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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.
“Never knew old 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 muttered.
“As much I enjoy watching these little sparring matches between 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 buckles.
“I couldn't agree more,” he said, “you two can argue about whatever you like on the
way north.” Colt grunted in agreement, while Pacian took out a forest-green cloak and
offered it to Nellise.
“Your white robe sticks out like a sore thumb,” he explained. “This should help you
blend in a little better. May I?” Nellise, still harbouring some resentment to him,
eventually nodded and allowed Pacian to gently wrap the cloak around her shoulders
before they set out.
After a few minutes, they reached the north gate which, like the wall surrounding the
town, was made of thick oak trunks. There were four guards standing before it, looking
miserable in their rusty chain armour and blue tabards. The armour itself didn't appear to
fit any of them properly – mostly it was too large and draped heavily from young
shoulders. O ne of them was even a young woman, far too small for her chain mail but
appearing defiant and proud regardless.
They perked up when Aiden produced the official note from the mayor and,
moments later, the heavy locking bar was lifted and the gate swung outwards enough to
allow the group to walk in single file out 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 the bar in place with an ominous „thunk‟.
“I‟m suddenly having second thoughts about this,” Pacian remarked, looking over
his shoulder as they walked away.
“We‟re getting through to Culdeny, one way or another,” Aiden assured him.
“What else did Olaf tell you about what we‟re facing?” Colt asked as he took out his
longbow and began to string it.
“Two dozen men, most likely thugs from the streets of Culdeny,” Aiden explained.
“They‟re not trained for any of this and aren‟t likely to be well armed. I know what
you‟re thinking - that‟s a lot to deal with, but their leader is the only one holding it
together. If we take him out, the rest should break and run.”
“That strikes me as being rather specific information,” Nellise shrewdly noted.
“What can I say, the man is corrupt and has connections with some less savoury
elements up north. He knows more about these bandits than he was letting on,” Aiden
added, omitting the part about O laf hiring them in the first place.
“Well, I was planning to keep it stealthy anyway,” Colt muttered, testing his
longbow to ensure it was ready. “We move out and keep as quiet as possible - if we do
run into any bandits they're likely to be hiding and I‟ll take them out without raising an
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