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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“They‟re hardly trained killers,” Olaf scoffed. “They‟re more like street thugs with a
sense of entitlement, unsuited to the rigors of forest life. If I didn‟t think you and your
companions capable, I wouldn‟t allow you to go. Come now, Aiden, there‟s no need for
this enmity between us. I regret the incident with Merin but it is for the benefit of
everyone that this entire misguided situation be brought to an end. You wanted to go
north, and now you‟re armed with all the information you‟ll need to succeed.”
“Fine, but don‟t think you‟ve heard the last of this,” Aiden growled. He looked down
at the hand that was offered but declined to shake it. Instead, he grabbed his longcoat and
walked out the door into the ceaseless rain. The others were in the middle of a heated
argument under cover just outside, but they paused when Aiden appeared.
“What did he want?” Colt rumbled.
“To apologise, which I didn‟t accept,” Aiden answered. “He also gave me some
insights into what we‟ll be facing along the highway, for what it‟s worth.”
“First thing‟s first, mate. Is this what you two do for a living?” Colt snarled at
Pacian. “Blackmailing people? If this was your plan you might have let us in on it, before
we went in there. I'm in half a mind to go grab a hammer and get creative all over your
face.”
“That was most certainly not the right way to handle this situation,” Nellise scolded
in a hushed voice. “Going to the head of the town guards and presenting this information
would have been my preference, if yo u had bothered to ask me. I don't like being
associated with common criminals.”
“Criminal? Me?” Pacian shot back. “That man was responsible for multiple counts of
extortion, not to mention hiring people to commit murder. If you brought the town guards
in on this, what do you think would have happened? Justice for all, and the town freed
from the clutches of a criminal mastermind? Not bloody likely. It would have created a
huge mess, with us right in the middle of it. Like it or not, we were used to elimina te one
of Olaf's 'problems' and we would most likely have been detained as well.”
“He didn't hire us to go and kill Merin,” Aiden pointed out in a hushed voice,
glancing around in case anyone passing by might overhear their conversation. “I might be
splitting hairs here, but I don't think we'd be in as much trouble as you suspect.”
“You can't know that,” Pacian contested. “We have no idea how the guards in this
town were going to react and we're not exactly well known around here. I suspect Colt
here has a bit of a record with the militia, and Nellise might have been allowed to go free,
because that happens to pretty women. But you and me Aiden? We'd be locked in irons.”
“Look, this way we keep his secret, he keeps our secret, we both keep an eye on each
other, and we have money to feed ourselves and then some. So what if he‟s forcing us to
do a few jobs, I mean, we get to leave, right? Nellise, we can use the money to help get
this place moving again. Who cares how I got it?” The acolyte silently considered
Pacian's words, but Aiden was more vocal with his opinion.
“You better hope he doesn't just turn us in to the guards when we're not looking,
Pace,” he warned ominously. “When all's said and done, he's still the mayor, and we're a
bunch of nobodies.”
“Maybe,” Pacian conceded. “But if we make it to Culdeny and get those supplies the
town needs, I reckon he'd be a fool to try anything against us.”
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