The Grishaverse
The Grishaverse

The Demon in the Wood is a short story by Leigh Bardugo told from the point of view of the Darkling.


Before he ruled Ravka, before he was the Darkling, he was just a lonely boy with an extraordinary gift. In this prequel story to the New York Times-bestselling Grisha Trilogy, Leigh Bardugo takes us into Ravka's mysterious past, when Grisha lived as fugitives and the Darkling took his first steps on the path to power.[1]


The short story opens with the Darkling as a thirteen-year-old boy, currently going by the alias Eryk. He regains consciousness after an attack and is questioned about his attackers. He struggles to answer, as his head is pounding from an injury and his throat is raw from nearly drowning. He is relieved when Baghra (then going by the alias Lena) intercedes to stop the questioning and let him rest. She comforts him as he is taken away on a stretcher.

The story then flashes back to earlier the previous day, when Eryk and Lena arrived at a Grisha encampment along the Ravkan-Fjerdan border. Lena had gone ahead to ensure they would be safe and welcome at the new camp, leaving Eryk in a hidden location to wait with rations. She cannot leave their only lantern and he is embarrassed to admit to still being afraid of the dark at 13 years old. On the way to the camp, Lena has Eryk rehearse his new identity, including his alias. They are constantly on the move and changing identities, in part because of the persecution that Grisha face throughout the world, but especially because they are Shadow Summoners and human amplifiers. Because of this, they face danger not only from otkazat'sya, but from other Grisha as well. Eryk reflects on the many different countries he and his mother have visited, the many Grisha they have met, and the many different identities they have had to assume. Lena says that they might be able to stay at this new Grisha camp until the thaw. Eryk is shocked and delighted at the thought of staying in one place for several months, remarking that he would sleep next to a garbage dump if it meant waking up in the same place every day.

When they arrive at the camp, they are greeted by the Ulle—or "chieftan"—who is a powerful Squaller, and a council of older Grisha men. They exchange greetings and the Ulle tells Eryk that in the spring, they can go and see the tigers. Eryk is excited at the prospect of seeing tigers and overcomes his hesitation about meeting new people. Lena and Eryk are shown to their hut, which has a bed piled with furs and smells terrible due to the reindeer fat. Lena asks Eryk what he observed about the Ulle and the council of elders; she praises Eryk for the way he is able to read people, saying this will make him a great leader one day. He laughs and rolls his eyes. Lena goes to meet with the council of elders, reminding Eryk to be careful about the secrets they keep when meeting new people. She asks again if he remembers his alias. He replies that it's his own name he's afraid of forgetting. Lena tells him that his true name is written on his heart and that he cannot let just anyone read it.

Eryk goes exploring in the woods around the camp. There he meets Annika, a Tidemaker who looks around his age or a little older, and her younger sister Sylvi, who is assumed to be otkazat'sya. Eryk is cautious and does not approach them, as it is challenging to make friends when they move so often. But Sylvi is curious and asks to see his shadow powers. He hesitates, because people are typically afraid, but Sylvi insists. He summons shadows and Sylvi hops inside them, disappearing. Annika becomes distressed, then embarrassed when she sees Sylvi is fine.

Lev—the Ulle's son and a strong Squaller like his father—appears with two friends. He begins to bully Annika, saying that she and her family don't belong at the camp because they are weak Grisha and because Sylvi is otkazat'sya. Lev uses his Squalling to torment Annika, teasing her that she is not strong enough to fight back. Eryk steps in and tells Lev to stop, even though Lev is older and taller. He summons shadows around Lev's face so that he cannot see. Lev tries to hit him, but Eryk dodges and shoves Lev away. Lev and his friends run, promising retaliation. Eryk is afraid of having made an enemy of the Ulle's son.

He offers his hand to Annika to help her up from the ground, before realizing his mistake. When she grabs his hand, she discovers he is an amplifier. Eryk panics and thinks that he and his mother will have to leave immediately. But Annika promises to keep his secret. He finds out that Annika and Sylvi's mother was killed by drüskelle. Eryk is hopeful that they can be friends.

That night at dinner, Eryk sits with Annika and Sylvi. Sylvi asks him questions about his favorite food and favorite color. Annika asks if he would sneak out with her that night to go swimming in a hot spring. Eryk is unsure, but overcomes his hesitation when he decides this is what friends do together.

After dinner, he waits until Lena falls asleep and then sneaks into the woods. He finds Annika alone in the hot spring, already floating in the water. She says that Sylvi fell asleep and will not be joining them. Eryk goes swimming with Annika, before Annika gets out of the water and climbs up on a rock to dive. She stands atop the rock with her arms spread. Eryk notices the water feels colder. It is only when the water begins to freeze around him that he realizes Annika is not intending to dive; she is freezing the lake. Annika picks up a rock and walks across the ice towards him. Eryk is unable to move, his entire body frozen beneath the ice. Annika apologizes and says that she needs an amplifier to be stronger and a better Grisha. She strikes Eryk in the head with the rock in an attempt to kill him.

She raises the rock again when Lev appears, alone and looking for revenge. Eryk notices that the ice is beginning to crack under Annika's weight, as she is not a very strong Tidemaker. Thinking quickly, he loudly calls out that Annika should kill him and take his bones before Lev does. Lev, then realizing that Eryk is an amplifier, rushes onto the ice. Lev and Annika fight, and their struggle and combined weight are enough to break the ice. Eryk dives under and swims desperately for shore. When he reaches the shallows, Lev grabs him and forces him underwater, trying to drown him. Eryk struggles as Lev and Annika continue to fight over killing him.

Lev pulls out a knife. In a moment of panic, afraid to die without having left a mark on the world, Eryk lashes out in a final desperate attempt to save his life. He accidentally uses the Cut for the first time, something he had not previously been able to do, and kills Lev and Annika. Eryk sits on the shore and realizes he and his mother are still in danger, because they will be discovered as amplifiers and will both be killed anyway. He waits until sunrise and then uses the Cut on his leg, nearly severing it in the process. He passes out from the pain.

Eryk awakens in a hut, as a continuation of the first scene in the short story. His mother is with him. She tells him that the Ulle launched an attack on the neighboring otkazat'sya village, razing it to the ground and killing everyone, because he believes they were responsible for the death of Lev and Annika. Eryk cries and apologizes, but Lena comforts him and commends him for his quick thinking in using the Cut on himself and making it look like an attack. She tells him that she would burn a thousand villages and sacrifice a thousand lives to keep him safe. But she says she understands what Annika and Lev did, because the world makes Grisha desperate. Lena says that they will leave the Grisha camp as soon as Eryk's leg has healed. She sits with him while he rests.

Eryk reflects that Grisha must live like shadows, forced into hiding and living in fear, because there are no safe places for them in the world. Eryk promises to himself that there will be; he will make one.





  • The Darkling is mostly referred to as Eryk in this story.
  • Baghra is referred to as Lena in this story.
  • The Darkling references many places he and Baghra have traveled and people they have met, including Baba Anezka and Magda of the black woods.
  • The Darkling and Baghra assume new names everywhere they travel; he says that he has already had many names, including Iosef, Anton, Stasik, and Kiril.
  • At age 13, the Darkling is fluent in Shu and Kerch and can pass as either. His Fjerdan, however, is not very good.
  • The Darkling does not care for onions. He says that he prefers anything sweet.
  • The story is briefly referenced in episode 5, Ni Weh Sesh (I Have No Heart) of the Shadow and Bone TV series.