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.
With trembling fingers, Scorpius reached inside his jerkin to pull out a patterned cloth. He passed it to Lord Thibault, who saw the shaking and placed his hand upon Scorpius' for a moment, to steady him.
Scorpius looked into his master's eyes to see dread rising close to the surface. It seemed it was Lord Thibault who needed reassurance.
With a rough squeeze, his master released his hand. "I did tell you not to leave the Sibiu unless you'd secured an answer."
Nodding wearily, Scorpius said, "You did, my lord."
Lord Thibault squeezed the scrap of cloth as though it were someone's neck. "Of course, I may have left out the caveat concerning dragons."
"That's not all you failed to mention." A burst of anger rose in Scorpius' chest, forcing him to turn away from his master.
Closing the distance between them, Lord Thibault stood in silence until Scorpius' skin crawled. Still, he could not force himself to speak, to say words he did not mean.
"You remember what I told you that morning, before we sought shelter with my uncle," his master said.
"I remember it all, my lord."
"Is it now the duty of a duke's son to beg the pardon of his servant?"
Burning anger turned quickly to a sickening chill in the pit of his stomach. Still, Scorpius could not make himself speak.
"It has ever fallen to nobles to send men to their deaths, if need be," Lord Thibault said. "To ask them to suffer, even when they don't understand what they're suffering for."
"You've claimed your birthright, then." Scorpius half turned, but could not face Lord Thibault. Not if he wanted to spare his master the shock of a fist to the jaw.
"Dashed it to pieces, you mean." His master circled around to stand before him. He held up the wrinkled cloth for both of them to see. "You have brought me the keys to the destruction of the House of Pruzhnino. If I had told you this, would you have delivered the scroll to the Sibiu?"
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2012