‘Nothing. Nothing at all could have prepared me for this. No words. No warnings. No pictures carved or painted. The elder lindwurm is more terrifying than anything illuminated in a book. Worse than any monster I could have even imagined.’
— Halden, “Illuminated” They Come at Night
Our window starts to rattle and clink in its frame like a crate of glass bottles being carted down a potholed road.
It’s getting closer, I can’t worry about where the hells that scared little fawn has run off to.
I drop to my belly and shove my hand between the wooden support slats beneath my bed.
Where is it? Where is it?!
The rattling gets louder, the intervals between thumps getting shorter.
By Her Scales, it sounds like they’re coming right for us.
I stretch my fingers further, reaching and scrapping and desperately searching for my sword. The only thing apart from the clothes on my back to make it out of that fire.
Don’t tell me it’s not—
The ground rumbles so violently that my left antler gets caught between two slats of wood.
“Damnit all!” I curse, yanking back hard.
As I try to wrench myself from the slats, my fingers bump against something finely carved and lacquered.
“Ah finally!” I pull the sword and myself free from beneath the bed just as the wall of our bedroom is wrenched away from the rest of the building in a shower of splintering wood.
And there it is before me the stuff of nightmares.
Nothing. Nothing at all could have prepared me for this. No words. No warnings. No pictures carved or painted. The elder lindwurm is more terrifying than anything illuminated in a book. Worse than any monster I could have even imagined.
I just sit there frozen on my knees staring out at a cavernous gaping maw as big as a cart filled with row upon endless row of teeth like knife blades. Its countless thousands of tiny scales shimmering with slimy wetness in the pale light. And with eyes as dark as a moonless night fixed on me with ravenous intent.
And I can’t move. I can’t will my hand to draw the sword resting against my thigh free from its scabbard. Or even command my legs to carry me away from this nightmare ringed by moonlight.
This monster could end me. Could swallow me whole without any effort at all. Just a quick snap of its jaws and everything I am—everything I was—would be…
I clutch the hilt of my sword tighter.
But I have to do something.
I start to draw my blade.
But against something so colossal this would be no more than a pinprick.
My fingers go numb and the sword slips back into the scabbard with a nearly inedible clack. I close my eyes and try to tell myself it will only hurt for a moment.
Kor…I’m sorry. I’m sorry I ever thought less of you for being afraid of the Wurm Wood. None of us had any idea.
But you did.
These monsters ate your kin, but you survived.
I never thought to question it before that he had come out of those woods alive. And that his kin hadn’t. Or that he had only been about six when he arrived here at the Fledgling Hall.
As I kneel there waiting for death, a breeze rustles my mane. But not from the direction I’m expecting. And suddenly there is a great hissing.
I open my eyes in a flash to find him standing between me and the elder lindwurm.
What the what are you doing, Korik?! That wurm’s gonna have you for supper!
Will Kor end up a tasty meal? Or does he have more than blades up his sleeve? Find out in the next episode of They Come at Night!