The Mystery of Fox Hollow

a story
in-progressviolencestrong language
2019-06-17 11:11:24,
2019-06-25 23:35:45
show more info

The Sewers of Gearford

Min squinted ahead into the darkness. The lantern ahead gave him solace, but the surroundings still unnerved him. It wasn’t every day you had the opportunity to explore the dank sewers of Gearford. He’d be glad if this were the last time.

  “Are we there yet? I thought you knew where we were going…” whispered Min.

  “Quit your damn grousing,” growled Ford, “We’re close.”

  Min looked around in the darkness and wondered how Ford could possibly know if they were close. It was dark and smelled like shit and each of the outlets in and out of the sewer looked the same.

  “Just remind yourself that we’re going to be stinking rich very soon,” muttered Ford with a grim smile that could be seen by lamp light.

  In truth Min had done little else but think of jewels and gold, ever since Ford first approached him. This was an opportunity to put his hands on the crown jewels after all. Min reasoned that it wasn’t really stealing, since Harold III, the entire royal family and most of their loyalist followers were dead. Harold had famously and obsessively loved the jewels and saw them as a symbol his family’s prosperity and power and yet those jewels could not prevent his demise or hold back a Technocrat mob from breaking down the door of the Great Hall.

  When the jewels disappeared after the monarchy’s demise, there was an investigation and speculation about their whereabouts. The new Technocratic government dedicated significant resources to finding the missing jewels, in part because of their value and symbolism, and in part because of security concerns. According to one popular urban legend, Lord Antoine Foxworth, close confidante to King Harold III and the head of one of Gearford’s wealthiest noble families had taken and hid the jewels at the behest of his friend and king in the hopes of financing a counter revolution. When a Technocrat mob rushed the gates of the palace, nobody could have predicted the speed of what would happen next. Harold III was beheaded, his family put under the sword and many supporters including Foxworth were killed. It was a week of bloody retribution. When it was all over, the monarchy was gone and a new government was in place. The counter revolution never took place and the jewels were gone, as if in a wisp of smoke.

  Min followed closely behind the light held by his friend. Ford had heard an enticing rumor from an old whore at a local brothel that there was a hidden tunnel in the sewers which led to secret passageways under Fox Hollow, the old Foxworth mansion. Ford reasoned the jewels had to be there. For years, Fox Hollow had been placed under armed guard and was closed to the public. Would-be treasure seekers attempting to break into the mansion were harshly punished as an example to others. However, according to Ford, the Technocrats didn’t guard the sewers and didn’t know about the underground passages.

  Finding a clue leading to uncounted riches seemed almost too good to be true. The thought that this was “too good to be true” certainly occurred to Min after a couple of hours of stumbling though the darkness of the sewers.

Suddenly Ford stopped and kneeled, raising his lantern to eye level. He stared at a grated access point. Min could have nearly sworn that they had passed this very spot earlier. It felt as if they were walking in circles. Looking around his friend, Min saw they were in front of a three foot high tunnel, with a grated opening. Ford rubbed his hand over the stone above the grated opening and held up the lantern and then Min saw it. With the dirt and mold it was almost imperceptible, but above the opening was a carving of a Fox head in relief. This was the family sigil of the Foxworth family.

  “You found it,” said Min under his breath while lightly touching the Fox head.

  “Aye my friend,” whispered Ford, “I told you. It’s here just as I told ye. Now, crowbar.”

  Ford raised his hand and Min placed the crowbar into the hands of his friend. Ford levered it into the grate and pried hard. The metal grate pulled off and Min deftly caught it, carefully lowering it to the ground. Although they were likely around twenty feet under Fox Hollow and the guards had no idea Ford and Min were here, they thought it best to take no chances and make as little noise as possible.

  “Are you ready to be rich?” said Ford turning his head to his friend, “Stay on guard. We don’t know what’s down here. Follow close behind. Go where I go. No talking.”

  Min nodded eagerly and watched his friend kneel and crawl into the opening. Although it was a sewer opening, it had not been used for many years and so it was relatively dry--there was still some mold and dirt on the stone, but little else. When Ford pulled up the lantern, Min saw a tunnel approximately thirty to forty feet in length. Although the poor light made it difficult to tell, it seemed as if the tunnel opened up into a larger space up ahead, which seemed strange for a sewer outlet.

  After they crawled about ten feet into the tunnel, they heard it.

  Click

  It sounded almost like a clock’s hour hand at the top of the hour and this was followed by a ticking sound.

  TickTickTick

  Ford’s eyes seemingly grew in size as he looked back at his friend.

  “It’s a trap,” mouthed Ford. Even as Ford said the words, the ticking got faster and louder.

  TickTickTick

  “Let’s go back,” begged Min.

  “No. Quick on me,” urged Ford as he rushed forward through the tunnel. Whatever it was, Ford hoped to be out of the tunnel before it triggered. Nevertheless, despite Ford's encouragement, Min was struck with terror when he heard the ticking sound.

  Tick-Tick-Tick-Tick

  Instead of following Ford down the tunnel, Min scuttled backwards and sat panting to the left of the tunnel. He heard Ford swear loudly, when he realized his friend wasn’t following. Ford seemed to be almost at the end of the other side of the tunnel. Then suddenly there was the loud sound of stone on stone and that of grinding metal.

  Min heard a pained groan from his friend, and then silence. Min looked into the tunnel, but saw nothing. The lantern was out. It was total darkness.

  “Ford… Ford…” whispered Min, “Can you hear me? Are you there?”

  After about another minute, Min heard the sound of stone sliding on stone and metal grinding again and then silence.

  Reaching into his bag, Min sobbed as he fumbled through the tools they had brought. Pulling a match out of his pocket, he tried to light a torch. With shaking hands it was difficult, but he finally did it. Peering into tunnel where Ford had been, he feared what he might see. He was surprised when raising his torch, he saw nothing. Ford was gone.

  When Min didn’t see Ford’s body, panic overwhelmed him. Leaving their belongings behind, Min ran blindly into the darkness.

  In the days following, Min occasionally heard the sound of metal grinding on metal. It could be something as innocuous as someone eating dinner with a metal fork and knife. In those moments, Min found himself being taken back to the tunnel underneath Fox Hollow. Filled with terror, he closed his eyes and tried to forget.  


Comments