The Long Retreat No. 12

Sif shifted from foot to foot and tried to breathe quietly. The seconds slipped by, and she felt a deepening uneasiness. The tower of smoke from the city rose across the sky and blotted out the stars, lit eerily by the fires consuming her home. There, she could take care of herself. Here, she was at a loss. “Wake up already,” she said, though she doubted Arnarsson could hear her. Another minute or two passed, and finally, he opened his eyes.

Slowly, he hauled himself to his feet. “This way,” he said, heading downstream.

“What did you just do?” she asked.

“I’ll tell you later.”

She shrugged and set off after him.


“Stop here,” Alfhilde said.

Hrothgar turned to face her. “Do you need a rest?”

Alfhilde shook her head and pointed at the ground. “The diviner will be looking for us here.”

“How could you know that?”

Alfhilde looked around. The landscape spoke for itself. The stream cascaded down a steep run, and the ground around it sank gently to meet it a few hundred yards further along its course. Rising fifteen feet above the near bank was a cairn, flat stones piled in an interlocking pattern. Alfhilde raised her eyebrows, and Hrothgar shrugged, conceding the point. “I have seen diviners work before,” Alfhilde added, “during the last war. We learned to make the move they can foresee best.”

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