“Bomiles? Bouffantbulls?” Stirlea repeats in disgust, “this is an outrage! My study clearly…”
“… was proven to be bogus,” I nonchalantly interrupt him, “I have to emphasize you were removed from your post and lost your title for that supposed ‘study’ of yours! Your successor repeated the study. No link between monster meat and assault crime were found.”
“That stupid girl wouldn’t find correlations even if you pointed at them.”
Whitney and her Bomile leave for their farm. She’s shaking her head.
“You greatly exaggerate correlations of minuscule proportions and call those findings ‘results’,” I answer, “also your methods are backwards. What you’re doing is akin to proving the cause of rain is a wet street!”
How did he even become court mage?
“I see why you were removed from your post. I believe you are still given chances to redeem yourself. I should convince them to stop doing that…”
“Chances, what chances? I would only have to write my name on it to get a paper rejected. They nitpick over the smallest things!”
“I beg to differ! I wouldn’t call systemic errors a small thing. Did you ever read any explanation you got with the rejections?!”
“Who cares about methods? All I need are results!”
“With what you’re doing, you’re wasting time. What the crown needs are reliable information. Not some spectacular thesis that proves to be the result of biased data!”
“Anyway, I’m offended by you suggesting something outrageous as cultivating monsters in my presence!” he rams is walking cane into the ground.
“In the interest of this village,” the mayor interjects and puts a hand on Stirlea’s shoulder, “I need to politely ask you to keep your reservations to yourself. It’s common sense adventurers eat monster meat and they don’t suffer any side effects.”
Oh, the mayor is selling him out. I guess I managed to convince him Stirlea’s work is not to be trusted.
Instead of answering, Stirlea stares angrily at me. Then he suddenly collapses to the ground. I check for his heartbeat. There’s none — he’s dead.
“I didn’t mean to anger him to death!” I exclaim.
“Matt,” Swift mutters. His face looks grim, “it’s not your fault…”
He continues moving his mouth but doesn’t speak.
“Are you sure?!” Silas asks. He stares at Swift. Swift closes his eyes. He takes a deep breath and then shakes his head, “as the keeper of the Crystal Down, I’m not allowed to say anything on the circumstances of Mr. Andrew Stirlea’s death.”
The only thing that binds the Keeper is political neutrality, so this is part of a scheme. Stirlea was just killed using poison or magic. Who killed him, and for what reason?
“Good, I shall refrain from asking you about it.”
“Thanks, Matt,” he doesn’t even look me in the eyes anymore. Instead, his eyes are fixed on the mayor’s left hand. Could it be?
“It’s regrettable the old friend of my father died,” the mayor says.
He’s trying to keep a regretful face, but his face shows he has some reservations against Stirlea. I think he’s sweating. He’s not pinning Stirlea’s death on me. Are those his sincere feelings? No, my feeling tells me it’s not. Did he get rid of him to save his own hide? No, that’s not it either.
“It has been a couple of very stressful days. I fear they added up to too much for his frail old heart. At least, he won’t need to witness the radical change need to save in this village.”
There it is! He really wants to protect this village. I can’t really condone crimes right in front of me. But he’s trying so hard do save this place I’ll let it slide this time.
“Yes, it is indeed regrettable he died from exhaustion due to the recent events,” I reply.
General Ritchie adds: “I fear we have to add his death to the toll of the outbreak of the Mad Cow Disease.”
She leaves for her tent.
“For the sake of this village, I’ll let it slide this time,” I mumble, “you owe me one.”
“Donnell,” the mayors mutters and looks me in the eyes, “I didn’t tell you anything.”
He then leaves.
“Let’s go home!” I announce, “there’s a lot of work to do when we get home.”
We look for Sobe and take our leave.
“I’ll drop by at some other time,” Sobe answers.
“It was nice having you with us,” I answer.