‘Korik’s violet eyes are wild and frantic as he stands over me like a terrified forest creature.’
— Halden, “Frantic” They Come at Night
I regret the words a heartbeat after they leave my mouth. His whole body’s gone utterly still. Like something lethal readying itself to strike.
“Get off of me before I cut you from lip to groin,” he threatens.
I quickly push back onto my heels. But as soon as I move, Kor plants the sole of his boot square in my chest and gives it a hard shove.
As he rises to his feet in one fluid motion, I land flat on my ass. For someone so slight and fine-framed he is rather masterful at kicking like an anvil strike.
He stares down at me his eyes like a living blaze just waiting for the world to give it a reason to burn the whole of it to ashes.
“I would have done more than break his nose if he had dared,” Kor says.
And I believe him. He’s not the same boy of twelve they stripped to his skin and left in those woods to be devoured by wurms.
The clouds shift and the sharp edge of the small kunai in Korik’s hand glints in the silvery moonlight like a deadly promise.
I didn’t even see him draw it.
Kor gazes at me a moment longer before he spins the blade expertly by the ring on its hilt and slams it into his knee-length boot.
He moves over to his bed where I see he’s been shoving things into a satchel.
I push myself quickly back to my feet. “You’re running away? For real this time?”
“I’m not running anywhere. I’m just leaving this shit village. There’s nothing binding me to this place.”
“What about Mother?”
Kor hesitates for the briefest of moments at the mention of the brood mother of our fledgling hall.
He gives himself a shake as if to chase something away before countering, “She has others to care for. And I’m nearly of age anyways.”
“And what of Gísluson? Didn’t you pledge to be his apprentice?”
I don’t know why I’m even trying so desperately to convince him to stay. I just—
Kor slams his satchel down hard onto the surface of his bed. “He’s dead!”
“What…?” I couldn’t have heard him right.
“He’s gone to the Stars, Halden,” Kor shouts at me as he gestures toward the open window.
And then, just as quickly his hand starts to fall. “He doesn’t… I’m not needed here…anymore…”
His back’s to me again, the moonlight illuminating the edges of him. He looks so tiny and fragile standing there like even his own cast shadow could swallow him whole.
But even the smallest of blades can slit your throat.
I thought the blood on his clothes was just from his row with Gunther and his underlings. But it doesn’t explain why he was climbing through our window. Or why he’s chosen to leave Ditchwater at duskfall when everyone’s still at the festival.
“Did you…kill him?” I nearly choke on the words.
Kor stumbles as he turns around to face me. “What?”
“Did you kill him, Korik?!” I demand.
His satchel hits the floor at his feet with a thunk. “No! I— He—“
“He what?” I press.
Kor has started to back toward the window, but I’ve no intention of letting him escape. I’ll have the truth from him even if I have to drag it from his lips.
He’s trembling so much that his voice is wobbly and uneven and all his bravado has completely evaporated. “I found him— I found him just as he—“
“Found him just like what, Kor?”
It’s as if he’s about to answer, but instead, Kor sucks in a sharp breath and his whole body goes abruptly rigid. His storm-violet eyes going so wide it almost doesn’t seem possible. And then he turns to look over his shoulder at the open window, his whole body starting to tremble again.
“No…” he whimpers like a terrified hatchling.
Kor sucks in another breath, his nose scrunching up with the effort.
“No…please. Not again,” he begs some unseen force.
“Kor?” I question, but he seems to have forgotten I was even there.
He practically slams into me as he starts backing away from the window and whatever lies beyond it.
I reach out, laying a hand on his forearm. “Korik, what’s—?”
It’s a mistake—a nearly costly one.
He spins his wrist, swiping at me with a small blade he pulled from fuck all knows where. I only manage to escape with a shallow cut because I fall back and away onto his bed.
Korik’s storm-violet eyes are wild and frantic as he stands over me like a terrified forest creature. His breath coming in such labored gasps it shakes his whole frame.
He blinks at me once, twice, then bolts from the room. And then the whole earth beneath me quakes.
Thud. Thud. Thud. Lindwurms.
Oh crap! Better run for your lives, boys, the lindwurms are coming!
What’s gonna happen next? Find out in the next episode of They Come at Night!
“Frantic” They Come at Night © 2022 by Kat Vancil