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 grabbed at her skirt as she rose, but Alegreza darted just out of reach. Her giggle filled the secluded grove where the last bites of a delicious meal remained on the cloth spread beneath the trees.
Richolf and Ingerith already clapped a merry tune, so Scorpius joined in as Alegreza danced for them. Ingerith hummed and Alegreza spun, her quick little feet tapping an irresistible rhythm.
She flashed her legs now and then with a deft twist of her hands upon her skirts, shooting glances at Scorpius that sent the heat to his face. Ingerith got the same looks, however, so they must be a part of the dance. Still, an odd feeling came over him that his master and his lover should be witness to them.
When she finished, everyone clapped and laughed in delight. Alegreza flopped down on the forest floor beside him, catching her breath. She glanced at him but looked to Ingerith, who nodded.
Richolf rose slowly to his feet as his old injuries protested. “I feel like a walk just now,” he said, catching Scorpius’ eye.
Indeed, the two women bent their heads together in whispered conversation. Scrambling awkwardly to his feet, Scorpius joined his master along the path which had brought them here for this dreamlike afternoon.
“Are they…?” Scorpius said.
Nodding, Richolf left it at that until they were well out of hearing range. Then he stopped short and looked Scorpius squarely in the eye. “I know it’s all happening rather quickly,” he said.
Scorpius’ stomach knotted up. “Ingerith found a position for her.”
The expression on his master’s face did nothing to reassure Scorpius. “She may have. Everything depends upon the patron, and whether Alegreza is suitable.”
Fear for the market girl reared up in Scorpius' chest, scattering the laughter of their outing like a whirlwind. Words and questions caught in his throat, words he dare not speak. If he remained silent, the images that sprang to his mind might yet be beaten back.
“In a few days time, a noble will come to us for a hunt,” Richolf said. “He will also collect Alegreza – if she pleases him.”
Scorpius turned away, the memory of his master’s lover in the arms of another man blinding him. All of the secrecy, the notes passed through third parties, Ingerith’s threats that she would discover the names of the men responsible for torturing her beloved – all of it made sense in a flood of clarity.
“But does she know?” he said. “Does she understand where she would be going?”
“She already knows,” Richolf said sadly.
“There’s nothing else she could do?” Scorpius said, his voice tight with emotion. ‘Did Ingerith even inquire?”
“She wouldn’t make this offer lightly.” A tone of warning rose in his master’s voice.
Scorpius ignored it. The hammering of his pulse drove all caution from his mind. “I can inquire, sir. Let me go to the estate.”
“I told you she’s aware of the offer.” Richolf’s face darkened.
The remains of Alegreza’s kisses clung to Scorpius’ skin, driving him to blurt out, “But sir, you’re not giving her a chance!”
His master grabbed him roughly by the arms, pulling him close. “What sort of chance do you think she’d have if she was a housemaid? You don’t remember what it was like for those slave girls they brought out here?”
Scorpius returned Richolf’s burning gaze. “I do remember, sir. Yet you send her to the very same fate, only in finer clothing.”
Richolf shoved him away so that Scorpius stumbled and nearly lost his footing. “Ingerith enjoys some portion of power over herself. That is more than most penniless market girls with no families could hope for. So you would do well to thank Ingerith for going through the considerable trouble to procure this patron for Alegreza.”
Biting back more words, Scorpius nodded, his helplessness burning behind his eyes like tears. He too had no family, only a master with a courtesan for a lover.
© Julia Smith, 2011