Not a member?     Existing members login below:

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Aiden judged it to be midday and felt it was a good time to stop for food. He spied a
small rise dotted with trees which would provide a little shelter, as well as being above
the waterline. As he led the others to the relatively dry area and crouched down on the
ground to rest, he idly wondered just how much longer it could possibly rain.
“Well, I guess we won't be lighting a fire and cooking any food here,” Pacian
grumbled, leaning against a tree trunk to gain as much shelter as possible. “You'll be glad
to hear I planned for this when purchasing our provisions.”
“Let me guess,” Nellise wondered, sounding like she already knew the answer.
“Mouldy cheese and bread, and perhaps some dried beef.”
“It‟s like you can read minds,” Aiden deadpanned as he pulled out exactly what
Nellise had described from his pack. “I guess it'll keep us going, at least. If it helps, just
imagine the proper meals we'll be able to buy once we reach the fort.”
They each took a share of the meagre rations. Aiden tried to imagine he was eating
freshly baked bread and sizzling roast beef, but his sense of taste insisted on telling him
only the absolute truth about what was in his mouth. To take his mind off the ordinary
food, he decided to engage Nellise in conversation.
“So, Nellise” he began to say between bites of food. Having something to do with his
hands was helping to cover his nervousness about talking with this beautiful young
woman. “I couldn't help notice your unusual eyes, and I was wondering why they're like
that?” The question sounded stupid even as he was saying it. Aiden wasn't normally one
to ask such personal inquiries of lovely ladies, but one had to start sometime.
“Well, there's a little bit of a mystery about that actually,” Nellise began. “Gold is
not a normal colour for people of any race, and my mother certainly didn't have golden
eyes.”
“What of your father?”
“I never knew my father,” she replied wistfully. “I asked my mother about him when
I was younger, but she would suddenly become sad, and quiet. Yet, even as a tear ran
down her cheek she would smile. Quite strange.”
“So you've no idea then?”
“I gathered from her reactions that he was rather special,” Nellise explained. “She
spent the rest of her life in service to the Church and we have never discussed it again.”
“So, how long have you been with the Church of Aielund?” he ventured, genuinely
curious as well as fishing for information.
“I have been an acolyte for a little over three years now,” she replied, “though
mother had me doing chores and such down at the local chapterhouse since I was ten. She
felt it would build character. If she knew the sordid details of this morning‟s encounter,
she might have kept me from joining altogether.”
“Interesting. When were you taught to use that staff?” Aiden continued, as Nellise
glanced at the weapon that lay next to her on the sodden ground.
“I first held that staff a few months ago. Most of our training is defensive, of course.”
“So your order isn't a militant one?” Aiden pressed. Nellise suddenly seemed to
realise where his line of conversation was heading.
“Oh, not at all,” she assured him. “In fact, Kingdom law prevents members of the
clergy from having military or civilian rank, to avoid the sort of conflict of interest there
was in times past. I am an acolyte of the Resolute Heralds, our local chapter of the
Remove