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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“Are you trying to tell me that you personally know who's heading the bandits out
there?” he asked with 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!”
“Not really,” Olaf disagreed. “It wouldn't have been a problem if Culdeny's military
strength was sufficient to clear them out. So in a way-”
“No Olaf,” Aiden interrupted, “it's your fault. You're not blaming the K ing for this
one.” Olaf went silent, then nodded, wringing his hands together anxiously.
“This brings us back to you and your companions. I want you to head north, find
their leader and remove him. You can bring him in alive or dead, it doesn't matter to me.”
“I would have thought you'd want him dead,” Aiden cut in sarcastically. “You know,
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, and I need your help once
“You mean you need the help of the others as well as myself,” Aiden corrected.
“And I'm guessing you didn't bring them in 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 hungover he was. And you expect us to take on that many
men? Trained killers? Preposterous.”
“I think you underestimate yourselves,” Olaf pressed, “I hear that girl you found in
the mountains is a sorceress.”
“So? Olaf, she's a girl, literally, not some sort of secret weapon. And I'll tell you
something else; we only made it through to Highmarch because of Nellise's faith and
dedication. Without her, we would have all bled to death and been eaten by hungry
wolves. I may carry a sword, but I would hardly qualify as a warrior, and Pacian only
really does well if his opponent is looking the other way. It's suicide, plain and simple.
You'll have to come up with some other way.”
Olaf sighed and leaned back in his comfortable chair, tugging his grey moustache
thoughtfully. Aiden also settled back into his seat, trusting that he'd made his point
“It was a terrible thing to see Merin murdered like that,” Olaf said, his voice set in an
overly calm tone. “If the Kingdom guard ever found out you and your friends had
something to do with her death, things would go badly for you.” Aiden glared at Olaf,
seeing where this was leading to.
“If you inform the authorities, we'll let them know of your involvement as well,”
Aiden assured the Mayor. “You'll be heading to the gallows, just as surely as us.”
“Either you get us some help from Culdeny, or we're dead anyway,” Olaf shot back.
“Fletcher and his cronies will see to that. Aiden, this has to happen.” The two men glared
at each other for a long moment, but the young man didn't have any counter. Deep down,
he knew O laf was right, even if his methods were highly questionable.