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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

loose back in the hills, but the tone of his voice suggested he would have been reluctant
to do so.
A minute or so passed and Aiden could only hear the sounds of muffled talking and
wooden boxes being moved from the back of the wagon. He didn't hear any blood-
curdling screams, which was a positive sign. Finally, the guard walked back up towards
the gate, motioning for it to be opened as he did so.
“All well and good, sir. Sorry to see that your hound was wounded.”
“…Yes, he means a lot to me,” Samuels answered awkwardly, trying to cover his
surprise.
“Glad to hear the road is cleared now sir, it was a cause of some concern for us.
Head on through, and get yourselves to the inn.”
“Thank you,” Samuels replied, flicking the reins and urging the tired horses forward.
“A risky business, bringing a wild animal like that into town,” the merchant confided to
Aiden after they were out of earshot of the guards. “As soon as it's back on its feet, it'll be
looking to escape, or eat, and your fool ranger friend won't find it so pitiful then.”
“I'll have a word with him about it, but it's in no condition to do harm to anyone at
this point, so don't be too concerned.” Aiden didn't think for a moment he'd be able to
convince Colt of anything, but the merchant was starting to gra te on his nerves.
“It is of little concern to me,” Samuels shrugged. “I won't be staying in this miserable
little town past tomorrow morning, so pray that you are right.” Aiden could tell he was
grumpier than normal, and chose not to answer. There was no point.
The wagon soon pulled up outside the Bracksfordshire Arms Inn, a welcome sight to
the weary travellers. Aiden jumped to the ground and helped Sayana down from the high
ledge of the wagon's seat, for the wild girl was still a little weak, despite all the food she
had consumed during the journey. Aiden had never seen anyone so small consume so
much.
“So, this is Bracksford,” he told her, his breath misting in the chilly night air. “Have
you been here before?” The young man could see by the light of a nearby torch, sheltered
from the incessant rain by a veranda, that Sayana was clearly uncomfortable.
“I have never been out of the mountains before,” she whispered. “People... react
badly to me sometimes.”
“I can't imagine why,” Aiden remarked with a straight face. “I doubt anyone would
give you any trouble around here if you're with us. Still, if you want to return to the
mountains, feel free to do so.”
“There is nothing left to eat back there, so I will stay with you for now,” she
shrugged after a moment of thought.
“You don't want to go back to your homelands?” Aiden inquired.
“I... no,” she hedged. Though he didn‟t let on, he could tell that she hadn't been
entirely truthful in her response, but he didn't press the issue.
“Okay, we've enough money to keep you fed for a while,” he said. “The only
question is where we are getting the food from.”
“Money? What's that?” she asked. Aiden gave her his best 'are you kidding me?'
look, but it appeared the wild girl was serious.
“I'll have to explain it later. Right now I just want to get some food and then sleep for
a week.” He noticed Colt walking carefully to the stables carrying a heavy coat in his
arms, big enough to cover a large, dog-shaped animal. All of the decent horses had been
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