The Long Retreat No. 87

Two of the beasts came at him at once. He sidestepped a swing from the first and took its hand off in reply. He drove his shoulder into the second, knocking it over, and pushed his sword through the first’s chest as it stared in shock at its missing appendage. Behind him, Hrothgar shouted as he swung the hatchet. Falthejn felt ichor spatter against the back of his tunic. He glanced over his shoulder. Hrothgar pulled the hatchet free, eyes wide and teeth bared, and growled, “Which of you next?”

Falthejn dispatched the ontling he’d knocked over, and counted two more fallen.

Magical senses tingling, Falthejn ducked and pushed his sword up over his head, nearly splitting a leaping ontling in two. Three left—Alfhilde and Hrothgar could manage them. Their leader was another story.

Falthejn freed his sword with some effort. Next to him, Alfhilde swing her axe through an ontlig neck before the ontling could jump him. He nodded his thanks, and turned to face the ontling watching from atop the rise. He took a step—his feet didn’t move. His fingers loosened, and his sword dropped at his side.

One ontling, the only survivor from the skirmish, fell back up the hill toward its master. The ontlig chief looked dead at Falthejn. The diviner heard weapons clatter to the ground, but couldn’t turn his head to see if Alfhilde and Hrothgar were alright. He gritted his teeth, but some foreign presence in his head held him in place.

Cresting the rise behind the ontlig chief, a few dozen ontr—larger, armored, probably the chief’s bodyguard—pushed wooden constructions toward the river. Bridges, Falthejn realized. If they got across in numbers here, the fort would be lost.

He felt the world twist, and saw the ontlig chief raise his claws. A chill ran down his spine. This was the chief he’d seen the night before.

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