The Long Retreat No. 74

Sif sat, shellshocked. Alfhilde kept talking, probably saying something comforting, but Sif remained stuck on the news that Falthejn had just left.

How could he? She had stood up for him when Alfhilde looked down on him. She didn’t want to be wrong about him—she wanted him to be a good man, but she couldn’t be sure that he was, not anymore.

She could see where he might think he was doing the right thing, if his note was true, but it stung. How could he expect to survive better on his own? Alfhilde knew how to fight, and Sif could at least try magic, in a pinch. Maybe he could move faster on his own, but if he was turning back toward the ontr…

And where did it leave her? Particularly high and dry. He had given her a reason to hope for the future, for the first time she could remember. With him gone—if Alfhilde and Hrothgar hadn’t agreed to take her in, she would have had nothing. Even so: her magic would put them in danger, and he’d left her no choice but to hide it. Her only other option put her family in danger.

That thought—her family!—brightened her mood considerably, for a few moments.

She was back to bad choices on that front. Never work magic again? She doubted if she had that kind of willpower. Go to the guilds? It was ten times as long again as the journey they were on, and she doubted Alfhilde and Hrothgar would agree to that. Worse, the guilds would not look generously on a street urchin turning up from nowhere, and they would put her somewhere she didn’t want to go, as like as not. Without Falthejn, without someone to vouch for her, she could not go to the guilds as an equal, only as an unknown, a dangerous, probably-criminal beggar.

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