68: The Gazebo

The rain was heavy and cold for summer. The large black drops obscured both the dim morning sunlight and Edmund’s vision, and the dusty moisture in the air was casting a thick fog over the ground. His skin quickly became covered with a thin black coat from the soot-filled rainclouds. The wind blew lazily, stirring the ever present smog that hung like a curtain over the city, fed by the large wrought-iron smokestacks that shot up from the cityscape like smooth metal trees.

Holding his hand above his eyes, Edmund glanced around. It was difficult to see further than a few meters in any direction, with the black mists covering his view. Turning to his right, he saw the front walk. The slope of Haggard Hill was gradual at first, an easy slope for horses to walk up from the outer gate. The grass was a faded green that was quickly turning ashen gray in the black rain. Edmund could see only a few trees, and they were quite threadbare, their branches pocked sparsely with sagging leaves. Edmund ducked his head and ran as fast as he could through the rain, slipping through the muddy grass and stepping on weeds and thick bristly plants, towards the dim shape of Ung.

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Image: Uncredited, pinterest.com

When he finally looked up, he realized the shape had not been Ung at all, but the yellowed gazebo that sat a ways off from the house. The creaking building was much taller than it looked when he saw it from afar. The wood was old and splintering, at least a decade worth of wind and weather having battered away at the thick wooden planks. The harsh wind wound through the small support beams along the roof, whistling high above his head. The entire structure squeaked and swayed almost as loud as the clatter of the rain on the roof as he stepped forward, the snapping and cracking reminding him uncomfortably of Matron’s voice.

A soft sizzling sound caused Edmund to glance down, where he saw a small round sweet sitting in the grass nearby. It almost seemed to glow a pale-blue, and hissed with smoke when the rain hit it. The small circle of grass around it looked dead.

He remembered Ung throwing it away after Mrs. Junapa Knittle had given it to Edmund.

After taking a moment to catch his breath, he shrugged up his shoulders and ran back the way he came, turning the corner to the rear gardens.

The Flower Garden of Moulde Hall was large, diverse, and almost entirely dead. Giant willow trees hung their bare branches down to beds full of withered flower stalks. A path encircled a dried up fountain full of dead leaves and detritus, and then set off towards the rear of the grounds. Even through the rain and fog, it was only the work of a moment for Edmund to spy Ung near the fountain with the large shovel, digging in the thin and muddy garden.

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