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.
Lord Thibault slid down from the saddle, unsteady on his feet. Scorpius rushed forward to offer assistance, but his master barked at him to stay put.
He turned away before Lord Thibault could see the outrage flaring inside of him, which only served to pull on his bound wrists.
“Take your rest,” his master ordered, fumbling at the saddlebags.
When Scorpius failed to move, Lord Thibault said, “Now!”
A painful weight wrapped around Scorpius’ heart. He sat on the side of the road, looking back the way they’d come, unwilling to entertain the thoughts that had been swirling inside of him for miles now. Staring at the rope that tied him to his master’s horse, he recalled the dark laughter of Lord Thibault’s uncle and the guard captain whenever they mentioned his master’s father.
The closer they’d come to the duke’s residence, the more remote Lord Thibault had become. Scorpius tested his bonds, but he’d been tied securely. He was weakened from forced standing in the sun, from not enough food or water, from the cold dampness of the cell where they’d bloodied and bruised him.
There must be a reason for such dread shown towards his master’s father. Though they’d been on the road for a good hour, still Lord Thibault paraded him as a captive, even here in this forest clearing under the watchful eyes of birds and forest creatures.
He clearly remembered the look in his new master’s eyes when he’d come to collect him from his uncle. Lord Thibault had shown a chilling side that Scorpius had never suspected could lurk inside the young noble whose life he’d saved, whom he’d nursed back to health, and who had sent his former master on his way not with a command but with a sack of coin.
As Lord Thibault’s footsteps neared, Scorpius moved to his knees and bowed his head. If his new master was turning out to be his father’s son, Scorpius had better start showing some proper deference. He didn’t expect the pit that formed in his gut at having to carve out this sinister new relationship. Where was the young noble he’d once laughed with, back at the forest pool in the falconer’s wood?
His master lowered himself to one knee and offered a wineskin to Scorpius’ lips. “Drink,” he said.
“Thank you, my lord,” Scorpius said, grateful for the dark liquid.
“I didn’t take you for such an ass,” Lord Thibault said in the barest of whispers.
Scorpius couldn’t help it. He looked directly into his master’s eyes as he drank.
He could have leaped and sung for joy. His true master stared back at him, even through the worry, fatigue and carefully-wrought persona.
Lord Thibault stood and took a long swig from the wineskin. Scorpius made sure to stare only at the road in front of him.
“We must go on this way, I’m afraid,” his new master said as quietly as possible. “My enemies will have spies following our journey. They watch us even now.”
Scorpius gazed out into the leafy shadows beyond the road. “How far, my lord?”
“We’ll be another few hours on the road.”
Taking a deep breath, Scorpius felt his aches rise up in protest. But he said only, “You seem unwell, my lord.”
His master remained silent for a long moment. “You ask me that, and me dragging you behind my horse?”
“Hardly dragging, my lord.”
“You must enter my father’s house a prisoner. But once behind closed doors, you shall be rewarded for your service to me, Scorpius. The spies will see what they were sent to see, but my father will welcome the man who restored his son.”
Scorpius couldn’t stop himself. “Please, my lord,” he said, forcing himself to keep his gaze averted. “Why do men speak of your father, the duke, with such fear?”
“Because my father is a tyrant and a brute,” Lord Thibault said, strolling back to the horse to climb into the saddle.
© Julia Smith, 2011