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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“We‟re pretty sneaky,” Pacian said with a wink at the lovely woman. “I‟m sure we
can find a way around them.”
“And then what?” Nellise pressed. “If the roads are still dangerous for merchants the
town is no better off.”
“I hope you‟re not suggesting that we fight them?” Aiden asked incredulously.
“That‟s for the town guards to deal with.”
“Not that we can‟t handle ourselves, mind you,” Pacian added with a dash of
bravado.
“Well that‟s good to know, but have you noticed an abundance of guards in town of
late?” Nellise inquired pointedly. “Most of them were recruited by the King when his
army swept through town recently. I doubt those who remain are up to the challenge,
which is why we‟re stuck here. But, I have an idea.”
She turned and caught the attention of Colt, who still sat at the bar nearby. He glared
at her curiously for a moment befo re heaving his bulk off the stool.
“What?” he asked rudely. Aiden knew where this was headed and groaned pre-
emptively.
“Won‟t you join us, Colt?” Nellise offered, gesturing to an empty chair. “I might
have some work for you.” The big man seemed to consider this for a moment before
accepting the invitation.
“What‟s the job?” he grunted, ignoring Aiden and Pacian completely.
“If I‟m not mistaken, you are wearing the attire of a Royal Ranger,” Nellise
remarked. “These two young gentlemen and I wish to travel north and require an escort.”
“I should point out that we don‟t have money to pay you,” Aiden interrupted before
things got out of hand, words which Colt seemed to take issue with.
“I‟m not a bloody mercenary,” he growled. “I work for the King so keep your coins
to yourself.”
“If you‟re a soldier, why aren‟t you with the King‟s army with the rest of them?”
Pacian asked with a sly expression.
“None of your business,” Colt answered with a spiteful glare. “It‟s a moot point
anyway, as that damn fool O laf won‟t let anyone in or out of town.”
“We‟re going to see him about that,” Aiden warned, determined to find a way out.
“I went and spoke to him a few days ago myself. Told him I'd throttle the pompous
bastard if he didn't let me out of here.”
“The fact that you are still here leads me to think that you weren't altogether
successful,” Aiden observed dryly. Colt looked a little ashamed as he reluctantly nodded.
“He called the guards on me. Took a knock to the head from one of their billy-clubs
and woke up in the local barracks.”
“Oh Colt,” Nellise admonished, shaking her head. “Force isn't going to work here.
Olaf requires a delicate touch.”
“I propose we all go over there and calmly explain the situation to him, and how
critical it is that the gates be opened once more,” Aiden suggested. “We won‟t threaten
him” - Colt gave him a sour look but remained silent - “but we're not going to leave until
we get what we need.” Tom ambled over from the bar with a plate of food, placing it on
the table.
“Cheers mate,” Colt rumbled. “Look, getting out of town is one thing, but fighting a
bunch of bandits is another. I mean, look at you - a couple of unbearded lads and a lady
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