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.
The young slave raced away from the others, driven onto the open field by a shove and the crack of a whip. Her body gleamed in the torchlight, the sound of her ragged breathing tearing the air and battering Scorpius’ chest. She got about as far as a game hen would have reached.
To the approving roar of the assembled nobles, one of the lords tore after her, his battle-hardened body closing the distance between himself and his prey in seconds. Stripped down to leggings and boots, unencumbered by sword or finery, the noble cut an impressive figure as he tackled the slave to the ground, rolling them both to a stop.
Scorpius’ heart seized with dread, just as it had done the night of the cupboard, just as it had done when he’d entered the sick room to collect Richolf. Protesting incoherently as the crowd applauded the capture, the slave pushed at her attacker but he would not be denied.
His master steadied Scorpius by the shoulders when he tried to recoil. “Don’t look away,” Richolf said in the barest of whispers. “There are eyes everywhere. Our enthusiasm as hosts must not be questioned.”
Nodding once, his heart sickened by the display, Scorpius glanced over at the group of frightened slaves and wondered why only one of them had cried before it all began.
The chase was repeated until every slave had been run down and plundered by a noble. Scorpius hoped that none of those eyes keeping watch had seen his tears when the crying slave was forced onto the field.
At first he didn’t see Lord Dirske, but all at once he caught a glimpse of the noble shrugging back into his doublet, emerging from the darkness. Scorpius started backwards, but Richolf’s solid form prevented him from retreating. Grateful for the night with its cloak of shadows, Scorpius worked hard to pull himself together, hoping his tears had dried on his face.
“I have a bit of business with my guard detail,” the noble said. “Where do you take care of that sort of thing?”
Richolf paused, but only for a moment. “The…ah…the hitching posts, out front.”
“A bit of a trek, that. Nothing to hand?”
“I must consider the falcons, my lord. They’re likely to join in the screeching. Can be rather ear-splitting.”
“Ah. Well, the hitching post it is, then.”
The golden boy guard who’d shared his food with Scorpius made his measured way along the corridor between the mews, hemmed in by four of his fellows. Scorpius followed behind Richolf, who followed behind Lord Dirske. They rounded the cottage, which was being readied to house the most regal of the guests for the night.
Scorpius glanced with longing at the warm glow of the windows, knowing he was barred from his own bed. If only this was a nightmare.
But there was no waking from the sight of the young guard removing his jerkin and tunic. Why was this happening? What had the guard done, exactly?
Sick with dread, Scorpius watched as the young man was pushed to his knees, his wrists tied to one of the wooden posts. Uncoiling his lash from his belt, the sergeant stepped forward and silently offered the guard a folded piece of leather to bite upon.
The young man took the leather in his teeth and looked up for a moment at his commander. Something passed between them, something that helped the guard to brace himself.
But the sergeant had barely turned to take up his stance behind the guard when Lord Dirske strode up to yank the leather from the young man’s mouth. “It was their sniveling I didn’t want to hear,” he said. “I’m very much interested in yours.”
© Julia Smith, 2010