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.
“I don’t expect you to understand, Father,” Lord Thibault said as Scorpius rose to his feet. “But how can it be so--that I should be the only one to have considered such a course of action?”
Scorpius braced himself for the duke to lash out once more at his son’s impudence. Strangely, Lord Thibault’s boldness only seemed to soothe his father, who crossed his arms and said, “Go on.”
“The fables that warn of the Sibiu’s ability to call forth the dragon are not stories, Father.” Extending his arm to indicate Scorpius, Lord Thibault locked gazes with him for a suspended moment. The master who could meet anything with a cavalier grin had only resolute warning in his eyes. “My man is a witness to it.”
Blinking back the dread that stopped his tongue, Scorpius squared his shoulders and held his ground as Pruzhnino turned his attention to him.
Forcing himself to speak in a measured voice, Scorpius explained all he had seen in the hidden mountain pass. He told the duke about the rejected offer from his master until Scorpius used the dukessa’s dragon ring as surety. He described the sacrificial stabbing of the Sibian, the praying of the men, the eerie playing of the pipes until the great dragon itself appeared in the air above them.
A withering gaze from the duke raked Scorpius from head to foot before Pruzhnino turned back to his son and said, “The Sibiu still have your mother’s ring in their possession?”
Bowing slightly, Lord Thibault said, “They do, Your Grace.”
The duke was so quick, his master gasped to find himself half lifted off his feet, the neck of his doublet in his father’s iron fists. Before he could stop himself, Scorpius’ hand flew to his hip, where his sword no longer hung. Thank the gods no one but the chancellor had seen what amounted to an attempt on the life of Pruzhnino.
Gazing over in fear at the chancellor, Scorpius was met by a gaze dark with grim reassurance.
“They will trace that ring to this House,” the duke said.
“Let them,” Lord Thibault said.
“I will do no such thing.” Shaking his son before shoving him away, the duke moved to join the chancellor.
Recovering his balance, Lord Thibault drew himself up and once again carried on his conversation as though nothing was amiss. “The stories are not stories, Father. We have amongst us a means of drawing forth the thing which every kingdom in every land fears above all else.”
The duke and the chancellor turned to give Scorpius’ young master their full attention. The air crackled with all that was forbidden.
“It was my man’s idea to give them the ring. I’d forgotten that it bore a dragon upon it. They took it as a sign, and thank the gods they did. Otherwise they may never have called what cannot be called.”
“And what should that mean to me?” the duke said. “Other than to draw up a plan to retrieve your mother’s ring before word reaches any other House that it’s in Sibian hands?”
Once again the duke raked his gaze over Scorpius like a swipe from a claw. Scorpius’ heart pounded in his chest. Did his master know what he was doing?
If this all blew up in his master’s face, where would that leave him? The rage at being at the mercy of these struggles for dominance, at having his fate decided by whichever set of nobles held the winning hand, pushed down the fear that threatened to choke him.
He remembered the look on his master’s face as they fought in the mountains. “You forget that I’ve never had the luxury of choice, my lord,” Scorpius had said.
Lord Thibault stared down his father the duke and his chancellor. What choices did his master have, other than to obey his father’s will and that of his House?
Still, Scorpius calculated how far he’d have to dive to retrieve the swords from the duke’s desk, if it came to that.
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2012