Hyperion is on a mission to slay the Swine, a powerful Night Wraith. Yet in the last episode he found himself compelled to save his target’s wife, Ligia, from rape by one of her husband’s men. Hyperion killed the attacker, and now he has to dispose of the body, which he takes deep in the woods. Yet in the moonlight there’s more than Hyperion’s wraith that comes to life. Enjoy the story as secrets even Hyperion doesn’t expect reveal themselves “In the Moonlight.”
The Weasel’s body now lifeless at my feet, I hide my face deeper under the hood. This is the part where I become a real monster, and I don’t want Ligia seeing it in my eyes. I don’t want her to know I’m no better than her husband.
Without a glance at her or the widow, I grab the Weasel by his ankles and drag him over the sill. The adrenaline is still alive in my blood, and I must take advantage of it while it lasts. I jump over and sling the body over my shoulder, but as I advance into the darkness my feet begin to sink in the thick snow, the cold and the strain catching up with me. It’s been a draining night.
By the time I reach the heart of the woods I can’t feel my toes or my fingers. My lips are split and start to hurt. The ground is too frozen and too hard to dig anything resembling a tomb, so I give in to my other monster impulses. I take the Weasel’s knife – dented and blunt – and start around his face, applying more strength than I would with a good blade, and more skill.
He’s already rigid and barely bleeds as I cut around his forehead and cheeks, making sure he’s unrecognizable. I rip his shirt open with the same bad temper he ripped Ligia’s, shred his pants and underwear, and I chop him open. The cold neutralized his smell, but the warm insides of his body are an odor bomb.
I wait for a while in the frosty shrubbery to see if wild animals take a chance on him. They don’t – they prefer their prey wounded but fresh. They will devour him eventually nevertheless. Food in the winter woods is scarce. Still, if he doesn’t fall prey to fangs, by the time anyone finds him he’ll be long forgotten anyway.
The break helps refill my tanks just enough to start back towards the old widow’s house. I remember the story about the orphans in the widow’s barn, and I decide to seek shelter there. For that, I have to take a path through the village to cross to the other side of the woods, and so I have to pass by the well. When I do, my heart leaps in a way no wraith could ever cause it to.
Ligia stands in the moonlight with her back at me, her blond locks falling free down to her waist. I approach, the snow crunching under my feet. Apart from the sound of it there’s an unfamiliar pounding in my ears. Maybe I’m worried about the consequences of her leaving her house. What I know for a fact is that I can’t believe she honors the midnight meeting she suggested even under the circumstances.
“What if your husband returns and doesn’t find you?” I admonish when I’m close enough. Not too close, I don’t want her feeling the stench of death on me.
Her frame straightens and stiffens at the sound of my voice. She spins round, and her bright blue eyes meet mine, the blush in her cheeks like roses on porcelain. The sight stirs me, and I feel the urge to shield against it. I square my shoulders, putting on a forbidding face.
“He’s –,” she babbles a bit and gathers the afghan around her like a shy child. “He’s not coming back until morning. It’s not the first time he goes out like this.”
I give a stiff nod.
“I mean he’s at –”
“No need for explanations,” I interrupt, doing my best to sound unfriendly. It makes her feel embarrassed, and my stomach clenches. Not what I aimed for. “He’s seeing other women, I understand. You don’t have to give me the details if they hurt you,” I add a little softer. This encourages her.
“Hurt me? No, they don’t hurt me. I’m happy to have him away.”
She walks closer and looks me right in the face. I take a step back and she stops.
“I’m sorry about the first night at the citadel,” she says. “I didn’t realize you were . . . You’re not going to tell him, are you?”
“I just killed a man in his house, right before your eyes. Do you think I’m in any position to expose you?”
Her eyes wander all over my face, greedy and relentless, and I realize my hood is off. I want to pull it back on, but it seems awkward and pointless. It’s too late.
“Then we keep each other’s secret.”
I don’t reply, and keep my gaze fixed between her eyes. It helps me look distant, but something very strange happens inside of me.
“The widow’s lips are sealed as well,” she whispers. “She said she prepared the old Father’s chamber at church for you, it’s warm and cozy now, and she will be attending to you. I will as well, if you wish.” Her cheeks go even redder and hotter despite her breath turning to steam in the cold. I’d like to breathe in that steam.
“No. It would cause trouble for the both of us.”
Now she feels embarrassed again. She sinks her head.
“No it is, then. But if I may ask – why did you do it? Why did you save me?”
“Just an impulse. I came to see your husband, and –”
“You came to kill him,” she cuts off. It doesn’t really surprise me, the widow must’ve told her. I decide to restrict the answer though.
“It’s not that simple.”
“I understand. No need for explanation on my side either. Just know that whoever seeks to free this place of the Swine – freeing me of him in stride – has my complete and purest loyalty.”
She walks by me and stops by my side. She’s too close.
“Father Jacob. Is that your real name?”
“It’s the name they gave me in the monastery.”
“But not the name your mother gave you?”
The words make my jaw lock, but Ligia is patient. She doesn’t move until I speak again. “My mother was young. She had big dreams and daring ideas. She picked a more pretentious name.”
“Tell me. Even if it’s the last word you ever address me,” she pleads, her voice sweet and broken. It blows my shield into pieces.
“Hyperion,” I hear myself before I think it.
“Hyperion,” she repeats. There’s a kind of reverence in her voice. She seems to take my name with her as she departs, while I remain motionless by the well under the moonlight, my heart pounding, my face burning. The adrenaline races through me, but this time it isn’t anger or bloodlust. It’s something different. Something new to me. And strangely pleasant.
To be continued.
Liked this? Share your thoughts and feelings in a comment. Hyperion’s whole story will be published in a Christmas Story Book for Adults, so stay tuned for Gift Promotions and other goodies. This Story Book for Adults will also be quite fit for a Christmas present – stay tuned for the reveal of the cover versions next week, and you’ll see how come.
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