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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“I've no doubt about it ma'am, no doubt at all,” the sergeant replied. “But we have a
man of God here tending her already. Bit of a full time job really, but that's what he's here
for. You just look after yourself, you're all looking a bit worse for wear, I don't mind
telling you. So I'll leave you to eat and rest up, and I'll get this note to the captain right
away. All these requests will have to wait 'til tomo rrow of course. Impossible to get the
merchants out of bed at this hour, y'know. I'll see you in the morning.”
They all ate their fill over the next hour, listening to the crackle of the fireplace and
the mournful howl of the wind outside. Eventually, the others turned in and fell asleep
almost immediately, fatigue finally overtaking them.
* * *
The sound of something heavy hitting the floor woke Aiden from his slumber with a
start. He rolled over and peered bleary-eyed across the room to the source of the noise.
Half a dozen soldiers had entered the guardhouse, and one of the clumsier men had
dropped his sword. Aiden recognised Captain Marshald from the previous evening.
“Good morning, honoured guests,” he quipped, clearly amused about something.
“You'll have to excuse my lads, they're not used to creeping around in their armour. I
may have to offer you a reimbursement of your hard-earned money. O h wait, you didn't
pay us anything.” Colt glared at him with red-rimmed eyes.
“You can take your stupid jokes and shove -”
“Thank you, captain,” Aiden almost yelled in his haste to cut the big man off.
Marshald gave Colt a suspicious glance but nodded.
“Unusual situations call for unusual responses. I wasn't about to let you starve to
death, regardless of what I told the King. But I'm not here to exchange pleasantries, as
we've got business to discuss - your business, to be precise.”
“I took it upon myself to expedite the items on O laf's requisition form to get you on
your way as quickly as possib le,” the captain continued, rubbing his hands together for
warmth. “We're a fortress, not a town. The supplies we have are enough to get us through
winter, and we don't have a lot to spare. Given these extenuating circumstances, we're
making sure you go back with something, but Olaf‟s going to have to reopen the supply
lines to Culdeny if he wants more.”
“What about Fenwick?” Colt asked. It was closer to Fort Highmarch than Bracksford
was, over to the west of the shire.
“That's where we've been getting our supplies from,” the captain informed him. “The
mayor is under orders not to sell any supplies to anywhere else for the duration of the
winter. Sorry, but we've got the security of the country to consider here, lads.” Aiden felt
it wasn't an unreasonable argument, but he was still disappointed.
“So here's what we're going to do for you,” Marshald continued. “I've found an
enterprising merchant willing to make the journey north. He'll have a wagon full of
cheeses, flour, sausages, and an assortment of other supplies to keep the town going a
little longer. Probably just for a few days though.”
“O laf also asked for more of our fine K ingdom Guard to help clear the area of
bandits. This is a difficult request for me to refuse, but I have strict orders for maintaining
a minimum contingent at the fort.”