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.
Richolf had barely released the falcon when the noble grabbed him by the hair and forced him writhing to his knees.
“What game are you playing?” the lord asked, a note of amusement in his voice.
Scorpius rose from his half-crouch, concealed by the forest. The knife slipped from its sheath like his next breath. But he must wait. He must wait.
“No games, my lord.” Richolf twisted in pain but made no sound.
“Do you know, I’ve just now left my newest diversion. Met her for a tumble in the woods a ways back, there.” The noble tightened his hold on Richolf’s hair and shook the falconer. His master’s eyes screwed shut. “But you see, the odd thing was, we had no plan to meet up this morning. I just came across her on the road. Don’t you find that strange?”
“Yes, my lord,” Richolf gasped. “Very strange.” His face drew with more pain than the noble’s grip upon him.
With sudden viciousness, the lord kicked Richolf to the ground. With his polished boot he crushed the falconer’s face into the dust. Scorpius’ fingers gripped his knife handle as he readied himself, remaining hidden as though chained there.
“I never suspected you’ve been running a little love nest out here, falconer,” the noble said. “Very shrewd.”
“No, my lord. I haven’t.”
“No?” He stomped harder on Richolf’s head. His master cried out then. “Then what would a governess be doing out here, all alone? Hmm?”
When Richolf didn’t answer, the noble grabbed him up to his knees again, grabbing fistfuls of doublet. For a long moment he gazed deeply into Richolf’s eyes, finally smiling a terrible smile. “We both know you can keep a secret. Don’t we?”
Scorpius’ heart chilled as his master bowed his head and said nothing.
“You held out for days when we wanted to know what happened to Nizhnii. Dragon, was it?” He shoved Richolf and took several strides away from him.
The falconer collected himself but stayed on his knees, bracing for anything. Scorpius knew his master had his own knife strapped to his hip. Why didn’t he reach for it?
The noble stopped and gazed into the forest for a long moment. When he finally turned back to face Richolf, his expression promised bloodshed. Scorpius crept forward, as close as he dared without giving himself away.
But the lord stood where he was. “I’m not one to stop a man from making a few coins when he can. I salute your enterprise, falconer. Who better to ensure that our indiscretions remain hidden from wagging tongues?”
He strode towards Richolf, who did not shrink or falter, only lowered his gaze as he must. “Other tongues will spill, though, won’t they?”
The noble turned and walked away from the hunt he’d never been interested in. Richolf remained on his knees until the lord was out of sight.
As his master got to his feet, running a shaking hand through his hair and gazing after the noble with a look of pure fear, Scorpius nearly stepped out of the shelter of leaves and branches. But something cautioned him, something held him back.
He waited till Richolf went to collect the falcon from where it pecked hungrily at the game it had brought down. Gazing down at the knife still gripped tightly in his hand, Scorpius wondered what it would have felt like to plunge the blade into the noble’s belly.
© Julia Smith, 2010
Travis Cody says Self preservation...stay hidden and observe. Self defense...stay hidden, observe, be prepared to act as necessary.
Alice Audrey says I'd love to see that particular noble turned into dragon bait.