The Long Retreat No. 10

Sif sucked down air in gulps, legs wobbly as she slowed to a walk. She felt herself calming—her mind still sang with fear, but she had a lid on the panic that had driven her this far. She became aware of a voice calling her name, and turned to see the man with the sword walking toward her. Smugly, she noticed he was breathing harder than she was. Almost immediately, she felt guilty. He had, after all, just saved her life.

He stopped a step or two away, then put his hands on his knees. Between breaths, he said, “Are you alright?”

She nodded, watched him for a moment, and ventured, “Are you?”

He snorted, then briefly looked up to catch her eye. “I will be in a minute. It has been a long day.” He smiled wearily, took another breath, and added, “My name is Falthejn Arnarsson. I’m a magicker, fighting with the old royal army.”

She’d spent more than a few wintry evenings before the common hearths of those lodgekeepers kindly enough to let a nobody like her keep out of the cold, listening to tales of the legendary magic-weaving heroes of times and wars long past, who had fought the aelfr and the jotun alike. They came flooding back now, and she couldn’t help her self. “What kind of magicker?”

“I see the future.”

“Oh.” She’d also heard tales of diviners.

“We are often misunderstood,” Falthejn said, straightening. “Come with me. The others will be—”

He stooped suddenly at the edge of the road, picking something up. Sif peered over his shoulder. He held a black-fletched arrow, crudely made, and wore a frown. “Quickly. If their scouts are this far already, more will be close behind.” With a quick glance to either side, he set off into the forest. Sif kept close on his heels.

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