The Coal Mine

Of course, none of this would matter if he couldn’t escape this crypt. Casting the lantern around, Edmund thought carefully about  where he was. Plinkerton didn’t create this room, he reasoned. It  was far too old, and people would have noticed if the staircase to the first Moulde’s crypt was suddenly replaced by a statue of a clock. No, there had to be another way out. The original way out.

And if there had been an original way out before, but there wasn’t one now…

Edmund slowly walked around the room, feeling the stonework like he had seen Mr. Shobbinton do, until he reached the wall Orpha’s throne faced. There, near the bottom of the wall and barely visible in the dim light, a small section of stone felt rougher than the rest of the stones. Edmund cranked the lantern furiously, trying to get as bright a light as he could, until he was certain that the mortar around the stones was lighter, and rougher.

Edmund looked carefully, and sure enough, the small section of stone looked like it had filled in what had once been a small arch, barely big enough for someone to crawl through. At one time, it might have been a doorway. It made sense, Edmund reflected as  he set down Orpha’s skull. If you wanted to see the first Matron of the Moulde Family, you’d have to crawl in on your hands and knees. It seemed like the sort of thing a Matron of the Mouldes might do.

Edmund pulled out his bent metal lockpick, and started to chip away at the young mortar as best as he was able. It was hard going, but the tool was strong and the mortar of poor quality. He  struggled and scraped as fast as he could, but even so it had to have been more than an hour before he felt the tool break through  the mortar to the other side of the wall. He redoubled his efforts as he worked his way around the arch, pulling chunks of ancient plaster and crumbling stone.

Finally, he felt the makeshift wall shift. Giving an experimental  shove, he felt the wall move away from him and into what looked like an old tunnel. Edmund checked to make sure the writs of investment were still in his pocket, shifted Orpha’s skull into the crook of his arm, and crouched over as best he could to pass through the reopened egress.

On the other side of the door was a crumbling tunnel full of alcoves, coffins, burnt out torches stuck in the wall, and rotted  wood. The soft echo of dripping water from somewhere high above him rippled through the air like the popping of distant frogs.

Carefully stepping over rocks and scattered bones, Edmund crept down the long tunnel. He saw broken and rusted picks sticking in the ground, and shattered glass lanterns that looked almost a century old. This forsaken crypt must have once been an old vein of coal, long since mined dry by the Moulde Family’s labors. Edmund plunged onward, winding his way further and further into Haggard Hill.

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