The remainder of the day of the 22nd goes by slowly. Peter and Irene find themselves crowded from the trench by Humphries and Daniel, who are busy extracting and cataloguing yet more bricks, and by the grosser excavations of the Sindhi laborers. "Don't worry Ma'am-ji, Peter," Daniel cheerily assures them. "I'm quite sure that there will be plenty of dirt for both of you to dig tomorrow. Ha! – if you so please, Miss Howell!"
And so Peter and Irene pass the remainder of the hot day by themselves. At a loss for other things to do, Peter spends some time helping Irene to unpack and organize the veritable library of archaeological catalogs and other scholarly references that she has brought with her. And what a mass of ink and paper it is! In these books, there are countless descriptions of materials unearthed from sites throughout Europe, Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, South Asia, and North America. For all the economic, political, and strategic troubles inherent in managing such a vast dominion, one of the greatest outcomes of the British Empire is the accumulation and disciplining of such disparate sources of historical and pre-historical knowledge. Truly, without the heaving machinery that is the Imperial bureaucracy, the collation of such an extensive collection of comparative materials from the far corners of the planet might have been impossible.
For his part, the Major spends the rest of his time in his tent with the flap closed, permitting only his right-hand man, Mukherjee to enter. Late in the afternoon, as the Sergeant brings some chai to the excluded duo, he explains that, "Major McCormick is very busy writing letters to his family. And to Sir Marshall and Banerji as well." He leaves it at that.
II. That Night
It is cold tonight; surprisingly so. In their respective tents, Peter and Irene have bundled themselves in harsh wool blankets to fight off the unexpected chill.
Tonight, it seems, something has unnerved the jackals. They yap and chatter in the dark night, their squealing voices echoing across the Indus and into the camp, making it difficult to sleep. Are they hunting? Do they seek mates? Are they mourning? The Westerners in the camp hear nothing but cackling and screeching, and the jackals' voices tell no stories.
It is nearly three o'clock in the morning when the jackals suddenly and conspicuously cease their prattling. Perhaps there are wolves about? The larger canines are known to hunt their diminutive brethren.
If only! After some minutes, the jackals resume their galling chorus, howling more loudly and more madly before. Such a cacophony, neither Peter nor Irene have ever heard before – not in Egypt, not in the Sindh. The pitch of their feral cries climbs and climbs, escalating into a racket of whistles, not unlike the whining of worn brakes on a train, but staccato and even harsher to the ear. Something must be very wrong in the world of the jackals.
Irene, who is already a bit worried about her standing at the camp, finds it very difficult to ignore the jackals' cries. It seems to her that the jackals are speaking – but not to one another. To whom, then? She cannot seem to get the idea out of her head that there is some message in the frustratingly uninterpretable shrieks of the little beasts. Her mind strains against her will to decipher it. Perhaps her rationale has been aggravated by her linguistic hallucination earlier in the day, or perhaps she is simply over-tired and half-dreaming. Sleep comes to her only in brief fits.
She closes her eyes once again. In the space between two yelps, Irene hears something moving amongst the tents – some animal, she senses. Have the jackals come to scavenge?
Then – a sound like wood straining and splitting – and a crash! The source of the noise is just outside the front flaps of Peter's and Irene's respective tents.
Something is happening in the antiquities tent!
(Peter passes his sanity check vs. the jackals' unnatural chatter. Irene fails hers: -1 sanity point. Actions that have taken place between sections one and two may be privately emailed to me – but only if they would substantially interrupt continuity or if it is absolutely necessary that they be concealed from other players. Action picks up at the crashing sound, which both Peter and Irene hear. I will wait for responses from both players before commenting.)