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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“As you wish. Oh, Aiden, one more thing,” Ariel added as they were heading out the
door. “The mayor came by a little while ago and asked if I had any spare soldiers to send
down to Coldstream and Bracksford. Don't look so shocked, he may appear to be a selfish
fop, but he really does the best he can, given the situation.” Aiden held his breath, hoping
for good news but expecting the worst.
“I'm sorry, I really wish we had more people, but if I send anyone down there, I have
to leave something up north here unprotected,” Ariel said hesitantly. “It doesn't matter
what I do, one way or another, a part of the region is going to be vulnerable. My first duty
is to this town, Aiden. Maybe if my husband was here he'd have a better answer for you.”
“Thanks again for your help, sarge, I know you‟re doing your best,” Aiden conceded.
“Why has your King taken away so many warriors?” Sayana said, unexpectedly.
“What could be so important that he would risk the lives of your people like this?” Ariel
looked at her impassively for a long moment, and Aiden wasn't sure she was even going
to reply.
“Ordinarily I would not even consider telling civilians,” the sergeant replied
eventually. “As wife of the captain of the town guard, I am privy to a lot of information
that shouldn't be disseminated amongst the public. But in this instance, your service to
myself and this community compels me to be more forthcoming than I otherwise would
be.” Colt leaned over and closed the door, while the others took an unconscious step
towards the desk where Ariel sat.
“The K ing has declared war on Tulsone, our neighbour ing country to the west. He
didn't mention his reasons to any of us here in Culdeny, so I can't really tell you much
more than that, except that there was a great deal of negotiation between our two
countries for several months prior to the declaration, and this is the first time Aielund has
declared war on anyone in its history.”
“We've fought wars before,” Colt reminded her.
“They were defensive actions, like the Battle of Fort Highmarch,” Ariel disputed.
“This is the first time we've gone on the offe nsive, and I can't tell you why.”
“What reasons could there be, aside from conquest?” Aiden said bleakly. “Maybe
His Majesty decided his country wasn't big enough anymore, just like every other
conqueror in history.”
“I don't have any more answers for you Aiden,” Ariel offered sympathetically. “But
keep what I've told you amongst yourselves. Wild public speculation isn't going to help
the situation. Good luck to you all.”
Somewhat dejected, Aiden and the others started walking back to the inn before
deciding on their next move. The lack of military assistance from Culdeny for his home
town left him in a bleak mood. He pondered the remaining options as they sat down in
the common room.
“You look a bit down,” Colt observed with rare clarity. “Your folks live in
Coldstream right? I can see why that'd be a source of concern. Fortunately for you, I've
got something that'll cure that right quick. I'll be back in a minute.”
“I bet it‟s beer,” Pacian remarked after Colt had disappeared amongst the crowd of
sailors and other local people populating the common room.
“And just when he was starting to sober up, too,” Aiden added. “I hope he doesn't go