Remiel looked around at those who had gathered. "I do not see Marguerite or tes11 here. Have they been murdered as well? No? Very well."
Realizing he had everyone's attention, he cleared his throat and began. "Friends, we now reach a critical juncture. There are--by my reckoning--five roses left in the village, and three Thorns. If we choose wrongly again today, there will be four roses left. And then, after the Thorns strike tonight, there will be three. This will effectively mean that the Thorns have won. Therefore, it is crucial that we choose wisely this time."
Frowning, he walked in a straight line, peering into each face, scrutinizing every villager closely. "I said I have discovered the identities of two of the Thorns. And I have. But I will get to that in a moment.
"I think it is time to reveal that I am a Bee. My father, too, was a Bee, as was his father before him. I come from a long line of Bees, in fact, whose job it traditionally was to ferret out those Thorns who would betray us. I have kept this a secret until now, because there has never before been a need. But the need is upon us, and the hour is grim. The fate of the village hangs on the razor-thin balance of this final vote.
"When I first discovered that Charles Lawson had been murdered, I decided to do some investigating. Charles was nobody's fool; he would not have fallen prey to a stranger. No, he had been stabbed in the back, gentle villagers, by someone he knew well. Someone, in fact, he trusted. And that someone was Elandra!"
With a flourish, Remiel pointed the finger of accusation at Elandra. His tone became more urgent, more tense. "Elandra knew that Charles was planning on filing an injunction against RoseMart to stop the acquisition of the village. Little did he know that they had hired her as a consultant to facilitate the sale. If they could not get our roses, Elandra would not get her million-dollar consultant's fee. She was desperate. She had to stop him.
"So she visited him the night before his untimely demise. The conversation, I believe, was amiable enough. But she drugged his tea, and as he lay sleeping, she stabbed him with a knife from the kitchen."
Unfortunately for her, Ryven happened to be strolling by just as she was leaving the scene of the crime, on his way to deliver an order of banana-nut muffins. I do not think Ryven thought anything of it at the time, but Elandra knew it was only a matter of time before he put two and two together. Clearly, Ryven had to go.
"But how to do it? Only someone who knew Ryven's daily routine would know when he was most vulnerable. Someone like...Sinera." Once again, Remiel pointed the finger of accusation, this time at Sinera. "Elandra went to sinera, explained what she had done, and promised Sinera half of her RoseMart wages if she would help her hide the crime. Sinera approached Ryven at night, under the guise of discussing a new kind of muffin, and waited until he was distracted before slipping a cord around his neck and strangling him to death.
"It was almost the perfect crime. Charles was dead, and the only person who had witnessed it was dead too. Meanwhile, we were busy wrongfully eliminating two of our own, two innocent villagers--Ladysky and Doomsday Jesus. It looked like nothing would stop their evil plans. Nothing, that is, except for one thing: me.
"I became suspicious of Sinera almost right away. She was far too good at blending in with the crowd, acted far too innocent. She had a rock-solid alibi; she made sure that several people spotted her in her garden pool at about the time Charles was killed. There is a saying, among the Thorn hunters: look for the least likely suspect of all, and there you will have your Thorn. Sinera was very good at covering her trail--too good.
"And as for Elandra, I suspected her shortly afterward. She made sure that she was never the first to cast a vote for any one individual, but instead voted for someone after they had already been accused. In this way, she was sure to eliminate a wrongfully-accused Rose as quickly and expediently as possible.
"A little bit of investigation confirmed my suspicions. Both Elandra and Sinera are Thorns. However, there is one problem: There is another Thorn, one whom I have not yet identified."
Remiel folded his arms behind his back, beginning to pace back and forth. "Someone else knew about Charles' injunction. Someone else arranged for Elandra to kill him, and for Sinera to kill Ryven."
He narrowed his eyes. "I do not know for sure who the last Thorn is, but I have my suspicions. Let us go through the suspects one by one:
"I am almost 100% positive that Kurzyk is innocent. He was the first villager to discover the body, and often the one of the first to cast a vote. I am certain he accused me the first day completely at random, and the only reason I accused him in return was so that our votes would cancel each other out. It really had me worried when Elandra added her vote to his, and I nearly informed her of my status--heh--to try to persuade her otherwise. Kurzyk doesn't seem to care about blending in at all, and that's usually an indicator of innocence.
"Likewise, I am nearly certain that Marguerite is innocent as well. She has been extremely quiet up until now, due to--she claims--an illness. Either this is the most devious ploy I have ever heard, or she is telling the truth. I believe she is telling the truth.
"I believe tes11 is also innocent. Prior to last night, I sent both he and Xandi letters, informing them of my suspicions, and urging them to carry on in the event of my expected demise. Xandi, of course, as we all know, was the next target of the Thorns, so she cannot attest to this. Tes11 has not spoken up either, which seems extremely suspicious, I must admit. However, it is possible he has fallen to the same illness currently afflicting Marguerite. So, acting on a hunch, I approached sinera (who did not know, of course, I already knew she was a thorn), and told her I suspected either Kurzyk (who I am sure is innocent) or tes11 (who I wasn't sure about) of being a Thorn. She indicated that she believed tes11 was guilty, thus convincing me that he was, in fact, innocent.
"That leaves only Morningsdreams and Bliss. Although there were certain things morningsdreams did to set off my radar, I believe that the third conspirator--and the mastermind of the Thorns--is, in fact, Bliss. You'll notice that none of the three ever voted against either of the others. Xandi suspected Bliss in the second round of voting, and, lo and behold, fell victim to an attack during the night. A little too obvious, perhaps, but I believe the Thorns are growing overconfident. Also, if you'll remember, Sinera accused Morningsdreams this last time, leading me to believe that morningsdreams is innocent.
"And thus I give you, gentle villagers, your thorns: Elandra, Sinera, and (probably) Bliss."
Remiel finished his speech with an air of exhausted satisfaction. He took a deep breath, fished in his pocket for his corn-cob pipe, filled it with soapy water from a hip flask, and stood back, blowing bubbles, while he awaited the outcome of the voting.