My Scorpius serial is now joining The Serialists as well as continuing with the Weekend Writer's Retreat.
To recap this dark fantasy story so far:
As a small boy of seven, Scorpius was fetched from the nursery where he'd been raised to live among the nobility - fetched not by his family, but by a falconer to serve as his apprentice.
Scorpius soon learned that a close encounter with a dragon was preferable to the cruelties of the nobles he'd once hoped were family. His master did whatever he could to shield Scorpius from the world outside their cottage, but the falconer was merely a servant, when all was said and done.
An attempt on the life of a young noble while on a hunt sent the falconer and his apprentice on abruptly different paths.
We continue with Scorpius at age sixteen as he enters the service of Lord Thibault.
You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.
Pulling the reins taut, Lord Thibault stopped them at the edge of a hill overlooking a fortified estate. The approaching dawn revealed laborers already wading out into the fields, watched by overseers.
“I should have asked you this before,” the young noble said, his voice barely audible from weariness and caution.
Scorpius recoiled a little from Lord Thibault, releasing his hold upon him from his perch in the saddle. The sight of the masters keeping watchful eye over those serving in the field brought it all back to him – the screams that hung in the air of the nightmare hunt.
“There is something I must ask of you. Something very hard,” Lord Thibault said.
Scorpius’ lungs tightened with dread. But he remembered the weight of the coins this noble had delivered to Richolf, urging him to embrace life when it was in danger. So he took a deep breath and said, “Then ask it, my lord.”
The noble bowed his head for a long moment. Then he twisted back to gaze at Scorpius as far as his shoulder wound allowed. “This is my uncle’s estate. If we stop here before returning home, we can set events in motion that will see justice delivered for your master.”
“My lord?” The desire for revenge flared inside Scorpius’ chest. How swiftly it took flight, yet he hadn’t realized it even lived inside of him.
“This will take some days to reach fruition. Days you will find very hard.”
“Why should you care about my master, my lord? What is he to you?”
“It is not what he means to me, but what he means to you that concerns me. You will need to hold onto that dearly.”
Scorpius said nothing, so Lord Thibault continued.
“During my first visit to the falconry, I noticed a scar upon your master’s neck. It had a singular shape which I recognized.”
Scorpius knew it well. Only Ingerith’s intervention had healed such a vile piece of torn flesh.
“When I was a boy,” Lord Thibault said, “I was taken to the deepest corner of my uncle’s holdings. It was meant to toughen me, for one day I would be asked to put men to such torments in my turn.
“There was a demonstration of the question being put to an unfortunate fellow, and a grievous wound made that held the shape of the falconer’s scar. The man wielding the iron took special pride in fashioning his own tools. So I know who it was that tormented your master. And this knowledge gives me the missing proof for my own justice, proof I’ve sought out for most of my life.”
Perhaps Scorpius should have felt his blood chilling with fear at the thought that Lord Thibault had played a flawless hand. The young noble’s continued dismissal of Richolf in favor of Scorpius had pulled the veil over any hint of interest in the falconer and his telltale scar.
Perhaps he should have felt a chill. But for Scorpius, the memory of the coin bag’s weight as he passed it to his master fanned the embers burning in his heart. This noble could have sent Richolf into the darkness with nothing.
“What would you have me do, my lord?”
“It will be hard.”
“How long have you waited to find the scar upon my master?”
Lord Thibault looked across the fields at the estate. “Whatever you think 'hard' will be, the ‘hard’ I’m warning you about is far worse.”
“And yet you ask it of me.”
Birdsong filled the silence between them.
“My father knew that one day I would be called upon to send men to their deaths,” Lord Thibault said. “Or worse. To wish for death and not be granted that release. He schooled me to rule, and I did not shy away from his lessons.
"Yes, I am asking you to do this, Scorpius. A request, and not a command.
“I’m going to ride into my uncle’s courtyard, and if you’re still on the back of this horse I will present you as my prisoner. You will be the one who took me from the falconer’s field and held me on behalf of your master.
“They will not believe your master was the falconer. Fortunately for my purposes, you will not be able to answer any of their questions. This will make my version of what happened ring true.”
The burning rush through Scorpius’ veins gave way to icy fear. Lord Thibault was young, but he continued to play his hand with the sureness of a red-tail swooping low over the field.
“I will do as you ask, my lord,” he said, his voice trembling.
Lord Thibault’s head bowed quickly. The sounds of the morning could not drown out the sounds of his weeping.
© Julia Smith, 2011