I'm now 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, bringing Scorpius into the service of Lord Thibault's noble house.
We now continue with Scorpius at age nineteen.
You can follow the progress of this story arc by clicking on the Works in Progress link just under the blog header.
Scorpius readied himself to follow Lord Thibault as two slaves drew open the ornate doors leading to the dukessa's drawing room. The slightest of movements caught his eye, and he halted, grip ready upon his sword.
It was no rival intent on striking down his master on his mother’s doorstep. The duke’s chancellor nodded quietly from the shadows, summoning Scorpius with the merest flick of his head.
Meeting Lord Thibault’s questioning gaze, Scorpius took a step back and bowed his apologies as his master was swept forward into his mother’s drawing room, doors closing behind him.
Striding across the corridor, Scorpius joined the chancellor who ducked into a hidden doorway. Keeping pace with the duke’s advisor, Scorpius moved along the dim servants’ passageway, dodging staff going swiftly about their business.
They did not speak until they entered the chancellor’s private offices. No slaves here to open doors, so once the older man made his way to the desk, Scorpius turned and shut the doors behind him.
“Please sit down,” the chancellor said.
The tiniest worm of dread started up inside Scorpius’ gut. Still, he made his way to the chair across from the desk and sat as if he had nothing to worry about.
“The dukessa is delivering news your master will not welcome, I’m afraid,” the chancellor said.
The older man fought a smile, which calmed the swirling in Scorpius’ chest. Forcing his limbs to affect an ease he did not feel, Scorpius said, “He can withstand it, I am sure, my lord Chancellor.”
“The dukessa will inform him that she has a stable of beauties handpicked for Lord Thibault’s perusal, beginning with this coming season,” the chancellor said.
Scorpius thought of his master, how he’d left the latest girl’s arms only hours before. “My master won’t take such an order very gracefully, I’m afraid.”
“No. But there is something that will soften the blow for my young lord. Do see that he gets this.” The chancellor leaned forward and passed a small folded note into Scorpius’ hand.
“What is it I'm safeguarding?” Scorpius asked, which was his right as Lord Thibault's man.
“It’s a list of courtesans.”
Scorpius’ skin prickled with warning. “Courtesans.”
“The very best.” The chancellor smiled a generous smile, as though he could speak from experience.
Tucking the note into his jerkin, Scorpius reminded himself to smile back. “I’ll see that he gets it.”
“If we let the dukessa match make as she pleases, she’ll be content for a time, and Lord Thibault can find his own love match from among my contacts.”
“Can he not search for someone whose name makes neither list, my lord Chancellor?”
Again, a broad smile. “I know he’s often done so. I’ve gathered just that sort of information in order to match his preferences to my list.”
Scorpius thought of the slaves they’d bedded last night. Did they report to the chancellor? Or was it the older woman who’d stayed on her mat?
“Nothing escapes your notice, does it, my lord chancellor?”
The older man’s smile dimmed, but in a thoughtful manner, sizing up Scorpius as if in a new light. “It is my life’s work to take note of most everything,” he said.
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2011