As the four thugs sent by the Alchemists strode onto the little bridge where I stood, stupidly, with my sampling tubes and rope, I had occasion to reflect on my deductive abilities.

Among my correct deductions:

  1. The abrupt increases in deaths by drowning among the fishing villages of the Delta have been due to direct attacks by maddened water elementals.
  2. Those wild Ondina were deranged by contamination of river water by heavy metals and exotic hydrocarbons.
  3. The pollutants were output by the College of Alchemy and Material Substantiation of the University of Higher Art at Dwallowforge.

Some of my incorrect deductions:

  1. The Alchemists would be interested in protecting their public reputation by preventing unecessary harm to others.
  2. The Wizards of the University Administration would not object to my contacting the civil authorities.
  3. As a member of a gentle family I would likely not be subjected to threats or violent attack.

Things I missed entirely:

  1. The delay in renewal of my research grant was a result of my investigations.
  2. The death of my parents’ hounds was the result not of random burglary by persons of low character but rather by highly specific burglary by persons of professionally low character.
  3. My conjuring staff had been impurified without my knowledge and rendered magically inert.

As the four men advanced, I realized that there were two more at the other end of the bridge, approaching calmly and openly.

From this I deduced that they were unaware of certain facts:

  1. My findings had already been recopied, notarized, and sent to the Great Library in the capital.
  2. I had three friends nearby with archery skills unusually formidable even for the people of my forested homeland.
  3. My sampling tubes were not empty cylinders of silver on slender cords held by me, a meek academic, but rather were packed with lead shot and held on sturdy hemp lines by a seriously pissed off me, an academic with an attitude problem.

I gritted my teeth and tried not to laugh. Or I tried to laugh. Even at the time I wasn’t sure which.