The Long Retreat No. 69

Mercifully, the day’s march passed uneventfully. They found a place to set up their camp, set back from the road and out of sight. Falthejn went off to one side of the camp by himself, drew a circle on the ground, and sat in it, eyes closed. Sif watched him, nibbling at a piece of trail bread.

“I wonder what he sees?” Alfhilde said, sitting next to her.

“It’s usually bad,” Sif said, offering Alfhilde a piece of bread. Alfhilde waved it away. Sif added, “We die a lot, he told me.”

Alfhilde nodded. “That’s the life a diviner leads. You can’t know how to keep your friends alive unless you know how they die.” She looked into the distance. “He is less gloomy than most of his kind, that much I’ll give him.” A few moments passed. “Did he ever tell you why he became a diviner? I can’t see very many choosing to.”

Through a mouthful of nuts, Sif replied, “Oh, he didn’t choose it. When he was younger than me, a diviner met him and saw him use magic. The diviner took him away and trained him.”

For a long time, Alfhilde said nothing. Sif turned to give her a quizzical look, but stopped. Worried, she said, “Are you crying?”

Alfhilde shook her head abruptly, then softened and conceded, “A little, maybe. That is a—” she wiped at her eye “—a hard story for a mother to hear. He’s doing you quite the kindness to let you choose, isn’t he?”

“Most children who can use magic get sorted into whichever guild needs people the most,” Sif confirmed. “Sometimes the richest people get to pick, but otherwise, unless you know someone…”

“Good thing we met him, then.”

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