The Long Retreat No. 58

Time slowed to a crawl. For Falthejn, the phrase occupied the middle ground between a figure of speech and the honest truth. It happened sometimes when a situation suddenly took a turn for the complex, some trick of the intersection between mind and magic stretching the time he had to think.

What had changed? Possible futures, arrayed before his mind’s eye, shifted and twisted. It took a brief search before Falthejn found the common thread; as he located it, he saw the new tapestry weave itself before him. His mind fixed to it, and the long moment of explicit foresight morphed back into the instinctual mode he always fell into during a fight.

The physical world returned to the forefront of his perceptions, and the next ten seconds, abstract turning concrete, revealed themselves in their fullness. Mind racing, he swung the axe over his left shoulder—the wrong move, if all he had to worry about was surviving this fight, but there were bigger concerns now, and speed was of the essence. The axe dug into an ontling’s neck, but the creature swiped at his side as it went down. He felt the sting of the thing’s poison as he turned toward Sif and ran.

As his foot came down to end his first step, a pair of ontr burst from the hedges, easily three yards tall and armored with plates that looked built for them. Their axes gleamed in the moonlight. Before his next foot fell, he realized he only had one option. He stopped and closed his eyes.

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