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.
His master’s tiny room grew stale with Lord Thibault’s fever sweat. The young noble shoved away the blanket or clutched it close in a rumpled knot, worrying Scorpius that the dressing would loosen.
Keeping to their normal schedule, Richolf saw to the falcons, took hunting parties out onto the field and prepared meals until Scorpius longed for nothing more than to have his old chores returned to him. But his master saw how Lord Thibault responded to Scorpius.
“He trusts you,” Richolf said in a low voice as Scorpius joined him for a brief supper at the table. “He’ll heal more quickly if he’s not on guard.”
Scorpius nodded wearily, wishing he could have even an hour to walk out into the forest. But when he gazed up at his master, he saw the deep lines in Richolf’s face, the shadows beneath his eyes, the hunched curve of his shoulders.
“Would you not care to sit with him awhile, sir? It will do you some good. I can see to the rest of the work before turning in.”
A rueful smile tilted his master’s lips. “Best for you to stay with him.”
Scorpius nodded, looking down at his plate of food, the weight of his responsibility to restore the young noble to health making it hard to take a breath. It wasn’t long before he sat on the stool beside the bed, coaxing Lord Thibault to take sips of broth from a worn mug.
The young noble trembled with the effort to sit upright. His color remained pale, his hair damp and plastered to his forehead. Had there been any complaints from this noble? Not even after they dug the arrow from his shoulder. He’d suffered through it all without a cross word.
Looking away in shame, Scorpius thought of the healing salve he’d need to mix up later this evening. He didn’t see the noble reach for him, and was startled by the touch of Lord Thibault’s hand on his own.
He dropped the mug into the noble’s lap, warm broth soaking into Lord Thibault’s trousers.
For a long moment, neither of them moved.
As though freed from a spell, Scorpius jumped to his feet, whisking away the mug and grabbing the blanket to sop up the mess.
“I suppose that’s one way to make sure I get a bath,” Lord Thibault said.
“You needed one long before this,” Scorpius said, dumping the blanket in a sodden heap in the corner. The words were already out of his mouth before he realized how annoyed he sounded, how little like a falconer’s apprentice addressing a lord.
He stopped what he was doing and turned to Lord Thibault, bowing his head low. “Forgive me, my lord.”
The silence stretched in the stuffy little room. Scorpius’ skin prickled as he waited, until at last the young noble said, “Come.”
Risking a glance up, Scorpius saw that Lord Thibault had moved as far from the damp spot as he could manage on his own. That effort had broken him into a new sweat. Scorpius strode forward and knelt close to the side of the bed.
Once again, the young noble reached his hand out and covered Scorpius’ with his own. Scorpius looked down at Lord Thibault’s fingers squeezing his with the promise of renewed strength.
“I was trying to thank you,” Lord Thibault said.
Scorpius shook his head, still not looking up. “No need, my lord.”
“Well, you don’t make it easy, I’ll say that.”
Gazing up then, Scorpius looked into Lord Thibault’s eyes. They twinkled with unspoken laughter. The young noble squeezed his hand again and let go, his body suddenly racked with coughing.
Passing him the only kerchief left – the one tucked in his own doublet – Scorpius watched as Lord Thibault checked the color of his spit. No blood.
The young noble looked at Scorpius with relief and gratitude so raw it made Scorpius uneasy. How hard it must be never to feel free to trust in anyone. He thought of how much he’d longed to leave Richolf to all of this nursing, but his master had known how it was for Lord Thibault.
“Shall I fetch you more broth, my lord?”
“As long as I may finish it this time.”
“The thing to remember is to get it into your mouth, my lord.”
Lord Thibault’s eyes widened, his lips opening to speak – but nothing came out. Scorpius couldn’t hold back a smile before he ducked out of the room for the kitchen.
© Julia Smith, 2011