Day 2 of the A to Z Challenge!
Having a lot of fun so far, meeting lots of new bloggers. To newcomers, welcome to my arts blog, which has a schedule of poetry / the arts / photography / lists of 13 things / music / and original serialized fiction.
Today is the latest chapter in my serialized dark fantasy story. And for today, B is for Beware.
For the first twelve scenes posted for the Weekend Writer's Retreat, we followed Scorpius as a seven-year-old, fetched from the nursery by a falconer to become his apprentice.
The next twelve scenes followed ten-year-old Scorpius as he discovered the dangers of serving the nobles he'd once imagined were family.
The third set of twelve scenes gave us a thirteen-year-old Scorpius, who discovered 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.
It all made sense now.
His master had not glared at him when Lord Thibault swept Scorpius to the hunt, leaving the rest of his retinue behind. That look had been a warning, the only kind permitted between a falconer and his apprentice.
Suddenly Scorpius’ hands shook. His master seemed so very far away across the field, rather than not far enough.
Lord Thibault swiped a hand across his face, turning to gaze at Scorpius. It no longer seemed possible that they were close in age, not with the weight that seemed to bear down upon the noble.
Memories tumbled forward, stopping Scorpius’ breath.
They jumbled through his mind – a noble’s rod slicing the back of Scorpius’ head, the lords fighting on the doorstep, the sword plunging into the brother. They were all part of The Troubles, weren't they?
Across the field, Richolf appeared to be calmly collecting the braces of game, but he was staring over at Scorpius. Was he trying to tell him something, give him some warning?
His master carried the wounds from those days and nights of torture. He’d been put to the question because the royal brothers had decided the falconer’s cottage was tucked away enough to settle their score out here. Nothing to do with the falconer, and yet his body held the torment even now.
Of course, not even that could compare to the Hunt of Screams.
Scorpius met Lord Thibault’s gaze, suddenly angered by the noble’s tears. “The Troubles, my lord?” he said, his voice tight as he fought to control himself. “Yes, they've made their presence known, even to those who try to live apart from them.”
Once again, instead of taking offence to such a tone from a falconer’s boy, Lord Thibault dropped his reserve even lower. “Am I in danger here?” he asked plainly, staring deeply into Scorpius’ eyes.
Glancing over at his master, he saw his attempts to gather the courtiers and head from the field. Yet there were two laggards.
Scorpius busied himself with his own braces of game. “My master warns of it, my lord.”
Lord Thibault started to turn, to look toward the others.
“Don’t!” Scorpius hissed.
The noble froze.
“Carry on as you would, my lord,” Scorpius ordered, not caring that he did so. He risked another glance as he crouched to tie the games hens together. Those two courtiers bent their heads together. More to the point, one glanced in Lord Thibault’s direction.
“We must run for it.” Scorpius stopped his work but remained in position. “Will you do it?”
He wished he could look at Lord Thibault, but doing so now would plunge the knife in.
“Where do we go?” the noble said, his voice calmer now that it had come to this.
“They are in my forest, my lord. I know these trees, I know the hills, and they do not. Just follow me.”
Scorpius rose, leaving the brace of game and catching Lord Thibault’s eye. At his nod, they bolted toward the treeline. Just as they reached cover, the noble lost his footing and grunted. Scorpius turned to see Lord Thibault scramble up and shake it off. But he’d gone white.
Slipping between the trees, Scorpius ran as Lord Thibault kept pace beside him. He listened hard, but it was a good while before he made out their pursuers. They had a chance to reach the hiding place that would protect them.
The lord’s breathing labored. Glancing over at Lord Thibault, Scorpius saw the arrow shaft protruding from the noble’s shoulder. Speckles of blood dribbled from his mouth onto his hunting doublet.
Branches snapped loudly behind them. There was nothing else he could do. Grabbing Lord Thibault by the arms, he swung him around and onto his knees.
Eyes screwing shut with the pain, Lord Thibault stayed silent as Scorpius dragged him down and on top of himself, under a boulder ledge gripped hard by gnarled roots. They lay there panting in the gray light, yet quiet enough as their pursuers charged past them deeper into the forest.
Scorpius steeled himself to ignore the drops of blood that fell onto his cheek as Lord Thibault fought for breath. He remembered how safe he’d felt when his master had shielded him under a rock ledge very much like this one. Dragons or nobles, it was all the same.
Reaching up, he wrapped his fingers around the lord’s arm and squeezed a quick message. Lord Thibault passed out a heart beat later.
© Julia Smith, 2011