The Long Retreat No. 71

“What if you could, though?” Alfhilde said. Sif raised her eyebrows. “What is it you’re really looking for? A place to belong?” Sif thought for a long few heartbeats, then cautiously nodded, not yet daring to hope. “I understand if you want to be a magiker to help people,” Alfhilde continued. “I joined the king’s army for that very reason. I would only ask that you make the choice, and not the choice you spoke of. If your options are to be a magiker, or to die, you have no choice at all. If you are to decide, decide after you know you will not need to work magic to survive.” Alfhilde paused for breath. “All of this I say to tell you this. I have spoken to Hrothgar, and it is decided. Sif, if you want a place to belong—if you want a family—we will have you. Be our daughter.”

Sif played Alfhilde’s words back in her head until she was sure. She had heard what she thought she had heard. Once again, a tide of emotion washed over her, threatening to sweep her away. This time was different. She was not lost, she was not broken, she was not pulled out to sea by crashing waves of grief. She was found. She felt something she could not recall having felt before: peace, she decided. This was what peace felt like. To feelings like these, she would gladly surrender. Tears welled up, this time tears of joy. She cried, and Alfhilde held her.

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