The Long Retreat No. 72

Alfhilde opened her eyes and turned over in her bedroll. It was still dark. To her left, Hrothgar snored away along with Jakob, the baby sprawled on his father’s chest. To her right, Sif curled up, sleeping peacefully.

Alfhilde sat up. The moons were high overhead; it would be her watch soon anyway. The diviner’s bedroll was empty. Alfhilde looked over her shoulder. Arnarsson wasn’t there, either. She shrugged to herself, pulled her bedroll up to the nearest tree, and settled in. After fifteen minutes, she began to worry. He should have been back by now from wherever he had gone, or at least for every place she could imagine him going.

She couldn’t very well call out to him, not with ontr on the prowl. She stood, going over to his bedroll. A scrap of paper rested atop it, two neatly-inked lines of runes covering the front of it. Alfhilde examined it closely, but the treacherous letters refused to arrange themselves into words. She would have to wake Hrothgar.

A few minutes later, Hrothgar rubbed at his eyes, taking the paper form Alfhilde. Careful not to disturb Jakob, who still somehow slept soundly in the bedroll, he looked it over.

“Well?” said Alfhilde.

Hrothgar looked up. “You won’t like it,” he cautioned.

Alfhilde frowned. “What is it?”

“The diviner has left.”

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