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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

Story Of The City Of Fire -- continued 3

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"My awakening was as strange as anything which had befallen me. I lay upon a silken bed in a pavilion which was furnished with exquisite, if somewhat barbaric, taste.

"A silken shaded lamp hung upon a golden chain near to my couch, but it was dimmed by the rosy light streaming in through the open door--a light which I believed to be that of dawn. I ached in every limb and felt weak and ill. There was a bandage about my head, too, but this great physical weakness numbed my curiosity, and I just lay still, looking out through the doorway into a lovely garden. I could form no impression of what had happened, and the ceaseless throbbing in my head rendered any attempt to do so very painful.

"I was lying there, in this curious and apathetic state, when the curtains draped in the doorway were pulled more widely aside and a woman came in.

"Gentlemen, I will not endeavour to describe her, except to say that she was so darkly lovely that I doubted the evidence of my senses; tall and lithe, with the grace of some beautiful jungle creature.

"When she saw that I was awake, she paused and lowered her head in confusion. She wore a gossamer robe of sheeny golden silk, and, standing there with the light of the dawn behind her, she made a picture that I think would have driven a painter crazy.

"I am supposed to be an unimpressionable man, and perhaps it is true; but there at that moment, as the glance of her dark eyes met the wondering look in mine, I knew that my hour had come for good or ill.

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"This is not the time nor the place for personal reminiscences. I am here for another purpose. One of those accidents which are really due to the hand of fate had precipitated me into the garden of the house of Naida, and she in her great compassion had tended me and sheltered me, keeping my presence secret from those who would have dealt with me in summary fashion, and, indeed, who were actually on the look-out for my arrival.

"Yes, so Naida informed me. To my great surprise she spoke almost perfect English, and that sort of understanding sprang up between us immediately which, in the case of a man and a beautiful woman thrown together as we were, can only terminate in one way.

"She was some sort of priestess of the temple which I had seen from the top of the cliff. What else she was I very shortly learned.

"In accordance with one of the many strange customs of the City of Fire, her personal servants, or rather slaves, were blind mutes! Gentlemen, I warned you that my story was tough. Doubtless you are beginning to appreciate the fact that I spoke no more than the truth.

"Naida, for such was her name, told me that the Brahmin, Vadi, who had acted as my guide, was one of the followers of the Prophet of Fire, to whom had been given the duty of intercepting me. His failure to report within a certain time had resulted in two of the priests of this strange cult being sent out to obtain information. That these were the yellow-robed mendicants who had passed me in the mountains, I did not doubt.

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Sax Rohmer

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