The 99-cent December Book Blowout Event continues!
My debut Dark Ages vampire novel SAINT SANGUINUS is proudly taking part in this exciting month-long e-book sale.
Browse through 11 genres by 100 independent authors
For more information,
CLICK HERE to visit the BOOK LOVERS BUFFET
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.
"I forget sometimes," his master said. "It seems odd you should be unaware of certain things."
They'd ridden hard over rough terrain. Both Lord Thibault and Scorpius worked to catch their breath as their mounts walked off the exertion.
"Do you mean to say that not even the chancellor has let you in on the rather more sensitive aspects of our glorious House?"
"He's told me some things, my lord." In truth, Scorpius could count on one hand the number of things about which the chancellor had informed him, but no matter.
"But not about the Sibiu."
Scorpius looked closely at his master. Lord Thibault showed no sign that he concealed knowledge of their own chancellor belonging to such a fierce yet captivating people. Scorpius had played enough sessions at the gaming boards with Lord Thibault to know all of his master's tells.
"And I suppose you didn't have much contact with them, out at the falconer's cottage," Lord Thibault said.
"None, my lord. Where do their lands lie?"
"No one recalls." His master sent him a look that Scorpius found puzzling. Lord Thibault's air of perpetual bemusement had dimmed since the ball which his mother, the dukessa had thrown for him and his prospective brides.
It reminded Scorpius of that moment out on the hunting field several years earlier, just before the attempt on the young noble's life. Lord Thibault had dropped his air of jovial entitlement to reveal a knife-edged sense of purpose, as well as a willingness to cross barriers of rank without blinking.
"The Sibiu are a people who live everywhere and nowhere."
When he offered nothing further, Scorpius thought back to the jewels and gold, even coins worn as adornment by these people with no homeland. "They would not be welcomed easily into a noble house such as yours, my lord."
Instead of the wry laugh he was expecting, Scorpius was pinned once more by a glance from his master, laden with dangerous longing.
"We must be clear, Scorpius. We can never speak of her. Not where even one ear could hear us."
Bowing forward in the saddle, Scorpius said, "Yes, my lord."
Lord Thibault looked up and toward the west, until he spied something. Nodding to himself, his master reached into his doublet and withdrew a thin scroll tied up in a leather sleeve.
Reaching across to take it, a heavy warning dragged at Scorpius' heart.
"Do you see that pass in the hills, there?" his master said.
Raising his hand to the sun, Lord Thibault flicked his wrist back and forth until the broad metal cuff he wore glinted in a rhythmic pattern. It only took a few heart beats before an answering glint appeared along the shadowy pass in the distance.
"Deliver this to the man who will be waiting for you at the head of the pass."
Scorpius secreted the scroll inside a fold of his jerkin. His senses sharpened as he made ready to strike out for the meeting place, which his mount sensed. The animal raised its head and pricked its ears, tensing to be off.
"Whatever they say or do, you must not leave until he has given you an answer. Are we clear?" Lord Thibault's face was as grim as the morning before Scorpius was delivered to his master's uncle, as a prisoner,
"As you command, my lord." Digging in his heels, Scorpius rode off before the warning in his gut could overrule his obedience to his master.
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2011