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Nature Abhors a Vacuum
Stephen L. Nowland
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protest as he handed over a pouch heavy with coin to the blond rogue. “What?” he said to
Aiden's disapproving expression. “We might need to bribe some people, or something.
This is dangerous work, do you think we should do it for free?”
“I suppose not,” Aiden shrugged. “It would seem to be a good opportunity to balance
the books, as it were. Wouldn't you agree, sir?”
“For the sake of the Kingdom, I certainly hope so,” Olaf replied soberly.
“They went out this door here, yes?” Colt called from across the room. Olaf nodded,
and the big ranger responded by kicking the door off its hinges. With his sword drawn, he
stepped outside into the near-darkness of early evening, with Aiden and the others
quickly gathering their gear and supplies before following him outside.
“Please save her,” Aislin said, looking up to Aiden as she handed him a sack full of
food. “She was so nice to me, and didn't deserve to be dragged off like that.”
“Don't worry,” Aiden assured the little girl with a resigned sigh. “Apparently, this is
what I do for a living.”
Chapter Twenty Seven
As if sensing their need, Faolan awaited them just outside the rear door of the inn,
sniffing around to find the scent of his prey. If Colt was pleased by the reappearance of
his 'pet', he didn't show it, but with his help, it only took them a few minutes to find the
concealed tunnel entrance - a covered hole in the ground, cunningly hidden near some
bushes close to the north wall.
Their departing enemies had carelessly left deep boot prints in the thick mud, and
even the small light provided by Nellise's prayer was sufficient to allow the ranger to
“They must have been in a hurry,” Colt muttered, “That, or they're just stupid. Either
way works for me.”
“Fine, just don't go down there until I take a look,” Pacian advised, waiting for
Nellise to finish healing his arm, before cautiously approaching the hole for a closer look.
“No sign of any tripwires at least; if they've lain in some traps, I can't see any.”
“I do not find that reassuring,” Sayana sighed, watching the proceedings with
“Only one way to find out for sure,” Pace replied with a shrug, and promptly climbed
into the hole. Nearly a minute passed in tense silence before he signalled that it was clear
“That's a hell of a climb, ladies, I don't recommend it,” the blond rogue’s voice
echoed up from below. “They've left a scaling ladder down here, though; just give me a
moment to prop it up.”
“I'll go first,” Colt grunted. “If they've got people watching this end of the tunnel,
blondie isn't going to give them much of a fight without someone to distract them.
Faolan, get out of here before they close the gates,” he said to the wolf, which tilted its
head at the big man curiously, but then trotted off as he was bid. Aiden shook his head at
the spectacle as Colt carefully stepped onto the proffered ladder, and slowly made his
“Are you okay with this?” Aiden asked Nellise, who stood next to him, wrapped in
the thick winter cloak that was her only real protection against the cold.