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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Yes, that man right there,” the bartender pointed, quickly pocketing the coin, and
looking as innocent as she could manage in a moment. “Glad to help you out, I'll be out
the back cleaning if you need me.” Before Aiden could protest, she was already scurrying
through the door to the kitchens. The short man laughed.
“Typical woman, takes a man's money then runs off,” he chortled. “But ya didn't
wants to hear about women now, did ya lad. Nay, it's Ferrumgaard what‟s on yer mind,
and I'll tell ya what you want to know. The name's Clavis MacAliese.”
“Aiden Wainwright. Good to meet you,” Aiden said, getting off his stool and moving
over to shake the man's hand firmly.
“So Aiden, what's yer interest in the fallen city of Ferrumgaard?” Clavis continued,
sipping ale from a large tankard. “Nobody goes there and returns the same y‟know.
Changes a man - makes him see his own mortality.”
“I have an interest in the historical aspects of the place,” Aiden carefully explained.
“Specifically, some research that was being done before the unfortunate events took
place. Tell me, how familiar are you with the layout of the old city?”
“I'm well acquainted,” Clavis assured him, “having lived there as a lad. Also, I
visited there not two years ago on me own little expedition. Didn't make it past the third
level, afore I ran into some difficulties, but ya won't find anyone more qualified to guide
ya through the depths of ol' Ferrumgaard than I.” Aiden gave him a doubtful look.
“Wait a moment, you said you were there as a 'lad'? That was a century ago.”
“That surprises ya?” Clavis chuckled and wiped the foam from his beard. “I'm a
hundred and twenty-three years old, I'll have ye know. We clansmen are long lived
compared to you longshanks.”
“Oh you're dwarven,” Aiden exclaimed, suddenly making the connection. He
glanced down at Clavis's feet, and noticed they were much higher off the ground than his
own. “Sorry about that sir, I haven't met one of your kind before. I was expecting
something... shorter.”
“This must be a real thrill for ya,” Clavis joked, drawing a short laugh from Aiden.
“So you mentioned running into some difficulty,” he pressed, keeping the
conversation on topic. “What exactly does that mean?”
“Well, ya know, an ancient underground city and all. Not exactly in the best
condition. Ran into a few collapsed sections that slowed down the expedition. We were
just about done cuttin‟ through the rock, when we ran out o‟ supplies, so had to turn back.
It won't be a problem lad, if that's what yer thinking. So long as we've got enough
provisions, that rock fall won't be an issue this time.”
“Interesting,” Aiden replied thoughtfully. “If I might ask, what's your interest in the
old city?”
“I'm looking fer a family heirloom that was lost during the fall,” he explained.
“Much was left behind on that fateful day over a century ago, most of it in the lower
sections o‟ the city. It'd be good to bring it back and return it to Stonegaard, where it
should be.”
“That‟s your new mountain home, yes?” Aiden confirmed, receiving a nod from
Clavis. “I think our goals might be compatible. I'll have to talk it over with my
companions, who may or may not wish to join in.”
“Oh ye've got some friends? That's even better. I thought it was just gonna be you
and me, lad.”
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