This is Issue #149 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!
* * *
“Their twelve hours is nearly up,” Jet said, standing at the window, staring out at the clouds on the horizon. His shoulders were tense; he turned, looking back to Immanis, and said, “You’re not yet dressed.”
“Excited are you, my love?” the Prince wondered of his Guardian.
“My heart is racing as I think of it. I feel a fire within me, my Prince,” Jet said quietly, turning to pace within the room. “I can’t explain it — I simply must begin. I don’t want to wait any longer.”
“And yet, you will,” Immanis said, catching him by the wrist. “My Jet, my black stone, my Guardian,” he purred.
Jet didn’t pull away, but instead leaned in closer, once Immanis had him caught. “You provoke me,” he said quietly, his golden eyes warning.
“That I do,” Immanis laughed, and pressed himself against Jet, kissing him warmly.
The hunt would wait; the air would be properly scented with fear.
* * *
Garrett dropped down into the walled garden just as the first fat drops of rain began to fall on the canopy. His breath left him in a brief ‘whuff’ and then he darted off as the clouds thickened overhead, hurrying as fast as he was able, toward the last place he’d remembered seeing Kieron.
All over the city, a clamor rose — no one had ever attempted to get in to The Hunt, before.
* * *
“Majesty?” Secta said, pulling the window coverings aside, letting in the pale grey light of the rainsoaked afternoon. “Master?” He lit lamps, and uncovered dishes of food. “It is time to–” He gave an undignified squawk and fell to the carpet, gasping.
Immanis growled lowly, releasing Secta’s ankle, and shifted to loom over him. “Tace,” he hissed sleepily. “I’ll remove your pretty head from your shoulders, boy. Your master is busy resting.”
“I am awake,” Jet said, rolling away from Immanis, moving to stand and stretch. He carefully worked out the soreness of his muscles, cracking his neck and back, popping his joints and groaning lowly as he eked out the last of the tension in his frame.
Immanis watched him with unreserved hunger, dark eyes lingering on the Guardian, bearing both love and desire.
“And I’ll thank you not to threaten my famulo. He has worked desperately hard to achieve my approval, my brother, and I am more pleased with him than I have been of any servant. He is all I could have asked for in a loyal subject,” he said, reaching to cup Secta’s cheek in his hand. He leaned in and kissed Secta, unabashedly pressing his lips to Secta’s cheek with a loud smack, and then released him.
Blushing hotly, Secta said, “There is food. And… your clothing has been laid out. The weapons you selected earlier will be waiting for you at your entrance to the gardens I have been asked to inform you by the guards of the hunting grounds that an unidentified man has gained entrance–”
“Let me see–” Jet said. “We’ve video of the place, yes?” he wondered, reaching to pull back the folding doors for the nearest console, reaching to power it on.
Immanis crossed the room swiftly, slapping the doors shut — Jet had to pull his hands back to keep them from being crushed. “Immanis!” he cried, looking startled. “What are you–”
“There will be no cheating,” the Prince hissed. “I won’t even have the barest suspicion of it.”
“…what are you talking about?” Jet said, looking baffled.
“If you see video of the man, or video of any of the places in the Hunting Grounds,” Secta murmured, “You may gain an unfair advantage over those you see in the pictures. You must go into the hunt without any knowledge. In truth, some previous game have waited by the Prince’s entrance, their weapons at the ready. And still our beloved Prince has never been bested.”
“We do not get any warning. They have the best chance they can to beat us. Besides, it does not matter if anyone has let himself in,” Immanis said, reaching to catch up Jet’s hand, to carefully curl his fingers around those of his lover. “He will be ours to hunt, as any of the others are. We’ll have nearly two dozen between us. Criminals who have been waiting for execution. The Legatus. The Westlanders,” he said, a smile curving his lips, hungry, predatory.
“What are we waiting for?” Jet said, smiling himself, showing white, sharp teeth.
* * *
“Now what are you giving her?” Lucida’s voice was all curiosity; she hovered over Gemma as the woman carefully administered a tonic to Jules, who laid weak and still in the tiled bathroom.
“Something to revive her. She’s purged many times; the seeds should be gone by now — blood is coming. She is weak. If she does not stop soon,” Gemma said, pursing her lips and frowning, “she will be of no use to your husband.”
“It is not my husband who forced her discovery by poisoning her,” Lucida said, drawing back and chewing her lower lip.
Gemma pressed her lips into a thin line. She looked pained as she glanced over her shoulder, saying, “You believe me, don’t you? I kn–”
“I do,” Lucida said softly. “But I do not believe my caro will care one shred for this milkskin even if what you say of Immanis is true.”
“Her visions will help him believe in mine,” Gemma said, her dark eyes shining fiercely. “I want to serve my Guardian, meabella. I need to. He is Ilona’s true light. He will bring about its glory,” Gemma said, turning to look at Lucida, and for a moment, her expression softened. She stood up and stepped away from Jules, moving to clasp Lucida’s hands. She reached to stroke Lucy’s cheek, saying, “You haven’t slept. Oh, my love, you look so worried.”
“How could I not be!” Lucida cried. “Gemma, Immanis is g–”
“No!” Gemma hissed, looking around wildly. “No, you cannot say it. Not aloud. You cannot speak the prophecy where he could hear you. It could change things.”
“I want them to change!” Lucida said, her dark eyes wide, pleading. “Ilona is not ready to lose him,” she said, curling her hands into fists, looking afraid, looking furious. “I am not ready to lose him!”
“Can’t lose him,” echoed a voice from the floor.
Gemma stopped trying to hold Lucida, who pulled away, clearly upset, unable to be comforted.
The redhead put her hands against the tile floor and moved to push herself up, gagging briefly. “I can’t lose him,” she slurred, moving to push, to try to stand up. She stared at Lucida, her eyes glassy. “Ilonan suka,” she hissed. “Pulled off my robe. Ya …nenavizhu tebya,” she grimaced, glaring at Lucida.
“Odio,” Lucida returned mildly, actually seeming to have none of the hate that Jules wore. “Who can’t you lose, my canicula Krieg?”
Jules got quiet, then, refusing to give more information. She looked around, and down at her nakedness, and crossed her arms over her chest, determined to show no weakness.
Just then, there was a knock at the outer door; Lucida went to pass, to answer it — Gemma stood in her way, saying, “Let me, Lucibel–” but Lucy shrugged off her touch and shook her head, slipping by.
Once she’d left the room, Jules snarked, “Trouble in paradise?”
“You know all of nothing,” Gemma hissed.
“I know you’re a handmaiden. I know you have visions like I do,” Jules said, looking around the room, looking for a way out. Coryphaeus had been taken by the Prince — she wasn’t sure he would be able to help anyone, no matter his promises. She was growing desperate, and desperation was a much more efficient mother of invention than necessity ever was.
“These are not secrets,” Gemma said, rolling her eyes.
“Fine,” Jules said, gritting her teeth, her eyes fierce as they narrowed. She didn’t want to stay stuck here — she had to get out. Find the hunt. “I know you’re lovers,” Jules said, and relished the look of surprise on Gemma’s face. Throughout the war, even after the attacks, even after making her watch her men die, Jules wouldn’t have considered herself an especially vicious person, but there was satisfaction in her heart as she watched the light in Gemma’s eyes dim with pain and tears, as she hissed, “And I know she dies inside the year.”
* * *