Corey opened his eyes and looked up in confusion at the green, canvas roof above his head. It took him a moment to realise where he was, and the thundering noise around him nothing more than the snores of his companions. His first thought was of Juliet. The light was fading by the time they had put up the tents, and there was little time to speak, as they set up the encampment. Three of the boys insisted he share the tent with them, and it would have appeared churlish to refuse. There were two tents left over when they had finished pairing off, so Juliet and Miss Williams chose to sleep alone. The air was chill when he crawled out from the cloying interior of the tent.
“Can I help?” He went over to the makeshift kitchen.
“Great,” Miss Williams looked up from her frying. “Corey, isn’t it?”
“That’s right,” he smiled.
“If you could unpack the plates and mugs, that would be great,” she nodded at one of the rucksacks.
The dawn chorus began as they worked. Birds awoke and greeted the day the way they could, by offering their song to the heavens.
“Isn’t it wonderful?” Miss Williams whispered.
“Yes,” Corey’s heart swelled; he was turning in to a girl, he thought, but it was hard to deny the beauty of the sound.
“Oh, my aching bones,” Mr Thomas came crawling out from his small tent and stood stretching and arching his back. “I’m getting too old for this lark,” he laughed when he saw them watching them.
“Nonsense, you’re still a young man,” Miss Williams said, and then blushed to the roots of her hair.
“That was a bit lame,” she whispered to Corey, as Mr Thomas went ambling off. “You won’t mention it to the others, will you?”
“No way,” he assured her.
“I must seem rather desperate,” she wiped her eyes, pretending the smoke from the pans was blinding her.
“It’s going to be ok,” Corey promised. “He’ll notice you soon.”
“You think so?”
“I promise, just don’t try so hard,” he said.
He went back to laying out the tin plates and mugs.
“Are you ok?” Juliet came strolling over.
“Yeah, you?” He smiled at her mane of tousled hair.
“It took me forever to get to sleep,” she stretched and yawned. “I’m going to the stream to wash, coming?”
“I wanted to talk to you last night, but I didn’t get the chance. I can’t stop thinking about our pendants.”
“Same here,” Corey said. “Do you know how you got yours?”
“My mother said it came from one of her friends, but she doesn’t remember who.”
“I have no idea either,” Corey said. “My parents died long before I could ask them. I got it from their solicitor along with the deeds of the house and a few other things. I knew from the moment I saw it that it was something special.”
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” Juliet agreed. “My mother gave it to me on my sixteenth birthday. She said I was old enough to take care of it then. I wonder if she sensed that it was important.”
“Who knows,” Corey shrugged. “We should examine them when we get the chance. See if there are any similar markings.”
“Good idea, we didn’t get a good look yesterday,” Juliet agreed.
“Hey, you guys, wait up,” the rest of the camp was awake and following them armed with towels and tin basins.
“It’s not going to be any time soon,” Corey muttered.
“I’ve been mulling it over,” Mr Thomas said over breakfast. “There are a number of things I need to do before we start digging. I must meet with a local councillor. He is the one who wants the castle knocked, so that should be pleasant! I also need you,” he looked at Steven, the oldest of the boys. “To explore the castle and surrounding ground to make sure it’s safe.”
“No problem, sir,” Steven said.
“You know what to look for,” Mr Thomas said. “Any sign of loose bricks etc.”
“Got it,” Steven assured him.
“The rest of you,” Mr Thomas looked around at the group. “Can have a day off to explore, but stay away from the castle until I say so, understood? Those of you, who feel up to it, can take a walk in to the village with me.”
“We’ll have a nose around,” Juliet said “Corey and I have things to catch up on, family stuff. We’ll let you know if we find anything interesting, but don’t hold your breath.”
No one realised that despite the landscapes barren outlook, secrets were hidden under every rock, and mysteries waiting to be solved, but that would come later.