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 squeezed the dukessa’s dragon ring once more for courage.
Then an idea struck.
“I cannot speak for my master,” Scorpius said to the leader. “I can only speak for myself. If you will retrieve my ring, I’ll leave it with you as ransom for the proposal set forth by my master. When your business with him is done, I will retrieve it. If you are agreeable.”
The leader looked again to his trusted aide. At a signal between them, the aide broke away and closed the distance between himself and Scorpius.
Straightening his hand as best he could in the circumstances, Scorpius felt the Sibian take hold of the ring and pull. A surprising sense of loss coursed through him.
As though the Sibian felt it, too, the fighter gasped as if he’d been run through with a blade. For a breathless moment, Scorpius was certain they all could hear the way his heart pounded.
The aide backed away from him, holding the ring as though it were made of jagged glass. He crossed the clearing to present the ring to their leader, who took hold of it with wary fascination.
In a hushed tone, he spoke a single word in the Sibian language.
The band of fighters repeated his whispered word, shrinking back from Scorpius as though licked by fire.
What was going on? He fought for breath, hands straining against the bonds behind his back.
The leader and his aide bent their heads together in frantic debate. Scorpius watched as the rest of the band grew pale, their haunted gazes raking him with dread.
When the aide bolted away into the shadows, Scorpius felt the undercurrent of alarm among the men rise even higher. His fingers reflexively reached for the ring he’d just offered as surety.
Grumpy bleating and tingling bells announced the arrival of a modest herd of animals. The aide drove them through the pass to an open ridge. As he moved the animals into position, the lead Sibian approached his men, holding the ring high.
In a grave tone, he spoke to them in their own tongue. Scorpius saw the men bow their heads, all save one, who looked directly at him. Using every scrap of courage he possessed, Scorpius met this man’s gaze.
The Sibian looked back at the ring, then up at the sky as though listening for the whoosh of those leathery wings. Then he bowed deeply before the leader, touching his lips to the ring before heading to the ridge to stand among the herd.
The aide passed him on his way back to join the others. He stopped and they embraced for a long moment.
When the aide’s knife plunged into the other man’s back, Scorpius’ blood ran cold.
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2012