Hyperion: The Hunter

See today’s announcement to know why it’s not Part 20

She was a fit figure, with long brown hair that had been braided and pulled back. Even in the dark her cloudy gray eyes sparkled. A long bow was strung over her back and a quiver of arrows belted firmly to her thigh with fletching poking out from perfectly balanced shafts of wood. She was old school, no composite. She didn’t need anything like that.

She sat on her haunches as the darkness deepened as night drew onward. Her muscles screamed their discontent. She ignored them, breathing slowly and evenly while watching shadows flit about in the darkness, no forms distinguishable. Streetlights should have cast a low glow over the street on any given night, they were simply dark on this one. That was not by accident.

This week left the street silent but for a handful of latecomers walking from the library or evening classes while the remainder were tucked safely in their rooms to cram the last bits of knowledge before their finals began. For the past two years this particular length of roadway had gained a rather unflattering reputation among those students.

“Don’t walk alone at night during finals week,” was the advice the school had given. They offered their guardian of the night in the form of an overweight and underpaid guard that could only do so much, he tried his best and Artemis admired that in the guard. He just couldn’t do it by himself. At some point he would have to take a bathroom break or escort a group of students that would leave yet another helpless and alone.

That was when he acted, at least historically. This unknown man moved in the night and offered his help. He would keep them safe and he was disarming and unassuming but not charming, the right blend of neutral and kind.

She had overlooked him the past year and she’d been too late the first. He was in his last year now and that meant she might lose the chance to stop this. She perked up at the sound of a low voice and a light laugh, both distinct. He had made his move.

She checked the watch on her wrist, there was a fifteen-minute window where the guard took his break and got a late-night coffee like clockwork. This was that window.

Her muscles almost sighed in relief as she stood, leaping from the roof to another to follow the muted voices. They were walking slowly and cautiously while carrying on a disarming conversation about world history, the kind of dry and boring conversation that puts people at ease.

He was gifted at this, his own form of hunting. She was disgusted by what he did with this gift, perhaps he would have made an excellent law enforcement official or investigator, a phenomenon of criminology. Instead he had become a monster.

Artemis was also a gifted hunter, she’d had years of experience in it and she had turned her hunt to him.

She was less than a shadow in her movements, lithe and graceful as she moved from roof to roof and followed the two shapes in the darkness. She could feel it in the voices, in the air itself. He was going to make his move. The young woman was no longer safe.

Artemis’ feet hit the grass lawn of one of the houses as she dropped from the roof, her feet making little sound as she took long leaping strides to cover the distance just as the man drew a knife from the back of his pants. He would press the back of the blade to this young woman’s throat and tell her to keep silent. Then he would take her into the darkness and in a few days her body would be found.

He delivered a heavy punch to the side of her head to disorient the young girl. Artemis would not let this one be taken.

Not this time.

Before he could bring up the blade Artemis was there, gripping his wrist with an iron grasp and twisting his wrist up. She slammed her free forearm against his wrist and it shattered under the violent blow. Artemis moved quickly and before the knife had dropped to the ground she delivered a blow with the knife edge of her hand to his throat to silence him before he could sob out a pained scream. He fell to his knees, trying to soothe both his shattered wrist and crushed throat.

While he struggled for air, Artemis planted a hand over the girl’s mouth before she could scream.

“He won’t hurt you,” she said calmly, watching the panic leave the girl’s eyes, “not now.”

Artemis heard a familiar engine approaching and the headlights filtered through the darkness. This young girl was safe.

When the headlights came close the guard found a young girl kneeling in the street by a discarded knife, crying. He knelt beside her and told her the things he was supposed to, that she was safe now and it would be okay. To tell him what had happened.

It didn’t take long for the flashing blue and red lights of the police to arrive. They took the girl’s statement and scoured the neighbourhood for any sign of her attacker. Where the young man had gone was a mystery.

Until a few days later, in the same area that had found the other bodies they found a fresh one.

IT was a young man, whose body was pinned to a tree in the vast forest with an arrow.

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