The Long Retreat No. 73

“That much is clear already.”

Hrothgar shook his head. “It’s more than that.” Looking back to the paper, he read, “‘Friends, I apologize for my abrupt departure, but I have seen what I have seen. If I do not leave you to distract the ontr, we all will die. If I go now, you may yet live. The Twelve give you speed. I hope to see you again.'” Hrothgar looked up and waved the paper at Alfhilde. “Signed ‘Arnarsson’.”

Alfhilde sat back heavily, and was silent. After a while, she said, “I take it all back.”


“He’s no different than the rest of his kind,” Alfhilde replied, hardness edging her voice. “Thinking they know best, not bothering to ask anyone anything. Well, tomorrow we leave this madness with or without him.” Decided, Alfhilde folded her arms across her chest.

“How will we tell the girl?” Hrothgar wondered. “She was fond of him.”

“We’ll cross that bridge in the morning,” Alfhilde replied. “Get some sleep. “I’ll wake you for your watch.”


By morning, Alfhilde had worked herself into a good lather. Arnarsson had to have known that they—Alfhilde in particular—would never have let him leave. Who did he think he was, skipping out in the middle of the night? How little regard did he have for their feelings? A different woman might have let it pass, assuming Arnarsson acted with the best of intent. Alfhilde would not. He should have trusted them enough, considered them near enough to equals, to tell them to their faces. Just like a diviner to dodge a fight.

She munched angrily on a handful of nuts. Beside her, Sif stirred, rolled over, and sat up. She looked around and asked, “Where’s Falthejn?”

Alfhilde sighed. The girl would take it hard, no doubt. “You won’t like it.”

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