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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Pacian sat next to Aiden at the tree and offered him half a loaf of the stale bread taken
from the wagon.
“Sorry I can't put any cheese on that,” he apologised. “I'm afraid it didn't survive the
last fight. I got a little creative against that wolf, doing a kind of sliding manoeuvre as it
jumped and the cheese flew out the top of my pack. Now, by itself, landing in the snow
wouldn't have been so bad,” Pacian continued amiably, “but do you remember that dead
ox on the ground near the wagon? Yeah... so… enjoy your cheese- less bread.”
Aiden smiled wanly at him as he finished off his meal. It was barely enough, but it
wo uld have to do. If their luck held, they would be eating a feast tonight at Fort
Highmarch and the prospect of that was enough to make his stomach growl. To take his
mind off his hunger, Aiden pulled out the glove Pacian had found in the wagon to give it
a closer inspection.
“O h you do have that,” Pacian exclaimed. “I thought it might have been left behind.
That gem has to be worth a small fortune.”
“More than you know,” Aiden mumbled, inspecting the engraved words once again.
He was silent for a long moment as he concentrated on the strange symbols, trying to
recall their meaning. “You've seen that crystal Nellise uses? This one is kind of similar.”
“But isn't that thing she has some kind of holy object?”
“True, but it's still just a crystal, when you get right down to it,” Aiden informed
him. “They just channel energy in different ways. I think this glove was made by a
wizard. See these words?” He leaned over to let his friend take a closer look. “I've
managed to translate a bit of it and if I'm right, this is a command word that will activate
“Any idea what it does?” Pacian inquired with more than casual interest.
“No, but I figure it's either a weapon or some kind of protective device. At least I
hope it is. Anything else is going to be pretty useless out here.”
“Unless it magically makes food appear of course,” Pacian corrected him.
“Now wouldn‟t that be something,” Aiden deadpanned.
“You two enjoying yourselves?” Colt barked from nearby. “Sounds to me like you're
all full of energy and ready to head out, am I right?” Pacian groaned, until he saw Aiden
stumble to his feet, then went quiet. Colt wordlessly picked up his bow once more and led
them in the final run to the fort.
It started to snow again shortly after they set out, and the wind picked up along with
it. The bitter cold seemed to be seeping into their very bones as they trudged along, but
Aiden's leggings, torn from the wolf's teeth, were at least partially patched up with the
Regardless, they had no choice but to keep moving and hope they had seen the last of
the wolves. The beasts that had limped away from the last fight certainly wouldn‟t be
able to give them any further trouble, if indeed they hadn't bled to death already. There
had been no further signs of wildlife in the area either, deepening the mystery of what
had happened to disrupt the natural balance so.
Aiden's mood grew as bleak as the weather, his leg aching more and more as time
went on. The snow on the ground started to build up a lot more as the afternoon wore on,
and the effort required to place one foot in front of the other continued to increase.
Nellise stayed with him throughout it all, though, offering a hand whenever he needed it,
and Aiden was not so prideful that he would refuse.