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 our only tool being
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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.