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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“We're also tired, hungry, and low on supplies,” Nellise added weakly. “I am an
acolyte with the Church of Aielund, and my large friend here is a member of the Royal
Rangers. We're hardly likely to make trouble.” It was a good argument, in spite of the
white lie concerning Colt, and gave the guardsman pause. He scratched his unshaven chin
and gave each of them a shrewd look.
“Okay I'm gonna ask the captain,” he finally agreed. “If it were up to me, I'd let you
through, no problem. But I don't get to make that decision, y'know?”
“Thank you,” Nellise offered, smiling tiredly. The guard couldn't help but smile back
as he turned to approach the gate. Nellise could use that smile to devastating effect when
she wanted to, but Aiden suspected she probably wasn't even aware of its power.
The guard slammed a balled fist onto the gate three times, generating a booming
sound that could be heard deep inside the walls. A slot in the gate at face height opened
up, and the guard peered inside. He spoke quietly, making it difficult to hear him over the
sound of the wind, but he did gesture towards their group with his thumb.
A moment later, the sound of heavy bars being moved on the inside of the gate could
be heard, and to the relief of Aiden and his companions the gate swung inwards,
permitting them entry at last.
“Sorry for the delay, the Captain will see you now,” the guard explained. “Head on
through to the bailey.”
“Thank you,” Aiden replied as he passed the guard heading into the gate. It wasn't
the entire gate that had been opened, but rather a small door in the gate itself. He had
expected it to lead directly into the keep, but could see another large gate up ahead. This
part of the fort was open to the sky, but at least the winds were diminished. Torches
arrayed along the walls provided light to the so ldiers stationed within, five of whom
stood before him, barring the way.
“I am Captain Erik Marshald,” said the closest guard. His armour, helmet and its
adornments reflected his higher rank, though it was difficult to see in the flickering light.
The man sported a thick brown beard with grey streaks, and spoke with calm authority.
“Good Lord, what on earth happened to you?” The Captain was no doubt referring to the
shabby, run-down, and above all blood-covered appearance of the group. Pacian had the
answer for him.
“Wolves, Captain. Many, many wolves.”
“Son, I've been serving at this fort for twenty years, and I've never heard of the
wolves in this mountain range attacking travelers,” the Captain replied gruffly. “But,
having said that, you lot look as tho ugh you've been through a war, so I am inclined to
offer what assistance I can.”
“Can we go through to the keep now?” Aiden asked, feeling very much like he was
about to topple over. His confidence was not bolstered when the Captain glanced at the
other soldiers standing around.
“I am in a difficult position here,” he declared awkwardly. “I swore to my King that I
would allow nobody to enter, yet I can clearly see you are no threat and in dire need of
aid. I cannot let you into the keep, for that would mean that I am breaking my word.
However, the bailey here is technically outside of the keep, and we have a guardhouse
you could stay in for the night.” He stroked his beard thoughtfully for a moment. “I
believe this satisfies my word and my honour, wouldn't you agree Sergeant?”
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