The Long Retreat No. 32

“What does it mean for us?” said Alfhilde.

Falthejn looked away, lips pressed together. After a moment, he said, “I may miss others, or perhaps see those who will not be there. I can be certain about one thing, at least: they cannot escape my sight when they stand ready to attack us, nor can they cloud it when they are near. I would not have been nearly so graceful at the bridge, if they could.” He gestured to the hatchet hanging from Alfhilde’s belt. “If I draw my sword, be ready to use that.”

“Ready I will be.”

Falthejn heard the iron in her voice. “Very well.” He tilted his head. “Then let us march on into the unknown.”


The road crested the side of the valley, only to descend immediately into another. The stream at its base was mercifully small, easily forded, and the road turned to follow it for some time, cutting between steep hills. They ate as they walked, saying little. Falthejn wondered what weighed on the others, between his own troubled thoughts: was it the ontr clouding his sight? Some rogue diviner? Something else altogether? These woods were poorly known, and human folk were new arrivals to the realms of magic. No man knew what horrors of nature the trees might conceal, things too dark to name. A beast with the gift of foresight, stalking them so perfectly they would never know it? Falthejn shook his head. That was not a productive way to think. Instead, he thought about what he might do. Truthfully, it would not have taken much talent to throw him off-track, given how little finesse he’d put into it of late. Tonight, he would try a few things to focus his efforts.

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