Day 8 of the A to Z Challenge!
Today brings us to the latest chapter in my serialized dark fantasy story.
And for today, H is for Horse.
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.
Scorpius ran with stealthy assurance back towards the hunting field. Lord Thibault was safely hidden beneath the rock ledge, though he couldn’t be sure the noble truly understood the instructions Scorpius had whispered to him.
No time to worry about that. He had to fetch his master to mend the noble, or there would be more lords descending upon this place, and they would demand crushing retribution.
It was already possible that Lord Thibault wouldn’t make it through this. Scorpius shoved that possibility far from his mind. The noble could not die. He would not allow it.
His master could never survive another round of being put to the question.
And what was to stop them from dragging Scorpius to the same fate? Was he not the servant who’d tried to shield Lord Thibault?
Scorpius’ footfalls padded softly through the forest, but his breathing sounded so loud, ricocheting off the trees. Darting glances showed no pursuers, but he felt the danger raking across his skin.
The light in the forest grew as he neared the field’s edge. It revealed two bodies splayed between fallen logs.
Checking his speed, heart hammering in fear, Scorpius glanced down to see the fine courtiers’ clothes marred with blood. His master was not among these.
Bursting from the cover of the forest, Scorpius saw another tangle of bodies among the tall grasses. The dog lay close to one of them.
Scorpius’ heart shot through with a sickening dread. For a moment he couldn’t bear to move.
But a groan wove its way into the sunshine. Forcing himself to walk forward, Scorpius found his master curled onto his side, the dog’s nose tucked into the little space between Richolf’s neck and the trampled field.
Dropping to his knees, Scorpius checked his master quickly for wounds.
“I’ll live,” croaked Richolf, rolling onto his back.
“Are there any others here?” Scorpius said, rubbing the dog whose tail wagged uncertainly.
“Two have not returned,” Richolf said, sitting up painfully. “They were after you.”
Scorpius gazed into his master’s eyes, almost unable to meet the worry that burned there. Bowing his head, Scorpius started to say how sorry he was, but his master interrupted him.
Cupping Scorpius’ face with his rough hands, Richolf said, “Where is Lord Thibault?” Assured that he was well hidden, Richolf rose to his knees, surveying the field, scanning the forest’s edge for any signs of the courtiers’ return.
“You’ll need to fetch him.”
“How, sir? He cannot walk.”
“We’ll get him out on horseback.”
Scorpius nodded, but his heart sank. He’d never ridden a horse in his life. And the young lord’s mount was a spirited, powerful animal.
But glancing again at his master, at the scars that had never faded on the falconer’s hands and neck, Scorpius knew he would do whatever it took to keep Richolf from the torments.
Which was easier said than done, as he rounded the corner of the cottage and saw Lord Thibault’s horse challenging him with raised head and suspicious black eye.
© Julia Smith, 2011