In 1875 the Rozvi Kingdom, now in present day Zimbabwe, is indistinctly besieged from within by the convergence of a missionary, Rev. Holbrook, a militant British bourgeoisie aspiring for knighthood, Sir Crowler, and an immorally amorous war emissary allegedly from King Cetshwayo of the feared Zulu Kingdom. The "Zulu" ambassador uncompromisingly makes painstaking demands. While Rev. Holbrook is earnest in his endeavours, Sir Crowler is adamant the natives are enemies of both God and Britain meant for annihilation. The elders cannot consult the oracles; all diviners having fled before the arrival of the foreigners. An enigmatic and malicious hermit comes to the fore in the calamitous confusion that ensues. But nobody can tell with certainty if the hermit is messianic or anarchical.