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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Yes, it really did,” Aiden agreed. He decided that he'd better get Colt out of the area
before he fell to pieces. “Thanks for helping us earlier today. I'm pretty sure we'd be dead
without you and the other rangers saving our necks.”
“Think nothing of it,” she replied, regaining her composure. “Continue heading
northwest and you'll be at the steps of Ferrumgaard before nightfall. But take extreme
care, for many who enter that c ursed place never come out again.”
“We will,” Nellise said. “N ice meeting you, Mona, although I wish it were under
better circumstances.”
“Don't we all,” she lamented, her large eyes watching Colt walk past as a tear
coursed down her cheek, briefly glinted in the sunlight. The big ranger managed to hold
himself together for a good ten minutes before the sound of quiet sobbing could be heard
in the forest.
As their journey continued upward into the mountains the view over the top of the
forest to the east was quite spectacular, though it was wasted on the big ranger. Colt
walked apart from the rest of the group, travelling alone while he dealt with his grief.
Although he hadn't asked for space, everyone gave it to him anyway.
When Nellise wanted to go and speak with him, Aiden advised against it. He didn't
have much experience with love, but he'd had plenty of experience with Colt's anger.
The snow crunched beneath their feet as they headed inexorably up the slope of
Mount Cale, one of the tallest mountains in the K ingdom. Despite the remoteness of their
location and the density of the forest, a road of sorts could be discerned amongst the
scrub, winding its way along the mountainside. Clavis, normally taciturn, seemed to
come to life at the sight of the road.
“This was the main highway between the city of Ferrumgaard and the human village
of Culdeny,” he said, pointing back down towards the coastal town far in the distance.
“Engineers spent a year layin‟ down stonework to make this road, in the hopes of
increased trade with the fledgling human community. Dig down through this snow and
dirt, and the flagstones'll still be there, as solid as the day they were laid out. Aye, I know
yer gonna say that Culdeny's a proper town now, but back then, it weren't more'n a dock
and an inn, a way to ship our goods to Fairloch by sea.”
“How large is Ferrumgaard?” Nellise asked.
“Nearly ten thousand of me kin called the inside of Ferrumgaard home,” Clavis
replied, a note of pride in his voice. “But it ain't sprawled out like a human city. 'Twas
dug into the mountain, a quarter of a mile wide and twice that in length, layered down
through the rock to the valuable ore deep down. Twelve levels there were, with extensive
tunnels branching around through the mountain as well. An amazing feat of engineering
and design, when ya think about it.”
“I'll reserve my excitement for when we get there,” Pacian remarked dryly.
“That ya will, lad, that ya will,” Clavis chuckled. He seemed quite confident that the
sight of the old dwarven city wo uld impress Pacian, and he became thoughtfully quiet for
a time.
The cold mountain wind chilled Aiden to the bone as they walked along the road for
hours, his camouflage cloak wrapped around him as tightly as he could manage. In spite
of their discomfort, they were treated to the magnificent view of the Calespur Mountains
around them. The road itself wound along the s ide of Mount Cale, with an ever
increasing drop off to the right.