DeathWatch No. 159 – Nam propter Jules

This is Issue #159 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!

Happy Reading!

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“Let me GO!” Kieron screamed, trying his damndest to hurt Garrett, to make the man drop his hold, to get away. He could think of nothing but his fallen comrade, and would have thrown himself from the overlook as if he could catch him, if only Garrett would allow it. “NATHAN!” he howled, crying out until his throat burned. Tears blurred his pale eyes; those and sweat and rain and blood and mud matted his filthy blonde hair against his neck and cheeks. He felt himself pinned against Garrett’s chest. He struggled, still, until he finally threw his head back, cracking the back of his skull against Garrett’s face, stomping his feet down against Garrett’s instep.

The older man released him, cursing as his broken nose gushed blood.

Kieron ran for the edge again, choking on his own terror. “NATHAN!” he screamed, going hoarse, calling out again and again, scrambling to the very edge and looking, leaning in a way that would send him tumbling with a strong wind.

Garrett grabbed for him again, but Kieron struggled, and nearly threw himself off the ledge. It wasn’t until Garrett punched him in the jaw that Kieron relented. The boy’s head snapped to the side, and he sagged, reeling. The older man took hold of Kieron again and backpedaled away from the drop with all speed, panting. When Kieron tried to fight him again, Garrett threw an arm around the boy’s throat and held tight.

Coryphaeus stared, clutching one hand to his side, his eyes wide as he held himself up by holding the Prince’s sword that had nearly run him through.

Kieron clawed at Garrett, tried to get his feet under himself to push free — his face turned red, and the fury gave way to uncertainty in mere moments. The uncertainty became panic almost just as quickly. He flailed, desperate, his mouth forming soundless words. Let me go! I have to save him. I have to get Nate. Please. Garrett, please!

Garrett himself looked calm, but determined, saying, “It’s over, Brody. He’s gone. I know, shhh. I know, boy. Shhh. I know.”

At last, Kieron’s eyes rolled back in his head, and he went limp in Garrett’s arms, sagging like a rag doll, his head lolling on his neck as Garrett carefully released him. Garrett laid him to the mud and saidto Coryphaeus, “The other one’s heavier. I’ll get her. You get Brody. Let’s move.”

“We have time,” Coryphaeus said, tasting blood, turning his head to spit, raking dark curls back from his face. “We should make our way back to the entrance. Climbing over the wall will kill me.”

“It might, and it might not, but the thing behind you will definitely kill you,” Garrett said, nodding to the Guardian’s body on the ground. The redblack puddle around it steamed in the night rain; when lightning flashed, the Guardian’s face was revealed to be definitely less crushed than it had been — not recognizeable, still, but at the same time, more like a face than simply a patch of bloody carnage on the ground.

“It’s dead,” Coryphaeus said softly, turning to look back at it. “Isn’t it?”

“It doesn’t stay dead,” Garrett replied, glancing over at it with some trepidation. “I’ve been watching it; I’m not sure how much longer it will be, but it will rise again, and when it does, I don’t know as we’ll make it out before it catches up with us. So up over the wall we go.”

Coryphaeus kept staring at the Guardian and nodded, stooping to pick up Kieron and sling him over his shoulder. “Let’s go, then,” he said, hurrying in a stiff shuffle for the wall, doing his best to ignore the screaming fire against his ribs.

The ascent was all but impossible; Coryphaeus had to wind himself in the vines so thoroughly, he nearly became too tangled to climb. At one point, he lost feeling in his right arm, and slid back down, undoing several meters of progress. Pressing his cheek to the stones, he whispered quietly to himself, a prayer for strength — not for himself, but instead — “Nam propter Jules,” he whispered. “Nam propter Jules,” he said, and began to haul himself up. Fresh blood welled from his ribs; tears rolled down his cheeks. Coryphaeus had once been willing to sacrifice Jules to live, but now was willing to die that he might keep at least one shred of a promise to her. “Nam propter Jules.” Get them out alive. “Nam propter Jules.” Save them. He knew he was in part, a monster — but he wanted to be better. “Nam. Propter. Jules.” He needed to be.

He could not save the fallen man. He could not save the black-skinned woman who lay meters below him, the wide yawn of her throat open to the night, her belly bloody, her eyes vacant. He could not save any of the other killed crewmembers who lay broken and unmoving, back in the forest.

He could not save the young woman whose neck had been snapped by Immanis, right in front of them. He could not save the nearly one hundred soldiers who killed themselves while Jules was made to watch.

He could help save only these two, and he prayed that somehow it might be enough to ease both their ragged hearts.

When they reached the top, Coryphaeus laid his cheek to the stone again, sobbing, briefly; he was not certain he had the strength to haul both himself and the boy over the top. Rain poured over him, poured over Kieron, and he took long, ragged, gasping breaths to come back to himself, before he finally pulled himself up, and then began to let himself over.

The people watching, still watching in cafes, in their homes, at public and private telescreens, saw the four survivors disappear over the wall.

Within the city, the riots began.

Garrett managed to climb down; the rain washed the blood from his face — he stood on solid ground that was still forested, leading north, and looked up to watch Coryphaeus continue his way down. “Come on, then,” he shouted. “Get moving!”

Cory had stopped, and was holding Kieron, clinging to the vines, still more than five meters from the ground. He felt the world graying out, and he struggled to maintain his hold on the wall, but his injuries and exhaustion were too much. The feeling left his limbs again, and blackness swallowed him whole.

Garrett was laying Sha down, mindful of her head — he could see she’d taken a blow to the back of it that would have to be tended to — when he heard the crashing sound of Coryphaeus tumbling from the wall, still holding Kieron.

Garrett was shocked then, when he saw Coryphaeus get up and haul Kieron right back into his arms–the boy was still passed out, but seemed none the worse for wear for his fall–Coryphaeus marched past Garrett, then, still muttering to himself, “Nam propter Jules.

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