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.
“Do you dance?”
“No…” Scorpius stumbled over what to call the chancellor. Why, oh why did Lord Thibault neglect to mention these little details before abandoning him here in the duke’s drawing room? “No, sir,” he said, certain that wasn’t right.
A fleeting smile grazed the chancellor’s lips. “ ’No, my lord’.”
Scorpius bowed slightly, face flushing hot. “No, my lord.”
The chancellor moved closer, so discreetly that Scorpius started. “Your former master, the falconer, never took you to a fête?”
The chancellor folded his arms across his chest. “How many dinner guests would you suppose attended your largest dinner party?”
Scorpius thought back to the outdoor lunch they’d enjoyed in the forest – Richolf, Ingerith, Alegreza and himself. Where were they, now? “Just three, my lord.”
“Three, including yourself?”
“Four, my lord.” Scorpius shifted his body slightly to keep this man in his sights. He felt like he was circling the sword master.
“Do you ride?”
There was no point in puffing himself up. This chancellor would see through that in a blink. “Not well. Just enough to keep from falling off, really, my lord.”
Again, the barest of smiles. “What did Lord Thibault tell you when he brought you here?”
“That I would be his man, my lord.” Scorpius drew himself up, daring to look into the chancellor’s eyes. He hadn’t the slightest idea if it was forbidden. But a lord’s man must be bold.
“Do you even have a suspicion as to what that entails?” The chancellor gazed at him with a strange mixture of hope and disdain.
A jumble of memories crowded Scorpius' mind. The nobles who’d come to the falconer’s cottage for the hunt, some with a retinue of courtiers, some with harsh words and blows, some with laughter and wineskins. The depravity of the nightmare hunt chilled him now, recalling how they’d all served Lord Dirske, no matter how wretched it had felt to do so.
“I do, my lord.”
The chancellor turned and walked towards the ornate desk. “The duke has doubts that you are up to the task.” He turned and regarded Scorpius, the hint of kindness in his eyes giving Scorpius the heart to press on.
“The falconer fetched me from the nursery, my lord.”
Eyebrows raising only slightly, the chancellor said, “Did he?”
“While I was a small boy, I was treated as a noble. After that, I was trained to serve them.” He shrugged at the oddity of his own life.
“As Lord Thibault’s man, you will need to ride,” the chancellor said. “You will need to wield a blade. You will need to do both things better than he does. You must protect him at every hour of the day. You cannot leave his side for long. You must attend the same dinners, cut figures at the same dances.”
Closing the distance between them, the chancellor looked deeply for something as he gazed for several moments upon Scorpius. “The duke has doubts about you.”
Scorpius bristled inside. The duke had barely glanced at him. Richolf had trusted him. Richolf had saved him from turning into…only the gods knew.
He felt the outrage flowing through him. The chancellor nodded, as if engaged in an internal conversation.
“I do not,” he said. “You will be trained, and Lord Thibault will have his man.” Turning away, the chancellor slipped into the shadows of the vast drawing room, just as Scorpius noticed the double doors swinging open behind him, as if by some silent command.
Though apparently gone, Scorpius felt he had to acknowledge the man whose opinion had been the deciding factor. “My lord,” he said, bowing smartly to thin air. Then he turned and left the drawing room behind, nearly failing to nod at the servants standing at each side of the doorway.
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2011