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.
Standing off to the side, Scorpius tried not to watch his master’s farewell to his love. But their passion filled the gray dawn, only growing in intensity the more they tried to hide it.
Finally Ingerith forced herself to step back, to turn away toward Scorpius. Her face crumpled into tears, but she walked calmly towards him as though she was fine.
Glancing over at the falconer, he saw the same pained expression. Dread laced Scorpius' body, his breath coming rapidly, though he did as they did and carried on as though it were a normal morning.
As Ingerith passed him and headed down the road, Scorpius locked gazes with Richolf. Warning blazed from those eyes. No harm shall come to his beloved. No harm.
Scorpius’ body went rigid with shock, never having met the side of his master that promised cool destruction. Somehow he gathered himself and nodded, man to man, before following Ingerith around the bend.
Something about the force of her strides cautioned Scorpius to keep a few paces behind her as they began their journey back to the estate. When she stopped suddenly in the road, Scorpius halted at a distance until he saw her body shudder with sobs. He was about to go to her when she turned and lunged for him.
He gasped as she grabbed him by the shoulders, her face made somehow beautiful by the ferocity of her despair. Her fingers were like talons piercing his flesh, but he refused to grimace. The unspoken order to watch over her gave him clarity now that she’d revealed herself.
“Who were they?” she said between sobs.
She could barely get the words out. “Who…who hurt him?”
Now he understood. His first glimpse of Richolf huddled in the dim room at the estate had filled him with the same fury. It had given him the words to make the guard jump to his demands.
It was hard to look into her eyes. The pain behind them squeezed Scorpius harder than her crushing hands. But he forced himself to do it anyway. “My lady,” he began, then grunted as she shoved him to the ground.
“I am not a lady. Don’t call me that!”
Scorpius scrambled to his knees, keeping her in his sights. He raised both hands before him in a halting gesture. “My apologies, Ingerith.”
“Who hurt him?” She stood over him, and every instinct cautioned him to retreat, but he held his ground. The look on his master’s face as they’d departed made more sense now. The danger Richolf had faced had not ended in the dungeon.
Well, Scorpius would not betray him. The horror of the wounds Richolf still wore deserved to be honored. “I don’t know their names, lady – Ingerith.”
She grabbed his tunic and shook him. Scorpius held onto her hands and braced himself against her onslaught. “Don’t start!” she said. “Tell me what they looked like. What were they wearing?”
It would be so easy to describe them. He would remember everything about that afternoon as long as he lived. “I don’t know – they were just nobles come for a hunt.”
Ingerith froze, her expression rapidly reevaluating Scorpius. She released him and strode away from him for a few moments. He got to his feet, wary of her next move, haunted by his master’s gaze as they’d left.
“Don’t you want to help him?” she said finally. She turned and looked at Scorpius, and he no longer felt like a boy looking at a woman. She looked so fragile. He felt like he should comfort her. And he recognized this as the greatest threat of all.
“He never broke,” he said, gesturing back towards the cottage. “Whatever it was they wanted from him, he never gave it to them. I will do as he commands me. That is how I can help him.”
She closed the distance between them. “I know certain people,” she said, just as cool as Richolf’s warning. “They can make those bastards suffer.”
Scorpius shook his head no.
Ingerith took a deep breath. “I will make enquiries. It will merely speed things if you tell me now.”
Bowing his head, Scorpius remained silent. When she did nothing but stare at him, he moved forward along the road in the direction of the estate. “Come!” he said at last when she gazed back toward her love, who remained hidden beyond the curve of the road.
Ingerith wiped her tears from her face, turned back to face the road and began walking. But it was merely the ghostly remains of the woman who’d brought smiles to his master’s battered face.
For a terrible moment Scorpius almost told her. Why shouldn’t they suffer, if she knew someone who could make that happen?
Instead, he set the pace for the long walk back to the estate. He ignored her crying which didn’t stop for a long, long time. When they reached a certain landmark known only to her, she told him to stay.
“No one must see me with the falconer’s boy,” she said.
He nodded, watching her wipe her face with a delicate pocket cloth. She smoothed her hair and brushed the dust from her skirts. Then she turned and walked to his side, placing a kiss on the top of his head.
“I know you’ll keep him safe. Remember all the things I told you about the salves.”
Then she walked down the lane and out of sight.
Scorpius decided the safest thing to do would be to duck into the woods beside the road itself for a time. He followed the route from a discreet distance, pausing like those little game hens behind the safety of the branches every time a traveler appeared in the road.
When he finally spied the falconer’s cottage, he stood in the dappled shade and took in the sight of the falconer standing watch at the door. He did eventually emerge to rejoin his master and settle him back on the pallet.
He didn’t shrink from the penetrating stare heavy with questions. But no more was said of Ingerith for some time, as though she’d never arrived with her smiles, her tonics or her tears.
© Julia Smith, 2010