We fled into a thickly forested area right behind
the camp. It was not large at all, maybe a few hundred square yards. It
could not be long before the jomads discovered our escape and their dead
compatriot. We could expect them to be searching for us in an hour or less.
The stand of trees ended abruptly at a shear cliff against which waves
broke some hundred or so feet below. It looked like this was our only route
off the island.
Among the strange vegetation of this forest were some
of the most peculiar trees I had ever seen. This particular species grew
its woody trunk in the form of a great bowl which separated into branches
as it grew upward. This tree, which grew on islands in a vast salty sea
had evolved a very efficient way of holding onto fresh water. Its leaves
were so constructed as to direct rainwater into the great bowl shaped depression
which in some of the trees formed a good sized pond. It was almost like
a forest of leafy champagne glasses.
Seeing these trees gave me an idea. I knew that if
we attempted to merely float away from the island on a log, we would quickly
be spotted by jomads on the wing, that is, unless we could contrive some
way of being invisible from the air. The unique design of this flora provided
that exact thing.
Taking turns so that we might provide maximum constant
effort, Tamla and I felled one of the bowl trees using her sword like an
axe. The tree spilled a large amount of stinking, sludge filled water as
it came down. It was our good fortune that the bowl shaped section didn't
break when it hit the ground.
After trimming off the branches, using all the effort
we could muster, we inched the great mass of wood up to the edge of the
cliff. We then cut two logs each large enough to float one of us. First
the logs and then the great wood bowl went over the cliff and started to
drift out to sea. Holding hands, Tamla and I jumped after them.
It took only a few strokes in the water for us to catch
up with the drifting wood.
Tamla said, looking at the cup like tree floating on
the waves, "This will make a fine boat, Julian, but the jomads will see
"Not the way I have it planned."
I had her help me invert the tree trapping a large
amount of air underneath and then we slid the two logs underneath as well.
Finally, we ourselves followed. Now we floated on the water with a wooden
dome over our heads. The tree floated rather low in the water. "Now we
look just like a piece of flotsam that no one would look twice at.
It was in fact harder than it sounded. All of our strength
was consumed holding the wooden camouflage upright and we had to take frequent
rests from our kicking that we were using to drive ourselves forward. Furthermore,
we had to stop from time to time to tip the bowl tree up to admit fresh
air at the risk of exposing ourselves. This was done by one of us first
swimming underneath the water just beyond out "boat" and checking the sky
for jomads. Having seen that all was clear, we would tip thwe thing over
to float open side up and then turn it back over trapping as much air underneath
as possible. One or the other of us also had to make occasional trips outside
to check our direction and look for land.
Checking our direction was problematic. We had no compass
and the sky of Dhaimira had no stars by which to navigate. Tamla informed
me that Dhaimiran navigators used cloud formations to find their way and
they would also use powerful telescopes due to the fact that every spot
in this world was visible save for that small area which was on the opposite
side of the sun. While it was true that clouds at one time or another would
obscure much of the surface, one could still tell, if one had the proper
skills, that is, what sorts of clouds form over land and which over water.
These, regrettably, were not skills possessed by either my companion or
Tamla hoped to spot one of the "continents" of this
world called Keltrolna. Keltrolna was actually an island which was a little
larger than all of the Japanese isles put together. It was the second largest
single body of land in Dhaimira. More importantly, it was mostly uninhabited.
Tamla thought she had spotted its distinctive outline
on the second day of our escape and since that time we had been trying
to drive ourselves in that direction. The clouds seemed to indicate that
there was a current which might propel us toward it some miles ahead.
We had now spent over four days either partially or
entirely submerged in water and it was draining our energy. We were able
to catch, but not cook various fish and crustaceans as well as a certain
type of fleshy mollusk that proved to be something of a delicacy. Tamla
said it was called froi-ayk , and that it was a favorite food of the darmayoks.
I had been wondering if we would see some of these
darmayoks on this journey. I wondered if I wanted to. Tamla had never met
any, and therefore she could not tell me if the were prone to friendly
relations or not.
My curiosity was to be satisfied with unexpected celerity.
We had reached such a distance from the island that
I decided turning the tree bowl side up and getting in above the water
would have benefits which would outweigh the risks. Now we were dry, but
also constantly exposed to the never setting sun. For Tamla, and other
red Barsoomians, this was not a great problem, for the copper colored pigment
in their skins protected them from sunburn. My fair skin, however, took
little time before it started to redden to an alarmingly different shade
from that of the princess. I spent some time scouting about for anything
that might be pressed into service as a sun shade. As luck would have it
We found some floating weeds which rather closely resembled the giant kelp
of Earth, which I was able to weave into an imperfect, but serviceable
cover for about half the open area of our makeshift boat.
We were still, I estimated, several days away from
encountering the current which we hoped would carry us to the shores of
Keltrolna. Both Tamla an I were suffering from dysentery, malnutrition
and the effects of exposure to the elements. The only way for us to provide
any impetus at all to our voyage was to get out and push by kicking in
the water, but as the days wore on, we had less and less strength to spare
for that endeavor.
On what I guessed was our twelfth day out, we saw lights
in the water moving in patterns. They came closer to our little craft and
I could now see that the lights were some sort of glowing objects held
by creatures of some sort.
I croaked to Tamla. "Darmayoks!" She lay asleep beneath
the shade and I had to call to her twice more before she bestirred herself.
By the time she got to the side to look over, the fish men were quite close
enough for me to see the whites of their eyes. That was still a bit of
a distance, but their eyes were very large.
The creatures were clearly related to men, but the
features of their faces were quite inhuman. Their teeth were long and very
thin and they had several closely packed rows of them. Their faces had
no nose on the front but there was an opening near the crown of the head
which I later would learn served that function. They had no external ears
at all. Their skin was glossy white and utterly smooth and they had instead
of feet, broad flippers. There was only one free toe, that being elongated
and very muscular. When swimming, the darmayoks locked those two toes together
fusing the feet into a single powerful fluke which could drive them through
the water at great speeds. Their arms were boneless and tentacle like,
dividing into fingers near the tips. The number of fingers varied from
individual to individual.
Before we could count to ten, they surrounded our little
craft. Being so weak from our ordeal, we made no protest as two of them
pulled themselves aboard. They examined both of us closely, almost insultingly
After they satisfied themselves regarding our condition,
one of them produced a large dipper and ladled up a generous portion of
water from over the side. Into this he sprinkled a few drops of liquid
from a container on a thong around he neck and then handed it to me. I
started to refuse, thinking that he was ignorant of the fact that I could
not drink brine when I saw something wondrous. The salt had solidified
and precipitated to the bottom of the dipper. Tasting the water, I found
that it was as fresh as if it had come from a mountain stream. I gave it
to Tamla who drained it and another similar then I did likewise.
The darmayoks didn t speak the standard Barsoomian
language although Tamla said that some of their words sounded somewhat
familiar, but very archaic.
It was lucky for us that Tamla had a talent for art.
Using the tip of her sword, she laboriously etched a map of the nearby
regions of Dhaimira. She then marked the island of Keltrolna with an X
and indicated the best estimate of our current position and drew a line
to show that Keltrolna was our destination.
It took some time, but they were finally made to understand
and somehow made us to understand that they intended to help us. Strangly,
the fabled Barsoomian telepathic facility did not seem to work here within
Dhaimira, so Tamla was restricted to what she could understand and explain
in words and gestures. I remembered that Barsoomian visitors to Pellucidar
and Vah-Na reported experiencing the same sort of thing. Perhaps there
was some sort of radiation from the internal sun that suppressed it.
Centuries ago, scientists had learned that the internal
luminous orbs of the inside worlds were not stars like the greater sun
which sits at the center of our swarm of worlds. The suns of Vah-na and
Pellucidar cannot be approached even in heat proof flyers. There is a barrier
of violent winds of luminous gas which confuses instruments and damages
ships. We do know that these orbs are quite small and cannot possibly produce
their light and heat by violently smashing atoms together in the same way
that the Sun does. For instance, the sun of Pellucidar has been measured
to be somewhat less than one and one half miles in diameter.
The asteroid belt that fills an orbit between Barsoom
and Eurobus is known to be the remains of a world whose internal sun exploded
some million years ago. The event was documented by Barsoomian astronomers
at the time but it was not until our modern age that the reason for the
calamity was uncovered. Impressive cultures had inhabited both the inside
and the outside of that world and their scientists knew in advance of the
impending tragedy. Explorers from Earth and Barsoom found fragmentary records
of those peoples among the asteroids and discovered that they had intended
to leave their world and colonize Barsoom or Eurobus. There is no evidence
that they succeeded.
The darmayoks brought up to the surface several very
large fish, which they attached to our poor raft with ropes, made from
These "dray fish" were to be managed like a team of
horses by a darmayok who mounted the lead fish and urged the team to pull.
The rest of our companions dove back into the sea and we saw them no more
as the last one drove the fish and us toward the shores of Keltrolna.