My Scorpius tale is winding to its conclusion.
This week is the countdown to the end of a two-year serialized tale. In three more installments we'll bring to a close this opening adventure in the life of the dashing young lord's man.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all of my longtime readers. This whole experience of posting each week and reading your comments has been an incredible way for me to hone my craft. Your generosity in sharing your responses means the world to me.
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 Serialists - hosted by Alice Audrey - appears on Wednesdays.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
They danced for hours, cutting figures and counting measures with sly twists, secret smiles and discreet brushes past the two maidens. Scorpius locked gazes with his master’s intended, searching for answers in the swiftest of moments. Then the music swung them apart.
Yashtii, the Sibian maiden whose hold on his master set The Troubles past the simmer point, ducked and swayed with abandon, the brimming passion in her movements unmatched by the graceful ladies surrounding her. Though she wove through the dances in the same assured manner as everyone here, Lord Thibault’s intended inhabited the ballroom like no one else.
In fact, the fair-haired beauty—his cousin from the north whose name he did not even know—must have come to a conclusion regarding her prospects with his master. Though she’d begun the evening with a light step and a rather irresistible smile, as the night went on the glow left her face, her gazes falling before she could make eye contact with Lord Thibault.
The dancers snaked their way along the rows, joining hands and releasing, joining hands and releasing. Scorpius saw his cousin up ahead and determined he would catch her gaze, not sure what he would do once he had it, but unwilling to watch her sink into despair.
For a crushing moment he thought the dance might force them to miss one another, but another skip and a step and there she was. Yet it was she who sought Scorpius out, she whose gaze burned ahead before their hands reached out to grasp and hold.
He saw the hurt and confusion in her pale blue eyes, grayed over now with sadness. How it tugged at his heart, the way she looked up at him, deep into his eyes with a wordless demand for explanation. Spinning away on her pretty heel, Scorpius matched his cousin’s speed in time to see her tip her head around to keep him in her sights.
His stomach swirled with unaccustomed exhilaration.
It seemed an age before the figures brought them around again. Scorpius nearly forgot to keep his habitual watch on the assembled guests even in the midst of his dancing. Darting a glance into the gallery, he saw the chancellor gazing down at him and imagined that the dark expression he saw there was an affirmation of Scorpius’ neglect of duty.
Swinging his head around in time to the music, Scorpius found Lord Thibault exactly where he expected to find him along the promenade line. His master’s hands were joined with Yashtii’s, sparks bursting between them so that all were warmed by their joy.
When the set ended, Scorpius bowed to the lady across from him, then quickly turned and bowed to the northern maiden. Her blush brought him to her side, offering his arm and the promise of refreshment.
As though appearing from thin air, the fair-haired cousin’s retinue of male kin bound them both on all sides. Scorpius did not break his stride, refusing to relinquish his position as lord’s man to the host of the evening. “Enough for all, I dare say.”
Her solidly-built kinsman stood firmly in the way. “She respectfully declines your kind offer, sir.”
Releasing the lady’s arm, Scorpius stepped back and bowed to the young fighter. “Lord’s man, my lord.” He straightened, making sure to avoid direct eye contact. “My master offers food and drink to rival any in the eight kingdoms. Care to taste of its delicacies?”
“Perhaps your master’s father, the duke may offer something better?” her kinsman said. “He has asked for you, my Lady Aerthrudha.”
The fair-haired northern maiden looked back through the crowd towards Lord Thibault, only to hear his infectious laughter as he smiled at Yashtii. Pausing for only a moment, Lady Aerthrudha rejoined Scorpius, taking his arm and addressing the young fighter with disdain.
“Our host’s man will no doubt know the way there,” she said.
Bowing again, Scorpius turned them all in the direction of the far staircase. “Come this way, if it would please my lords and my lady.”
As they made their way up the stairs and along the corridor to the ornate doors leading to the duke’s drawing room, the sounds of the soiree faded into the distance, until there was only the clicking of boots on the polished floor and the rich sweeping sounds of Lady Aerthrudha’s gown.
Scorpius couldn’t afford to let himself hear the pounding of his own pulse in his ears. Slaves pulled the doors open, Scorpius stepped forward with his unsuspecting cousin on his arm while her kinsman fanned out along the back of the drawing room.
The chancellor emerged from the shadows, catching Scorpius’ gaze one second before a regal man turned from conversation with the Duke of Pruzhnino. The guest held his hands out to Lady Aerthrudha, who moved forward and clasped them warmly.
The blood in Scorpius’ veins chilled as his breath caught. The lady’s grandsire was no stranger.
Those hands had once yanked the folded leather from the young guard’s mouth, so this noble could better hear his shrieks. Her grandsire, the Duke of Razlava, had once gone by the title of lord.
Lord Dirske. The architect of the Nightmare Hunt, the Hunt of Screams.
© Julia Phillips Smith, 2012
Posted by Julia Phillips Smith at 11:11 PM