The Long Retreat No. 47

Time stretched out before Falthejn. The myriad ways billowed, twisted, and streamed away to nothingness—now, ten minutes from now, a month later, a century after that.

Neither of his questions called for that much effort. He brought his focus back in. The first question: where was the army? Why had they turned from the main road and taken another path? He couldn’t very well look for the army itself. His colleague Ericsdottir would be covering its tracks from prying eyes. She would also be pulling double duty, though, without him to help, and that meant she only had half the time to work. He would not find the army itself; he would find impossible futures, ones where the army had never existed at all. The whirling sands of those potentials covered the truth. He might have luck looking for the seams, where the clouds of dust popped against the background.

He found a promising swirl, and methodically followed it forward. Perhaps if they detoured through the wilderness to the west—a vision of his body, propped against a tree and studded with crude, black-fletched arrows, flashed by his mind’s eye, and he discarded that path. Another saw an ontlig raiding party slaughtering them in a clearing just off the road. Still others led to a pack of howlers happening upon them in the night, tearing them limb from limb.

If he were conscious of his body, he would have frowned. Vralaapr, howlers here? wolves were one thing, and they roamed these woods freely, but vralaapr were creatures of the far north, as far as he knew. His notional frown deepend.

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