Edmund moved past the small door towards the far wall, and saw that where the wall had curved around the library, someone had miss-measured a piece of paneling. There was a gap, at least a foot wide, between the stone wall of the library and the wooden wall at the end of the passage.
As Edmund bent closer to look into the gap, he found himself staring at a large rat’s nest. At least, he thought it was a rat’s nest. It was taller and more intricate than any vermin hole he had ever seen. It was made from bits of fabric, moldy wood, strange metal sheets, and a vague smell of pungent milk. The front of this strange mound was wide, and when Edmund peeked cautiously inside, he once again saw the glint of the rat’s eye as it stared out at him…
Was it his hope-filled imagination? Or was there something else glinting inside?
It looked fairly far back, and the hole was not quite wide enough to allow his arm easy access, so Edmund unhooked the curved snuffer from the side of the candle and began to work the soft metal back and forth, weakening the joint between the bell and hook. Then, it was only the work of a moment to jam the bell against the wall and break it off with a soft snap.
His make-shift hook in hand, Edmund crumbled the rest of his bread a respectable distance away from the hole and waited, his breathing slow and steady. He only had to wait for a minute before the rat stuck its nose out from its nest and darted towards the pile of stale bread.
Quickly, Edmund slipped forward and placed himself between the rat and the small alcove that held its nest. When the rat turned around with the bread in its mouth, it froze and stared at Edmund, its whiskers quivering.
Confident he now wouldn’t hurt the rat with his hook, he bent down and carefully inserted the bent bronze snuffer into the hole, gently poking and prodding anything he felt inside. Most of it was squishy, some slightly soft. the few hard things he found turned out to be little more than rocks when he pulled them out. The rat squeaked furiously behind him as he continued to search, and he was just beginning to despair again when he twisted the snuffer and heard a soft metal clink.
His heart leapt as he twisted the hook again, and gently teased the metal object out from the nest. It was awkwardly shaped, so it took a few tries to get it to the point where he could grab and pull the object out completely, but when he finally gripped it in his hands, he had no doubt it was what he was looking for.