This is the second to last episode of Hyperion, the Night Wraith sent to a secluded village by the Dark Forest to eliminate its corrupt mayor, the Swine. Hyperion and the Swine’s wife have fallen in love, which jeopardized Hyperion’s mission and exposed him to the Swine, who now has him cornered with more of his men. In this episode action reaches its peak in the final battle.
The Swine wriggles from my clasp, my blade now powerless against his hardened reptile flesh. He spins round and faces me, a bulk of a serpent with a dripping tongue and fat tail that supports his bouncing. I bare my fangs in a hiss, letting my splitting tongue sweep over them to test their sharpness. My appetite increases as my spine grows bone thorns that rip through the human skin, my muscles pumping into hard-rock bulk, and my claws growing steel-sharp.
The Swine’s men transform too, shredding their clothes and springing into humanoid serpents with knotty arms and claws, but they’re smaller than I expected, like malnourished angry pets. The Swine keeps back at first, but he’d be able to close the tactics and finish me if his minions play their cards right. So I have to play mine.
I take advantage that the door is behind me, and I retreat fast. They leap after me, invading the darkness behind the pillars in the nave. Their hisses echo against the church walls – the sound of hell itself leaking into the world of men. Again I find myself a demon in need of God’s angels, and summon the monks’ words, their old books and midnight secrets.
“From the beginning I knew there was something wrong with you,” the Swine’s voice resounds from the shadows, devilish and guttural.
I retreat soundlessly into the altar, where I can apply what the monks fought so hard to teach me. I find what I’m looking for, and speak out to throw the bait.
“How did you come into being, swine? You’re small at mind and foul at heart, you can’t be a natural Night Wraith.”
“Interesting choice of words,” the Swine spits. “You sound much older than you look.”
“I am much older than I look.”
His minions follow the sound of my voice to the altar. I can tell by the sloshing of slime as they crawl. I spot the first one clinging to a dark corner between the ceiling and the wall. Its scaly skin glints in the moonlight as it slithers in what it believes quiet stalking. When it thinks it caught the moment, it leaps down to me with its mouth open, its fangs ready to bite. I intercept it halfway and hurtle it to the ground, crushing him under me – I’m bigger, and weigh much more. In the process I grab and drag the holy cloth off the altar table and let its fangs pierce it.
My fingers and palms soften to allow the venom to seep through my pores and transform the cloth in a dense wire net, which I pull away forcefully, ripping the creature’s fangs out. It howls in pain as it transforms back into a human, and I stab him in the gut with the same dagger I used to cut the holy bread.
“One down, swine,” I whir, willing him to take a chance and attack, but he’s a coward. I know he won’t actually try until he’s out of options.
“You may be a natural while I am not,” I hear his guttural poltergeist of a voice. “But when my boys have you down I’ll skin your scales and stuff your head for display at my house. I’ll have Ligia dust it off every day. If she survives what I plan for her tonight.”
I sense the evil grin accompanying that last sentence, and my muscles clench in rage. Another serpent attacks from the side, mouth open and fangs visible, but it gets all the vehemence of my growing power. I flash the dagger through its mouth into its throat, and it collapses convulsing on the floor. I throw holy wine in the face of the next one, my voice rising to a loud, inhumanly deep spell that makes the windows vibrate while I crush the creature’s head under my foot that grows like the knotty root of an oak.
I can feel all the serpents freeze, their eyes darting around, trying to understand what’s happening, while the Swine urges them to attack.
“They won’t do it,” I say, my wraith voice now the only sound in the darkness. I can feel the power spreading through my body like fire, sucking all energy from my human self. The wraith overtakes completely, and I let it, even though I’m aware of the price. The world might still need me after this, but I don’t want to serve or be in a world where Ligia doesn’t exist.
“What the hell did you just do?” the Swine demands, furious.
“Do you believe in God, wraith?”
“What is this?” he pitches from the nave.
“Do you believe in powers higher than your own? Or the devil’s?”
“I am not the work of a devil.”
“Whose work are you then?”
“Wouldn’t you like to know?”
Another one of his minions dares an attack, but now I’m so strong and big that I take most of the altar. I bite him in half with a thump that shakes the altar doors, and I can sense the ripple of fear going through all the Swine’s serpents.
One of them throws the door open and plunges into the night. I know he’s off for back up, so I emerge from the altar, the thin separating walls crumbling as I advance. Serpents slither desperately away, but before they can make it out they’re ripped and shredded under my feet, some under my hands, and some howl in pain as their skin melts off them as holy wine and water burns them like acid.
I get the Swine by the door. His eyes are huge. He’s so scared he literally shits himself, and the fear slowly turns him back into a human.
“Who made you, wraith?” I demand as he shrinks in my claws until I cover his fat throat with just two so-called fingers.
“What the hell are you?” His lips tremble, and his voice fades, his eyes bulging out.
“Don’t hope for help from that word. It’s useless now.”
“You have power over the holy?” He determines baffled.
“No one has power over the holy, you arrogant filth. You pray to the holy. You ask for permission to borrow its power.”
He blinks, and I know he’s realizing certain things.
“You’re an ancient Night Wraith. A dragon man. But legend says that you’re vulnerable to whatever is holy too.”
So he knows. The fact makes me cringe, but I don’t show it. I should kill him right away, but I can’t help it – I want him to feel sorry for the harm he’s done. I want him to realize how much of a filth he is.
“The Holy tolerates me. I serve it now.”
“Yeah,” he wheezes, displaying his oily grin. “But the Holy doesn’t serve you.”
I see his hand fumbling on the floor too late. He uses the last of his wraith strength to ram the tip of a wooden cross in my eye. It sears like red iron, making me roar in pain and loosen my grip on him to pull the cross out, which gives him the chance to jump to his feet.
The cross is imbued with the science summoned into it, gracefully granted by powers that are now working against me. I can sense the Swine standing before me for a second, relishing my pain with the evil grin stretching over his face.
“If there is indeed a God, there’s a devil too,” he sneers. “So I’m not out of allies yet.”
In my rage I flash my claws around to grab him, which drives fear back into his bones and sets him on the run. I know he’ll want to kill Ligia before he does anything else, and I grow desperate. Fear for her life crawls into me, weakening the wraith. My sight is bad and the wraith retreats, but it does so with all my human vital energy. Having the wraith on full power was bound to kill me one day, and that day has come.
By the time I reach the clearing on the top of the hill after the Swine I’m a naked, trembling man, my limbs weak and shaky, my eye regenerated but watery and tired. I drop on half my face in the snow, my heart giving up, my sight fading. The last thing I see is a man kneeling by my side, bringing his face very close to me – curious, worried and stubbly. The Pitbull. This is the end for both Ligia and me, and for the first time in an eternity I have a fantasy – that I’ll feel her lips on mine again in the afterlife. I give up and let my lids close for what I have no doubt is my final sleep.
Last episode with bonus scenes to be released in the upcoming Christmas Stories for Adults on the 22nd of December. Stay tuned and find out how Hyperion’s story ends.
Liked this? Check out the previous episodes of Hyperion at the link below and stay tuned for the Christmas Stories for Adults, the e-book that will contain all three stories – Hyperion, Saphira and Lila –, with bonus end scenes. Please feel free to roam this site for all the previous episodes to all three stories in the Stories for the Coffee Breaks section, and enjoy the suspense and the mystery.
UPDATE – BOOK RELEASED
Buy Hyperion’s whole story here.