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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“A year or so later, Sam comes back from his travels, and I dropped what I was
doing to head over and welcome him back,” his father continued. “He seemed fine at
first, but there was something different about him. The way his face looked when he
thought no-one was watching. There was a darkness in his eyes that hadn't been there
before, and when I asked him about it, all he tells me is that he got in to some big battle
down near Trinity, and he killed a dozen men to stay alive.”
“Wasn't much I could say to that, so we drank our beer in silence, and the next day,
he left town again. Ain't never seen him since, and I'm thankful for it, 'cause he wasn't the
same bloke I'd known growing up. He knew he couldn't go back to the way he'd been
before he'd done the things he'd done, and he'd never be the same again.”
“Interesting story,” Aiden remarked coolly, sensing a moral about to be revealed. His
father stopped what he was doing and looked him s traight in the eye before he spoke his
next words.
“You've got that same look in your eyes, Aiden,” he said with a tired voice. “For
whatever reason, you've killed a man, maybe more than one, and it's changed you. So
don't say to me that you'll come back when it‟s all over and settle in to build wagons with
your old man, because it's not going to happen. You've chosen your path, for better or
worse, and there's nothing that can be done about it now.” Aiden was silent as his father's
focus returned to his work, unable to form the words he wanted to explain himself
because he knew they wouldn't be enough.
He hadn't given a lot of thought to the killing he'd done, probably because there was
so much going on in his life at the moment, but also because he thought self-defence
justified it. They were bad men, and that made it okay? Somehow it didn't seem enough,
especially in the face of his father's story. There was nothing more to say to him, so
instead, Aiden turned and trudged out into the swirling snow, head hanging low as he
made for the inn. It may have been the house he grew up in, but it was no longer home.
* * *
The inn was less than a hundred yards away, a small fact Aiden remembered from
his youth. He even recalled counting out the s teps at one point to win a wager with
Pacian, though the exact number escaped him now. As he approached it, however, he
heard the sounds of distant voices, raised in argument, both of them quite familiar to
Aiden. Groaning inwardly, he changed direction and headed over to the western end of
town, walking faster.
The sounds grew louder as he approached the Savidge household, an old timber-
worker's cottage that had seen better days. Half a dozen locals were peering out of their
windows nearby, trying to find out more of what was going on. The shouted words were
alarmingly loud and punctuated by the sounds of smashing plates. Aiden stopped just
outside the front door, wondering whether or not it was safe to open.
The words being hurled back and forth like weapo ns were quite harsh, and not
unfamiliar. Pacian's father had never forgiven his son for the death of his wife, and the
resentment brewing within the man often exploded into a terrible display of the less
appealing aspects of human nature. Pace had taken a good deal of abuse over the years,
probably out of a sense of guilt, but tonight, he was dishing out as good as he was getting
and it was just making the whole situation worse.
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