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.
His master didn’t have to light a fire under Scorpius when it came to removing any sign that the hunt of screams had contaminated their cottage. Richolf and Scorpius collected and burned the refuse, removed and soaked the bedding, swept and scrubbed every surface the nobles had touched.
Distress still rattled around inside of Scorpius, but the hectic pace of the work kept him one step ahead of remembering. Still, the sounds of the hunt repeated themselves in his mind. It was the sounds that he couldn’t escape. Sleeplessness warped his vision so that he dropped things, missed what he reached for and had to make three trips when one would have sufficed.
Taking a short break, Richolf found one nearly-empty tankard and poured a mug of ale for himself. He just reached out to grab it when Scorpius stepped into a patch of soapy water.
His feet shot out from under him. Flinging his arms out to stop his fall, Scorpius knocked the mop handle which had leaned against the table. The mug of ale flew into Richolf’s chest. The last of the brew soaked his master’s tunic, the mug rattling and bouncing off the wall, the mop clattering to the floor. Scorpius knocked his head against the flagstones and fought for breath as the wind knocked out of him.
He rolled and gasped like a fish, lungs seizing painfully. Then his gut relaxed and breath inflated his body once again. He sprawled on the floor until he realized his master was laughing.
Scorpius rose to his knees. Richolf hunched over the table, slapping it as he couldn’t get the laughs out fast enough.
For a moment, Scorpius knelt there, soaked and sore, still getting his breath back. His master’s hair dripped with the ale he hadn’t had the pleasure of drinking. The dog stood at the ready, tail half-wagging with the uproar coming from the falconer.
But he couldn’t listen to the laughter without joining in. It was too contagious. When he took a moment to think about it, the way he must have looked as he tried to break his fall, at the look on his master’s face as the mug was struck from his grasp, well it just made him laugh harder.
When the dog sniffed around and discovered the dashed contents of the mug, licking it up with relish, Scorpius and his master howled until they cried.
When they’d had their fill of it, Richolf bundled up an extra set of clothes for both of them and bade Scorpius to join him at the stream. They walked together in silence, the sun warm and renewing as though nothing terrible could have happened only hours earlier.
Reaching the deep bend in the stream where they bathed, the two of them peeled their wet garments off, reeking of soap and ale. They waded into the water, beginning seriously enough but soon degenerating into horseplay. Water splashed everywhere. Richolf dunked Scorpius, while Scorpius nearly dunked the falconer but not quite.
When they tired of even that, they crawled onto the bank and stretched out on the grass to dry off. At that moment, it didn’t matter to Scorpius that his master sported such gruesome scars that he could never quite escape seeing. It didn’t matter that a lump had formed on the back of his head from the fall, which now throbbed.
For a moment, he felt clean and warm and spent from laughing. He would hold onto this moment so that he could find it again in the dark hours of the night.
© Julia Smith, 2010