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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

alarm. They won't want to fight us face-to- face, like real men, so keep an eye on our
surroundings. Aiden, do you know how to use that sword?”
“I know which end to point at the opponent, yeah,” Aiden answered as he tested his
small sword, swinging it back and forth to get a feel for it.
“Try not to stab yourself. Let‟s go.” Without further ado they walked over the old
Stormflow River bridge and left the safety of town behind, with Aiden wondering if they
were getting in over their heads.
The rain continued to fall unabated as they walked along the northern highway,
though it seemed to ease as time wore on. Aiden kept his hand close to his sword hilt, and
Colt‟s longbow was ready to send a clothyard shaft hurtling through the air at the first
sign of trouble.
Aiden's senses became heightened as they travelled and he found himself jumping at
the slightest crack of a nearby branch or the subtle movement of trees. The large pines
crowded in around them more and more as they went along and it was fairly clear they
had now entered the south-eastern reaches of the Calespur Ranges, a large forest that was
a source of wood for nearby communities and home to the K ing's game reserve.
They stopped for a quick break at what must have been close to midday for a meal
and rest. There had been no sign of bandits or anyone else for that matter, a fact which
made Colt more than a little nervous.
“I figure any group of men looking to snatch passing merchants would‟ve set up a bit
closer to Bracksford,” he wondered.
“Maybe there aren‟t any,” Pacian suggested. “Maybe Olaf was just making it up?”
“If true, then it simply means we‟ll be getting paid to go where we were heading
anyway,” Aiden pointed out. “It‟s three days to Culdeny, so I wouldn‟t give up on
running into trouble before then just yet.”
“They‟re probably short-handed on soldiers as well, but they're far from
defenceless,” Colt grunted, rubbing his eyes in the manner of someone with a headache.
“If they got wind of any unlawful activity to the south, they'd have sent a squad to
“It‟s only a matter of time,” Nellise reminded them as she delicately ate some bread
and cheese.
“You know, I wasn‟t expecting a lady of the cloth to carry a staff around,” Aiden
remarked. “Are you actually trained to fight?”
“O nly to defend ourselves,” Nellise responded. “The last two months of my
novitiate was partially devoted to dealing with shall we say, unpleasant situations.
Though I‟ve never been in a real fight, I am confident that I can hold my own.”
“So your order isn't a militant one?” Aiden inquired. 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
Church of Aielund, dedicated to bettering civilisation. It was a different chapter that was
responsible for certain unfortunate acts.”