The Long Retreat No. 7

Sif sheltered behind the debris, heart hammering. She drew short little breaths, trying to keep quiet. A wall of sound crashed around her, drilling her ears into the sides of her skull. She grabbed at them, registering a look of concern on the woman’s face amidst the agony. After a few moments, it subsided, and she felt herself hauled to her feet by the arm. She blinked—the man with the sword had just shouted to run. That she could do. The monsters were running toward the man with the sword, and the way to the gate was clear. She shook off the woman’s hand and leaned into her first steps, already up to speed as she past the monsters’ tower. Rocks from atop the wall pattered down around her as she reached the gate, the big man and the woman a few steps behind. A moment later she was outside the walls. The road gave way to a dirt path. Littered with bundles of belongings cast aside as people had fled the city over the last two weeks, it ran straight through a field of shrubs and bushes until it reached the edge of the forest, five hundred yards away.

The man and woman shot through the gate behind her as the whisper of falling rubble grew to a roar. The gate swung closed, faster and faster. Just before it slammed shut, the man with the sword edged through. He caught up to them with long, loping strides. “Keep on the road until the forest!”

That had been Sif’s plan all along, and she settled into a pace she could keep up for a little longer. Something hissed past her ear, and a black-feathered arrow appeared in the ground ten paces in front of her. She let out a shriek and poured on the speed, running with terrified abandon.

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