“You passed the city two weeks ago,” Hrothgar prompted. “What came next?”
“Our scouts found them moving north. They marched in poor order. We thought we could strike a decisive blow, ambushing them as they moved, but they were too many.”
“Didn’t you know you would lose?” Sif put in, then immediately shrank back.
“You may speak freely here,” Falthejn assured her. She relaxed, though remained wary. Falthejn could see Hrothgar didn’t altogether agree with him, but a warning glance from Alfhilde held back his objection. Falthejn continued. “I do not see sure things. I see possibilities. A battle is a tangle of possibilities—one tiny change might change everything. I doubt more than one or two magiker alive could tell the outcome with any surety. As it was, we knew we would not lose altogether. The war-leaders thought that was enough.” He shrugged. “The ontr held us with a counterattack in the center, then swept around to our left. We made a good account for ourselves, but had no choice but to fall back. They chased us toward the city, and for a tenday, we fought to delay them while our advance guard evacuated the city. The last refugee column moved out early in the morning. The stragglers and the army marched by midday.” He tilted his head, and left the unspoken question dangling: except for you.