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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Probably closer to eighteen hours,” Aiden surmised, guessing that it was late at
night on the day they'd entered Ferrumgaard. “I have no idea where we are though,” he
added.
“Must be in the southwest of the ranges,” Colt muttered, looking around at the scene
before them. “We only get two or three falls a season usually, though I don't remember
ever seeing so much of it at once.”
“If it's okay with you, I think I'll just keel over and die here,” Pacian mumbled,
leaning heavily against the stone wall, his teeth chattering.
“Don't even joke about that, you cruel bastard,” Colt spat, turning to glare at the
blond rogue. “Clavis may have had his problems, but he died trying to save us, so if you
ever crack wise about death again, my fist and your face are gonna have a short
conversation.” Pacian lowered his gaze at the outburst, and wisely held his tongue.
“It's too cold out here to rest,” Sayana whispered, huddled up against the cave wall as
she hugged herself for warmth. “Could we go to the Lodge?”
“It's hours from here,” Colt replied, mellowing his tone at the sight of the bedraggled
sorceress. She had discarded her cloak for the swim through the underground lake, just
like the rest of them had, but with most of her legs bared to the elements, she was feeling
the cold far more keenly than they. “I think we can make Fairchild's cabin, though, if you
can keep going for just a little while longer,” Colt offered in compromise, an idea that
Aiden voiced his enthusiasm for, albeit without much of a voice. Sayana, however, wilted
at the thought of pressing on.
“Sorry Sy, but it's gotta be done,” Colt said grimly. “I have a solution though, if
you're not too proud to accept my help.” Too tired to reply, the wild girl just blinked
slowly at him, which he interpreted as a 'yes'. Stepping forward, he picked her up in his
arms as if she were made out of feathers, put her over his shoulder, then turned and led
the others through the snow towards the east.
The decision to head to the old cab in turned out to be a smart one, for they arrived
there in less than half an hour. Pacian quickened his step as they approached the welcome
sight of the wooden cottage, a black box against the white background of snow, and
opened the door to allow Colt to take his weary passenger through first. The temperature
inside the cabin was only slightly better than the freezing conditions outside, but it was
still the most beautiful sight Aiden had ever seen. The big ranger quickly set about
lighting the fire as the others collapsed on to the beds nearby.
Aiden didn't recall falling on to one of the simple yet comfortable beds, but he
nevertheless found himself lying face down despite the sharp pain coming from his ribs.
The young man managed to remove his pack and some other equipment, and then slowly
rolled over on to his back to give him some relief, and before he knew it, promptly fell
asleep.
* * *
A younger Aiden stood once more upon the field of battle, the soldiers of the
Kingdom clashing against their black-clad enemies that seemed to know no fear. He
watched, helpless, as the giant, metal warriors came forth and began to slaughter the
Aielunders, before a shadow grew over the battlefield as something obscured the sun.
Aiden squinted against the light to see what was happening, and was stunned by what he
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