This is Issue #160 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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The wailing from the Princess’s chambers rose and fell; Lucida could not be soothed. To have lost both her brother and her husband — it was too much. Gemma tried to talk to her, but in the end, she was given both aetheris and sleeping draughts, and fell into a long and restless slumber. Guards stood watch, and Gemma stayed beside her, silent, praying.
Secta took Jules to a servant’s chambers, and gave her fresh clothing to wear, including headscarves to cover herself, so that she would not stand out.
While he was helping to dress her, Jules was silent; she watched him with wide eyes, sometimes curious, sometimes frightened.
Secta was kind and slow and gentle and careful; he didn’t touch Jules without warning her — “I’m going to wrap this around your waist,” or “I’m going to put my hand on your shoulder,” and once, even, “Can I lift your hair off your neck?”
She nodded, at that one, and flushed as she felt tears roll down her cheeks. The fact that he was so strangely kind was almost more painful than the wounds on her back.
When she was dressed; Secta gave her a bag with food and water, money and unguent for her burns. He offered his hand to her, kind and gentle all the while, and led her all the way to the palace gates. Once they were there, he released her and said, “You’re a hated person, here in this place. I cannot change that for you. But I can give you this much.”
“Quare… Quare hoc facere? Why are you doing all this?” Jules wondered, flipping between Ilonan and her normal tongue. “Why would you help me?”
“I told you, little Krieg,” Secta said, looking pained as he took her out to the steps themselves, away from anyone who might overhear their brief conference. “We are not all monsters, here. I must behave that way, if I profess to believe that way. I love my city. I love my Guardian. But I do not love what has been done to you or your people.” As the palace was still in the midst of being locked down, there were citygoers and courtiers all over; guards were in the middle of organizing everything, trying to keep the area calm — but the city itself was already in an uproar.
“Won’t you be punished?” Jules wondered, looking worried. “For letting me go? For helping me?” she asked.
“Not likely. The Prince is dead. My Guardian may be, as well,” he said, his voice unsteady as he plainly spoke those facts. “You’ve escaped in the chaos, for all I know. You’re a resourceful one, certainly,” he said, his pale eyes holding to her, his lips nearly curved into a smile.
“Gratias tibi,” Jules said, her expression earnest, her hand reaching to catch his once more, and squeeze it tightly. “I… I wish I could somehow repay you.”
“Hold in your heart the knowing that not every Ilonan is made of monstrous stuff. Would it not be wondrous if our two peoples could coexist?” Secta said, tears in his eyes. “Perhaps if you and I meet again one day, little Krieg, you will show me mercy.”
“Wondrous,” Jules repeated, nodding. “It would be wondrous indeed. And if we should meet again, Ilonan, and you are at my hand… I will not show you mercy–“
Secta did not flinch, but the corners of his mouth turned down a bit, in earnest sadness. He began to nod.
Jules continued, “–I will show you friendship.”
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North of the city jungle’s wall, Coryphaeus and Garrett marched, carrying their burdens, still in a dense forest, trudging on silently. They went side by side when they could, or at times, Garrett led, and then Coryphaeus led. It was still dark, and it was still raining; the world seemed a wild, wide open place, and Garrett loathed the vulnerability of this escape.
It was not long before the trees thinned, and when the sound of hooves could be heard, Garrett hunched down, and moved to pull his gun, baring his teeth. In the dark, it was hard to tell friend from foe.
“Put it away,” Coryphaeus said dully, and carefully set down Kieron to wave down the horse and rider. “I knew I would be found out. I knew Immanis would send me to the Hunt. I had hoped I would be able to escape, but I knew I would be wounded, at best, and so I sent word to someone I hoped might still, after hearing news of my shame, wish to be loyal to me.”
The horse drew up, and the helmed rider reined it in. “Ave, Legatus!” the officer cried, giving a wave to the small, tattered grouping.
“Ave,” Coryphaeus said exhaustedly.
“Tibi appares sicut stercore,” the soldier said, swinging a leg over, and moved to get down.
Garrett still held his gun, not at all ready to relax. He stepped in front of Kieron, ready to protect his charge at all costs. He could feel his heart thundering in his chest, could still hear the distant roar of the waterfall, the sound of night birds, the sounds of a hundred thousand things that could be enemies. He was all tension, all nervous energy, all wound, a tight spring that might be loosed at any instant.
The soldier walked by him without looking his way, and approached Coryphaeus.
“I know I look like shit,” Coryphaeus grunted, hanging his head. He moved to carefully take a knee before the soldier, wincing in pain and effort.
“Stulti,” the officer said. He shook his helmeted head, and moved to lay a gauntlet-covered hand atop the Legatus’s head.
“And I am a fool,” Coryphaeus admitted. “But you came.”
The officer nodded, quietly saying, “Veni. Propter Te.”
“Not for me,” Coryphaeus said, looking over at Garrett. “For them. Get them out of Ilona.”
“Iam de Ilona,” the officer said, looking confused, gesturing at the gate.
“Please,” Coryphaeus said, lifting his face, looking up at the officer. “Placere, Summus.”
The officer stared down Coryphaeus for a long time, before finally removing the concealing helmet, and letting it fall to the side. She knelt, as well, pulling Coryphaeus into her arms and embraced him, saying, “Soror. Ego soror tua, Coryfrater.”
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