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.
He melted at the look of delight on her face when she saw the tiny bells from her ma’s market stall, now tinkling on the leg of the red-tail. Stretching his arm toward the hawk, Scorpius waited for the bird to mount his gauntleted perch. As much as he wanted to show Alegreza what he did out here at the falconer’s cottage, there was no hurrying a hawk.
The dog trotted happily beside him on one side, Scorpius keenly wishing it could be Alegreza. But she lagged behind, still skittish around animals.
He led the way out to the field and began the hunt, explaining every aspect of it to her, relishing her focused attention, the way she noted everything as though he meant for her to apprentice along with him. For a heady moment, as he watched her follow the trajectory of the hawk as it soared after something in the tall grasses, Scorpius wondered if there had ever been such a thing as a girl for a falconer’s apprentice.
As though someone had taken a swing at him, Scorpius’ head rocked backward as he remembered the screams of the slave girls running naked across this very field, chased down by the lords in the torchlight.
He shook his head to clear the memory, but his hands shook and his breath came in shudders. Distracted by the hunt, Alegreza seemed oblivious to his sudden distress. At least, if she noticed, she didn’t let on.
It struck him hard that the falconer’s cottage was no place for her. Richolf would be glad that he’d come to this bit of truth on his own. But it didn’t stop Scorpius’ heart from weighing heavily in his chest.
When she turned to gaze up at him, a mix of wonder and dismay in her eyes at the skill of the hawk as it took down the game, Scorpius seized inside with too many feelings bursting up from his gut. He dropped his satchel and grabbed Alegreza by the arms. Before he knew what he was doing, his lips covered hers.
She stiffened, so Scorpius pulled away, letting go of her arms to cover his mouth with his hand, as though he could retrieve what had already escaped. Forcing his scrambled mind to snap back into place, he gave the order to the dog to find the downed game. Bending low to pick up his abandoned satchel, he thought ahead to the next part of this demonstration, wishing he hadn’t brought her out here, not wanting to speak, or look at her, or be this close to her.
But she crouched beside him and helped him gather his things. He stopped and gazed at her.
She was still grieving her mother, the loss darkening her eyes. He’d brought her out here because she had no place else to go. She must feel as trapped as he’d felt that day, so many years ago, when Nurse had released him and he’d been forced to follow the falconer to this strange place.
They gathered everything in silence, following the dog to the kill.
When they’d collected a small brace of game, Scorpius led them back to the cottage so they could prepare the meat for roasting. It went so much quicker with Alegreza nearly taking command of the kitchen. His master exchanged amused looks with Scorpius as they worked.
Assuring them that she could finish the meal, Alegreza all but chased them outside while she bustled about inside the cottage. Richolf stepped out into the cool evening, stretching his stiff limbs and turning to Scorpius.
“I know, sir,” Scorpius said first. “I know she can’t stay.”
Nodding, Richolf let that settle for a moment. Then he said, “I’ll send word to Ingerith. She may know of a position for her.”
The crush of worry over Alegreza lightened inside him. Ingerith. Why hadn’t he thought of that?
Nodding to his master, Scorpius settled in to wait for the call to step inside their own cottage by the market girl. The dog pressed against his legs, so he rubbed him absently.
The fact that he had no idea where his master’s lover actually lived, and that all communication between them had to be done in the strictest of confidences, drew a new slither of worry along Scorpius’ spine. Surely Ingerith would never deliver Alegreza into the hands of a master as cruel as the lord who’d organized that terrible hunt.
He thought of the whole crowd of them, cheering one another on as they each took down a slave girl, ladies applauding as well as lords. He had to believe there were some nobles who didn’t murder their brothers on the falconer’s front steps, or rip open a young guard’s back for displaying common humanity.
Somewhere there had to be a noble house where the market girl could serve, have a bed and food and not have to fear being grabbed for a kiss as Scorpius had grabbed and kissed her in the field.
© Julia Smith, 2011