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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

gas. Oh, here‟s your cut of the money, by the way,” he added, handing over a gold
sovereign which Aiden absently put into his pouch.
“Okay, I'll be there as soon as I've finished up,” Aiden finished. “Where is the
meeting being held?”
“The barracks, just behind the mayor‟s office. I'll see you there,” Pacian answered,
and then swaggered off along the street.
Their business concluded, Aiden shook Dale‟s hand and bid him good day, then
headed straight for the barracks. Pacian's description had been correct, for it was indeed a
converted barn. A local militia member stood guard outside the large doors and upon
recognising him, allowed Aiden to pass with a quick gesture.
There were over a dozen people inside listening to a woman in chain mail. She
hesitated mid-sentence as Aiden entered, casting an annoyed glance at him before she
continued speaking. Pacian gestured Aiden over, where he had saved a seat for him.
Glancing around, he could see Nellise and Colt across the room, pointedly focused
upon the armoured woman. Aiden sighed inwardly, sensing the awkward distance
between them, both physically and metap horically.
Sayana appeared next to Aiden, placing a hand lightly on his shoulder. He smiled up
at her, but noticed a certain tension in her features that hadn't been there before. Was it
something he had done? Again, he found himself floundering in a sea of self-doubt.
“No you're right, Mister Clifton, in that they have avoided empty carts returning
from Coldstream,” the armoured woman was saying, her voice sounding too small for her
solid frame. The man she addressed was a local wheat farmer, and like ma ny of the other
locals present he wore a look of mild anxiety as they talked about the situation.
“Clearly, the raiders are looking for food, even above riches. They‟ve avoided the
few patrols I have sent out along the road, which gives me hope that a show of force
could send them running back to the hills.”
“So the threat isn't as bad as we initially heard?” said an older man with weathered
skin and grey hair, who Aiden recognised as David Patel, the man from whom Pacian had
acquired his old ranger leathers.
“Apparently not. I'm inclined to issue a travel warning to anyone moving east from
Bracksford, and send out a few more men to patrol the area. That should be sufficient.”
“So, as you can see we have the situation well in hand,” Olaf declared to the
assembled audience. “Thank you for your time, I will make every effort to keep you
apprised of the situation as it continues to develop.”
Sensing the end of the conversation, most of the assembled crowd began to leave,
talking amongst themselves in hushed to nes. David, however, wore a look of obvious
scepticism as he passed the mayor. It suddenly occurred to Aiden what was really going
on – he put his hand on Pacian's shoulder as he started to stand and indicated he should
wait.
He noticed that Nellise and Colt weren't leaving either. When the last of the civilians
left the room, the door was closed behind them, and then the real meeting began.
“I apologise for the deception,” Olaf began, stepping forward to address them, “but
as you can imagine, the townsfolk are rather skittish after all the recent troubles -”
“So you lied to them to put them at ease, how unprecedented,” Aiden finished
cynically.
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