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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Simple clothes, sparse equipment,” O laf 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.”
“It‟s come to the point that we're being endangered just sitting around town, slowly
starving to death,” Colt 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.”
Olaf seemed to consider this, and then his expression took on a more considered look.
“I have my doubts as to your intentions, so I'll tell you what,” he offered. “I'll give
you a little task and if you can get it done, you'll have convinced me of your
resourcefulness and genuine desire to help the town.”
“You‟re paying us, right?” Pacian hinted with a distinct lack of subtlety.
“O f course.”
“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.
“Violence shouldn‟t be necessary,” O laf replied, dismissing the thought with a wave
of his hand. “By all means, talk with her but do not underestimate her. If she still refuses,
feel free to use whatever means you deem necessary to change her mind.”
“This sounds like the sort of work your guards should be undertaking,” Nellise
pointed out.
“This is a personal issue, Nellise, and I‟d rather not bring them into it if it can be
avoided. I‟m paying extra for your discretion in this matter.”
“A discrete inquiry it is, then,” Aiden agreed, his desperation for money getting the
better of him. “Who is this person and where can we find her?”
“Her name is Merin, and she resides in a small house on the eastern edge of town,
right next to the smithy,” O laf explained. “Just follow the main street down towards the
gate, and you‟ll see it just off to the right.”
“Okay, we'll do what we can,” Aiden agreed. “I expect you'll see us again shortly,
and I expect payment upon our return.”
Without another word, the small group donned their longcoats as they headed out the
door. 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
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