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 did not have leave to go to the estate. His master kept him on a tight leash, and Scorpius chafed against it. Their meals together were brief, tense affairs, their daily work separate, their places at the hunt on opposite ends of the field.
Scorpius was grateful when a young noble was paired with him on a warm morning. Generally he preferred talking as little as possible with the lords, but things had been so silent between himself and Richolf lately.
He found he could make the noble laugh easily, and in turn laughed at the lord’s wry take on things. He was close in age to Scorpius, after all. If things had worked out differently for him, he may very well have been a friend.
As the hunt wound down, the sweat plastered Scorpius’ tunic to his back. Lord Thibault undid the laces of his hunting doublet and slipped out of it, his fine linen shirt soaked.
“I’m for a swim,” he said, gazing about him. “Where do you hide away a spot for that?”
Gesturing towards the cottage, Scorpius said, “We bathe in the stream closer to the cottage.”
“Show me!” and the noble took off at a run.
Scorpius hadn’t fully tied together the brace of hens yet, and he couldn’t very well leave them. But the young lord was already well ahead and dashing in the wrong direction.
With the same sense of reckless disregard for a lifetime of obedience that the market girl had sparked in him, Scorpius dropped the game hens onto the grass and tore after the noble. A surge of power fed his limbs as he caught up to the lord and then overtook him.
“This way!” he called and dashed into the trees toward the flat rock and the deep bend in the stream. Lord Thibault put on a burst of speed now that he had clear direction. The two ran abreast, weaving between trees, crashing through branches and laughing with the joy of it.
With the stream in clear view, Scorpius pulled back on his momentum. Lord Thibault burst into the clearing a few strides in the lead, a wide grin lighting his face as he turned victorious towards Scorpius.
“You let me win,” the noble said, still smiling as he peeled off his clothes.
“No, my lord,” Scorpius said, catching his breath and shedding his own clothes.
Lord Thibault waded into the cool water and flopped backwards, splashing Scorpius who was close behind him. He slipped beneath the surface, welcoming this relief against his sticky skin.
The young noble popped up, grabbing hold of Scorpius and dunking him. If it had been Richolf, if it had been months ago before meeting Alegreza at the market, Scorpius would have grabbed and dunked his opponent in return.
But this was a noble. He must not lay hands upon the young lord, must instead choke on water and try not to drown. Lord Thibault hauled him up and looked him squarely in the eye.
Scorpius returned his gaze for a long moment before looking down. He should not have done it – he knew that – but something about this young noble insisted upon tossing protocol aside.
“I detest being lied to,” Lord Thibault said.
Scorpius said nothing, merely watched the surface of the water settle before him.
“If I was not your better, would you have reached the stream before me?” the noble asked.
A spear of danger pierced the space between them. Scorpius must not forget what the nobles were capable of doing to those who served them. His heart chilling inside him, Scorpius gathered his courage and said, “Yes, my lord.”
He stole a glance at Lord Thibault, who struggled to hide both disappointment and satisfaction from showing on his face. “Have you served out here very long?” he asked, stretching backwards in the water.
“Since I was fetched from the nursery, my lord.” It was not to be spoken of, was it, his suspect parentage. But the words had escaped.
Lord Thibault froze, kneeling in the water to meet Scorpius’ gaze. “What do you mean?”
“I mean only that I was brought up at the manor house nursery not far from here, my lord.”
“What are you doing out here, then?” The young noble’s brow furrowed with concern.
Scorpius tried to speak, but his throat choked with unspoken words finally emerging. “No one…no one ever…no one ever came for me, you see. Only the falconer.”
Lifting his gaze to stare deeply into the young noble’s eyes, Scorpius saw an echo of the horror he’d always crushed down at his abandonment. “Nurse released me to him. So I became his apprentice. And I’ve served here ever since. My lord.”
“Imagine it,” Lord Thibault said in a hushed tone.
Scorpius held his breath and slid down beneath the water, letting the coolness engulf him. He had to collect himself before returning to his master. The anger that consumed him at Alegreza’s treatment propelled Scorpius into saying and doing things he never would have considered, only weeks before.
And though he now wished he could stay submerged here beneath the surface of the stream, the rippling image of Lord Thibault reminded him that he must resurface, even if his burning lungs did not.
© Julia Smith, 2011