Time for another installment of Scorpius' backstory.
For the Weekend Writer's Retreat, I'm following the boyhood backstory of an adult character I'm writing for a dark fantasy.
You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.
The game hen’s feather’s brushed his face as it beat its wings in furious effort. Scorpius saw his master release the hawk.
A part of him felt for the hen. Every shred of strength it possessed went into the fight to get away. The hawk flew in a different direction, gaining height. Circling back, it flapped its wings once, twice, gliding smoothly, no hurry apparent at all. Even so, the distance between it and the hen closed rapidly.
The kill was brief. One moment the game hen sped over the field. The next a startling collision knocked it from its flight path. Dangling with wings askew, the hawk carried it for several lengths before dropping it into the tall grasses. Racing to retrieve it, the dog trotted in triumph to lay the prize at the master’s feet.
Scorpius fought for breath as though he’d run for his own life. The hawk swooped low. Stretching the gloved arm out in welcome, Richolf settled the bird to his perch with a few gulped bits of meat offered from a pouch around his waist.
Scorpius could see where the game hen had hidden until he’d forced it into the open with his awkward swipes. He stared down into the maze of branches, into the little haven he’d destroyed with his stick.
He could still feel the love of life that had driven the hen to try. He could even taste it when they sat down to eat later that evening. The roasted hen filled his mouth with joyous flavor. It was better than anything he’d ever eaten back at the manor. The dog licked its lips, waiting with keen eyes for the skin and the bits thrown by their master.
Scorpius had been a part of this, had helped to send the hen on its way so the hawk could dive with its lethal strike. The dog had done its part, the master had done his, and Scorpius the same. No bread he’d helped to knead, no roots he’d helped to scrape for Cook had ever tasted so sweet.
In the weeks that followed, Richolf showed him how to clean out the mews where the hawks were housed, how to prepare the meat tidbits used in training the birds, how to beat the grasses as well as bushes to drive different game into the open. He showed Scorpius how to identify burrows and nests, what commands were used to co-ordinate the dog’s efforts and the hawks’, how to pluck and skin and prepare roasts.
Sometimes upon first waking, Scorpius expected Nurse to call for him. He listened for the clink and rattle of the breakfast cart, for the babble of the babies, until he rubbed his eyes and heard the click of the dog’s claws upon the main room floor.
Then he got up from his bed and dressed quickly, not wanting the master to be after him.
Scorpius hadn’t known how starved he’d been for purpose until Richolf had come to claim him. It thrilled Scorpius to be an integral part of the hunt. Discovering where he fit into the scheme of things gave his world form and weight. The crushing realization that his family had not come for him quickly gave way to hero worship.
© Julia Smith, 2010
Ann (bunnygirl) says I like the insight into Scorpius and his need for purpose. I think we're all like that. Much of our societal dysfunction comes from the seeming triviality of our modern lives.
Janet I'm glad to see Scorpius settling into his new home. I was a little surprised at his reaction to the dinner - after such empathy for the hen (or maybe that was my empathy for the hen).
Julie says As he acclimatizes to his new world, I do hope that Scorpius does not lose that pang of regret that you describe so well here as he looks into the nest of the hen before he helped her to her death.