My Scorpius serial is now joining The Serialists which moves my serialized fiction series to Wednesdays.
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.
Scorpius woke from a fitful haze as the cell door creaked open. His master’s uncle and the captain of the guard entered, fanning out to reveal a third member of their party.
Rising stiffly to his knees, Scorpius fought hard to erase any hint of his relief at the sight of Lord Thibault. Perhaps to make his struggle easier, his master strode forward, planted his foot on Scorpius’ chest and shoved, slamming him onto the stone floor.
Scorpius' grunt of surprise echoed in the cell. He sprawled onto his back, his master's foot pressing relentlessly into his ribs. "Enjoying my uncle's hospitality," Lord Thibault said, gazing down upon him.
If he hadn’t met his new master before now, Lord Thibault’s expression would have scattered his courage into the darkest corners of this cell.
“He looks well enough,” the young noble said. “Have him brought to my horse. I am bound for home.”
The captain bowed in a sweeping gesture, departing the cell with a backward glance at Scorpius. It made the hair on his body stand on end.
Glancing up at the uncle, he begged silently to be allowed to stay and serve him, as the noble had offered but Scorpius had refused. He must play his role until Lord Thibault could steer them free of these dangerous rapids. The older man caught his meaning and glanced quickly at the open cell door.
Lord Thibault shoved hard at Scorpius with his foot before removing it. “My father will be pleased to make your acquaintance.”
Scrambling to his knees, Scorpius bowed low and let the chilly damp set him to shivering.
“The poor fellow seems put off by your father, the duke,” said the uncle.
“It is not his intelligence I question, but his loyalties.” Lord Thibault sat upon the table, and Scorpius saw that his master had weakened himself with that display of aggression.
“Tricky, that,” his uncle said. “Your father expects you, then?”
“I doubt it. I made my way to you as soon as I made a prisoner of my captor.”
“Yes, I admit I was so very curious about that,” the noble said. “He seems a hard one to best.”
Once again, Scorpius’ chest flushed with pride at the uncle’s assessment of his strength and skill. Though it was laughable to think that an unschooled falconer’s apprentice could overpower the highly-trained son of a duke.
“Seems a waste to let your father break such a man,” said the uncle.
Scorpius’ blood chilled. His new master’s father filled him with foreboding. His heart beat quickened as he heard several footsteps making their rhythmic way along the corridor. Looking up as if in a panic towards the uncle, Scorpius saw the man pale slightly.
“Is there no way to take him off your hands?” the noble said. Gazing down into Scorpius’ eyes, the uncle’s pity reached across the cell, touching Scorpius so that his heart swelled with an irrational hope.
“I understand your feelings, uncle. I do. But we must see justice done.”
“Of course, you’re right,” the uncle said as the captain returned with another very large guard carrying a long rope.
“On your feet,” the captain barked, and in a blur Scorpius was hauled upright, his hands tugged forward by the brutish new guard and secured before him. Dragged forward, Scorpius stumbled until the corridor lightened and he was pushed from behind into the sunlight.
His new master took his leave from his uncle as the guard captain secured the long rope to the back of Lord Thibault’s saddle. Staring in dismay at the uncle, Scorpius’ stomach twisted when the older man couldn’t return his gaze.
Clucking at the horse, Lord Thibault set him to a walk, which propelled Scorpius forward, arms yanked so that his sore shoulders flared with new protests. Ignoring the stares and taunts of the people as they passed, Scorpius kept his gaze on the road before him. He dare not trip, for his new master would be obliged to drag him for a pace until he regained his feet.
© Julia Smith, 2011