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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

The sparse trees which lent a gloomy aspect to the journey that did nothing to lift
their spirits, while the terrain gradually sloped upwards as they left behind the valley of
Bracksford for the colder climate of the nearby foothills.
At this rate, they'd make Coldstream by sundown, which opened up all sorts of
possibilities for disaster as Aiden and Pacian had not left the town on good terms with
either of their parents. Words like 'crazy' and 'ungrateful bastard' had been bandied
around, though mostly by the Pacian‟s temperamental father – Aiden's own parents had
bid him farewell with cold silence for the most part, and he couldn't decide which
farewell he preferred.
To pass the time, Sayana instructed Aiden on a few simple magical tricks. He was
slow to learn them at first, since the sorceress had never tried to teach anyone anything
before and tended to use terms he didn't quite understand. To her, magic was a flow of
energy through her body, whereas Aiden had only learned it as a kind of formula, gleaned
from the dense texts he had managed to get a hold of in the few years since his defining
'event' in the cave.
Wizards studied for years to understand the underlying structures of the energies
involved in their work, but Sayana seemed to be able to bypass all of that, and direct the
energy around her through sheer force of will.
It was late in the day when Aiden finally managed to grasp a basic concept that a
frustrated Sayana had been trying to explain for hours. It was a simple invocation that
would allow him to view the energies of people and objects around him as a kind of aura.
The mindset involved in such a task was difficult to maintain, but it was with some pride
that he finally succeeded in seeing a shifting blue outline around the girl.
As the sun sank in the west, the dim lights of Coldstream could be seen only a short
way ahead of them, flickering like fireflies in the evening light. The ground beneath their
feet was partially frozen, and the rain that seemed to be following them around had
turned to snow.
Aiden swallowed with consternation as he contemplated the best way to greet his
parents, something he'd been meaning to think about during the day. He felt Sayana's
hand squeeze his reassuringly, which was odd, considering she faced a far graver threat in
the lands to the south.
“I have to tell you, I'm not looking forward to this,” Pacian muttered, appearing to
Aiden's right out of the thickening shadows. “I've half a mind to sleep outside of town
and skip this unpleasantness altogether.”
“I know what you mean,” Aiden agreed, running a hand through his thick black hair.
“It's been quite a few weeks though, so hopefully they've had time to calm down.”
“Speak for your own parents,” Pacian scoffed. “My dad's either glad I was gone or
he's been sharpening his axe this whole time, awaiting my return. All I can sa y is the first
sign of trouble from my old man, and I‟ll be gone. We've got enough to deal with without
that bastard trying to kill me again.”
“Give him a chance, Pace,” Nellise said, having dropped back to see what the
discussion was about. “Perhaps your absence has given him time to think things over
with a clear head.” Pacian gave her a considering look for a long moment before
“Okay, I'll try it your way. Stick with me, and we'll see just how far being nice will