The Odwar's Wife
David Bruce Bozarth
Copyright © 2003
Cover Illustration: Tangor
Copyright © 2003
Tavia stopped by the quarters of Ras Thavas, a promise she had made before her husband Tan Hadron, Odwar of the Thavas Navy, and the master mind departed on a long patrol. "Thasa Ras! Here, girl!"
The slim woman called to the master mind's calot as she entered the apartment of her husband's commander-in-chief by way of the key code Ras Thavas had assigned and by the guards who had been advised of her visits while the master mind was away from the New City of Thavas.
"Tsk, tsk, tsk!" Tavia clucked between her teeth, much the same as she might have summoned the sorak that lived in her apartment on the second island of Thavas. "Where are you? Pretty girl? Where?"
Tavia opened doors from room to room, calling constantly, then gasped as she opened a door and faced a radium pistol. Thasa Ras, the calot, was backed into a corner, her jaws wide and menacing the four armed red men.
Before Tavia could turn and bolt, a harsh hand gripped her upper arm and jerked her inside the room. The door was swiftly shut and a hand covered the woman's scream before it could be uttered.
"Make noise and you die. Understand?"
Tavia nodded. Though her heart raced with fear she was not unaccustomed to unexpected events, nor unable to respond. The hand was slowly removed. Tavia did not struggle, she could not, his strength was too great. "What do you want?" she whispered.
"You know the beast?" The man who crushed the breath from her lungs gestured to the calot. Tavia nodded. "Good. Make a false move and die. We have nothing to lose. Calm the creature."
The calot's back was arched high, the jaws lined with three rows of teeth was presented in warning display. The calot was coiled more tightly than a wire spring, and ten times more deadly if that coil was released; yet the four men in the room were heavily armed and before the calot could spring it would be killed.
Her mind racing furiously, Tavia approached the calot with soothing words. She did not know why these men were in the apartment of Ras Thavas, but she had no desire to die or see the calot killed. "It's Tavia," she said, approaching the alarmed calot. "Remember me? Tavia. Good Thasa Ras. Good calot..."
The hunting calot of Ras Thavas allowed Tavia to approach, though her alarm stance changed little. Tan Hadron's wife gingerly knelt beside the dangerous calot and timidly ran her hand through the creature's sparse mane. The calot allowed the touch, but shifted once again to show her teeth to the intruders.
The man who had assaulted Tavia tossed a long strip of leather in her direction. "Muzzle the creature."
"What do you want?" Tavia said, ignoring the strap. "Who are you? Why are you--" Tavia closed her mouth when the man turned his pistol in her direction. The slim woman blinked as death certain was promised in the man's expression and weapon.
Picking up the strap, Tavia pleaded with the massive calot. "Thasa Ras..." she dared to stroke the creature's snout. "Thasa Ras...good girl..." she pleaded, leaning closer with the strap. "This is not a time to die," the Odwar's wife begged, attempting to put the strap about the calot's snout.
Tavia trembled, frightened of the men with weapons but more frightened by the savage calot that might kill her in an instant. Then was startled when the beast looked at her, closed her jaws, and allowed the Odwar's wife to strap the binding about the calot's snout. Even as Tavia did as the man commanded, she was startled by what she saw in the animal's eyes.
After the first two loops were placed on Thasa Ras three men leapt forward and made that binding even more tight, more cruel. The calot flopped about but could not shake the combined weight. Tavia backed away, seeking an avenue of escape, but drew up short when the grim-faced man jammed the muzzle of his radium pistol against her forehead.
"You have done well, lady. Continue to do well and live." The weapon was not removed as the man turned his head. "Transport the calot." He watched as the others lifted the master mind's pet between them and carried it to the night-shrouded balcony.
The man derived some amusement as he used the radium pistol to guide Tavia to the balcony. She saw a ten-man flier hovering at the railing. "You are an unexpected bonus! The wife of Tan Hadron--the leverage increases."
Tavia realized her opportunities of succor were diminishing by the instant. She filled her lungs to cry out but before a sound could be uttered the man slammed his pistol against her left temple.
Tavia woke in fractured darkness. There was light, but it was thin rays of brillance between the slats of a flier's deck. Her mouth tasted foul, she had trouble making her eyes focus, yet she also sensed that she was not alone in her confinement. Tavia did not speculate why her entire body was bruised, she was practical in that regard, but who was it that lay next to her in the stiffling hold?
Tavia attempted to raise her hands to comfort the beast then realized that she was bound and naked. Again, she remained practical in her observations. The calot wiggled, bound as tightly as she was, and the Odwar's wife was sympathetic. "Bad times, girl," Tavia said. Her mouth was bruised, her teeth felt loose. The longer she was awake the more hurts she discovered.
"Perhaps better we had died fighting," Tavia said to the calot.
The creature next to her responded, two tender nudges from the calot's snout. Tavia almost laughed. "You're right. Alive is better than dead. My husband will kill all of them, if I do not kill them first!"
Again the calot seemed to understand.
"I wonder how long we have been flying..."
The calot's bound snout tapped six times. Tavia frowned. She asked again: "how long?" and six taps responded. "Xats?" one tap. "Zodes?" two taps.
Tavia moved away from the calot. "You are an animal! I do not know which frightens me more!"
The Odwar's wife eyes turned to the calot. Her vision was improving, but still suspect according to the ache in her head. Many times she had been around the calot of Ras Thavas, many times she had marveled at the creature's cleverness, but never before had she thought the creature was intelligent. Tavia's hands and feet screamed pain, the lashings were too tight--but even that pain was not sufficient to quell the astonishing thought.
Tavia steeled her heart and wiggled back to the calot's side. "Are you intelligent?"
The calot's bound snout gently tapped the woman's forehead twice.
"What is three times three?"
"Is John Carter the Warlord of Barsoom?"
"Is--" Tavia gasped, feeling a chill run through her body that was contrary to the heat of the hold where she and the calot were imprisoned, "--Ras Thavas your husband?"
For a long moment the calot looked into the eyes of the Odwar's wife. Then, deliberately, two taps touched Tavia's cheek.
Tavia woke. The hold was in darkness. She did not remember passing out either because of the unbelievable information or the pain of her body, but she did feel the gentle activity at the lashing about her wrists. The calot had tried to release her, but had no success. Tavia reached out with her hands and caressed the calot's mouth and located one of several razor-edged teeth that protruded the jaw.
"Hold still, Thasa Ras," Tavia said. "Let me..."
The tooth was sharp, the position awkward. Time and again Tavia nicked herself on the calot's tooth, but eventually freed her hands. And then wept for long moments as circulation returned and she tried to regain control of her appendages.
As the Odwar's wife contained her pain, the calot nuzzled the woman's belly.
Tavia's tears subsided. "You beautiful girl! I never knew! Did Ras Thavas put your brain in the calot's body?"
Two gentle chin taps.
"I will kill him. Or I will have Tan Hadron ki--"
A not gentle single tap rocked Tavia's head back on her shoulders.
Tavia did nothing for a long time, then placed her hands on the creature's face. She began unbinding the strap that kept the calot's horrific bite confined. "Many questions I might ask could give the full story, but there is only one question that is necessary. Are you happy as you are?"
The calot hissed softly and pushed against Tavia's body twice.
Tavia released her bound feet. She then released the calot as they made as little sound in the hold as possible. Tavia searched the hold and found a bar of metal or a tool, she could not tell which it might be.
"They are sleeping," Tavia whispered into the calot's erect ear. "Time to kill them."
The calot gripped her hand once in the mouth.
"We should wait?" Tavia asked.
Two gentle bites.
The calot placed her snout low, between Tavia's bruised legs, then snorted angrily. The creature then licked the red woman's face with her teeth showing.
Tavia threw her arms about the calot's massive neck and fought sudden tears. "Not my first rape! We do not tell Tan Hadron, ever! Understood?"
Two licks on the woman's cheek.
The calot rose, quivering. Tavia's hands felt the calot's body flexing and preparing. She hugged the beast. "Time to kill?"
The calot led Tavia to the aft hatch. Her snout directed the woman's hands to the latch then pushed her away. "Not yet?" Tavia asked and received an affirmative.
"May I ask a question before we die? I love my husband. Do you love yours?"
The darkness seemed more black as the calot suddenly pushed the woman to the hatchway, the wind keen of the propellers and the upperworks filled the hold. Tavia's hand gripped the calot's mane and had her answer as she raised the hatch and ran forward.
Two shakes of the mane.
In silence the calot and the Odwar's wife rushed across the deck of the flier speeding through the thin air of Barsoom under the twin moons.
Ras Thavas scowled as he glanced again at the maps and out the portal of his cabin in the three-hundred man vessel, one of the New City's ships-of-the-line. "Is the intelligence correct, Tan Hadron?"
The Odwar of Thavas replied with equal anger. "It is, but there is no doubt our reconnaissance parties have proved the information is false. We are on a fool's mission, sir."
"Then," the master mind sighed, "the uprising of Tur believers is either inaccurate or a lie?"
"I suspect the latter or a mis-direction, Ras Thavas." Tan Hadron paced the cabin, his hand wrapped about the hilt of the sword at his waist. "The alert came to my office that a religious faction would invade the island of the white apes we protect. The mission was to prove that the archeological find showing Tur was a man and scribed the Turgan a hundred thousand years earlier than current belief is false."
"The island site proves all," Ras Thavas said. He almost laughed. "How often do the idiots attempt to make dreams reality?" The master mind examined the map spread on the chart table.
"Yes?" Ras Thavas responded to a knock on the cabin door.
"Three messages, sir," the signalman did not look happy.
Ras Thavas extended his hand. "Which to I read first?"
"In order received, sir."
The first message was a relay of a communications originally sent to the Council of Thavas: "The Turgan is Inviolate. Retract and Remove the Apes." The second message: "I have your calot. Two transplants or I will eat her." No signature or other demand. Third message: "And I have Tavia, too." No signature or other demand.
Ras Thavas contained himself as he passed the messages to Tan Hadron. As the Odwar read the dispatches Ras Thavas asked the signalman: "Is this all that was sent?"
The man blanched. "Yes, sir. Mighty stupid if you ask me and you did not. Any reply?" When Ras Thavas waved him off, the man saluted. "At your service!" and backed out of the cabin and closed the door.
Ras Thavas glared at the closed hatchway for several moments.
Tan Hadron spoke first. "I cannot tell you how many times the stupid have surfaced during my tenure as protector of Thavas. They have my wife and your wi--your calot," Tan Hadron swiftly ammended, "and have made demands we cannot consider since they were too stupid to clarify!"
Ras Thavas overlooked the man's fist that smashed through the cabin's portal window. The master mind also reigned in an immediate desire to lay waste to the Toonolian Marsh. Taking a deep breath, Ras Thavas suggested "We both need to look at recent communications, perhaps something might come from that."
The battle on the deck had disabled the ten-man airship. Four dead red men littered the skeel wood deck. Tavia tried to work the ascend and descend control without success. A radium projectile from one of the men had destroyed the mechanism, which also contained the steering and engine controls. The ship floated two-hundred-fifty ads above the dark channels of the Toonolian Marsh and the jungle-capped islands.
The anchor rope was only one hundred ads in length. The height was too great to dive over the side. Tavia took her bloody metal rod and attempted to pierce one of the bouyancy tanks. The stubborn metal sheathing resisted her best efforts. She would have chanced firing a radium shell into the tank, but both of the pistols had been lost overboard during the battle.
Oddly, the ship's cabin was empty of food though the water tank was full.
Six days drifting with the wind, sometimes west, but more to the east. Then six more days of agonizing hunger for the odwar's wife. Tavia suffered more than the calot, which could go for weeks at a time between meals. By the fourteenth day Tavia began to babble gently and had trouble moving around.
Thasa Ras looked upon the woman who had fought at her side without complaint and had learned how to have conversations with the calot who could not speak. Thasa Ras wished there was something she could do. She tried to get Tavia to eat one of the corpses but the red woman had turned and vomited over the side of the ship. Yet, it was increasingly clear that if Tavia did not have food the brave little woman would soon perish.
In one startling instant of action the calot suddenly bit a sizeable chunk from one of her legs and offered the dripping morsel to Tavia. The calot then began to consume one of the dead kidnappers.
Tavia watched the calot. She understood the hunger, her stomach cried out. In her hand was a lump of calot, a dish she relished in her house. Stewed, broiled, even raw. She wept as she gnawed the flesh Thasa Ras had torn from her body and, as she ate, bandaged the calot's leg.
Ras Thavas had not slept for the last three days. He consulted again the maps spread on the table, wondering which direction next to search. "What?" he roared when a knock came on his cabin door.
"A ship has been sighted."
"Tell Tan Hadron. I--"
"There's a calot on deck, sir. A red woman, too."
"Why didn't you say so!" Ras Thavas cried. He pushed the messenger aside and ran to the upper deck.
Distance glasses where brought upon the small flier floating just above the vegetation. Tan Hadron and Ras Thavas saw the sights they most desired to see: a calot jumping and a slim naked red woman dancing on the deck.
Moments later Tavia jumped between ships and clutched her husband. "We never eat calot again. Forbidden. I have eaten men and the taste is...oh..." Tavia sobbed.
Tan Hadron embraced his woman, completely at a loss.
Ras Thavas fared no better as the calot limped to the naval vessel and butted his legs in happy reunion. The master mind ignored the crew that boarded the other ship to make their investigations and make it ready for tow.
"You have to quit having adventures without me," Ras Thavas said to his wife's brain transplanted into the calot's body years before because she had betrayed their marriage and his shared knowledge.
Thasa Ras bumped the master mind's chest twice. Then said via the mental link that only they shared: "Adventure is one thing, husband. Tavia now knows who I am but, more importantly, Tavia will need all your help. She is a strong woman but she is not like you or me and she has been through hell."
"What happened to you?" Ras Thavas asked, looking to the rude bandages on the legs on both sides of his wife's calot body.
"I provided all the raw calot I could before Tavia learned to eat human flesh. Too bad that when she decided to partake, the fresh meat was no longer fresh."
The intended joke fell flat as the master mind looked to the odwar and his wife. Tavia desperately clung to Tan Hadron.
"Thasa Ras?" the master mind asked a hundred questions at once.
"A woman I hardly knew gave her all and we survived. It is fortunate I was a calot, husband, else neither of us would have lived. Kiss me now, then leave me alone."
"Thasa Ras?" the master mind cried. When the calot that was his wife's brain in a beast's body turned away, the architect of the New City of Thavas reluctantly retreated. Tan Hadron and Tavia would need his help and every iota of his thousand years plus intellect would be applied.
Ras Thavas spoke to his wife once more. "She ate your flesh?"
"Yes," Thasa Ras replied. "And we both learned to eat red men flesh. I like it rank. I'll wait until you are at least ten days dead before eating you. Go away."
The master mind of Barsoom frowned, and that expression on the great man's face troubled the junior officer who was in charge of caring for Ras Thavas' calot.
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