The Long Retreat No. 35

The road cut into the side of a steep hill. The conifers upslope leaned out over the heads of Falthejn and his company, before bending upward toward the sun. On the other side, the land dropped away precipitously.

“Here,” Hrothgar said. “Or very nearly. Down the slope, there is a large outcropping. It shelters a flat with room enough for tents.”

Falthejn walked up to the edge of the slope. A few candidates presented themselves. He closed his eyes and let the possibilities blossom before him. “That one,” he said.”

They followed the road for a few hundred yards, then picked their way down the hillside. Hrothgar led them a dozen yards around the outcrop, revealing a depression in the hill beneath its face, a narrow strip of stony ground which would be sheltered from rain by the overhang.

Sif dropped her pack with a huge sigh of relief, then flopped down beside it, leaning against it and stretching out her legs. Falthejn, with somewhat more reserve, took a spot a few yards further toward the middle of the sheltered area, and Hrothgar, Alfhilde, and Jakob went all the way to the far end, staking out as private a space as they could hope for here. The distant thunder of rapids covered their quiet conversation.

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