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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“There may be peril,” he finally admitted. “I can't guarantee it will be peril- free.”
“Straight from the horse's mouth,” Nellise sighed, shaking her head.
Chapter Twelve
The prospect of sitting around the table watching Colt drinking himself into oblivion
wasn't very appealing to Aiden, so he decided to accompany Nellise to the local smithy.
Sayana also saw the wisdom of being somewhere else at the present moment and tagged
along silently, as usual.
A thin veil of fog obscured the streets of Culdeny as the short winter's day began to
wane. It was unlikely they would be overheard talking, so Aiden brought Nellise up to
speed on their investigation into the mysterious circumstances behind the earlier
incursion under the church. The acolyte offered some interesting insights into the
background of Ronald Bartlett.
“Bartlett has been a fixture in Culdeny affairs for over a decade,” she informed them
as they walked along the cobblestone streets. “I would characterise him as a man more
invested in his own fortune than the prosperity of those around him. But to be somehow
connected to an invasion of the town? I never would have guessed it.”
“His public image could well be very different from his real character,” Aiden
remarked. “You never know what someone is capable of, especially a man like Bartlett.
In any case, the sergeant seemed like a pretty sharp woman, so I'm sure she can make a
determination as to his involvement.”
They stopped outside a large building with a sign hanging above the door that read
'Master Chaplain's Smithy'. The sounds of someone hammering away at the forge could
be dimly heard through the closed door, and smoke drifted lazily up into the misty sky
from the chimney.
Aiden held the door open for the ladies, a nd then followed them in. A wave of hot,
dry air washed over him as he stepped inside, carrying with it the smell of molten iron
and sweat. The walls were dark with the ingrained soot from years of forge fires, and
various weapons and suits of armour were on display. A middle-aged man, with neatly
combed white hair and arms like tree trunks stood watching a younger man of similar
proportions hammer away at what appeared to be the makings of a fine blade.
While Nellise began talking with the older smith about acquiring some armour,
Aiden set about looking at the weapons on display. A fine- looking arming sword caught
his eye, so he took it down from the wall rack to give it a closer inspection. It was a well-
balanced blade, longer and heavier than his short sword but still useable with one hand.
He caught the attention of the apprentice and haggled out a good deal for the
weapon. Regrettably, the total cost was still enough to take all but one of his remaining
silver coins. Still, it would all be worthwhile if it helped him stay alive. He made a mental
note to get back to Bracksford and push O laf for the payment he owed for clearing the
“And will there be anything for the young lady here?” the young smith added,
smiling at Sayana, who was gazing back a t the shirtless young man working at the forge.
“O h, I'm just looking,” she replied, a phrase she had no doubt heard on her travels
around the town with Nellise.