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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Okay, well, hang in there,” Aiden said, feeling stupid for saying so a moment later.
The lack of sleep was starting to impair his thought processes, but there was no time for
him to rest now.
“You too,” she replied knowingly, raising an eyebrow at his slurred words of
encouragement, before lowering herself down into the hole. Sayana stepped forward and
looked down, awaiting her turn to descend. Looking at her long, curly red hair and large
sad eyes, Aiden felt a longing to reach out and hold her close. But his feelings for her
were clouded and mixed, and he wasn't sure where he stood with her anymore. It was
time for a little clarity.
“Are we okay?” Aiden asked her tentatively. She gave him a curious look, then her
expression became harder as she realised what he was referring to.
“This is not the time or place to discuss it,” Sayana answered distantly.
“Just... give me something.”
“You died, Aiden,” she hissed under her breath. “No-one comes back from that
without being changed somehow. I will assist you on this mission, for I sense its
importance, but I... feel like you never came back from Akora,” the sorceress finished, a
deep sadness replacing the distrust for a moment. “A dragon always exacts its price. You
will find out what it took from you someday, and only then will you understand.”
Without further delay, she dropped into the hole, levitating down to the ground below.
Aiden knew how insightful she was, her abilities giving her information beyond what
mundane senses provided. But this time, it did not bode well for him, and until he could
prove her wrong, their little dalliance seemed to be over. He wasn't sure there was really
anything else there aside from physical attraction, but it would have been nice to find out.
Pushing these thoughts to the back of his mind, he climbed down the ladder to join the
others.
The digging of this tunnel was quite an impressive feat, given it was done without
anyone in town ever noticing. It was easily fifteen feet deep, and wide enough for two
armoured men to stand shoulder to shoulder. The smell of damp earth filled his nostrils,
and the sounds of dripping water in the distance gave the tunnel an eerie atmosphere. He
was eager to be through it and out the other side as quickly as possible.
“They're not that far ahead of us,” Colt grunted, crouched near the ground to read the
footprints in the sodden earth. “It appears as though a whole bunch of 'em escaped from
the town, though, and the Princess is being dragged, from the looks of these heavy
indentations. She's not giving up without a fight.”
“Then let's keep going before we fall too far behind,” Aiden said, prompting the big
man to lead them through the tunnel, with only Nellise's prayer of light to guide them.
“I don't know much about construction,” Pacian drawled, “but something tells me
this tunnel wasn't built to last.” He was probably referring to the torrent of water
streaming in from overhead, about twenty yards further down the tunnel. “It looks like
this section goes right underneath the Stormflow river... it's just above our heads.”
Nobody could avoid looking up at the ceiling, its porous dirt and sparsely placed wooden
beams failing to instil them with confidence.
Aiden tried not to think about the countless tons of water just above their heads, as
he jumped through a small waterfall cascading from the ceiling into the middle of the
passageway.
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