The crow lands beside me, head cocked, watching me scrape and undress the layers on the stones. Three years out of uni. and working for free this summer for the Prof. It’s a dream come true. I’m soaking wet, freezing cold, blue-lipped, but my spirit soars daily.
“Each stone has its own story, Roman soldiers lived here with their families. Some never left. Imagine being buried within these ruined walls, in this bleak windswept country miles from your home’s sunny, verdant shores.” the Prof. told us.
Dusk drapes the stones in violet hues and I smell frying bacon from the camp site. Time to pack up.
In the distance I hear thunder or horses’ hooves pounding; the riders returning with supplies. Up here time can slip – you can easily lose track. I hear feet behind me, a medley of voices, women’s, children’s, blending with the click of knuckle bones. The air smells coppery, a pig is roasting on the spit and the women mill around, hands full of amphora and kettles.
“Welcome. Come join us.” Curious fingers pluck at my jeans, touch my short cropped hair. I close my eyes and enjoy the wind on my cheeks. A warm hand presses a small round object into my palm and closes my fingers.
“A present,” the whisper tickles my ear.
The crow flaps away with a raucous “Caw, Caw”, startling me. The sun has fled and night beckons.
Turning I head towards the camp’s lanterns. In their light I inspect the small, round hardness nestling in my palm. A pottery bead, snake skin pattern, faded blues and greens. Triumphant I hold it aloft. My fellow archaeologists gather around. Agog.
“Vanessa’s jewel,” pronounces the Prof. staring at me. My cheeks flush.