This is Issue #44 of DeathWatch, Book II: tentatively called Heart Of Ilona, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find DeathWatch, the first in the series, or start from the beginning of Book II!
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Nixus stared her brother down, pursing her lips, looking somewhere between concerned and smug. On the one hand, she wanted him happy. On the other hand, she would be glad if he were rid of the stupri milk-skinned cunni. She was bad news. Bad luck.
Coryphaeus looked sad for a moment, staring down at his hands. He swallowed roughly, and looked up at Nixus, sighing. His expression twisted into a frown that he struggled to keep from turning into something even less controlled as he said, “It’s her husband. The man I had you look for. The man who saved me.”
“She calls for him, still?” Nixus said, looking irritable. She paced by the breakfast table and pulled things from various plates, a bite of this, a taste of that. “You’re being bested by a ghost?”
“I am not being bested by a ghost. There is no competition, Nix; she does not think of me in that way, and I cannot make her. She was having a nightmare, soror. Stop licking your fingers.” Coryphaeus’s voice was tired, at first, but then just as irritable as hers.
His sister’s voice grew mockingly affectionate. “You sound like Patri. Call me Nixiana and I’ll punch the word out with your teeth.”
Coryphaeus sighed, rolling his eyes.
Nixus selected a wedge of peeled pomelo and ate it wolfishly, then dramatically licked her fingers before she grumbled “Does she not realize all you’ve done for her? I could make her compliant, Coryfrater.”
Behind Nixus, Jules cleared her throat. “I’d love to see you try,” she said dryly. She wandered over to the table where breakfast had been laid out, and picked up a slice of honeyed bread, and took a big bite.
Nixus turned around and growled, “Don’t get smart with me, Westlander. The only reason I don’t just gut you is it would make my brother sad.”
Jules swallowed, grinning. She lifted one eyebrow and with it came the corner of her mouth, twisting her lips into a brilliant smirk. “Then we have something in common,” she said with dazzling cheer. “We’re like sisters!”
“I swear to the heavens, you pink-skinned canicula, don’t be silly with me, you will not like what happens,” Nixus hissed.
“Eto prosto rozovy nekotorykh mestakh,” Jules said, smug. Only some parts are pink. “Idite, sprosite vashego brata.” She nodded toward Coryphaeus, shameless. Go ahead, ask your brother. She stuck her finger in a plate of ciceris paste, and then savored the expression on Nixus’s face almost as much as she savored the earthy, nutty taste of the oiled spread.
Coryphaeus snorted with laughter and clapped a hand over his mouth, covering it with a cough. He didn’t know much Kriegic, but considering Jules’s answer and expression, and the way she gestured to him, he had a general idea of what she meant. He glanced at Nixus, and was worried.
“Percipite auribus,” Nixus snarled, advancing on Jules.
“No, you listen to me,” Jules said, standing her ground. “I’m not your enemy. The thousands of Kriegsmen crossing your borders are.”
“They have. They are. They’re coming.” Jules popped a date in her mouth almost smugly.
Nixus lifted a brow and looked to Coryphaeus. “This is why you’ve been pushing — this is why they sent Plaga back with the fumi-stultus scorta of a famula?”
“Smoke-addled whore of a — wow, damn. And I thought I was special because you hated me. You hate everyone though, don’t you?” Jules laughed, spitting the date pit onto her plate.
Coryphaeus glanced at Jules with a pleading expression. Don’t make this worse? To Nixus, he nodded, looking grim. “We need the Legios stationed, but we can’t push out the cavalry yet; the ships are coming. We’ll need to bring them down or we’ll just be massive targets. They won’t have to fire missiles, they could simply drop water barrels out of the sky.”
“Boom. Splat,” Jules added helpfully, winking at Nixus.
“Get a better leash on your canicula, Coryfrater,” Nixes growled. “If she’s going on a ship, she’ll get pushed back off if she can’t keep her mouth shut.”
“Te amo etiam soror,” Jules beamed. “And I’m not going on a ship. You’re giving me a ship.”
“That settles it,” Nixus said, glaring at Coryphaeus. “Your slave has officially lost its mind.”
“I’m not a–” Jules began, looking furious.
“Vero, tu es,” Nixus said, and her hand shot out to go around Jules’s throat. Yes, you are. She gave the woman a rough shake before either Jules or Coryfrater could stop her. Then she let her go, and stepped back.
“Tu quoque ite procul, soror,” Coryphaeus hissed. You go too far, sister. He reached to touch Jules, but she slapped his hand away and stared hard at Nixus.
Jules’s voice was low and calm, and sounded as though she were trying to convince a wild animal to listen to a rational argument. “The reason I’m going with you, Nixie, is because you’ll die on the field without me,” she explained. “I know the flight tactics and flying patterns of the Kriegs. Don’t forget, I served on the Maxima. May’ve been a Westlander ship, but the captain was Krieg, through and through.”
Nixus looked offended, and pointed an accusing finger at Jules. “That was a dirty, bloody, ruinous trick.”
Jules voice was angry, challenging. “And you think they won’t use it again?”
“And what, pray tell, could you do for us to save us from that kind of devastation?” Nixus wondered, crossing her arms over her chest.
Jules picked up one of the pieces of the heavy, red fruits that were split and laid on a bronze tray in the middle of the breakfast table. She ran her fingers over the clutch of gem-like seeds, and plucked some loose, then held them out in the palm of her hand for Nixus and Coryphaeus both to see.
“Jules,” Coryphaeus said, his eyes opening wide as he moved closer to her. He’d researched; he remembered the night of the reception. “No–”
Nixus watched the woman with interest. She, too, knew what the seeds were, but had no intention of stopping the woman from doing something potentially lethal, and definitely painful.
Coryphaeus reached for Jules “–you can’t–”
Jules ducked away from Coryphaeus’s grasp, dropped the seeds into her mouth, chewed and swallowed them, and then turned her gaze to Nixus once more. “What can I do? I can watch you all die, and work back from there.”
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