As the threefold forces of Twala approach their location, Good expresses a wish for a Gatling gun to mow them down. He then taunts Quatermain into taking a long shot at the apparent general of the middle forces, wagering a sovereign against Quatermain’s success. Irked at this challenge to his marksmanship, Quatermain takes aim with his Winchester and fires on the Kukuana leader. He misses, but strikes the leader’s orderly dead, frightening his target. Good delivers a backhanded compliment to Quatermain for frightening the general, so Quatermain takes up his rifle again and shoots the general. He realizes after the fact how strong his pride was in his marksmanship, since he took delight in the death of another human being upon his success.
With two of their number being mysteriously struck down by the white magic, the middle forces pull back in disarray. Good and Sir Henry fire into the regiment as well, and all told the men take down from eight to ten of their enemies before they get out of range. Delighted to have routed Twala’s men, they are surprised when they hear sounds of the left and right flanks attacking. Twala’s men shout Twala! Twala! Chiele! Cheile! (Twala! Twala! Strike! Strike!) while Ignosi’s army answers with Ignosi! Ignosi! Chiele! Chiele! Before long the first and second lines of defense are broken, leaving Ignosi’s third line in the fray. Sir Henry, Good, Quatermain, and Ignosi himself join in direct combat. The fighting is furious, with Sir Henry especially making a name for himself on the battlefield with his battle-axe. Ignosi’s right line of defense manage to drive Twala’s attack back, but Twala’s left flank brekas through and drives Ignosi’s forces toward the center. Eventually Quatermain comes face-to-face with an enemy Kukuana, whom he dispatches, but then he is struck from behind and rendered unconscious.
A short time later, Quatermain awakens to find Good kneeling over him. He has only been dazed by the attack. Good informs him that Twala’s forces have been repulsed for the time being. Ignosi’s men begin to take stock of their dead and wounded, with their witch –doctors doing triage to determine which men’s wounds are fatal. Quatermain observes the witch doctor’s surreptitiously euthanizing the mortally wounded men so that their deaths are painless; Quatermain admits that this that, although he finds this distasteful, it is probably the most humane thing that can be done at the time.
Sir Henry, Ignosi, and Infadoos confer on their next strategy. Twala has decided to lay siege to Ignosi’s camp to starve them out; this situation is made worse by the fact that their water has already run out. Infadoos asks Quatermain (on Ignosi’s behalf) to give his counsel. Infadoos outlines three options: remain on the hill and starve to death, attempt to break through to the north, or attack Twala’s forces head-on. Sir Henry has already counseled a direct attack. Quatermain mulls it over, and then concludes that the direct assault is the best option. Though he thinks it a doomed effort, he believes an immediate charge on Twala’s forces will help them take advantage of Twala’s wounded forces, and will provide less time for the forces of Ignosi to become disheartened and change sides.
Ignosi considers his counselors’ words, and then declares his intention to attack Twala that same day. He proposes a strategy whereby Infadoos and Sir Henry take a body of men directly toward Twala’s forces, down the hill between two arms of the crescent-shaped formation. Twala’s forces will become occupied with this attack, but will also be more vulnerable as they can only approach the enemy in small numbers. While this fighting ensues, Captain Good will take a third of the men behind the right horn of the crescent, while Ignosi and Quatermain will take the remaining third behind the left horn. At the optimal moment, both sides will strike and Ignosi will head directly for Twala, to kill him and end this civil war immediately. Although the plan means likely death for Ignosi, Sir Henry, and their men, they face it with stoicism and bravery. Sir Henry declares that although he does not expect to survive, at least It will be “a man’s death!” Quatermain, ever the pessimist, has misgivings but does not voice them in the interest of maintaining morale.
The army of Ignosi separates into the assigned regiments, one on each flank of the curved bluff, and two—the eminent Greys and their backup, the Buffaloes, heading down the center. Infadoos commands the Greys; as they wait for the moment of battle, he keeps their morale up by emphasizing the honor of their service to Ignosi and the importance of their probably mortal office. Quatermain, taking his place with Ignosi among the Buffaloes, cannot help but contrast their stalwart bravery with his own mounting anxiety. Infadoos ends his exhortation by indicating Ignosi as their rightful ruler; he is met with the honor-bearing beating of the soldiers’ spears upon their shields. Following this grand homage, the Greys make three lines and march toward the center of the crescent to draw Twala’s forces in for the finishing assault. As the Buffaloes follow the Greys, Quatermain ponders the Greys’ suicidal loyalty. He attempts to assuage his fears by reminding himself of an account wherein three Romans held a bridge against thousands, but it is little use—he knows the Greys, and probably most of the Buffaloes as well, are destined to die this day.
The Greys await the approach of Twala’s forces at the opening in the crescent bluff. When Twala’s army gets within charging distance, the Greys rush into them and attack. They repulse Twala’s army at first, but it costs them a third of their forces. As they await Twala’s second wave, Quatermain is relieved to see the blonde head of Sir Henry among the Greys, still alive despite the bloodshed. Meanwhile, Ignosi gives the order that none of Twala’s wounded are to be killed, an act of kindness that mostly goes unseen in the throes of battle. Twala’s forces again advance, and the Greys still hold the line. This time, however, the battle lasts longer with the outcome in doubt. The Greys manage to yet again drive back Twala’s forces, but are left with less than a third of their original number alive. Twala’s forces regroup and advance, but at this moment Ignosi gives his battle cry and heads into the fray, making straight for Twala. Twala, meanwhile, has sought out Sir Henry, to kill him as the white man killed his own son. Twala drives Sir Henry to his knees with a crushing blow, but suddenly the fresh regiments from either side of the crescent arrive to entrap Twala’s forces The battle is bloody and fierce, but the forces of Ignosi are victorious. However, Ignosi is unable to face Twala in direct combat before the enemy leader escapes back to his city.
En route to Loo, Quatermain and the others espy Captain Good sitting atop an ant-heap near the body of one of Twala’s Kukuana soldiers. Before anyone can cry out, the seemingly dead Kukuana arises and strikes Good, knocking him to the ground. The enemy warrior then strikes repeatedly at Good with his spear, apparently killing the white man, before running off to join his own army. When Quatermain and the others reach Good, he is working his way back to his feet, eyeglass still in place. He credits the chain mail armor he is wearing with saving his life from the Kukuana’s vicious spear-thrusts. When his forces reach Loo, Ignosi promises the inhabitants full pardon to any warrior who lays down his arms. The city surrenders to Ignosi and the gates are opened. Ignosi and his retinue head to the central enclosure, where Twala sits brooding, alone save for Gagool. Twala acknowledges Ignosi’s victory and recognizes Ignosi’s right to kill him as Twala killed Ignosi’s father, but he asks a royal boon—his death shall be trial by combat. Ignosi hesitantly agrees, but reminds Twala that the king is forbidden to enter into single combat by law. Twala has his eyes on another target—he wishes to battle Sir Henry to the death.
Although Quatermain and others attempt to dissuade him, Sir Henry readily agrees to battle Twala. The two men fight viciously, with no one gaining the upper hand, but then Twala is able to knock Sir Henry’s battle-axe from his hands. Sir Henry draws his tolla (knife) to attempt a stab at Twala, but is unable to penetrate the Kukuana’s armor. Twala and Sir Henry struggle over Twala’s axe, with Sir Henry managing at the last instant to pull it from Twala’s grasp. Even as Twala draws his own tolla and stabs at Sir Henry (and rebounds off the chainmail), Sir Henry swings the axe and decapitates Twala on the spot. Quatermain removes the diamond crown from Twala’s head and gives it to Ignosi, proclaiming him “lawful King of the Kukuanas.” There is a victory celebration and songs of epic proportions as the night falls.
Quatermain reveals more of his character in the incident of the long-range shooting. His rivalry with Captain Good has remained below the surface since the “lucky” shot at the giraffe, but Quatermain has made it clear to the reader that he sees Good as his inferior in matters of firearms. This internal rivalry drives Quatermain to thoughtlessly take the life of another human being in order to prove his superiority—an act which Quatermain immediately regrets: “This time I had made no mistake; and—I say it as proof of how little we think of others when our own pride or reputation are in question—I was brute enough to feel delighted at the sight” (Haggard 186). This moment of human sympathies rounds out Quatermain’s character, giving us a glimpse of a very real man who lives a life of bloodshed, but not by choice or out of sadistic pleasure. To get this moment of insight into Quatermain just prior to the bloodiest incident in the novel serves to make the battle not merely an exercise in heroism, but a sorrowful necessity when evil men oppose those who are in the right.
The Greys are introduced more fully here. They are the eldest and most able of the Kukuana warriors. That they have sided with Ignosi is a sign to other Kukuanas that Ignosi is the rightful king; their presence in Ignosi’s army will also serve to put fear into the hearts of those loyal to Twala. They are brave men, but also doomed (as we see in the next chapter); their position in the battle is to hold a small pass against innumerable enemies for as long as possible—meaning until they are all dead.
Quatermain also demonstrates his ability to think strategically, despite his fatalism. When asked his thoughts on their attack strategy, given their dire circumstances, he tells Ignosi: “Being trapped, our best chance, especially in view of the failure of our water supply, was to initiate an attack upon Twala’s forces, and then I recommended that the attack should be delivered at once” (Haggard 192). Ignosi considers and heeds his words, and Quatermain notes that “among the Kukuanas my utterances met with a respect which has never been accorded to them before or since” (Haggard 192). Clearly, despite his self-deprecation as a coward and his pessimism, Quatermain has a brave heart ready to follow the dictates of wise combat over self-preservation. Meanwhile, Ignosi proves to be a brilliant strategist; he seeks counsel from those with differing experiences from himself, then settled on a plan which has the greatest chance of success. A born leader, he does not hesitate to place his men or himself in great peril for the greater good. His insistence that Quatermain accompany his part in the maneuvers is interesting; Haggard does not make it clear whether Ignosi includes Quatermain there because he does not fully trust the man, because he wants Quatermain to see Ignosi’s military prowess, or because Quatermain really can best serve here, if only in his capacity as a natural survivor.
The reader is again treated to echoes of The Iliad as Infadoos encourages the soldiers through oratory just prior to their battle. The virtues of giving one’s life for a worthy cause are extolled, while the likelihood of death in battle is not ignored. An African (or Zulu) bent is given to Infadoos’ exortation, as the history of service to the rightful king is recounted to give the Kukuanas a sense of their place in history. The single combat between Twala and Sir Henry again parallels The Iliad’s confrontation between Hector and Achilles. Although he has threatened Twala directly in battle, Ignosi is not free to enter into single combat with Twala once the fighting ends. The conflict has become ceremonial, a last choice on the part of the clearly defeated Twala, but is nonetheless significant as it is Twala’s search for vengeance against the murderer of his son. That the others seek to dissuade Sir Henry from entering combat with Twala shows how fearful an opponent the deposed Kukuana king is; that Sir Henry enters into the battle anyway shows both his courage and his pride.
Quatermain is shown to be human, still, in his confession at his own anxiety in contrast to the others’ courage. He is not a soldier or warrior—he is a hunter, trader, and sometime adventurer who did not sign up to fight in a foreign king’s war. Nonetheless, Quatermain supports Ignosi despite his fears, and will show that support through service unto death if necessary. For all his protestations of cowardice, Quatermain is indeed a brave man, and Quatermain’s self-assessment of cowardice may in fact be Haggard’s clever way of pointing out the follies of bloodshed and violent ideals of “manliness.” Quatermain has already stated how he regrets having killed a man merely to defend his pride; now Sir Henry engages in a fight he is not guaranteed to win in order to do the same. Through Quatermain, Haggard seems to be suggesting that the motives of even good men may not always be as selfless and honorable as we would like. While Sir Henry is clearly the heroic champion in this incident, the fact remains that it is wounded pride that goads him into accepting Twala’s challenge.
Much is made of the chainmail armor worn by the white men. Twala’s gift to them upon their arrival has proven his undoing. Good is saved from a mortal wound by the chainmail, and Sir Henry’s armor deflects Twala’s last desperate strike. The irony is clear: Twala’s gifts come from a civilization older than and superior to the Kukuanas; it is these gifts which aid the next civilization (the scientific Europeans) in destroying Twala’s version of Kukuanaland. The dominance of the white culture is symbolized in Quatermain’s act of taking the crown from Twala and placing it upon Ignosi’s brow—Ignosi is the rightful king, but in part this is because he is recognized as such by a European power.