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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“As you wish. Aiden, I believe you are a practical young man, unburdened by the,
shall we say, less productive attitudes of your companions,” Olaf continued. “And so I
hope you'll accept my apologies for the unfortunate situation with my former associate. I
will say only that I regret ever becoming involved with those people, and don't think for a
moment that Merin, or her friend, were innocent.”
“I'm not going to forgive you, if forgiveness is what you're fishing for, “Aiden
replied warily. “I don‟t like being blackmailed into doing your bidding anymore than
you, but I'm prepared to help the town. I trust you are satisfied with the supplies we
secured from the fort?”
“The food and other sundries were most welcome, but with no military support to
assist us, we are left to deal with matters on our own, and quickly,” the Mayor explained,
sitting in a chair near the fire and crossing his legs. “We must break through the bandit
forces to our north and open the highway to Culdeny if we are to restore trade.”
“What about Coldstream?” Aiden asked. “They're closer, and could probably provide
us with some more food, if not a few extra guards.”
“I recently received word from a ranger who was assigned to keep an eye on the
Akoran tribesmen to the southeast,” Olaf replied, shaking his head “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 we reach Culdeny and seek further aid. That's where you come in.”
“Me? I'm no soldier,” Aiden protested. “Colt is probably the closest thing to a proper
soldier in our group, even with his attitude.”
“You all survived the trip to Forth Highmarch against difficult odds,” Olaf reminded
him, “I'm afraid that if I send more of our militia guards out to try and make it to
Culdeny, they will not survive, and I will have further weakened the town for no gain.
They're little more than farmboys in chain mail. I'm afraid, but we still need them
patrolling our walls.”
“What would we be facing?” Aiden asked hesitantly. “Assuming, of course, that I
agree to this.”
“The last information that I received indicated there were over two dozen individuals
working along the highway,” the Mayor replied delicately.
“Two dozen?” Aiden exclaimed, practically leaping out of his chair. “And you want
the five of us to fight that many? No way, not a chance.”
“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.”
“And on what are you basing this very flimsy theory of yours?” 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 ascetic
Mayor, wondering what he was hinting at. He recalled the incriminating document in his
mind, and although he didn't remember the exact figures from all of the transactions,
Aiden did recall that other names were on that list. Other criminal associates.