Nature Abhors a Vacuum
â€œThis sounds like the sort of work your guards should be undertaking,â€ Nellise
â€œThis is a personal issue, Nellise, and Iâ€Ÿd rather not bring them into it if it can be
avoided. Iâ€Ÿm paying extra for your discretion in this matter.â€
â€œA discrete inquiry it is, then,â€ Aiden agreed, simply wanting the conversation over
and done with. â€œWho is this person and where can we find her?â€
â€œHer name is Merin, and she resides in a small house on the eastern edge of town,
right next to the smithy,â€ Olaf explained. â€œJust follow the main street down towards the
gate, and youâ€Ÿll see it just off to the right.â€
â€œOkay, we'll do what we can,â€ Aiden agreed. Without another word, the small group
donned their longcoats as they headed out the door. Aiden was the last to leave, avoiding
eye contact with the secretary as he went past and closed the door behind him. A few
people moved along the street in the dim morning light, similarly garbed in longcoats or
the more old- fashioned hooded cloaks, going about their lives as best they could.
â€œSo, instead of being allowed to leave, we're doing his dirty work now?â€ Pacian
â€œWho the hell asked you?â€ Colt growled.
â€œHe makes a valid point,â€ Aiden retorted. â€œJust the fact he didnâ€Ÿt want to bring the
local guards in on this suggests heâ€Ÿs hiding something.â€
â€œItâ€Ÿs more than Iâ€Ÿve been able to get out of him all week,â€ Nellise remarked.
â€œLet's just be cautious, shall we? Pace, do you have your knife?â€
â€œAlways,â€ he replied, reaching inside his longcoat to rest his hand upon the kitchen
utensil turned weapon.
â€œNellise and I will try to reason with her first. If that doesnâ€Ÿt work, just grab her and
search the place.â€
A short walk down the main street in the ankle-deep water brought them to a sturdy
cottage next door to the town smithy, where a solid- looking oaken door with metal
bracing around the edge practically screamed 'go away'. With a strong desire to get this
over and done with, Aiden knocked and waited for a response.
â€œWho is it?â€ came the muffled voice of a woman from the other side of the door.
â€œMerin? Good morning. My name is Aiden and I need to speak with you.â€
â€œI'm not interested in anything you have to say,â€ she replied after a moment's
hesitation. Aiden glanced at Nellise, who shrugged in silent reply.
â€œIt really is quite urgent that I speak with you, maâ€Ÿam,â€ Aiden tried again, this time
more forcefully. â€œI must insist that you open this door immediately.â€
â€œLet me think about it for a moment,â€ Merin replied, pausing for only a fraction of a
second before she added, â€œNo, I donâ€Ÿt think Iâ€Ÿm going to do that. Go away.â€ Aiden was
on the verge of yelling at her, but Pacian put a hand on his shoulder and shook his head,
gesturing to himself with his other hand.
â€œVery well,â€ Aiden said, forcing a note of defeat into his voice. â€œPerhaps I can meet
with you later in the day, as I have other business to attend to. Good day.â€ He motioned
for Nellise and Colt to follow him, as he walked away from the door and stood nearby to
watch what came next.
â€œWhat was the point of that?â€ Colt inquired.
â€œWe have other methods at our disposal,â€ he answered, nodding to where Pacian was
attempting to pick the lock. Colt grunted in understanding and huddled into his cloak for