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.
Lord Thibault’s weight dragged upon Scorpius’ shoulders, and upon his master’s, also. Every movement sounded so very loud in the stillness of night, but they kept onward all the same.
They could not afford a light, but Richolf’s years in these woods made their path clear. Stopping so the noble could rest every so often, they picked their way past branches and over stumps until Scorpius heard Lord Thibault’s mount jingling his tack in the darkness.
A wash of relief spread through Scorpius’ chest once they’d hoisted the noble into the saddle. He tried to look at Richolf through the gloom, but only his form stood out from the night woods.
“Scorpius,” Lord Thibault whispered.
He moved close to the horse, standing beside the noble’s boot snug in the stirrup. Realizing Lord Thibault was tapping the saddlebag, Scorpius’ fingers slid along the leather until he found the buckle. Unfastening it as quietly as he could, he reached into the deep pouch until his hand bumped against a cloth sack. He pulled its heavy weight up out of the saddlebag and moved to hand it to Lord Thibault.
The young noble wrapped his hands around Scorpius’. Looking up to see Lord Thibault’s silhouette against the trees, he heard the command to pass the sack of coins over to Richolf. But his heart started to pound with frightening insistence.
Dizzy with dread that pierced him like the killing talons of their falcons, Scorpius stumbled forward until Richolf stepped in front of him. His master’s familiar, weathered hands covered Scorpius’, helping him to withstand the burden of the coins for a long moment.
Tears burned down Scorpius’ face as Richolf took the sack and set it on the ground. Grabbing Scorpius by the arm to steady him, Richolf turned and Scorpius followed until they both stood beside Lord Thibault astride his stallion.
“My family is grateful for your service, falconer,” the noble said in a voice still weak with pain.
Richolf bowed even though it was so dark. “My lord.”
“We would not see you suffer on my behalf. Those who would have killed me here will send others to make you pay for their failure.”
Richolf took a deep breath, then said, his voice breaking, “I understand, my lord.”
Scorpius felt sick. He could hardly get his breath.
“He will come with me,” Lord Thibault said, as if Scorpius was not right there. “I cannot afford to lose him.”
It took a moment for Richolf to force the words out. “As you will, my lord.”
“Master,” Scorpius whispered. If only he could see Richolf’s face.
Strong arms wrapped around him. Scorpius grabbed hold of Richolf as if his embrace could stop this from happening.
“Take care, Scorpius,” Richolf said, stepping back, still holding him by the arms. “Promise me.”
“Where will you go?” Scorpius said, his voice thick with the sobs that were far too dangerous for this night.
His master grabbed hold of his face and kissed him hard on the forehead. “I will send word when I can. When it is safe enough.”
Scorpius trembled. This couldn’t be happening. But Richolf released him, bent to scoop up the sack of coins and disappeared into the black arms of the forest.
Gazing over to see the patient form of Lord Thibault upon his horse, Scorpius fought the urge to knock the young noble to the ground, wishing with all of his might that this lord had never ridden around the curve of the road that led to the home Scorpius had shared with Richolf for a decade.
It wasn’t too late. He could run after Richolf. The two of them could find another place for themselves, a place far away from all of the murderous games these nobles played, not caring whom they eliminated along the way.
He listened closely, but the forest was still. No sign of his master, nor which direction he’d taken.
There was only Lord Thibault, the memory of the weight of him Scorpius still recalled as he'd dragged the young noble to safety beneath the rock ledge and the roots of the ancient tree. The hair on the back of Scorpius’ neck prickled as he remembered the shrieks Lord Thibault had made as the arrowhead was dug out of his shoulder. Scorpius flexed his fingers, almost feeling the knife handle he’d gripped, ready to use it when Ingerith slid through the window with a healing draft for this young noble.
Swiping the tears away, Scorpius strode forward, taking his new master’s outstretched hand to haul himself up onto the horse. With silent signals between stallion and rider, Lord Thibault turned them away from the falconer’s wood, plunging deeper into the forest.