Once again, I'm posting only with The Serialists this week, which appears on Wednesdays. This time, a mega migraine has cost me time on the computer, starting from last Saturday and continuing on its merry way. SO very ready to bid adieu.
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 strode briskly through the servants’ entrance and into the warm afternoon. He’d been summoned to meet Lord Thibault at the stables, which likely meant a wild ride before dinner.
Still barely more than a novice when it came to riding, Scorpius deeply wished he’d somehow found the time to go out on his own before being called to accompany his skilled master. With all of the weapons training, learning his way around the vast estate, meeting all of the family members, staff and servants, Scorpius barely had time to blink. He’d never found that elusive moment, never placed his boot in the stirrup, because truth be known, he wished he never had to mount another horse.
A boyhood spent among the hawks and hunting dogs had given him a strong rapport with animals. He could read the behavior of the powerful stallions his master favored.
They sensed his unease around them, and since no horse respected a timid rider, every mount he’d been given fought his commands that weren’t commands at all. As Scorpius neared the stables, his stomach knotted up inside.
Could today not have been a dancing day? He was a quick study in the music room, much to Lord Thibault’s teasing delight.
The smells of the stables assaulted his nostrils as he entered through the wide doorway. At the far end, leaning against a post, his master gazed affectionately down at something squirming in the hay, just beyond the stall divider.
Forcing himself to join his master, taking care not to allow his distaste for riding show on his face or in his demeanor, Scorpius rounded the post and nodded at Lord Thibault, glancing over at the straw and at what lay upon it.
For a moment, he didn’t understand the sharp, piercing joy flooding his chest. A moment later, Scorpius lay flattened by the weight of Richolf’s hunting dog. Wriggling in greeting, tongue licking every speck of exposed skin, the dog cried in happiness.
When he could wrestle his face clear of the dog, Scorpius gazed at his master in wonder.
Lord Thibault laughed. “I sent someone out to check on the place. Apparently there’s a new falconer in residence. No need to worry over the birds. They’re being well taken care of.”
Scorpius wrapped his arms around the dog and squeezed. He couldn’t contain the excited animal, which set to work licking his face and ear with renewed vigor. “But how did you…?”
“I simply sent a reminder that the dog belonged not to the cottage, but to the man who previously held the position there,” Lord Thibault said.
“Is that true?” Scorpius asked, leaning his face into the familiar softness of the dog’s fur.
“I haven’t the slightest idea, but that’s what the servant told him.”
Scorpius laughed, falling backwards into the hay under the onslaught of the dog’s attentions.
A bed was made for the dog. Some food was found. Scorpius tore himself away to accompany his master to dinner in the great hall.
But late in the night, when he tossed and turned upon the smooth sheets, Scorpius made up his mind to rejoin his beloved companion even it he was forbidden entry to the manor house. He crept past Lord Thibault’s rhythmic breathing, navigated the polished floors in stocking feet and hurried out of the entry way as though duty compelled him.
Curling up in the hay beside his dog, Scorpius fell into the deepest sleep he could recall in years.
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2011