The Long Retreat No. 79

Falthejn inked the last few lines to form the last rune on a scrap of paper, corked his ink bottle, and put his writing supplies into his pack. He set the note on his cloak as he stood, buckling his sword belt around his waist and checking for the various pouches and vials hanging from it, each holding something to help focus his magic. Each was in its place.

He turned. His charges slept peacefully. He fervently hoped it would not be the last time. Fifty yards out of the camp, he made sure to snap a stick with a step—it would wake Alfhilde. He paused. Should he turn back? No. It was decided.

He struck out to the south. As he walked, he considered his next move. His job was to distract the ontr. To do that, he had to draw them away from the road. If he pulled the ontligr army to the northwest tomorrow, instead of due north, he would be taking them further from his group, and bringing himself nearer the army. The army was probably his best shot at survival, and survival seemed to him as good a secondary goal as any.

He slowed. Ahead, a red-orange light flickered through the trees. He doubted there were any humans this far south. He had been walking for a good half-hour; it seemed unlikely that the ontr would stumble across his charges overnight, if this was their camp and if they had patrols out. It seemed quite a large camp, though, and if he could see the fire this far off, they could be up to something. Ignoring the growing pain from his wounded side, he moved closer. He saw a rough stockade formed from felled trees. Ontlig sentries watched from, for lack of a better word, the battlements. When he was a hundred yards from the foot of the wall, he found a tree with a low branch and swung himself up into it. A minute or two of climbing brought him near its top, hidden from the ontlig camp by its trunk. He leaned around the tree to get a better look.

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