Dreamed of three brown-haired farm kids from out of Masterpiece Theatre, from another time, dressed in cardigans, wool skirts, knee socks. School and chores are done. They want to go play. Their mom charges the eldest girl watch over her little sisters. Although day's end, they may go play before the light's gone.
They intend more than play. Actually, they intend to explore, and find. Passing a tree bare as in winter, they hurry out the stonewalled yard, out the wire gate. The sun sinks past their shoulders. Really, it's almost too late for any exploring. Almost time already to turn for home. The sun burns low, a yellow eye on the edge of the world, and about to wink out far away in the sea. The three sisters don't want to turn for home. They race over the scraggy dimming hills and down dark cliffs to the dark sea. An old story tells of a once-upon-a-time fortress by the sea, and a treasure to be found.
But really it is almost too late. The turning tide is taking back all the secret places they might have seen. There might just be time for a little stone skipping before they would have to start for home.
The sisters fill their pockets with small smooth stones. Perfect stones. “A treasure in stones.” says middle sister.
Big sister leads the way to their favourite stone skipping bay. She knows the best way, even at flood tide, even as more and more the black rocky benches disappear beneath the glassy water. The tide can't trap her. She is not afraid. Here, scattered stepping stones are the only way. They are dry on top as paving, but dark water laps them. She steps from one to the next, crossing without a care. She imagines herself a giant, striding the tops of great mountains unseen below.
The sun has stayed just long enough, turning to gold the still water in their favourite bay, and the small stony island the girls aim for. They skip stones. Until littlest sister notices big sister's are no ordinary beach pebbles. And too late to stop big sister skipping her first far out over the water toward the small bright island. Big sister's are in fact medals of valour, and ancient.
They know where they found their treasure in beach pebbles.
The sun down, now in darkness the girls retrace their steps. Shoes scrape’scrape on wet rock alongside the black close sea. They find the place. And wonder how they could not have noticed earlier how strange this place, how right: round and perfectly flat, and hewn from the dark cliff, perhaps one thousand years before. Kneeling, they see more. Small hands pick aside the sea wrack. Reveal dressed stone markers: more than they can count. The girls comprehend. They've found the graveyard of all the long-gone heroes.
The heroes’ fortress itself must be as close as the wet rock and cold seaweed under their hands. Kneeling, the sisters marvel, thrilled, yet disappointed. The sea is seeping ever closer over the gravestones. They can't stay longer: Mom will be furious they're late for supper, as it is. And when they have gone, the sea likely will move things around, as the sea does. They might not find the place again.