Red Sands


20th July 1889

As they rode along on their captured gashants, Lady Glossop eyed Rani curiously. She had learned that Rani belonged to one of the great steppe tribes which roamed large areas of the Nepenthes – Thoth Steppe. Their previous analogy to Red Indians was perhaps not quite right she thought – more like one of the Turcoman or Asiatic steppe tribes of the East. Even so she gathered that Rani was something of an oddity – a sort of Lone Wolf on some quest she found difficulty – or perhaps reluctance – in explaining.

She was also gathering some clarity on the differences between martians. Rani was a Steppe (or Hill) Martian – a sort of less civilised alternative to the Canal Martians such as the Princess and her Guards. The Canal Martians lived in City States like Thoth and the cultivated areas around their canals, while the Steppe Martian tribes lived a nomadic existence across their ranges in the outback. Physiologically she didn’t see that much difference – possibly the Canal Martians were an inch or two taller – but culturally they were clearly very different. She got the impression that Rani considered the canal martians ‘soft’.

They had beat off another attack by a patrol of Shastapsh cavalry: clearly they were hunting for the princess, and knew she was in the area. Lady Glossop considered the implications of this – perhaps this enmity might work to the advantage of the British.

Just before dark they arrived at a small village, and here were arrayed a larger entourage, as well as a grand looking barge. Boarding this they hoped that for a time at least, their troubles were at an end.



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