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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Hey, pick on someone your own size,” Colt shouted in challenge to Fletcher. The
bloodied bodies of four men lay at the ranger‟s feet, and he seemed every bit as imposing
as the thug standing before him.
“Ranger,” Fletcher growled in recognition, “you've killed a lot of my lads today, you
ugly bastard. I‟ll make you pay for that.” He turned to face Colt and quickly closed the
distance. Colt faced off with Fletcher, leaving the others to deal with the remaining
bandits as the sound of steel-on-steel echoed through the forest.
Pacian and Nellise kept a pair of bandits occupied as another was aiming his hunting
bow in their direction. Aiden shouted a warning and Pacian responded reflexively,
throwing his only dagger at the archer. It lodged into his chest, ruining his aim and taking
him out of the fight.
Nellise cried out in alarm and Aiden saw she was having trouble keeping her two
enemies at bay. Pacian, now unarmed, resorted to rushing forward and ramming his
shoulder into the newcomer, sending them both tumbling to the ground.
Aiden hurried to Nellise‟s aid and although she wa s no novice with the quarterstaff,
the men she was facing were quick and ruthless. Blood stained her torn robe, and they
were so intent on their failing prey they didn‟t see Aiden charging in to their side.
He ran one of them through with his blade, using the force of his charge to drive the
point home. They crashed into the other bandit, sending them all tumbling to the ground.
Aiden pulled his blade from the body and brought it down on the other man, piercing him
directly in the chest.
Operating on adrenaline and survival instinct, Aiden turned to see Colt slowly being
overcome by Fletcher‟s cunning attacks. Both men sported minor wounds, and when the
ranger‟s blade was finally knocked from his grasp, Aiden thought he was done for.
It was then that he noticed another person approaching the fight, not a man but the
girl with wild red hair he‟d spotted earlier in their journey, a hatchet held in her hand as
she moved towards them. Certain she was about to come to the aid of their enemies,
Aiden flinched when she raised her weapon and threw it in his direction.
Or so he thought. Her aim was slightly off and instead of hitting him, the hatchet
whirled past to lodge into Fletcher‟s side. To her right, half a dozen more bandits were
charging towards the battle, but she faced them and raised both arms towards them. To
Aiden‟s astonishment, sheets of blue fire erupted from her palms, bathing the area in
flame.
The bandits cried out fear and barely skidded to a halt in time to avoid being burned
by the magical fire. Nellise, composed even in the face of danger, took advantage of the
distraction to charge in and slam her quarterstaff into the back of Fletcher‟s head with all
the force she could muster, dropping him like a sack of potatoes.
“Your captain is down!” she cried. “Drop your weapons at once and you may yet
live!” The nearby bandits who were gathering to rush in and change the course of the
fight saw Fletcher‟s unconscious form and, as one, broke off and ran into the forest.
“Good enough,” Nellise remarked between breaths as she leaned heavily on her staff.
Aiden cautiously looked at the girl who had turned the battle in their favour and noticed
she appeared unsteady on her feet. It was then he noticed that her eyes were glazed over
and her cheekbones stood out alarmingly on her face, right before she collapsed.
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