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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Colt said it's not much further to go from here,” Aiden said. “As for what they're
thinking about us, you can be assured that Pacian has already explored that line of
thought quite thoroughly. Don't worry about it though. Nobody really pays attention to
his more outrageous comments.”
“I should have another word with him,” Sayana muttered. “And by 'word', I mean
'punch'.” Aiden smiled briefly but said nothing further as the two of them re-joined the
main group. His conversation with the sorceress had given Aiden much to think about
over the next few hours, and despite Colt's earlier warnings, he was far too preoccupied
to pay attention to their surroundings.
They continued on through the forest, closing in on the outpost that gradually
loomed over the surrounding terrain. It was a two storied structure of solid design. If
anything, it was more like a fort built out of logs than a large cabin, for it had
crenulations around the second floor that would be an excellent place to shoot from.
Indeed, two rangers could be seen standing guard from that position, watching Aiden's
group approaching through the brush.
As they neared the outpost, the door opened before they could reach it and a man
appeared from inside - the ranger named Duncan they had met a few days ago in
“Glad you could all make it,” greeted the ranger, shaking hands firmly with Colt and
gesturing for them to step inside. “I thought I told you to get some rest and fix yourself
up a bit, you look like hell, man,” he exclaimed after a cursory examination of Colt's
“N ice to see you too,” Colt growled in reply. “Yeah, we had some trouble to deal
with in town, kind of got in the way of my sleeping plans.”
“And yet, he still managed to get drunk and knocked unconscious every night,”
Pacian mentioned casually, stepping into the fort. “He's nothing if not dedicated.”
“Still into the booze?” Duncan asked, frowning. “I hope you've had a chance to clear
your head, we've got a serious situation to deal with down here, you know.”
“Don't you start too,” Colt growled, “I get enough mothering from this bunch of
“Perhaps we should speak with your commander and get a handle on exactly what it
is you need us to do down here,” Nellise segued with aplomb.
“Right you are ma‟am,” Duncan replied with a grim look. “The commander is in the
mess, I'll take you through.” They walked down a short hallway adorned with several
coats of arms towards a large central area, lit by a large crackling fireplace, and furnished
with a few tables and chairs. It was warm, dry, and decorated with ancient weapons and
shields hanging on the walls.
There was a sense of discipline to the place, a feeling the Lodge had stood here for
many decades, and the people working and living here were part of long-standing
tradition of service to the Crown. The building was large enough to house at least thirty
rangers, and yet the halls and common room were quiet. The absence of their comrades
was telling.
A large, robust looking man of middle age sat in one of the chairs, finishing up his
midday meal. His hair was red, and sported a beard separated into two plaits with grey
streaks near his chin and secured by metal rings around the length. The Commander
turned to look at the newcomers as they entered, standing up as he did so.