This is Issue #128 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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“Nngh, pets are exhausting,” Immanis declared, looking irritable as he nursed a glass of aetheris.
Gemma laughed aloud, shaking her head, and she and Secta looked smirkingly at Jet, who looked surprised.
Lucida frowned, saying, “What are you babbling about, brother? And you, my jewel, why are you smiling at my caro?”
Jet busied himself looking at his breakfast, not meeting her eyes, while Immanis rolled his — Gemma and Secta only laughed again, which proved to make Lucida quite irritable. “Really, now,” she hissed. “This won’t do. If there is a private joke–”
“It is only as private as your affair with your handmaiden,” Immanis said, pouring the rest of his aetheris into his mouth and swallowing roughly.
Gemma’s lips pressed into a thin line, while Lucida paled, gripping the table. “I don’t know what you’ve h–”
“I’m sleeping with your husband, sister,” Immanis said, once he’d swallowed the aetheris, cutting her off. “He is my lover, and while I may need to keep it from the common people, who have never understood our predilections, I will not insult you by hiding it from you any longer. You might as well not pretend for my sake, about Gemma.”
There was stunned silence at the table, for a bit. “Well, then,” Secta sighed. “What manner of dish goes with awkward conversation?”
Jet laughed aloud, and promptly turned to clap Secta on the back, looking rather amused. He then wondered of Immanis, “Am I exhausting you, then? Should I leave you be for an evening, to regain your strength?”
Immanis laughed, shaking his head. “Absolutely not.” He caught a look from Secta, just then, and gave the subtlest of nods before he said, “I was referring to the Westlanders who’ll be in the hunt. They require an inordinate amount of coddling so they will not destroy themselves before they have a chance to run.” He paused for a moment, and reached to lay a hand over Jet’s, then looked to the others in the room, quietly saying, “Leave us.”
Jet watched Gemma, Lucida, and Secta leave the room quickly, and turned back to Immanis, his brows lifted. “Are you well?”
“You gifted me with people from your home. I will hunt them as animals. I am beyond well. What I would like to know is whether you are, my darling Jet,” Immanis said, pulling the Guardian of Ilona into his arms. “You are… more cavalier regarding the lives of your former countrymen than I might’ve imagined.”
“They are neither my friends, nor my family. They are responsible for the deaths of thousands. Thousands of those who are, in fact, my countrymen. In learning to be Ilona’s guardian, my Prince, I have learned much of the Westlanders’ history that was not made available to me in my youth. I learned of your bloodline and how so many years ago, the Luminora had been but a low ridge. How the Westlanders ran in shame and anger from all that these lands could offer. How a small minded few believed your ancestors meddled in what they should not. How I had been raised to hate you, to hate this place — this place where we had come from,” he says. “Truly, Immanis, I have always been Ilonan in my heart, and I do not love the Westlanders. They seek to tear you down. They would destroy all of this — all they came from, in the name of fear and jealousy. You will give them weapons, and you will let them run, and if they reach a border, they will be free. It is a fair and fighting chance for those who gave neither to our kin,” Jet said, gritting his teeth, looking furious. “Westlanders still die of the pox. They drink and die from rodwater. They would call your ability inhuman, and label you, as I had, in my folly, a monster.”
Immanis reached up a hand to touch Jet’s cheek. “My love,” he said quietly, sadly. “I am a monster. I am a monstrous thing. I take life, and I do not do it only because it is necessary to maintain a sense of awe amongst my subjects. I do it because it thrills me to. I must not lie to you, and I will see if you will love me, in any case.”
Jet leaned in and pressed his lips against Immanis’s, sudden and fierce. “I love you,” he promised, kissing him again. “My Prince. Immanis, I will love you in all things,” he said lowly, urgently, against Immanis’s mouth. “You yourself have admitted you cannot make me love you — and so you must believe me, and celebrate when I promise you I choose it,” he said, pulling back and stroking Immanis’s cheek. “Even in your monstrous ways, I love you,” Jet said, sweeping an arm across the table, pushing things aside, moving to lay Immanis against the polished wood, and bring his mouth to Immanis’s bare chest. “Bathed in blood, with the world at your feet, mea princeps perfecta, immanis, quam te adoro,” Jet said softly, kissing a line down Immanis’s belly.
Immanis looked down to Jet’s kohl-ringed eyes, and slid his hands into Jet’s hair. He tipped his head back and uttered a quiet sigh that ended in a lazy, delighted laugh. “My lover, the warrior-poet of Ilona. Love me always, my Jet. Love me, and we shall conquer the West and rule it all in the name of our glorious–” Immanis’s voice broke, and his eyes fluttered shut as he lay back, panting. For a moment, his voice was lost entirely. When it came back, it was ragged, sighing, “…country.”
“I don’t mean to conquer the west,” Jet said quietly, lifting his head and licking his lips.
“You don’t?” Immanis gasped, glancing down in a moment of bewildered, breathless confusion.
Jet’s smile was dark and hungry. He watched Immanis’s face for some time, embedded the lush swell of his lover’s open lips against his mind’s eye. Finally, he said, “No, my love. I mean us to hold the world in our hands, I mean us to bite into it and devour it entirely.”
As Immanis’s head tipped back — his laughter dissolving into a long, low cry — Jet bowed his again.
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