The Long Retreat No. 21

Sif looked at her feet. The boots were leather, fur-lined, and the nicest thing she owned. “I bought them,” she said, then froze.

To her surprise, he didn’t ask the obvious question. “That was responsible of you.”

She tried not to show her relief. She may have been a beggar and a thief, but she didn’t have to be proud of it. “My feet kept getting cold,” she said, covering for herself.

His amusement didn’t go so far as a laugh, but she saw it in his eyes. “As good a reason as any,” he said. He stood, lifted his pack as if to check its weight, and nodded to himself.

Sif watched for a moment, then ventured, “Why are we taking the road?”

“You disagree?” he said. The words might have made a rebuke, but Sif didn’t think his tone carried one.

“I don’t have an opinion,” she said. “I just want to know.”

“Diplomatic of you.” Falthejn set his pack down. “One: the army will be off of the road, though I can’t guess at their reasons. Regardless, we don’t want to be between our army and the ontr. Two: we may be able to rest at the lodges along the way. If we need not set up camp at night and break it in the morning, we’ll save some time. Three: during the campaign to defend the city, we used a great deal of magic. To those animals which use magic by nature, we set off a signal fire a league high. The road is safer.”


“Because people believe the roads are safer.”

Sif frowned. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“It does, when you know how the world fits together,” Falthejn said. She must still have looked puzzled, because he added, “Once we’re on the way, I’ll explain.”


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