It developed that she had good reason not to. They crested a shallow rise, and suddenly the river lay before them, down the slope a few dozen yards, roaring rapids swirling past. The road ran through a clearing, man-made and surrounded by hedges, then plunged straight into the deluge, not reappearing for another fifty yards.
“This isn’t right,” Alfhilde said. “I’ve been this way before, in the army. By this time of year, the Syderskogflod ought to be a little brook, not… this.” She threw her hand out at it.
Hrothgar shrugged. “What next?”
“I don’t know.”
Sif walked down to the water’s edge, drawn by something in the way it moved. She crouched, stuck her finger in, and watched the water flow around it. “It isn’t natural,” she announced.
Alfhilde turned toward her. “What do you mean?”
Sif looked over her shoulder, brow knitted. “I don’t know.” She frowned more deeply. “I think it’s magic.”
“The water?” Hrothgar said.
Alfhilde tapped her chin. “It would explain the flood.”
Sif looked back toward the water, but something upstream caught her eye. “Why didn’t we take the bridge?” she asked.
“There is no bridge,” Alfhilde replied.
Sif pointed. “Then what’s that?”
Alfhilde hurried down to the water’s edge to join Sif, and followed the line of her arm. Upriver, to the west, the river curved away toward the north in a great arc, before doubling back around a headland to the south and out of sight, a league or so distant. No trees grew on the opposite bank; the men in the fort—Flodsvadgard—probably kept it clear. The fort, wooden walls and a central stone-build fastness, sat on the opposite bank, midway along the great bend, set back from the river’s edge a hundred yards or so.