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.
The following week, Lord Thibault arrived with his retinue, sweeping up to the falconer’s cottage on his charger flashing with silver ornament. Richolf dropped his work, standing to greet them.
Scorpius trotted to join Richolf in time to see the noble brush past his master, instead heading straight for him.
“There you are!” Lord Thibault said, face erupting into a smile.
Scorpius bowed, his face heating at Richolf’s look of shock.
“I’ve had an abysmal week,” the noble said, forcing Scorpius to hurry along beside him as he headed toward the field. “Couldn’t wait to get back here for a hunt. Just the thing, eh?”
Scorpius darted a glance back at his master, whose expression darkened. “Apologies, my lord,” he said. “Shouldn’t we collect up a falcon, at least?”
“Oh, he’ll see to it, won’t you?” the noble said to Richolf.
“Certainly, my lord,” the falconer said, bowing with a sidelong glare at Scorpius that shot a chill through him. Shaking it off, Scorpius passed by all the mews with their hawks perched in the shadows. To be dragged ahead like this, with nothing to be done but obey the young lord gave Scorpius a strange sensation of freedom from the choke hold Richolf had lately placed upon him.
Lord Thibault’s guard stood at a respectful distance, his courtiers remaining with Richolf as Scorpius entertained the young lord. Making their lethal dives, the falcons took out the game hens that Scorpius’ master coaxed from cover. An odd afternoon indeed.
“I can’t tell you what a relief it is to come out here,” Lord Thibault said as the hunt began to wind down.
At first, Scorpius started to answer as he would to any noble. But there was something in the young lord’s tone, something in the way he kept looking at him. Perhaps he should beware. Perhaps that’s what his master’s expression had been, earlier – a warning to be careful, and not the outrage of being made to serve his own apprentice.
But he felt differently with Lord Thibault. He was just as glad to see him ride around the bend towards the cottage as the noble seemed to be here. So instead he said, “Are you troubled, my lord?”
The young noble glanced quickly at Scorpius, fixing him with an appraising stare that made Scorpius suspect his master had indeed been sending him a warning. After a long moment, Lord Thibault chuckled. “I dare say I have a kingdom’s worth of those.”
“We’re pleased to offer this small consolation, then.”
“You know, ever since our last conversation, well…frankly I’ve been dreaming about what it would have been like to have never been collected up from the nursery, as you were not.”
Scorpius looked at Lord Thibault, trying to gauge the young man’s mood before looking away in time to avoid eye contact. The noble gazed out over the woods, lost in troubled thought.
“Surely not, my lord,” Scorpius said finally.
“Do you even know what’s brewing?” Lord Thibault asked. He turned and looked at Scorpius as though the lighthearted noble who had arrived earlier had been merely a front for the sake of his companions.
Wishing he could dart a glance at his master for any kind of sign or direction, Scorpius took a breath, gathered himself and made his choice. “Can’t say that I do, my lord.”
Nodding his head toward Richolf, the noble said, “Wonder if he knows, and he just hasn’t told you.”
It was Scorpius’ turn to chuckle. “That would be just like him, my lord.”
“Really. Perhaps our masters aren’t very different after all.”
Hearing this noble try to bridge the gap between them made Scorpius’ heart ache with such unexpected force that he took a step back.
“Well, I shall tell you a little something, then. Something your master should know, if he doesn’t already.”
“My lord.” Scorpius looked into Lord Thibault’s eyes, surprised to see the depth of weariness suddenly exposed.
“The Troubles have begun.” Lord Thibault’s voice caught as he said it. He blinked rapidly and looked away.