As we shifted the soil it became apparent that this was plausibly the site of some sort of sanctuary or rudimentary church to the pagan goddess. A most exciting find! As we brushed the earth and stone away, a black object became visible beneath the permafrost. It was most peculiar and would require closer examination come morning. Unfortunately the light had grown dim and again we retired to the tent for warmth, dried strips of some unknown meat and companionship.

The temperature through the night dropped considerably and Charles tried as he might to keep me warm but it was to no avail. The chill was most piercing, a thing I have not experienced in all my travels, even when to the East and the great North. Come the morning, the chill had lessened ever so slightly. Upon opening the tent, I arose to the sight of the morning sun and two perfectly frozen donkeys. I say, what a rum scene it made. Stood perfectly stock still in place but entirely encrusted with ice.

I called for Charles who grunted something unintelligible as usual, who then proceeded to make short work of the donkeys with a small skinning knife. At least I am now aware of the source of Charles’ sustenance. Also, may the Lord damn them to the Hells and back; the hired help had upped sticks and disappeared in the night. I considered the possibility that we may have been robbed, but nothing of note was missing from the inventory. Therefore, I must assume that they tired of the honest labour and went in seek of alcohol and a warm bed. Really, the savages here are most intolerable when imbibing the demon drink, less use than a… a frozen donkey.

No use crying over missing peasants; lacking in labour I undertook to supervise Charles’ efforts around the strange black object. On closer inspection the object yielded to the touch, with a feeling of a dense cool gas. The object appears to be neither solid nor liquid nor gas; a most puzzling discovery. Within the object appear patterns; although on first glance making little sense, under a prolonged gaze they take the image of a whirlpool, a whirlpool of darkness if you will. This discovery is most unusual and will require much study when safely ensconced back in Oxford.

It does not seem to hold a particular shape, if anything changing form with each fresh glance. Charles seems perturbed by the object, he has also taken to looking at me in a most strange and unfriendly manner. I shall endeavour to keep my wits and a sharp implement about me at all times, for if he means to rob me of the artefact then he shall find himself coming to a most sticky end for I will make short work of him, Sir! My training and time spent with the Queen’s Rifles in the African campaign has always been useful in dispatching the criminal element.

I placed my hand once again into the object, or area of whatever this substance might be. It has the feel of a soupy mist, almost tangible to the touch yet leaving no trace on removal or any residue. It is without a doubt the darkest sight I have ever laid eyes on; darker than the nights of the Papuan jungles. Whereas head-hunters were the concern in Papua; the growing mistrust between Charles and I is becoming rather alarming. It is not the place of the help to question the master, either through verbiage or demeanour. Hence I undertook to teach Charles a lesson in humility with my crop…

To Chapter Sixty-Two – #Pero