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 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
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
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 whose fates are virtually sealed! I will most likely be killed
and you shall be forced into a life of concubinage! " 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
browse 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 Earthman 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
itself 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.