Hyperion Ep. 2 – *fiction based on a real person, for whom I’ve drawn up a personal profile (Knight-type).
Hyperion is a former soldier with a secret. A secret that enables him to accomplish more than a normal man, making him among the few who can fight a special kind of enemy. He’s sent to a village by the Dark Forest, where he sets up camp and begins observing his target. There’s little Hyperion doesn’t see coming and even less he can’t deal with, but his target’s young wife, Ligia, does threaten to complicate things. This scene depicts the pivotal moment of Hyperion and Ligia’s first interaction.
I set up camp at the citadel in the dark forest. Ice besieged its ruinous walls, and the woods are a frozen killer, so the villagers never come here. The hideout is safe. It takes more than just stolen hay to build a shelter and more skill than wood to start a fire, but it eventually works.
In the morning I pull over the cloak – as shabby as any peasant’s coat and cap – and attend mass in the village. It’s some saint’s day, so the church is packed enough to facilitate anonymity for a while. I keep at the back and my hood low, observing the target. They call him Swine, the Old Loon had said. I identify him by the round stomach and the air of self-importance. Encumbered by a bunch of ass-kissers and a wife, he stands out as a man of status. The mayor, it turns out.
As the throng spills out I seek cover in the neighboring graveyard, close enough to the church to keep the action in my field of vision. The Swine’s enjoying all the attention one can get, except his wife’s. The woman turns, and her eyes focus on me.
I draw behind a tombstone and pull my hood lower, but she still looks in my direction. My eyes adjust automatically in a close-up. She’s younger than I expected. Despite the afghan hanging heavy on her body and the kerchief covering her hair, she has a healthy milkmaid face and rosy lips. Her eyes a vivid blue. I can’t place her anywhere beyond twenty.
I retreat for the day, building a strategy in my head to accomplish my mission. The milkmaid shouldn’t be a problem, she couldn’t have seen my face. There’s nothing to link me to the Swine, so she won’t have a case. I tend to doubt my employer’s version of things, though. The Swine doesn’t fit the profile. He’s greasy, heavy and corrupt, has petty ambitions and a healthy appetite gone wrong. He’s no Night Wraith.
A frozen branch crunches behind me in a certain way. It’s not the winter bone crackling of the forest, nor is it an animal. I stop and pretend to seek my path among the trees, sniffing the air. It’s too icy to catch scents without switching on my own wraith senses and draw attention, but there’s hot, damp breath not far behind. Yes, I’m being followed.
I continue along the slippery cobbles of the riverbank and climb the side of the hill to the citadel. I lead the shadowy chaser to the hut, and he keeps in the safety of my tracks. Fool. I enter the hut. He doesn’t follow right away, and gives me time to start a fire. Maybe he’s considering using it to take me down, or maybe he’s waiting for the right moment. I’m still crouched by the shy flames when I sense him behind me.
I spin round, my fist already clenched in a hammer ready to smash, but the lack of a head at the level where I expected one pulls the emergency brakes. I look down at a wobbly figure in an afghan struggling to keep balance. I grab its shoulders to steady it and take a good look at the face. The kerchief slips off golden locks, and the milkmaid’s wide blue eyes meet mine.
“I’m a friend,” she yelps.
“A strong word. I only have a few, and you’re not one of them.” I suppress my awe and keep my tone free of inflections.
She bites her lower lip, her eyes moving around in search of a proper reply. “I went through all the trouble to follow you here, I deserve a chance, don’t I?”
“Trouble, yes. Why go through it?”
“I was curious, all right?” Now she sounds real. Even her gaze settles, but not on my face.
“And why’s that?”
“You must be kidding. This is a village, no one misses a new appearance.”
“And yet you’re the only one who didn’t.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes, I do.”
She tilts her head to the side, her gaze a bit more daring. She’s beautiful, I must admit. “Were you trying to remain a mystery?”
“I can’t use attention. Or friends.”
“Well, you might avoid unwanted friendships, but you’ll have to bear the scrutiny. A man like you has to put up with a lot of it, I imagine.”
“A man like me?”
Her rosy mouth gives me the sweetest smile. “That hood may cover your eyes, but any girl would be drawn to those lips and the shape of your body.”
The very definition of direct and blunt. I’m speechless for a moment, enough for her to muster yet more courage to look me in the face and take off her afghan. The swell of her breasts under the linen shirt makes it hard to focus.
“I’m Ligia, by the way. You can call me Lee.”
She takes a step closer, but I grab her shoulders to keep her away.
“You’re being reckless,” I say evenly. Something lights up in her eyes, and I know it turns her on.
“You’re being irresistible.”
“Hold your horses, Ligia,” I admonish. Her cheeks go red, and it shakes my defenses. I don’t want her to feel embarrassed.
“You don’t like me?” she babbles.
“That didn’t stop you from staring at me in church.”
“I thought you couldn’t see my eyes.”
“I felt them.”
Oh . . . I shake my head. “I wasn’t staring at you.”
“Was it another?”
“Ligia,” but I don’t know how to put it. How to reject her without being cruel. I turn and poke at the fire. I hear the rustle of her afghan as she puts it on, and I can’t resist turning to look at her again. She’s all flushed and embarrassed as she clutches the heavy material around her.
“Why?” I apply a soft tone. “Why seek the embrace of a man who’s not your husband?”
She snorts. “You can’t be serious.”
“I’m as serious as it gets.”
“Have you actually seen who I’m married to?”
“Has anybody forced you into it?” The question’s supposed to expose her as the victim of her own choices, but it hits a completely different cord.
“Poverty forced me into it. That monster forced me into it,” she spits. I rise slowly to my feet. Tears flow down her cheeks, and I’m tempted to stroke them away. I refrain though.
“Why me? There are other young men in town, far easier to reach, and far more available.”
She bites her lip and snorts bitterly, as if I fail to see some obvious truth.
“You may find it hard to believe,” she says, “but following you through the dark forest was the safest option. We both know you’re not here to stay, everything about you states that. Had I sought an affair with anyone in the village, he would’ve found out and killed me. You have no idea what the Swine turns into when he’s mad.” She bursts into sobs, covering her face, shuddering. The fear that oozes from her makes me lose the last trace of doubt. My employer was right.
I wind an arm around her. “Yes, Lee. Yes, I do.”
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Hyperion’s citadel – where the inspiration came from.
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