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.
Returning from the mews, Scorpius rounded the corner of the cottage to discover a dozen mounts and several guards lounging on the grass beside them. Before he could panic, several nobles filed out of the cottage door, laughing and talking, followed by Richolf, the guards rising to their feet.
But his master moved to the side as several noblewomen swept through the door and into the sunlight. Scorpius had never heard of women being on any hunt. His body chilled in alarm.
His master caught sight of him and called him over with a nearly imperceptible jerk of his head. Obeying Richolf at a run, he skirted the line of nobles and ladies and was at his master’s side in a trice.
Richolf began to list supplies he required in a low voice meant for Scorpius alone. Interrupting his master, though his gut warned him not to do it, Scorpius said, “But I’ve fed them all.” He flicked his head toward the mews and their falcons. “I didn’t know they were coming.”
Richolf’s eyes shadowed with something worse than disappointment. A satisfied hawk made for a poor hunt. One of the nobles noticed them talking and joined them.
“Problem, falconer?” he said, his voice measured but his gaze hard.
For one moment Richolf hesitated. Then he grabbed a fistful of Scorpius’ tunic, yanked him around to face him, and slapped him twice across the face.
Scorpius gasped in shock. The look on his master’s face turned him into a complete stranger. Richolf’s mouth was a grim line as he shook Scorpius to rattle his brains.
“Ready the red-tail, the gray and the king hawk,” Richolf said, shoving Scorpius away so that he nearly sprawled on the ground before the nobles and guards.
Face burning from the blows and disgrace, Scorpius took off for the mews as fast as his legs would carry him. Why hadn’t he waited an hour longer to feed the bloody birds? There had been any number of jobs to do before getting to the falcons. He and his master had put together hunting parties more than once for nobles that showed up at any time without warning.
A hungry hawk was a precision hunter. A hungry hawk ensured a successful hunt. A successful hunt sent away happy nobles.
Bursting into the red-tailed mews, Scorpius set the falcon flapping as he rushed through his preparations. Of all the hunts to set out from a bad footing, his master didn’t need the ladies to witness a poor showing on their first time in the field.
Slamming the supplies into a leather satchel, Scorpius grabbed up the jesses and fought to settle the bird on his arm. He scurried to join the party as it ambled in high-spirited conversation along the corridor created by the mews.
Richolf waited glowering beside the noble. Rejoining his master, Scorpius extended his arm so Richolf could transfer the falcon to the noble’s gauntlet-clad arm.
Dashing away before he could meet his master’s gaze, Scorpius learned nothing from his encounter with the red-tail, sending the gray into flustered screeching with his sloppy grabbing and yanking.
By the time he’d delivered the king hawk to Richolf, Scorpius knew the strange master who had returned from those two days he’d been gone without a word would have something to say to his apprentice, once the hunt was over. He had failed Richolf by losing Ingerith's message. That mistake was sure to cost him more than a red face, once the nobles were gone.
© Julia Smith, 2010