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 stood in the shadows at the forest’s edge. His poor judgment in feeding the falcons, not realizing that a hunt was imminent, had not resulted in catastrophe after all. He watched the dependable red-tail take down the game hen he’d just flushed from the bushes. A smattering of applause from the ladies’ gloved hands traveled on the breeze.
He caught sight of one of the guards a short distance away, ever vigilant. Still smarting from Richolf’s blows, Scorpius turned away from the imposing young man, the sort of fellow who would never disappoint his master. Ever.
Scorpius’ heart sank when he heard the guard approach after several moments. He was in no mood to make conversation with a golden boy. Especially one who had witnessed him receiving his first physical correction at his master’s hands.
The guard swaggered over with an appraising air, nodding once in greeting. They stood in blessed silence for a time, gazing out at the hunt, watching as the dog trotted back to Richolf with the game hen.
Dipping his hand into a pocket inside his leather jerkin, the guard retrieved a flat biscuit, snapping it in half. He offered a piece to Scorpius, who accepted the food though he was anything but hungry.
Up close, it was easy to see the faint slash scars peppering the guard’s jaw and temple, forearms and hands. Weapons practice, likely. Scorpius once sported scars from the falcons when he was younger, learning how to handle the birds. The guard’s scars somehow carried more prestige than his own faded marks from the king hawk’s talons.
“It’s a good place out here,” the young man said.
Scorpius shrugged. “Serves us well.”
“You’d think Lord Dirske would have staged one of his entertainments out here before this.”
They’d certainly never had this many nobles at one hunt before, and never had there been any noblewomen out here. Did that make it an entertainment? “Far as I know,” Scorpius said, “all of our guests have had good results here. My master ensures a successful hunt.” His skin prickled at how close he’d come to casting a blot on Richolf’s reputation.
The guard looked at him sideways, a wicked grin playing over his lips. “Well, aren’t you the sly pup.”
Scorpius felt certain the guard misunderstood him. But the young man was so delighted, all of a sudden. Gazing back out at the hunt, Scorpius waited for a signal from Richolf.
When it came, he dashed to the next course point that held the highest likelihood of sheltering game. He didn’t think again about the young guard’s words until much later, closer to sunset, after he and Richolf had roasted the game for the nobles. A small retinue of servants brought along for the event laid out a vast feast to which the fresh meat was the centerpiece.
Marveling at the amount of food, at the raucous level of celebration, Scorpius wondered if it was always like this with the nobles. Neither the guards, nor the servants, nor his master seemed to bat an eye at the noise and at the way they carried on.
As the day lengthened into evening, the arrival of yet another group caught Scorpius’ attention. He straightened, wondering how they would accommodate so many new guests. Looking to Richolf for direction, he watched his master take one look at them and turn away, his face a grimace, his head shaking.
Scorpius didn’t understand until he heard the crying.
When he looked closer, he realized this new group was made up of slaves, bound to one another and huddled in the grass near the corner of the closest mews. The young guard he’d encountered earlier was in charge of them. He bent his head low to speak to the girl in tears.
The other guards shifted their weight uneasily, one whispering heatedly, “Will you shut her up?”
Lord Dirske stood staring at them all from across the field. By the expressions on the guards’ faces, something had not gone according to plan.
Richolf joined Scorpius as the crying slave girl finally ruffled the attention of the entire hunting party. “Gods save us,” his master said, as though certain they’d already abandoned every one of them.
© Julia Smith, 2010