Dawn arose on a very different Hooghly. Peasants from the surrounding villages, angry and afraid, gathered in mobs outside of the factory. Native hunters, who had set out immediately when news of the dead boy had spread, proudly displayed their trophies: a dozen dhole (wild dogs), two leopards, a hyena, and an emaciated tiger. Hidden amongst the mob, agitators were whipping them into a frenzy. The anger of Dashkin Rai would be visited on every village in the region until the ferengi (westerners) abandoned their works and left, it was said.
Baron da Silva had no choice but to order the walls of the factory sealed. At the recommendation of the wanderers, however, he issued a decree that no man was to fire on the mob, regardless of provocation, without his orders.
The wanderers braved the mob to visit the Nazim, Jwala Damodar Kusagra. The man who had only yesterday showered them with gifts was now scarcely willing to greet these strangers to Hindoostan. It was only with some duplicity and contrivance that the wanderers managed to explore any of the Nazim’s palace. Wilhelm and Isabella introduced themselves to Erik de Klerk, one of the Nazim’s Dutch guests. He was affable enough, and shared a dark stout with the German. Meanwhile, Brother Reniour and the pygmy, Santiago, managed to invade the room of an intimidating Stefan Holtzmann before being led away by the palace guards.
Returning to the factory, the troupe was alert to agitators in the mob. Idrissa spied one she recognized and the wanderers gave chase. Though he slipped through their fingers, they did discover that he, and perhaps the other agitators, were associated with a band of marauders led by Uthman Khan. The Khan’s band was well known in Bengal, for he had operated and eluded capture for many years despite the best efforts of the empire. He seemed to share Dashkin Rai’s goal of ridding the land of the ferengi.
Armed with this new information, the wanderers tracked the agitator to a mosque outside of Hooghly. The imam there was unable (unwilling?) to give them any real information, scoffing at the local superstitions of some forest god and demonic beasts roaming the land. He was in a bit of a hurry to begin a pilgrimage to the capital, Agra. A quick survey of the wagons suggested he was planning to be gone awhile.
The real break came when the wanderers heard a rumor that Uthman Khan’s men, perhaps even the Khan himself, had been sighted at an old shrine to Hanumam, the monkey god, a few miles east of Hooghly.
As night set in, much of the mob melted away, returning to their huts to protect their families from the ravenous hunger of the Dashkin Rai. Those that remained stuck close to the large campfires. It was an easy task for the wanderers to slip over the walls of the factory and set off towards the old shrine. Under the baleful light of the full moon, they made their way East. They finally came upon the ruined wall of a modest shrine in the forest. From their vantage, they could make out the fires of the camp site. They counted some twenty men, among them five or so active guards. A camp had a dozen horses among them, along with two wagons drawn by teams of buffalo. The wagons were filled with crates, rumored to be filled with weapons with which to arm a full on revolt against the Portuguese merchantmen at Hooghly.
Quietly, unseen, the wanderers prepared to make their next move…