The Long Retreat No. 45

Alfhilde laughed. “Yours and mine.”

“It’s— it is interesting. I have never been this far from the city before.” Sif paused, thinking. “I haven’t— have not ever been out of the city at all before, I do not think.”

“Trouble with your words?” Alfhilde asked, a glint in her eye. Sif blushed.

“Don’t tease the poor girl,” Hrothgar admonished.

“Oh, you know me better than that,” Alfhilde said, rolling her eyes. “I wasn’t finished. Sif, don’t worry about formality. We’ve come this far together. We’ve earned the right.”

“Thank you,” Sif said reflexively. Relaxing, she repeated herself. “Thanks.” A moment passed while Sif replayed the moment in her head. She tilted her head—she thought she’d seen that—and smiled gratefully at Hrothgar. To her amusement, he looked away almost shyly, coughing over a smile of his own. She laughed, and the sound, strange to her ears, surprised her. It had been less than two days, she thought, but it seemed like a lifetime had gone by since the last time she’d laughed.

The thought threatened to drag her beneath the stormy seas crashing around her mind, but Alfhilde spoke before it could. “Looks like you’ve made friends with our diviner.”

Sif nodded, not quite trusting herself to speak.

“You’ve talked to him more than either of us. What do you think of him?”

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