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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

and insists I take it.” Pacian kept loading up his pack with the items and supplies he
found as he talked. His overly casual manner seemed to be infuriating Colt all the more.
“Never knew Dave Patel was a Ranger,” Colt mused. “He had that weathered look
about him though. Might have to talk to him about that when we get back. But if he
offered it to you, you must have made quite an impression. Either that or you've
somehow swindled him, and if I find out that's what you've done -”
“I know, I know, severe beatings and such,” Pacian sighed.
“As much I enjoy watching these little sparring matches be tween you two,” Nellise
interrupted impatiently, “I really think we should start out immediately. It could take a
week to get back here with supplies, and every hour could make all the difference.” His
pack full, Aiden hefted it onto his back, and secured the clasps.
“I couldn't agree more,” he said, “you two can argue about whatever you like on the
way south.” Colt grunted in agreement, and Pacian simply grinned at him.
After a few minutes they reached the south gate. Like the wall surrounding the town,
it was made of thick oak trunks, the next best thing to stone walls. There were four
guards standing near the southern gate, looking miserable in their rusty chain armour and
blue tabards. The armour itself didn't appear to fit any of them properly – some suits were
too large, and draped heavily off their shoulders. O ne of them was even a young woman,
far too small for her chain mail, appearing defiant and proud regardless.
They perked up when Aiden produced the official note from the mayor, and
moments later, two of them lifted a heavy bar and then swung the gate outwards enough
to allow people to walk out in single file to the highway beyond. As Aiden and his
companions strode through, the biggest of the guards quietly wished them good luck, and
then closed the gate behind them, locking it in place with an ominous „thunk‟.
Chapter Three
The rain continued to fall unabated as they walked along the southern highway.
Without being wrapped in oilcloth like Colt's longbow, they were forced to endure a
thorough soaking for the foreseeable future.
For the first hour of the journey they travelled in silence, and Aiden couldn't help but
spend his time thinking about their fight that morning, wondering if there was some way
they could have avoided it. In the end, he determined Colt was right – Merin had made
her choices, and now she was dead.
Aiden hoped Mayor O laf was, indeed, going to cover for them. The more he thought
about it, the more he realised Pacian was right to blackmail the man. O laf would probably
do just about anything to keep his public image squeaky clean, and there was a good
chance he would have put the blame on the four of them if things had gone differently.
Still, it was never a pleasant thing to see people die right before one‟s eyes, and he
pondered this sombre thought for some time. A quick glance at Nellise hinted she was
dwelling on the same grim topic.
As they continued along the road, the flat terrain of Bracksfordshire gave way to
small hills around them. The number of pine trees dotting t he landscape increased too,
though it could hardly be called forest and Aiden could just manage to perceive the
outlines of the Highmarch Mountains to the south through the misty air.