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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“I'd think I'd remember another tunnel in me own home,” the dwarf replied, skidding
down the inclined rocks to land on the stone floor. “But if you're sure about it, I'll take
some time to look at it. Is this tunnel 'o yours big enough to squeeze through?”
“Yes, and with room to spare,” Pacian replied. “A lot of room to spare, actually. It's
almost as big as the stairwell we came down.” Clavis paused in mid stride, his expression
slack as he seemed to be struck by a horrible thought.
“There wasn't anything like that last time I was 'ere,” he said slowly and deliberately.
“I think ya better show me lad, and quickly now.” Pacian gestured and used his torch to
light the way back towards the tunnel he'd found. With a feeling of growing dread in his
stomach Aiden and Sayana followed.
It only took a minute to reach the gaping hole in the side of the stone wall, and
despite Pacian's brief description of its size, the walls of the tunnel didn't appear to be
carved by crude tools, or even those of master craftsmen. They were, in fact, completely
smooth, and the tunnel itself was more or less round, and over ten feet across. Clavis
crept forward slowly, his left hand extended to touch the smooth stone, almost in
disbelief. And then Aiden felt another vibration in the stone, this time much stronger than
before.
“By Relnak, did you feel that?” Clavis exclaimed, invoking the name of the dwarven
battle god. He started backing away and Pacian did likewise, grabbing the hilts of his
daggers, just in case.
“What caused this?” Sayana asked, her voice tight with anxiety. “Is it connected to
that tremor we just felt?”
“Back in the day,” Clavis explained, licking his lips with consternation, “we had
these critters we called borers. They grew to about yea big,” he described, holding his
hands about two feet apart. “Kinda like moles, but with a hard shell, able to dig their way
through stone given enough time. In the wild, they'd cause all sorts 'o problems with the
tunnels but they're usually not dangerous, 'cause we'd cull their numbers every few
years.”
“Clavis, this tunnel is huge,” Aiden pointed out, placing a hand on the hilt of his
sword as he did so. “How many borers would it have taken to do this?” Another tremor
rippled through the stone, this one sustained for over five seconds before it stopped.
Motes of dust and dirt cascaded down from above them, coating them in a fine layer.
“Thing is,” Clavis explained, his voice too calm. “Thing is... without anyone around
to cull 'em, there's no telling how big they could grow.” The implications of this
statement slowly sunk in to Aiden's mind, and the picture it formed was not something he
wanted to see emerging from the tunnel.
“Get your gear, everyone,” he ordered tersely. “We're not waiting around to see -”
He was interrupted by another tremor, this one even more intense than before,
accompanied by a loud screeching noise. Aiden's heart almost leapt out of his chest as his
natural instincts to run kicked in. The tremor did not stop, and instead continued to build
in intensity.
“Run!” Aiden shouted, not waiting to see if anyone was listening to him. He bolted
back over towards their excavation site, still being lit by Nellise's staff and several
flaming torches on the ground. She was already on her feet, using her staff to help her
move across the unsteady ground towards Aiden.
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