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Volume 0512
Jasoom  - Pellucidar - Caspak - Tarzana - Africa
BarsoomSasoomVanah - LunaAmtor - Cosoom
The Many Worlds of
Edgar Rice Burroughs Signature

"The master of imaginative fantasy adventure...
...the creator of Tarzan and...
...the 'grandfather of science-fiction'"

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

Chapter 2
The Doorway
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 whether 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 whose 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 thought 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.


To be continued in next week's ERBzine 513
Chapter 3

Seth Kallen Deitch
Seth Kallen Deitch
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