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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“You'd be surprised how comfortable a pile of fat drunks can be. And to answer your
question, I'm here to speak with his Mayorship, probably same as you're doing.”
“Looking like that?” Nellise asked, amused and shocked at the same time.
“I'm a ranger, we're expected to be covered in muck.”
“I was referring to your bruised and bloodied face actually.” Colt shrugged.
“I figure it'll help back up my claim that it's getting rough out there. Assuming he
doesn't faint at the sight of blood, of course.”
“Well, we're coming in with you then. We're with him,” Aiden added for the benefit
of a scowling farmer sitting next in line from the ranger. There were no spare seats for
them, so they stood in the middle of the hallway and awaited their turn. The argument in
the office adjacent to them showed no signs of ending anytime soon.
“That voice sounds familiar,” Colt said, scratching his unshaved chin. “Hard to tell
with the echoing though.” They stood around for another minute before Colt heaved
himself out of his chair.
“Bugger this,” he grunted and stepped into the Mayor's office. Shrugging, Aiden
followed along cautiously, wondering when the guards were going to be called. An
officious little man was standing close to the door, and he quickly moved to block their
entrance.
“You must wait your turn, sir!” he complained. “The Mayor is a terribly busy man,
and it would be unseemly of you to barge in out of turn. I demand you withdraw at once.”
Colt didn't reply, instead focusing his attention on the two men arguing behind the little
man. One of them was large, balding, and elegantly dressed in a gold-embroidered blue
longcoat, with a large upstanding collar. The other man was dressed in a similar fashion
to Colt, in camouflage leathers.
“Duncan, is that you?” Colt asked of him. The leather-clad man stopped talking and
turned to see who had addressed him.
“What the hell do you want?” he snapped. “Oh, Colt? Sorry, didn't mean to take your
head off there. How've you been?”
“Can't complain. What's going on here?”
“You two know each other?” Sayana chimed in.
“Yeah, Duncan's a ranger like me,” Colt answered her blandly, “in case you couldn't
figure that out from the uniform.” Sayana didn't seem too impressed with his attitude.
“And you wonder why I don't talk much,” she commented dryly.
“I'm sorry sir,” the official apologised to the Mayor. “They just barged in, I couldn't
stop them. Shall I call the guards?” The Mayor gave them all an irritated look.
“No, I enjoy hoards of unwashed peasantry tramping through my office. The four of
you had better offer up a good reason for this intrusion.”
“My apologies, your honour,” Nellise spoke just as Colt was opening his mouth.
“This is an important matter regarding security on the highway to the south.” The Mayor
looked at her for a few moments, and then nodded.
“You may speak, madam, if only to give me a brief respite from this ill-tempered
woodsman.” The small official bowed quickly.
“Mister Colt and er... party, the Mayor will see you now,” he declared lamely. He
struck Aiden as the sort of person who took his unremarkable job very seriously.
“'Mister Colt?'” Nellise remarked quietly. “I thought 'Colt' was your first name.” The
big ranger gave her a sour look.
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