The moment came for Hyperion to eliminate the Swine. He intends to do it at mass, when the Swine sits in the first row, exposed to Hyperion, who replaced the village priest for the opportunity. Yet the moment he decides to attack something unexpected stops him – only until nightfall, when the Swine’s wife, Ligia, finds Hyperion and seduces him. Sparks fly, but mortal danger is just around the corner. The final battle begins.
It’s a gloomy day. The church bells, slow and earnest, make it even gloomier. I’m prepared for mass at the altar, cross hanging by my neck, hands together as I summon my focus. Frost covered the windows, and the snowfall made the paths almost unusable. Yet the church is full. Even the octogenarian cripples spared no effort to see the new priest – too young, I heard them whisper, how will they ever confess to a mere boy?
The blade I used to cut the holy bread – what the monks used to insist I called only the “Body of Christ” on every attempt to exorcise me – is tucked under my priest cloak, strapped close and within quick reach. There is indeed good opportunity. The Swine occupies the first row with his minions, beautiful Ligia at his side, looking at me with those big blue eyes as if I were a god. Her golden mane is hidden under a kerchief, which I long to remove. I strangle the feeling and focus on the task.
All of a sudden the Swine frowns angrily, and the corners of his mouth draw to the floor. But he pushes his chest forward as if to prove who’s number one, and my senses light up. He’s perfectly vulnerable. It’s the perfect moment, but then a row of children starts pouring between us – the reason of his anger; they come before him for sacrament, it’s the law and the letter. They’re all rags, they’re cold and dirty, and look at the pieces of bread in my hand like starving hawks. The sight brings back memories that make my heart clench.
“Mr. Mayor, in his great generosity,” I announce at the end of mass in the echo of the church, “organizes a meal for all village children this evening. His good wife will see to the preparations.” I give Ligia a meaningful look, and it’s enough for her to understand. She smiles, her eyes full of gratitude and admiration, and I have to look away in order to keep focused.
The Swine is exposed to the villagers’ surprised fidgeting and murmur, while the children can barely restrain their glee. There’s nothing he can do about it, he’s forced to comply, but his glare promises retribution. It’s mean, and his grin a display of bad teeth ready to bite and tear.
An impulse to take him straight-on fires through my limbs, and I have difficulty damping it down. A young body comes with good but also bad, such as thirst for adrenaline and violence. I yet manage to get a grip until later at the old widow’s barn, where Ligia and the old woman gather all the urchins, and where I expect to see him again. He doesn’t show up. His minions are all over the place though.
“You went too far,” the old widow whispers as soon as she finds a reason to linger by my side. Her sleeves are rolled up as she settles a caldron of hot soup by the pile of wood I cut.
“I didn’t come here to walk short distances,” I hiss.
“No, but this will make the Swine channel all his attention on you. And you need the shadow.”
“His attention was on me already. He was suspicious of my years and my interactions with his wife, so I don’t think there’s much difference between then and now.”
The woman glances at Ligia, who tries to make the children settle, but those with already full bellies laugh in mischief, daring her to chase them.
“Speaking of his wife,” the widow says, looking at Ligia, “she’s in love with you.”
My knees threaten to disjoint, and my heart flares. I stare at Ligia, no more than a girl with rosy cheeks herself, grabbing one of the bigger girls by her rags as she runs and laughs. She looks so carefree and happy. She catches me staring, and I can no longer deny the truth – I desire her.
On the first opportunity I return to church and find seclusion in the Old Father’s chamber. It’s restricted to a cot, a small table, a chair and a candle that now makes the stone walls flicker. Not even a holy face for company – indeed, enough of them just next door. The chamber is practically a small stone shed adjacent to the nave.
I light the fire in the stove, remove my priest cloak and lie down on the cot with the Bible. I never thought I’d lay a hand on it again, yet now I find myself a demon in desperate need of God’s angels. My desire for Ligia is as intense as sin, and jeopardizes too much.
I recognize her small steps echoing in the empty nave, and my blood surges as I jump to my feet. When she appears in the doorstep, the candlelight playing on her sweet milkmaid face, I realize my torso is bare. I’m uneasy as she looks me up and down, her eyes surprised and wide. I’m sure the scars disgust her, and it’s a stab in the heart. My jaw clenches as I tell myself it’s for the best.
“You shouldn’t be here, Ligia. Go home.”
“I will.” Her voice is small and it trembles. She gathers her courage and looks me in the face again, her eyes teary and loving instead of what I expected. She walks closer. I should retreat, but I can’t bring myself to.
“Just once, Hyperion, just once let me feel you,” she whispers, now so close that I can feel the touch of her cloak on my skin. Her small white hands follow, cold and electrifying. My body tightens, and I clench my fists to restrain.
“You’re so beautiful,” she mutters as she looks at my body as if I’m made of candy. It’s so hard to keep myself in check that I can’t speak. This is new and alarming.
“Let me kiss you, just this once.” She looks up at me, warm and inviting, and I can’t resist. I find myself bending my head to feel the full taste of her lips. Sweet, soft and completely new, the sensation is irresistible, making me crave more of her. I pull her to me until I can feel her breasts under my chest, my arms locking around her small waist while hers travel up my back, pressing possessive. I begin to lose myself in her consuming kiss when I hear the stomping in the nave.
I shield her behind me in a flash, and the moment the Swine walks into the room, confident stomach forward and framed by his men, we’re no longer kissing, but the truth is obvious anyway. He grimaces in rage and points a chubby, shaking finger at me.
“I knew you were here for her!”
I can’t keep back a hiss. “No. I’m here for you.”
At his slightest signal two of his men leap toward us, but I jump forward even faster, manage to get between them and grab the knife from one of them. In a second I have the knife at the Swine’s oily chin, and demand them not to touch Ligia. My blood boils as I breathe in the Swine’s smell, I’m so eager to kill him.
I urge Ligia to go, once, twice, three times, but she refuses and begs the Swine to leave me in peace, that this is all her fault. I must raise my voice to wraith anger to scare her and get her to scurry by me. The men let her pass to make sure I don’t slit the Swine’s throat, but that’s all my strategy can accomplish. I’m in the very situation I’ve been trying to avoid.
Just as Ligia bursts out of the church into the snow, the creature inside the Swine wriggles and slithers to the surface, his body hardening. His men approach with monster eyes and sharp purpose that I cannot fight fair. The blade can’t pierce the Swine’s skin anymore, and I’m outnumbered.
To be continued.
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