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.
When Alegreza left, Scorpius stood beside Richolf, somehow pulling together the appearance of an obedient apprentice. He didn’t know how he managed to make himself stand there, suddenly sick to death of suppressing his every desire in order to serve, always serve.
It was in that nearly imperceptible moment before Richolf turned to say something to him that did it. Scorpius watched that little hitch in his master’s shoulders that told him Richolf had to gather himself up in order to do something that he didn’t want to do.
It all boiled over inside of Scorpius. He couldn’t bear to have his master look at him, to have him say the words he’d have to dredge up from somewhere deep, deep down inside of him. Scorpius spun on his heel and made to bolt away from this hideous ache in his chest.
But Richolf yanked him to an awkward halt.
For a split second, Scorpius nearly threw his master off. Fighting to control himself, he kept his gaze from meeting Richolf’s. But his master pulled him close.
“Oh no, you don’t,” Richolf said.
Scorpius stiffened, looking at the empty bend in the road.
“You are not going to ruin her chance for a good life,” his master said, squeezing his arm and shaking him slightly.
“Please stop saying that.” Scorpius heard the catch in his voice, hating the way his sense of futility sounded.
“There are too many things you don’t understand.”
“Are there?” Scorpius dare not look at Richolf now. The fury that built inside him was too wild. If his master kept patronizing him, Scorpius wouldn’t be able to crush it all back any longer.
Richolf loosened his grip slightly. “Believe me, Scorpius. If there is anyone who knows how you feel…”
Scorpius couldn’t bear it. He wrenched free, looking at his master in time to see the shock on Richolf’s face. Thrusting his arms forward with all his considerable strength, Scorpius pinned his master against the cottage.
“Why? Did your master sign Ingerith up? Is that how it’s done?”
He let Richolf go and took a step back. Scorpius’ anger didn’t soften the stab of regret coiling through his gut. He shouldn’t treat his master this way.
Before he could blink, Richolf grabbed hold of him, switching places to slam Scorpius face-first into the stone cottage wall. Scorpius grunted, his master’s grip on his twisted arm forcing him to squirm.
“I won’t have any comments like that from you about her, is that clear?” Richolf said in the most chilling voice.
Icy dread dribbled down Scorpius’ spine. He nodded, barely stifling a cry as Richolf shoved him painfully against the cottage, the pressure on his arm close to the breaking point.
“Of all people, Ingerith deserves better than what she’s endured,” Richolf said. “You think I'm going to stand here and listen to your judgement upon her? Do you?”
Scorpius pressed his forehead against the cool stone, breathing deeply to bear the pain.
“I understand how you’re feeling, Scorpius. I’ve been wrestling with those same exact feelings every day, since before I brought you here from the nursery.”
“Just because you’re used to it doesn’t mean it should be this way.”
His master let him go. Turning as quickly as he could, Scorpius kept Richolf squarely in his sights.
“No,” his master said, eyes dark with warning. “It shouldn’t be this way. No one should have left you at the nursery, either - if you were an embarrassing reminder of an unseemly affair, why raise you to be a noble if they were going to hand you over to someone like me?”
His master’s words drove a dagger of pain to scrape against Scorpius’ heart. Tears stung his eyes, but he blinked them back.
“I have tried to shield you, Scorpius. There’s enough misery waiting for you out there. I tried to make your life here as good as I could make it. But there’s only so much a falconer can do.”
All Scorpius could see in his mind’s eye was his Alegreza stretching out upon a bed before the gaze of a noble. He swallowed thickly against the sick feeling that threatened to choke him.
“Shielding you – it’s turned around to haunt us both. How can you entertain thoughts that this world is in any way fair? Where did that come from?”
Scorpius straightened as tall as he could. “Can’t imagine, sir.”
Richolf’s eyes narrowed at Scorpius’ tone. “You will speak to me with respect.”
Though his stomach felt like he’d taken a punch, Scorpius fought the urge to bow his head. “Sir.”
“Get inside before I lose what’s left of my temper.”
Darting a glance at the empty bend in the road, Scorpius felt Alegreza’s absence like a severed limb. With heavy steps, he turned and made his way through the door of the cottage.
He stood unseeing before the sideboard. Everything felt like a nightmare. Nothing made sense anymore.
According to his master, he should be grateful that his sweetheart was heading for the arms of a noble. And why not? That’s how his master’s lover made her way through life, through this unfair life full of cruelly-used slave girls and abandoned market girls. To the nobles, they were all game hens, anyway, weren’t they? Flapping madly in a doomed bid for life, while the hawks calmly climbed to that sweet spot in midair before diving in for the kill.
© Julia Smith, 2011