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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Simple clothes, sparse equipment,” Olaf mumbled as he inspected each of them.
“You hardly seem capable of dealing with any of the threats to this town, and I wouldn't
wish to endanger your lives needlessly.”
“It has come to the point now that we're being endangered just sitting around town,
slowly starving to death,” Aiden pointed out. “Fort Highmarch is nearly three days travel
south of here, so the sooner we leave, the sooner we can bring back food and
reinforcements.”
“I can guide them there well enough,” Colt grunted reluctantly, prompting Aiden to
look at him incredulously. He hadn‟t expected the oaf to volunteer for anything, given his
attitude. O laf seemed to consider this, and then his expression took on a more considered
look.
“I'll tell you what,” he offered. “I'll give you a task to accomplish, and if you
succeed, you'll have convinced me of your resourcefulness and genuine desire to help the
town.”
“I suppose that's fair,” Aiden hedged, disliking the direction of this conversation but
having little choice but to carry on. “What's the task?”
“It's rather delicate, actually,” the Mayor explained. “A former associate of mine is
seeking to discredit my name and oust me from my position as Mayor. She wants five
gold sovereigns to keep her silent.” Aiden's eyes inadvertently widened in surprise – it
was a small fortune by anyone's measure.
“I've tried reasoning with this individual but she simply won't co-operate. I'm not one
to employ 'strong-arm' tactics myself, but if you were to... persuade her to see reason and
return the documents she is attempting to blackmail me with, you will have proven your
worth.”
“Do you expect trouble from this person?” Nellise inquired. “I doubt she will simply
hand over something quite so valuable simply because we ask her to.”
“I can be very... persuasive,” Pacian offered, smiling coldly. For someone barely
eighteen years of age, Pacian had lived a hard life and Aiden knew what he was capable
of.
“Oh, I don't think violence will be necessary,” Olaf replied, dismissing the thought
with a wave of his hand. “By all means, talk with her first if you will, but do not
underestimate her. If she still refuses, feel free to use whatever mea ns you deem
necessary to change her mind.”
“Okay, we'll look into it,” Aiden agreed hesitantly. “Who is this person and where
can we find her?”
“Her name is Merin Teas, and she resides in a small house on the eastern edge of
town, right next to the smithy,” Olaf explained. “Just follow the main street down
towards the gate, and you‟ll see it just off to the right, you really can‟t miss it.”
“Okay, we'll do what we can,” Aiden agreed. “I expect you'll see us again shortly.”
Without another word, the small group moved out the door, donning their longcoats as
they passed. Aiden was the last to leave, avoiding eye contact with the secretary as he
went past and closing the door behind him. A modest awning gave them some shelter
from the rain as Aiden pondered the agreement he had just made. A few people moved
along the street in the dim morning light, similarly garbed in longcoats or the more old-
fashioned hooded cloaks, going about their lives as best they could.
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