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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

The bottom of the stairwell featured large stone braces for heavy devices that were
no longer there. The architecture of the nearby buildings returned to the closely-built,
multi-storey structures the dwarves seemed to have favoured, although here they seemed
to be less intricately carved than on the floors above. Several of them had collapsed over
the years, leaving large chunks of rock strewn about on the empty streets.
“Housing for the workers,” Clavis grunted as way of explanation. “O ur industrious
grave-robbers were probably disappointed with what they found when the y first set eyes
on this place. We're close to the collapsed section that stopped me progress a few years
back. It's naught but a five minute walk from here.” The dwarf led them past the remains
of his people's engineering accomplishments and through a narrow street, lined with the
crumbling tenements of the dwarven working class.
“If it's so easy to get to this point,” Pacian inquired as they travelled, “why has it
taken you years to get back down here?”
“It's hard to find anyone crazy enough to come with me,” Clavis muttered ruefully.
“Ferrumgaard is no place to travel alone, something I learned the hard way. That's why
together, we'll beat this place, and ye'll be all the richer for it.”
Twice over the next few minutes they had to clamber over piles of rock, or detour
around even larger piles of rock. The place was really coming apart. As if to tweak his
fears, Aiden swore he could feel a slight vibration through the soles of his boots, although
it was possible he was imagining things.
It was closer to ten minutes before they reached a towering section of fallen rock,
large enough to bury several buildings completely. There wasn't any way around this one
that they could see within the range of their light sources, so Aiden assumed this was the
collapse that Clavis had spoken of.
“Here it be,” he muttered, looking up towards the unseen ceiling somewhere above.
“This?” Pacian remarked incredulously. “This is what stopped you last time you
were here?”
“Aye lad, and I barely escaped with me life to boot.”
“I see, so, how exactly were you planning to get around it this time?” Pacian
accused. “It's just as big as the pile blocking the big doors upstairs!”
“Ah, this time I came prepared, with tools, and with knowledge,” Clavis answered,
giving the others a wink. He took off his backpack and pulled out something wrapped in
hessian. He withdrew a few things from the wrapping, and then carefully assembled a
heavy pickaxe, with a flat bladed shovel on the back end.
“You're going to dig through all that, with a bloody pickaxe?” Colt asked flatly. “I
don't suppose you brought enough for all of us?”
“By me calculations,” Clavis said, oblivious to the pessimism brewing in the group,
“the uppermost rock will be the thinnest, and will only take a day or two ta clear. Ye can
help me move some 'o the looser rock, and to be sure that'll speed our progress. I'd ask
that one of ya keep watch on our little excavation site though, just to be safe.”
“I'll do that,” Pacian volunteered. “The rest of you can move rocks around all day
long if you like.”
“Ever the gallant gentleman,” Nellise remarked dryly.
“Well I would assume that Clavis isn't asking the women to do heavy lifting, am I
right?” Pacian pressed.
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