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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

perform to our potential. I'll take this upstairs, and then I have a few erra nds to run before
we head out.”
“There's no rush,” Aiden said, ignoring the look he received from Clavis. “It's too
late to leave now anyway, so I was thinking we could start out early tomorrow morning.”
“That's all well and good,” Nellise replied, trying to squeeze past the back of Colt's
chair, “but if we're going to be heading into harms way down in the ranges, I want to buy
some better equipment first. Unless Colt can say for certain that we won't be in peril...?”
They all turned to look at the big ranger, who looked uncomfortable under such scrutiny.
“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. “Remember
how reluctant I was to wear heavier armour when we first started out in Bracksford?”
“Yes, you were afraid you'd topple over,” Aiden recalled.
“After spending 'quality' time with you all over the past week or so, I can honestly
say I've changed my mind.”
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 was her custom. Aiden really wanted to discuss a few things with her,
and thought perhaps Nellise might be discreet enough to keep them to herself, but this
wasn't the right time.
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 the young adventurer 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 she hauled the despised chain shirt over her shoulder 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 somehow be connected to an invasion of the town? I certainly
never would have guessed it, based on my knowledge of the man.”
“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 guard Sergeant seemed like a pretty sharp woman, so I'm sure she can
make a determination as to his involvement.”
“Yes I've heard good things about Ariel,” Nellise agreed. “Rumours abound that the
Captain is a simple man, and ever since they were married she was the brains of the city
guard. You didn't hear that from me, though,” she added with a surreptitious glance at
Aiden.
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 sk y
from the chimney.
 
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