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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

companions moved in. “Miss Sannemann, it would appear your convictions have borne
fruit.”
“I‟m sorry I disobeyed your orders, Commander,” Nellise offered as the hunters
were taken away by the assembled rangers, “but my conscience wouldn‟t allow another
pointless slaughter to take place while I sat and watched.”
“The simple fact that you were willing to stake your life on the possibility you‟d be
listened to astounds me. I‟d watch out for this one, Aiden. She‟s going to be a real
handful.”
“Don‟t I know it,” Aiden replied, giving the cleric a look of unabashed admiration.
Chapter Fifteen
“If you ask me, you're all damned lucky to be alive,” Armin observed a few minutes
later, walking over after speaking with his people. “In my professional opinion, this was a
narrowly averted catastrophe, and it was only the raw talent and courage of your young
cleric that prevented the hunters from slaughtering you all. Tell me, how did you end up
being so far out of position?”
“I guess we're just not used to moving around at night,” Aiden replied in the form of
a half-truth. “We fell behind and lost sight of Duncan, and rather than call to him and
possibly give away both our position and the plan, we pressed on as best we could in
order to make sure you had support on your eastern flank. Clearly we misjudged the
direction we were heading in, and moved into the combat area far sooner than we should
have.”
“It seems to me,” Armin mused, “that a competent ranger should have picked up on
that. A pity you didn't have such an individual with you.”
“Don‟t go too hard on him,” Aiden protested. “We had to make a decision about
which direction to go, and I made the call. If you want to blame someone for this, the
man you want is sitting before you.” Armin gazed over at Colt for a moment, then
reached into a pouch and produced a pipe and smoking weed.
“I see. Clearly your inexperience in such conditions was an obstacle. Nevertheless,
the situation has been resolved to my satisfaction, if not through a method I would have
chosen. The conduct of you and your people bought you enough time to allow us to find
you. Still, if I were you, I wouldn't be seeking employment with the rangers anytime
soon.”
“Rest assured, my ambitions lie elsewhere,” Aiden said, unoffended by the frank
assessment. He wasn't fully comfortable taking the blame for Colt's actions, but he knew
if Armin found out the big man was responsible for losing their way, he'd never get back
into the rangers.
“I have a question, if you don't mind,” he continued. Armin nodded his assent as he
lit his pipe and took a few puffs. “As he was talking to Nellise, Lord Thomas mentioned a
few things I found interesting. Namely, that he was the legitimate claimholder to these
lands.”
“He's wrong, I assure you. His family did name Calespur as one of their holdings
over a century ago, but they ran it so poorly the K ing at the time – Alaric the second –
seized control and created the Royal Rangers to oversee the proper governance of the
 
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