This is Issue #69 of DeathWatch, an ongoing Serial. Click that link to go find ‘A Beginning’ and read from there, if you need to catch up.
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“Jet?” The gentle knocking did not sound like Lucida, but it was her voice; she did not let herself in, which also did not seem like Lucida. He opened the door for her, and she looked a little taken aback at his presence. He caught sight of himself in a mirror as he stood in the doorway, and lifted his chin in pride. He was dressed in Ilonan finery, and from his plaited black hair to his sandaled feet, he was every bit her brother, every bit a prince.
“Is it time?” he wondered, stepping out into the hallway, offering her his arm.
“Are you all right?” she wondered, reaching up to stroke her fingertips along the cleanshaven line of his jaw.
“Yes, bellamea,” he murmured. “It is kind of you to ask, but I’m fine,” he promised, reassuring her. He reached up and caught her hand and laid a kiss to her palm, then twined his fingers with hers, and led her away from his doorway, and down the hall.
“Now I am definitely worried,” she said, but snuggled closer to him, even as she frowned.
Jet’s expression was truly curious; he cocked his head to the side and looked to her. “Why is that?”
“You are never the affectionate one,” she said, half-pouting. “I wonder if I am to suffer a prank for it.”
Jet laughed, shaking his head, and pulled her close to his body, then bowed his head to kiss her, long and slow and hungry.
She did not stop him, but encouraged him, deepening the kiss and teasingly biting his tongue.
For all his earlier complaints at her advances, he was the one reaching for her; his fingers dug into her shoulder, her hip, and then he lifted her up and let her spread her legs around his hips. He leaned her into the wall and pulled up her skirts, pulled open the scarves of her blouse, revealed her body as though he were peeling a ripe fruit, and began to devour her.
He reached between them, to undo the sash at his long, flowing trews, and then her hand was on him, and together, they guided their joining.
That is when he began to devour her in earnest.
The first bite made her cry out in shock and alarm.
The second made her scream.
The third rendered her silent.
Blood ran over her breasts and poured between her legs. He felt the heat of it strike him, wash over him–
–and woke in his bed with a long, low cry. Every muscle felt agonized; he could feel every heartbeat in his temples like the pulse of a rotten tooth nudged at by a curious tongue. He tore himself free of the bedclothes and staggered to the bath so he could splash some cold water on his face. He looked into the mirror and barely recognized himself; his features had grown sharper, colder, and the muscles of his body were more defined. His hair was longer, and he felt taller, still, than he had been only hours ago.
When the knock came at the door, he jumped, and caught sight of his own wide eyes in the mirror. The look of terror on his face was so absolute, he had to laugh. It came out almost as a bray, and he clapped one hand over his mouth, and with the other, pinched the bridge of his nose.
The knock came again.
This time, he called out, “I’m not quite ready for dinner; I had a headache — I’m still dressing.”
“I could help?” answered a pleading, newly-familiar voice.
Jet sighed, shaking his head, and called back, “I remember how to dress myself, Secta, thank you.” The last thing he wanted was to see that man again.
“Please, master, I– I beg your forgiveness. I spoke out of turn earlier, and I deserve your rebuke only — please. Please, let me serve you,” came the plea.
“Go away, Secta. Find someone else to pamper. I have neither the worth nor the desire of it,” Jet said dryly.
For a moment, there was silence, then the sound of a scuffle. Secta’s voice was suddenly high and pained. “Please! Permi! Fera te! I am begging you!”
Bewildered, and more than slightly frustrated at being disturbed, Jet stalked out of the bathroom and threw the door of his chambers open, to find Secta being dragged away by guards. “Hold!” he called. “What is this?”
“The Princess informed us he did not please you. He was to be granted another chance to be your groom. He failed,” one of the guards said bluntly.
Jet looked at Secta, whose expression was both terrified and defeated, and said, “And what of him, now?”
“His family will be paid, highness. Do not trouble yourself,” the guard promised, trying to ease Jet’s mind.
“Paid?” Jet said, cocking his head to the side. “For–”
“–his life. It is a handsome sum. It is not a dishonor,” the guard said easily.
“No, you can’t — don’t pay them,” Jet said, shaking his head.
Secta lifted his head and looked at Jet in disbelief. “What offense have I done you?” he gasped.
“No, no!” Jet said, exasperated. “Let him go. Pay them or don’t pay them, I just — don’t kill him. He’s not–I was not used to the idea of my own groom,” he said, pursing his lips and looking at Secta hesitantly. “But I will keep him.”
Secta’s expression was relief unto jubilation. “Oh, my Guardian, I owe you my life, I will not fail you. Please, I will launder your clothes and polish your leathers. I will sharpen your sword and be your helpmeet,” he promised. “You will lack for nothing,” he said, carefully peeling himself out of the grasp of the guards who looked bewildered, at first, but then accepting.
“As you wish,” the guard said. “We will inform the Princess of your decision.”
“I’ll… let her know myself,” Jet said. “Please continue your other duties.”
“Yes, Guardian,” the guard answered. They bowed as a unit, and then left.
Secta went into Jet’s rooms and began to tidy, quickly arranging things, working fast to make a difference, to make his presence necessary. He looked expectant as he said “You have dinner with your brother in a short amount of time. I will lay out your clothing, and then… a shave?”
Jet sighed, nodding in nearly-amused resignation as he said, “I suppose I do have need of one.”
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