This is Issue #127 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.
* * *
It had been days. They had not come up for air. Platters of food sat mostly untouched, while water, wine, and aetheris had been consumed in vast quantities. Jet and Immanis had each spent themselves many times in their exertions, only drinking when their lips were too dry for kissing, refusing to pause in their coupling, even for a moment, as though they could not bear the thought of being still, or letting go, but instead had to not only touch, but actively touch and praise one another.
The wedding party, the feasting, the revelry — it continued without any of the guests of honor, and no one was the worse off for it. Instead, the people of Ilona celebrated like they never had before, congratulating themselves on binding a god-like protector to their city.
“Surely,” citizens cried, “if the Guardian is wed to our Princess, she will bear him a child, and that child will be our salvation!”
Men and women all over the country speculated on how quickly the Princess might grow fat with the Guardian’s heirs, all the while with no idea their Princess lay tangled with her handmaiden, lovers for years, with no intention whatsoever of laying with the Guardian — and even against Gemma’s advice, had no intention of conceiving a child with him.
* * *
“The floor,” Immanis said, “is not half as comfortable as my bed.” He stretched and began to detangle from the warm, pliant body that had wrapped around him. He ached, groaning as he shifted, twisting to free himself, rolling over beneath his lover.
“You’re twice as comfortable than your bed,” Jet retorted sleepily, shifting to pin Immanis down, leaning to kiss him soundly. “Good morning, your majesty,” he whispered.
The kiss itself was slow and sweet, lasting until Immanis bit Jet’s lip, chuckling lowly. “Good morning, my Guardian,” he purred. He smiled as he moved to get out of the way, but then his eyes widened, and he flinched, sucking in a breath through his teeth, rolling over as he felt cool morning air touch him in places that hadn’t been exposed while they lay curled together.
“Are you — are you hurt?” Jet wondered, his brows lifting, concern painting his face with tension. “Did I–“
“Hush,” Immanis whispered, admonishing Jet. “I’m not hurt. Merely sore. Not used to such exertions,” he said quietly. “We’ve been at this for days, and I am still certain there are ways I have yet to kiss you and watch your toes curl. But first let me up; I’ve to use the toilet — you’re laying on me funny.”
Jet blushed, pulling back, and watched Immanis walk away, naked, lit in deep coppers by the burning braziers, and in pale gold by the sun pouring in the windows. He got up and moved to crawl into the as-yet unused bed, intending to be awake and pleased for when Immanis returned — but he fell asleep nearly instantly, tangled in the perfect, clean sheets.
When Immanis returned, he paused at the bedside and grinned amusedly. “My love,” he said quietly, and lifted the sheets to lay them more carefully around Jet. “Rest well,” he whispered, and lingered for a time to watch the sleeping man, until he finally made preparations to leave the chambers. He dressed himself carefully, watching Jet, and laid the gentlest of kisses on his lips, before he left.
When he opened the door to his chambers, he saw Secta there, exhausted and pleased, all at once.
Secta turned, smiling faintly, and said, “Your Majesty. Your seer was delivered to its private chambers, if you wish to visit it. It has been given food and water, but does not appear to have attempted to rest or relieve itself.”
“I believe I will,” Immanis said, reaching to lay a hand on Secta’s shoulder. “Don’t think I don’t know how instrumental you have been in making certain the wedding plans worked well,” he said. “You have been everything your family promised, and more.”
Secta’s cheeks darkened with a flush of pride and embarassment. He cleared his throat, glancing away, and said, “You honor me with your words, Majesty. I thank you for your attention; I hope to serve you and my master long and well.”
“I imagine you shall, Secta,” Immanis said, nodding. “Remain here. I think, after these last few days, our Guardian shall sleep for some time, but if he wakes before I return, I would prefer he remained here. Have him entertained in any fashion that seems appropriate, but I command that you not let him leave.”
“Yes, your Majesty,” Secta promised, bowing low, flushed with pride, a renewed sense of purpose and energy suffusing him.
* * *
Kieron knelt on the floor of the beautiful room, still wearing shackles, still bloodied. When the door opened, he curled up tighter, lifting his head to look toward who might be coming in. So far, it had been servants with food and water, accompanied by guards — they stayed away from him, let him be, but this time, when the door opened, the person entering seemed to have no intention of leaving him be. Kieron looked up, staring at the man he knew to be the Prince of Ilona, and as the man came closer and closer, he skittered back, panicked, lifting a hand in defense, shying away from contact, bleating, “I don’t know anything!”
“Oh, but my little pet, you certainly do,” Immanis laughed. He smiled down at Kieron, and crouched, reaching out to touch his shoulder gently. “Relax, boy,” he murmured. “Please me, and all will be well.”
Kieron, who only moments before had felt a panic surging up within him, felt the warmth of the Prince’s touch, and immediately began to calm, breathing slowly and deeply. “Yes… yes, Majesty,” he promised. He couldn’t help but stare at the Prince; he’d never seen a more beautiful man, never wanted so completely to do anything for him, obey any order, to please him entirely. He knelt before the Prince, his hands on his knees.
“You were wounded,” Immanis says, looking at Kieron’s face, fingers reaching to touch the black threads. “You have pulled the stitches,” he murmurs. “This will result in a scar.”
“My Quartermaster struck me,” Kieron said, feeling helpless.
“It brings you character,” Immanis answered. “Your face was boyish. Too soft.”
“Is it better, now?” Kieron said, hearing less-than-satisfaction in Immanis’s words. His heart was in his throat as he asked, “Shall I scar it again, your Majesty? How shall I change my skin to please you?”
“Nevermind that. The scar will do. You have visions,” Immanis said quietly, changing the subject abruptly. “I want you to tell me of them. I want to know if your sight affects you the way it affects my sister’s handmaiden.”
“I… I don’t know if they affect me as they affect your sister’s handmaiden. It’s only recently I had any idea anyone but me has had this kind of sight. I’ve had them as long as I can remember,” Kieron said, the words tumbling out in a rush. “I’ve been able to see the deaths of others. I live it. I go through the last moments of their life before they are killed or die in some fashion. It is not under my control, your majesty — the visions come without me bidding, and will not come, otherwise, or go away, when I will it,” he explains, wringing his hands. “It’s how I ended up here. I ran away from home to–“
“Enough,” Immanis said, flicking his hand impatiently.
Kieron closed his mouth so quickly, his teeth clacked together; he nearly bit his own tongue. He watched Immanis with hungry eyes, desperate to prove himself. Needing so badly to make certain he could please the man in front of him.
“Have you seen me die?” Immanis wondered cautiously of Kieron.
“No,” Kieron breathed, his eyes widening in fear. “Not that I know of; no, never.”
“Will you serve me, little pet?” Immanis whispered.
“Yes, your Majesty,” Kieron promised immediately.
“Good,” Immanis chuckled. “Go wash yourself. You will find clothing in this room. Eat and rest — dress appropriately. Entertain yourself during your waking hours. You will not leave these rooms. If you have a vision, you are to call for a Guard to notify me, and then report it to me, and only me, immediately. Do you understand?”
“Yes, your Majesty,” Kieron promised, breathless.
“You are mine now,” Immanis said, reaching out to touch Kieron’s face.
Something in his heart rebelled against the idea, but against the Prince’s blood, it could not form any real defiance. He shuddered, nodding, and began to wring his hands, watching Immanis get up and leave. “Yours,” Kieron said, though tears welled up. Well down within him, something screamed, rattled its cage and refused, but could not crawl up to the light behind Kieron’s eyes, could not stop the lips and tongue from making the promise: “I am yours, now.”
* * *