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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Damn right we do,” Colt growled, tipping a small pot of water over the fire to
extinguish it. He stowed the pot in his pack, picked up his sword and strode out the cave
entrance, with the rest of them following close behind.
A few snowflakes were just starting to drift from the grey sky as they left the
sanctuary of the cave. The sun had been shining through the thick cloud briefly that
morning, though Aiden had been too groggy to appreciate it. Colt stood out in the open,
looking up at the sky. It seemed as though the constant inclement weather might finally
be starting to abate as they moved into the mountains.
“We'll have a storm before evening,” Colt declared, dashing Aiden's brief hope. “But
we made good time last night. The extra distance we came looking for that cave took us
half a day closer to the fort. I estimate we can be there a few hours after nightfall, if we
move quickly.”
“There's no guarantee we'll be able to find another cave,” the ranger continued, “so
unless you want to sleep outside in the middle of a snowstorm, we should try to make it
to the fort as soon as possible,” he advised. Colt was in no mood to listen to any
complaints, and made this absolutely clear.
“I'm in no mood to listen to any complaints,” he growled predictably. “We move fast
and get this over with.” He didn't wait for a reply, striding off along the road with Nellise
close behind him. Aiden gave Pace a friendly punch on the shoulder as a reminder that he
wasn't suffering alone, and then followed the others.
* * *
The snow started falling again soon after, though it remained light for the time being.
What had fallen overnight was now hard-packed on the ground, and crunched beneath
their boots as they jogged along. There had been no further signs of pursuit or danger, at
least according to Colt. Aiden was beginning to understand him a little bette r - in a town
or city, he was a dirty, loud- mouthed drunk with little use, but out in the wild, he was at
They ran at a brisk pace for over an hour before Colt spotted something ahead and
called for them to stop. Aiden's confidence wavered when the ranger unslung his bow and
strung it. He decided to ask Colt what he had seen, but as he walked forward to figure out
what was going on it became clear what had spooked him.
Not far ahead of them was a wagon with one of its two wheels broken, leaning
heavily against a thick pine a few yards off the track. How it came to be in this position
probably had something to do with a savagely dismembered oxen that lay before it.
Clearly, it had been eaten away by the animals unfortunately familiar to Aiden and his
“How long ago did it happen?” he asked flatly as he wrinkled his nose at the stench
of the dead animal. Colt was already kneeling to check for tracks, and it didn't take long
for him to draw a conclusion.
“More than two days,” he grunted. “The snow fall has been pretty consistent, and
there's practically nothing left to see. But we both know what happened here.”
“Yes, but the wolves we saw last night clearly hadn't eaten in while.”
“You don't know much abo ut wild animals do you,” Colt stated, rising to his feet and
gripping his longbow tightly with his gloved hand. “It'll be a different pack, a more