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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

him as selfish. Nellise did hand a small vial of some kind to the wild girl that she
accepted and promptly drank down in one gulp.
Colt seemed remarkably alert, considering the early start, and was apparently able to
avoid any drinking altogether for this mission, something Aiden was grateful for, since
they would be relying on his skills more than ever. The big ranger was, however, eyeing
Pacian and Aiden suspiciously as they checked their gear one last time.
“I hear tell from the innkeeper that something happened last night,” he remarked to
nobody in particular. “Bit of a local disturbance, as it were. I don't suppose either of you
two heard about it?” Aiden shook his head after a moment of fake thought, and Pacian
merely shrugged.
“I spoke with a drunken man in town last night,” Nellise casually mentioned. “He
had been creating quite a scene, as it happens, so perhaps that's what the innkeeper
meant?” Colt looked her straight in the eye for a long moment, as if trying to determine if
she was lying or not.
“Yeah, that was probably it,” he grunted, hefting his greatsword over his shoulder.
Aiden caught the young cleric's eye for a moment, and noticed a quick wink in his
direction. He had to give credit where it was due, for Nellise hadn't actually lied about
anything she'd said, and he silently thanked her for it too, for if Colt heard about Pacian
almost killing his father, there would be yet another scene that the entire town would be
talking about for some time to come.
“Alright, let's move out,” Colt ordered. “We're supposed to meet up with Duncan ten
miles or so upstream, and he'll lead us into enemy territory from there. His mate is
relaying word on their patrol movements and fortifications to him, so we'll have
everything we need moving forward.”
“Meeting up with Duncan again eh?” Pacian remarked sarcastically. “That worked
out really well last time, as I recall.”
“Shut your face before I peel it off and feed it to the pigs,” Colt growled, glaring at
the blond rogue in the dim light provided by a nearby lantern. At least Pacian was his
usual cynical self, Aiden thought, which was an improvement over his disposition last
night.
“I was in a bad place then, I'll cop that,” Colt continued, oblivious to Aiden's internal
soliloquy, “but I'm deadly serious about this job, as you should be. We've done alright so
fa r, getting through on blood and balls, if you'll beg my pardon, Nel, but this time the
stakes are a lot higher.”
“Charming,” Nellise murmured, unimpressed as always by Colt's choice of words.
“I wouldn't have even come on this one if we didn't have some inside help, to be
honest,” the big man continued. “I know that's putting a lot on your shoulders, Sayana,
but that's the truth of the situation. If at any time you don't think you can help us get in
there and take this bastard out, you let us know. We won't think any less of you for it,
either, you understand me?”
The sorceress nodded, continuing the silence she had begun this morning after they'd
woken up. Clearly she was under enormous stress, and all Aiden could do was try to
support her and keep her safe. Considering her abilities, and the bravery she had shown in
the not-too-distant past, he did wonder, though, at just how much protecting he'd be
doing.
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