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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“We will,” Nellise said. “Nice meeting you, Mona, although I wish it were under
better circumstances.”
“Don't we all,” she lamented, her large eyes watching Colt walk past as a tear
coursed down her cheek, briefly glinted in the sunlight. The big ranger managed to hold
himself together for a good ten minutes before the sound of quiet sobbing could be heard
in the forest.
Chapter Sixteen
They continued to ascend, and the view over the top of the forest to the east was
spectacular, but it was wasted on the big ranger. Colt walked apart from the rest of the
group, travelling alone while he dealt with his grief. Although he hadn't asked for space,
everyone gave it to him anyway.
Nellise had quietly asked Aiden if she should go a nd speak with him, but the young
man had suggested that she wait a day or two before attempting to talk with him about it.
Aiden didn't have much experience with love, but he'd had plenty of experience with
Colt's anger, and considering his emotional state, he didn't want anyone to be on the
receiving end of his frustration.
The snow crunched under their feet as they headed inexorably up the slope of Mount
Cale, not the largest mountain in the kingdom, but quite steep nonetheless. Despite the
remoteness of their location and the density of the pine trees, a road of sorts could be
discerned amongst the scrub, winding its way along the mountainside. Clavis, normally
taciturn, seemed to come to life at the sight of the road.
“This was the main highway between the city of Ferrumgaard and the human village
of Culdeny,” he said, pointing back down towards the coastal town far in the distance.
“Engineers spent a year layin‟ down stonework to make this road, in the hopes of
increased trade with the fledgling human co mmunity. Dig down through this snow and
dirt, and the flagstones'll still be there, as solid as the day they were laid out. Aye, I know
yer gonna say that Culdeny's a proper town now, but way back then, it weren't more'n a
dock and an inn, a way to ship our goods to Fairloch by sea.”
“How big is Ferrumgaard?” Nellise asked. “If we're going to be searching through it,
we should probably know just how long it could take to explore.”
“Nearly ten thousand of me kin called the inside of Ferrumgaard home,” Clavis
replied, a note of pride in his voice. “But it ain't sprawled out like a human city. 'Twas
dug into the mountain, a quarter of a mile wide and twice that in length, but layered down
through the rock to the valuable ore deep down. Twelve levels there were, with extensive
tunnels branching around through the mountain as well. An amazing feat of engineering
and design, when ya think about it.”
“I'll reserve my excitement for when we get there,” Pacian remarked dryly.
“That ya will, lad, that ya will,” Clavis chuckled, taking no offence from the blond
rogue's apparent disinterest in engineering history. He seemed quite confident that the
sight of the old dwarven city would impress Pacian, and so quietened down for the time
The cold mountain wind chilled Aiden to the bone as they walked along the road for
hours, his camouflaged cloak wrapped around him as tightly as he could manage. A light
snowfall whipped around them, reducing their vision a little but not enough to obscure