Finders Keepers

Submitted for Contest #37 in response to: Write a story about a valuable object that goes missing.... view prompt

2 comments

Submitted on 04/17/2020

Categories: Mystery


The buzz of conversation died down as the back door opened and the chairman escorted their guest of the evening into the room.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I would like to introduce you to John Lynn. As you know, he has been a metal detectorist for many years and is credited with many historically important finds. But with no more ado, let me hand you over and he will tell us all about his exploits.”

John was a quiet man and did not enjoy this attention. However, he had agreed to speak to this small metal detector club as it was very close to the area where he lived.

He was a tall thin man, nearly always stressed in a scruffy pair of jeans and a sleeveless jacket with more pockets than one would think he could use. Your thinking would be wrong. He walked up to the podium, glanced at the audience before his head dropped and he appeared to be talking to the floorboards. His audience forgave him as it mesmerised them as he spoke of the complex settings for metal detecting. His ability to impart these dry facts in a simple and easily understood way drew them in. You could not fail to notice his extraordinary hands, which looked more like bunches of bananas and certainly out of place on this tall skinny man. As he spoke, he put his hand in one pocket and withdrew a component of the detecting machine. Holding it up, he described its function. That would go back into the pocket and his hand would go to yet another one and he repeated this many times. Then he got onto the subject that they were all waiting to hear his finds. Out of yet another pocket, he held up a tiny coin. It was black and dull looking. He casually said, “That’s a quarter stader, which I found yesterday. It looks dull. In fact, most people would just throw it away, yet when it’s cleaned up, it would astonish you at its appearance.” His hand went into yet another pocket and he produced a little glinting gold coin. He continued, “This is the partner of the coin I passed around just now. When you are working and you come across a metal object, never assume that you know what you have in your hand until it has is professionally cleaned and assessed by the archaeologists and, if necessary, the coroner. Although these coins are gold, they are too low a value to warrant examination by the said coroner. However, if you are fortunate enough to find a bigger piece as I did six months ago, then the coroner must examine it to see if it falls under the description of a hoard or becomes a national treasure.”

Like a conjurer, once again, his hand went into a pocket and withdrew a small item he held it up between his index finger and thumb. His big digits dwarfed it. This perfect object was about an inch and a half in diameter. The audience gasped in amazement. This was the Anglo-Saxon pendant they had all heard about. They expected to see photographs of this incredibly important find, but instead, they saw the real thing. He did not pass it around, but after his talk, he held it in the palm of his outstretched hand. They were all able to come and see it close. He told them how he had found it. What was strange was it was nowhere near a settlement and no one had buried it in a time of danger. Instead, he conjectured that it had come from a woman of highborn status, possibly even Royal as they had specially made the garnets for the item.

A member of the audience asked, “Was this item found in a grave?”

John shook his head, “No, strangely enough, there was nothing else with it and it was nowhere near any known settlements. I have no idea how it got there.”

 

Spring 642

While the rest of the settlement slept, she dressed quickly and slipped her cloak on, then picked up the basket of eggs she had packed the evening before.

She and Fridolf and their children lived in a tiny house at the edge of the settlement. Her husband had dug the deep, circular pit by himself as she was pregnant when they arrived with their son, a few belongings and their pig. He had cut down the timber to form the roof and covered it with straw as he had seen others do. There was a hearth in the centre of the dwelling and a small hole at the apex of the roof to allow the smoke to escape. Well, that was the theory, but it depended on the direction of the wind. More often than not, it blew it back. She had grown accustomed and no longer chocked as the smoke swirled about their space. If it rained too hard, then it too, found its way through the opening and on a couple of occasions had come in so heavily the fire had lost the battle and spluttered out.

Now she was on her way to the market, which was a good hour’s walk away. She wanted to be there early. The maids from the big houses would buy the food they needed early in the morning. She, Eawynn, wanted to be early enough to catch those customers. She needed the pennies the eggs would bring to buy more food as her family was hungry.

She stood at the edge of the market and watched the stallholders setting out their wares. Once a buxom woman shooed her away, “You can’t stand there, go over to the food area.” She said, waving to the other side of the market.

Eawynn soon spied a couple of maids approaching, “Would you like to buy my eggs? They are all laid yesterday.” 

The maids looked and approved of what they saw. Each took a dozen eggs, but there were still three dozen to go. Not long after another woman took six and then an hour later a man a further six, by now her heart was light only another dozen to go then she could go home. She stood around, trying to catch the eye of potential customers, but they had all but dried up. The sun climbed high in the sky. She flung her cloak back as she prickled with the heat. And still the last of the eggs did not sell. Late in the afternoon, a cross-eyed older woman came up to her. She leaned on a stout stick, “I’ll have those eggs at half price, they have been in the sun all day.”

Poor Eawynn was so tired and now her feet hurt. She decided any money was better than none and quickly agreed. She slipped the last of the pennies into her purse and set off for home as the sun was sinking. She walked as fast as she could. Close to the river, the mist drifted around, muting all the sounds of the birds and the river. She concentrated on the ground and hurried along.

Suddenly two figures leapt out at her. She was brave. She fought and kicked and bit one on the arm, but they still managed to cut the strings on her purse. Once they had their prize, they let go of her and ran off, melting into the mist.

Tears were flowing down her face. She could not decide if it was fear or anger. Her cloak had fallen on the ground and scooping it up she half ran, half stumbled all the way home. As she entered the settlement, her son saw her, “What’s happened, Mama?”

He took her hand and led her home. She related the story to Fridolf, who was more pleased she had escaped than disappointed by the loss of money. Then he looked at her neck. There was an angry red mark where one of her assailants had held her, the one she bit.

“Eawynn, where is the pendant the lady gave you when we left working for her?”

Eawynn’s hand flew to her neck. It was empty. Now her tears flowed in earnest. “I wanted to get some money for us. I had quite a few pennies in my purse. Now I’ve lost the money and my pendant.”

Her husband put his arm around her, “Don’t worry, we’ll all go back along the path and look for it in the morning.”

The little family made their way back along the path. She could see where the scuffle took place. They searched everywhere and found nothing.

The pendant settled into the mud and over the years, hundreds of years, they held it in the soil's embrace.

In John’s time, the path no longer existed. The settlement had also passed from memory. The area was farming land and the soil had just been ploughed, disturbing the pendant by bringing it closer to the surface and sending out a signal to his metal detector. After one thousand three hundred and seventy years, it once again saw the light.      

 

 

 

 

 

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2 comments

Imogen Bird
18:10 Apr 21, 2020

Great story. I was completely thrown by the jump back in time, but what a wonderful melding of two eras! Your writing is lovely. I like that you can imagine the hidden history behind objects that just seem 'old' to us now. Starting it with a metal detector club was inspired. Thank you for writing this!

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Imogen Bird
18:13 Apr 21, 2020

I forgot what I clicked on your story to say! Your submission caught my eye because I just submitted a story with the same name for the newest contest! It's testament to your writing that I completely forgot to say that!

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