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 sank down upon the hay, arms gathering up his dog as he closed his eyes against the graying sky. He hadn’t realized he’d slept until two booted feet stopped in the hay beside his head.
Instantly awake, he grabbed for his knife but only managed to cut his hand along the edge of the sword that had anticipated his move. When he heard the dog growl, Scorpius barked the command to stay, sick at the knowledge he may have delivered the animal’s death sentence.
But a chuckle soon dispelled that fear—only to replace it with the hair-prickling realization that these were the chancellor’s boots and sword.
“You only come out here when you’re troubled,” the chancellor said.
“My lord Chancellor,” Scorpius said, pulling himself to his knees.
“Bring the dog.” The older man turned and strode from stables, barely rustling the straw. Scorpius gazed over at his former master’s hunting dog, crouching at the ready but awaiting his signal. No wonder he ran to him when he needed solace. They understood each other.
Trotting to catch up, Scorpius pressed a kerchief to his hand to stop the bleeding.
“You have reason to be troubled,” the chancellor said when they were out of range of eyes or ears from the stables and storage huts.
Scorpius tried to form a way of saying why he’d done nothing but lay there all night staring into the gloom while his master slept soundly. But there was no way of doing so without betraying Lord Thibault’s trust. The only sound was their footsteps over the forested path as they made their way into the trees left unshaped by the gardeners.
Finally they came to a sheltered grove with an overturned tree that the chancellor sat upon. Scorpius stood before him with the dog at heel. A sense of dread warred with curiosity inside him.
“Your master has made no advances toward the young lady who showed interest at the ball.”
“He knows she meets with the dukessa’s approval, my Lord Chancellor. And yours.”
“Then why does he meet with the Sibian?”
Scorpius’ heart seemed to stop beating. Yet he took in a steadying breath. He must not falter before the chancellor. “Why do you think, my lord?”
The chancellor blinked and looked away. “This is most unexpected.”
The memory of the young lady’s edge of ferocity when compared to the other prospective brides brought a wry smile to Scorpius’ face. “It isn’t really, my lord.”
Training his gaze upon Scorpius, the chancellor’s own worry lined his face in a way Scorpius had never witnessed before. It flooded Scorpius with a desire to reassure the older man, though speaking for his master was folly.
“You have been very discreet,” the chancellor said. “I have merely been doing this longer than you have.”
Scorpius bowed in acknowledgment.
“You must tell me if you think your master intends to ask for her hand.”
“What would happen if he did?”
“Our kingdom and Sibiu have been at odds for twenty generations,” the chancellor said. “I don’t know why her name was approved for the guest list.”
“But who else approves it except you, my lord?”
Scorpius watched in fascination as the older man paled and looked away.
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2011