Part 2: The House, in Dust
This is a pretty big update, so I've split it into three parts. Most of the updates won't be this large when it comes to the number of screenshots, but since most people wanted to explore the manor, I made sure to visit as many rooms as possible and document them accurately. I'll be less long-winded in other updates, but this one is just so that everyone interested can get a nice idea of Blackwood Manor.
* * *
Chapter 2: The House, in Dust
- The Ground Floor
Blackwood Manor beckoned me. I stood up from the living room couch and stepped over to the grandfather clock to check the time.
The time was 10:00 a.m.
Convinced that I would have plenty of time to explore the house and still get some work done, I made my way towards the closest door to me.
It led into a lavish dining room--my mind wandered for a moment as I imagined the countless guests that had been entertained here... the British aristocracy had always been such a difficult thing to understand.
I certainly wouldn't have minded trying out these expensive wines. Except that nobody would have been around to pace me.
Smiling ruefully, I turned away from the tempting drinks cabinet and gave my attention to the other things of interest dotted around the dining room.
Tablecloths, napkins... this certainly isn't my thing!
Having walked around the table, I approached the wide doors that were at the centre of the room.
I stepped into what appeared to be a study.
A diploma granting the title of Construction Engineer to James T. Blackwood.
Picking up the diploma, I gave it a closer look. Surely this... James was the owner of the study? Certainly, his last name was the right one. Intrigued, I pressed on.
Approaching James' (am I too early to assume?) desk, I glanced at the various objects strewn over it, until I stopped to look at another leatherbound tome sitting almost centrally on the desk.
Another journal. Flicking through its pages, I realized that it had a few more entires than the other one I had found earlier, in the lounge. The chair behind me groaned with weariness as I sat down on it and began to read.
The construction of the railway bridge is almost complete and went quite smoothly. It took longer than I expected, yet I wish it would have lasted longer. I will be very sad to leave South Africa... I've become attached to it, its culture, its arts, over the past few months, that I can't help feeling as if it was already a part of me. I will surely return someday... soon hopefully, although I'm afraid there is a great deal of work to be taken care of back in old Britain.
Fortunately, I made good friends here who were ecstatic about my new appreciation of their country. They have offered me some wonderful objects as a token of gratitude which I have already crated and got ready to ship, along with many trinkets I bought myself. It looks like I'm about to start a very substantial collection! It's a good thing Catherine agreed to move into our new home, although I fear several renovations will have to be made. Even more if I'm intending to start a serious new hobby.
It seems I'll have to get back to work. John Patterson jast just told me some natives are causing trouble. A very unfortunately think, although I'm secretly rejoicing...
The natives won't leave. It's not like they're causing "trouble" so much as they're unsettling our workers. The only complaint so far has been distraction. They just stand still between the trees staring at us, without blinking an eye. I've watched them for a few minutes and they truly seem like some tenebrous statues.
At first it was just annoying, but lately it has become downright creepy. They seem to be... stalking us. So it's not like they're hindering the construction but there is a general uneasy feeling as if they were about to jump at us at any moment. I think I will hire some protection as a measure of precaution.
Fascination! I've been long into these natives... they live in a nearby village and are a very small group, yet they seem to manage quite well. I had thought of them as quite an uncivilized tribe, but their movements are calculated and one can percieve a sense of careful organization in their tasks.
Oddly enough, they seem to be very brutish, and their aspect looks awful, although I couldn't take a good look at their facial features as I followed one of them completely on my own and it could have been dangerous getting any closer. Also, the village is poor and very rough, but some of the shacks leapt out as... inviting, or special. It made me very curious.
I will try to come closer tomorrow...
My second expedition to the village of the natives has been foiled by an unexpected proble, at the bridge. I'm afraid it was due to a slight miscalculation on my part... an indication that I should be focussing more on the task at hand and put my sudden love for all African things aside for a moment. It was my fault, and I accept it.
They are at it again... lurking beyond the forest. It's amazing how they have changed our perception of the surroundings. At first we were delighted by the quiet nature of the place. Now, we fear what horrors might be concealed in that dark and foreboding cloak of trees. The tops loom above us, overshadowing the bridge, and strange noises haunt our meals. Even the river seems to be telling ungodly secrets. We could be, of course, a bit more sensitive towards distractions, but I can't help feeling the area has, in fact, become more sinister.
And yet, I'm still looking forward to satisfying my curiosity about the tribe...
At last I've found something more about the neighbouring tribe! This is an incredible finding and I just cant withhold my excitement! Some elders at the local town happened to know abhout them, but only thorugh stories they heard. The most surprising thing is that the tribe was assumed to be extinct long ago, but according to my (vague) descriptions the elders think that we could be dealing with a "legend" here.
Everything they eve learned of them was during their childhood, when the tribe was stalking the town, much in the same way they have been stalking us. People used to call them "D'lhawn" as such was the sound of screams heard echoing late in the night. They'd come out into the streets and see an evil glitter atop a hill in the distance. Some say it was a fire, others the cursed spirit of an ancient God. Whatever it was, they say the bright light, amid those fantastic screams, was bone chilling.
The macabre scene would suddenly stop just as it had begun out of nowhere, never to be seen again in days to come. Intervals between those horrible nights become longer and longer, until they soon faded into oblivion. The tribe apparently had retreated back into obscurity... until now. They were later known as the "Dhalmaar", a rather more... scientific name, although none of the people I spoke with could possibly remember its origin.
I find it extremely surprising that nobody has ever heard about this tribe with the exception of a few townspeapople. They must be incredibly rare... and judging by the stories passed on from generations in the town, very old.
I will confess that I've become nearly obsessed with this strange tribe. I see them as the most prized goal of my appreciation towards all South-African things... dangerous, yet irresistible reward. I feel as if they were my discovery. I simply have to study them before leaving. I fear I won't have the chance to ever again. It has become an important goal of mine... even more important than finishing the bridge.
Finally... I have managed to see them! My God, what a disturbing spectacle! When we arrived, they were moving around the village very slowly, without speaking or communicating with each other, each minding his or her own business, completely alien to the rest of the world. They were filthy looking, coarse and downright disgusting. I couldn't see weapons, but they could have been stored somewhere. It was all very strange behaviour in a tribe. They must be quite unique.
Then, as if they had suddenly all become possessed by some wild spirit, they began shaking spasmodically and screaming like mad. Some of them dropped to their knees and lifted their heads to the sky, eyes blank, and moaning in an indescribable way. Two of them walked away, still in that monotonous and slow manner, and in great contrast to the rest of the scene, into a shack. The next minute they brought out into the open an odd-looking mask. Its shapes, colours and overall looks, while unsettling, were mesmerizing and I felt instantly hypnotized by it. It rendered my modest collection of African curiosities into dull and uninteresting items.
The mask was very ominous and the whole tribe seemed to greatly revere it. Soon, they began to gather around it and move in circles, fluttering and chanting a guttural psalm. Judging by their motions and aspect of the whole ritual, it must have been some kind of war ritual.
I'm not sure how to explained what happened next as I feel my pulse is already throbbing. Words fail me to recount the most disturbing thing I've ever witnessed. One of the male villagers walked into the middle, near the mask, by his own will. It was an almost automatic act. All of a sudden, the remaining members became silent. I can't tell for how long it lasted but I was afraid to breath. I think Dalby and the others were also scared... they wouldn't even blink. I remember being soaked wet and expectant. The silence was so unnatural... then, a few members separated from the people circling the mask and jumped on the single villager, beating him to death.
To be completely faithful to the event, the small crowd tore him apart. They grabbed his legs in twos and threes and twisted them in a manner I dare not describe. His face was disfigured with their bare fingernails and teeth, and the torso soon disappeared under the frenzied tangle of hands. In a matter of a few minutes the villager was turned into a red sack of bones. Not one of the attackers had the compassion to snap his neck during the sickening process. All was very methodical as if it was just another mundane task.
The most terrifying aspect though, was that the victim didn't even cringe. The silence was so deep I could hear his flesh ripping. I would expect any living creature to scream its guts out in such a condition. I can't tell whether he was... drugged or half-asleep, but I did recognize him dancing like everybody else before walking into the middle of the circle. It was the most outrageous and sadistic sacrifice I've ever heard of... I don't think I will ever forget what I saw.
My intentions of approaching further, even if they didn't have any weapons at hand, vanished. Those creatures (I dare not call them human beings) could have killed my whole company in the blink of an eye with their rage. They seemed to be completely out of themselves and willing to destroy anything intruding into their path.
While the images of the sacrifice still haunt my thoughts, I still can't seem to forget that mask. It was so deceptively simple and yet perfect in its design... I haven't seen anything like it. I surely would love to take a better look... I feel the Dhalmaar, dangerous as they are, could be the most important ethical finding in decades. What I've seen today is crying for some further investigating. I just can't leave them like that... I would never forgive myself.
And the mask... that mask...
I was ecstatic after reading the journal... the material was incredible!
I suspect that James was the author of that journal... it would certainly make sense, given his presence in South Africa to build a bridge as an engineer. I am, however, slightly skepctical as to the truth contained in his diary. Nevertheless, the material is certainly exceedingly inspiring!
But, I digress. I turned to examine the remaining contents of the table.
Spotting an envelope, I picked it up.
The envelope was empty.
It was locked.
There was nothing left at the table. I rose from the chair and explored the rest of the study.
The remnants of a fire...
Just in case, I tried again, but there was still no power.
There was nothing else left to see in the study. I left, and walked into the other door leading out of the dining room.
I stepped into some sort of passageway, with stairs leading up to the 2nd floor. Presumably, they would lead to the other side of the central corridor leading out of my own bedroom. I decided to finish off the first floor before heading upwards.
After glancing at a couple of the paintings in the passage, I stepped towards the door across from whence I came.
It led into the kitchen.
There were plenty of cooking utensils in the house, ready to be used.
The door to the oven was firmly stuck in place.
... I still do not know why, but I feel safer with that knife on me. I picked it up.
Apparently, the water wasn't running.
The interior of the refridgerator was begging for some cleaning, not to mention a powerful disinfectant.
A back-door led outside, but I preferred a more systematic approach to the exploration of the house. I will head outside later.
Countless jars and cans adorned the kitchen.
The grinder was open and waiting for anything to be tossed inside its blades.
The door to what I presumed was the basement was locked.
I stepped through the other door.
It led into another bedroom, a lot more ordinary-looking than the rest of the manor.
The topmost sheet of the pile had some curious markings on it, so I grabbed it to have a closer look.
It was a piece of paper with some strange markings. And I was sure there was much more to it than at first seemed clear...
I picked up one of the pencils in the drawer.
It was a picture of the kitchen I had just left.
It looked like whoever lived in this room loved photography...
... I needn't make it any clearer. This was, evidently, the room of a keen photographer. I couldn't make sense of a lot of the photos, although it seemed as if they were taken on the grounds surrounding the manor.
The bed in this room was filthy.
I headed for the only other exit in the room.
Something felt fundamentally unsettling and wrong about this room.
Evidently, this bathroom had been used as some kind of dark room.
The smell coming from the toilet prevented any further investigation...
The sink was covered in a thick coating of dust. It looked as if the cleaning ladies had skipped this room.
A frown settled on my face as I left the room, and realized I had exhausted the ground floor. I headed back to the passage between the dining room and kitchen, with the purpose of heading upstairs...
* * *
I forgot to point out a few things we picked up: we have a matchbook, and a sort of metallic rod.