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 posted for the Weekend Writer's Retreat, we follow him as a seven-year-old, outgrown from the nursery where he'd been brought up with the other children of the blood. When no one from his family claimed him, Scorpius was released to serve a scarred and intimidating master.
The next twelve scenes follow Scorpius as a ten-year-old seasoned falconer's apprentice. The more he understands of his world, the more he learns to beware the nobles who come to the cottage for the hunt. The political intrigues that take the lives of its players can burn anyone who comes too close - including a falconer and his boy.
We rejoin him at age thirteen.
You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.
The urge to gouge his eyes out spun him away from the scene but it was too late. He’d seen them.
Scorpius crashed through the brush like wounded prey. He should flee as silently as he’d stumbled upon the two of them, but the need to put distance between himself and detection cautioned speed.
Branches whipped his face. Unseen dips in the forest floor grabbed to take him down. Scorpius ran on. They must never suspect he was anything but a startled animal.
His master’s love, Ingerith, entwined in the arms of a man who was not Richolf. Far worse – the man was a noble, his steed grazing quietly a few yards off.
He cursed the gods for leading him to that particular spot in the forest. For giving him the afternoon away from his duties, for Richolf’s leave granted to enjoy the day in any way he sought fit.
How could he enjoy anything anymore? She was untrue. It was only a matter of time before Richolf’s heart – the heart that was braver than any man’s – would suffer the killing stroke at last.
Scorpius kept running until his chest burned for air. He stopped by a brook which meandered over stones and under moss, sitting himself upon a flat rock that cooled him. Scooping water to his lips, he drank and then splashed a few handfuls over his face.
He looked back the way he had come. Nothing stirred. Nothing made a sound.
He didn’t think they’d seen him. How could they, when they were so intent on devouring one another’s mouths?
If only he could doubt that it had really been Ingerith. But the gods offered no kindnesses for the likes of him. She’d gazed straight in his direction when he’d first come upon them, creeping forward unseen behind the leaves and shadows. She’d gazed but hadn’t seen him, her attention quickly turning back to the noble who ran his hands along her body with possessive familiarity.
How would he be able to keep such a thing from his master?
Scorpius’ stomach clenched at the prospect. All he could think of was the way she’d coaxed those smiles from Richolf when his body lay broken after the questioning, several years past. For that, Scorpius would always be grateful to her. For that alone, he would have kept her terrible deceit to himself.
Ultimately, though, he was only an apprentice, and he served the falconer. What business did he have, an unclaimed boy given over to a master, to open his mouth only to cause fighting or even bloodshed? Such knowledge could lead to very dark places.
If he were honest with himself, withholding the information from Richolf was really a little seed of hope. The ways of men and women were foreign to Scorpius, who’d spent half his life now in the company of his master and the men who came to the hunt. Perhaps there was something he just didn’t understand.
The little seed was soon pulverized when he arrived at the falconer’s cottage to see the same steed from the forest tied to a post in the yard.
His master and the noble turned at the same time to regard Scorpius as he rounded the corner of the mews and found them just as Richolf secured a falcon to his gloved forearm. Scorpius’ body froze, his heart beating like the furious flight of a doomed game bird. It was the same noble. The same.
It was the man who’d strode down to the rushes with Scorpius, who’d peppered him with questions, who’d taken the game-flushing stick to leave a burning welt along the back of Scorpius’ head. The noble who’d crushed Ingerith’s body to his own, just now in the forest, it was the same man.
Scorpius barely had time to lower his gaze before the noble could return it. Just enough time to see the blank expression on his master’s suddenly gray face.
The memory of Richolf’s wounds rose up to shake Scorpius violently inside. He looked at the noble’s hand and remembered how it had swung the stick to strike him, how it had just run along Ingerith’s body in the forest.
“I wasn’t expecting you,” Richolf said, his voice betraying nothing.
Quick – he must think of something. Anything. “I got hungry, sir. Saw the mount and hurried down, sir.”
Richolf nodded to the noble, who led the way out of the mews. “As there is only this one lord for the hunt, you may eat,” his master said.
Scorpius nodded and struck out for the cottage, watching the lord stride across the field with his master. His palms grew sticky with sweat. He must follow them. He must keep his master safe. No one would ever hurt his master like that again.
Wrapping his fingers around the knife he always kept strapped to his hip, Scorpius slipped between trunks and around rock ledges, keeping the two men in sight. The feel of the knife handle lessened his trembling. He knew how accidents could happen to the wrong noble on the wrong hunt.
© Julia Smith, 2010
Travis Cody says I like the insight you put in this one...Scorpius admits to himself that perhaps there is something he doesn't understand. And yet, what he has seen cannot be unseen.
Alice Audrey says I'm betting the noble at least suspects she's unfaithful to him with Richof. Did I mention I love speculating? Thanks for putting up with me. :)
Janet says I loved the previous scene - and agree with Travis about your storytelling ability from one POV. I wonder if perhaps Ingerith is working on payback!