Day 25 and 26 of the A to Z Challenge brings us to the latest chapter in my serialized dark fantasy story.
Y is for Yellow
Z is for Zest
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 stood in the kitchen with his master, watching carefully as the apothecary’s apprentice grated the fruit zest finely into the mortar. Raising one unimpressed eyebrow as he glanced up, checking to be sure they followed his instructions, the young man grabbed a pinch of forest herb from an open pouch on the counter, added a long list of ingredients and finally began crushing them all with the pestle.
Of course there was a particular technique that was vital to the success of the mixture. It was hard to take these edicts seriously, as there were so many of them, and so detailed. But Scorpius noted that Richolf paid very close attention and did not shoot him any sideways glances.
So Scorpius forced himself to do likewise as the occasional moan drifted up from Lord Thibault, who rested in Richolf’s shuttered room. The wound was deep and now festered, poison or no poison.
The young noble was too weak to be moved from the falconer’s cottage. It was up to his master and himself to nurse the noble back to health. Lord Thibault’s family could not afford to have their enemies track the comings and goings of healers to the falconer’s cottage. One visit of this apothecary’s apprentice was all that could be risked without arousing suspicion.
Granted, two of Lord Thibault’s guard remained behind until their master could recover himself. They were stashed out of sight but within earshot, in the closest falcon mews behind the cottage.
His master had no need to tell Scorpius that the guard stationed behind to protect Lord Thibault was also meant to tidy up any loose ends if he succumbed to his wounds. No matter how revolting the apothecary apprentice’s thick yellow paste looked and smelled, Scorpius memorized all of the ingredients used by the insufferable young man, his exacting methods in preparing them and in applying them.
For four days, his master cared for Lord Thibault. On the fifth day, a small group of nobles arrived at the cottage for a hunt.
Richolf took them onto the field while Scorpius sat with Lord Thibault, a damp cloth for the noble’s forehead in one hand, a concealed knife in the other.
And right outside the cottage window, he heard the stealthy approach of one of the guard, who stationed himself along the cottage’s stone wall. Scorpius looked down at the knife in his clammy hand.
What could he do against one of the hardened men who had disarmed Lord Thibault’s would-be assassins? And what about his master, alone with a hunting party who could be slitting the falconer’s throat instead of watching the hawks take down their dinner?
© Julia Smith, 2011
This brings us to the end of the A to Z Challenge.
What an incredible month! I've enjoyed myself immensely. Hope to see you all next year.