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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

Several pieces of art were hanging on the walls leading to the rest of the cottage, but
they were all arranged below chest height. Finding this whole house very strange, he led
the others into the dining room, complete with what appeared to be a child's dining table
and chair. A small girl in an elegant dress sitting at the table looked up at them in
surprise, and then smiled in a very devious way.
“Breaking into my house, hmm?” she observed coldly. “That‟s very bold of you. I'm
actually surprised you made it past my door… I should probably have invested in a better
lock.”
Aiden recognised the voice as the person he had spoken to through the door. What he
had thought was a small girl was, in fact, a very short woman. Suddenly, he realised he
was standing before a woman from the Rael islands, commonly referred to as the Raelani,
a race of diminutive people who were in all respects the same as humans but roughly half
the size. Her features were sharp and cultured, and if she were human, Aiden would guess
her to be from a wealthy family.
“You are Merin, yes?” Nellise inquired. “We have come from the Mayor's office to
talk.”
“Ah, is that why you were so insistent?” she inquired rhetorically, wiping her mouth
with a napkin. Before her on the table was a small bowl of soup and a slice of fresh
bread, which was obviously her breakfast. “I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised,
Olaf was bound to send someone over sooner or later. Four humans seems to be overkill
for one little Raelani woman, though. Did he tell you to 'toss me about' or „rough me up‟,
as is human custom in these situations?”
“Not at all,” Nellise assured her. “We have merely been instructed to have a chat
with you. Tell me, why are you blackmailing the Mayor?”
“Because it's good money, my dear,” Merin grinned with a measure of
condescension. “Certainly enough for me to relocate back to Fairloch, where there is at
least a little culture. I can't tell you what it's been like for me having to live in a boring
little pile of dirt like Bracksford for the past year. No, I've had enough, a nd O laf's little
indiscretion is going to pay my way. Don‟t be too concerned for him, either. He knew
what he was getting in to when all this started.”
“We have an arrangement with the Mayor, actually,” Aiden said, curious at what her
words alluded to. “You have some documents of importance to him - I must order you to
hand them over, immediately.”
“Order?” she balked. “Unless Olaf had the sense to conscript or deputise you, you
don‟t have any authority, sweetie,” she winked.
“Well then, do it because I'm asking you to,” Aiden shrugged, cringing inwardly at
his choice of words. Understandably, Merin laughed.
“You seriously think I'm going to hand it over... just because you asked?” She
continued laughing at him, compounding the young man's mistake even further. “Country
life breeds really naïve people, it would seem.” Aiden was shoved out of the way
suddenly by Colt, who towered over the diminutive woman.
“Hey, pint-size!” he snarled. “My friend here may be all sweetness and light, but I
ain't so nice. In fact, if you don't hand over the stuff, I'll smash your annoying little face
in. If you‟re so innocent, you‟ll just call for the guards, right? I‟m sure they‟d be
interested in doing a quick search while they‟re here.” Merin's smile vanished instantly,
and her eyes widened at the sight of the angry ranger before her.
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