Nature Abhors a Vacuum
â€œAnd so self-effacing, too,â€ Criosa remarked with a tired smile. â€œI might have use for
you in Fairloch, if youâ€Ÿre interested.â€ Aidenâ€Ÿs tired brain didnâ€Ÿt quite grasp what she was
saying for a few seconds, but the implications were far-reaching.
â€œIâ€Ÿll have to think about it,â€ he mumbled, somewhat dumbfounded.
â€œAiden, the Princess just asked you to serve the crown,â€ Colt pointed out. â€œThe
appropriate response is â€žyes, Your Highness, I would be honoured!â€Ÿâ€
â€œI think heâ€Ÿs waiting to hear how much heâ€Ÿs going to get paid,â€ Pacian added,
earning a jab to his ribs from the big ranger.
â€œThereâ€Ÿs something else of relevance I found,â€ Aiden interrupted, pulling out the
folded note he had retrieved from Bartlettâ€Ÿs body. â€œRonald Bartlett had this on him when
he met an unfortunate end, and itâ€Ÿs something you should read.â€ Ariel took the proffered
note and read aloud from the elegant script upon it.
â€œIt says, â€žFind Commander Black and convey my displeasure to him concerning the
handling of his duties thus far. I expect my moneyâ€Ÿs worth from this deal, and if he and
his band of half- wits are unable to perform as expected, I shall have them join the K ing in
his bloody campaign in the west.â€Ÿ It is signed â€žNumber Oneâ€Ÿ. How cryptic.â€
â€œCaptain Marshald said that someone was making a move against the Crown, and
your kidnapping was probably the first step,â€ Aiden said to Criosa. â€œBartlett was a big
name locally, but he was taking orders from someone else. Have you made any enemies
â€œNot that Iâ€Ÿm aware of,â€ she replied, her eyes wide at the thought of a conspiracy
â€œThe script is very elegant,â€ Ariel noted, handing it to Criosa. â€œDo you recognise the
â€œNo, it doesnâ€Ÿt seem familiar, but that doesnâ€Ÿt really say much,â€ she mused after a
brief examination. â€œIt does resemble the writing of a well educated individual, certainly.
Perhaps one of the lords hired the Steel Tigers to kidnap me, and used Bartlett as a
â€œItâ€Ÿd cost a hell of a lot of money to hire a mercenary army,â€ Colt grunted. â€œBut none
of this explains why they attacked the town. And who in his right mind would bring in a
bloody dragon to help, anyway?â€
â€œMaybe they got greedy, and wanted to loot the place on the way through,â€ Pacian
â€œThis is an outrage,â€ Criosa breathed. â€œThe scale of this entire operationâ€¦ itâ€Ÿs bad
enough to attempt to kidnap a member of the royal family, but to slaughter innocents in
the process? I must go to Fairloch and get to the bottom of this and hold the culprits
â€œThat would be extremely dangerous, Highness,â€ Aiden warned.
â€œNot with you and your stalwart companions there to protect me, it wouldnâ€Ÿt,â€
Criosa replied with a wink. â€œAnd youâ€Ÿll be suitably rewarded for your efforts here today,
and in the future, I assure you.â€
â€œWe accept,â€ Pacian answered for him.
â€œI... yes, I suppose so,â€ Aiden managed to agree. â€œBefore we get to that however, I
have one question, Sarge. I saw what looked like a large metal spear drop from the
dragonâ€Ÿs body on the way past, but we saw something explode against its hide as well.
What weapon could cause such a devastating impact?â€