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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Yes, and if it wasn't for Nel's advice,” Pacian added accusingly, “we would have
had a quiet evening by the fireplace instead of horrible confrontations with certain
“I still stand by what I said,” Nellise said stubbornly, looking at both him and Aiden
pointedly. “In my experience, a lack of communication is the basis for all interpersonal
“Maybe, but I'm never going to speak to my old man again after tonight, so I don't
see the problem being fixed, ever,” Pacian said bitterly.
“Never is a long time, Pace,” Nellise counselled. “See how you feel in a few years,
okay?” Pacian shrugged, then a few moments later, slowly stood up and stretched.
“This wasn't the best of days, and tomorrow isn't going to be any easier, so I'm going
to bed,” he stated tiredly. “I'll see you all out front first thing.” Aiden mumbled a quick
'goodnight' as Pacian turned and sauntered off towards his room. After he'd gone, Sayana
stood up and took Aiden by the hand, easing him out of the chair and slowly leading him
towards their own room.
“I guess we're off to bed as well,” Aiden remarked, looking back over his shoulder to
see Nellise, who seemed to be blushing as they walked away. Despite her apparent
eagerness, Sayana had something else in mind when they climbed into bed that evening.
She apparently sensed Aiden's dour mood, and offered nothing more than her company
for the night.
Lying there in her arms, the young man‟s mind dwelled on the events of the day for
some time before he became sleepy. The last thing he remembered thinking, was that if
the dragon appeared in his dreams that night, he was going to give it a swift kick in the
head before it ate him.
Chapter Twenty Three
It was a typical freezing winter's morning in Coldstream when the five of them met
outside the Sleeping Bear Inn, a strong wind assailing them from the southwest and a
thick layer of snow upon the ground. It was just before sunrise, with the sky only
beginning to lighten, and everyone who d idn't need to be up and about was sensibly still
in their beds.
Their breath misted heavily in the frigid conditions, and Aiden smacked his gloved
hands together to try to and generate some warmth, but it was a futile effort. The heavy,
white winter cloaks they were wearing protected them from the worst of the bitter wind,
but the real test would come when they moved out of the foothills and over the High
Plains, a large expanse of empty land in the southern region of the kingdom that
gradually became the Highmarch Mountains.
The tension among the five of them was palpable that morning, which was hardly
surprising considering what they were about to attempt. Aiden had managed a few hours
of sleep, but when he'd gotten out of bed, it felt like he hadn't rested at all. His mind was
sluggish and his body tired before the day had even begun. Still, it was better than his
usual nightmare, of which his sleep had been blissfully devoid this time around.
Nellise and Sayana were talking quietly, just outside Aiden's hearing about matters
that obviously didn't concern the others. This caused a flicker of concern with the young
man for a brief moment, but he quickly dismissed the idea that they were talking about