My Scorpius serial now posts on Tuesdays for Tuesday Serial.
I'm also posting with The Serialists which appears on 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 who must obey his own masters.
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.
For a moment, Scorpius remained in the corridor with the two servants who flanked the doors. The emotion from within the dukessa’s drawing room was too raw.
He tried to make eye contact with one of the lads. When the young footman resolutely averted his gaze, Scorpius wondered at his own role here. Was he not considered a servant? It seemed Lord Thibault’s father, the duke thought him nothing more than a stray dog.
“Scorpius? Where have you got to…?” Lord Thibault rounded the door, face wet with tears. He brightened as soon as he caught sight of Scorpius.
“Come and meet my mother,” he said, taking hold of Scorpius' shoulders to usher him forward into the dukessa’s presence.
Scorpius’ heart stuck in his chest at her shining beauty.
Lord Thibault’s mother sat upon a lounging sofa in a cloud of silks, surrounded by two girls and a boy, the youngest of whom raced forward to grab Scorpius by the hand, dragging him forward. Every face shone with tears.
As soon as the young boy released him, Scorpius made the same reverence to Lord Thibault’s mother as he’d made to the duke, bowing deeply, sweeping his arm to his heart.
“Mother, this is Scorpius. I would not be here standing before you, if it were not for him.”
Scorpius heard the tremble of emotion in his master’s voice. Stealing a glance at Lord Thibault, he saw the humbled gratitude which his master had dared not show his father. It made Scorpius’ face flush hot.
“Come closer,” the dukessa commanded. Scorpius’ skin prickled as he straightened and approached her.
“Closer,” she said, so he knelt before her. When she took hold of his face with delicate fingers and kissed the top of his head, Scorpius could not stop the gasp from escaping his lips.
Nearly bolting backwards, Scorpius regained his feet and took a step back, bowing his head.
The young boy wrapped his arm around Lord Thibault as the girls giggled at Scorpius. It was easier to glance at them than at the dukessa’s radiance.
“He will be my new man,” Lord Thibault said. Scorpius’ heart warmed at the pride in his master’s voice. It gave him the courage to look up, just as the dukessa’s dark-eyed gaze came to rest upon him once more.
Scorpius couldn’t shake the unsettling impression that this woman could somehow see through him, as though he were a veil. He saw understanding dawn in her eyes before he forced himself to look away.
“You must tell me everything,” she said.
Glancing at the children present, Scorpius wondered for a moment whether he should spare the grimmest of the details. But when he looked again at the dukessa, a part of him cautioned that she would somehow know whether he held anything back.
So he began at that moment when his former master, the falconer silently warned him from across the hunting field to run from the assassins. He watched as the boy’s face paled when Scorpius described how he’d hauled the injured Lord Thibault to safety beneath the rock ledge. The girls dissolved into tears as he told of the terrible removal of the arrowhead from their brother’s shoulder, while the dukessa wiped at her cheeks when he told of Ingerith’s risky visit, bringing the tonic that cured Lord Thibault of the wound fever.
When he got to the part when Lord Thibault passed the sack of coins to his former master, parting so suddenly in the night woods, Scorpius’ voice thickened and he couldn’t go on.
Lord Thibault placed his hand upon Scorpius’ shoulder. “He is a jewel among men, Mother.”
“If it was an easy thing to unearth such treasures, my darling, they would hold no worth. Agridha, please fetch my trinket box.”
The eldest girl crossed the room to retrieve a simple-looking wooden box from a drawer. Accepting it from her daughter, the dukessa opened the latch and lifted the lid.
Suddenly Scorpius realized that every eye was upon him.
A firm nudge from his master forced Scorpius to step forward, until he saw the ring laying in the dukessa’s outstretched palm.
© Julia Smith, 2011