The Long Retreat No. 56

Sif opened her eyes, a sense of wrongness gnawing at her. High overhead, the moons shone amidst a blanket of stars, their light filtering through the branches. Falthejn was sitting up in his bedroll, keeping watch toward the hedges. They’d talked about a watch schedule earlier, after Falthejn had told them that some ontr magiker could keep him from seeing things. That concerned her less than she thought it might have. Falthejn seemed to have a plan, and had assured them he could still keep track of the ontr, and could still fight, if it came to that.

Sif closed her eyes again, but the feeling didn’t leave her. She sat up. Falthejn turned quickly, hand going to his sword, which laid sheathed beside him. He saw it was her, and relaxed. Sif did, too. She tried to avoid scaring armed men.

“What is it?” he asked, voice low enough so as not to disturb the others’ sleep.

She lifted a shoulder and looked at her hands, folded in her lap. “Something feels off.”

To her surprise, Falthejn frowned and stood, picking up his sword by the sheath. “Off how?”

“Wrong, I guess,” Sif replied. As Falthejn walked past her toward the steep dropoff away from the road, she got up and followed him.

A few steps from the edge, he stopped, holding out an arm which caught her in the chest and brought her to a halt. “Wake Alfhilde,” he whispered. “Tell her a fight is coming. Quietly.”

Sif turned and ran on her tiptoes. Behind her, she heard the rasp of metal on leather. She knelt next to Alfhilde.

Alfhilde’s eyes were already open. “What was that?”

“Falthejn says a fight is coming,” Sif whispered.

Lightning-fast, Alfhilde was on her feet, taking the axe from its place next to her, and prowling over toward Falthejn.

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