The Long Retreat No. 31

On the far bank, Falthejn stepped onto the rope. His foot slipped, and he caught himself on the hand line before making his way out over the river. Sif stifled the urge to cheer him on, wondering briefly where it had come from.

Halfway across, the diviner grabbed the hand rope, vaulted up onto it, and ran, arms held wide for balance. As he neared the bank, he drew his sword and jumped. The severed ropes fell behind him, and he tossed the sword to one side. Arms windmilling, he hit the ground hard, rolling to a stop. Sif jumped out of the way. Movement on the far bank caught her eye, and she screamed.


Falthejn sat up. Two ontr stood across the river. They were of middling size for their kind, wearing the usual hodgepodge of armor. Neither had a bow, fortunately.

Alfhilde spun Sif to face the other way, and knelt to comfort the child.

“They do not swim,” Falthejn said over the din of the river. “We should go.”

Hrothgar nodded, picking up Falthejn’s sword and presenting it to the diviner. Falthejn sheathed it. Hrothgar undid the binding holding Jakob to his back, and took his son in his arms. “Lead on.”


They pressed on along the road, up the switchbacks on this side of the gorge. The roar of the river subsided, and as soon as it did, Alfhilde asked, “How did you miss them?”

“It is as I feared,” Falthejn said, ignoring the bruises forming along his side. “They have magiker of their own.”

Hrothgar looked at him askance. “Does that make a difference?”

“Magiker with the right talent can hide things from my sight,” Falthejn said. “We had hoped it was not widespread among the ontr.”

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