‘A trickle of blood snakes its way down his brow from the unusual star-shaped scar at the very center of his forehead.’
— Halden, “Trickle” They Come at Night
It happens so fast, between one breath and the next. Korik extends his hands before him to form an almost diamond-like shape, and the sound around us drops to complete silence. But only for a heartbeat.
One moment Kor is standing before the elder wurm in our ruined bedroom. By the next, I’m on the floor in the hallway with my back against the wall coughing blood into his pale lilac hair as my ears ring painfully.
I wince against the high-pitched sound of it as I try to blink my vision clear again.
“Kor, what the fuck did you do?!” I demand, drawing my hand across my lips.
I’m not sure if the blood is from my lip or my tongue or my nose. Or maybe it’s all three. Because I’m pretty sure I took his ass straight to my face when we got blasted clear out of what’s left of our bedroom and into the hallway. And I haven’t a clue what or why or how we got launched out of the room either.
“Hey! Korik! Are you listening to me?” I question angrily, the ringing still not completely gone.
He’s sprawled in my lap like some newly birthed fawn, all long limbs, and awkwardness.
I wheeze, then cough again. My ribs feel like they’re on fire.
“Kor, seriously, what did you—?”
His head rolls across my upper arm as lifeless as a doll.
“Korik?” I question, but he remains entirely unresponsive.
A trickle of blood snakes its way down his brow from the unusual star-shaped scar at the very center of his forehead.
My heart starts to beat so very fast.
“Hey, wake up. This isn’t funny!” I demand, shaking him.
But he doesn’t stir. His head flopping against my arm with the same agency as a stuffed toy.
Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. Fuck!
I draw him closer and press my fingers to his neck. But I’m too panicked to distinguish the difference between my heartbeat and his. Or even if he still has one.
I draw Kor closer still and press my ear to his chest. And that’s when I hear it—the faintest of heartbeats.
My shoulders sag and I allow myself to breathe the smallest sigh of relief, but then I remember.
“Kor, you really can’t be out cold right now. Because there’s an elder wurm and I can’t carry you and wield a blade…”
I look up quickly.
The wurm is…gone. I look down at Kor, then back at the gaping hole that used to be the wall of our bedroom. The elder lindwurm is gone. And so is half the building that used to be across from the Fledgling Hall.
My gaze drifts slowly back to him, lying there unconscious in my arms. And as I’m watching the shallow rise and fall of his chest, something slips from his fingers.
A carving of the Great Scaled Mother. A very old depiction in some strange dark stone with a chipped edge right along its forehead.
I’m about to place it back in his loosely curled palm when I notice his skin there is already starting to darken. That the impact of whatever he did bruised the pattern of the pendant right into his flesh.
Always so slight and small and sickly. Too colorless to be considered of any worth to anyone. And yet…
How does a six-year-old boy survive a lindwurm attack when all the rest of his kin are devoured?
How do you make it out of the Wurm Wood with nothing more than a star-shaped scar? I question as I run a finger over the slightly raised eight-pointed mar in his flesh.
Just what exactly are you?
What the what just happened?! Will Korik be okay? What exactly did he do? And did Kor come back to save Hal or was it all for the pendant?
What’s gonna happen next? Find out in the next episode of They Come at Night!