“I greet you,” Oro said in his slow, resonant voice. “Daughter, lead these strangers to me; I would speak with them.”
Oro in His House
We climbed on to the dais by some marble steps, and sat ourselves down in four curious chairs of metal that were more or less copied from that which served Oro as a throne; at least the arms ended in graven heads of snakes. These chairs were so comfortable that I concluded the seats were fixed on springs, also we noticed that they were beautifully polished.
“I wonder how they keep everything so clean,” said Bastin as we mounted the dais. “In this big place it must take a lot of housemaids, though I don’t see any. But perhaps there is no dust here.”
I shrugged my shoulders while we seated ourselves, the Lady Yva and I on Oro’s right, Bickley and Bastin on his left, as he indicated by pointing with his finger.
“What say you of this city?” Oro asked after a while of me.
“We do not know what to say,” I replied. “It amazes us. In our world there is nothing like to it.”
“Perchance there will be in the future when the nations grow more skilled in the arts of war,” said Oro darkly.
“Be pleased, Lord Oro,” I went on, “if it is your will, to tell us why the people who built this place chose to live in the bowels of the earth instead of upon its surface.”
“They did not choose; it was forced upon them,” was the answer. “This is a city of refuge that they occupied in time of war, not because they hated the sun. In time of peace and before the Barbarians dared to attack them, they dwelt in the city Pani which signifies Above. You may have noted some of its remaining ruins on the mount and throughout the island. The rest of them are now beneath the sea. But when trouble came and the foe rained fire on them from the air, they retreated to this town, Nyo, which signifies Beneath.”
“And then they died. The Water of Life may prolong life, but it cannot make women bear children. That they will only do beneath the blue of heaven, not deep in the belly of the world where Nature never designed that they should dwell. How would the voices of children sound in such halls as these? Tell me, you, Bickley, who are a physician.”
“I cannot. I cannot imagine children in such a place, and if born here they would die,” said Bickley.
“They did die, and if they went above to Pani they were murdered. So soon the habit of birth was lost and the Sons of Wisdom perished one by one. Yes, they who ruled the world and by tens of thousands of years of toil had gathered into their bosoms all the secrets of the world, perished, till only a few, and among them I and this daughter of mine, were left.”
“Then, Humphrey, having power so to do, I did what long I had threatened, and unchained the forces that work at the world’s heart, and destroyed them who were my enemies and evil, so that they perished by millions, and with them all their works. Afterwards we slept, leaving the others, our subjects who had not the secret of this Sleep, to die, as doubtless they did in the course of Nature or by the hand of the foe. The rest you know.”