SECOND LAST INSTALLMENT
Join me next week for the conclusion to this serialized adventure, first posted in the spring of 2010.
The novel-length version is set to release by the end of this month. I just shot the book cover and book trailer on the weekend.
On Thursday I'll be posting a sneak peek at the shoot.
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.
“Grandfather,” she said, her voice tight with unshed tears.
“I do hope you have enjoyed your stay here,” Pruzhnino said in a tone Scorpius had never heard coming from Lord Thibault’s father before.
Lady Aerthrudha released her grandsire’s hands and curtsied deeply before the duke. “A peek inside the heavens could not have been sweeter.”
“My dear,” Lord Thibault’s father said, bending to sweep the lady’s fingers up to his lips, “my House will be the poorer for the loss of such a luminous guest as yourself.”
Scorpius stood seeing and hearing, yet none of it seemed to make its garbled way past the memories which swarmed foremost in his mind. He saw the image of the pale slave girl tiring of being run down in the hunting field, finally turning to meet her fate at the hands of Lord Dirske. Now Duke of Razlava.
Someone joined him, brushing beside him as if to hold him up.
“Remember what I told you,” the chancellor said.
Scorpius glanced sideways. The duke’s advisor wore a grim expression, yet he nodded and flicked his head forward as if to coax Scorpius toward the nobles.
“You may be every bit a lord in your own right,” his master had said on the stairs. “It will all be up to you, Scorpius. Make yourself known.
“Make yourself known to the Duke of Razlava, with whom my father wishes to form an alliance.”
Scorpius shook his head, no.
“We can yet secure an alliance with this House if they claim you,” the chancellor whispered.
“No!” Scorpius whispered hotly, as both dukes and the lady turned to regard him.
“Problem, my Lord Chancellor?” Razlava said.
Scorpius fought the urge to leap forward, sweep Lady Aerthrudha from her grandsire’s reach and flee before it was too late.
The chancellor stepped forward slightly, grasping Scorpius by the elbow and pressing him closer to the rival dukes. “No trouble, Your Grace,” the chancellor said. “We were discussing our duties, only.”
Scorpius glanced sideways at the chancellor. Duties. What duty did he owe this House, other than to Lord Thibault, to whom he owed everything?
“I never thought to help you search out your family when I brought you here,” Lord Thibault had said on the stairs. “I just wanted you for my man.”
A cascade of memories assaulted him, filled with laughter, brotherly embrace, meeting blade with blade.
Razlava turned back to Pruzhnino, smiling the same hard smile he’d once used at the falconer’s cottage. “Dutifully, I sent my granddaughter here, and dutifully I fetch her back again.”
Lord Thibault’s father nodded sadly. “Time seems so strangely to fly, does it not? Seems too short a time has gone by for this to be your granddaughter, and not your daughter, the gods show their mercy.”
Razlava took a tiny step backwards. Thrusting his chin forward, he said, “I thank you for your memories of her.”
“Lady Aerthrudha is the spitting image of her, don’t you think?” Pruzhnino said, stepping forward to grasp the maiden softly by the chin.
She gazed intently into Pruzhnino’s eyes. “Do you think so?” she asked. “No one ever speaks of her. My mother.”
Scorpius’ gut hollowed out inside him. He could barely get his breath.
“What could she have been, other than a beauty?” the chancellor said. “Seeds don’t drift far, only far enough to bloom.”
“Some seeds drift, my Lord Chancellor,” Razlava said. “Some seeds only produce chaff.” As he spoke, he stepped slowly toward Scorpius, looking him up and down.
“My dear,” Pruzhnino said, cupping his palm gently on Lady Aerthrudha’s cheek, “you may be sure your mother held every man under her spell. Including me.”
“Would that my daughter had been your choice of bride, then, Pruzhnino,” Razlava said, stopping before Scorpius and gazing down in haunted distraction.
“Who could say if that would have saved her." Pruzhnino took the maiden's face in his hands and kissed the tears away.