The Long Retreat No. 70

Sif looked at the pouches of food in front of her, made a decision, and cinched the pouches closed. She would want something to snack on during tomorrow’s march. “I think so too. It’s good for us—we get to survive—and it’s good for him—he gets some friends.”

Alfhilde pondered that and said, “I hadn’t thought of it that way.”

“He’s as human as you or me,” Sif replied. “He thinks I should be a conjurer. Some of them don’t even leave Norr— Norrderheim—” she gave up “—den Holm, and when they do, they have the best armor ever made, and a band of metal men to fight for them.” Sif stabbed a finger in the air to punctuate her words. “Metal men! Do you believe that?”

A memory floated to the surface of Alfhilde’s mind: a dweorgr mineshaft, the stubborn little buggers dug into its mouth, their cannon and rifles spitting fire at anyone who dared draw near; a magiker pointing and shouting; shining silver avatars of destruction stained red as Alfhilde and her band took the position. “You know, I do.” Alfhilde smiled briefly, driving off the recollection and bringing herself back to the present. “Do you think you’ll take his offer?”

“It feels like fate to me,” Sif admitted. “I don’t think I’ll be able to stop using magic, now that I’ve seen it. If I were backed into a corner, and I had to use magic, I would choose that over dying, even if it meant they would have to come after me. It’s better that I go somewhere I can be allowed to use magic, and where I can help people. I won’t get a better deal than that.”

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