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.
The chill that squeezed Scorpius’ guts splintered into icy clarity.
Before he dare let reason intrude, Scorpius burst forward to charge his master, taking him down in a breath-stealing crash. Too late, Lord Thibault fought to hang onto the scrap of Sibian cloth sent from the envoy in the secret mountain pass.
Scorpius had been bound, blindfolded, delivered to the Sibiu, charged with delivering a message whose contents he did not know and ordered not to return without an answer. He’d been thrown to the ground, threatened by men and blistered by the heat of the gliding leathery monster of his nightmares.
If the telltale patterned scrap of cloth sent by the Sibian commander--which had cost Scorpius dearly to retrieve--threatened the security of his master’s house, after all that he had been through...and his master, of all people, was the one to send him to fetch it...well, something snapped inside of Scorpius.
A sharp blow from his elbow numbed Lord Thibault’s fingers. Scorpius peeled the cloth free from his master’s grip, but Lord Thibault would not give up so easily.
Hurling himself in a roll forward, his master grabbed Scorpius’ legs to prevent his escape. Scorpius grunted as his chin hit the ground, but he kept hold of the scrap of cloth.
A flashing glance toward his master showed the chilling truth. Lord Thibault’s expression was the same one any adversary would see, just before the killing stroke slipped between unsuspecting ribs.
As cleanly as his former falcon master Richolf’s red tail hawk took down a game hen, Scorpius butted heads with his master, knocking Lord Thibault off balance just long enough for Scorpius to swipe the small dagger from its place at his hip.
Recovering, his master kicked up to wrap his legs around Scorpius’ hips, rolling him. There was no keeping hold of both the cloth and the dagger. As Scorpius’s face ground into the dirt, he loosened his grip on the cloth but tightened his fingers around the dagger hilt.
With all of his might, Scorpius tried to push the momentum farther than his master intended, but Lord Thibault had trained with the same sword master as he. For a crushing moment, Scorpius was immobilized.
Both of them panted for breath.
He knew his master would reach for the cloth. All he had to do was wait.
At the split second when he felt Lord Thibault’s weight shift, Scorpius made his move. Twisting hard to face up towards his master, Scorpius forced Lord Thibault’s attention away from the cloth. Planting his feet solidly against the ground, Scorpius bucked hard with his legs, pitching his master forward.
A mad scramble scattered dust and pebbles along with limbs, fists and feet. Scorpius dug in hard, pinning Lord Thibault’s head in a choke hold with his legs, locking one of his master’s arms awkwardly to the side. With his other hand he slid the dagger within a hairs-breadth of his master’s eye.
Lord Thibault stilled. “This is a death sentence,” he said.
Scorpius snorted wearily. “Bringing down your noble house would end in the same way for you.”
“I didn’t say I wanted to bring it down.”
“You said the cloth made way for the fall of the House of Pruzhnino.”
“I didn’t say that’s what I wanted,” his master said, his voice tight with pain.
“You don’t say it because I have a dagger in place to put out your eye.”
“Why should you care?” Lord Thibault’s voice rose with unaccustomed passion. “What possible difference does the Pruzhnino line make to you?”
“You ask that of me?" Scorpius said, his voice thick with emotion. "Me, with no father. No mother. Me, who only ever had Richolf, and you sent even him from me.”
“And yet you have served me. All these years, you have served me.”
“Do you think a falconer's boy had a choice?” Scorpius fought the rage that wanted to set him shaking. He concentrated on keeping the dagger tip still as Lord Thibault’s lashes blinked against it.
“What do you think that cloth represents?” his master said, pulling his gaze away from the blade to look deeply into Scorpius’ eyes. "That cloth is my choice. And she said yes."
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2012