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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

taken earlier in the month, probably when the K ing swept through and bought up
everything of value to his army. With the town closed to general travel, there were no
other horses for the wolf to disturb.
Pacian, trudging slowly through the downpour, finally caught up with the o thers at
the wagon. Nellise climbed down from the back and, without feeling the need to say
anything further, they opened the door to the inn and stepped inside.
The dry warmth of the common room washed over them, accompanied by the
surprising aroma of hot food. Just about every seat and table was taken, which meant the
place was busier than usual. A few of the nearest patrons looked up at their entrance, and
the looks on their faces made Aiden feel a little self-conscious. Despite the rain, his coat
was still stained with blood, as was Nellise's robe and Sayana's furs. They must have
looked like they'd just come from a war.
“What in God's name happened to you?” asked the innkeeper, peering around the
corner from the bar to see what the fuss was about.
“We made it to Fort Highmarch and back,” Nellise explained. “I apologise for our
appearance, for it was an eventful journey.” A cheer went up from the crowd after she
finished talking, and several patrons came over to shake their hands and pat them on the
back. Sayana looked bewildered and eyed the door longingly, but Aiden gave her a
reassuring look that kept her from bolting.
“There's a wagon outside with some supplies,” he called out after the greetings were
over with. “The merchant could probably use a hand unloading. There's flour, sausages
and a pile of other-” he didn't even get to finish before most of the people hurried outside.
“Okay I guess that's that taken care of,” he finished, mostly to himself. He noticed the
Mayor approaching from the other side of the common room to speak with them.
“Stirring work indeed young man,” he congratulated him. “I'm thrilled you
succeeded in making it to the Fort. Tell me, did the reinforcements come with you, or are
they arriving in the morning?” Aiden gave Nellise a worried glance.
“I'm afraid there won't be any reinforcements, sir,” he confided slowly. “I spoke with
the Captain of the Guard, and he wrote this letter for you.” He fished out the folded note
from his pocket and handed it to O laf, who looked at it like Aiden was handing him a
snake. Eventually he took the note and unfolded it, walking over to a nearby candelabrum
to read it.
“He's not going to like it,” Aiden murmured.
“I can't say I liked it much either,” Nellise whispered, “but we'll deal with it
tomorrow. I think I'll buy a bowl of whatever they're eating tonight and retire to my room
to meditate.”
“Perfectly understandable,” Aiden murmured. “Head on upstairs, I'll deal with Olaf.”
Nellise gave him an appreciative nod then moved over to order some food. It smelt like
they had been serving beef, which was curious as they hadn't been doing that for the past
couple of weeks.
“I wish to eat and sleep also,” Sayana said, interrupting his line of thought. “Shall I
follow her?”
“That's probably a good idea, I don't think you can go wrong sticking with Nellise,”
he replied. She gave him a perplexed look, which Aiden promptly ignored and headed
over to speak with O laf, expecting the impending conversation to be less than pleasant.