A flash of lightning and a loud thunderclap split the air from behind Edmund, and made him jump in surprise. His head snapped around to see one of the poles on the top of Moulde Hall sizzling and smoking in the rain.
They were lightning rods, Edmund realized, wiggling a finger in his ear to clear the ringing out of his head. They must be grounded through the mansion somehow. He turned back to see Ung staring at him with a calm look on his face.
“Hello, Ung,” Edmund said, as casually as he could with the echo of the thunder still quivering in his ribcage.
“Young master,” Ung said, touching his forehead with a massive hand. “Fine day. Is the young master going for a walk in the maze?” Edmund took a quick glance around the garden. It looked quite straightforward, not a maze at all. Ung seemed to notice his confusion. “It’s further down the hill,” he pointed with a thick finger away from Moulde Hall.
“It’s raining,” Edmund said, wondering if pulling his wet clothes tighter about him was worth it to keep out the chill wind. “Why are you working in the garden?”
“The rain makes the ground loose,” Ung explained, wiping his brow with a soaking sleeve, spreading a long black smudge under his gray hair. “It’s easier to till the soil and get the water deep.”
“It looks like the plants are all dead.” Edmund said, snuggling close to a thin tree for some minor protection from the rain.
“It does,” Ung nodded. “Is the young master wanting an umbrella?”
Reaching down to the pile of sticks he had brought with him, Ung picked up what looked to be a long crooked walking stick. He twisted his hands over the stick, which somehow blossomed into a thin brown fabric from the shaft, and handed the unfolded umbrella to Edmund. Satisfied, Ung returned to his shovel, digging up the black earth. Edmund watched for a few moments before Ung looked back at him. “Perhaps the young master is hoping for an escort?”
“No,” Edmund shook his head. “I’m just watching.”
“Would the young master like to look at something else?”
“What else is there to see around here?”
Ung thought a moment, leaning on his massive spade.
“The Gazebo,” he said, finally. “And the forest near the end of the maze. There is not much else on the grounds anymore, apart from the Hall and this garden.”
Edmund thanked Ung and let him get back to his gardening. For a moment, Edmund considered heading back inside, but he was as wet and sooty as he was going to be, and the strange umbrella Ung had given him was some help–it made more sense to finish looking around outside now rather than wait for the rain to stop. Pausing only to look briefly at the flower-like fountain, Edmund ran down the straight garden path towards the maze.