This is Issue #138 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘DeathWatch’ then go to ‘#0 – A Beginning’ and read from there, or go find the issue # you remember, and catch up from there!
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“What I want to know is where’s Ki–” Sha began, but a commotion across the room caught her attention.
Coryphaeus was holding Jules, who was struggling, a bloody-looking froth at her lips. She made a low, gagging noise at her throat and reached out a hand to claw at him, writhing in his arms.
Nate turned, and was running before Sha could stop him, shouldering guests out of his way, fear and rage on his face. He ducked past one, two, three guests, leapt over a buffet table, knocked out a guard with a roundhouse and kept running. Nothing was going to stop him — until more guards had their wits about them, and wanted to control the potential panic.
Swords were drawn, but Nate charged at the men without flinching. When the first one swung low, he leapt over it; when the second swung high, he dropped to his knees and slid on the marble tile, leaning back. The very tip of the sword carved a thin line from his jaw over his nose, but Nate didn’t stop. He reached Jules as Coryphaeus flinched back from her strike. Her legs buckled, and she fell into Nate’s arms, while Coryphaeus stumbled back, surprised.
“I’ve got you, Jules,” Nate said, twisting her to her side, keeping her head in his lap.
“Einin,” she gasped, her pale eyes wide, looking up at him.
Nate couldn’t tell if she could really see him; her eyes seemed to be looking through him, at something impossibly far in the heavens. “I’ve got you. I’ve got you,” he promised, brushing her hair out of her face, trying to keep his hands from shaking, feeling the hot sear of the cut over his cheek as it bled.
Ilonan guards came to try to wrestle him away, but the Prince stopped them, watching from nearby, dark eyes keen and hungry. He looked from the convulsed Westlander to Coryphaeus, who seemed to vacillate between furious and helpless. He moved to stand beside the Legatus and said, “This is an interesting development, is it not?”
“Majesty,” Coryphaeus said, his cheeks darkening. “I–“
As if to steal the Prince’s attention away in that moment, Jules focused, drawing in a ragged, broken breath, and one hand reached up to grab Nathan’s collar and hold it tight. “Run,” she Jules begged. “Nathan. Oh fuck, my little bird, y’have t’run,” she said. “Don’ let’im hunt you. The sword. Goes right through,” she wheezed, and then her hand fell away, and her back arched as she screamed, thrashing.
Gemma was backing away, slowly, when Secta grabbed hold of her wrist, pulling her close. “What did you do?” he hissed, his eyes narrowed. “If she dies because you’ve poisoned her, Gemma–“
“She won’t die,” Gemma said, her eyes wet with tears. “She’ll only wish she had. I was right, Secta. The woman’s a seer. And I think Coryphaeus knew it. He doesn’t look surprised, just worried.”
“…I think his Majesty knows that, as well,” Secta said, watching Immanis, who was beginning to bare his teeth.
The dinner was quickly becoming scandalous, as those who would be prey defied the guards and the Prince himself confronted the Legatus. “And what is the meaning of this?” Immanis hissed at Coryphaeus. “The creature you suggested I take has not had a single vision, while the one you ungraciously wormed your way into being offered turns out to be a seer, instead? What manner of betrayal!” he growled.
“Majesty,” Coryphaeus began, looking helpless.
“I should take your head for this deception,” Immanis growled.
“Yes,” Coryphaeus wept, kneeling. “Please, Majesty. I am wretched in my dishonesty. I am unfit to serve you. Would that my death may please you,” he said, and drew his own belt knife.
Jules thrashed in Nate’s arms; she uttered low, guttural noises, and finally sagged, going limp, whispering exhaustedly.
Nate leaned down, trying to listen to Jules’s mutterings. He pressed his bloodied cheek to hers, and breathed her in, having no idea when he might see her after these frantic moments. “I love you, Jules,” he whispered. “I love you.”
“He’ll save you,” she murmured. “He promised, Nate. He promised me. You gotta run.”
Guests were shocked by the frankly dramatic and ridiculous display going on in the midst of their gathering; rumors were already flying, and several noble houses were speculating on precisely what had happened to cause such a ferociously uncouth display. Mass murder at their feet by their all-powerful Prince was one thing… but here, the Prince seemed to have lost his own control over the enemy and his army both.
“Tace!” Immanis demanded of the entire room; his voice cut through the crowd, and everyone was silent and still. The fury on his face was a terribly beautiful thing to behold.
Coryphaeus knelt, still, his own knife at his throat, tears in his eyes.
Nate held Jules close, still, his cheek pressed to hers.
Sha was nearly to them, paused in midstep.
Jet was unaffected, and slowly came to Immanis’s side to put a hand to his shoulder. “Brother,” he said quietly to Immanis, reaching down to take the knife from Coryphaeus’s fingers. “Release your guests. If you are truly betrayed by the Legatus, put him in the hunt, and take the gift you’d given him. You can punish him to your heart’s content.”
Immanis looked to Jet for a moment, as if weighing his words. He sighed, nodding, letting the tension bleed from his frame; he reached up to touch Jet’s hand on his shoulder, and smiled. “Ah, my Guardian. I will not let this ruin anything; if anything, having another thing to be hunted is something to celebrate.” He looked down upon the Legatus, a great and terrible God looming over the officer, who stared up in abject love and misery.
“Majesty,” Coryphaeus whispered, tears glittering in his eyes.
Immanis knelt down in front of Coryphaeus and tilted the man’s head up to meet his gaze. “You have disappointed me, Legatus,” he said quietly, and rubbed a thumb just under Coryphaeus’s eye, wiping the tears from the man’s cheek. “But I shall offer you a chance. You shall join me in the hunt, as prey. If you survive, you shall have forgiveness.” He stood, looking around at the crowd, and said, “Return to the entertainment; I leave you in the care of your Guardian, and my sister.” He looked to Lucida and Jet, who summoned Gemma and Secta to their sides, to stir the guests back into a proper sort of revelry
The crowd immediately complied, happy to, and the only grouping that was left were the three Westlanders, at Immanis’s feet, while the guards took Coryphaeus away to be readied.
Sha laid a hand to Jules’s cheek, and looked up at Immanis, trying hard to hold to her sense of self.
For his part, Nate kissed Jules’s forehead as he held her, while she kept trembling. “Looks like he’ll be busy savin himself,” Nate said apologetically to Jules.
“He’s a good man,” Jules stuttered, her eyes rolling, her limbs jerking. “Einin–” And then she slipped away, and in Nate’s arms, went still.
“Give it to me,” Immanis murmured, and reached down to carefully lift her from Nathan’s arms. “It is mine, now. I will make sure it is cared for.”
“Jules?” Nate whispered, panic touching his face. “Jules?” he begged, and released his hold, watching Immanis in both hope and hatred. His heart raged; begged to disobey, but he let her go. Nate could do no more than watch as the Prince of Ilona left, carrying with him a piece of his soul.
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