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.
Scorpius ran as though demons and dragons were on his heels. When Richolf returned to the cottage, he must never suspect Scorpius had witnessed this latest insult from the noble.
He wove and dodged through the brush, silent and swift. Why hadn’t his master slipped out his own knife? Perhaps if Scorpius had made his presence known, maybe if his master had realized there were two against one, perhaps the noble would have been made to pay for his master’s treatment.
But all he had to do was recall the expressions of dread upon the guards’ faces that night, when the prince had arrived to collect his brother. In truth, it was Richolf and himself who were surrounded. There would be no satisfaction for insults suffered at the hands of any noble who chose to remind a falconer as to who served whom.
For a winded moment he stood before the door, wondering if there was any chance his master could have reached here before him. But upon entering the cottage, he found it empty, his ragged breathing filling their home.
Scorpius wearily scrounged a few bites of food as he’d been told to do, guiltily chewing as he remembered the look of pain on his master’s face. Richolf had known it was bound to happen, hadn’t he? That’s why he’d sent Scorpius away instead of welcoming the assistance of his apprentice on the hunt.
There were things a master did not want his apprentice to see. Scorpius had not listened, and so he was now a witness to things he would never be able to strike from his memory. He stopped chewing, the biscuit dry in his mouth.
From now on, he would obey. From now on, he would be an apprentice his master could be proud of.
It was hard not to jump in alarm when Richolf finally flew through the door. But Scorpius could not let on he expected anything other than a slightly tired master back from serving at the hunt.
Luckily, the look of panic on the falconer’s face would have been enough to make him drop his food in the dish, which is what he did. Scorpius got to his feet. “Sir, what’s the-”
“I need you to hurry to the estate.” Richolf dashed into his room for ink and paper.
Scurrying to set his dish on the sideboard, grabbing up his leather satchel, Scorpius longed to ask his master what was going on. But he’d just now resolved to be good, hadn’t he? Could he not keep that promise for even a moment?
He stood ready and waiting, listening to the scratch-scratch of writing. Richolf rounded the corner into the main room, his attention very far away. He’d neglected to wipe the dirt from his face. Scorpius looked down, reminding himself he would have remarked upon it if he hadn’t already witnessed its origin.
Handing the sealed paper to him, Richolf said, “This must get to Ingerith.”
Scorpius looked up, making sure he stared pointedly at the dirt still clinging to his master’s temple and beard. “Yes, sir.”
Richolf rubbed at the dirt, irritated. When recognition dawned, the defenseless expression clouding his master’s face made Scorpius want to turn away. He swallowed hard.
The falconer drew himself up, as if shrugging off the fear that still darted through his eyes. He ushered Scorpius through the door. “You must not give this directly to her, you understand.”
Taking one of Scorpius’ hands in his, he pressed several coins into his palm. “You may need these.”
Scorpius gazed down at the money, the danger pressing down on him. So many questions. Yet he would ask none of them.
Nodding once, he set off at a jog away from the cottage, not looking back. He’d had his fill of seeing that which his master did not want him to see.
© Julia Smith, 2010
Travis Cody says The self-discipline to show us Richolf only through Scorpius enhances the emotional investment in turning the page.
Alice Audrey says I get the feeling they are so far in over their heads that being a good boy won't do Scorpius any good.