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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“No, she‟s right. A rich man doesn‟t fight to the death, because he has too much to
lose. He‟d pay someone else to die for him.”
“Given that such people usually have servants with them, it is likely that we will be
forced to engage them before we even reach the noblemen,” Armin rejoined. “My
decision stands.” Nellise exchanged a concerned glance with Pacian, who, for once,
seemed to share her position. Armin clearly considered the matter closed, however, and
dismissed the meeting at once. The rangers around them stood and moved with purpose
to collect their equipment, so Aiden and the others followed suit. Armin headed in their
direction, holding his pack under one arm.
“A moment of your time,” he requested, looking at Sayana. “I‟m not sure what you
bring to this team of yours, but unless I see something to prove you can take care of
yourself, I cannot permit you to go with them.” She nodded, then held out her palm and
produced a tongue of flame. Armin did not seem impressed.
“I see you've got some magical talent. That's a rare thing this far from civilisation,
but all that little trick is going to do is draw the wrong sort of attention from our
adversaries.” Sayana narrowed her eyes a little, but held her anger in check.
“I won't waste my power on a demonstration,” she replied calmly. “And in any case,
there's little else I could show you that wouldn't destroy this building. I would ask you to
trust that I can protect myself, and provide a valuable contribution.”
“You're plain spoken, I like that in a woman,” Armin said, smiling slightly. Colt
flicked him a dark look that passed almost as quickly as it appeared. But Aiden caught it,
as well as the slight whiff of alcohol emanating from the big man. “Alright, you can go,
but I hope for your sake you are not exaggerating your capabilities. I wish you all good
hunting, and we'll meet you at the agreed location.” Aiden reached out and shook his
hand, then picked up his crossbow.
“Just a moment, you'll be needing these,” Sarah said, handing him a cloak. “The
commander was concerned about your visibility, so yo u can borrow these camouflage
cloaks for the operation. Especially you, ma'am,” she added, looking at Nellise. “I
understand a white robe is symbolic of the church, but it's going to make you a target,
even in the dimmest of light. And don't get me started on that shiny breastplate.”
“Yes, well, traipsing around the woods at night wasn't exactly what I had in mind
when I bought this,” Nellise lamented, taking the offered cloak and draping it around her
shoulders. She pulled up the hood and fixed the clasp o n the front, hiding just about all of
her white robe, except for a little down near her boots. “I hope this is sufficient?” Sarah
nodded and set the cloaks down on the table. Sayana and Pacian took one each, but
Clavis declined.
“They're for tallfellows like yerselves,” he pointed out with a wink. “If I put that
thing on, I'll be tripping over it all day long. Don't worry, I know how to keep a low
profile.” Aiden smiled at his comment as he led the rest outside when they were ready.
The air was calm and frigid that morning, and their breath misted in the dim light of
the exterior lanterns as they each stood, rubbing their gloved hands together for warmth.
Nobody spoke, but whether it was the early hour or the stress of the impending fight,
Aiden couldn't tell. A minute later, Armin led his rangers around the north side of the
Lodge, where they quickly disappeared into the dark woods surrounding the building.
“Okay, we're used to moving around here in the dark,” Duncan began, his voice low.
“But some of you are obviously going to run into a few branches now and then. We'll
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