The tale that Lizzie Blaylock recounts to her audiences during the early séances in The Bridge of Dead Things is loosely based on the true story of Padmini of Chittaurgarh and the Sultan Ala-ud-din. Although originally included in the novel as part of the séance that Mrs Thorne attends, it was later cut because it interfered with the drama and pace of Lizzie’s own story. Here, though, is that narrative in full.
— THE MISSING CHAPTER —
TO FIRE I RETURNED:
LONG AGO, some say as long as a thousand years before my birth,
four mighty clans of warriors rode out of the north on horseback, leaving
behind them their ancestral lands, the flat, grassy plains of central Asia.
Collectively they were known as Rajputs—“sons of princes”—for, even though
they were constantly at war with each other, each clan could trace its
ancestry back to one of the four princely children to be conceived by the
sun and moon at the very instant of creation. The first clan was descended
from the wind, the second from the earth, the third from water. But the
fourth—my clan—we came from fire. And that is why I say, “I came from
fire—and to fire I returned”.
Soon the north of India had split into a dozen warring kingdoms, each of them governed by the descendants of these four original clans. Mine was the kingdom of Chittaurgarh, a city fortress high atop a rocky plateau in the southern-most reaches of the Rajput territories.
Chittaurgarh was a colossal fortress. It needed to be. Fifty thousand people lived and worked within its walls. It stood guard over some of the richest farmland in all of India. One only had to gaze down from its battlements to appreciate how great a prize it was. Fields of yellow wheat and low growing henna-plant, copper-coloured lentils and blood-red poppies abounded as far as the eye could see, along with oceans of billowing sesame, its enormous husky pods fairly brimming with seed. But most precious of all were the tracts of woody pepper-vines, whose highly-prized fruits would dry as hard and hot and black as the tears of Shiva. This was the land my people had fought for. This was the land they had won.