‘It’s like he just vanished into thin air. Into nothing. Like he was never even here.’
— Halden, “Vanished” They Come at Night
We sit down to another supper with an empty place at the long table and everyone’s too quiet.
I looked all day even though I told myself that I wasn’t looking, but Kor wasn’t anywhere. I wandered this whole damned village in the rain and I still couldn’t find him. It’s like he just vanished into thin air. Into nothing. Like he was never even here.
So now I’ve spent the whole of the day drenched and cold and hungry and—
“I’m beginning to think Kori really has run away,” Einar comments as he eye’s the empty bowl beside me.
I slam my fist into the surface of the long table. “To where?” I demand. “Where could he possibly run to?”
As I whirl on the younger fledgling I realize they’re all just staring at me. Mother and Ilsa and Hendrika and Einar and the others. And I just—I just can’t take it anymore.
I push up from the long table and stomp out of the feast hall.
Where the hells are you, you little jackass?
* * *
I stare up into the darkness of our bedroom as the storm howls outside and the wind and the rain thrash against the window.
Would he really just leave without saying anything?
Maybe he left to go be with his kin?
I huff out an irritated breath and turn onto my side.
Who am I kidding? If Kor had any kin to speak of he would have left a long time ago. No one stays in a place like this if they have any other choice.
But how much do I really know about him? My fake broodmate. My roommate. My…
He came from the Wurm Wood when he was six. He’d lost all his kin. He only spoke Grand Dragotic. And he had that pendant and…
That small blade.
That you stole.
I hug myself as I tuck my chin to my chest.
It was probably really important to him. Did he go out looking for it and get lost? Or hurt? Is he…?
I may have searched for him all day but…did some part of me not want to find him? Did some part hope he really had vanished?
Because you’re afraid they’d take him and leave you behind.
The truth of it stings like tears in split skin.
I try to turn away from it. Try to shake my head clear as I curl in on myself and force my mind to think of anything else but him.
When I can no longer ignore the growling beast inhabiting my stomach, I make my way toward the food stores to see if any of the brood left me some supper.
But just as I reach the stair landing I find Mother Dagrún.
“Halden?” she questions.
“I—” I’m sorry I yelled. “—was hungry.”
“Oh. Well, there was plenty of deer stew left over. Why don’t we heat you up some? Hmm?”
“It’s alright. I can manage.”
She nods and is about to turn away when she pauses. “Did you see Kori at all today?”
I freeze. I can’t meet her teal-eyed gaze. “I didn’t look.”
It’s a bald-faced lie. I spent nearly the whole day wandering this miserable village despite the shit weather. Scouring all his usual haunts for any sign of him and came back with nothing. But I can’t tell her that—can’t admit it.
“Liar!” Hendrika blurts out. “You looked for him all day. I saw you.”
We both startle, whirling toward her.
“Hendrika, what are you still doing awake?” Mother demands.
“I was not looking for him!” I counter.
“By Her Scales,” Mother suddenly gasps, her hand going to her mouth.
I swing my attention to where she’s looking and freeze. Because standing there in the archway of the front entrance silhouetted by the light of the swaying porch lanterns, is Korik.
He’s drenched to the bone, dripping wet, and—
“Why is he naked?” Hendrika asks with bratty disgust.
Oh, snap! What the hells did Gunther and his horde do to Korik? And what’s going to happen next?
Find out in the next episode of They Come at Night!