So, following the gulf round, they returned to the castle by another path, and were ushered into an ante-room, where stood a watch of twelve men. Here Masouda left them in the midst of the men, who stared at them with stony eyes. Presently she returned, and beckoned to them to follow her. Walking down a long passage they came to curtains, in front of which were two sentries, who drew these curtains as they approached. Then, side by side, they entered a great hall, long as Stangate Abbey church, and passed through a number of people, all crouched upon the ground. Beyond these the hall narrowed as a chancel does.
Here sat and stood more people, fierce-eyed, turbaned men, who wore great knives in their girdles. These, as they learned afterwards, were called the fedai, the sworn assassins, who lived but to do the command of their lord the great Assassin. At the end of this chancel were more curtains, beyond which was a guarded door. It opened, and on its further side they found themselves in full sunlight on an unwalled terrace, surrounded by the mighty gulf into which it was built out. On the right and left edges of this terrace sat old and bearded men, twelve in number, their heads bowed humbly and their eyes fixed upon the ground. These were the dais or councillors.
At the head of the terrace, under an open and beautifully carved pavilion of wood, stood two gigantic soldiers, having the red dagger blazoned on their white robes. Between them was a black cushion, and on the cushion a black heap. At first, staring out of the bright sunlight at this heap in the shadow, the brethren wondered what it might be. Then they caught sight of the glitter of eyes, and knew that the heap was a man who wore a black turban on his head and a black, bell-shaped robe clasped at the breast with a red jewel. The weight of the man had sunk him down deep into the soft cushion, so that there was nothing of him to be seen save the folds of the bell-shaped cloak, the red jewel, and the head. He looked like a coiled-up snake; the dark and glittering eyes also were those of a snake. Of his features, in the deep shade of the canopy and of the wide black turban, they could see nothing.
The aspect of this figure was so terrible and inhuman that the brethren trembled at the sight of him. They were men and he was a man, but between that huddled, beady-eyed heap and those two tall Western warriors, clad in their gleaming mail and coloured cloaks, helm on brow, buckler on arm, and long sword at side, the contrast was that of death and life.
Chapter Twelve: The Lord of Death
Masouda ran forward and prostrated herself at full length, but Godwin and Wulf stared at the heap, and the heap stared at them. Then, at some motion of his chin, Masouda arose and said:
“Strangers, you stand in the presence of the Master, Sinan, Lord of Death. Kneel, and do homage to the Master.”