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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Bloody hell, this is a masterpiece. The pull on this thing must be immense. Thanks
Pace,” Colt grunted in a rare show of gratitude. “I'll put it to good use, you can count on
that. Now let's get going before we start hugging.” They laughed at this, particularly then
let the ranger take the lead as they continued on through the forest with a renewed sense
of comradeship.
Sunlight streamed through the canopy above, allowing Aiden to fully appreciate the
natural beauty of the forest. The terrain was becoming rougher and more inclined as they
walked, a sure sign they were approaching the mountains. The already brisk air grew
even more frigid as they continued on, carrying with it the faint smell of wood smoke.
Colt paused in mid-stride, holding up one hand to signal for a halt.
“I think someone's having lunch nearby,” he said, keeping his voice low. “It's
probably Mona, but I'm going to scout ahead just to be sure.”
“Don't bother, I'm here already,” a hooded woman replied in a sweet, melodious
voice that was nonetheless firm with resolve. She had stepped out of the brush right next
to Colt, giving them all a start. Colt whirled around to face her, hand on t he hilt of his
weapon, but relaxed a little when he saw who it was. She pulled back the hood on her
cloak and allowed her honey-coloured hair to tumble down around her shoulders.
Aiden had never seen a true elf before, and was not disappointed – her angular eyes
and pointed ears gave her an alien appearance, and at nearly six feet in height, she
towered over Nellise and Sayana. Despite her apparent youth, her eyes had the look of
someone who had seen the passing of many years and not all of them pleasant.
“You should not be here, Dante,” she said with a note of warning. “Why have you
come this way?” Aiden frowned in confusion, until he realised she was talking to Colt.
He exchanged an amused look with Pacian, who was trying to suppress a laugh at the
mention of the big ranger's first name.
“Mona, hi, it's great to see you again,” Colt replied, a slight tremor in his voice.
“We're heading west from here on business, nothing to do with you really. If you hadn't
crept up on us like that we wouldn't have bothered you.” She nodded at this, standing at
ease a few yards in front of him. Despite this, an uncomfortable silence ensued as neither
of them spoke for a long moment. Colt swore under his breath, raising an eyebrow from
“Look, can we talk in private?” the big ranger asked in a hushed voice. “There's
things that need saying, and I don't talk well with an audience.”
“No need,” she replied coolly. “I am simply here to offer my customary warning
about travelling close to Ferrumgaard. But I see you have a veteran here who has no
doubt informed you of potential dangers already, is that not so, Clavis?” The dwarf
looked up at her with an unreadable expression.
“They've been made fully aware of the hazards, elf,” he replied stoically. “And I'll
thank ye to keep yer opinions as to the wisdom of our journey to yerself.”
“Far be it for me to speak of such things, I am far more discreet than that,” Mona
remarked, casually glancing around at Aiden and the others. Her eyes locked on Sayana
for a brief moment, but did not linger. “Everyone walks the path of their own choosing,
in the end,” the elfin ranger finished, looking at Colt directly with a hint of sadness in her
“Don't get subtle on me Mona, you know I can't follow you when you do that,” he