Edmund stared down the deep staircase, feeling the hot stale air breathing out from the gaping earthen maw. Taking a deep breath, Edmund stepped down the rocky staircase, now muddy with the dust mixing with the icy black rain.
The dim moonlight from the outside did nothing to help him see. Thanking his foresight, he set aside the umbrella and held up the small brass lantern. Gripping the handle tightly to keep his hands from shaking, he began to turn the crank like an organ-grinder.
Slowly, a dim light began to flicker to life deep in the lantern’s depths, letting him see the path ahead, though not clearly. What he could see was that the stairway was old and dirty. Bits of the walls and ceiling had fallen into the passage over the years, and Edmund had to climb carefully to keep from stumbling. Roots from random plants stuck out from the walls to startle him and trip him up. The wooden braces in the wall were full of holes and cracks, and the air was stale, and foul smelling–a mixture of mold and rotten vegetables.
He only had a short distance to go before the steep staircase came to an abrupt end at what looked like a wall of stone and mortar. Edmund stared at the imposing blockade as he heard the storm rage down at the entrance of the tunnel. Who would build a tunnel that led nowhere? No one, he reasoned, and pushed gently on the stone.
Light as wood, the stone swung away from Edmund’s push, revealing a small room with a tall stone slab in the middle. The walls were covered in small alcoves that had been filled with collapsing wooden boxes and dried skeletons. moss and cobwebs covered the room like tapestries, forming a morbid mockery of the elaborately decorated Moulde Hall. Edmund carefully stepped around the room, casting his light over small wooden signs that labeled the alcoves as the final resting place of many men and women, all Mouldes.
It wasn’t until Edmund turned back to the stone obelisk in the center of the room that he realized he had been looking at the back of a stone chair. Seated on it like a queen was a dusty skeleton of a woman in what was once a fine burial dress, but had long since rotted away, leaving behind the cobwebs and dust that had become her funeral garb. The placard on the bottom of this gristly memorial proclaimed the throne’s occupant as Orpha Moulde, the first matron of the Moulde Family. Her jaw had been forced open, and several teeth removed. Several finger bones lay broken on the ground, marking her sorrowful fate as a target for grave-robbers–no doubt her own progeny.