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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Hold them!” one of the mercenaries - probably an officer – shouted to his men, then
followed the startled businessman as he ran down the hallway, while the blond rogue
quickly locked the front door, and started moving furniture in front of it.
Even as this was happening, Colt wasn't waiting for the closest warriors to regain
their footing, instead taking the initiative and charging forward, swinging his sword only
once before hurtling shoulder first into two of the men. Aiden followed him through, but
ran straight in-between the disorganised mercenaries and set off in pursuit of Bartlett and
his escort. Somewhere in this house, Princess Criosa was being held, and it was a fair bet
to assume that the corrupt businessman was heading there as fast as possible to kill her or
use her as a hostage to escape the situation – Aiden couldn't allow either to happen.
The hallway was dimly lit by candlelight, not enough to make out fine details, but
more than sufficient to see the silhouettes of the men before him less than ten yards away.
Aiden was closing the gap into the men slowed by heavy armour, and in Bartlett's case,
age, until they appeared to split up at the end of the corridor – the warrior went to the
right, while Bartlett continued on down the passage on the left.
A brief moment of indecision flashed through the young adventurer's mind, but it
wasn't really a tough call to make – he wanted Bartlett, the man responsible for this entire
situation, and that other merce nary would get what was coming to him soon enough.
Aiden dashed around the corner in pursuit of the old businessman, and could see him
at the end of the corridor, opening a heavy door. A woman's scream pierced the air,
coming from somewhere behind him, bringing Aiden to a screeching halt. It was clear
he'd fallen for a ruse, and he cursed under his breath at the cunning old man, who knew
he'd be the primary target of any attack.
Torn between continuing after Bartlett simply out of spite and allowing him to
escape, Aiden froze in the middle of the hallway, watching the door close as the old
businessman slammed it shut behind him. The sounds of a desperate struggle finally
snapped Aiden back to reality, and he spun around and rushed back up the passage to the
door the officer had gone through, slamming his shoulder into it without slowing down,
splintering the lock and throwing the door wide open.
The room itself was not large, simply a small guest room with a bed at one end, and
a dresser and wardrobe opposite the door. His dramatic entrance hadn't surprised the
mercenary officer, who was holding a slender blonde girl with an arm wrapped around
her neck, and an arming sword in his free hand. Aiden had never seen Princess Criosa
Roebec in person before, and had only heard descriptions about her from time to time,
but he had no doubt he was looking upon royalty – being held captive by some
degenerate mercenary.
“Hold it right there, boy,” the heavily armoured mercenary ordered him, his voice
sounding hollow and metallic behind the visored helm he wore. “The lady and I are going
to leave right now, and you and your mates are going to let it happen, understood?”
“What's the matter, you afraid to fight a 'boy' like me?” Aiden chided, hoping to
goad the warrior into a fight. “A real man wouldn't be hiding behind a little girl, I think.”
“In any other situation, I'd be happy to oblige you,” the man growled, “but right now,
I've got places to-”. His speech was cut off by a cry of pain, and he flinched to one side,
letting Criosa fall away, revealing that the young lady had a bloodied piece of silverware
in her right hand. The enraged officer swiped her across the side of the head with his
mailed fist, sending her crashing into the wall and onto the ground, then swung his sword
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