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Fire-Tongue Sax Rohmer

Story Of The City Of Fire -- continued

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"Later in the night, those phantom guns boomed out again, and again their booming died away in the far valleys. The fires burned lower and lower, but I made no attempt to replenish them; and because I sat there so silent, all kinds of jungle creatures crept furtively out of the shadows and watched me with their glittering eyes. Once a snake crossed almost at my feet, and once some large creature of the cat species, possibly a puma, showed like a silhouette upon the rocky slopes above.

"So the night passed, and dawn found me still sitting there, the dead man huddled on the ground not three paces from me. I am a man who as a rule thinks slowly, but when the light came my mind was fully made up.

"From the man who had died in Nagpur I had learned more about the location of the City of Fire than I had confided to Vadi. In fact, I thought I could undertake to find the way. Upon the most important point of all, however, I had no information: that is to say, I had no idea how to obtain entrance to the place; for I had been given to understand that the way in was a secret known only to the initiated.

"Nevertheless, I had no intention of turning back; and, although I realized that from this point onward I must largely trust to luck, I had no intention of taking unnecessary chances. Accordingly, I dressed myself in Vadi's clothes, and, being very tanned at this time, I think I made a fairly creditable native.

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"Faintly throughout the night, above the other sounds of the jungle, I had heard that of distant falling water. Now, my informant at Nagpur, in speaking of the secret temple, had used the words:

"'Whoever would see the fire must quit air and pass through water.'

"This mysterious formula he had firmly declined to translate into comprehensible English; but during my journey I had been considering it from every angle, and I had recently come to the conclusion that the entrance to this mysterious place was in some way concealed by water. Recollecting the gallery under Niagara Falls, I wondered if some similar natural formation was to be looked for here.

"Now, in the light of the morning sun, looking around me from the little plateau upon which I stood, and remembering a vague description of the country which had been given to me, I decided that I was indeed in the neighbourhood of the Temple of Fire.

"We had followed a fairly well-defined path right to this plateau, and that it was nothing less than the high road to the citadel of Fire-Tongue, I no longer doubted. Beneath me stretched a panorama limned in feverish greens and unhealthy yellows. Scarlike rocks triated the jungle clothing the foothills, and through the dancing air, viewed from the arid heights, they had the appearance of running water.

"Swamps to the southeast showed like unhealing wounds upon the face of the landscape. Beyond them spread the lower river waters, the bank of the stream proper being discernible only by reason of a greater greenness in the palm-tops. Venomous green slopes beyond them again, a fringe of dwarf forest, and the brazen skyline.

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Sax Rohmer

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