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.
Twisted log to the left, a ways back. He was on the right path. Jogging to stay ahead of his jittery nerves, Scorpius kept his sights forward, looking for the second marker.
This one was harder to see. Luckily, he was used to finding game birds sitting silently in their camouflaged plumage. A mossy stump, blending seamlessly with cool leaves, barely caught his eye. Scorpius halted, listening carefully, scanning the forest to be certain he wasn’t being followed.
He turned to face south. To one of the residents of the estate, it might seem that there was no path in that direction at all. Yet to a hunter, the way beckoned, clear and insistent.
Making his way over and under, pressing through the dense weave of branches, Scorpius neared the meeting place. Something his master had expressly forbidden.
“You must not give this directly to her, you understand.”
His stomach twisted into knots. “Meet me,” she’d written. “Do not fail us.”
How could he refuse? Would his master have forbidden this if he’d known she would write such a thing?
So he’d waited out the time she’d set down, picked his way through the woods and now stepped out of the trees into a gorge that opened up without warning. Two rock faces blocked the sun, making him shiver in the cooler air. The cliffs were heavily overgrown with moss, bracken and decaying logs. No paths found their way down. There were no signs of any human travel through the ravine.
The evidence of isolation brought comfort. This was the place.
Choosing a tucked-away lookout, Scorpius settled upon a long-ago toppled tree to await his master’s unfaithful lover. He wasn’t sure why the memory of another man’s hands upon her should hurt so much. Nor why his cheeks flushed.
He tried to think of something else as he waited, but his mind was full of her. He thought of the smile which filled their cottage with joy. He remembered the sound of her throaty laugh, which lifted his heart even as it stirred his body.
Fidgeting on his perch, Scorpius stilled when he thought he’d heard something. There it was again. A flash of movement through the leaves could have been an animal trundling past.
But he was certain it was Ingerith.
She emerged into the ravine clad in tones of brown and black, the need for discretion demanding her face be concealed by a wrap. Scorpius rose to greet her, when a terrible notion struck him. What if this wasn’t Ingerith?
He froze, his heart thudding loudly, so loudly he was certain she could hear it. What if she revealed herself and it was a complete stranger? Would she bring a message, keeping to the plan as Richolf had insisted?
Perhaps this woman was here only to tie up some irritating loose ends.
Scorpius shut his eyes, remembering the terrible wounds his master once wore. The look of absolute dread on Richolf’s face when Scorpius had tumbled out of the cabinet, so near to discovery by the murderous prince. The sound made by the brother as the sword was drawn from his chest.
Richolf had forbidden this. His master knew intimately the consequences of failure. Yet knowing all of this, he’d still sent his apprentice to bring a message to Ingerith. Richolf must have some sort of faith in him.
Scooping up his courage from where it had tumbled away into the ravine, Scorpius drew a deep breath and opened his eyes, just as the woman drew the kerchief down to reveal her face.
© Julia Smith, 2010
Travis Cody says Excellent tension here.
Alice Audrey says Oh sure. Leave us with a cliff hanger.