A Cambridge professor, Horace Holly, and his ward, Leo Vincey, together with their servant, Job, travel to Africa, following instructions on the "Sherd of Amenartas" left to Leo by his father. They hire an Arabic packman, Mahomed, before journeying into an unexplored part of the African interior, where they discover the lost kingdom of Kôr, inhabited by the primitive Amahagger people. The adventurers learn that the natives are ruled by a fearsome white queen, who is worshiped as "Hiya" or "She-who-must-be-obeyed". The white-skinned interlopers are a source of great interest to the Amahagger, who have been forewarned by She of their coming. The chief elder of one of the Amahagger tribes, Billali, takes charge of the three men, introducing them to the ways of his people. One of the Amahagger maidens, Ustane, takes a liking to Leo and during a tribal feast sings lovingly to him. However, Billali informs Holly that he has to depart and report the arrival of the White men to She. In his absence, some of the Amahagger become restless and determine to eat Mahomed as part of a ritual "hotpot". There is a scuffle; Mahomed is killed in the fray and Leo gravely wounded, but the three Englishmen are saved when Billali returns and declares that they are under the protection of She. However, Leo's injuries worsen and though he is tended by Ustane, he approaches death.
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