I'm 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.
“You asked me to choose a bride,” Lord Thibault said.
The tension in the duke’s drawing room tightened like a wire noose embedding itself into Scorpius’ neck.
“Well, I have chosen her. She comes with a dowry of gold and jewels, but no land. Her people will deliver to the House of Pruzhnino a sceptre of power unparalleled among the kingdoms.”
The fervor burning in his master’s eyes held them all in its hypnotic sway. “Our House will be held highest in the annals of glory as the first of any generation to control the dragon.”
After a tomb-like silence, Scorpius being certain the duke could hear his nervous swallowing, Pruzhnino uncrossed his arms, making his way over the patterned carpet to stand before his son.
“Do they know of this choice of yours?” he said, so casually it made the hair on Scorpius’ neck stand on end.
Lord Thibault drew himself up tall before his father, only the clenching of his jaw giving himself away. “I am your son, Your Grace,” he said, inclining his head warily. “I seek permission to join this House with another.”
When his words failed to provoke a blow, Scorpius’ master raised his head to meet his father’s gaze. “It’s true--I beg you to consider that which has never before been attempted. And yet, Father, I would have this union arranged in accordance with our customs.”
Scorpius’ heart seized tight in his chest as Pruzhnino’s expression darkened. The ornate drawing room seemed only a heartbeat away from igniting in the shrieking flames of that mountain pass, among the Sibiu.
“There is a reason that no other noble house has attempted a union with the Sibiu,” the chancellor said in his calming tone.
Unable to stop himself from glancing at the man who’d revealed to Scorpius his secret Sibian heritage, he saw that the chancellor took note of Scorpius’ attempts to sidle unnoticed closer and closer to the confiscated swords atop the duke’s desk.
“A formal one, you mean,” Pruzhnino said. “There isn’t one noble line without its Sibian bastard.”
Scorpius forced himself to stare at the floor. If the duke or his master were to discover their chancellor was one of these bastards because of any clue Scorpius gave away, he would never forgive himself.
“Yes, and that reason is fast becoming pointless, Father,” Lord Thibault said. “We bury ourselves further and further into The Troubles, and no one has ever found a way out of it. Well, if our Houses fall, the Sibiu fall with us. Yashtii’s people agree with me. Let it be our House that leads the way out of the mess we’re in.”
Scorpius held his breath as a timepiece ticked, ticked in the heavy afternoon.
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2012