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.
Scorpius’ sharp cry ricocheted through the stone gallery, his hand pinned by the sword master’s boot, the pommel grinding his knuckles into the floor.
A kick to his leg knocked his feet from under him. Slamming to the ground, he lost his hold upon the sword. An iron grip encircled his throat, choking him, just as the merciless tip of a blade hovered over his eye.
All he could do was stare down the length of steel into the swordmaster’s cool gaze.
With a grunt, the older man thrust Scorpius from him and stalked away. Pressing hard against the wall for support, Scorpius bent, coughing. Sweat rolled into his eyes.
With barely enough time to lift his head, Scorpius saw the swordmaster bearing down on him, weapon raised over his head. A chill gripped Scorpius’ limbs. But in two strides the man was upon him. All he could do was roll and scramble to his feet, his sword lying too far away.
The other man whirled to keep Scorpius in his sights, already lunging forward, his long blade blocking Scorpius' escape route. So he dove under it, sliding along the smooth floor, rolling once more towards his blade.
Scorpius was sure he heard a curse as he scooped up the pommel and regained his feet. A surge of purpose burst up through his chest, clearing his head so that he had the chance to think, though his body moved with all the speed he could muster.
Just in time, Scorpius braced himself with both hands on the pommel. The swordmaster brought his blade down in a bone-jarring arc, the steel ringing in the gallery. Laboring hard to meet the man’s powerful blows, Scorpius gave ground, stepping carefully backward, trying to stay free of the wall.
Panting hard, Scorpius blinked against the sweat but dare not let go of the pommel. The swordmaster suddenly charged forward, pulling back when Scorpius moved to parry. With a lunge and a twist, the older man threw Scorpius down at his feet, knocking the wind from his chest.
Gasping at the painful pressure in his lungs, Scorpius watched the swordmaster kick his sword away for a second time, until the breath burned back into him. Once again he lay pinned beneath the older man’s boot.
The only thing he could do was return the swordmaster’s gaze. But this time, the cool stare warmed into a spark of respect.
The older man dipped his head in salute, lifting his foot from Scorpius’ chest, bending to offer a hand of assistance.
Scorpius rose just as his master, Lord Thibault crossed the gallery to join them.
“A falconer’s boy, you say?” the swordmaster said.
“Yes, sir.” Scorpius still gripped his weapon as though the other man might press on with more training. But his master arrived instead, to give him a hearty swat on the back.
“I told you he’d be worth the trouble,” Lord Thibault said, his smile wide.
“He’s got size, and he’s got speed. Often there is one but not the other.” The swordmaster looked Scorpius up and down, which only served to make him draw up as tall as he could.
“If he is to serve me, he must protect me,” his master said, addressing the older man but looking at Scorpius.
“He is accustomed to serving birds of prey, my lord. They have taught him to read the lay of the land, to move with assurance, to be ready.”
The swordmaster closed the distance between himself and Scorpius, coming nose to nose, which forced him to look up slightly. But he remained just as intimidating. “You are used to letting the birds do the killing. Do you have what it takes?”
Scorpius glanced over at his master, who watched with a slight air of uncertainty. Though the swordmaster’s rank was a servant of this noble house, in the matter of whether he would agree to train Scorpius, it appeared Lord Thibault was prepared to defer to the man who ruled in this domain.
He didn’t know how the idea came to him. But when it struck Scorpius, he knew he must carry it through.
Without warning, Scorpius thrust the pommel of his sword up and out, clipping the swordmaster on the chin, putting the older man off-balance. Scorpius charged forward, using his superior weight to pin the man to the floor.
He was just maneuvering his blade to hold it across the swordmaster’s throat, when the older man grabbed Scorpius’ arm, thrust hard to the side and rolled them both over. The swordmaster was like a snake, wrapped tightly around Scorpius’ arms and legs.
A sharp blow to his arm forced his numbed hand to drop the blade. A knee to his gut forced a cry from him.
For a brief instant, Scorpius saw the fierce glow of the kill flash through the swordmaster’s eyes. But it passed just as quickly.
The intense pressure eased off, and the older man released him, gazing down with the slightest suggestion of admiration. “That’s a start,” he said.
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2011