This is Issue #54 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.
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“No–” Jet’s realization of the situation allowed him to move the fraction of a second sooner that it took to save his brother’s life. He drew his blade and threw himself forward just as Plaga pulled his blade away from own his neck and lunged forward and up. “The aetheris!”
Metal on metal, and the fighters went sprawling, bare skin and sashes and swords tangled on the marble. “Too late,” Plaga snarled, struggling with Jet, reaching to slash at him, taking an elbow to the face. “He has already been poisoned. His commands will not work,” he laughed.
“Betrayer! Treason!” Immanis, who stood near a brazier, flipped it at one of Plaga’s men; they fought — he did not need his gift to be good with the sword.
Neither did Lucy. She was faster, but even with her aetheris-dimmed speed, she dispatched three men in quick succession, before one took the empty aetheris bottle to the back of her head. She staggered and fell, slurring her curses, then went still.
The guards outside began to ram the door, to break down the barrier keeping them from protecting their Prince, shouting to bring even more guards. The massive thing boomed from the sounds of the men battering it.
Immanis took out two of the three that were left, but the third managed to wrestle him to the ground. While Immanis fell as he impaled the man, the fighter used the guard of his own sword to crack his fist against the Prince’s head until Immanis’s eyes glassed over. They both slumped against the floor, one dead as though he was pinned like some insect, and one only dazed.
Jet shoved the other fighter, getting back to his feet, but his opponent was not kept down for long. Steel on steel again as they fought, and Jet was never more grateful for Lucy’s patience in tutoring his sword skills than the moment he fought for his life against Mactabilis Plaga. He was grateful for every little thing she taught him, and used it all to stay alive.
“Fool,” Plaga snarled. “I will dispatch you, and then I will kill Immanis Venator and his sister, and take Ilona as a warrior should. And then we will crest the Luminora, and wipe out every last one of you worm-pale weaklings — they are a plague on this world.”
Panting, sweating, bruised, Jet thought of his fellow students at the Academy, of Hoyt, and the two who had beaten him after ‘Contemplation’, and he gasped, laughing and said, “Do people even talk like that? Or is it just a bad translation into rough tongue? You sound like a child reading stories, Plaga. You sound like a child playing at soldier.”
Furious, Mactabilis drove forward and came at Jet so quickly, the younger man fell back, on the defensive immediately. Jet regretted his mouthy retort as he tripped over a spilled cushion, and fell to the marble floor, smacking his head.
“Fuck,” he hissed, shaking his head, moving to get back up, but he simply wasn’t fast enough.
He only got as far as his hands and knees.
He watched the point of a sword erupt from his chest, hot and cold all at once, and Plaga was at the other end of it, his eyes alight with victory. He leaned in over Jet’s shoulder, hissing, “Who’s playing at soldier now, boy?”
Blood foamed at Jet’s lips; he struggled to speak.
His eyes widened.
Plaga put his foot to Jet’s back and pulled the sword out, kicking the boy to the floor. He spat on his back, staring for a moment to make sure he was no longer moving, and then he went to Immanis, pulling the other fighter off him, moving to slap the Prince’s face, to rouse him, wanting him alert so he knew who was killing him, and why. “Volo tuam me videre, antequam moriaris,” he hissed. I want you to see me, before you die.
Jet lay on the floor, the cool marble against his cheek, blood hot against his back and belly, running from his mouth. He saw Plaga straddle Immanis, watched the limp form of his prince, his brother, supine beneath the assassin, and something within him surged, rushed, flooded him with a black heat so violent, the very wound in his chest seemed to burn shut from the inside out.
Immanis woke to the sight of Plaga over him, about to bring a knife down against his bare throat. He brought his own hands up, trying to roll to the side, when Jet appeared behind Plaga and pressed his cheek to that of the attacker as he took hold of his hands. Plaga struggled as Jet pulled the stroke short, bringing it back, up, and under Plaga’s breastbone. It sank to the hilt with ease, and Immanis could feel the sudden flood of heat wash over his belly as he lay beneath them both.
“Sed,” Plaga choked, his eyes wide, rolling wild as he half turned in Jet’s arms, trying to look at who held him so tightly. “Sed mortuus es,” he wheezed. You’re dead.
“Non,” Jet whispered, blood on his lips. He drove the knife in further, twisting it until Plaga went limp in his arms, hissing “Sum Mortem.” I am Death.
He threw the body to the side, letting the knife go with him, and offered out a bloody hand to Immanis, to pull him up. Once he was sure Immanis was steady, he went to Lucida, and helped her up as well. He got her set in a chair before he walked to the door where the guards were still trying to force their way in, and pulled out the bar holding it shut.
The guards spilled in, and Jet turned to Immanis, his chest heaving with ragged breath. He looked down as he wiped the blood from it to show his flawless skin, bronzed and smooth. His words were quiet, wry, as he turned his eyes back up to Immanis.
“Brother,” he said, looking pained, “I think I found out what your gift did to me.”
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