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Volume 0522
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Presents

At the Core of Mars
By 
Seth Kallen Deitch
Copyright 1999 S.K. Deitch


Chapter Twelve
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."

BACK TO CONTENTS PAGE

To be continued in next week's ERBzine 0523
Chapter 13
Escape on Dhaimira

Seth Kallen Deitch
Seth Kallen Deitch
Writers & Editors always appreciate feedback:
SETH
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Volume 0522

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