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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“You have no idea,” Aiden muttered, finding the effort to keep standing more
difficult with each passing second.
“How about we get you back to the inn. I'll go debrief the mayor after he's finished
talking with Princess Criosa,” Tara continued, drawing a look of surprise from Aiden at
this information.
“The princess is here?” he asked Tara incredulously.
“Yes, didn't he mention an important personage was coming through town from Fort
Highmarch soon?”
“I vaguely remember something about that being mentioned,” Aiden recalled, “but I
didn't realise that's who he meant.”
“Well it's a good thing we stopped the akorans then,” Pacian said. “Imagine if they'd
come through here tomorrow morning, while we had bloody royalty staying in town.”
Everyone was silent for a moment as this hastily blurted opinion was digested. A terrible
feeling welled up within Aiden as his tired mind started putting things together.
“Why would the akorans write in Aielish?” he mumbled, glancing at Colt.
“They wouldn‟t,” the ranger answered slowly, with both men slowly realising they
were missing something very important.
Tara suddenly stiffened and gasped, prompting Aiden to wonder just what had
occurred to the soldier. She staggered forward as a trickle of blood escaped her lips,
before she toppled face first into the ground. The horror of the moment didn't instantly
register for any of the militia, but Aiden noticed the crossbow bolt sticking out of her
back and quickly drew his sword.
At that moment, all hell broke loose in Bracksford. Crossbow bolts started flying
through the air, taking down the militia in rapid succession. A cry of alarm went up and
the militia moved to respond. Looking around frantically for the archers, Aiden spied half
a dozen men crouched near one of the houses lining the road through town, their
crossbows sending a steady stream of bolts into the surprised defenders.
The men were wearing chain mail armour, full- face helmets, and tabards emblazoned
with the symbol of a great cat, possibly a tiger. Aiden, paralysed with shock and fatigue
until that moment, realised who was attacking –the mercenaries of the Steel Tigers, under
the command of Robert Black.
The militia, devoid of leadership, began loosing bolts at random back at the
attackers. The enemy‟s shots were far more accurate and deadly, and fully half of the
dozen men and women stationed at the gate had already fallen in the onslaught.
Sayana blasted a stream of fire at the mercenaries, torching one of them and forcing
the others to pull back. Aiden and Colt, thinking alike, took advantage of the diversion to
join the militia advancing on the enemy. With their combined assault, they finished off
the remaining soldiers in a furious exchange of steel, then paused for a moment to catch
their breaths and take stock of the situation.
The sounds of screaming women and children echoed down the street, but the
remaining militia nearby were locked in battle with more soldiers. Colt swapped out his
greatsword for the longbow and began to string it, while Sayana began to glow softly as
she wreathed her body in a shimmering layer of spectral armour.
Looking back at the gate, Aiden sa w that Pacian was comforting Nellise, who was
crouched down on the ground next to Tara, her hands over her face and clearly
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