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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“I'm sure you have a good reason for staying,” he began slowly. “It hasn't exactly
been an easy journey for us. Now that the road to Culdeny is open again, I suppose your
task is complete.”
“It's not that,” she assured him. “When I first offered to go with you and Pacian, I
thought you were nice young men looking to help out the town. I didn't realise Pace was
capable of such a brutal act. What he did to that man... I just don't associate with thugs,
Aiden. You seem to be a genuinely good man, but him...”
“Pacian is... complex,” Aiden told her patiently. “I'm not saying what he did wasn't
wrong. It was, but he has his reasons.” Nellise shook her head steadfastly.
“Nothing can justify that sort of behaviour, the reasons are irrelevant.”
“Would you like to hear them before you judge him?” Aiden pressed. She looked at
the young man for a moment, seeming to consider what he was saying. “Indulge me,” he
added a moment later.
“I suppose it wouldn't hurt,” she acquiesced, “but don't expect me to be
sympathetic.”
“Good enough.” Aiden had hoped to go and get something to eat, but he felt this was
more important.
“I've known Pace since I was seven years old. He and his parents moved to
Coldstream from Amalis, on the east coast, after their fortunes took a tur n for the worse.
They had a bakery, but it burned down in an accident and they lost just about everything.
Coldstream is a nice cheap place to live, but one can't really make a fortune there either,
so their new bakery barely made enough to keep them fed a nd clothed. Still, they
survived.”
“One day, around three years ago, some people came into town looking for Bryce
Savidge, Pacian's father. It turned out that he owed them a substantial amount of money
from gambling debts, and that he'd burned down the bakery to fake their deaths, thus
freeing him of obligation. But it seemed Bryce underestimated his debtors, as they'd
managed to track him down in Coldstream.”
“I can guess that this isn't going to end well,” Nellise observed. Aiden nodded.
“When Pacian went home that evening, he stumbled into the middle of a bad
situation. Four thugs were there, destroying what few possessions they owned, looking
for the money that was owed to them. When Pace walked in, one of the men grabbed his
mother, Keelin, and held a knife to her throat, demanding his money on the spot.”
“Pace was roughly the same cocksure lad he is now, and quite skilled at throwing
knives. He thought he could kill the thug before he cut his mother's throat. He was wrong.
As soon as he threw, the man cut Keelin's throat wide open. I'm not sure if Pacian's knife
hit him or not, but the ensuing fight was chaotic to say the least. They made enough noise
that the neighbours came over to see what was happening, but by then, all four men were
dead and Bryce was severely injured. Pacian managed to make it through with only a few
bruises, but his mother was dead.” Nellise covered her open mouth with a hand, gasping
in astonishment.
“I would have burned them all,” Sayana offered, a note of savagery in her voice.
“Pace had to live with the guilt of causing his mother's death, for which his father
never forgave him.”
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