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.
He looked at his master, bringing his own arms up to clasp Lord Thibault’s. Time hung suspended as Scorpius’ master’s haunted gaze met his own. Soiree guests glided past them along the stairs, their movements seeming so oddly slow to Scorpius, as though they moved through lake water.
Blood pounded in his ears as he turned to look behind him, over the stair railing down into the crowd below. He sought the Sibian woman who had won Lord Thibault’s heart, setting them both hurtling into this night of choices.
There she was, dazzling in her bold colors, glowing with gold coins and gleaming jewels. Only an arms’ length away from Lord Thibault’s love, the fair-haired northern maiden stood amongst friends and a family escort, as did every bridal hopeful.
The chancellor’s words rumbled through his mind:
“The young lady whose approval has been given by the dukessa and myself is from a well-placed family to the north, whose grandsire will be arriving shortly to collect her. I will arrange for you to attend me when the duke calls an audience with her grandsire.
All families have faces they show to the world, and faces they protect. Injured sides, shameful sides, monstrous sides. Some families have mysteries, never solved. Until someone uncovers just the right shape to solve the puzzle.”
Scorpius looked again at his master, who just slightly nodded his head. A small gesture that shredded Scorpius’ heart.
“If we were not here before all of these guests, Scorpius, I would kneel and beg your forgiveness.”
Breath catching in his chest, Scorpius whispered, “My lord?” As if compelled to look, he glanced down at the fair-haired lady softly glowing in her delicate finery.
Lord Thibault squeezed his fingers tighter around Scorpius’ arms. “I never thought to help you search out your family when I brought you here. I just wanted you for my man.”
Scorpius bowed his head against the pain seizing up in his chest. He tried to speak but nothing came out.
“I’ve been a selfish bastard,” Lord Thibault said, releasing his hold on him.
“Please, my lord,” Scorpius said, shaking his head no.
“At least the chancellor has been a true friend to you. He followed the trail at once.”
Turning to gaze out over the crowd, Scorpius whispered, “It cannot be safe to speak here.”
“They all believe we would never do so, and are paying us no heed.” Lord Thibault looked sideways at him, but where there should have been a grin was only shadow and pale self-reproach. “I am going to make my choice tonight. You are going to make yours. If it turns out that—“
His master’s voice faltered. Lord Thibault angled his body away for a long moment.
“I have two brothers, Scorpius. Neither of them knows my heart the way you do. I will always consider you my true brother. And I do beg your forgiveness.”
“My lord,” Scorpius said, his voice breaking.
“That’s just it,” Lord Thibault said, finally smiling. “You may be every bit a lord in your own right. All you have to do is attend upon the chancellor when her grandsire meets with my father the duke after the soiree. It will all be up to you, Scorpius. Make yourself known to the Duke of Razlava, with whom my father wishes to form an alliance.
“It is said he lost a daughter who made free with all the delights of the world. She tasted of these fruits until they were her only gods. Our chancellor discovered she’d left a child behind at the nursery, unable to stop herself from plucking as many pleasures from the world as she could before she died of all of it.”
Scorpius’ heart beat so hard he could barely hear his master anymore.
“Her father did not claim the boy child. The origin of the baby’s father was unverifiable, and therefore suspect. The northerners are proud of their stock and unwelcoming to common bloodlines ruining their pedigrees.”
Lord Thibault looked into Scorpius’ eyes. “You are too dark to belong to their line. You were not claimed. And yet the lovely fair-haired one so favored by my mother is your cousin. If the chancellor swears to it, it is so.”