Here's the latest installment of Scorpius' boyhood back story.
Scorpius is a character from my dark fantasy work in progress. For the first twelve scenes I've posted for the Weekend Writer's Retreat, we've followed him as a seven-year-old, when he outgrew the nursery where he'd been brought up with the other children of the blood.
But when no one from his family came to claim him, Scorpius was released to serve a falcon master as an apprentice.
We rejoin him at age ten.
An incident that took place at the falconer's cottage three years ago has political repercussions that now haunt Scorpius and his master, Richolf.
You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.
“Sir,” he said, “were they asking you about that night, when you shut me in the cupboard?”
Work-worn fingers wrapped themselves around Scorpius’ hand. “No more questions,” Richolf said, his voice raw with the screaming he’d done.
Scorpius closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He must do this, even if his master begged him not to. Locking gazes with the falconer, he clasped his master’s hand with both of his own. “Did you think I didn’t see?”
Fear shot through Richolf’s eyes. Scorpius couldn’t stand to see it there.
“Yes, I know, I know,” Scorpius said. “The dragon took him off. But before the lord was taken out for the dragon to find, I saw what happened.”
Richolf’s fingers squeezed Scorpius’ hand so hard he nearly cried out. His master shook his head, no. The falconer had been taken to the brink of what a man could stand, and he’d stuck fast to the story about the dragon. How did Scorpius think he could sway his master when burns and blows and crushing tools had not broken him?
“Sir,” he said, raising his voice to speak over the falconer when he objected. “I saw the nobles fighting. I was hidden in the bushes there,” and he gestured toward the spot outside the cottage.
“You must swear!” Richolf said in a hoarse whisper. “The dragon is the only truth!”
“But it isn’t the truth!” Scorpius stood abruptly, unnerved by the shaking in his own voice. He paced across the room, glancing briefly out the window, the evening scene from years ago polluting the sunny afternoon. The nobles tumbling in the dust in their fine clothes, that gurgling sound the dying man had made, the way the sword had plunged into the lord so smoothly.
“The dragon must be the only thing you remember about that night,” Richolf said. Scorpius turned in time to see a tear spill from the corner of his master’s eye. He forgot to breathe. His master’s distress cut through him, forcing him to kneel beside Richolf, his legs too weak to support him.
But he’d promised himself he wouldn’t stop until he got the answers he needed. “Two lords fought outside the door,” he said, ignoring the falconer’s protests. “One of them choked the other. He was wearing a blue doublet. The other lord stabbed the fallen man to be sure he was dead. He was wearing brown.”
“You don’t understand!” Richolf hissed, his voice failing him. The look of terror in his eyes swiped at Scorpius’ heart like crushing talons.
“Why would they do this to you?” Scorpius said, shaking his head at the horror that rose in his chest.
More tears fell down the falconer’s scarred face, weaving through the old healed scars and the scabs of the new ones. “No one must know you were there,” Richolf whispered.
“Who were they?” Scorpius said, sick at the realization that his master was close to breaking, and that it was Scorpius who had gotten farther than his master’s torturers.
“Who do you think they were?” Richolf asked wearily.
“They weren’t just lords. Were they?”
His master shook his head sadly. “What happened that night is only now coming to roost. The ones who fetched me to the estate are the prince’s men.”
“The prince,” Scorpius repeated. Suddenly he wanted to stop Richolf from telling anymore.
The falconer nodded painfully. “The man who sat at this table, the one I hid you from all night in the cupboard. Lord Zorjak. Now Prince Zorjak. There will be more killing before all of this is finished.”
Scorpius nodded, seeing a string of murders looming in his mind. He started when Richolf squeezed his hand once more.
“The dragon is the only thing that happened here,” his master said. “Swear it.”
Scorpius remembered the look on his master’s face when Scorpius had tumbled sleepily from the cupboard’s safety that night. He remembered the polished boots of Lord Zorjak as he crawled under the table back to the cupboard. Lord Zorjak had wept that night at the news of his brother’s death. But his men had tortured his master, and he was now a prince who killed.
“I swear, sir,” Scorpius said for a second time. The first was merely to get his master inside the cottage. This time he trembled as he spoke the words. No one else would ever know that he’d seen the lords in their blue and brown velvets. It was easier to think of them as leathery scaled monstrosities.
© Julia Smith 2010
Alice Audrey says I really, really wanted to know what made these lords so special.
Khaalidah says Julia. I enjoy the clarity of your writing. Even more, I appreciate the exchange of emotions between these two characters.
Janet says Simply wonderful, Julia. The tension in just this conversation is tight, intense! The foreboding oozes from the very words not spoken.