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.
Rising stiffly to his knees, arms still wrenched behind him by the iron shackles, Scorpius glanced up into the eyes of the noble.
He was a heartbeat away from lowering his gaze. Serving such men at the hunt demanded it. But quick as a whip crack came Lord Thibault’s words through his mind: “They will not believe your master was the falconer.”
He saw clearly in his mind how the courtiers had sat there glaring, even chained to the hitching posts, even with bruises and swollen lips. The guard detachment had dealt them a bitter taste as to what they could expect, once it came time to answer for their assassination attempt upon his new master. But it had not altered their demeanor in the slightest. They’d not hung their heads nor cowered nor looked away.
So Scorpius wrestled down Richolf’s training to return the nobleman’s stare as though he had a right to do it. After all, hadn’t his former master fetched him from the nursery? Scorpius had been raised to be a little lord himself until the falconer had arrived, providing him with the sanctuary of life out at their cottage.
“Name,” the guard said.
Maintaining eye contact with the noble, as if it were beneath him to address a guard, he said, “Scorpius.”
“Your master,” the guard continued.
Scorpius turned his gaze toward him this time – and his breath hitched in his chest. It was the captain who’d ridden around the bend towards the cottage with the detachment, the same man who’d ordered the guard to dig the arrowhead from Lord Thibault’s shoulder. He’d seen Scorpius at the falconer’s cottage with his own eyes.
Blinking rapidly, Scorpius forced himself to trust in what his new master had said: “They will not believe your master was the falconer.” If that were the case, the guard captain could think as he liked. He looked away from the captain who’d carried himself like a prince that day, once again addressing only the noble. “I have none,” he said as dismissively as he could.
“All men have masters,” the lord said, his deep silky voice suited to a castle’s great hall and not this dank cell. His mouth turned up in a wry smile. "Even I have masters.”
The captain moved slowly to circle behind Scorpius. “You’re a mercenary, then.”
“No.” He’d almost said No, sir. “No, no mercenary.”
Yanking Scorpius’ head back hard, the captain said, “How much did they pay you?”
Turning his alarm into outrage, Scorpius stared down the noble and said nothing. These men no doubt assumed that eventually they would get what they wanted from him. Whether they believed he was a noble or a servant, it was held to be a truth that every man had his breaking point.
Yet Scorpius’ former master had been put to the question and had never broken.
True, his body held the scars that had given Lord Thibault the ammunition he’d needed for his current attempt to right an old wrong. It was also true that Richolf still woke in the night, shrieking and sweating, even all these years later.
But Richolf had survived their torments without giving up the information for which they’d pressed. Perhaps that is why Scorpius was able to meet the quizzical stare of the noble, even as the captain’s fingers pulled cruelly at his hair.
He knew it was possible to survive whatever these men had planned for him. He knew it, and they did not. Yes, he trembled – who would not, after the day he’d spent in chains? Yes, his stomach flipped with dread – if he did not fear what lay in store for him, having treated his former master’s wounds himself, he would not be in control of his senses.
“Come, come,” the noble said suddenly, addressing the captain and flicking his head toward the stool. “Let us not distress our guest.”
Hoisting Scorpius to his feet, the captain dragged him forward to sit roughly upon the stool. How he wished the captain would not stand behind him like that.
The noble rose from his chair to approach Scorpius. Taking deep breaths, Scorpius fought to ignore the way his heart hammered so loudly. In the few short steps it would take to reach him, the lord meant to unravel what his former master had suffered so much to give him.
Clenching his bound fists behind him, Scorpius held his head high, staring hard at the wall in the distance. Whatever they meant to ask him, he did not know the answers. It was just a matter of endurance.
“Why should you care about my master, my lord?” he’d asked Lord Thibault, when they’d still sat upon his horse in safety, on the edge of the estate. “What is he to you?”
“It is not what he means to me,” his new master had cautioned, “but what he means to you that concerns me. You will need to hold onto that dearly.”
In the damp echoing cell, Scorpius filled his mind with the memory of Richolf and held onto it. Richolf had endured. He would show Scorpius how to do the same.
© Julia Smith, 2011