The Long Retreat No. 49

It was as he’d thought. He had an ontlig counterpart, a seer of some sort who could disrupt Falthejn’s own sight. This ontling didn’t hide his tracks like a human would. Ericsdottir—she’d had the right idea, taking the western route, Falthejn thought, wishing he’d thought a little further ahead before saving his four—would have made the army invisible, in a sense. Anyone looking into the future for it would find her carefully-crafted version of events, where no trace of five thousand soldiers and twice as many refugees remained, fixed in place and blended in with the real. This ontling, on the other hand, had found a way to show Falthejn his death, his specifically, and that kept him from looking too closely for the seams.

He knew what to look for now. A new set of futures arrayed themselves before him, futures in which he walked methodically south, southeast, and southwest, counting steps until he died. In time, he had a picture of the extent of whatever his adversary was hiding. Two leagues south, they waited. The next day, they gained ground—no, not if Falthejn pushed his party harder. The adversary paused through the nights, it seemed—likely, it was the ontr army, making camp as the sun went down and resuming the chase with the light. Falthejn could just keep ahead of them, if he could keep up a fast march.

He looked back to the present. An hour had already passed. He had little margin left. A few minutes served to erase his band of survivors from the great swirling storm of maybes. He’d wondered about one more thing, and looked for—no, found it.

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