‘Mother withdraws her hand and pushes her head covering back to reveal an indigo-blue inked star on her forehead. Eight-pointed just like the one on the royal Dragonarian crest.’
— Korik, “Tattoo” They Come at Night
Mother Dagrún bumps into me just before luncheon, looking ill at ease.
“Oh, Kori, I wanted to—”
“I wasn’t spying on you,” I blurt out. “He was. Gunther was watching you and stroking his serpent.”
The idea that she would even think I was like him for a moment turns my stomach.
“I just like to listen to you. That’s why I sit on the roof. Well, when it isn’t raining,” I continue to explain.
Mother’s brows shoot up. “Oh! Well…”
I realize what I’ve just admitted. And now I’m not sure if I was even allowed to hear the rituals or not.
“You like the rituals?” she questions.
I nod. “Mama would say them every morning just like you.”
Her brow furrows. “Your…mother?”
I nod again.
She runs her teeth across her bottom lip before darting a quick glance around us. When satisfied that we are utterly alone, she crouches down in front of me.
“Kori…did your mother have a scar like this?” she asks as she reaches out and runs a gentle finger across my forehead.
I pull away from her touch. I don’t like to be touched there. Other places I don’t mind as much, but there… My heart beats a warning like it’s telling me I should run.
Mother withdraws her hand and pushes her head covering back to reveal an indigo-blue inked star on her forehead. Eight-pointed just like the one on the Royal Dragonarian crest.
“Or maybe an inked mark in the skin. A tattoo?” she questions.
“A tattoo?” I repeat.
I think back to Mama’s face, but all I can see is the terror in her eyes as she reached for me that last time. As she ordered me to run.
«Wait until dawn and then run! You run until it hurts and then you keep running!»
«You have to live, Korik!»
I back away from Mother, digging my fingers into my forearms as I clutch myself tightly.
“I don’t want to talk about Mama.”
“It’s alright, Kori, you don’t have to,” she tries to assure me.
I bump hard into the wall at my back. I’m shaking and I can’t seem to stop.
“Kori, it’s alright. No one is going to hurt you. I’m not going to hurt you. Not ever.”
I can’t—I can’t breathe.
The darkness is creeping in from all around and with the darkness, they come.
They’re coming! They’re coming and I’ll never run fast enough!
I claw desperately for my kunai, but the darkness swallows me whole.
* * *
I wake slowly to the feeling of gentle fingers stroking my mane and for a moment I believe she is alive. But then I remember and my shudder betrays me.
“Kori…are you awake?” Mother Dagrún asks.
I nod because the lump in my throat is still too large to answer.
Her hand continues with its same soothing affection.
“Was it a temple that you came from, before here?”
“A temple?” I lift my head from her lap to look up at her. “Like in the story?”
Every night after supper she reads to us fledglings from the most beautifully illuminated books. Stories of how the Dragokin came to be, of temples in the forest, and a prince who encounters a fawn made of stars who grants wishes.
“Well yes, but also like the one I trained at before coming here to be your Brood Mother.”
I shake my head and return it to her lap. “No. I’ve only seen them in stories.”
“So where were you before this?”
I’ve been here five years and she’s never asked. I don’t think she likes to remind us that we aren’t hers.
I shudder, snuggling deeper into her skirt. “The Wurm Wood.”
Note: dialogue in Guillemets— sideways double chevrons « and » —are in a language other than Dragotic the common Dragokin tongue.
Where exactly did Korik and his mother come from? And were they living in the Wurm Wood? Or were they hiding from something far more dangerous?
Find out in the next episode of They Come at Night!