“Nothing is more thrilling than a treasure hunt. In fact the hunt is the best bit o matter what might await you at the end.”
Clues to the Cache
“In the shadow of Saint Tybalt and Interred by the Egyptian key. Be guided by the holy staff as you call upon Earth’s celestial neighbour to lead the way …” Miriam mused. The twenty-one-year-old was a young archaeologist seeking an adventure. She’d discovered scrawling’s in an old Bible that may have given her just that.
“I think, I’ve got something!” called Jack.
Miriam looked and smiled as the breeze whipped her straw-blonde hair across her face, “I’m coming!”
“Good, I’ve been missing you from way over here!” Jack stood with his hands on his hips watching her.
The young archaeologist kept her speed slow as she picked her way between the ancient gravestones. It wouldn’t do to desecrate any of the souls with her dusty boots. “What did you find?”
Jack smoothed her hair behind an ear and gave her a peck on the lips. “I found my precious lady, and this,” he said nodding toward his feet.
“Aww, you’re so romantic,” Miriam grinned as she crouched on the lawn beside a long stone slab. “This must be the lid of the tomb,” she remarked while examining the symbols carved into it.
“I reckon it’s eight feet long. Must’ve been a tall person to need a tomb this big.” Jack knelt and placed an arm around her.
“Hmm, maybe,” she said while gazing around the oak a yew tree graveyard. The last of the year’s daffodils were still adding a touch of yellow to the serene space too.
“Is this what we’re looking for?”
Miriam felt a bubble of excitement and nodded. “I’m sure it is. Look, it’s in the shadow of the spire of Saint Tybalt’s church.” Miriam traced a shadow with her finger right back to the ancient knapped-flint stone walls of the medieval church.
“Right. The next bit was interred by an Egyptian key, correct?” Jack gave an adventure smile,
“The markings on here look like a strange key, don’t they?”
Miriam nodded with growing excitement. “More than that, the business end of the key looks like the step Pyramid at Saqqara in Egypt.”
“Perfect! What’s next?” Jack bobbed about on his toes with the desire to find something special.
“Be guided by the holy staff as you call upon Earth’s celestial neighbour to lead the way.” Miriam turned her gaze to the grey skies above. The breeze tore at her hair again but she ignored it as she pondered the riddle.
“One of the planets then?” Jack guessed.
“No, it’ll be the moon.”
“You sure?” Jack seemed unconvinced.
“Uh-ha, Miriam grinned and pointed at the top of the key. “The circular fob has six crescent moons engraved around it.”
“You’re a smarty-knickers today!” Jack grinned but only for a second. “I hope we don’t have to wait until the moon rises. With our current weather, we might have to wait weeks!”
“Thanks. No, I think we just have to use the symbols correctly.” Miriam turned a slow circle taking in all the gravestones spread out around her. They came in all shapes and sizes from great crosses and obelisks to simple slabs and curbed monoliths. The stones covered a period of almost a thousand years.
“What exactly is the correct way?” Jack asked. He was a grease monkey and would admit he was useless at this type of thing.
“Okay, the moon has eight phases over a month. Only six are represented here. On any chart, the two half-moons are East and West on the circle.” Miriam indicated those points. “Those are missing and so I think we discount those. The full moon will be at the top, the new moon at the bottom — which we have here.”
“I see. Where do you think, this is leading to?”
“Well, if we map in the moon phase’s we’ve got markers for. Then take into account this other rod coming up from the pyramid …”
“Oh!” Jack bounced on his feet as it suddenly made sense. “You think this rod is the holy staff?”
Miriam nodded, “Yes, I think so. And it’s indicating the southeastern moon which would be waxing gibbous.”
“We go south-east until we find a waxing gibbous?” Miriam stood up, giggled and pointed. “That way.”
Jack kissed the tip of her nose, “Every intelligent thing you do, leaves me mesmerised by you,” he said as he took her hand and began to lead the way.
“Whoa! You’ll upset Elizabeth Franklin from 1823 if you step there!” Miriam hauled him around the gravesite. “Thank you for the compliment though.”
“Anytime.” Jack gave a funny salute. ”My apologies, Lady Franklin!”
Mirriam chuckled and increased her speed.
The couple walked between the gravestones checking each for the celestial marker. Having checked half a dozen headstones, obelisk and ledger stones they came to a stop under an oak tree. The branches were alive with cawing and screeching jackdaws and rooks.
“That’s it no more graves this way. Just the woods,” Jack remarked. “We’ll have to go back to the keystone and have another look, I think.” he pulled on Miriam’s hand as he turned to go but she didn’t move.
Miriam was focused on the holly, rhododendron and blackberry thicket rich woodland.
“What is it?” Jack asked.
“I saw something move back there,” Miriam felt an icy shudder run through her body and pulled her waistcoat tighter. “We need to go and look. I feel it.”
“That’s creepy, sweetheart. But, okay. It’s worth checking if you think we should.” Jack kicked at some weeds to create a path.
“Thank you, lovely.” Miriam gave him a quick kiss and took the lead. The thorny blackberries tore at her clothes but she kept going.
Behind her, Jack uttered a few curses for the evil bushes. “You see anything?”
“Just a few squirrels and a cute little muntjac dee —” Miriam felt her foot strike stonework. “Gotcha!”
“Got what armfuls of scratches?” Jack complained.
Miriam giggled. “No, look!” She pointed at the undergrowth by her feet. The granite curbed outline of the grave was barely visible beneath the vines.
“I can’t believe it. There are poor forgotten souls back here.”
“It’s so sad, isn’t it?” Miriam crouched and carefully pulled the weeds away from the headstone.
“It is, I wonder if there’s anything that can be done to restore this part of the graveyard to respect those interred here,” Jack said.
Miriam smiled at that, “That’ll be nice. We should find out. In the meantime, there’s our gibbous,” she pointed to the symbol of the two-thirds-full moon, carved into the granite.
“Well done, you!” Jack shook her shoulders excitedly as she continued to clear away the grave. “It’s got a funny name. Who on earth would be called Mr Tombland?”
“If I lived anywhere other than Norwich, I would be mystified and agree…” Miriam tailed off as she tugged away at a mass of Ivy choking the back of the stone.
“But?” Jack pushed at a loss to explain what he was seeing.
“Tombland is at the heart of Norwich and the cathedral district,” Miriam explained.
“It’s rush-hour traffic now. It’ll take an hour to get there. We should go and search there tomorrow, don’t you think?” Jack said looking at his watch.
“No, we won’t find anything there other than buses and pollution.” Miriam gave him a knowing smile which sparkled in her eyes.
“Hey, it’s not fair when you withhold information like that!” Jack lovingly squeezed her neck. “Come on, spill!”
Miriam squealed and feigned choking. “Okay, okay!”
Jack released her in favour of a cuddle from behind.
“Tombland isn’t really a name. It isn’t even a place where you find tombs. It comes from ancient English and means ‘open ground’ or ‘empty space’.” Miriam pointed at the tombstone. “Which means …”
“Mr Tombland doesn’t exist and the graves likely empty?” Jack said.
Miriam nodded. Gripping onto the tombstone she gave a test push. It moved a little and so she pushed harder. It fell backwards with a thud, the front edge lifted a flat slab hidden beneath a thin layer of earth.
Jack fell upon it, clearing the dirt and weeds from the slab in a flurry of excitement. “Allow me,” he said like a gentleman as he finally hauled the slab off the grave.
It revealed a dark void beneath but it wasn’t empty.
Miriam used her phone for light. It revealed an ancient metal box engraved with all kinds of symbols. “We did it!”
“Yes, we did!” Jack kissed her before retrieving the box. It had a rudimentary padlock. The thing was so badly rusted it fell away in his hand. Never one to stand on ceremony, he threw the box open.
Miriam gasped and fell on her back in a fit of giggles. “All that for marbles. I can’t believe somebody went to all that effort for marbles!”
Jack took out a glass sphere with a twisting undulating coloured centre. “Well, if they loved their marbles as much as I love you. I can understand it.”
“Aww, thank you, sweetheart. This little treasure hunt was worth it, you know. We had a wonderful time together and that’s all that counts.”
“I agree, Miriam. It also helps when your dad’s a toy collector and you know these are worth a fortune!”
Have a great day!