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Nature Abhors a Vacuum
Stephen L. Nowland
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the tension in the group, and glanced around nervously, trying to understand the complex
situation. The continuing rift didn't help Aiden's appetite, but he still managed to go back
for seconds anyway, figuring that sooner or later, apologies would be given and received,
and things would go back to the way they were before.
Either that, or they'd go their separate ways after this last mission. Perhaps then,
Aiden could focus more on the discoveries he'd made, instead of running around playing
soldier, a task better left to professionals.
He decided to retire early that night, since the prospect of sitting around being
ignored by people he'd come to know and respect was less than appealing, despite the
buoyant spirits of the inn's guests. Pacian raised an eyebrow when Sayana moved to join
the young man, but Aiden gave his friend a quick wink in the hope that it would keep his
mouth shut. It did, fortunately, and the two young lovers managed to leave the crowded
common room without raising further attention.
Their activities that evening were pleasant enough, but Aiden had the feeling that he
was just there as a distraction for the red-headed sorceress, so she didn't have to think
about the next day for a little while. It worked both ways, however, for Aiden didn't give
it a lot of thought either.
By the time Pacian arrived in the room to get some sleep, hours later, Sayana was
already fast asleep in Aiden's arms, and it wasn’t long before he nodded off as well. The
last thought he had was whether or not he was going to have that nightmare tonight, and
if this time, he might not wake up.
* * *
They started out just after dawn the next day, having slept in a little later than they'd
planned, already cold and wet from the constant drizzle. Aiden had no illusions about
what they were undertaking here. He could only hope the rangers they were to meet up
with were skilled enough to sneak them into the cave where the Akoran leader, Erag
Black-Tiger, was holed up.
From what Tara had described, the fortifications around the complex were
formidable. Should an army arrive at the doorstep of the Akorans, a catapult would make
short work of their palisade, but as he was constantly reminded, there
no army, no
reinforcements, and not even stepped-up patrols for the highway. If they ran into trouble,
nobody would be coming to get them.
Colt had taken the lead, and seemed to have avoided drinking too much last night,
judging by his alert posture. The gravity of the situation was evidently not lost on him,
and Aiden was secretly proud that the man finally knew where to draw the line.
Nellise strolled along with Pacian, the two of them appearing to have reopened talks,
which was another good sign for their future involvement. The young cleric wore her
white hood up over her head instead of her new helmet, and her gleaming new armour
was partially concealed by a white cloak that Pacian had the foresight to purchase the
previous day. He'd bought five such cloaks, one for each of them to wear as a kind of
snow camouflage, one of the few advantages they'd have when they arrived at the Akoran