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
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
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
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
"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
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.