Climbing down the ladder in the open air, to the landing platform two hundred feet below might have created problems for anyone with a fear of heights, but it was nothing compared to the trip from the platform to the ground on a strand of plastic cable. I am not prone to acrophobia, but was still unnerved. I thought for a moment that the city had gained altitude since we had come aboard, but quickly realized that this was not so, as the cables were still trailing along the ground at about the same length.
"I'll go down first,” I said. “Follow me."
I wanted to make sure that if she fell, I would have a chance to catch her, and likewise if I were to fall, that I would not knock her off as well. She nodded, and I started down. The climb was much easier than I expected. I had gotten used to the effect that the lower gravity had upon me when I walked, ran, or picked something up. I had forgotten that the same principles would apply in this situation, allowing me to lift my own body with much greater ease than I would have had I been on Earth.
About half way down the cord to the ground, I stopped and looked up to check on the Princess's progress. She was some thirty feet above me and seemed to be having no trouble with the descent. I paused for a moment to look around and noticed for the first time that as we were climbing down one rope, something was climbing up another. About fifty feet away from our position, a creature was ascending. It was horrible looking. It was frighteningly ugly. It was the stuff of nightmares. I was thankful for the eternal daylight of Ecos, for to face such a thing in the darkness was something I had no wish to contemplate. About twice the height of a man, the creature was covered with slime-dripping green hair. Its upper extremities were half hands, half flippers and its lower extremities were even more flipper-like, with suction cups lining the interiors. Its face was nothing more that a large sucker with a stinger or a long tusk protruding from it.
"Amath preserve us!" cried the Princess, seeing the thing for the first time.
"Indeed," I replied, "Have you ever seen anything like that?"
"No, and I hope I never do again."
The creature stared at us for several moments with its malevolent yellow eyes drilling holes into us. It then looked up and down. Then it attempted to swing the cord it was climbing, as if to, Tarzan-like, propel itself over to us. Quickly realizing that it would not be able to do so, it turned its attention away from us and resumed its task of making toward the hovering city.
"I hate to think of that thing preying on our flyers," I said.
"Or the Kartags," said Noriandara Remontar, and I agreed. I wouldn't have turned that creature loose on a Zoasian.