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, fetched from the nursery by a falconer to become his apprentice.
The next twelve scenes follow ten-year-old Scorpius as he discovers the dangers of serving the nobles he'd once imagined were family.
The third set of twelve scenes give us a thirteen-year-old Scorpius, who discovers the true extent of his master's attempts to shield him from the cruelties of life outside their falconer's cottage.
We rejoin him at age sixteen.
You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.
Scorpius strode through the gates of the courtyard, his gaze immediately seeking the market stall where Alegreza sold her ma’s wares. The cobblestones lay bare beside the stall where one could purchase leather from the tanner.
Perhaps it would have been wiser to inquire about the market girl right away. Scorpius forged ahead with selling the pelt bundle, even though his mind was far from the business at hand.
“Would you know that market girl who sells trinkets?” he asked as the old trader counted the coins and passed them to Scorpius.
“Yes, that’s the one.” A murmur of unease rustled in Scorpius’ mind at the look on the trader’s face.
“Her ma died, poor thing.”
“I wondered,” Scorpius said, gazing at the missing market stall.
The trader turned to be on his way.
“Ah, would you…do you know where, ah…” Scorpius stammered.
Not smiling exactly, the trader said, “You’ll find her in the room above the clothier’s.”
Nodding as though he might have the slightest inkling where he might find such a place, Scorpius waited until the trader was gone before pointing himself in the direction of the more permanent row of buildings at the edge of the courtyard. He strolled slowly and carefully past all of them before he encountered one that held bolts of brightly-colored cloth and an excitable man gesturing instructions to his apprentice.
Gazing up, he noticed a second storey above this place with a small window.
Well, best go in and ask whether this was the place or not.
“By all means,” the clothier said in an irritated tone. “Perhaps you can do something with her. She’s got until tomorrow before I call the bailiff to remove her from my premises. I have another family who can pay, and the room is theirs the day after tomorrow. So, please.”
He swept an arm to indicate the ladder propped against a hole in the ceiling. Scorpius nodded his thanks and climbed up into the dim interior.
Her sniffles filled the tiny, barren room, reaching into his gut and yanking without warning.
“Afternoon,” he said softly, and her expression almost broke him. She folded into his embrace as he slid by her side and knelt, wrapping his arms around her. Scorpius rocked her, her choked cries reminding him of a day long ago when a falconer had come to fetch him from the nursery. He hadn’t cried that day, but he’d wanted to.
It didn’t take too much convincing before he’d tugged her to her feet, helped her to pack her few things in a bundle and climb down the ladder. A brief scuffle ensued as the clothier attempted to stop Alegreza from leaving before her rent was paid.
At her renewed tears and pale despair, Scorpius blocked the clothier from reaching her, barking at her to leave.
“I demand my money!" the clothier said. "This is not a charity house!”
For the briefest of moments, Scorpius thought of the coins weighing his master’s purse in his own satchel. Then he remembered the way Richolf had grabbed the remainder of the sum when Scorpius had overpaid Alegreza for the stolen bells.
Stepping towards the clothier, who was also a tall man but slender, Scorpius tried to emulate the manner of that cruel lord from the Night of Screams. “Have you no feeling?” he said, his voice squeaking as it did without warning these days.
“Don’t think I don’t know who you are, falconer’s boy.” The clothier stepped even closer, standing nose to nose with him. “I shall pay your master a visit and see where my missing rent has gone.”
Gazing down at the clothier’s slippered feet, Scorpius said, “Don’t forget, it’s half a day’s walk. Until then,” and he forced himself to bow slightly.
Collecting the market girl and heading out onto the road, Scorpius felt a surge of excitement swirling through the worry about Richolf, the disputed rent and permission to bring this girl to his master’s cottage. The heady thrill made his long legs bolt too quickly, and Scorpius kept backtracking to catch up with Alegreza’s distracted pace.
As she was clearly in no mood for conversation, Scorpius left his whirlpool of questions unspoken. Instead, they walked most of the way in silence. At any rate, she’d stopped crying.
Rounding the bend towards the cottage, Scorpius smiled at the dog’s breakneck welcome as he barreled towards them. Alegreza huddled behind him, so Scorpius coaxed her to let the dog near for her scent.
Satisfied that she was friend not foe, the dog bounded back to the cottage, where Richolf stood waiting in the doorway. A chill of nerves washed through Scorpius suddenly. After all, this cottage was where he lived but it did not belong to him. He had no right whatsoever to offer shelter to anyone.
As they neared, he tried to think of all the things he might say to sway his master into accepting the market girl even for one night. But his mind emptied of anything but the memory of her sitting alone in the nearly-empty room.
They stood before Richolf, who took a long look at the two of them before standing aside so they could walk through the door.
© Julia Smith, 2011