Disclaimer: It's probably quite clear that I have no ownership claims to the characters, world, etc. I'm simply playing in the world Ms. Pierce created.
Author's Notes: Written for the Seanfhocal Circle, Challenge #28 – Dreamscapes, at The Dancing Dove.
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Jasson of Conté prodded a stone with his booted foot. "Don't you think it's time we finally built a proper stable?"
"Do you mean to say, my lord prince, that you don't enjoy chasing your horse across the hills every time you deign it a suitable time to ride?" Gawain of Naxen lounged against a nearby tree, picking dirt out from under his fingernails.
Jasson stopped his prowling and scowled. "As a matter of fact, I don't. And as an additional matter of fact, I wouldn't have to do any horse chasing if you did your job, squire."
He turned to look at the palace King Jonathan had had built. Newly constructed, the masterful composition of granite, marble, glass, wood, and tile rose above the River Olorun, presiding over the growing town of Corus. Nay, it could be called a proper city by now.
"We can put it right here," Jasson said, turning back to survey the ground he stood on with some degree of satisfaction.
"What? The stables?" Gawain straightened and availed himself to amble over. "Why would you want to build it here? It's not even close to the gates and I bet this is all bedrock underneath. There's probably a reason why your father built the castle out that way."
"I want it here. It's a perfectly good spot. I've imagined it here. Mithros, I've even dreamed of it here. It has to be built here, and nowhere else."
Standing on the chosen plot of land, he could almost see the stable itself rise up before him as it had the past night, the stonework, the rafter beams, the metal fittings on the doors—and a small black-haired figure crouched at a pony's hooves.
Gawain raised his eyebrows and kicked at the stone Jasson had previously been toying with. It tumbled not three feet before hitting another with a raspy bump. "At least you'll have plenty of stones for the foundation. It'll be forever trying to pick them all out of the ground."
"Since when did you become the master architect? I thought you wanted to be a knight."
"Since you decided to build a stable," Gawain retorted. "By the way, did you know that you're missing your signet ring?"
Jasson looked down at his hand and let loose an expletive. "It must have fallen off when I came out here. My father's going to kill me."
Both he and his squire looked at the expanse of rocks and overgrown grass and weeds. Jasson groaned.
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Jasson of Conté prodded the loose flagstone with his toe, and to his surprise the entire piece almost shifted away from its fellows. He squatted and pried at it with his fingers, trying to work it loose and hoping his pony wasn't going to kick him at the same time. He hadn't even known it was loose to begin with, but the feeling that the stone had been kicked before came over him and he just couldn't resist giving it a good nudge.
"What are you doing?"
The voice spoke right at his shoulder and Jasson jumped, startling his pony in the process. The pony's hoof scraped across the stone and tipped it out of its setting. Jasson looked up to see his older brother regarding him with bemusement.
"Mama said you were supposed to be picking out your pony's hooves, not rebuilding the stable floor," Liam said.
"I wasn't rebuilding the floor."
"Well, it wasn't hoof picking, either. You want to tell me why you're prying stones loose instead?"
Jasson felt his jaw beginning to clench. "You ever have a dream, then wake up and forget it, and then see something and kind of start to remember it?"
Liam crossed his arms and shrugged. "So?"
"I had a dream about this stone in the stables and—"
"You dreamed about a rock?" Liam interrupted. He raised his eyebrows at Jasson, looking as though he was debating between being skeptical or being amused.
"Yes, well, a specific rock. And there's something about it—I think," he finished lamely and cringed.
"That's stupid. It's just a dream."
"Fine. I didn't invite you to help, anyway," Jasson told him dismissively. If Liam was going to act that way about the first part of the dream, he certainly wasn't going to tell him that it had also featured one of Tortall's past princes. He especially wasn't going to tell him which prince it had been, either.
He crouched down and peered into the space the stone had left. He could barely make out anything in the shadows of the stable, so he stuck his hand in and felt around. Cool granite met his fingers, as well as the mortar that had crumbled away. He scraped at dirt, pushed pebbles and assorted small rocks to the side…
"You're not going to find anything," Liam said in a sing-song voice behind him.
…and caught a fingernail on something that was most definitely not a rock.
He felt around. It was sticking out of the dirt. When a fine edge dug into the tender skin under his nail, he yanked his hand out and peered into the space once again. The light coming in through the stable doors caught a dull gleam.
"Jasson. It's a rock, for Mithros' sake," Liam snapped.
After a few moments' work Jasson stood and turned to face his brother, his palm closed around his prize and his face split by a self-satisfied grin.
Liam dropped his teasing instantly. "You found something?" His tone couldn't have been more disbelieving if Jasson had told him that his marriage had just been contracted with a Rittevon of the Copper Isles.
Jasson held out his hand. On a small bed of dirt lay a tarnished gold ring, bearing the seal of Tortall.
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