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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

either side of a venerable man wearing a black bearskin robe, with the head still attached,
its maw gaping at them from atop the man's own head. In one hand he held a staff etched
with many runes and sigils that glowed with an eldritch light.
“A shaman,” Sayana breathed, fear evident in her voice. Although he appreciated her
respect for the newcomer, Aiden had a different reaction to the scene before him.
“Go! Now!” he cried, and began to run around the corner and up the slope as fast as
he could, a burst of adrenaline spurring his tired limbs on to new efforts. Nellise grabbed
Sayana with a free hand and began following, while Colt retrieved their dropped weapons
and did the same. Aiden had been running for only a few seconds, though, when he felt
the hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
A surge of pain flashed through his body, and gasping, he dropped to the ground, his
heart fluttering in his chest. The smell of burnt hair permeated the air, and looking back,
he could see that the rest of his companions were on the ground a s well. Looking across
at the shaman, Aiden could see sparks and flashes of electricity arcing from the end of the
staff, and he knew then what had hit them.
“Get that shaman, or we're going to die here,” he said, his voice trembling as he tried
to recover from the stroke of lightning they had been hit with. Pacian was the quickest to
react, drawing two knives from his boots and throwing them at the shaman, only to watch
in disbelief as they bounced off his skin, as if they had struck some sort of barrier. Colt
went for his longbow, while Sayana stepped forward and brought her hands together,
sending a burst of deafening sound at the old man and his guards.
The warriors around him clutched at their ears, weapons falling from their hands as
they did so, and the shaman himself grimaced at the sound, but managed to hold himself
together. He thrust his staff at the heavens, by sending another crackling bolt of lightning
down upon Aiden and his companions, who were thrown back into the snow once more.
Aiden lay still for several long seconds, twitching involuntarily and feeling like he'd
just been run over by a herd of cattle. But their lives, and the lives of many people in the
nearby towns depended on them getting back on their feet, so the novice warrior gritt ed
his teeth and pulled himself up once more.
When he'd finally managed to stand up, he saw a dozen savage warriors rushing
towards them once more, while the old man stood and watched. At that moment, Aiden
realised the futility of their situation and understood that he and the others had pushed
their luck too far this time; they weren't going to make it out of there alive. Their internal
strife and bickering, combined with the dangerous situation had proved their undoing,
and there would be no second chance.
He parried the first attack with his force shield and countered with his blade, slicing
and chopping with all of his remaining strength. Nellise was beside him, whispering a
prayer as she deflected an attack from one of the warriors, and causing her mace to glow
with light. She countered the savage's attacks by bringing her blessed weapon down upon
his head.
The melee was furious, and though Aiden and the others were injured and weary
from the journey, they gave as good as they got, striking down one Akoran warrior after
another, mostly from Colt's massive blade, but also from Sayana, her dwarf-crafted axe
splitting the warrior's shields with ease, and severing limbs at every opportunity. The big
ranger was sporting many wounds, but he shrugged them off and kept fighting, knowing
that to fall was to die.
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