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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.
Reaching up, the chancellor pulled his hat free from his head, revealing stubbly growth instead of full locks of hair. Scorpius’ pulse quickened in alarm that the duke’s advisor should perform a gesture of deference before him. Turning swiftly to be certain there was no one approaching, Scorpius rounded on the chancellor, whose head remained bowed as he stared at the ground between them.
In the growing light, the striped hair pattern of the Sibiu people showed even in the closely cropped stubble emerging to spill its secrets.
It was all Scorpius could do to stifle the gasp that choked him. “You, my lord,” he said.
The chancellor’s gaze lifted to bore into Scorpius’ own.
“You approved her name on the guest list,” Scorpius said.
“It’s time to take chances,” the chancellor said as if begging forgiveness.
Scorpius turned and covered his mouth with his hand, as if the tumult of questions inside him threatened to spill out like a bout of sickness. He felt the chancellor close the gap between them. Scorpius’ skin prickled at keeping his back turned to such a noble, but turning now would force him to graze the chancellor’s body. He straightened instead.
The years since he was a small boy, newly arrived at the falconer’s as his apprentice, fell away as Scorpius recalled what had happened to his former master. Richolf had been witness to secrets over which the nobles were only too willing to kill one another. Possessing those secrets had led to screams, nightmares and wounds that never healed.
Now Scorpius knew that the chancellor belonged to the Sibiu people. His body trembled as he stood with the noble a hair’s breadth behind him. His hand still stung from the cut the chancellor had given him upon awakening.
“It’s only fair that you should know something about me,” the noble said. “For I know something about you. Something that could change your life in ways you once only dreamed of.”
Scorpius’ heart beat so fast he felt unsteady. “My lord,” he whispered.
“The young lady whose approval has been given by the dukessa and myself is from a well-placed family to the north, whose grandsire will be arriving shortly to collect her. And to make arrangements if the duke so desires to make an alliance between their houses.”
It was hard for Scorpius to concentrate on the chancellor’s words when his pulse surged so loudly in his ears.
“I will arrange for you to attend me when the duke holds audience with her grandsire,” said the chancellor. “It is crucial that you see for yourself what sort of family this man represents.”
Did he mean for Scorpius to scout the terrain between the noble houses on behalf of his master Lord Thibault? Or did he mean what Scorpius’ pounding heartbeat suggested?
“All families have faces they show to the world, and faces they protect. Injured sides, shameful sides, monstrous sides. Some families have mysteries, never solved. Until someone uncovers just the right shape to solve the puzzle.”
The chancellor stepped around Scorpius to stand before him. “You will report to me regarding your master’s involvement with the Sibiu, and in return I will ensure you’re in the drawing room when the lady's grandsire arrives. Agreed?”
Bowing and sweeping a hand toward his heart in reverence, Scorpius said, “Agreed, my lord.” He remained bowed until the chancellor placed his hat once more upon his head, turned and strode back toward the gardens.
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2011