Trkasu had limped out to the gardens an hour before dawn came. The dirt was still cold and there were no birds on the tree branches. A few squirrel chattered when they saw him, peeking out of little holes. He paused at the clearing, turning to look at the still dark sky. No sign of dawn had crept in while he was walking from the scorpion pit. And the silence was almost overwhelming.
A tiny click from his hair alerted him to the presence of a tiny scorpion curled in his hair. The little creature bumped against his cheek, thrumming and clicking in the silence he’d left.
“Ah, hello.” One finger stroked along the carapace, eyes half-closed. “You were not supposed to come, little one.” The words were clicked and hissed out. Scorpion tongue flowed more easily from his lips than any human version ever had. “Your siblings shall miss you and there will be birds here.”
“More room, more air!” The little scorpion clicked against his cheek, skittering down to his leg. “Sleeping.” From his knee the tiny creature clicked and hissed with joy.
“You should not be here. This is not your home.” There was a hint of a frown on Trkasu’s face. “There may be trouble, if you stay.” He turned away from the clearing, scooping the scorpion back onto his shoulder. “You ought to stay where you are familiar.”
“You not!” The little scorpion clicked up to the top of his head, surveying the trees surrounding him. “More color, more better!” With a few clicks, clack and snaps the scorpion contrived to leap off Trkasu’s head.
But one hand wrapped around the thin and hard body stopped the escape attempt. After a few struggles and futile stab with his tail, the little scorpion gave up. Curling up in Trkasu’s fist, he pouted as best scorpions could.
“You will go home.” Placing the scorpion on his shoulder again was a slow and careful move. “Perhaps another time I will plan and, with Lord Roderick’s permission, allow you out.”
“Please big brother?” Another bump, the scorpionlet pressing the tip of his tail to Trkasu’s neck very lightly. It was no threat, too gentle to break even the thinnest of his skin.
“It will be seen to, young one.” The sun was starting to rise when Trkasu paused at the door to the castle, turning his head. He would miss the sunrise for the sake of the insect in his hand, his responsibility. Trkasu’s lips twitched in a tiny and fairly sarcastic smile, wondering if perhaps he should remember that more often. “But you may not come out until you have permission.”
“Bored! Food moving, dig dirt, sunlight dull.” The scorpion tangled himself in Trkasu’s hair, ripping out a few strands while writhing around.
“I will do my best to bring you something new. I will see if I am able to find animals that would be willing to be food for your consumption. There are few older animals here, though some may be willing.” One deft twist with his free hand and the hair-covered scorpion was again sitting on his shoulder. Trkasu didn’t even wince as he limped inside, pleased that the dawn was still breaking when he reached the dungeon doors.
Placing the scorpion, Trkasu began the careful process of unwrapping his hair from around the hard body. Several strands had wrapped into the carapace, breaking off just above the shell. Delicate fingers plucked at the hairs until they slid out, leaving the scorpion free to rush across the room and rejoin the others.
Standing again, Trkasu limped back out the door. Careful to check for any clinging scorpions, he ran his fingers through the slightly thinned hair on the right side of his head. The dawn had already most likely ended, though it was not a foregone conclusion. He paused at the door out. If the sun had come up, the birds would be gone. IF he stepped out into the daytime there would be nothing left to learn.
The door creaked open partially, reveal a still dim sky and radiant colors streaking the brightening parts. Trkasu held in his sigh of relief. A few limping steps outside and he heard the warble of a nearby bird, searching for food. Chirps followed, robins hopping from tree to tree in front of him. He heard not the songs but rather the words, closing his eyes to listen.