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.
Whipping around to keep his sights on the rest of the Sibiu, Scorpius prepared himself for a fight.
He found only men standing with bowed head, their lips moving in prayer.
Looking back to see the aide pulling his knife free of his kinsman’s back, Scorpius’ heart raced as he made ready to flee. But the Sibiu weren’t as distracted as he’d hoped.
Strong hands took hold of his bound arms and held him in place. He knew it was useless to struggle, but he couldn’t stop himself from wrestling against their grip.
The man who’d been stabbed started to sag slightly in the arms of the aide. Perhaps sensing the suffering of the one in their midst, the animals in the herd shifted and bleated uneasily.
Adding to the sense that the very ground beneath Scorpius’ feet had turned to sand, an eerie tune filtered skyward. Craning his neck to stare, Scorpius saw several of the Sibiu blowing into carved wooden pipe instruments. The hair on the back of his neck rose at the sound of the music, at the cries of the herd and the gasping of the stabbed man.
Dragging him so that Scorpius stumbled backward, the Sibiu forced him down onto his face, pressed close to the sheer rock of the mountain pass. Joining him as near as they could, the Sibiu who held him fast ducked their heads low and continued to pray.
At first it was so distant, he thought he imagined it.
But it was a thing to haunt one’s dreams, as it had done for most of his life. Ever since that horrifying day when he still lived at the nursery, the day his little friend had not rolled quickly enough under the hole in the fence. The smell of her burning flesh, her screech of agony, the sound of the leathery wings gliding overhead had never left him.
When Richolf had come for Scorpius, when he was still a young boy, it had flown overhead as he’d tried to make his way to the Pillar Rock. His former master had rolled him beneath a rock ledge just as these Sibiu were doing now.
Over the rising din of the animals, which scattered and ran in circles as they failed to find a route off the ridge, Scorpius heard it now. The Sibiu kept playing their pipes and praying, but the sickening sound of the enormous wings seized hold of him, leaving him frozen with dread.
Scorpius would have given anything—anything—to be spared the sight and sound and smell of this. Trembling with fear, he could only watch as the aide kissed the dying man’s forehead, then broke their embrace and ran as fast as anyone Scorpius had ever seen. The herd ran frantically with him, their eyes white with terror.
But the dragon swooped low, its size and speed too great for those on the ground. The running man dove to the edge of the ridge and disappeared from view just as the man he’d left behind finally sagged in a heap upon the smooth rock.
An intense blast of heat lit the mountain pass. Wind raced ahead of the dragon’s fire, whipping Scorpius’ hair into his eyes, stealing the breath from his lungs.
The piped music, the bleating, the praying, the scream of the stabbed Sibian all fell away under the deafening roar from that scaly throat.
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2012