The Long Retreat No. 88

Sif opened her eyes. Her head throbbed. Where was she?

It all flooded back in an instant, and she sat up. Her heart sank. Something was wrong. Falthejn wouldn’t have dropped his sword on purpose. She struggled to her feet, rubbing her arms against the growing chill. She remembered something, then, and let her mind reach out.

Everything became clear. She saw tendrils of power reaching out from the biggest ontling, swooping down to envelop her friends. Falthejn struggled against it, but couldn’t gain ground on it, and Alfhilde and Hrothgar could do nothing at all. She felt the storm of power gathering around the ontlig magiker, and although she couldn’t tell what it was for, she knew she didn’t like it.

She had to do something.

She ran to Falthejn’s side, squared her shoulders, and met the ontling’s magic head-on. Falthejn’s will joined hers, and together, they fought. The war of minds ebbed and flowed, but the ontling was strong. She felt a push in her head, then a pressure growing to pain. She grimaced.

Falthejn broke free. He raised his voice in a shout of defiance, and his hand came to rest on Sif’s shoulder. They made one last effort, pushing together, and the oppressive power of the ontling’s mind snapped back. Sif looked up, and saw something like surprise on the monster’s face. It roared, swinging its arms around in a great circle.

“Run,” Falthejn urged her.

She shook her head. “I can do this.”

Falthejn might have replied, but he had run out of time. The ontling’s arms came back around to point at them, and a bolt of lightning shot from its claws. For Sif, time stopped. She watched the bolt trace its way through the space between them. She put out one hand, and felt the force of the blow push her back. She leaned in against it, and lightning wreathed her arm. She looked at it for a moment, surprised—then it began to hurt, worse than she’d imagined it might. She pointed back toward the ontling leader and let go. The force of the magic threw her backward through the air, and pushed her aim off-target. The bolt hit one of the ontlig siege bridges. It caught fire instantly, then a cloud of dirt kicked up by the impact hit it from her view.

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