Out of Time's Abyss
The farther the group progressed, the more barbaric and the more sumptuous became the
decorations. Hides of leopard and tiger predominated, apparently because of their more
beautiful markings, and decorative skulls became more and more numerous. Many of the
latter were mounted in precious metals and set with colored stones and priceless gems,
while thick upon the hides that covered the walls were golden ornaments similar to those
worn by the girl and those which had filled the chests he had examined in the storeroom
of Fosh-bal-soj, leading the Englishman to the conviction that all such were spoils of war
or theft, since each piece seemed made for personal adornment, while in so far as he had
seen, no Wieroo wore ornaments of any sort.
And also as they advanced the more numerous became the Wieroos moving hither and
thither within the temple. Many now were the solid red robes and those that were slashed
with blue--a veritable hive of murderers.
At last the party halted in a room in which were many Wieroos who gathered about
Bradley questioning his captors and examining him and his apparel. One of the party
accompanying the Englishman spoke to a Wieroo that stood beside a door leading from
the room. "Tell Him Who Speaks for Luata," he said, "that Fosh-bal-soj we could not
find; but that in returning we found this creature within the temple, hiding. It must be the
same that Fosh-bal-soj captured in the Sto-lu country during the last darkness. Doubtless
He Who Speaks for Luata would wish to see and question this strange thing."
The creature addressed turned and slipped through the doorway, closing the door after it,
but first depositing its curved blade upon the floor without. Its post was immediately
taken by another and Bradley now saw that at least twenty such guards loitered in the
immediate vicinity. The doorkeeper was gone but for a moment, and when he returned,
he signified that Bradley's party was to enter the next chamber; but first each of the
Wieroos removed his curved weapon and laid it upon the floor. The door was swung
open, and the party, now reduced to Bradley and five Wieroos, was ushered across the
threshold into a large, irregularly shaped room in which a single, giant Wieroo whose
robe was solid blue sat upon a raised dais.
The creature's face was white with the whiteness of a corpse, its dead eyes entirely
expressionless, its cruel, thin lips tight-drawn against yellow teeth in a perpetual grimace.
Upon either side of it lay an enormous, curved sword, similar to those with which some
of the other Wieroos had been armed, but larger and heavier. Constantly its clawlike
fingers played with one or the other of these weapons.
The walls of the chamber as well as the floor were entirely hidden by skins and woven
fabrics. Blue predominated in all the colorations. Fastened against the hides were many
pairs of Wieroo wings, mounted so that they resembled long, black shields. Upon the
ceiling were painted in blue characters a bewildering series of hieroglyphics and upon