomads was unexpectedly swift. They were almost upon us in a matter of seconds. Fomas -67 turned the flyer toward them with the intent of ramming his way through. Two jomads were killed instantly as the flyer s prow struck them but we were boarded by two more who drew pistols. Tamla drew her sword only to have it struck from her hand by a jomad. It dropped to the bottom of the flyer with a ringing clatter. Another jomad fired his pistol into the instrument panel of the flyer destroying it utterly. The flyer instantly started spinning. One of the jomads seized Tamla and lifted her from the disabled flyer as she kicked and cursed them. We were ignored as soon as they had Tamla. The jomads flew off, completely indifferent to our plight as we plummeted to the sea.
I watched helplessly as the jomads disappeared into the distance with my true love, indeed, the anguish caused by that sight momentarily made me forget that I had only seconds remaining in my life, for the sea was rushing up at the crippled flyer with alarming speed. Fomas-67 had not given up. He was tearing into the ruined guidance mechanism with deft and swift movements of his boneless hands. We were a mere fifty feet above the rolling ocean when the mechanism of the flyer suddenly sprang back to life throwing the both of us off our feet. Our descent was slowed enough that we hit the water only softly and then started to rise again. The flyer was only able to stay about five feet above the water and move forward at only a snail s pace, but it would get us to an island alive, which was decidedly better than the alternative.
Three days later, we arrived at a large island that Fomas-67 identified as Omporoi, once the home of an important doyak nation. Its inhabitants had been wiped out in a war that had taken place over fifty thousand years before. Fomas-67 believed that Savjoda now used it as a preserve for otherwise extinct animals.
The flyer failed us while we were still a mile off shore and came to rest on the surface whereupon it started taking on water. We could not allow it to sink or we would be stranded. Even if we could not repair it, the metal in it could be used for tools and/or trade given that there was none to be found elsewhere in Dhaimira. We therefore, had to get out and swim while bearing it up until our feet could touch bottom.
We dragged the flyer as high onto the pebbly beach as we could before we took in out surroundings. This island was unfamiliar to the doyak who, although was well versed in the wonders of the greater cosmos, had traveled little on his own world save for trips from one major enclave to another. It turned out that his chauffeuring Tamla and I to Geprodna was the first lengthy trip he had made in over one hundred years.
To our right was a forest of broad leafed trees including the ubiquitous cup trees found, it seems, all over Dhaimira's islands. To our right was a broad savanna that reached many miles into the distance. At a point which would have been over the horizon had we been on the surface, that savanna again gave way to forest and then, once more, the sea.
I retrieved Tamla's sword and determined to find a meal. Fomas-67 agreed that we needed food so we set out into the savanna. I had seen in the distance, what looked a lot like wildebeest, and I thought that I might be able to bring one down. Fomas-67 was entirely unversed in the art of hunting and his inhuman odor, while barely noticeable to myself, seemed to be quite alarming to the animals. I urged him to return to the beach and allow me to fetch dinner on my own. He agreed and I was left to stalk the herd without causing undo commotion.
About two minutes after he had left I heard a loud and strange sound that could only have come from the doyak. It was rather like a combination of a bell ringing and a cricket chirping. I turned around and was greeted with a singularly unnerving sight. Fomas-67 was surrounded by five of the most fearsome creatures I had ever set eyes on. They were four legged and covered with bristly spotted fur. Their eyes shined with an unnatural light and their fanged mouths slavered with an insatiable lust for blood. They gave forth with voices that sounded like some demonic gibbering. They were an apparition form an earlier age, a horrid creature thought to have been extinct for hundreds of years. When they had lived on my world, they were known as hyena.
By the time I was able to reach him, he was surrounded. Considering that he was completely unarmed, he gave quite a good account of himself. His tentacles functioned as effective whips that allowed him to keep the hideous beasts at a distance.
I was gasping for breath as I came up behind on of the yipping horrors. I struck off its tail with swipe from the keen-edged sword. The monster let forth a frightful ululation and turned upon me with the intent to instantly punish me. With all my might, I drove the point of the sword between the evil thing s eyes. The others had seen the brief battle and quickly left Fomas-67 for their new foe, but when they saw my swift dispatch of their fellow, they reacted not with a need for vengeance, but set upon its still twitching corpse tearing it to pieces.
Fomas-67 and I fled as the creatures quarreled over gobbets of their brother s flesh. Killing that beast didn t require any great feats of swordsmanship, only the nerve to do it. Heaven only knew what else might be required of me during our sojourn on this island. I tarried for a moment to look once more upon the beasts as they savaged the corpse of their own kith and kin, praying that it would be the worst I would see.
Over time, we discovered that the African veldt that once was still existed here. Prides of lions hunted zebras and wildebeest and herds of elephants made there way there just as in ages past.
When the Kalkars first came to Earth, the larger animals were among the first casualties. Their home world was starving to death and cannibalism had been the only source of meat for a very long time. The large animals of Africa and the great cattle herds of the Americas were decimated. Many of the African animals were driven into extinction. Apparently Savjoda had rescued many from oblivion. How, I was not certain at the time. There would come a time when I would find out.
Fomas-67 was able to repair the flyer well enough for us to use it over short distances. It was indispensable for transporting lumber and for getting us to where game could be found.
Our life fell into a certain monotony and time was slipping away while I had no idea as to the fate of Tamla. We found that our differences made our life in this place somewhat uneasy. It turned out that Fomas-67 could not abide the odor of human beings and continued close quarters with me made him irritable. I, on the other hand, could not bear to watch him eat, a process that involved his everting his stomach through an opening in his torso and digesting his meal outside of his body.
Fomas-67 spent almost all of his time attempting to repair the flyer with the little resources we had while I applied myself to hunting. I constructed a bow and some arrows, as a sword was not the ideal implement for bringing down game.
The sky had darkened for the opening of a road several times since we had been marooned. Fomas-67 speculated that Savjoda no longer had any semblance of control of the equipment, for he had never used it that often before. I wondered in horror at the possibility of jomads swarming the skies of Earth. I mention this now because on one occasion that it happened, I had almost failed to make special note of it other than to curse the foul weather it heralded. When I looked up into the blackness, however, I was startled to see the road opening up onto our island. The weird, halo-like opening in the air drifted down to the surface less than a mile from me. I could not see what, if anything, emerged from the road before the sun suddenly flashed back to life. I had been so transfixed by the sight of the road that I was caught by surprise and was temporarily blinded by the sun. I called at the top of my lungs for Fomas-67. With the swiftness that was characteristic of his species, he was at my side in less than a minute.
As my vision cleared I beheld an uncanny sight. In the distance was a small herd of very tiny antelope that stood no more than fifteen inches high at the shoulder, but that by itself faded into insignificance beside the fact that these antelope had equally diminutive human riders.
For as much as I could tell, Fomas-67 was not as thunderstruck as I to see this, although his expressions remained difficult for me to read. We had naught to do but stand fast as the miniature riders approached. They almost ignored me as they came to a stop in front of us, but the apparent leader of the band, who wore something resembling a rather normal Earth-style military uniform, walked directly up to Fomas-67 and addressed him in a rolling polysyllabic language with which I was unfamiliar.
The doyak was taking it all in. "What in Heaven s name is he saying?" I demanded.
Fomas-67 turned to me and said, "He said Lord doyak, we have found you and the prince from Earth at last. Zuanthrol greets you, but, sadly, also requires your help."
"And who, pray tell, is Zuanthrol ?"
"It is the name by which these people refer to Savjoda."
"Very well, and who are these tiny persons and where do they come from?"
As far as I could tell, Fomas-67 was now wearing an expression of surprise.
"They are Minunians, Julian. They are from your own home planet!"
Ras Thavas was as close to panic as his analytical mind would allow him to get. His flyer sped through the Barsoomian night as fast as he could go, for he knew that an army of jomads were close behind him. He had mere hours to reach Greater Helium to warn John Carter of the peril which stood unseen at his doorstep. It boggled even his great mind when he considered the immensity which was faced by the entire solar system.
In the distance, the jomads hurled insults and curses after him as they slowly closed the gap between them. The Mastermind of Mars was armed with nothing more than his wits, but wits such as those possessed by Ras Thavas were mightier than a thousand swords.
He turned the flyer upward after setting a rather complex program into the directional compass. That program would deliver him to Helium on a course which would describe a high arc through the upper atmosphere. In short order, the Mastermind lost consciousness, although he did so with a slightly smug smile on his face. The jomads, unused to the type of atmospheres behavior on the surface, did not expect to grow short of breath as they rose to follow and one by one, passed out and started to plummet toward the surface.
Later, the flyer was dipping down as it approached Helium when Ras Thavas regained awareness, none the worse for the experience save for a small headache.
The sun was at zenith over Greenwich. Only had it been otherwise would that have been unusual, for Pellucidar never experienced night. Given that basic fact of Pellucidarian life, the panic that every person who was on the streets at the time felt when the sun suddenly went out, was understandable. Luckily, or so it seemed, the darkness only lasted a few short seconds.
The sun came back to life as quickly as it had been extinguished. The population looked toward the sky in relief. That relief turned quickly to a new form of panic as a horde of winged creatures descended out of the renewed sunlight. At first, a few voices cried out "Mahars! They have returned to enslave us!" but the owners of those voices soon saw that it was a less familiar evil that they faced. The streets of Greenwich were soon crowded with jomads who actually, for the most part, ignored the fleeing residents. Only those who attempted to get in their way found themselves cut down by their strange ceramic swords. It took them only a short time to control the two key positions that they needed. The first was the underground rail entrance that was the gateway to Earth and the second was the Gridley wave transmission station so that they could delay new of their arrival from spreading too quickly.
The jemdar and the president both sat in the house of parliament that day and listened to one impassioned speech after another. A representitive from the country of Brazil had the floor.
"Your Majesty, Mr. President. For two hundred days, our prince has been gone without any real explanation. The Barsoomian "Warlord" has continued to insist that a situation over which he has no control persists and that having heard from this "Ras Thavas" person, we should trust and have faith that all shall be resolved.
" I ask you, what manner of hogwash is this that we are asked to believe? Ras Thavas is nothing more than the court wizard to a man who rules a medieval system that is out of step with our modern world in almost every particular. This John Carter was born on this world but enjoys living a fantasy life on Mars! How much longer must we endure having to deal with this man? Furthermore, he has claimed that some unknown personage named "Savjoda" is the real villain in this shocking abduction without any evidence save for the word of Ras Thavas!"
The parliamentarian s tirade was interrupted by a messenger entering the chamber and running to the place where the president was seated. The president looked over the scrap of paper briefly and then stood up and struck the podium with his gavel.
"Gentlemen! I must call an end to this session at this time. There seems to be a disturbance at the underground station that requires my attention. A riot perhaps, but the military has been summoned and I must lend some guidance."
The president strode from the chamber with a sense of purpose in his step. Several ministers escorted the jemdar out, while the members of parliament fell into hushed discussions.
It was a rather shocking when the windows of the legislative chamber burst inward to admit a hundred sword wielding jomads. They drove the representatives from the chamber and herded them into a basement office where they were locked in. None resisted the strange winged creatures. The president was captured by jomads who constantly harrangued him, but in a language he could not understand. Julian 67th, hereditary jemdar of Earth s hegemony, was arrested and confined to the residence of the palace. The center of Earth s government had fallen in a matter of minutes.
The Walls of Greater Helium
It was near sunset. Cluros and Thuria hurtled overhead oblivious to the disaster that approached from the horizon.
Three men stood on the wall of Barsoom a capital city. Two were red men, one, a handsome youth in the spring of young manhood, another a withered veteran. Between them stood a square-jawed, gray-eyed Earthman. The youth was Ras Thavas the two thousand year old Mastermind of Mars in his seventh new body since he had mastered the art of brain transplantation. The Earthman was John Carter, Warlord of Mars, even older than Ras Thavas, but by how much, he knew not. The ancient one was Carthoris, son of John Carter and at the age of nine-hundred and ninety years had been contemplating retiring as jeddak of Helium.
"They are like a swarm of bees." Said John Carter.
"You have told me about bees, father, but I thought they were smaller." replied Carthoris.
"They are, son. These creatures, whatever they are, are far more dangerous."
Ras Thavas had only managed to stay ahead of the horde by about an hour. To his disappointment, most of them had regained consciousness before they had struck the ground and had renewed their advance on the city.
The ancient scientist addressed the warlord. "These creatures are based on my own work in creating the hormads and unfortunately, although their bodies are more symmetrical and they can reproduce themselves, their minds are just as simple. Savjoda created them as a work force to help him in his grand project of reclaiming the works of nature that had been weakened by humanity. He sought to make the almost dead world of Dhaimira into a preserve for wildlife that was barely holding on to its own existence.
"When the Kalkars invaded Earth seeking any meat they could find, Savjoda, like a later day Noah of Jasoomian legend, preserved them, each after their own kind. He hid them in Pellucidar out of sight or mind of the Kalkars. It was at that time that the doyaks, the one-time dominant race of Dhaimira, saw in Savjoda the key to their own salvation."
John Carter wrinkled his brow. "And now he has extended his wildlife preserve to the surface of Barsoom?"
"I don t think so, John Carter. The jomads, being the rather simple-minded creatures they are, have taken every idle word spoken by Savjoda as if it were the most urgent order. He once expressed concern about the continued rule of other human governments and they determined that he would conquer all of mankind. He expressed the loneliness of his mission and they contrived to kidnap a suitable bride for him. He expressed fatigue over the magnitude of his undertaking and they determined to take it over for him. At the moment, he is a prisoner in a gilded cage, waited on hand and foot, but unable to act on his own at all. I was able to contrive a way to escape and warn the outside world, but Savjoda insisted on staying behind in the hope he might be able to exercise at least some control."
"I only hope", said Carter, "that your warning was enough. We must arm every available man and use every available flyer. These jomads must not take Helium."
In the Sun s Embrace
Only twenty million miles from the Sun was the darkest place in the Solar System.
Kivu was the world within the planet Mercury. An age ago, on the day that that the sun of Otala exploded, some visitors from that world had been in Kivu. They activated the machinery to open a road to their home world only to step out into vacuum and cold darkness. Kivu s life giving link with the Sun was left severed. Since that day, Kivu had been a world of darkness. Its natives took to burrowing into the ground to be warmed by the heat of the sun that seeped up through the ground. In time they became colorless and blind with a remarkably keen sense of smell. Over a thousand centuries, they had developed a tradition of epic verse and storytelling that was based only on the senses of smell, hearing and touch. Their oral literature had a rare beauty. The Kivuans figure not at all in this story, however, because they never ventured out to the inner surface of Kivu at all. Because of this the jomads were unaware of their presence, in fact their existence was known only to a few doyak scientists.
The jomads were interested in using Kivu as a jomad home world and attempted to contrive a way to re-ignite its sun. Having only the most basic grasp on how the dimensional roads worked, they made a crucial error. Instead of placing the source for the inner world s sun near the Sun s surface, they placed it directly at the core of the Sun. The adjustment was made from Dhaimira, so it would be several minutes before the mistake became apparent. To the team of jomads actually within Kivu at the moment of ignition, there was so little delay in the result that they never had time to even understand that anything was amiss.
In one of the last places on the surface of the Earth that was far enough away from city lights to be useful, stood a small observatory. External light , however, was not an issue today, for the astronomer was making solar observations. Through a dense smoked filter, an astronomer was observing and counting sunspots. The observatory was his refuge, particularly when the news of events on Earth was so disturbing. The jemdar and president under arrest and strange winged creatures running amok in the capital was bad enough news to drive him into the isolation of his cosmic observations.
As he viewed the solar disk, he found himself baffled by what appeared to be a second, smaller Sun bursting into existence beside it. His puzzlement turned to horror when he checked an ephemeris. The bright splotch was in the exact location of the planet Mercury.
The second asteroid belt that was born that day would come to be known as the "Jomad s Children".
I was fascinated by the Minunians. They were amazing natural mathematicians and engineers. They were able to fix the flyer because they had good metal tools and because they could crawl inside the works.
The leader of the rescue team, Kanadotokiahago, saw to it that we were able to get into the air in a matter of hours.
It seemed like it was not too long before we were on our way again to Savjoda s headquarters. The entire contingent of seven Minunians and their mounts fit in the flyer quite comfortably with Fomas-67 and I.
The coast of the continent of Geprodna sharpened in clarity as we approached and the towers of a city built for beings who could fly came slowly into focus. Jomads flapped from high tower to rooftop doorways over a network of catwalks and bridges that served as streets. It was obvious that this city did not grow and evolve to meet the changing needs of a growing people. It was the vision of a single planner, constructed from the ground up as a whole concept. The industry, residences and transport network surrounded a core that was almost all gleaming metal, more metal than could be found in all of the rest of this world. Even from the air, the machine s astounding complexity was apparent. It looked like a system of gimbals, pivots and levers that controlled with minute precision the position of a gigantic lens-shaped mass of gold colored metal. I could just make out the hundreds of Minunian engineers whose job it was to constantly make whatever adjustments were needed.
Fomas-67 brought our flyer to rest atop a wide tower made of polished stone. The tower was directly adjacent to the machine itself. "This is Savjoda s city home." Said Fomas-67.
Kanadotokiahago said, "His only home at the moment. The jomads are protecting him. He cannot leave."
"Savjoda is being held under house arrest by his own servants?" I asked.
"He should explain that himself." said Kanadotokiamuskas.
Fomas-67 and Kanadotokiahago led me into a great hall that was dominated by an inlay map of all Dhaimira on the floor. The map greatly resembled the first map made by Tamla and I on the Keltrolna coast differing only in that this one was centered at this city. The walls were filled from floor to ceiling with books of all types and from all worlds written in every known language. The library of the jemdar s palace in San Francisco did not contain as many volumes or as varied a selection. In various places around the hall were some very black-skinned men who were hard at work filing away or referring to several of the books. They conversed softly in an obscure African tongue that Fomas-67 called Waziri. These gentlemen all wore very formal clothing and had the bearing of college professors.
There he stood upon the representation of the continent of Bavkerna. He was a man of my own race who looked to be in very fit middle age. His hair was worn brushed straight back and worn just short of shoulder length. His expression was serious and his attitude conveyed the image of great wisdom. The only other man who I had ever seen with this type of demeanor was John Carter himself. He wore a suit of very ordinary cut, but very rich fabric. The style seemed to be about a century out of date, but in no way did it have the look of a costume. This was how the man was used to dressing. Overall, he did not have the look of miscreant. He had a simple nobility that took me a little off guard.
"Your Highness", he said, "I only wish that it was more pleasant circumstances under which I were greeting you." He stepped forward and extended his hand.
I ignored the proffered hand. "Where is Tamla of Helium?" I asked.
"Sadly, I do not know. She escaped from her captors."
"You are her captor, you swine!"
For only an instant, anger clouded Savjoda s noble features, but with a deep breath, he restored himself to equanimity. Calmly he responded, "I understand how distressed you must feel, but despite appearances, I am only indirectly responsible for the tribulations that the princess has suffered.
"I admit that I am the author of a situation which is no longer under my control, and for that I beg the forgiveness of all concerned. It is my greatest regret that all concerned are a number that grows with each passing hour.
"Too much responsibility was placed in the hands of the jomads, I understand that now. They are too simple-minded, too literal. This is their city, I rule it, but it is more theirs than mine. I am more their God than their head of government."
"I m not sure I understand." I was skeptical, but willing to let him have his say. Besides, I needed to learn as much as I could about Savjoda.
"Of course, how could you? The jomads decided that I should have my every wish. They have also taken an unwarranted concern for my safety."
As the man spoke, he paced over the map crossing seas and islands. He moved with uncommon grace and assuredness. There was an economy in his gestures that reflected long practice. Very long practice. Savjoda had been around a long time.
"Are you telling me that you did not kidnap Tamla?"
"Yes. I say in earshot of the jomads that I experience loneliness, and they see to it that I have a suitable bride. I mention that the planet would be better off with me in charge, and they invade the surface. I say that Kivu has been in darkness too long and they destroy a world."
"What are you talking about?!?"
"Kivu, the world within the planet Mercury. Two hours ago, the jomads incinerated it by mishandling the dimensional doorway. Millions died in a sudden flash. The jomads have controlled the machine for creating the roads for many days now. They are on Barsoom, they are in Pellucidar and they are on Amtor, Vah-nah and Earth."
Mercury destroyed? There had been a living world within it? I was taken aback by the new information. To have a new world revealed on its death day it was strange and sad. All the human worlds menaced by the jomads?
"How did you come to gain and then lose control of that kind of power?"
"It took a long time and luck, both good and bad, played a role.
" I was born just over one thousand years ago on Earth of a family from a place called England. I was lucky enough to be born into the privileged class and unlucky enough to be orphaned from it at a very early age in a strange land.
"I was adopted and raised by a family of what you would consider beasts and I grew to manhood unaware of my own humanity. I had books but no human companionship. I could read and write before I could speak. As a result of that upbringing, I have much of the savage within me. Although I was highborn in what was then Earth s greatest empire, in my heart I was lord of something greater, and at the same time more intimate, the deep and wild jungle. Not until I had attained manhood was I acquainted with the niceties of civilization, and never did I become wholly comfortable with them."
Savjoda paced back and forth nervously as he spoke.
"Although I was born with a name and a title, my adopted family called me white skin , in the doyak language it is rendered as savjoda . For the greater part of my life, it has been the only name I have been known by.
"As I grew more experienced, I discovered that there was little to envy in my own race. We were a people who sought to dominate rather than cooperate with nature. In the fullness of time, which included love, loss, riches and the attainment of power, it became apparent that I was not aging as others of my kind do. I had heard of one other such man, John Carter the Earth-man who had become Warlord of Barsoom.
"When the Kalkars came, I discovered a new mission in my life, that of saving Earth s noblest creatures from their abattoirs.
"Their conquest of Earth was swift and complete, but my home was in a remote location. It was several months before I saw my first Kalkar. I fought them with every thing I had within me and calling upon every resource at my command, but it was a forgone conclusion that they must eventually win."
"What did you do?" I asked.
"I started transporting animals into Pellucidar. I had obtained a machine which could drill a tunnel all the way into the inner world. With the help of that device and other like minded people, I was able to preserve some of Earth' grandest creatures."
The Kalkars, thankfully, never discovered the existence of Pellucidar. For most humans after the Kalkar conquest, it became little more than a myth. It was a hundred years after they were driven from power that Pellucidar was rediscovered, but, by then I was already in Dhaimira."
The Waziri scholars had abandoned their books to listen. Apparently, Savjoda did not relate this story frequently.
"I was piloting an airplane on the day the sun went out in Pellucidar for the first time. The road led me to the city of the doyaks in Dhaimira."
Savjoda gestured toward Fomas-67. "Their world was in trouble. The internal worlds don t hold together environmentally as well as the external ones. The numbers of the doyaks were thinning and resources were diminishing. They had developed an amazing science and industry in spite of the fact that they had little metal. Almost all that they had, had been obtained by trading with a race from the surface of Barsoom known as the Kaldanes. They saw that my work at saving what I could of my own world was actually working to some degree and they sought my help.
"It wasn t the first time. It was the doyaks who brought John Carter to Barsoom. They caused the peculiar accidents that brought Carson Napier to Amtor and Julian 5th to Vah-nah. The doyaks are the master planners. They are the ones who knew what was needed where and at what time. Their methods have not always been painless. It was also the doyaks who indirectly caused the death of my human parents.
The man seemed to have lost awareness that there was even anybody listening to his tale.
"I needed help and they made available to me the notebooks of Ras Thavas as well as some addenda of their own. I took quite some time, but I finally was able to design and create the first jomads based on the Mastermind s hormads but able to reproduce themselves and combining characteristics of Terrestrial and Martian life. They have served me with extraordinary devotion. They built this city and followed the instructions of the doyaks to the letter in order to construct this transport machine. My every random thought, they treat as holy writ.
"It is true that I said that the worlds of the Solar System would be better off if I were in charge. It is true that I have felt borne down with the loneliness of my life, but I did not instruct the jomads to abduct Tamla of Helium to become my wife although I do find he to be a feisty and engaging young woman. I did not instruct the jomads to invade other worlds."
Savjoda s voice took on an ironic tone. "The jomads, in their wisdom, have sought to free me of the burden of day to day decision making. They also decided that I would be safer if I did not leave my residence."
He indicated the Waziri scholars and Kanadotokiahago. "The Waziri and the Minunians , and of course, the doyaks have all been working on a way to free me without agitating the jomads too much. They are already out of control, if they were to think that I had abandoned them, any semblance of control would be lost."
I stood there close to despair. The man I thought was my enemy, the penitent author of the greatest menace mankind had ever faces, was also the only person who could help bring it to an end. We needed more help and we needed it very soon.
Looking Savjoda in the eye, it was easy to see that his desire to end this situation was desperate. This man who was once lord of the jungle, now lord of a world met my gaze evenly. I said, "I know who you are and who you were. There is no situation that you cannot make better. Only your loss of faith in yourself can prevent it. Savjoda, I must find and free Tamla of Helium. To do that, I require your cooperation."
All present nodded their heads in agreement save for Fomas-67 who performed a peculiar gesture which may or may not have meant the same thing.
A Portable Princess
Tamla of Helium had made a home for herself in the dense tropical forest several miles outside of the city.
A large cup tree had been cut down to make a dome on the ground for comfortable living with a door that could be closed against most wild beasts. She labored long and hard to drag the fallen tree into the shelter of the forest so that it could not be spotted from the air.
She now owned the ceramic sword of her former jomad guard as well as his pistol. On he second day of freedom, she used the pistol to bring down a banth that had cornered her. She now wore a necklace of his teeth as her sole adornment. Tamla had become quite comfortable living in the wild and expected that she could do so indefinitely if she had to.
She was now a familiar sight to the smaller animals that lived in the forest and her sound and smell no longer alarmed them. She spent much of her time mastering the art of swimming, which was a much more valuable skill in Dhaimira than on her native Barsoom and also shadow fencing with the five foot jomad sword. In spite of her diminutive stature, she became remarkably adept with the weapon. It was actually quite a bit lighter than a steel sword of the same length would have been which meant that it had to be swung harder to make a proper cut. On the other hand, if she swung it with both hands, the tip would be moving at a fearsome rate when it found its target. She had discovered that she could fell small trees in one stroke this way.
From animal hide, she made a sheath for the great sword that strapped across her back at an angle so that its tip would not strike the ground and she could still withdraw it easily by reaching over her shoulder. The radium pistol still had its original belt and holster that she had taken from the wounded jomad.
She had no way to measure time, but it seemed to her that a month had past when she started seeing them. Little men. Barsoom had no myths or legends of fairies or pigmies, so Tamla had nothing to relate to what she thought she saw. One finally appeared before her mounted on some sort of creature that she had never seen. He was white skinned and dressed in a loose shirt and trousers not unlike the original clothing Julian had been wearing when they entered Dhaimira, so she assumed that he was from Earth. The little man addressed her in a language she did not understand as he handed her a rolled up piece of paper. In heavily accented Barsoomian he said "Please read."
The paper was a note in Barsoomian, which read as follows;
My beloved princess,
If you are reading this, my fondest wish has come true and Gosmasokamankgo has found you. I am sure that his appearance must be startling to you, but I assure you that he is a soldier and a scientist who is intelligent, brave and loyal. He is a servant of Savjoda who is prisoner of his own jomads.
None of what has happened to you in his name is his doing and he is now working tirelessly to set right what wrongs have been done. To that end, we, that is Savjoda, myself and others, have formulated a plan. In order to bring you into the city unnoticed by the jomads, we have sent Gosmasokamankgo, who has a method of smuggling you in. Cooperate with him fully. You may trust him as you trust me.
-Robin Harold Julian 68th
The princess looked down at the tiny man who stood only as high as her knee. He smiled up at her and motioned her to enter her dome house. He followed with a peculiar looking device in hand.
The small machine was dominated by an array of disks made of differing materials. Gosmasokamankgo directed her to sit and then activated the machine. She was taken by an extreme sensation of disorientation. In a matter of seconds she fainted into a state of deep unconsciousness.
She awoke inside of a huge structure, not unlike her own house save for the fact that it was three times the size. Her perspective changed when Gosmasokamankgo entered. He now was considerably taller than she. She looked about the room and saw that her sword, her gun-belt, her sandals, even the loop of leather she had used to tie back her hip length tresses, were now sized for a giant and lay in a pile to one side. Gosmasokamankgo, through some science, had reduced her to the proportions of his own kind.
He handed her clothing that was similar to his own, only with differences in style and cut that indicated it was intended to be worn by a woman. Finally he applied a pale colored makeup to her hands and face, for that was all the skin the Minunian clothing left exposed. She now could enter the city in an almost perfect disguise. Only close examination would reveal the Barsoomian nature of her features.
She rode behind Gosmasokamankgo on his now much larger mount into the city of Savjoda. They entered the city past several towering jomads shading themselves with their tails. they paid the pair little attention. Shortly thereafter they entered a tall, elongated dome shaped building. Inside were many thousands of the diminutive people. The buliding was a vast gallery with apartments attached to the walls within a confusing network of steps, ladders and elevators. People were everywhere going about hundreds of tasks, small and large. Gosmasokamankgo guided their mount from one end of the vast gallery to the other and tied up his mount beside several others.
He led Tamla into another building, this one with a normal, to her huge, sized door. In this building were several very brown-skinned men who were quite tall for normal sized humans. Gosmasokamankgo spoke to one of the brown men, who immediately led them into the grand map room.
There stood Savjoda. He could not have planned a more impressive first time for her to see him, for he was a towering giant. Gosmasokamankgo extended his hand in Savjoda s direction and said, "Zuanthrol."
Savjoda addressed her. "It means the giant . That has always been the name the Minunians have used for me. I am Savjoda and I am honored to meet you, Tamla of Helium."
Tamla was taken aback. She had expected to meet with me and instead she was confronted with her (perceived) nemesis and she was reduced in size at the time. "Where is Julian?" she demanded.
"He will join us shortly. The Waziri scholars are giving him a tour of the research rooms. Gosmasokamankgo must now undo the change which he has made to your size."
Again, the Minunian used the device and again Tamla swooned.
When she again awoke, I held her hand in mine. Beside me stood two of the Waziri, Gosmasokamankgo, Kanadotokiahago and Savjoda. The Minunian costume lay in shreds around her now normal-sized body.
"Julian! Are we prisoners of Savjoda?"
"We and Savjoda are prisoners of the jomads. The jomads, it seems, have defined for themselves how to best serve their master. Suffice it to say that all is not how we have perceived it to be."
Tamla appeared to be confused and skeptical, but she trusted me, so she nodded her head and sat up. With gratitude, she received back her fine Heliumite steel sword from me and strapped it on. I knew that Tamla would never feel naked so long as she had her steel near at hand.
There were now great plans to be made. He jomads were on the verge of total conquest of the human solar system and their supposed master was unable to stop them. Savjoda had been consulting with Ras Thavas for years concerning how to keep the jomads under control.
Tamla, having learned the whole story, still didn't think too highly of Savjoda. Through his inability to control the jomads, he had allowed an entire planet to be destroyed and there were jomads everywhere now. She did, however, have a suggestion. "Perhaps we should tell this entire story to John Carter."
Escape on Dhaimira
In spite of the fact that the jomads had their own agenda, when Savjoda ordered a road to be opened, they obeyed.
Tamla, Savjoda and I stood atop the palace as the sun went dark. We were dazzled as it again jumped to its former light. It took another several minutes until we saw the flyer as a dot against the sky. That dot swelled in size rapidly.
Savjoda said, "Fomas-67 has the power off until he is less than a mile above the ground. If it were anyone else, I'd call it a foolish risk. There is truly no more skilled pilot than that doyak."
The flyer finally started to slow down and sank gently to the roof. Onboard were Ras Thavas and John Carter.
The Warlord looked concerned, although he was relieved to see that Tamla was alive and well. The mastermind appeared detached, as was his usual demeanor.
John Carter was somewhat impatient. With every step he took, and he took many for he was pacing nervously, his metal clattered cacophonously. "We must act as soon as humanly possible." He said, "We kept Helium from being taken for now, but Zodanga, Korad and Ptarth have fallen to the jomads and their region of control is expanding. The fact is", he said with a sour expression, "that the way of the sword is lost to most Barsoomians these days. We are no longer a militaristic culture."
"The life of the warrior is still in the heart of all Barsoomians!" exclaimed Tamla.
The warlord smiled lovingly at the girl who, to his mind, had inherited more of his own personality than any of his recent descendants.
Savjoda and I listened bemusedly to this very Barsoomian exchange. Brute force from either Earth or Marsâ€™ largely de-militarized empires would be unlikely to do the job. The jomads were already spread too widely in the Solar System.
Two of the Waziri scholars were consulting with Gosmasokamankgo and Ras Thavas at the other side of the great library.
Gosmasokamankgo broke free of the huddle and walked over to Savjoda and John Carter. He spoke to Savjoda in his peculiar language. "They have an interesting thought." Said Savjoda.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Two flyers sat on the roof of the palace. There were a few jomads around, but they were only instructed to protect Savjoda and to not let him leave, but not to interfere with his other activities. If one of the flyers had Savjoda on board when it set off, the jomads would give chase, but they would not dare question him before hand.
Fomas-67 took the controls of one of the aircraft and Ras Thavas the other. Into the first craft came myself, Gosmasokamankgo and two Waziri named respectively Dallo M'Tumba and the other simply Joseph. Gosmasokamankgo had with him the device he had used to alter Tamla's size although it was now incorporated into another machine that had a more Barsoomian look.
The second craft took aboard Tamla and John Carter while Savjoda waited beside it.
Our craft took off with only passing notice of the jomads. Fomas-67 took us up above the road-making device and quickly gestured toward Gosmasokamankgo. The Minunian lifted the peculiar mechanism into a position which allowed him to point a lens at the front of it at the immense machine. At the same time the huge device began to diminish rapidly in size and float up toward the flyer. With deft manipulation of the controls Gosmasokamankgo directed the movement of the machine until it was now only three feet high and rested on the floor of the flyer. To my bemusement, there was a multitude of minutely shrunken Minunians scrambling about in the diminished machine. Their size was only that of insects and they were in a state of panic.
Fomas-67said, "We must make haste now! The effect on inanimate objects lasts for only a very short time!", and wasted no a second as he turned the flyer toward the open sea and pushed the airship to full speed.
Every jomad in the city flew toward the site that the machine once occupied to see what had happened and Savjoda used that moment of distraction to leap aboard the second flyer and direct Ras Thavas to take off.
Both flyers were left unmolested for only a few short moments before the jomads fully realized what had happened and gave chase.
In our own flyer, I was asking Gosmasokamankgo and Fomas-67 a thousand questions as quickly as I could formulate them. "How in Heaven's name did you do that!?!"
Gosmasokamankgo answered in his peculiar tongue which I had no understanding of whatsoever. Fomas-67 was somewhat more helpful.
"Ras Thavas and I educated him as to the nature of the more exotic rays of the Barsoomian spectrum. He was able to use the Eighth Ray in conjunction with the size control apparatus to perform this feat."
The jomads were gaining ground on the craft which held Ras Thavas, Tamla, Savjoda and John Carter. Ras Thavas set the directional compass and stood up with John Carter and Tamla with swords drawn. Along side them was Savjoda with a knife in one hand and a pistol in the other.
Twenty jomads swooped down on their flyer and in seconds twelve of them were falling dead to the sea. The remaining eight stood on the deck of the flyer locked in desperate combat while another group of them gained steadily on our flyer.
Gosmasokamankgo pointed down toward the water and exclaimed something in his native tongue. On the surface of the ocean was a circle of light. At that moment Fomas-67 did something alarming, he pointed the nose of the flyer directly at the surface of the sea and started to accelerate.
In the flyer behind, Ras Thavas broke free of the fray and did likewise with their craft. The last of the jomads on the second flyer were dispatched and the group who were pursuing us turned back in order to get to Savjoda.
Out of the ring of light on the surface of the water floated a huge bubble just in time for both flyers to penetrate its side. It remained unbroken and instantly dropped again beneath the waves with both flyers safe within.
We were below the surface of the ocean, but surrounded with enough air to breath comfortably for quite some time.
Gosmasokamankgo again made some remark in his native language. and pointed at the road making device. It was now bigger than it was a minute ago and expanding. The reduced Minunians, however, were not. Apparently the effect lasted longer on living things than it did on mere objects. It was clear that the flyer would soon be overtaxed by the increasing mass of the mechanism.
We started to see the outline of a depression on the seafloor as we sank downward. The machine was now seven feet on a side and swelling at a remarkable speed. The flyer broke into two pieces just as we settled to the bottom, depositing all of us to the bottom of the bubble. Its surface was slimy and resilient, like wet, semi-liquid rubber.
Directly outside of the bubble were a band of darmayoks who motioned us to approach them. They were somehow forming a second bubble, like a bud from the surface of the one we were in and all of us scrambled toward it trying to out race the expansion of the machine. The last person into the bud was John Carter who's sword arm was soaked to the elbow in jomad blood.
The bud pinched closed and broke free of the larger bubble and bounced along the sea floor, jostling us considerably, but causing no great harm.
Although the transparency of the bubbles was limited, we could see that the machine had attained its full size once more. I can only guess how the, now ant-sized Minunian engineers reacted to see its great mass expand around them to a size much larger than they could have expected. According to Fomas-67, it would be several days before they regained their normal size if Gosmasokamankgo didn't intervene before then.
The trip from the palace had taken only a short time but we had gained both control of the machine and Savjoda's freedom.
Our bubble was carried by several darmayoks to a structure that looked rather like an enormous tree. The uppermost branches reached right to the surface.
"That," said Fomas-67, "is a darmayok city. We will be able to live and work here in relative comfort for a short time at least."
The bubble was attached to a branch and something resembling a mouth, or some sort of animal orifice in any case, opened into it. Fomas-67 waived us through it and we obediently went.
Inside was a wet tube that had a peculiar and unpleasant smell and looked more like it had been grown than built. I later discovered that this was in fact the case. The darmayok cities and buildings are structures created by specially bred creatures not unlike the corals of Earth. The bubble that transported us to the city was a creature rather similar to the coelenterates of my home world. Although they used neither metal nor fire, the darmayoks were far from unsophisticated.
A darmayok walked up the corridor toward us. It was the first time I had ever seen one of these creatures make its way on foot. Its feet splayed outward when it walked and it had a peculiar rolling motion to its stride. It spoke to Fomas-67 in its own language and the two conversed for a few moments. Finally we were conducted to a room that was somewhat less wet and smelly.
There we sat to plan our next move.
The darmayok city was designed for the comfort of inhabitants who lived in water and yet breathed air.
The city was like a great tree who’s highest branches were snorkels that actually breached the surface of the Dhaimiran ocean. These tubes reached to the deepest depths where pressures were high. For the air to reach the bottom at breathable density, it had to be compressed by powerful pumps.
Dhaimira had no metals to speak of, therefore the pumping apparatus had to be made in a fashion quite different from how it might be on Earth. The pumps were living organisms that hung from the branches of the city like huge, throbbing fruit. Their remote ancestors were a variety of fish that defended itself from its enemies by inflating its body to a huge size, thus alarming predators. The current form of the animal is wholly sessile, living its life permanently attached to the branching structure. Its sides slowly pulse in and out to supply atmosphere to the depths. This filled the city with a soft, wet, breathy beating. It was this sound that formed the background to every other sound in the city.
Savjoda sat at a table pondering over a cup of coffee that one of the Waziri had served him. It astounded me that this man had the presence of mind to bring along not only the coffee, but the rather elaborate apparatus needed for its preparation. I and John Carter had accepted a cup gratefully as had Tamla, but she took a single sip and put the cup aside with a disgusted expression. Fomas-67 was off somewhere with Ras Thavas and Gosmasokamankgo, the Minunian scientist.
"It has always been my single vice." Said Savjoda, as he savored the black liquid.
"Well and good", said I, "but perhaps we should think of something beside indulging our vices."
"Prince Julian," said John Carter, "much has transpired and perhaps we should take time to clear our minds for the battle which lies ahead."
It was at that point that Fomas-67 entered the room with Gosmasokamankgo and Ras Thavas at his side.
Savjoda looked up at the bizarre creature with weary expectation. "So, my old friend, what have you to say? What do we need to know to proceed further?"
The doyak spoke without preamble to Savjoda. "We have encouraged the development of the various worlds of the Solar system with ‘catalyst persons’, mostly from the planet Earth. If only all had worked out as well as John Carter did for Barsoom." He gestured toward John Carter in what might have been the doyak equivalent of a nod. " You were the person originally designated for Pellucidar. Our plans changed when Abner Perry and David Innes discovered that world on their own. You were left on your own until we needed you. The first Earth person designated for Amtor, a young woman named Betty Callwell, was a failure. She developed mental problems and forgot who she was. She was returned to Earth after being replaced by Carson Napier, but, unfortunately, she did not survive the trip.
"To Rasoom, we sent an American soldier named William Heller who was blinded in your second World War. He was sent into pitch-dark Kivu and became its hero and eventually, its ruler. Kivu was a world where the sense of sight did not exist, but there were two senses that didn’t exist on Earth, Barsoom or Amtor. His ability to utilize these senses and his previous training as a swordsman led him to bring that world into a new age.
"We even experimented with the development of farther worlds. The human who came to be known as Tangor was brought to a world so far from our solar system that the light from its sun would take over 200,000 Barsoomian years to reach us.
"It was never planned for you to come into Dhaimira, or, for that matter, for Dhaimira to even be discovered by men for Earth or Barsoom for at least another thousand years.
"You forced us to change our plans when the Kalkars invaded Earth. We were impressed by your desire to preserve the animals of your home planet. Pellucidar was only temporarily useful for that purpose, so we took a great risk and made it possible for you to enter Dhaimira. We had ourselves preserved many of the creatures of ancient Barsoom and Vah-Nah in lands we no longer used ourselves. Our own population has been purposely kept small in modern times. The last time a doyak was born was over five hundred years ago. We need little space for ourselves.
"With that having been done, we sat back and watched. We allowed you to become familiar with the work of Ras Thavas and you created the yomanas, the sopars and the jomads."
Wait a minute." I said, "What are yomanas and sopars?"
Savjoda answered. "Sopars were an artificial race which were designed to protect me from the doyaks before I knew they meant me no harm. They combined features of lions and humans. The doyaks destroyed them. The yomanas are intelligent beings that are built on the same plan, more or less, as Earth’s elephants. They live in Keltrolna. Their job was to clear land and manage herds that were brought from Earth."
There were a few moments of silence in which the city breathed steadily.
"Be that as it may," continued Fomas-67, "We made a mistake in allowing you to make a home here. Dhaimira needed no catalyst person of its own and you could not help being one."
It was Tamla who spoke up this time. "He can’t stay, can he?"
"No. He cannot. Nor can he return to Earth."
Savjoda looked thoughtful. "Fomas-67, you are an old friend, you may speak freely. What is to be my punishment?"
"You must undo, as much as possible, the damage you have done. You must leave Dhaimira and not return to any of the worlds in Terrestrial or Barsoomian influence."
"Or you shall be ‘retired’."
Never has such an innocuous word sounded so ominous.
John Carter said, ‘You are saying that his usefulness to the doyak master plan is at an end. Surely you must recognize that he has a life outside of your uses for him!"
Savjoda spoke before Fomas-67 could reply. "No, John Carter. He is right. My whole life has felt the force of some sort of guidance. Wherever I have been, I have been master of my world but that world has also been master of me. It has always been clear that I am part of something greater. Surely you have also felt this, that even though you serve no master, you serve some cause that perhaps you cannot even name."
"I’m satisfied that you understand, Savjoda."
"Yes, I understand. My first job, which will require the assistance of all here, is to stop the jomads."
Ras Thavas said, "Gosmasokamankgo, who was kind enough to teach me his language, has collaborated with me on a few methodologies which might be of great aid in achieving that end. I trust that the ‘road machine’ will still work?"
"It will," Said Savjoda, "but its Minunian engineers must first be restored to their normal size to operate it."
Gosmasokamankgo said something in his polysyllabic language. Ras Thavas said, "My associate informs me that that has already been accomplished."
We worked on our plans for many hours. Occasionally a darmayok would appear with food, usually fish, always raw, but with wonderful sea herbs. It was remarkably similar to a way I enjoyed fish on my home world, right down to the seaweed wrapper.
There were only two flyers. It turned out that there were only three in all of Dhaimira and our party had two of them. They would be enough to get al of us through a road onto the surface of Barsoom. The Minunian engineers would stay behind, but in touch via Gridley wave, to run the great machine.
It took a little time to make all preparations. At one point Tamla and I were sent to the top of one of the snorkel tubes to check for patrolling jomads. The way up the tube was a strange journey, to say the least. The interior of the darmayok city was lit with biological organisms who were naturally phosphorescent. This gave everything a peculiar greenish tint that made even my beautiful princess appear somewhat sickly.
The segment of the city that was one of the snorkels was a large open area under a cone-shaped roof. This court was some hundred and fifty yards across. A spiral ramp ran around the wall providing for a gentle ascent. As we made our way upward, we looked down upon hundreds of darmayoks going about various tasks, many of which we could not comprehend. One portion of the floor below was a garden of mushroom like plants from which, we learned, was made the mysterious water de-salting agent that the first darmayoks we had met gave us.
As we neared the apex of the cone, we perceived that it narrowed to a tube that ran to the surface of the ocean. The construction of this snorkel led to some rather interesting acoustics. When the aperture at the surface was opened, the wind blowing across it could make it behave like a huge, deep organ pipe. If all were opened, the entire city could sound a single, mighty chord. The darmayoks associated this sound with good omens.
The inside of the tube was about six feet wide with horn-like projections from the walls that served as a ladder. The tube itself was rather peculiar, with walls that seemed to be covered in moist flesh. The projections that were our footholds resembled teeth emerging from the gums of some great animal. There was a strong, but not overly objectionable odor that permeated the air in the tube. To me it smelt like crab shells and bird feathers.
The sound from the organic pumps was greatest here in the tube. It made a constant roar that, while not overly loud, still seemed to have the ability to mask out all other sound and made conversation between Tamla and myself nigh impossible.
We had to climb about two hundred feet before we reached the first valve. It was pink, fleshy and tightly puckered evoking only the most unpleasant of associations in my mind. I had been instructed in the method of opening it, which involved stroking a purple patch on the wall immediately below it. We passed through to have it instantly shut behind us, and saw another valve twenty feet above. In toto, we were required to pass through six valves before reaching the surface. The surface was, in fact, something of a surprise, for the opening simply looked like another of the valves we had passed through, except that this one admitted brilliant sunlight upon opening.
I looked out to find that the tube extended some ten feet above the water line. Both Tamla and I savored the fresh air of the surface. On the outside, the tube resembled weathered wood and hung with seaweed. WE could see no jomads, even with the aid of a powerful telescope lent us by Ras Thavas. If they did not know of this city and knew not of our presence here, then they must truly have been bewildered by our disappearance.
We left the telescope at the top of the tube along with a device to convey images from it remotely to a device constructed by Ras Thavas and Gosmasokamankgo. In that way we could know if any jomads ever approached the city.
Having accomplished this task, we returned to the depths of the sea, hopefully to carry out the final portion of the plan.
Morbus and the Roads
The new bubble contained both flyers as it ascended toward the ocean’s surface.
Tamla, Savjoda, John Carter, and myself occupied the two flyers with Fomas-67 and Ras Thavas as the pilots. Gosmasokamankgo and the other Minunians stayed behind in the darmayok city to operate the machine.
The bubble broke the surface and opened into a floating, rubbery pad upon which the two flyers rested.
We simultaneously lifted into the sky and Fomas-67 sent a wireless signal to Gosmasokamankgo back beneath the ocean.
We were plunged into darkness and then a new sun appeared in a patch of clear dark blue sky. The real Sun. We were looking into the sky of Barsoom. The flyers lifted quickly and made for the hole in reality at the center of the world.
Halfway to the opening, we saw a great mechanism flying through the sky. It was the "brother" apparatus to the great machine at the ocean’s floor, the one which actually created the "road" through which we passed. It orbited Dhaimira’s sun at a remarkable rate of speed. I was told by Fomas-67 that it actually housed a full time staff of doyak and Minunian engineers. I should very much have liked to have seen how those workers were replaced, for only the very fastest flyers would have been able to catch up with the speeding machine.
The air of Dhaimira didn’t start to thin out until very near the sun. In fact, so near that had the sun been lit, no living being could approach closely enough to notice. I felt the air grow briefly thin and cold before it became suddenly denser, but not so dense as that of Dhaimira. I now breathed the air of Barsoom.
Cluros and Thuria hurtled overhead, quite visible if not as magnificent as they appeared at night. Ras Thavas directed us toward Morbus where his great laboratory complex was located.
The city of Morbus was very ancient dating back to the nigh-forgotten age when rolling oceans covered much of Mars. It now stood on an island in the middle of Lake Toonol. This region had once been a vast stinking swamp, but the addition of the new atmosphere plants had started a reversal of the planetary drying which had seized Barsoom ages ago. Today what was once a desolate swamp is now a large clear lake. In some remote future age, oceans would once more exist on this world. Lake Toonol was once the deepest part of the deepest ocean, so it still persisted as a marsh even into the driest age of Barsoom. Morbus was rebuilt once over fifteen hundred years ago by Ras Thavas and is where his original laboratory was located. Here he perfected his surgical wonders and it was here that he engendered the first artificial humans, the so-called "hormads". The hormads proved to be a great deal of trouble and for a time, the master became the slave. Ras Thavas could well empathize with Savjoda. That second city of Morbus was bombed out of existence by the fleet of Helium and Ras Thavas set out to rebuild it yet again. While the city had suffered other mishaps since that time, none had completely leveled the city again. The Morbus of today is clearly assembled on the skeleton of that third city and is now home to a great scientific university. Ras Thavas is jeddak of Morbus, but plays little role in the government. That work is left to the "jeds of administration" the head of which is Zorn Konark, the first jed. On Earth, we would call him a mayor.
It was Zorn Konark who stood awaiting us as the flyers landed in the center of the city. Ras Thavas was instantly giving a hundred different orders to the throng that had gathered around. He called for every available flyer assigning the fastest one to John Carter to convey him back to Helium that he might take similar action there.
Many in the crowd stared dumbstruck at Fomas-67, for they had never seen a creature of his type. One man, mistaking him for a dangerous animal, attempted to capture him and swiftly discovered the amazing strength of his tentacles.
Before too long Tamla, Savjoda and I had a flyer of our own and a peculiar gun which had been designed by Gosmasokamankgo and mass produced through some amazingly swift method in the city of Morbus. Within hours, several flyer loads were on their way to Helium.
Two days passed before the fleets met on the dead sea bottom halfway between Helium and Lake Toonol where a small camp had been assembled to support the Gridley wave device needed to communicate with Dhaimira.
John Carter, who now commanded a fleet of over six hundred flyers, had Ras Thavas contact Gosmasokamankgo in the darmayok city. The device required that the Mastermind wear tight fitting headphones to receive the communication, so no others could hear what he heard, but the expression on his face clearly revealed that he was unhappy with the news he was hearing.
Looking up at John Carted and Savjoda he said, "The darmayok city is under attack by jomads. They have discovered that it is where the machine is now located and they seek to retrieve it. They have blocked all of the city’s snorkels save for one which they are trying to make their way down."
I asked Savjoda, "How long can the darmayoks hold them off?"
"Not long. The darmayoks are poor fighters. We must work quickly or all may be lost."The most dramatic battle was fought in Pellucidar. The second the sun blinked out, the jomads knew what was happening. The assembled in a great flock in the sky over Greenwich many thousands strong. They must have, at least at first, been heartened when they saw how few the number of flyers was that had come through. They would have been well able to deal with only the hundred or so, particularly with their new metal weapons. How quick they had been to take advantage of the great mineral wealth if Pellucidar! Each of them now carried a large shiny steel sword and a Barsoomian style long-range Radium pistol. It must have been crystal clear to them how they would soon overwhelm us.
At that moment, the darmayok city was under siege although there were only a very few ways the jomads could get in. All but one of the organic snorkels were blocked with huge stacks of boulders which had been laboriously flown from land. It certainly did look bad until a sudden illumination leapt up from the depths.
As each of the winged creatures was touched by the light they seemed to dwindle in size. The device of Gosmasokamankgo had been brought into play. Each of the jomads was soon no larger than a doll and as their bodies shrunk, so did the capacity of their brains, for the hormad brains of the jomads did not respond to the Minunian diminution apparatus in the same way as that of a human. By the time they had reached their final size, they were no more intelligent than the small birds they resembled.
The sky opened up over the dead sea bottom and the first group of flyers rose into the strange rippling hole in reality. Our destination was Pellucidar and then Earth. The hole closed and then reopened, this time exposing the gray terrain of Vah-Nah and a second group of flyers entered the spatial rift.
Although I was not there to see it, the last and most complicated step was the team sent to Amtor. Amtor was not a hollow world like Earth, The Moon or Mars. The central sun of Amtor only got as hot as molten iron, creating sort of a "foamy" underworld of caverns and tunnels below the surface of Amtor which was inhabited by all sorts of strange creatures. The journey to the surface of that world would be arduous, requiring digging machines similar to that which first entered Pellucidar from Earth. John Carter referred to that region of Amtor as "Hades" when Ras Thavas told him about it, a reference that the Mastermind simply did not understand.
I was close enough to see the shocked expression on the faces of some as they watched their weapons expand in their hands, as they suddenly found themselves lost in the folds of their own clothing. It was only a matter of hours before every jomad of the legions around Greenwich were dealt with.
A group passed through to the surface of Earth and similarly handled the city of San Francisco. Much to my relief, my father was discovered alive, if dirty and underfed, in a palace basement room. The president had been killed by accident while the jomads were attempting to win his cooperation.
My reunion with my father, the jemdar, filled me with the greatest relief that I had ever felt. Greater than the fate of worlds is the bond between a son and his father.
In a matter of a few weeks, all of the major concentrations of jomads in the solar system were engaged and eradicated, but occasional small tribes of them were encountered on various worlds for another twenty years.
Finally, I was able to take Tamla of Helium as my bride. Ours was a life of great contentment with occasional bouts of restlessness. We traveled the solar system via the roads through space. Tamla presented me with two strong sons full of vigor and inheritors of their mother’s feisty spirit.
Savjoda returned to his capital in Dhaimira to await his punishment by the doyaks.
Savjoda stood in a large hall in the hive-like city of the doyaks. All was quiet save for the muffled calls of the vagas and horn-dogs from outside.
Several doyaks, including Fomas-67 had gathered this day for the purpose of passing judgement on this man. Also there were several persons from Earth and Barsoom Including John Carter and myself. By that time, I had ascended to the throne of the jemdar. My time reunited with my beloved father had been all too short before old age had taken from me what the jomads hadn’t.
"Savjoda", said one of the doyaks, a certain Gotan-14, Director of the city, "you are aware that you can no longer be welcome on any of the established worlds. It would be easy to simply have you executed and be done with it and, at first, the majority of us felt that that would be the best course of action."
I was slightly surprised to find myself breathing a sigh of relief for this man who had caused, if inadvertently, so much chaos. I had learned respect for him and even, in a way, come to like him personally.
Gotan-14 gestured to Fomas-67 who drew back a divider revealing a device of peculiar construction. With a tentacle he touched a small lever and a beam of light illuminated a small screen. An image appeared That was at first difficult to decipher. It resembled a view of Earth from high orbit, but it just went on and on. I could see the scale of the view from the weather patterns and it was huge. I counted twenty continents the size of Africa or Asia and could find no horizon at all.
"What is that?" Asked Savjoda.
Gotan-14 responded, "That is a view of a small portion of Thorandalo, the world within Eurobus. It has always been thought by its inhabitants that the planet’s huge gravity was countered by its immense rotational speed, but that is incorrect. The thinness of the planetary shell is such that the gravity is only slightly higher than that of Earth in any given location even though the total mass of the planet is far greater than several hundred Earths.
"This world boasts incredible variety. The distances are so great that live evolved separately in several remote locations and the products of those separate evolutions have only come into fleeting contact recently. There are a million unknowns in Thorandalo and someone must come into this world to explore and develop it. There are several forms of civilized and semi-civilized creatures in this world, many of them hostile beyond imagining. Although the surface world of Eurobus is remarkably geologically active and the oceans so storm ridden that travel upon them is impossible, Thorandalo is much less troubled by these factors. The oceans are, by comparison, peaceful and save for a few regions, volcanoes and earthquakes are rare."
John Carter had a wistful expression in his gray eyes. He could see what lie ahead. Savjoda was to be transported to this unknown and dangerous world. While a rational man might feel otherwise, I could see that his heart was consumed with envy.
Savjoda spoke. "So this is to be my prison?"
"Your home." Said Gotan-14.
Savjoda said, "I accept the judgement of the doyak lords of Dhaimira." His expression was unreadable.
Gotan-14 gestured in a manner that must have been the doyak equivalent of a head nod. He continued to speak. "This world is huge and much of it is unknown. We can offer to send more than one person if one should choose to go there of his own volition."
John Carter was instantly attentive. His expression told all. Could Gotan-14 mean what he thought he had meant?A flyer lifted from the palace at Greater Helium. It had a pilot and a single passenger. The passenger was the exiled Savjoda who looked toward his future with mixed feelings. Everything he had ever known in his long life was to be left behind forever, but ahead was perhaps something just as interesting.
The pilot was John Carter, the Warlord of Barsoom. He had said that he wished to explore the new world for a few months and the doyaks had granted his wish. He had turned the government over to his son, Carthoris who immediately called for the election of a real parliament and a Prime Minister after the style of Earth. He had not actually said as much, but John Carter was not expected to return. Without the warfare, without the adventure and most of all, without his incomparable princess, Barsoom had little left for him. His "retirement" was as permanent as that of Savjoda.
The sky opened over the flyer revealing a new world, a thousand new lands. The airship flew through the opening without hesitation and without either of its occupants giving a backward glance.
Well, this has been interesting.
Needless to say, as the astute reader might have figured out, I have taken a liberty or two. The big one was giving Vah-Nah a sun, which it didn’t have in "The Moon Maid". Originally that world was supposed to be lit and warmed by light entering through randomly placed holes in the crust and some internal phosphorescence. I had to give it a sun to make the internal logic of my story work. Vah-Nah simply couldn’t have been warm enough from sunlight shining through randomly placed "hoos" and the physics of my solar system required some consistency. I have, as a result of writing this story, contemplated writing another which would be titled "Einstein at the Earth’s Core".
The personalities of both John Carter and "Savjoda" have changed and mellowed with the passing of ten centuries. Ras Thavas remains the same, caught up in his enthusiasms and beyond good or evil.
The teller of the tale, Julian 68th, is not a heroic type. Although descended from heroes, he is more of a sheltered aristocrat. He is not without his own brand of resourcefulness, but, unlike Savjoda or John Carter, is aware of his limitations. He wants adventure, but is pragmatic about how much adventure he thinks he can deal with. In my need to shorten this project, I’m afraid that I never allowed Julian to find his own real voice in this story. He ended up reading like more of a cardboard cut out than any other character.
Tamla of Helium knows in her own mind that she is supposed to be a warrior, but is mostly thwarted in that regard. If she has inherited John Carter’s longevity, she will, no doubt, end up in Thorandalo seeking adventure.
I feel bad about Kivu. I needed something spectacular for the jomads to upset, but I couldn’t bring myself to cause major harm to any of Burroughs’ original worlds. Someday, I may go back and write the story of William Heller of Kivu, knowing full well of its eventual end.
I wanted to deal with the idea of what does an immortal hero do when there is no more heroing to be done. In this case, I stated the issue and then dodged it by sending my heroes to a latter day Valhalla, Thorandalo.
I expect some criticism for this work. In some ways it has violated much of the central premise of ERB’s work, that the adventure goes on forever. His worlds did change over time, become better known, better explored, but somehow it was implied that the adventure would always be there, that there was no shortage of evil queens and lost races, but, of course in a real world there eventually has to be. I was hoping to inject some of that sense of finitude into ERB’s world and still make it work.
I ended up having to rush this project or be in danger of being unable ti finish it at all. If it seems like there is a lot squeezed into the later chapters, that is the reason why. I had planned this as a 50,000 word novel and instead ended up with a 30,000 word novella. Perhaps someday when I have time on my hands I may flesh it out, but lets not hold our breaths.
To anyone who bothered to read this far, you have my thanks for your patience and I would enjoy to hear your reactions.
Seth Kallen Deitch
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