After nearly two hours’ waiting, Infadoos at last arrives with the potentially friendly tribal leaders. He asks Ignosi to show them the serpent tattoo, and Ignosi acquiesces. The leaders inspect the mark with no visible reaction. Ignosi then recounts his history to the men. Infadoos asks the men to judge and make a decision about whom they will support. The eldest of the leaders agrees with Infadoos that Twala’s reign has brought great sorrow, but they are not yet ready to accept the legitimacy of Umbopa’s claim to royal heritage. He asks that the white men who support Ignosi give them a sign with their “magic” to prove his legitimacy and the efficacy of their support. Captain Good consults his almanac and comes up with a plan—the next night is a lunar eclipse, so that is the sign they should offer. Sir Henry agrees, but Quatermain has some doubts about trusting into an almanac and the reliability of the schedule. Nonetheless, the men tell the leaders that they will blot out the moon on the next night. This will work well for a sign, they say, for the next night is the dance ceremony in which Twala chooses the fairest woman from among the young maidens and has her sacrificed. The leaders agree to accept this as proof of the white men’s power and Ignosi’s royalty. The white men then retire to rest. Before going to bed, Sir Henry takes Ignosi aside and asks that he promise to end the senseless murder of men and the deaths without trial he has seen under Twala’s reign. Ignosi agrees that, insofar as it is in his power, he will do so.
The men spend the next day receiving ceremonial visits and dining as they await the fateful night. When the sun sets, an emissary comes to bring the men to the “dance of girls.” The men sit and watch the lovely young women dance before the gathered Kukuanas. Twala offers the white men their choice of the girls as brides, but Quatermain insists that whites only marry whites. Twala agrees that this is good, and then finds a way to insult Ignosi. Ignosi retorts that he could kill Twala before Twala made a move against him, a statement which annoys Twala but does not draw him out. Then Twala asks Quatermain which of the girls he things is fairest. Without thinking, Quatermain indicates one particular girl, who is immediately seized upon to be the sacrifice. Quatermain tries to undo his blunder, but Twala insists that the annual sacrifices are necessary to appease the stone images who reside in the Three Witches. Gagool approaches the girl and demands her name. Speechless with fear, the girl attempts to flee but is restrained by Scragga. He threatens her with his spear, and she gives in. She says her name is Foulata and asks Gagool why she must die so young. Gagool reminds her that she is to be sacrificed to the spirits of the three distant peaks. Foulata then beseeches Captain Good to free her from this fate. As she grips his knees in petition, Sir Henry urges Quatermain to make his move. Unfortunately, Quatermain has seen no change in the moon and fears the sign will prove false. Realizing that Foulata will be killed before them if he does nothing, Quatermain demands of Twala that she be set free. Twala resents Quatermain’s tone and calls his guards to seize the men. Good, Sir Henry, and Ignosi raise their rifles in readiness to defend themselves. Quatermain declares that if any Kukuana takes a single step toward the white men, he will put out the moon. Gagool mocks his claim, but Quatermain has seen a shadow begin to blur the edges of the moon and presses forward. He stretches out his hand and quotes some lines from The Ingoldsby Legends in a somber tone. Sir Henry and Captain Good follow suit; the former quotes passages from the Old Testament while the latter uses the oldest swear words he can muster.
As the men chant, the shadow extends further over the moon. The Kukuanas respond in fear. Gagool attempts to play the vent off as a natural occurrence, but no one listens to her. The men keep up their improvised ritual, convincing the Kakuanas that they are responsible for the darkening of the moon. Scragga cries out that they are killing the moon and makes a desperate attack on Sir Henry. Scragga’s spear bounces off of Sir Henry’s mail shirt, and before Scragga can recover his balance with the weapon Sir Henry grabs it and runs the princeling through with his own weapon. Terror seizes the rest as the darkness increases, sending them all fleeing to their homes. Only Quatermain’s companions and the friendly chiefs remain. They agree to rendezvous at a safe place to discuss their upcoming strategy against Twala.
Following their escape under cover of the darkened moon, Ignosi, Quatermain, and the others journey far away from Loo to a pre-arranged meeting site. After an hour and a half the eclipse begins to pass, allowing the reflected light to illuminate the landscape. They surmount a large, flat-topped hill which serves as their base camp. Usually garrisoned by three thousand men, the camp is now populated by many more soldiers willing to cast their lot with Ignosi. When they reach the center of the campground, the white men are presented with their belongings; Good is at long last given his trousers and, despite Infadoos’ protests, immediately puts them on.
That morning, the soldiers are mustered to hear the tale of Ignosi. Infadoos recounts the story already told to him, reminding the Kukuanas also of the evil Twala has brought to the land. Infadoos elaborates on the events, casting Sir Henry, Captain Good, and Quatermain in the role of magical men from the stars who saw the suffering of Kukuanaland and brought Ignosi out of exile for the purpose of ending that suffering. Then Ignosi takes the center and exhorts the assembly to join him in deposing Twala—he urges them to be men and stand with him, and he himself will willingly give his own life for them if necessary. He promises them oxen and wives in exchange for their loyalty, then goes on to guarantee that under his reign, random bloodshed will cease in the land. The assembled chiefs give their assent, so Ignosi concludes by drawing their attention to the preparations Twala is making in the distance. He says the day of battle will be their test of loyalty, and that any man who fights will not be forgotten when the spoils are divided. At his pause, the chiefs salute Ignosi with their word of reverence, “koom,” to demonstrate their acceptance of his leadership.
The men then prepare for the upcoming battle. They learn that Twala is massing a great army, which will only get larger as time passes. They do not expect an attack until at least the next day, in order both to prepare for war and to diffuse the sense of awe Twala’s men would feel about the white men and their moon-darkening magic. Ignosi’s camp sets about making defensive improvements, including amassing boulders to be rolled or thrown down the hill at the enemy. Before sunset, a messenger arrives from Twala to offer Ignosi and his people an opportunity to surrender. Quatermain asks Twala’s terms, and is told that Twala will be “merciful” and only kill one-tenth of the disloyal soldiers; however, he demands the lives of Sir Henry, who murdered Scragga, and Ignosi, the “pretender” to his throne, as a certain price. Quatermain consults with the others, then answers the messenger that they refuse his terms, and that Twala himself will be dead within two days. He threatens the messenger with harm if he does not depart immediately, but the messenger appears to be unmoved by these harsh words. The messenger leaves just as the sun sets.
Quatermain takes Sir Henry aside to confide in him his fears. Sir Henry agrees that things look hopeless, but he is determined to rise to the challenge. Quatermain gets the impression that Sir Henry actually enjoys combat. The next morning, everyone arises and prepares for battle. Sir Henry goes so far as to dress in full warrior regalia and chooses the battle-axe as his weapon. Infadoos, Ignosi, and Quatermain look toward Loo to evaluate Twala’s forces. Thousands of warriors stream forth from the city and arrange themselves in three regiments, indicating that they plan to attack Ignosi on three fronts. Ignosi gives orders to prepare the defense.
Of interest is Quatermain’s insistence that “we white men wed only with white women like ourselves” (Haggard 162). Ostensibly a segregationist mentality, Quatermain uses it as a pretext to keep the men from choosing Kukuana maidens for wives. Quatermain notes that Good himself is most susceptible, “like most sailors,” and that in any event “women bring trouble as surely as the night follows the day” (Haggard 162). Ironically, Quatermain uses a racist pretext in order to address a sexist mentality.
The sacrifice of the young women highlights both the differences between the white “civilized” culture and the Kukuanas “savage” culture and the Old Crone archetype filled by Gagool. The “witch hunt” has already demonstrated the bloodthirsty cruelty in which Twala will engage to hold onto his power; now the sacrifice of innocent young maidens shows the reader how anti-life their culture has become under Twala’s rule. Falouta calls upon the mercy of the white men—particularly Good—to save her from the evil of her own people. It is only through the device of the eclipse that the white men are able to oppose this tribal tradition and remain alive. Gagool is demonstrably and agent of destruction: particularly the destruction of youth and beauty. She acts as the wicked step-mother in many fairy tales, jealously holding on to her own influence over the patriarch (in this case Twala) while urging the death of youth, virility, and beauty (in the witch hunts and the sacrifice of the Kukuana maidens). As Virginia Brackett notes, “The book’s blood-curdling villain is a hideous old wise-woman, religious-leader miscreant named Gagoo, a name that suggests ‘gargoyle,’ a mythical monster, which in various hideous faces and shapes decorated Europe’s houses of worship and wisdom” (Brackett 2). Falouta is introduced here as a contrast to Gagool, and as will be shown later she is Gagool’s foil—whereas Gagool seeks to destroy the white men and keep her secret knowledge, Falouta offers them aid and brings information.
The device of the almanac and the eclipse is not new to Haggard, although it was not commonly used so much before his time as after. The superiority of European science over savage superstition is again reinforced, this time on a more cosmic level. Firearms are one thing; being able to “command” the sun and moon place the white men firmly in the position of gods. Not only is European post-industrial revolution science superior to the savages of Africa; it is also capable of giving the white men mastery over the cosmos.
Perhaps the most heroically-toned of all the chapters, Chapter 12 sets the scene for the upcoming battle and early climax for the novel. Both sides are described in admiring terms, with even Twala in his cruelty able to amass a great army of superior numbers to Ignosi’s. The terms offered suggest that a peaceful resolution might be sought by both sides, but Twala’s price is too high—not only ten percent of the “rebellious” soldiers, but also the lives of Sir Henry and Ignosi. Twala demonstrates craftiness in his delay to enter into combat so soon after the white men have demonstrated their apparent power over the moon. For all his evil, Twala is a clever leader and a man unswayed by white men’s knowledge.
The demand for Sir Henry to be delivered over to Twala for his murder of the false king’s son also lends some pathos to Twala’s character. Although it is certainly a plan to avenge himself on the man who has cut short his line, Twala’s demand also forces the reader to see Twala as a father—a father wronged in much the same way as Twala wronged Ignosi’s father and his own brother, but a paternal figure nonetheless. This positive characterization further contrasts Twala with his advisor (and arguably the power behind his cruel reign), Gagool; by extension, it shows Haggard’s (or at least Quatermain’s) more forgiving attitude toward men of any color than to women.
Sir Henry Curtis, the most heroic of all the characters in the novel, seems to “go native.” As Quatermain relates, “Sir Henry wen the whole length about the matter…Round his throat he fastened a leopardskin cloak of a commanding officer, on his brows he bound the plume of black ostrich feathers, worn only by generals of high rank, and round his centre a magnificent moocha of white ox-tails. A pair of sandals, a leglet of goats’ hair, a heavy battle-axe, with a rhinoceros-horn handle, a round iron shield, covered with white ox-hide, and the regulation number of tollas, or throwing knives, made up his equipment…The dress was, no doubt, a savage one, but I am bound to say I never saw a finer sight than Sir Henry Curtis presented in this guise” (Haggard 181-182). Note that Quatermain’s admiration if Sir Henry is in spite of his “savage” attire, and that to Quatermain, a white man in Kukuana war-garb is a finer sight than the Kukuanas themselves similarly attired.
The overall tone of the chapter echoes that of The Iliad and similar epics involving the confrontation of two great armies. As in The Iliad, the reader is encouraged to see the nobility, bravery, and strength of the antagonist and some of the flaws of those on the side of the protagonist. Quatermain—like the reluctant draftee Odysseus—is frustrated that he will die in battle, but nonetheless dedicates himself to the strategy.