The Long Retreat No. 30

Sif looked on in wonderment. Alfhilde floated smoothly over the edge of the water, stock still, as though she were standing on solid ground. She reached the far bank as quickly as she would have by walking, then fell to the ground, landing hard. Sif blinked and looked to Falthejn, the question forming on her lips stolen away as the magiker collapsed to one knee, breathing hard.

“Are you okay?” she asked. He gritted his teeth and nodded, standing. He swayed, then caught himself.

On the far bank, Alfhilde pulled the rope taut and tied it off. A little at a time, Falthejn put his weight on it. It held, and the second rope drew tight four feet above it.

Sif regarded it with some skepticism.

“It’s safe,” Falthejn reassured her. “If you fall, I can catch you. Loop your arm around the top rope and step carefully, and you won’t fall.”

Still uncertain, Sif nevertheless stepped up onto the foot rope, and put her arm over the hand line. Slowly at first, she edged out over the water. The rope swung beneath her, but she found herself anticipating it, moving faster, needing only the lightest grip on the hand line to steady herself, even with the weight of her pack throwing her off. Before she knew it, she had reached the far bank. She dropped from the rope to the dirt, landing lightly. Alfhilde looked on with some combination of surprise and confusion, but before she could say anything, Hrothgar, Jakob tied to his back, mounted the rope. Alfhilde bounced nervously from foot to foot as he inched along. The rope sagged beneath his weight, and Alfhilde’s gaze shot to the tree behind her as the rope creaked. Hrothgar, only a few inches above the water, looked straight ahead. His foot touched the bank a tense minute later, and Sif let out a big breath.

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