‘Korik catches his strange blade a finger’s width from the floor and our bedroom becomes so silent all I can hear is the howling of wind beyond the windows.’
— Halden, “Blade” They Come at Night
They’re finally coming—the examiners from the royal capital. Tomorrow, they’re coming. Tomorrow they’ll see that I’m worth more than this mud-caked village could ever offer.
They’ll test me and they’ll see that I belong in the Royal Magical Academy. That I was never meant to end up—
I look over across our room to Korik’s bed on the other side. He’s staring up into the darkness with his hand hanging out of the blankets beside his bed, tossing his blade into the air and letting it fall to the floorboards again. And again and again.
Did something happen?
He does this every time one of the village boys bullies him for being Colorless.
Or tries to dare him to set foot in the Wurm Wood.
I roll toward the wall and try to pretend I’m alone.
It’s not your problem, Hal. He’s not your problem, I tell myself. But it’s utterly useless. Like ordering your stomach not to growl.
I try harder.
Just ignore it.
You can’t screw this up if you ever want to get away from this dead-end village.
You need to get a good night’s sleep so you can impress—
I slam my fist against the surface of my bed as I turn to face him. “For once could you not?!”
Korik catches his strange blade a finger’s width from the floor and our bedroom becomes so silent all I can hear is the howling of wind beyond the windows.
His eyes shift toward me. Their color like a violent storm cloud in the darkness of our bedroom. He says nothing and for a moment the roaring of wind is the only thing that can be heard.
Is he done? Or is he waiting for something? I can never tell with him.
I sigh, sinking back into my pillow.
But the silence doesn’t last. No sooner have I closed my eyes than he’s at it again.
I swing my head back toward him in time to watch Kor toss the blade into the air.
Then drop his hand down beside his bed to pull it out of the floorboards and start again.
I huff out an aggravated growl and attempt to smother my own face with my pillow before rolling toward the wall again.
I hate it. I hate him. I hate this village. I wish I’d never been brought here.
* * *
I wake the next morning foul-tempered and exhausted only to look over and find the little jackass still sleeping like a hatchling.
“You have got to be fecking kidding me.”
I throw back the covers and stomp over to Korik, not even trying to hold in my irritation.
Why the feck is he still asleep?
I loom over him like a vengeful shadow. He’s dead asleep, one arm draped across his belly and the other dangling off the side of the bed within reach of his blade. His mane’s a tousled mess of pale lilac long enough to be a girl’s and…
He’s got violet under his eyes so dark it nearly looks like painted pigment.
That makes me pause.
An unease creeps into the pit of my stomach. Kor’s usually gone by the time I get up, though where he goes I haven’t a clue.
Why isn’t he there right now? Is it because of the exam? Or…?
I shake myself.
Why are you worrying about him? Worry about yourself, idiot! Soon you’ll be gone and you’ll never see him again. And none of this will have mattered.
I turn away angrily and that’s when I see it gleaming in the morning light—his blade.
“If I fail my exam because of you and your stupid blade I will never for—“ I growl over my shoulder as I yank the blade from the floorboard.
But it comes far more easily than I was expecting and I fall back straight on my ass.
What the hells?
I stare at the blade in confusion and then at the floor. And then I really look at the floor for maybe the first time in five years. There isn’t a single nick in the floorboards. Not. One.
“That’s…not possible…” I say mostly to myself.
I’ve seen Kor throw this dozens upon dozens of times a night for years. Heard it hit the floor more times than there are stars in the sky. There has to be…
But there isn’t. The boards are unblemished. Except…
I reach out and run my finger down the seam between two boards and instead of two verticals they angle at a V.
No… It’s not possible. Has he really been…
I slip the blade between the two floorboards and it fits as if carved perfectly for it.
I nearly choke on my breath when I realize what I’ve been ignoring these last few years.
Kor only ever looked up into the darkness of the ceiling as he threw the blade and yet without fail it always hit its mark. As if summoned there by magic.
I look down at the small blade. Is it more than it seems? Or is he?
Uh-oh, Halden is starting to figure things out. But will he ignore that nagging voice in the back of his head telling him Kor is special? And what's he gonna do with that kunai?
Find out in the next episode of They Come at Night!