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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

instated leader of the akoran tribal people was ready to take office. To his satisfaction,
Morik had already managed to pick himself up.
“Your priestess is very talented,” he said as Aiden came closer. “I am truly sorry for
what my people did to her and indeed, to you all. Understand that your female
companions were considered spoils of war -”
“You don't want to end that sentence,” Aiden warned, in no mood to hear any more
about their evening. Morik did not take offence, inclining his head in apology.
“Enough of such things. You and your people need to leave as soon as possible, for I
cannot guarantee your safety until I have solidified my position as chief.”
“Will they even accept you, considering you helped kill Erag?” The chief answered
this by moving over to Erag's burned corpse. He shifted the head with the toe of his boot,
then swung his axe to cleanly sever Erag‟s head from his body.
“Yes,” Morik said flatly, placing the head on the ground for the time being. “Now,
you must take your comrades and leave, for your own safety.”
“I don't think we're going to make it out past the camps outside,” Colt grunted.
“Could you talk to them before we leave?”
“No, but there is another exit you can take in the rear of the caves. Come, I will show
you.” They followed him down the corridor and through to the next chamber, a smaller
area than the storage room, and with many chairs strewn around the floor. Across the
room, Aiden spotted two bodies, one of which he recognised. Both had been stripped and
beaten during the course of their interrogation and it wasn't a pretty sight, but no-one took
it worse than Colt.
“Duncan, you poor bastard,” he groaned, recognising his fellow ranger, then
staggered over for a closer look at the other, a small woman with red hair. “Sally
deserved better than to go this way. She was too young to be on the front lines, the poor
kid.”
“I am sorry for your losses,” Morik offered. “Erag interrogated them for information
and then put them to death.” They stood in silence for a few moments while Colt stood
over their bodies. Aiden had seen plenty of death lately and losing someone else he had
known was the most difficult of burdens to bear. Duncan hadn't been a close friend, b ut
he was a good man, and to see him broken and unmoving like this affected him more than
he cared to say.
“We can't take them back with us, 'cause we have to move fast,” Colt said, sniffing a
little. “But I want your word, Morik, that you'll give them a proper burial after I'm gone.
Because when this is all over and done with, I'm coming back to pay my respects, got it?”
“You have my word,” Morik replied soberly.
Sayana, her face grim, continued past the bodies and through a doorway in the back
of the room. Inside the chamber were a large wooden table, on which was a platter of
meat and ale. A fireplace with a metal pipe funnelled smoke from the roaring fire through
a square hole in the ceiling.
Just visible behind the smoke was a metal ladder embedded into the wall itself,
confirming Aiden's earlier suspicions that this entire cave complex was not only artificial,
but constructed from metal that did not rust.
“That ladder leads to a hidden entrance, above us, on the side of the hill,” Morik
explained to Aiden. “From there, you can travel northwest, avoiding contact with my
people and returning you to safety.”
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