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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Bloody hell,” he muttered, exhaling explosively with his heart racing from the brief
excitement. The buck strolled past, unaware of their presence. Just before it disappeared
from view, it suddenly lurched to the right and let out a bellow before crashing to the
ground. Aiden fell flat on the ground next to Clavis, not sure what had just happened.
“See there,” the dwarven marksman whispered, pointing to the fallen buck that lay
twitching not twenty yards from their position. “A clothyard shaft sticking out if its head.
An expert shot, if I e'er saw one.” Aiden could only barely make out the arrow in the poor
conditions, but he took the dwarf's word for it. It seemed they had encountered one of
their hidden targets, who had proven more than capable of dropp ing any one of them in a
single shot.
Aiden scanned the small visible area around them, as he prepared his arbalest to
shoot. He wished he'd had the chance to practice before his life depended on it, but he
understood the mechanisms of the weapon well enough. He started cranking the windlass
back to ready the string for the bolt he would slide into place, but something caught his
eye in the middle of preparing the crossbow – the grey figure of a man, holding a
longbow was moving through the forest towards the fallen buck. He was absolutely
silent, and was dangerously close to spotting the two of them lying on the ground.
Aiden held his breath and watched in tense silence as the hunter walked over to the
fallen buck. It came as a surprise when a pair of arms reached out of a tree that stood
behind the hunter and grabbed him – one hand across his mouth, the other making a
slicing motion across his throat.
The hunter never knew what hit him, being grappled from behind and pulled to the
ground as he thrashed about silently. His assailant stood over the twitching body for a
moment, then crouched down to search through his possessions. Aiden, incredulous,
quickly moved in for a closer look and saw that it was Pacian who had killed the hunter,
and now crouched over his lifeless body, using his victim‟s shirt to wipe the man‟s blood
from his blade.
“O ne down, eleven to go,” he whispered grimly as Aiden crouched next to him.
“How did you get over here so fast?”
“As soon as the buck went down, I figured someone would come in to claim the
kill,” the he explained in a low voice. “The others won't be aware of their missing friend
for a while thanks to this fog, so we've got time to move in closer and take a few more
out before they're on to us.”
“We still have no idea where the other rangers are though,” Aiden warned. “So we
need to be careful about who we attack, okay?”
“Don't worry,” Pacian assured him, “By the time I've gotten close enough to cut into
the man, I've seen his face. Just make sure everyone else knows what they're doing,
especially Nel.” Aiden turned and crept back over to the others, who had gathered around
the area Clavis had staked out. Nellise had her crossbow out as well, and Colt had strung
his longbow. How useful he was going to be with it was another question.
“We're in deep now, so the plan is to keep moving in, slow and quiet,” Aiden
instructed quietly. “These men are clearly masters with their weapons, and we can't let
them get a clear shot at us or they'll hit us so hard there won't be enough le ft of us for
Nellise to heal. At some point we'll run into the other rangers, so check your targets
carefully. Let's move.”