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.
It was a blessing that Scorpius had taken to dancing so readily. Keeping one eye trained to the next figure in the promenade, while the other eye scanned the room--in particular the other dancers—was no small task.
No less distracting was the exotic beauty who’d obviously captured Lord Thibault’s notice. To his master’s credit, Lord Thibault spread his charmed responses equally among the assembled young ladies. Not even the fair-haired favorite of the dukessa and the chancellor could suspect what Scorpius knew with certainty.
By the time the night gave way to dawn and the guests made their yawning reverences to Lord Thibault and the dukessa, Scorpius bristled with the need for sleep. But there would be none, as Lord Thibault brushed past him briefly to conceal a murmured request.
Scorpius fought to conceal his expression, unable to prevent himself glancing through the crowd toward her.
The mysterious one’s retinue didn’t miss Scorpius’ interest. He saw how they reached subtly for their sword hilts.
Lord Thibault strode forward to take his delighted mother’s hands in his, bending his head to kiss her cheek and leaving Scorpius to devise a means of stopping the unknown beauty from departing. How was he to arrange a decidedly unofficial meeting with her, when her kinsmen never left her side?
Scorpius forced himself to walk toward them, still unsure of how he would phrase his master’s request. Yet he saw the men fan out slightly around their prize, standing as tall as they could, broadening their stances. He judged from their reaction to his approach that it was he who held the upper hand, and slowed his pace accordingly.
Once he stood before the mysterious one, Scorpius felt the pull of her allure like a lethal undertow. He quickly dropped his gaze, unwilling to look into those violet eyes. Taking her hand in his, he bowed and kissed her knuckles.
“My Lord Thibault requests that you stroll with me into the garden,” Scorpius said. “He regrets that the evening sped by so quickly that he was unable to get to know you…better.”
The young lady curtsied to him with an aggressive movement unlike any other lady present. Her guard also bowed quickly to him. Imagine it. As easy as that.
Striding toward a far doorway, leaving his master to chuckle and quip with the last of the departing guests, Scorpius led the exotic beauty and her kinsmen into the dew-chilled air. The sky lightened in gray warning.
Their steps echoed on the empty flagstones, their path twisting farther into the recesses of the garden. Scorpius ignored the tightness in his gut as he wiped the stone bench dry. The mysterious one settled herself to wait, which wasn’t long.
When Lord Thibault arrived, Scorpius and her retinue stepped into the shadows with one accord. Glancing back at his master, Scorpius’s breath caught in his chest as he saw Lord Thibault’s hands slip the young lady’s headpiece and scarf aside.
Tumbling free, the mysterious one’s hair wasn’t simply dark, or fiery, or fair as Scorpius had longed to discover. No, her locks fell in black and white stripes such as he had never seen before.
Turning to the men surrounding him, he saw now that each one also hid his hair beneath a scarf and cap. In their gazes Scorpius saw ferocious pride in the secret he now held about them.
The young lady returned Lord Thibault’s kisses and embraces with matching ardour. Scorpius hoped his master knew what he was doing. Wordlessly, Scorpius raised one finger to his eye and then swept his hand toward the estate grounds.
The men turned and kept watch while Scorpius kept his eye on Lord Thibault and his lady. It would be hours yet before Scorpius saw his bed, and even then, how would he rest when this was where his master determined to lead them?
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2011