The Long Retreat No. 91

Alfhilde and Hrothgar caught up to Sif and Falthejn, and together, they pushed on. Falthejn told the tale of his day in full. They reached the bridge as he finished. The last few refugees were crossing under the protective eye of the remnants of the army of the south. A trail of debris ran into the forest: a few jordenmagiker, filtering back through the trees, had just finished tearing up the road they had built through the wilderness. On the far bank of the river, a pair of vattenmagiker called up the floodwaters surging downstream. Falthejn and his company crossed the bridge, one solid piece of stone shaped by the jordenmagiker. On the far side, a woman wearing leather armor met them. A long blonde braid, emerging from beneath her helmet, lay over her shoulder.

“Falthejn Arnarsson,” she said flatly. “We thought you dead.”

“Nearly so, Eir Eriksdottir,” Falthejn replied, dipping his head. “I am glad to see you well.”

Eriksdottir looked at the others. Her gaze lingered a moment on Sif. “Survivors?”

Falthejn nodded. “Is Kjellsen here?”

“He has gone ahead to the fort.”

“Very well.” Falthejn nodded a farewell and turned downstream. Sif and the others followed.

A few minutes passed. Falthejn turned to Sif and said, “It is time for you to make your decision.”

Sif’s heart beat a little faster. “I want to be a magiker—”

“It is settled, then,” Falthejn said.

Sif tried again, rushing through her opening thought. “I want to be a magiker but,” she said, “Alfhilde and Hrothgar want me as their daughter, and I want to be part of their family. A real family.” She looked back at them. “If I have to give up magic for that, I can do it.”

Falthejn raised his eyebrows and glanced over his shoulder. Hrothgar and his wife met his eye. “You do yourselves great credit,” Falthejn told them, turning back to Sif. “And you do, as well. I am glad to see you to a place where you can truly belong.”

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