The journal of Simon Chase Harrington -- an impossibly formal name for such a bitter old miner -- had given me a vague set of directions of possibly where the chamber the miners had unwittingly opened was in relationship to the rest of the mine. From all the descriptions it had been well off from the main entrance and quite a ways from the usual work area. His claims that the offshoot had been reopened after he and his buddy had blown a hole into the unknown section had shaken him up.
His next entry had been two weeks later. His words were laced with pain. The first part of the diary explained it succinctly.
We planted Jeremy Cobb yesterday. They even let us working stiffs get two whole hours to go at the burying. Natural like this shit company was quick to dock our pay and we all got the privleg to get to work an extra four hours to make up for us not bein thar a full day. An thar was a rumiur goin around that they wasn goin to pay us a full days wage but nobody right knows if en thats true or just false.
Missus Cobb was whaling and carrin on about hows much she luved her mister so much. That bitch was thinkin we were all stupid and hadn't known Jeremy has such a shrue wife. First off I noticed only miners thar. Weren't kinfolks or any real-like neighbors. I knew the church womin set up the wake but haven so little time we didn't have the ability to properly mourn the man. We know later we'd all hoist a bottle or two for his soul. Twas the least we could do for such an upright man.
It just made his last day down in the mine odd, knowing that now he was under the soil up above us all. I had went back a few days after Jeremy had been hauled up like so much rock salt to find his deathbed. His collapse rung true with me that we'd found a cursed place. He had dunn most of the diggin and I was just like along helping. I think he knew it too. So when I went back last week I was expecting to see the hole open and catch a peek at the walls and such. But was weird cause if en I hadn't helped dig that hole open with my own hard work I would have never known there even was a open spot.
Clearly someone else didn't much care for the spot where we'd found that dead man. The supervisor that told Jeremy where to blow the hole had took us at our word that the salt was bad thar and too much dirt would have to be moved to get anything out. It wasn't like that wasn't true in places but we were kinda fibbin. That dead man had scared us something fierce. And all that stuff with him wasn't natural like. But when we went back and it was all gone like it never wus. That was just odd. Odder to me was last week finding the spot closed up even tighner we had fixed it and the sign wurnt thar either.
So careful like I went looking for the supervisor -- not something I much cared for but it had to be done. That's when stuff got bad. Turned the supervisor had fallen down at his home and got broken up some and wasn't going to be here anytime soon. I stopped looking for him and went back to my own work. Nothing good is going to come from that spot I know.
I flipped through the rest of the journal pages and didn't see anything else. There never was anything else but that feeling in the pit of my stomach that the miners had found something hidden and from the supernatural realm not the human world. That is why I was freezing my ass off in Michigan in the middle of a blizzard waiting to pop down into that mine.
"Well, Esmeralda, did you find what you were looking for?" Riley came into my personal space looking over my shoulder at the scraps of paper I had strewn around me while re-reading the journal for probably the tenth or twentieth time.
"There's no way it's been two hours," I snarled, feeling invaded as he began pawing through the pages of notes and charts I had laid out about the mine.
"So, I didn't say I'd give you that much time," he correctly pointed out while picking up the most elaborate of maps I'd discovered to date. It had traces of mines from dozens of years of tunneling and measurements that were pretty much precise from some comparisons I'd made of the different eras of maps. He held it up and began to study it with a crease of concern on his forehead.
"This is the labyrinth you are popping into?" Riley used the same word I did for my little talent. I knew that Uncle Harry had filled the werewolf in more than I'd like about what I did. I still didn't know everything I could do, but my vampire 'Uncle' had made more than once comment in my past that I had untapped gifts. I just liked plucking out bits of history and enjoying the bright and shiny side of the past. This was the first time I was actively pursuing something other than treasures, and it was nervewracking.
"Yeah, why?" Again I heard the defensive tone to my question but mentally shrugged since I hadn't exactly invited him in for conversation. He was Uncle Harry's backup plan in the event I got stuck. What the hell the werewolf thought he could do was beyond me, but I was stuck with the man.
"There are some odd patterns in how they mined." He put the map down next to one of the battery operated lights and began tracing something unseen on the page.
"They followed the best rock salt is what they did," I answered while trying to puzzle out what he was seeing.
"No, Emma, there's something else." He snatched up a sheet of paper and began writing down something. To my surprise he was left-handed. That seemed weird to me because I hadn't figured Riley was much more than werewolf muscle that Uncle Harry used to make a point or three with other supernatural creatures that went thump in the night. He began rifling through more of my work and writing down more words and numbers.
He quickly read a bit of Simon's diary and then exclaimed, "Fuck no! This can't be right. Damn."
I glanced at his paper and saw he had some words that looked like Latin along with a sketch of a face.
"What?" I bit out while still not having a clue what had him so agitated. I stood, peering over his shoulder while he slid into my chair and continued to write and read my notes.
"Diabolical," he muttered and scrabbled through a few more pages of notes looking for heaven only knew what, since he didn't ask me a question.
I was getting a bit more anxious as he continued to write Latin and mutter. He really was getting worked up. I nearly wanted to offer him a hunk of steak to see if he'd talk. A werewolf-sized doggy treat -- I'd seen him earlier in the day when he'd inhaled what should have been two or three meals worth of meat for a family of four.
He had yet to tell me anything, but now I couldn't help but pace back and forth behind him. I wanted to know what the hell had him so freaked, because he was now flipping faster through a few other notes I had looked at earlier in the week. His eyes darted back and forth over the maps and the pages I'd been studying all week and longer.
My pacing finally caught his notice because he hissed, "Just sit a minute and I'll tell you."
I grabbed another chair from the kitchen and sat anxiously off to the side waiting for him to speak. I did my best to keep still, but I could feel my nerves getting more and more frayed as I sat.
Finally he turned to me and said, "No fucking way are you going down there."
"Excuse me? Who are you to tell me what I can or can't do?" I was taken back by the fierce expression on his face. Something dropped in the pit of my stomach. He wasn't kidding around but deadly serious.
"I'll call Harry in a second if you don't shush and listen to me." He meant it. I looked pointedly outside at the blizzard and wondered what he thought Uncle Harry could do from half the country away. I was capable of popping out of the house and he wouldn't be able to touch me. Wisely I kept that little temptation to myself and nodded as if I was agreeing. I wasn't going to agree to anything until he told me why I had to stay away from that mine.
"I've read about this place. It's not just a salt mine. But then you've already figured that out from the simple fact that you want to go down there." I nodded again and waited, not wanting to have him snap at me again for not listening to him.
"This place used to be a major salt mine, for damn near most of the known world. But it also had another purpose, about which most folks never had a clue. It was a depository for supernatural things." He was looking at his page of notes and the map.
"All sorts of supers would negotiate with a human in charge for space to put their problems. They used enchantments and outright cages for some of life's little problems." Riley tugged on his lip and added, "And not all those problems simply go away because they are shoved a thousand feet below the earth."
My heart pinged a warning. He had understood something of what I was looking for, but from what he said there was more than what I was seeking waiting. The salt mines harbored more than clues to my past. It seemed they could also kill me.
Defiantly I said, "So, that doesn't mean I'd have any trouble."
He treated my comment like a question, "Yes, it does. From everything I know you're wanted by more than just a few folks. And going down there is going to trigger something you may have no control over. I can't haul your ass up topside if we're getting hit by supernatural hunters."
Riley looked at me, trying to will me to obey. I could feel his mental push, like a hand was stuffed in the middle of my chest and shoving me back against the chair. I mentally bristled and lashed out with, "So you aren't any good to me then. You might as well go play with the local pack and pay the price for your trespassing. I can handle myself."
He stood up suddenly and the chair he'd been sitting on clattered to the floor. The cold air inside the room suddenly seemed to evaporate with his red hot anger.
"That's it!" He roared. His fury was impressive as was his sheer size. I was pretty sure he was getting ready to flip to the furry side in front of me. He'd never done that before, but I was definitely pushing all his buttons. Everything he told me made sense, but still I wasn't ready to give into his fears. He'd confirmed that the spot was dangerous, but that wasn't something that I hadn't already figured out for myself. He basically made me want to go there even more -- my past could be found once and for all with what was down there.
"You are going to go back to Harry's right now!" His voice boomed and I simply smiled. Now the negotiations could begin.