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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

our north and open the highway to Culdeny if we are to restore trade. I recently received
word from a ranger who was assigned to keep an eye on the Akoran tribesmen to the
southeast. Apparently, they are amassing at the northern edge of their territory for raiding
into K ingdom lands. I can't allow travel to the east until we have some means to provide
protection.”
“My family live in Coldstream,” Aiden breathed, his voice tight with anxiety.
“I am very sorry young man,” Olaf sympathised, “but there's nothing we can do for
them. Like us, they will have to fend for themselves a while longer. This is why it is
imperative that you reach Culdeny and seek further aid. O ur local guards are needed to
defend against any akoran attacks. They're little more than farm boys and girls in chain
mail, I'm afraid, but we still need them patrolling our walls. As for the way north, I have
some information that may be of use.”
“I‟m listening.”
“There are over two dozen bandits working along the northern highway,” the mayor
replied delicately.
“Two dozen?” Aiden exclaimed. “Why didn‟t you bring this up earlier? The four of
us don‟t stand a chance in a fight.”
“Who said anything about fighting?” Olaf said, frowning. “All you'd be required to
do is neutralise their leader, and the rest would most likely disperse.”
“How can you possibly know this?” Aiden asked, his eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“The document you retrieved for me from Merin's house,” Olaf replied after a
moment of thought. “How far through it did you read?” Aiden stared at the man,
wondering what he was hinting at. Although he didn't remember the exact figures from
all of the transactions, Aiden did reca ll that other names were on that list. Other criminal
associates.
“Are you trying to tell me that you personally know who's leading the bandits out
there?” he asked using measured words.
“They are not so much bandits, as disgruntled employees looking to get paid,” Olaf
finished, turning a paler shade as he did so. Aiden was speechless for a moment, and then
roughly a thousand questions spun through his mind, simultaneously.
“They are your thugs, the ones that were hired to extort businesses in Culdeny,” he
shouted accusingly. “This entire situation is your fault! No wonder you‟ve paralysed the
town.”
“Their leader‟s name is Fletcher,” he explained with a tinge of remorse. “I had rarely
dealt with thugs before, but he seemed to know what he was doing, right up until the
point he started taking a large cut of the takings. That‟s when things started to go awry.”
“You couldn‟t control him,” Aiden stated flatly. “So you want him dead too, to keep
him silent about your crimes.”
“I don't want any more innocent deaths on my conscience if I can help it,” Olaf
protested. “I know you think very little of me at the moment, but I never meant to harm
anyone. The whole affair has been blown out of all proportion.”
“I'm guessing you didn't want the others to hear this, because Pacian would
blackmail you, Nellise would probably turn you in, and Colt would just punch you in the
face - or kill you, depending on how hung-over he was.”
“Something like that. You seem to be just the right amount of reasonable.”
“You expect us to take on that many men?”
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