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35
Treasure

What is worthless to some is precious to others.

Written for B2MeM 2010:

Belegost Challenge: Your character finds something that she or he wants. Now create a scene in which your character attempts to make an exchange or purchase in order to acquire that item.


~~~

The filly was absolutely the most beautiful thing Hethlin had ever seen, colored as no other horse she had ever known. Unlike her father’s great dark grey or the bays and chestnuts of the draught horses the farmers had driven to this market day, it was a patchwork of colors, brown and white veering crazily over its body, while its mane and tail and lower legs were black. Her father and Old Man Dorlansson were talking, leaning against the next stall in the inn stable, so she went closer to look. The filly had a star on her brown head and was more than willing to come over a lip at the clover the eight-year-old girl had plucked for her.

Delighted, Hethlin stroked her neck and face while the grown-up talk flowed over her head, unheeded.

“Thought you put that Dunland mare we got from the raiders to your stallion, Dorthan,” came her father’s voice, the accent different from all the other Sun-landers here.

“I did.” Dorthan rumbled. "But something else must have got there first. She was in when I got her and I bred her right afterwards, but it was too late.”

“Whatever it was, it must have been colorful,” her father said dryly.

“And small. Not much bone on her,” Dorthan complained.

“She won’t make a draught horse, that’s for sure. Big pony, small horse at best.”

“Aye. I’ll get a better from the mare next spring and I don’t much fancy having the feeding of her all winter. She’s pretty much worthless, though maybe Thavron will give me somewhat for her. She’d be a meal for his hounds and a rug for his floor at the least.”

“That’s true enough.” Hethlin looked up at the man, horrified, but her father had taken her shoulder and was already drawing her towards the stable door. “Come, Heth, we’ve got shopping to do. You have your money safe?”

Six coppers she had, in a small pouch her mother had sewn for her, embroidered with flowers and hung about her neck, wages for a whole summer of weeding the garden and shooing the chickens and sweeping the floor.

“Father, wait!” She dug in her heels and Halaran halted, looking down at her quizzically.

“What is it, Heth? Your mother is waiting.”

Dorlansson was a big, gruff, burly man and he had always scared her, but she gathered her courage, shook her coppers out of the pouch and offered them to him.

“Master Dorlansson, I will buy her.”

Dorthan cocked his big, bushy brows at her. “How long did it take you to earn that money, Hethlin?”

“Three months, sir.” He then looked to her father.

You willing to feed this pony all winter, Halaran?”

Halaran looked the filly over. “I might be. Doesn’t look like she’d eat that much, and Dunland hill horses are sure of foot. Don’t care much for the color, but she might make a good first horse for Heth. Being small wouldn’t matter there. But Dorthan, Thavron will pay you three times as much for her.”

Old Man Dorlansson smiled, and suddenly he wasn‘t so scary after all. “Three times as much as a summer’s labor? I don’t think so. I’m willing to let her go to the girl if you allow it.”

Hethlin gave her father a pleading look, but Halaran was stern. “What about all that candy you wanted? And the toys from the toymaker? You’ve talked of naught else for days.”

“I don’t care, Father. She is what I want!”

“You’d have to take care of her. Along with your other chores.”

“Oh, I will!”

Her father studied her for a moment, as if gauging her sincerity, then nodded.

“I’ll allow it, Dorlansson.”

Dorthan held out his hand for the coppers, and Hethlin placed them there. Then he held his other out, palm up. “Deal?”

She grinned, feeling very grown up, and slapped it, as was custom. “Deal!”


Having done her shopping so early, the rest of the market day was anticlimactic for Hethlin, and she did feel a pang or two when she saw the sweetmeats and the clever carved toys for sale. But she behaved and did not ask for anything and made many trips back to the stable to visit her horse. She was content enough that evening, when she and her father and mother set off for home with the filly tied to the back of the wagon. Her blankets were laid in a bed back by the tailgate, so that she could pet the filly until she went to sleep.

“So, Hethlin, what are you going to name that animal of yours?” Her father looked back over his shoulder in the gathering dusk.

That wasn’t hard at all. Worthless? Fit only for a meal for hounds? Not to her!

“Treasure,” she said.

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