The Executioner – Ep. VII – The Man and the Shadow

I rushed backwards, waving my hands in a desperate attempt to cling to something, anything, and soon a wall of bodies replaced the gleam that had sent me frantic.

My brain banged against my skull for moments until I realized someone shook me. The physical sensation brought me back to awareness. George’s long, thin face appeared as an intermittent vision as I blinked fast, trying to gather myself. His words sounded muffled and the first thing that came through clear was, “Are you going mad too, Alice?”

“The window! I saw someone!” I squealed.

The Wretch moaned in his corner and my head snapped to him. His eyes were wide with fear, fixed on the pane, while his body struggled with invisible enemies, the chair screaming under him.

A commotion started, and before long people claimed, “There’s nothing here.” I pushed George aside but still hung on him for support as I craned my neck to see the panes. My jelly-soft legs barely kept me standing.

Indeed, darkness spread over the window, only the snow in its corners glistening like the veil of a ghost.

“I saw someone,” I whispered. Someone, I was sure of it. And indeed no wolf. The eyes had been at the same level as mine, which meant whoever had stood out there was a tall person. Outside the ground leveled much lower than inside the lodge, I’d realized that when I’d been out on the porch. No animal standing on its back legs could have as much as reached the sill, unless that animal was a bear.

“Are you sure?” George asked.

I already had second thoughts – not as to the glowing eyes, but to whether or not I should insist on it. Bottom line was: we all sank in deep shit, but panic was a bad advisor.

“No. I started when I bumped against the window, the rest could’ve been just in my head.”

“For fuck’s sake, Alice, you almost gave me a heart attack.” George scorned.

“We have enough pressure already,” another one called, his face hidden in the group.

I shut out all reproaches and welcomed Ruxandra’s comforting presence by my side.

“This whole thing is getting to us all,” she said. She allowed me some time to gather myself, but the small slaps on my hands and face were a clear sign of urgency.

“What did you get out of Marius?” I asked as soon as I could master my voice. Now, I too had a great urge to find out what the hell had put us in this situation.

Ruxandra searched my eyes, ensuring I could stand, then slapped me lightly once more. “Follow me.”

Before I could blink she started toward the door, snaking her way to the kitchen. I hurried to catch up with her down the narrow hallway, bumping into people who talked about what was to be done.

We found Damian and Hector forging the same kind of plans with a few others – including George, to my surprise, who listened with a serious look on his face, nodding. He seemed proud to have become a part of their closest gang.

Damian stood with his back at the counter, knives and other metallic, rusty objects lined on it, the sheepskin coat folded on a chair by his side.

“ . . . not before Hector and I have scouted the area,” he concluded as we came in.

I wanted to punch myself for how my heart fluttered as I laid eyes on him. I’d already waved a finger at my inner self and decided that Damian Novac was a no-no. I reminded myself that, if we survived this mess, he’d only have me toss and turn at night, obsessing about the smallest gestures he made and the most meaningless of glances – like I had until now. Not to mention that we most probably owed him this shitty situation. The man was serious trouble, no matter from what angle I looked at him.

Sick of myself, I kept a low profile by the door, but Ruxandra went straight to the men.

“Have you seen this before?” she interrupted Damian bluntly, her tone accusatory.

“Seen what?” Damian’s deep, forbidding tone shattered Ruxandra’s determination, but she picked herself up quickly enough.

“Damian, you’re keeping things from us and– ”

“I thought you wanted to ask, not impute something,” he interrupted.

Ruxandra brought a fist to her mouth and cleared her voice, probably buying time to rephrase once more. As she spoke, she sounded defiant. “I see, this is a game. Okay. Let’s play. Why did you have us gather all objects that can be used as weapons?”

“So we know exactly where to reach in case of need,” he replied as if he were prepared for the question.

“Why not simply arm everybody?”

“Because I don’t want you panicking at the slightest sound and hurting each other.”

“I’m sorry, Damian, but that sounds more like an excuse than a reason.”

“Do you want panicky drunks waving broken bottles around your pretty face before somebody actually bursts in?”

“You expect people to barge in on us?”

Damian’s eyes flashed as he spoke the next words.

People,” he stressed, as if saying a name, “chased the three of us from the village back here. They tried to kill one of us. A lash whipped out from the darkness and wound around his ankle. They dragged him, his body hit against trees and rocks until he came to a precipice, where he almost saw his end. Yes, I think People will eventually barge in on us, and they’ll bring some hellish killing techniques with them.” His voice was steady, but anger lurked deep in it.

“You make it sound like People are pretty good at what they do. And yet here you are, Damian, all three of you. Why do you think you made it back?”

“What are you implying, Ruxandra?”

“I’m implying People want us all in one place,” she said, raising her chin and taking a step closer to him. “I’m implying they were after us from the beginning. They were after the whole group, whom they want to take down in one blow. I’m implying they can take us down in one blow. I don’t think they need guerilla tactics, but just wanted to scare you, so you wouldn’t leave this place again. You made it back because People let you. They chased you back to your cage, and now they’re waiting for the right moment to attack, which is why they haven’t stormed in after you. You didn’t bother to block the door, so I think you know this damned well. You know what to expect.”

Damian’s jaw tightened. “And your question is?”

“Am I right?”

“It doesn’t sound like you still have a doubt.”

“To make the question clearer still: Have you met People before, Damian?”

His features hardened even more. “I have.”

My jaw dropped. Ruxandra straightened up, even more accusatory. “Then why don’t you tell us what to expect now?”

Damian’s face sealed off all expression, turning into a beautiful, sculpted mask.

“Because it won’t do you any good.” His eyes swept over us cluttered in the doorstep. I thought his gaze rested on me a second longer than on any other face.

He grabbed the sheepskin and started to the door. Toward me. I melted on my feet, cursing myself silently. How could I be so taken with him, even now? Stupid bimbo!

Hector followed, and George scurried after them like a pet. Those of us who clustered in their way drew aside. My heart smote me as Damian passed by, leaving a trace of cool air and fir scent behind. The others trailed after them like tide, soon leaving Ruxandra and me alone, gawking at each other.


Previous episodes here: Prologue, Episode I, Episode II, Episode III, Episode IV, Episode V, Episode VI.

Hope you enjoyed this:) If you did, I’d love to read from you in a comment. If the story of The Executioner now happens not to let you sleep, it’s available in whole here. Enjoy!

Also, stay tuned for a new episode of The Marquis on Friday. Check out all previous episodes of The Marquis here.


The Messenger – Ep. 24 of “The Marquis”

I sit frozen in my black dress with palms joined on my lap. The funeral unfolds before my blank eyes, and so do the days after. I count them by the number of times Jeanie Simmons – Jeremy’s curly-haired, rosy-cheeked, fluffy younger sister and my dearest friend – enters with food. I nibble just enough of it to keep me alive, but my appetite is as dead as the monster who fathered me, and who now lays two meters beneath ground level.

“Are you still seeing Joyous?”

Her hazel eyes dart around, as if the walls have ears. “You know I can’t answer that, Saph.”

Of course, he’s the Marquis’ ‘cousin’ – in truth one of his fellow seprpent-killers. I lower my voice and grab her elbow. “If you are, you need to help me, Jeanie. I need to get back with the Marquis.”

Jeanie’s hand covers mine that I now realize is so clenched around her fluffy elbow that my knuckles show.

“Something must be terribly wrong with you, Saph,” she whispers.  She looks me in the eye with a curious expression. “You haven’t spoken at all since you saw Mr Lothar dead in the study, and now that you do open your mouth it’s to talk about the Marquis. Is that a way of dealing with your grief? I mean, Gunnar Lothar is dead, your own –”

“Don’t even say it,” I cut her off. “That man was a monster, a . . . Whenever I think about him I want to rip the flesh off my bones for being his child.” On a second thought I shrug. “I suppose I must be grieving, and anger makes it all more bearable.”

Stomping up the stairs makes Jeanie’s mouth close before she can say another word. The door opens and Jeremy enters the attic in a confident prance, his muscular physique barely making it through the doorframe. The police officers who came with him remain outside the open door. He walks straight to the window with a triumphant attitude.

“I’ll make this short, Saphira,” he says, staring proud out the window. “The coroner called. They established Mr Lothar’s death was not suicide.” He turns to assess my expression as he gives me the news, cocking an eyebrow. “He was murdered.”

He lets moments pass to allow the information to settle in.

“Do you happen to know anybody who had a reason to kill him?” He continues mockingly. “Someone who wanted revenge, maybe?”

The Marquis’ words from the day we went to the asylum come back to me. “Would you consider that I hurt you, if I took revenge on your father?” And yet he wasn’t the only one with a motive.

“I also know of someone who goes to terrible lengths to keep his real identity secret,” I retort. “Someone who set Vivien Grant’s house on fire to kill her. Someone who’s put her mother in the lunatic asylum and has the poor woman so terrified that she won’t talk. I’m sure the same person hung Gunnar by the chandelier too – Ivan Basarab. Gunnar knew his true identiy. Ivan Basarab is terribly dangerous Jeremy, and despite what you might think, you can’t control him.”

Jeremy’s cocky attitude turns to anger. His face goes red.

“The whole town will believe it was the Marquis, Saphira,” he barks. “They’ll burn down his manor like peasants did haunted castles back in the Dark Ages eventually.”

Jeremy’s hatred of the Marquis fills the room like floating poison. I remember how the Marquis twisted his arm behind his back at the asylum, keeping him in check despite Jeremy’s big muscles and violent struggles, forcing down his ears the information that his own father had been a rapist, a monster.

“You hate him for having told you the truth.” I hold Jeremy’s gaze, defiant.

“Maybe, a little. But, most of all, I hate him for having taken you away from me.”


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The Punishment of an Evil Man – Ep. 23 of “The Marquis”

Jeremy wraps the place up, giving his men curt orders and telling Lord Barkley to shut up each time the man opens his mouth.

“Anything you say can and will be used against you, sir, I must remind you,” he says coldly.

His men scurry around taking “prints” of the Marquis. They’re still in shock, but Jeremy managed to get them working despite that.

He moves his bulky frame around, doing what he must as head of the team, but he’s obviously distressed from what he’s found out. There’s something wild in his eyes, and the expression of his steroid- and testosterone-transformed features, square and shadowed by his three-day beard, make him look as deranged as the lunatics that inhabit this asylum. I’d like to remind him about the sewers, but I don’t dare to, he looks so angry.

Not even outside do I dare address him. We’re riding in a police van. I’m in the back holding my crying mother’s hand, her sobbing and nose-blowing accompanying the humming of the engine. Jeremy sits across from me in silence. He doesn’t even look at me. When we stop in front of my parental home I realize what’s happening, and I shake my head violently.

“No, I’m not going in there.”

“Yes you are. Your father has been worried sick about you,” Jeremy says. He sounds as cold as he had with Lord Barkley, and also a shade spiteful. As if it were in any way my fault that his father had been part of the group that had raped Catherine Lancaster. As if it were my fault that his father had been as much of a monster as mine.

“He pushed me in the Marquis’ arms himself, you know this,” I retort in a biting tone. “He was happy to see us depart together on the night he announced our engagement. But maybe it’s you who should have a word with Gunnar. In the end, the Marquis is right – Gunnar and his group perpetrated a terrible crime, and they should have to answer for it.”

“We have no proof for that crime, Saphira,” Jeremy says, keeping his glare out the side window. “I can’t corner people based on allegations alone, I’m sure you understand.”

My mouth curls in a sour expression. “You only pretended to believe me when I told you the story? Is that it?” Now that I come to think about it – indeed, why hadn’t he investigated as soon as he’d heard about Gunnar’s crime?

“No, it’s not. But I still need proof in order to take action.”

“If you only investigated Catherine Lancaster’s case, maybe you’d get your evidence,” I say through my teeth.

“If you only let me do my job without acting all smart-ass, things would be different.”

“Different how, Jeremy? Based on how you’re doing your job, these people’s crimes will remain unheard of.”

I’m aware of the poison in my tone, but I can’t help it. Jeremy springs forward and grabs my jaw in his huge rough hand.

“The Marquis of Vandenesse is London’s priority, and with good reason. London sent me back here for him. He’s the most dangerous of all killers I’ve ever investigated, Saphira, and you know his vile nature better than anyone. What changed? Why do you try to redirect me to your father Gunnar and his group of bastards? Why aren’t you vehement against the Marquis anymore?”

“Jeremy, please listen to me.” My jaw hurts from his grip and I speak with difficulty. He notices and lets go. I rub my cheek to sooth the pain as I talk. “The Marquis isn’t the evil creature you and I believed him to be. He talked to me, he told me things . . . Listen, Jeremy,” I take a deep breath and say the next sentence with a heavy heart. “I have reason to believe that my father is Ivan Basarab, the faceless Slayer. This is your chance to find out so much, Jeremy.”

“No, Gunnar is not the Slayer,” Mum reacts as if from a dream. She’s still pale from shock,  but apparently she’s coming back to herself. “But I’ve heard that name many times from him. Even a few days ago he talked on the phone with this Ivan Basarab.”

I’m completely surprised, and Jeremy too. His small dark eyes narrow. “Okay, all right. I’ll have a word with your father, even though I don’t believe this is the right time.”

“Wonderful. And then please let me return to the Marquis’ manor.”

He grins. “No, can’t do, Saphira. You’ll be interested to hear we found witnesses of the Marquis’ murder on Vladimir Pukov. His manor is surrounded, and we’ll arrest him on sight. You and the Marquis will never come together again.”

Another flash of despair goes through my heart. “But . . . There were no witnesses to what happened with Pukov. You must have ‘produced’ them.”

Jeremy’s eyes narrow into bitter slits. “Just a short while ago you were ready to testify against the Marquis yourself. Come on tell me, Saphira, what swayed you? Was it his declarations of love? Was it his hypnotic powers? Or did you actually fall for him?”

My lips freeze, but the truth must be clear in my eyes, which Jeremy stares into closely.

“If you switched sides, things will end up badly for you, Saphira,” are his last words before he looks me up and down in disgust. He opens the door, inviting both Mum and me out of the van. I’d like to resent him for his abusive attitude, but I can’t. It’s not every day you discover your father was a rapist and maybe even a killer, so he has mitigating circumstances.

My heart drums in anxiety as we head toward the house, and I’m sure so does Mum’s. The hand that squeezes mine is sweaty, and a look at her reveals wide scared eyes and stiff features. She’s still in shock, which is probably why she didn’t react to Jeremy’s treatment of me in the van. I feel lonely, naked and lost, and I long for the Marquis’ protective arms around me, for the reassuring sound of his rich voice in my ear. It’s incredible how my tormentor of yore has become my only haven.

The house looms bigger before us as we approach it. With its grey walls damp from bad weather it resembles a huge beast rising from the ocean, spreading out its jaws to swallow me. My throat clogs with panic. I don’t want to go in there, and I don’t want to face the monster who fathered me.

The door screeches open like the entrance to an abandoned, haunted house, but inside the dim corridor everything is in place, just like the last time I saw it. The stairs leading to the upper floor and the attic, the entrance to the drawing room on the right and the one to Gunnar’s study on the left, all appear imbued with an air of morbidity.

I look around, unable to move as I hear the door closing behind me. I’m trapped inside with Mum and Jeremy, and a knot moves up my throat. I’m growing sick.

“Please announce your husband you’re back, along with Saphira, and tell him I’d like a word,” Jeremy commands Mum.

She swallows and proceeds towards the study hunchbacked, her hands trembling on the knobs as she pushes the doors open. She stiffens in place, and her mouth falls open.

“Mrs Lothar,” Jeremy nudges her, at first only verbally, and then physically as he approaches. But as he raises his gaze from Mum to whatever greets them from that study, he bursts inside. Alarmed, I follow. A second after my eyes fall on Gunnar I scream until the veins in my neck swell.

He hangs from a rope tied to the chandelier, his feet dangling over a fallen stool. His shirt is open to reveal his hairless white stomach, and his mouth sticks thick and black out of his mouth. His fleshy cheeks are bluish-yellow, and he’s already started to smell. I breathe in the stench of death and scream long and hard until I fall exhausted on the floor.



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Hyperion Episode 8 – In the Moonlight


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.


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Saphira Episode 4 – Bewitched


At the Marquis’ ball Saphira has learned that, apart from being a murderer, the young man is slowly taking control over the entire region. Soon there will be no place for her to hide. She attempted to leave the ball when her way was blocked by one of her overly insisting admirers. Then something that happened behind the man drew her alarm, and now she finds herself in a very perilous situation.


The young Marquis walks close behind the piranha Vladimir Pukov and stops him with a hand on the piranha’s shoulder. Something flashes in his other hand –metal. I only see it for a second or two, but it’s enough to make things clear – he can kill the piranha in cold blood, same as he did the man at the Royale.

“I have to step in,” he says. “You’re heading too confidently towards my date.”

At that word both the piranha and I look puzzled from one to the other, then to the Marquis.

“My apologies,” the piranha says, his shoulders slumping, his baldhead glistening with sweat under the chandelier. He has no idea that he’s facing a murderer, but he’s intimidated nonetheless. It’s the first time I see the bastard humbled, and it feels good. “I didn’t realize you and Miss Lothar –”

“Apologies accepted,” the Marquis replies before the piranha finishes, then offers me his arm. I’m afraid of the consequences of a refusal to take it, so I do without a thought.

He sweeps me with elegance away from the staring piranha. Surprised faces and Venetian masks draw from our path as we glide among them, and I become ashamed of my appearance. Most women look glittery and flamboyant but decent, their dresses long, so I feel more like an escort than a lady in my short golden cocktail dress, my hair unrestrained down my back. It’s too much, maybe even ostentatious. Inside I’m shooting reproof at my mom, who I now notice on the side, a happy smile on her face. Dad must be ecstatic at the sight of the Marquis and me together too.

In order to sheathe our heading for the exit, the Marquis stops here and there and introduces me to people I know already. They’ve been spending their holidays in this town for years, but one fact is indeed new and shocking to them as it is to me – I’m the Marquis’ girlfriend. Some of them would’ve considered their own daughters, sisters or themselves a far better pick, especially since they’re leading rich sharks in London and Paris. They have some difficulty swallowing the info that a bankrupt artist from the province has won the freaking lottery with the Marquis’ interest.

I have even more difficulty. I stare up at the Marquis’ face as he speaks, and find myself compelled by those dark, murky eyes. The way his hair frames his head, rich and glossy, it enhances the youthfulness of his features and the menacing feel of his gaze. I’m all too aware that he was ready to kill a man just minutes before. The scene of him removing his gloves after taking that man’s life at the Royale comes back like a stinging warning, and fear makes my muscles clench.

It’s baffling how he manages to lead the way amidst the crowd and then out of the banquet hall without anybody noticing. A line of people who look like guests but must actually be the Marquis’ staff close behind us like a human wall as we leave through a narrow – and secret – exit. My heart pounds in my throat as he takes me up dark stairs to the tower, an architectural ghost.

“Why are we going there?” I manage, breathless with anxiety.

“Don’t be afraid,” his voice resounds close. It makes me feel drunk, and I know he’s got a grip on my senses again. The fear subsides, and my hand relaxes as he takes it in his. The touch of his skin electrifies me.

I’m little more than a zombie with a crush by the time we reach the room at the top, the door creaking open like an old cell grate. The place looks a dungeon, the walls black and foreboding. The Marquis leads me slowly to a niche to the side, lights a candle, and holds it up to illuminate what I expect to be a wall. But when the painting I made of him reveals itself in the candlelight my senses shudder out of the trance, and I reawaken to reality.

I’m standing in the manor’s oldest tower with a murderer, looking at my best-kept secret. The Marquis seems to read my mind.

“You took mine, I took yours.”

“How did you even know about it?” I whisper, trying to hide my fear. I’ve painted it in repeated fits of nightly obsessions after the day he visited at my parents’ house, he shouldn’t even know of its existence.

“Your father. I suppose he wanted to make it clear to me that the chances stood high for the two of us.”

I’m embarrassed and enraged. “He had no right.”

“He had a reason.”

“He just wants to see me married to someone wealthy,” I spit. “I understand you’re as filthy rich as they come, so he’s doing his best to bring us together. That’s as noble as his reasons get.”

I can feel the warmth of him close behind me, and my knees threaten to melt. I struggle to keep control. My jaw tightens as my thoughts run in errant circles. The Marquis bends his head so that his lips touch my ear, sending a thrill all through my skin.

“You think it’s a good idea to put your father in that light? I understand tonight you learned what I do with greedy bastards.”

My head snaps to the side, and I stare at him baffled. A smile draws his young lips, and I feel an urge to kiss him. I bite the inside of my cheek until I taste blood.

“Yes,” he says, “I know what was discussed at your table.”


“In my business I have to keep spies everywhere.”

“You mentioned your business before. What is it exactly?”

“Direct again.” He looks up at the painting and raises the candle. “Let’s talk some art first.”

I decide on direct once more. “You want to know why I painted you?”

“Oh, I know why you painted me. It’s how you did that I find intriguing.”

I look up at the portrait too. It shows him in his full beauty. I’ve been waking up at night with the urge of plunging into the oily colors, forgetting the brush and working on it with my fingers, wishing to feel him, to become one with him so I can understand him. I felt possessed, pushed into it by some evil force, moving like a nut case until I fell exhausted and smeared with pasty color all over, my eyes puffy and heavy.

“How did it get here?” I whisper.

“Your father helped. After you left for the banquet tonight, your maid opened the door to my people, who packed it and brought it here.”

“They were fast.”

“They always are.”

“What’s your name, Marquis?”

That smile again. “I can’t tell you that.”

“Why not?”

He looks me in the face, and I’m lost in the depths of his eyes, glittering dangerous in the candlelight. “Because it would give you power over me.”

“Are you a demon, then?”


“You’re mocking.”

“You’re shaking.”

I haven’t realized that he walked to me while I retreated, and now I bump into the wall opposite from his portrait. I’m hot and start sweating, yet I can’t control my shivering.

“Why do you do this?” I whisper. “Why do you tell people I’m your girlfriend?”

“I’m making this serious. Otherwise you’d think I’m playing with you.”

“I don’t want us to be serious.” The words hurt as they leave my mouth, because in truth I desperately want him to kiss me.

“What do you want?”

“I want you to leave here and never come back,” I lie blatantly.

“I can’t do that, Saphira. Not after everything you saw.”

“I saw the end of a murder, yes. But not exactly what happened. I’ll keep my mouth shut, I assure you.”

“It’s not only what you saw at the Royale.” He’s now too close, and I feel high again. “It’s what you see in me. What you put in that portrait. And what you might reveal in other works too.”

“That is the portrait of a young man, nothing more.”

“That portrait is a confession. You don’t realize this, but it talks too much. You won’t be able to hold back, you’ll reveal more in time.”

I want to keep the line of replies open, but the Marquis’ next move stuns me. His arm winds around me and presses me to him, his other hand stroking its way up the halter under my dress. My heart jumps and my breath catches as his lips, warm and soft, take over mine. My head spins, and I can’t help touching him, letting my hands knot in his hair. He retreats before my passion breaks out of control, a satisfied smile on his face. I know immediately that he’s aware of his power over me, that he’s aware I’d go all the way.

“Not yet, Saphira. Not yet.”

He withdraws in the dark, leaving me shaking with desire. I’m under his spell, and I barely realize where I am until the door creaks sharply, bursting open. My head turns in its direction, and I see the last person I expect to see.

To be continued.


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UPDATE: Saphira’s whole story has been released in the Christmas Story Book for Adults.

Stay tuned for the Wednesday Quiz – One question. One choice. What does it say about you? tomorrow, and a new episode of the suspense story Hyperion on Friday. Enjoy!

Hyperion Episode 7 – Bloodlust


Hyperion has been feared in battle. The creature he turns into in his fights is fierce, draining, and impossible to tame when provoked. In this scene Hyperion returns to his target’s house to save the man’s young wife, Ligia, whom he might’ve put in danger. The situation he encounters surpasses his expectations and he is no longer capable or willing to control the wraith inside.


The Weasel has Ligia pinned against the wall, one hand ripping her shirt open and grabbing her breast. I can see it all through the window – it’s the only one lit. My senses spike free, my hearing now sharp enough to pick up every sound in and around the house – only some old furniture creaking in the main room, and two guards outside the front door. Not wraiths. The Swine took the heavy weight with him when he left. The Weasel must’ve stayed behind as indoor guard, and does the hell of a job attacking the boss’ wife. Ligia struggles and screams, her blond ringlets whipping the air around her.

“You’re doing this, you little bitch,” the guy spittles through his rodent front teeth, “unless you want your husband to hear more of you and your lover-boy the priest.”

“Nothing happened with the priest.” The despair in Ligia’s voice makes my blood surge. But it doesn’t seem to touch the Weasel at all. On the contrary, it makes him want more. He looks her in the face and grins.

“And who’s the Swine going to believe? He’s sort of lost interest in you anyway, he’s at the brothel as we speak.”

Ligia scratches him with a cry, and he slaps her hard in return. She covers her cheek with her palm, and I zoom in on her teary eyes in an impulse.

“I’ll fight all the way,” she tries to defend herself. “How will you explain the bruises to your boss?”

“I doubt he’ll tell the difference between mine and his own.”

That second I spring forward from the shrubbery toward the window, but a new element stops me in my tracks. I see the old widow launch into the room and push the Weasel with all her strength. He’s short, skinny and a bit hunch-backed, but the women are still no match for him. He sweeps the widow with one arm, sending her sprawled on the floor, and returns his attention to Ligia.

I can’t take any more of this. All pain and discomfort from the last hour is forgotten, my blood now hot with adrenaline. All I need is minimal input from my wraith to unhinge the window frame soundlessly and slither inside without the Weasel noticing. The moment he faces me I’m already close enough to squeeze his balls, the other hand covering his mouth and pushing him against the wall.

“Hello there,” I hiss, relishing the wide fear in his eyes. He stinks badly of alcohol and excrement, and his clothes are dirty. My nose creases as I look him up and down. “You and water are mortal enemies or what?”

He mumbles something behind my fingers, and I can’t resist the temptation to hear his fear too. I want to take it in through all my senses before I kill him, letting it recharge me.

“If you scream I’ll kill you slowly and painfully,” I say as I free his mouth. He’s surprised at the sudden freedom and stares dumbly at me before he gathers himself.

“What are you doing here? How come –,” his voice cracks. He clears his throat and tries again. “What are you doing here?”

“You presumed to know already.” I give him my evil grin. “I’m lover-boy.”

The Weasel’s jaw drops. “But you’re a priest. You said Catholic priests –”

“What does it matter what I said? You accused this woman of having an affair with me. So why are you surprised to see me here on a night her husband is away?”

“I –”

I don’t give him a chance to find his words, and punch him hard in the face. I hear his jaw split, so I grab his nape and press my hand on his mouth again before he can howl. The pain and inability to let it out makes powerless dread expand his pupils like a drug addict’s. Now I have a grip on the back of his head and the front of it, as well as on his full attention. I bring my face real close to his, so that he can get a good look at the creature under the priestly hood.

“This is what this woman felt as you prepared to rape her.” I give him a few seconds to feel it. Then I pull the arm behind his neck to the right, and the one on his mouth to the left. His head fires to the side, his spinal cord snaps, and he falls dead on the floor.

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 on the 1st week of December, and you’ll see how come.

The picture featured in this article is considered for the cover, so let us know your thoughts about it.

Enjoy Hyperion’s former episodes on this site 1, and my muse for Hyperion’s fabulous works here.

Buy Hyperion’s whole story here.



Hyperion is a man with a dark and dangerous secret. His mission is to eliminate the Swine, the corrupt mayor of a village by the Dark Forest, who is more than just a man himself. Provoked by the Swine’s vile nature and the man’s treatment of his own wife, Ligia, Hyperion had trouble restraining himself and sticking to his plan. He managed to keep it together until he left his target’s house, and let the creature inside manifest only when he reached the depths of the woods. But there has been an unexpected witness. Enjoy the adventure in episode 6, and discover more of Hyperion’s mystery.


The Mad Widow walks down the riverbank, then turns and looks at me over her shoulder. Her eyes tell me to follow. What she just witnessed doesn’t seem to as much as surprise her, let alone scare her. She must be truly mad. I have to make sure she doesn’t talk around, so I swallow the embarrassment and drag myself in her wake, with no idea what to do about her.

Naked and drained of power, I’m shivering. It feels bad, very bad. By the time we reach the old woman’s place in the woods I’m all frostbitten. She leads me inside her hut – no more than a big wooden tent actually – and I immediately focus on the cot by the fireplace. The ember is warm, and the spot the coziest one in the world right now.

Without asking for permission I crouch on the cot like a wounded animal, letting the warmth soothe my body. Every bit of it hurts, and I can’t think of anything else until I feel the scraping touch of sack material on my back. I turn to see the Mad Widow covering me with an old quilt and reaching me a mug of milk. I drink slowly, letting the hot liquid melt my insides, hands locked on the mug. My tongue is too damaged to feel the taste of poppy, but I soon recognize the effect – I’m calm, warm and sleepy. It must be obvious in my face, judging by the Mad Widow’s smile.

“There’s enough in there to knock you out,” she says. “But you look only comfortable.”

She wears a kerchief to cover her head like Ligia, but she’s old, and it fits her. Her eyes are dark and seem much livelier than you’d expect from someone as worn, let alone crazy.

“I’m weakened. But I’m still not fully –” I stop. I don’t know how to put it.

“Human,” the woman finishes the sentences for me. The way it comes out of her mouth, I feel exposed and angry. She turns, rolls up her sleeves and starts working on the kitchen-looking niche, as if nothing extraordinary happened.

“You’re not really a priest either, are you?” She continues just as calm.

I don’t answer. She turns and sits at the table with a mug of milk of her own, looking down at it.

“Something like you can’t come from God.”

“I don’t come from the devil either.”

“Too bad. You’d have to sprout out of the devil’s very lap to defeat the Swine.”

Weren’t it for the poppy, my blood would quicken now.

“You presume to know my purposes.” I keep my voice low. “May I ask how come?”

“Imagine you saw the mayor transform from a fat-bellied bastard into a nasty slithery thing. You’ve barely processed the shock when, a few months later, you saw the new priest turning into the same kind of monster in the woods, only muscular and steely. He’s new in the village, and you know the mayor doesn’t like him. What would you believe?”

“Some of the mayor’s men are monsters too,” I say through gritted teeth. “I could be one of his minions.”

“No, you couldn’t. I saw you with the old Father. I know he’s against the mayor. He let you take over the parish in his place, and left. From my end, it looks as if he set you out to do what he doesn’t stand a chance of doing himself.”

The woman sees too much. I try to stand, but my legs give in after only a few seconds. I’m going to need at least another hour until I’m strong enough to leave. Chills course down my spine, and I gather the quilt around me. The woman looks me in the face for the first time since the woods, and a bitter smile stretches her hatched lips.

“Am I a liability now, Father?”

“I’m not going to hurt you.”

“What are you going to do?”

“It depends. How do you imagine the Swine’s future?”

“Are you asking me if I’m a supporter?”

“I’m asking if you’ll tell,” I whisper, seeking to catch her eyes. She avoids my gaze again, and her features distort. She seems to be fighting back tears.

“Nobody in this village would tell on someone who’s here to rid them of the Swine. You’ve been in his house, you’ve seen his pack – he brought those men with him when he came here. Those men and the village drunkards are his only faithful servants. He practically took over by force. Killed my husband in the process.”

Her shoulders shake as she sobs, and I feel an urge to go over. Just be a little closer to her. But that moment a big shadow appears in the doorstep – I catch it from the corner of my eye. It’s the Village Bully, wearing a tame expression on his virtually furry face. He’s carrying a priest’s garment on his arm.

“The Old Father came to see me on his way out of the village,” he says. He looks a bit puzzled as his eyes wander from the widow to me. “He said you’d be here, and that I should bring you this. There’s more in his stash at church.”

I don’t even wonder how the Old Loon learned what happened. By now I know he has his ways, not always natural, and rarely orthodox. But the man’s next words make my stomach clench. He actually addresses them to the Mad Widow.

“You might want to go see Ligia. After the young Father’s visit the Swine gave her some serious bruises.” Here he turns to me, and I can see he’s sorry to bring such news. “He says prevention is always better than treatment. His right hand saw the two of you talk yesterday, so –”

My blood quickens, I don’t even listen anymore. His right hand. The Weasel.

The widow’s fit of anger breaks mine. She wipes her tears and cusses, gathering quickly what she can, throwing her afghan over her shoulders and pushing the Bully out of her way. He feels he owes me an explanation.

“She takes care of orphans.” He sounds moved. “They gather every morning at her barn, and she feeds them. In warm seasons they sleep there too, but in winter it’s impossible. She and her husband raised Ligia, who’s like a daughter to her.”

My stomach twists painfully. “Ligia is an orphan?”

The Bully nods. “Fate hasn’t been nice to her. Her parents died in a fire that consumed half the village when she was little. The Mad Widow took care of her and the others. Later, when the mayor came, they all crowded to get a job at his house, ‘cause it meant food and clothes. Her looks helped, she got hired along with two others. Later he married her.”

“Poverty forced me into it. That monster forced me into it,” Ligia’s words from our first meeting come back to me. The need to make sure she’s not in deadly trouble wins over the pain in my limbs. I stand, holding to the edge of the cot and to the table. The quilt falls off, but I don’t have time to be shy. I extend my hand for the priest cloak.

The Bully – I decide to rename him Pitbull ‘cause of his features – looks me up and down with an open mouth.

“This isn’t a circus, give me the clothes,” I urge him. He moves too slow, and I snatch them from him to make a point.

“Jesus, mate, what clawed you like that?” He says as I tie the rope around my waist, covering the scars.

“What does it matter? I’m standing here, aren’t I?” I push him out of my way and, unlike the widow, manage to haul him on his butt. He scrambles up and follows me, a string of questions shooting out of his mouth. He doesn’t relent until I’m exasperated enough to slam him against a tree trunk and squeeze his throat so tight he goes as red as blood.

“Drop it,” I hiss, and let him slump by the thick, gnarled roots.

It’s pitch dark when I reach the Swine’s house. I seek cover and move as lightly as my strained body allows until I find what I’m looking for. Adrenaline surges through my muscles as I see the danger. This could be it.


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 on the 1st week of December, and you’ll see how come.

Enjoy episode 1episode 2  episode 3  episode 4 and episode 5 on this site, and my muse for Hyperion’s fabulous works here.

Pic source.

Buy Hyperion’s whole story here.

LILA Episode 3 – The Twist


Lila Banks is a financial spy for the F.B.I. Her target, Andrey Jones, is a young Wall Street broker who was ahead of Lila’s moves, and maneuvered her for his own purposes. In episode 2 they met again at a conference, and Lila realized she had a crush on him. She was wired, but the Chief’s warning came too late – two men in black flanked her from the elevator as she tried to leave, Andrey Jones blocking her way back. Enjoy the suspense in Episode 3, and a twist that will surprise you.


The two men in black suits drag me from the elevator to one of the rooms, and throw me inside. They haven’t said a word after I’ve given them my wire and everything I had on me besides the dress and my underwear. My heart pounds like crazy, and my mind is frozen on one thought alone – I should’ve taken the fighting training when I joined the F.B.I. I refused back then, arguing that it was my financial tracker skills that got them interested, and that I’d hold on to my femininity. Now I’m at the mercy of Mr. Bad and Mr. Worse.

They take position by the door, one on each side.

“Take off your dress,” Mr. Bad says – shaved head and goatee, neck tattoo right above the shirt collar. I don’t react, looking at him with an open mouth, trying to process what he said. He repeats and approaches, and I automatically crawl out of his way. He gets me between one of the beds and the heating.

I barely understand what’s happening as he pulls me up and tears off my dress. Before I know it I’m standing in my bra, panties and stockings, no shoes, each of the men keeping me in place by one arm, crammed in the space between the bed and the heater. I scream and wriggle, desperate. I throw a look at the window, seeking the smallest chance at salvation. Beyond the reflection of a blond woman in black underwear struggling with the perspective of rape I see it’s bricked up. Panic spikes.

“This isn’t helping your situation,” Mr. Worse says, his grin somehow reptilian. With his free hand he grabs my jaw, and I’m even afraid he might shoot out a split tongue, but what he does is force my head to look in the direction of the door as I hear it open.

The room is L-shaped, and I’m at the end of the long line. It takes a few seconds of heart-hammering suspense until the visitors reveal themselves as Andrey Jones and the Vogue cover Monique Maurette. The woman wears a self-satisfied expression to go with her seductive powder-blue eyes. Andrey Jones is the same unnervingly attractive young man, but his gaze is different than I’ve ever seen it before, in pictures or in person. It’s wicked and even hateful as he and his companion approach me, looking me up and down and clearly relishing the sight.

“Well, well, well, nice package,” he says. His voice makes the finest hairs stand on my arms. “You’ll do well in the business.”

My mind doesn’t even try to dodge the meaning of his words. Prostitution screams out in my head, but I can’t believe Andrey Jones would risk that with an F.B.I. agent unless he’s mad.

“There must be better use you can put me to.” I hear myself as if I’m outside my body, merely a witness. It must be the shock.

“A power-negotiator even under the circumstances. I’m impressed.”

“You say that a lot,” I spit.

“You’re starting to resent me.” He approaches slowly, his eyes now fixed on mine.

“Would you love yourself in my situation?”

“I’d like to know what I have planned. So I’d ask.”

“I have a feeling you’ll tell me anyway.”

“Your sixth sense fails you.” He walks very close, I now feel his cologne and his breath on my face. Against all odds, blood rushes to my cheeks. The crush is still there. For a second I doubt my sanity, then I persuade myself it must be the shock again.

“Why are you doing this?” I manage, my voice faint, my skin numb to the two thugs’ grip on my arms. But not to Andrey Jones’ as he lets his long fine fingers run down my neck and my chest, now stroking my breasts above the bra line, electrifying me. His eyes are deep and dark.

“I could say because the likes of you support the likes of Jinx. I could say because people get sold and slaughtered as lab mice due to the likes of you supporting psychos obsessed with yachts, icy champagne and wanting a new whore every night. I could say that because people die like ants squashed under a brutish boot supported by the likes of you, but it would be a waste of words. You know all this. No, don’t be quick to talk.” His finger stops my opening lips in a hushing gesture. “You’re not paying for anyone’s actions now but your own. Before the F.B.I. you worked for one of these people. And you knew damn well what you were doing.”

“I never . . .” But he doesn’t let me finish. His eyes are narrow and angry as his hand turns from caress to a hard grip on my cheeks. My lips swell outward from the squeeze. I frown and whine at the pain.

“Don’t lie to me, Lila. I have your record. Chief Schwarz fished you out of an office where you found ways to cover financial payments to flesh dealers.”

“They billed for something very different,” I pitch, growing desperate. “When I found out . . .” But he doesn’t let me make my point. I went to the authorities, that’s how Chief Schwarz discovered me, I scream in my mind. But before the idea can make it to my lips Andrey Jones covers them in a vicious kiss. It stuns me. His mouth latches on mine, soon turning invasive. Seconds feel long, and my head spins.

As Andrey’s lips leave mine I must look like a dumbfounded sheep. This time I can see more in the darkness of his eyes – a spark of desire. For a moment there he looks taken aback himself, and he retreats fast to Monique’s side, who I now notice stares daggers at me. She seems not only mad, but surprised too.

“You were successful, Lila,” Andrey says, gathering himself. “You gave me the Jinx. Now I’m greedy. I want more. But you can’t give me more from the custody of the F.B.I. So I need you exclusively in mine.”

With these words he grabs Monique’s hand and retreats a few more steps. I hear the door open again, and people stomping in. Two men carry what looks like a stretcher with a covered body and place it on the floor at Andrey’s and Monique’s feet. They shuffle the cellophane off to reveal the corpse of Dr. Boyd, my direct boss at the Jinx. I release a scream, shocked and scared.

There’s blood coming out of his nostrils. His chest is bared – shirt open – tie soaked over his hairy stomach. There’s a still gurgling hole in his throat. I keep screaming as Mr. Bad – or Mr. Worse – push something in one of my hands, cuffing the other to the heater. Faster than I can register they all leave the room, while I scream myself numb. Andrey is the last to exit, looking at me over his shoulder for a moment. I see a trace of pity in his gaze, but it must be just desperate wishful thinking.

The door slams shut and I fall apart hanging by the cuff, eyes on Boyd’s dead body sprawled on the floor, gun by my side, with my prints all over it.

There’s soon more screaming from the corridor, as if there’s a massacre taking place. Just minutes later policemen storm in.


Liked this? Share your thoughts and feelings in a comment. Lila’s whole story will be published in a Christmas Story Book for Adults between the 15th and 18th of December, so stay tuned for Gift Promotions and other Goodies.

UPDATE – Lila’s whole story has been released in the Christmas Story Book for Adults.

Pic source.

Hyperion Episode 5 -Night Wraiths


Hyperion is face to face with the Swine, his target. Hyperion himself is a man with a mystery as dark as the Swine’s, and with power to match, but his target’s young wife, Ligia, makes things difficult for him. Plus that the Swine is not alone. In this episode Hyperion has infiltrated the Swine’s headquarters disguised as a priest there to replace to the Old Loon, but his cover threatens to fall and the odds to turn against him any second as the action picks up.


My jaw tightens in frustration. I’m forced to sit at the Swine’s table, his men standing guard around us. Ligia’s eyes are bright with panic while his hand sinks in her golden locks. It seems he’s playing with them, yet by the twitch of her cheek I know he’s causing her pain.

I drop my gaze and repress an urge to grab the knife from his plate and drive it in his throat. In a split second I’d have him writhing on the floor, but his minions would be all over me, and they’d eventually save him. Instead I clutch the wooden cross hanging by my neck to keep my hands busy. The immediate proximity of a holy object is uncomfortable, but my wraith is on low supply to avoid being sensed by the others, so it’s bearable.

“You’re too handsome for a priest,” the Swine grunts, and I sense him looking me up and down from under his sweaty frown. “You catholic holy men are obligated to remain celibate, isn’t it?”

I nod, and feel his scowl drop to my lap.

“Such a waste.”

“The sacrifice was my own choice,” I say through clenched teeth.

“An irony. You’re supposed to keep us safe from temptation, and yet you make one yourself. At least for our women.” The dark pressure of his wraith puts snapping strain on my bones. It forces my own wraith to pump itself through them, steeling them, coming to life. I let my shoulders slump, like a human would. Head bent, I fight to keep down the surge of power in my veins.

“Much gratitude for your compliment.”

“Don’t be too quick with that,” he says. “I don’t like your lot, but I can barely wait to see the old soul-pastor return to his office. At least he’s harmless.”

I crouch even more, looking the intimidated human. “I understand.”

“Where do you come from, boy?”

That word again . . . “The Cozia monastery.”

“How long have you been a man of God?”

“For as long as I can remember.”

“Where did you grow up?”

“I was offered to the monastery when I was a toddler.” At least this part’s true. I leave out the attempts at exorcism though.

“And will you return there after the old priest reclaims his office?”

“I’ll probably replace another servant of God in another village.”

“Is that what the monastery uses you for? Replacements?”

“It is.”

The Swine doesn’t feel very convinced to me. My eyes are still down, but my pores are open to register every wraith and emotion around. I pick up Ligia’s heart pounding. Fear released drops of sweat down her back. She believes my cover, and fears I might betray her attempt to seduce me. Having seen me with the Old Loon last night only makes all of this more credible.

The Village Bully stands behind me like a bodyguard. I’m thankful to the Old Loon for the second time in my existence for having poured his witchery into the man, otherwise this would be a damn good moment for him to expose my plot and get a dozen wraiths on me.

The Swine stands and walks to the cabinet. I can see his feet in the silk slippers, and I hear the sound of liquid pouring in glass. Only a moment later his hand pushes the drink under my nose. He wears rings with colored stones tight on chubby fingers. The drink is something local, the smell of alcohol pungent.

“I hear you don’t fast,” he says. The chair creaks as he retakes his place, his eyes drilling into my half-bent forehead. I should’ve thought about it – with the Bully’s intervention last night, more of his men took notice of me with the Old Loon at the bar.

“The old Father invited me. It would’ve been disrespectful to refuse him.”

“And it would be disrespectful now to refuse me. Raise your eyes,” he demands.

Slowly, with a tight grip on my wraith that wriggles inside like a viper on adrenaline, I lift my gaze.

The Swine’s face is an unpleasant sight. It’s round and sweaty and lecherous.

“I hope you take the other virtues required from a priest more seriously,” he says, his hand winding around Ligia’s nape and pulling her close. His move lacks the smallest amount of gentleness. I sense the concept is foreign to him, as is any delicate feeling. My muscles tighten, I struggle to keep control.

One of the men behind him draws my attention. The one on his left. A weasely face, his front teeth like a rodent’s, and chipped. He has the specific grin of someone who knows himself the hero for something. I understand he’s the main spy in the team, so he picked up Ligia’s and my slight exchange last night. And he told the Swine.

I gulp down the glass of alcohol, which burns straight to my guts.

“Infringing the requirement of chastity is a nearly unforgivable sin,” I say after I set the glass on the table. “It can get one excommunicated. I’ve been in the Church for many years, and I’m still a priest.”

The Swine looks me up and down again. “I’ll accept that for now. Just make sure the parish is well taken care of until the old Father returns.” He measures me from head to boots again. “I can’t believe I’m actually looking forward to it.”

Two of his men approach from behind. My back stiffens, but they stop in place, synchronized in the same angle.

“I’ll see you on Sunday at mass, Father Jacob,” the Swine says, and I stand to leave. The men, both of them wraiths, escort me the few steps to the door. I can feel the creatures slither inside their human bodies. When the door slams behind me I take a deep breath of freezing winter air, but the Village Bully’s touch on my shoulder unbalances the frail control.

His, “All right, mate?” and Ligia’s pained yelp coming from the house set my wraith springing forward like a spanned snake. My whole body steels. I can barely repress a howl, which sends me sprinting towards the first tree line of the forest, wanting to come as far as possible before I must let it out.

By the time I reach the woods my muscles feel like metal, and my skin scrapes the priestly garment, which is barely more than a rag anyway. It shreds in the race from the friction with my hardening and raking body. Bald trees flash by, and knotted branches whip my face. They’ll leave no mark, and I run free and naked, the blood pumping hot in my veins.

The clearing comes into sight, opening wider from between two lines of thick old oaks, and I know I’m close to the citadel. This should be far enough for anyone to mistake my cry for a wolf’s. By the water I let out a long, liberating howl, putting all my power and urge into it. With the last tones my wraith releases pathos and I slump on the shore, cheek now humanly soft on the frozen riverbank, eyes on the sharp animal nails retreating back into a man’s fingers. It feels so cold I’m afraid the skin on my face might stick.

I lift my head slowly and look up. A couple of quick dark eyes meet mine from the other side of the river, confused but not stunned. I know these eyes.

“You here?” I hiss.

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 between the 15th and 18th of December, 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 on the 1st of December, and you’ll see how come.

Please enjoy episode 1episode 2 and episode 3 as well as episode 4 on this site, and my muse for Hyperion’s fabulous works here.

Pic source. 

Buy Hyperion’s whole story here.