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Nature Abhors a Vacuum
Stephen L. Nowland
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through. He plunged unceremoniously into the water, stifling the urge to gasp at the
Though his injured leg hurt with every kick, he managed to swim downward towards
the dim light coming from the staff without too much trouble. The chain shirt and all of
his belongings certainly helped speed his descent, but he was still concerned about
finding the breach that Clavis had spoken of.
He needn't have worried, however, for as soon as he'd passed through the floor
completely, the eastern wall loomed up ahead, illuminated by the staff. Colt had dropped
it down onto the floor near the breach, which was a great tear in the stone, over thirty feet
long, nearly reaching from the ceiling to the floor.
He only spent a second or two gazing around at this level, but what he saw was
astonishing – this was truly the home of royalty, for the remaining buildings and
adornments here were shining with gold trim, and intricate carvings. Moss and other
plant life were growing amidst the decaying ruins of the dwarven nobility, but it barely
detracted from the opulence on display.
Small fish darted past as Aiden swam through the breach ahead, noting with some
dismay that the staff was well beyond his reach on the floor below. He had no choice but
to leave it behind and hoped the dwarves wouldn't locate their passage out before the
prayer of light finally faded. He began to swim upwards now, kicking and pulling with
his arms as hard as he could, for his breath was nearly gone, and the weight of his
equipment was making it difficult.
A few long moments later, he reached the surface and breathed deeply, treading
water as best he could, looking around the dark chamber he had entered. He could make
out the faint sight of Nellise' white robe on the shore up ahead, and slowly swam towards
her, struggling with the weight of the chain shirt which threatened to pull him under
again. Colt was at the edge of the waters, reaching out a hand to guide him ashore.
Aiden clasped it with his good arm, and allowed the big man to drag him out of the
water, where he promptly fell in a wet heap on the rocky ground, the echoing sounds of
water dripping nearby providing the only sound aside from their laboured breathing and
the occasional cough.
They lay there, drenched, cold and terribly injured, both in body and spirit for several
minutes before they could recover from the swim and the deplorable loss of someone that
they had come to know as a friend, in spite of everything. There was little to see around
them, as the light from the sunken staff was barely visible here, providing only a dim
glow to the water before them. But it could be easily surmised that they were in the
remains of the underground lake, outside of Ferrumgaard proper, and were almost free
from that dreadful place at last.
“Don't get too comfortable,” Colt muttered tiredly. “I reckon since those dwarves
were the ones to make that breach, they know it's there, so they'll probably be coming this
far at least to see if they can catch us. And if we don't keep moving, we'll freeze to death
in these wet clothes.” Aiden knew he was right, but right now he just wanted to curl up
into a ball and rest.
“How are we going to find our way out of here though?” he breathed. As if in
answer, the light from Nellise' staff suddenly went out altogether, only to be replaced by
a glowing illumination coming from her crossbow instead.