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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

It wasn't long before they spied the log cabin in a secluded place behind a small rise.
“It's not a badly built place at all,” Clavis was saying as Aiden and Co lt caught up
with the group.
“Yeah, it's real quaint,” Colt grunted as Pacian opened the door and peered inside.
“Make yourselves comfortable, and I'll be back in an hour. Just be ready to get moving
by then.” He strode off into the forest in something of a hurry.
“I guess it's time for his annual bath,” Aiden remarked as he followed the others
inside the cabin, pleased to note that it was still warm from the glowing embers of a fire.
The remains of a fine breakfast were laid out on a large oaken table – an assortment
of cheeses, loaves of bread, fruit and sausages lay upon a silver platter, suggesting their
previous owners had left here in a hurry. Half a dozen bunk beds were arrayed along the
walls, and a bearskin rug complete with a gaping head adorned the floor. Above the
fireplace, three deer heads were mounted and leered down over the interior. The middle
head was an eighteen-point buck, and although Aiden was no hunter, even he knew it was
a rare find.
After nearly an hour of eating and relaxing in front of the fire, Aiden began to grow
impatient to continue on to Ferrumgaard. The prospect of finding the answers he had
sought for so long was making him fidget, which did not go unnoticed by his friends.
“Looks like yer eager to get back on the road,” C lavis observed. “I can't say I feel
any different, being this close to finally getting back down to me ancient home.”
“I'm sorry if I was annoying you,” Aiden apologised with a rueful smile. “But it's
been at least an hour and Colt still isn't back. Can we head out and pick him up on the
way?”
“We don't even know where he went,” Nellise objected. “How are we going to find
him?”
“I can track him down,” Sayana said confidently. With no dissenting replies, they
gathered up their gear and left the warm shelter of the cabin for the brisk winter air of the
Calespur ranges once more with Pacian carrying a longbow he‟d found above the
mantelpiece.
Aiden pointed out the direction Colt had been heading to Sayana, who spent a minute
searching the ground for signs of his passage. O nce she had the trail, it was a simple
matter to follow it to the same destination Colt had chosen. Along the way, she noticed
animal tracks alongside the human ones.
Before long, the sound of flowing water could be heard through the forest as they
moved, and within a minute, they had arrived on the bank of small creek. It was swollen
with the waters coming in from the heavy rain to the south, but still a modest flow by the
standards of rivers. As Aiden scanned the banks for signs of the wayward ranger, he
heard Nellise gasp.
Turning to look, his eyes were assaulted by a naked man rising out of the water. It
was Colt, of course, just as nature had made him. Pacian was a little more melodramatic
in his response, recoiling in horror and covering his face.
“Hey, I just ate you know,” he groaned.
“If you didn't want to see anything, you should have waited for me back at the cabin,
like I told you,” Colt growled, quickly grabbing his trunks from the pile of equipment on
the bank and dressing himself. Not only had he bathed, the big man had washed and
brushed his brown hair.
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