‘As the blood snakes down my face, he holds up his prize. The thin beautifully crafted kunai. The gift from his long-dead mother. The one I stole when we were twelve.’
— Halden, “Stolen” They Come at Night
I catch up with Korik on the well-worn dirt road to his barracks as the night starts to arc toward morning.
“Dagrúnarson, I need to talk to you.”
He doesn’t flinch—doesn’t slow his step—as if he hasn’t even heard me.
If anything he seems to be walking faster.
“I have nothing to say to you!” he calls back without a moment’s hesitation.
“Was this your plan all along? To wait until the perfect moment to ruin—”
Kor finally whirls around, a kunai aimed at me. But it doesn’t leave his hand. “You brought this on yourself, Halden!”
“Myself? What’s that supposed to mean?”
“You wove your own snare. You opened your own stupid mouth. And you’re the one that stole it!”
“Stole—stole what?” I’m so caught off guard by his accusation that I’m left scrambling to figure out what he means.
But he never gives me the chance.
Korik comes stomping toward me with the kunai all fury and venom.
“That day in the woods I didn’t have it because you stole it.”
I try to step back—to put more distance between us—but he’s approaching too quickly.
“What are you even talking about, Kor?”
“My kunai! The one my mother gave me!” he rages at me. “I only escaped with two things—two—and you stole one of them!”
Oh…feck. I know what he’s talking about.
It’s too late—he’s here. And in the heartbeat that I hesitate he reaches up to grab me by the collar of my tunic and puts the blade to my throat.
“You took it that morning while I was still asleep. In the rare moments when I let my guard down. Because I trusted you! Because I thought you would never—”
His eyes are shiny with the threat of tears and I don’t dare breathe.
“And then you lied about it! You left me completely defenseless when they—”
He makes himself stop with a violent shudder.
Korik was never the same after he came out of those woods. True he was always…strange. But he was sweet and gentle before that day. And they killed it.
I killed it.
He could slit my throat right now and I would deserve it.
Because I betrayed him.
Stole from him.
Made him their prey.
What seems an eternity later, Kor pulls the kunai away from my skin.
“You deserve worse than people knowing you shared a room with me.”
He’s right. I do. And we both know it.
I should just let him walk away. He’s angry and armed. But some part of me just…can’t.
“How long have you known?” It’s the only thing I can think of to say. And it’s the wrong thing.
The look he gives me as he turns back to meet my gaze is one of cold bottomless hatred.
“You should have chosen a better hiding place, Halden.”
“What?” I ask in confusion.
He doesn’t answer, just moves so fast I don’t even see it coming. I just feel the sharp biting sting of a kunai as it slices across my cheek.
As the blood snakes down my face, he holds up his prize. The thin beautifully crafted kunai. The gift from his long-dead mother. The one I stole when we were twelve.
“How long have you known?” I ask again.
“That it was hidden in the scabbard of your sword?” he counters.
We continue to stare each other down.
Kor lifts his chin. And his eyes are burning bright again in the darkness, like two violet stars.
“Do you honestly think if I had known it was under your bed all those years I would have just let you keep it?”
He didn’t answer the question. Not really.
“Don’t you dare steal from me again, Halden. Next time I won’t be so…forgiving.”
As he disappears into the fading darkness, I stoop to retrieve the kunai from the dirt road.
I wonder what’s more unforgivable—that I made him a victim through my own selfish actions or that my theft made him a thief.
Oh damn. What exactly happened to Korik to turn him from a sweet gentle fawn into the snarky blade wielder he is today? And why did Hal steal from his roommate when they were tweens?
Find out in the next episode of They Come at Night!