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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

wonder about the relic he sought, and if it was lying beneath the ground only a few days
journey to the west. So close, yet so far.
He had difficulty getting to sleep that night, as the thought of tomorrow's impending
battle kept him from relaxing. But more than that, he was afraid of the dream - now that
he knew there was more to it than a recurring memory, he was scared that the dragon he
saw in his mind was also looking back out at him.
It was well past midnight when Aiden gave up, throwing off his covers and putting
on his boots and longcoat so that he could creep downstairs to get a drink of water. The
Lodge was freezing cold, so he moved as quickly as possible so he could return to the
warmth of his bed. The water was drawn from a well outside the Lodge, but they kept a
full barrel in the main hall near the front door. He drank his fill of the icy water, and
shivering, made his way back down the corridor towards the stairs.
A noise to his right caused Aiden to freeze in place. It sounded like something hitting
one of the wooden tables in the mess hall, the entrance to which he was standing in. The
young man looked around the room, lit only by the moonlight streaming in through the
windows. He noticed the shadowy figure of a man sitting at a table, a large wooden mug
in hand and a bottle before him. Aiden was unsure if he should announce his presence,
but the man hadn't noticed him yet. As the unknown man took another swig of his drink,
Aiden crept around to the stairs and carefully moved unnoticed up to the next floor.
As he was pondering the identity of the late night drinker, Aiden saw that the door to
Colt's room was open, and by the light of the moon he could see the beds were empty. A
sense of foreboding came over the young man as he went back into his room, grateful for
the fact that as bad as his problems were, some people had it worse.
Chapter Fourteen
It was still dark when Aiden was awakened a few hours later. Someone – probably
Duncan – came in, kicked the bedpost, and barked something about having 'ten minutes
to get downstairs'. Although he had tossed and turned for hours, the sleep he had gotten
was the most restful he'd had in some time.
Moving sluggishly at first, Aiden was compelled by the bitter cold inside the Lodge
to clothe himself faster than he wanted to. He quickly donned his normal winter attire,
and then added the layer of armour over the top of his tunic. As they had experienced, a
chain shirt wasn't much protection against arrows, something that was of no small
concern in the impending confrontation.
Securing his arming sword in its sheath on his hip, he picked up the heavy crossbow
he had acquired and headed out the door and down the stairs. He noted that all the other
doors were open, and the quarters empty as he passed by, causing him to wonder just how
long he had taken to get ready.
The sounds of quiet conversation could be heard as he reached the mess hall, and by
the light of several small lanterns, he could see his companions eating breakfast with the
assembled rangers. He placed his crossbow down on a stack that was their gear, and sat
down next to Pacian at a nearby table.
“Morning,” he said, his voice rasping slightly with the early hour. Pacian grunted
incoherently in reply, providing Aiden with some early morning amusement. Sarah strode
over and delivered a bowl of hot stew and some reheated bread for him to eat. He nodded