Usually I give a recap of the plot of previous chapters at the start of a new one, but not very much has happened. They talked about going to the castle, then they went to the castle and explored a bit. If you missed all that excitement, the links to chapters one and two are below.
They walked down some steps sunk into the grassy slope and then turned back on themselves down some more steps which took them below ground level to a doorway which had an open gate held back against the wall.
“Will you be all right doing this?” Julian asked Sally as David ducked into the doorway and disappeared into the gloom.
Sally nodded bravely. “I’m amongst friends. This is nothing like the tunnel under the cathedral.” It was sweet of Julian to worry, to think that she might not like and underground passage after that prat Ainsworth had kidnapped her and dragged her through one to then tie her up in the cathedral ruins.
“You are amongst friends,” Darrell confirmed, reaching for her hand and giving it a squeeze. “But if it’s too much just say and we’ll come back out.”
Anatoly had already headed inside, torch at the ready, and his curly head reappeared for a moment. “Are you coming, dorogoy?” he queried.
Darrell nodded and went down the steps to the counter-mine, leaving Julian to escort Sally and bring up the rear.
The counter-mine was an uncomfortably tight space. One by one they had to step down into the narrow groove in the floor, at least a foot deep but barely wide enough to stand in. Even the girls had to hunch over the roof was so low. The boys were bent almost double, so when they stopped to look at where the tunnel branched off to the right they crouched down to ease the strain on their legs and back.
Anatoly flashed his torch down the branch, showing that it was blocked off after a few feet like the well had been with a grid of metal bars. “It does not go very far,” he said, doing an awkward duck-walk a little way towards the bars for a better look.
They continued on down the narrow, sometimes damp and slippery, tunnel as it curved to the right and then they came to a hole in the floor where the top of a wooden ladder could be seen. David at the front carefully turned and ended up crawling backwards until his feet were through the opening could find the rungs.
Anatoly went next but stopped part-way down so he could help Darrell if she needed it. “Watch out, Toly, I’m going to end up kicking you in the face!” she warned, and he dropped down gracefully and left her to it.
She joined the two of them a moment later, and looked around. “Gosh, it’s huge down here!” The difference was astounding. At that point the mine was tall enough for even Anatoly to stand comfortably in, and wide enough for them to all stand side by side.
“Just as well none of us are fat,” they heard Sally call as she squeezed through the narrow opening and came down the ladder. “But this would have been easier without our winter coats!” The mine was only flat for a short distance, partly floored with strips of wood, before it sloped gently upwards via steps cut out of the rock, and ended in a brick wall.
“Huh,” Julian said, examining the wall. “Pity we can’t go all the way along.”
“Where are we exactly?” Darrell asked, looking around.
“In the mine?” David answered as if she was a particularly dim-witted child.
“I know that,” she retorted, smacking his arm. “I mean, in relation to the castle.”
Sally held her guide book up to the dull orange lamp on the rocky side wall. “We’re under the road, it says.”
They looked up, and could see a tiny spot of light. David grinned. “Stay here, you lot. I’ll be back in five minutes.” He jogged down the steps, along the mine and they heard him scramble up the ladder.
“What on earth is he about to do?” Darrell asked.
Julian shrugged. “Does it say where the mine used to start?”
Sally checked her guide book again. “No, just that it was in sight of the castle walls, so it can’t have been too far away.”
“Probably somewhere under a house or something now,” Anatoly said. “This is a much newer wall. Perhaps someone’s cellar is on the other side now.”
Darrell sighed and sat down at the top of the steps hugging her knees to her chest. “I’m not waiting down here for long! It’s warmer than outside but you could hardly call it pleasant.”
Julian consulted his watch. “He’s got two more minutes then we’ll head back up and see what he’s up to.”
Suddenly Darrell yelped and leapt up, nearly falling down the steps. Anatoly caught her in his arms.
“Something landed on my head!” she exclaimed, looking around wildly. Sally clutched at her as they looked up, fearful of anything more falling from the roof. Anatoly shone his torch and Julian snatched up a piece of paper which had been rolled into a tight tube around a stub of pencil.
“You’re a git, David!” Julian yelled up at the roof, the spot of light no longer visible as it was being blocked by something which was probably David.
Darrell rubbed her nose. “I feel like a fool, now. It just startled me when it landed on my head! I didn’t know what it was.
“Did you think the tunnel was about to collapse on us?” Anatoly asked her with a lazy grin.
“No,” she said, swatting at him, but she wasn’t being entirely truthful. Underground passages, although interesting, were not her favourite place to be. With unspoken agreement they walked down the steps, across the wooden planks, and Julian went up the ladder, ready to help Sally and Darrell up before Anatoly followed them.