It's a cool summer morning, light bending over the palace walls and trickling into the training yard. The hours are early yet, Joren's mind is still thick with sleep and he thinks about crawling back into bed for another hour of sleep instead of making these final few passes. Pinnacle, Joren's chestnut mare, shifts her weight underneath him with an obvious impatience.

Joren smiles ruefully. "Point taken, babe." Adjusting his grip on his lance, he urges Pinn around and into the most direct line with their target; a small wooden ring swinging softly at the other end of the lane.

Joren closes his eyes to take a deep breathe, feeling the tickle of air at the back of his throat, and down through to his expanding abdomen. He takes several more breathes to calm both Pinn, and his own heart rate. When Joren opens his eyes, he's met with a deep sense of awareness. The colours in the yard are thick with saturation, royal blue pendants flapping lazily in the breeze.

It's as though he can feel each and every muscle in his body, and by extension in his horse. Pinn's ears flick backwards, at attention: let's go, let's go.

As they fly across the yard, seconds stretch into a thousand separate moments, Joren's attention never wavering from the ring. It's one beautiful narrative, he thinks with gleeful euphoria, and he can feel it all at once. Beginning, middle and end.

Before it even happens, he can feel the satisfying hit of the ring on his lance - speed, power and control married with that one single action. Pinn knows, the run was perfect, and prances delightedly, tossing her head before slowing to a walk.

Joren leans forward to pat his mare on the neck, and his pats echo, slightly out of sink with a slow applause coming from the wall of the yard. Joren turns his gaze to see Lord Wyldon, his training master leaning against the ramparts.

The man whistles softly and calls out. "Stone Mountain, that was most impressive."

"Thank you milord," answers Joren, as he has been taught.

"I should like to see if the other pages could master such a skill," muses Lord Wyldon.

Joren smiles, dismounting, and leading Pinn by the reins. "I want to be the best Knight."

"Yes, indeed," says Lord Wyldon with humour, but not without that same sense gravity that bleeds into all of the training master's words. "Tend to your horse before breakfast, Page, and I will see you for staff work. If all goes well, three years hence we shall discuss your transition to squiredom. And four years after that, knighthood."

"Yes, milord," says Joren, failing to hide his grin by looking away and up at Pinn. In the base of his stomach, there's a contented tangle of anticipation and exertion.