Part 2: Chapter One - Part 2Chapter One Part 2
Turning the street, Artemiy decided to have a walk to the local theater.
Stretching out on one of the benches allowed Artemiy to take stock of his own state. The tiredness has become worse, he was fairly close to collapsing. His health was doing slightly better, but he could still use some patching up. He recalled one of the masks' words something about local drunks carrying medical supplies and craving for water? Artemiy check the trash can closest to his bench and, sure enough, there were two empty bottles in there. He pocketed them and went further on his scavenger hunt.
The local park had more and, soon enough, Artemiy had a healthy supply of bottles and a strew of other various garbage lining his pockets. A conveniently placed water pump allowed him to fill the bottles up. Finding a menacing, hungover-looking fellow wasn't particularly hard.
A very useful bandage for 30 minutes of easy, albeit not very tidy work. There was still a little time, so Artemiy traipsed around for a bit more he was starting to take to dumpster diving. Clean hands sometimes need to be dirtied, he knew that all too well.
Soon enough, however, it was time to visit Vlad Sr.
The interior was cozier than the warehouses and the graveyards that Artemiy met the day in.
It also seemed that Olgimsky wore his closer ties to the steppe folk on his sleeve. Or, rather, on the sleeve of his guestroom.
Vlad Sr., himself, was clearly expecting Artemiy.
I can guess who it is before me... I know about your tragic loss, my boy. I am Vladislav Olgimsky, boos.. I don't imagine you remember me, do you? At your service, of course at your service... I didn't think you were still so young...
I'm not particularly young. Or, perhaps, you expected to see an old man?
No, no... Your father, however, was very old... I simply thought that the two you must look similar.
You were expecting me, were you?
Since not too long ago, yes... A certain lady, whose flair one can trust with certain certainty, announced that you will arrive in the coming days... But we will talk about that later. I am glad for our meeting... Artemiy Burakh.
I am the eldest in our line now. You may call me servitor or Haruspex.
Vlad Sr., rather pointedly, ignored Artemiy's last statement.
Artemiy Burakh... Yes, Isidore's death is an irreplaceable loss. Truly irreplaceable. However, seeing you before me... I'm not co certain in that anymore. Forgive the old man a callous joke, if you would... It pains me to tell you, but the death of your beloved father is only the beginning of your woes, Master Burakh.
Some hoodlums attacked me when I was getting off the locomotive.
I've heard, I've heard. These scoundrels, however, weren't waiting for someone to get off the train, but for one who wanted to get on it. You see, they were after a killer, who already has done plenty around here recently. They say, your father's death is on his hands, too...
You mean to tell me that my father was murdered?
That is one hypothesis, at the very least. Strange death... Although, he was waiting for it, yes? He let you know beforehand, didn't he... Died this very night, too. Hardly a coincidence for people, overcome with fear. They'd rather tear apart the one responsible than look for clues the one responsible being you, of course.
And how am I to be involved, exactly? I've only just arrived.
The trouble is, that the people at the station thought you to be a murderer. Now, they've spread your features around. You are a remarkable, easily noticeable person, after all... And the mass hysteria makes for a good soil for accusation of a fast and loose nature. Fueled, again, by the visions of an influential lady.
You've mentioned her before who is this influential lady?
A well-respected personage. Do you remember the Saburov family? Perhaps not, but Katherine isn't much older than you. Katherine, Alexander Saburov's wife, has some remarkable powers... prescient, you would say. No one doubts them, for they were tested many times over.
Has she foretold my arrival?
Not just that... Many horrors has she foretold in relation to you. Nothing concrete, mind you, and, compared to my deceased wife's powers, Katherine's powers aren't exactly... foolproof. They're enough, however, to rile up the fools after you.
Does the entire town suspect me?
Suspect? No. If only they'd suspect... They're certain, my dear Master Burakh, absolutely certain. You're being followed, and, until this panic dies down... you can consider the evidence against you to be irrefutable. Besides, the dead at the station tell their own tales.
What am I being accused of?
Of the death of those you've actually killed. You know, one can't prove self-defense in this situation. That's half your trouble, however. You're also being blamed for the death of Master Simon Kain, the ruler of this city. That's much more serious. And, of course, you're blamed for the murder of your Father, Isidore. That's three dire accusations.
I'm blamed for my Father's murder? That's completely insane!
Please, understand - everything has already tied itself into a knot. They're not looking for different murderers the markings seem all the same, as do the circumstances. They met with each other yesterday, too. What else is there to say? Where there's smoke, there's fire. No time for deliberations at all the murderer must be apprehended before he escapes!
I've only just arrived! On a locomotive, too.
Who was its driver, if you don't mind me asking? You won't remember, of course you won't. I know, however. My specialty, if you will. He won't confirm your alibi, trust me. He's half-human, and half-deaf, to boot. Besides, nobody knows how long you were here in secret. The prophecy was made ahead of time, after all.
I wouldn't wish such circumstances on an enemy...
The death of a ruler has riled up the people and made the Kain family that much more decisive... And one is better off not toying with these hawks... A heinous crime patricide. One that you are yet to prove yourself innocent of. You're an outlaw.
How do I fix this, then?
Restore your reputation. The people here are simple, you see. Quick to anger, quick to mercy. You can rewrite your past many times over if you do the right things... No one will even remember. I wouldn't recommend any more murder, though. Not a lot of people around here, someone is bound to notice.
When I'm attacked, I defend myself.
Please understand, these poor folk on the streets are not to be blamed! Don't judge them too harshly. They have been shown the absolute evil for the first time in many, many years. They will change their mind, just give them time. Right now, you need to receive your inheritance, don't you? To do this, you need to prove your innocence first, right?
My blessing won't be enough. These events have restarted many a feud, such a move would only be seen as more plotting on my part. Here's what I'm thinking the Kains have entrusted the investigation to a strange man, a Bachelor of medicine. He arrived quite suddenly, from a faraway place, as if he knew what was about to happen... He is the one going after the killer for them...
You're saying I should meet with him?
They say he's rather fierce... If you would've found him before he finds you, then, maybe, he won't be shooting you on sight. I, myself, will also do my part. I'd let you stay here, but I'm fairly certain that someone will come for you soon.
Alright then I'll go talk to this Bachelor.
Wait until the evening, if you would. He doesn't know whom he's looking for, yet. He'll only shoot first and ask questions later. You should work on rebuilding your name, instead. For now, go see my daughter. She's a smart girl... she has things to tell you.
I will take your good advice, thank you.
All this was a lot to take in, so Artemiy took out his now frequently used journal, and wrote down the pertinent bits.
The Murderer of Simon, The Murderer of Isidore
They say I'm guilty of patricide. The entire town is against me. Who will agree to speak with me? Who will tell me how to prove my innocence? Olgimsky tells me, that his children Victoria and Vlad Jr. - can give me some advice...
Artemiy closed his journal and stepped outside. The entrance to Victoria's wing was on the eastern side of the house.
The space inside was a bit more open
Victoria herself, on the other hand, didn't look too open to Artemiy's presence.. for now.
Who are you? Why is there blood on you?
I am Artemiy Burakh, son and inheritor of Isidore Burakh.
Ah, so you are Artemiy Burakh. Haruspex, right? We have been waiting you for a while... I am Victoria. My father is Vladislav Olgimsky. My friends call me Kapella.
Are we going to be friends?
Of course! I mean, I hope so. Do you believe in premonition? Or preternatural senses in general?
I have a feeling that it won't be two weeks until our entire world will fall and be reborn anew. I will create new life and will sacrifice myself for the future. You will help me, right?
I hope you won't have to sacrifice anything just yet.
You have become a victim of a horrible mistake. I want to reveal something to you, however. You will need this in order to restore your name. I will give you the names of several people. All of them children. Don't judge them according to their age, however. Some of them will help you immensely, trust me.
How will they do that?
All of them had frequent meetings with Isidore in the last couple of days. Perhaps, some of them know the identity of his true killer. Others, on the other hand, know that you are innocent. They are Adherents, too, you know. They won't be hasty in blaming the son for the death of his father... even if the clues say otherwise.
I'm glad to hear that.
They can help you figure out how your father spent his day last night. I only know, that, before his death, he spent a lot of time out in the Steppe and returned only late in the evening. Then, they all went to secretly visit him.
Why did they do that?
Do you know why they were so close with your father these last couple of days?
The cause is a sad one. These children, my close friends and allies, are being hounded by death.
What ails them? Some sort of mortal illness?
No, but trust me. Your father, for one, trusted me immediately. You know, that he was wise and didn't trust easily, and he still checked on them every day. Such are the lines of their fate. The probability of death is higher than the probability of life.
Did my father foresee his death for the same reason?
I don't know...
What led you all to think this way?
Preternatural senses. Not just mine, mind you. Everyone was in agreement. Your father was, Simon was I still can't get used to them being dead. Maria, Katherine. Everyone agreed. Please, take care of them, like your father took care of them. They must live! Simon and Isidore died, and that means that all of them are in the Death's shadow!
What can I do for them?
Just... don't forget about them and, if you can intervene in their fates, do so without hesitation. You aren't a simple man, either. You are the son of your father.
That's all there is to me, really...
Kapella handed him a scrap of paper, with seven names on it.
Whatever happens, these people must survive. Their fate is tightly intertwined with mine. Perhaps, in their hands, lies the key to my victory.
Quite obviously, Artemiy has already met some of the children on this list, but not all of them. The names felt important all these people carried a great weight. Within their hearts burned a colourful flame that Artemiy had to preserve in the coming days, whatever the cost.
It is scary and painful when you have been falsely accused, but there is only one escape do more good and do less evil.
You know, what my mother told me? About good and evil fate? If the evil fate touches a man, she jumps on his shoulders and leads him down its own path further and further until he throws her off. The farther she leads him, the harder it is to return from that path.
That isn't anything new, really.
No. Evil fate gives you more and more evil deeds, so that you act on them more and more. Even an innocent deed given to you by evil fate may turn out to be evil, if she sits on your shoulders.
You think, she's sitting on my shoulders right now?
Of course! It isn't likely that you'll be able to do any good deeds now but, at least, be afraid of the evil ones. I can even tell you where the evil deeds await you today. You trust my senses, don't you?
Yes. Tell me.
There is danger for you today in the graveyard, in the warehouses and in the steppe. Don't know what kind, but there is a chance that you will do evil things there today. It's better that you don't go there today at all. And don't listen to bad advice.
I'll think about that.
Many good people have turned away from you. The evil folk, on the other hand, are drawn to you. In this emptiness, you will be tempted to be closer to them. Don't make that mistake!
Artemiy mentally patted himself on the back for clearly managing to avoid some of the dangers foretold for him. The conversation was helpful, but Artemiy was at the end of his rope. He desperately needed some sleep.
Can I rest here for a while?
Of course you can. You can sleep on my bed... What about your house, though?
I don't have a house in this town, you're mistaken.
No, that isn't right. What about your father's house the house in which Isidore lived. In the heart of the Curriers.
Show me where it is.
Wait, no! It's best that you don't go there right now. Because of what happened there, of course. I think I see it now it's chock-full of Saburov's people. It's best you wait until they come to an agreement with my father.
I'll be waiting for news from you.
Before he would visit his father's house, Artemiy would visit the son of Vlad Olgimsky, Vlad Jr. First, however, he would grab a few hours of sleep that he so desperately needed.
Upon waking up three hours later, Artemiy found a letter in his belongings
Regarding Stakh Rubin
Your childhood friend, Stanislav Rubin now, the best and most devoted student of your father, has sworn to kill you when he found out that you have killed your father for his inheritance.
Beware of him. This man is blinded by rage, desperation, vengeance and self-righteousness. He is very dangerous.
Always at you service,
The letter was puzzling, to say the least, but Artemiy intended to take the advice. With new energy, he stepped outside.
Track 2 The Knotts
Going to Vlad Jr.'s place meant going back near the Train Station
Having found the right house, Artemiy was about to enter it before he noticed some rather strange milk jugs on the cart.
As he entered, Artemiy could only hope that the blood belonged to an animal
The place wasn't cozy it looked more like a storage shed than anything else
Vlad Jr, like everyone in this town, was expecting him
You, who is before me I know you. You are Artemiy Burakh, right? This is lucky. In you, we hope to find support.
That depends on what you want me to support, exactly.
Our family has... big plans, shall I say the first of which involves your recently deceased parent.
Then, I hope your plans coincide with mine.
Not the best start of the conversation from Vlad Jr. Nor the most delicate one. The young man clearly lacked his father's tact.
So, Isidore left you an inheritance. That's a mixed blessing if there ever was any, I'd say. I think, he wasn't very rich, was he?
I'd say he was downright poor. Still, I'd say that it's blessing enough.
Oh no, I didn't mean money. Knowing your esteemed parent, I'd venture to guess that it isn't just money that are in his inheritance. It is the inheritance of Burakhs, after all. Traditions of a family of healers let one presuppose that the inheritance consists mostly of... immaterial treasures. Isn't that so?
How do you know this, exactly?
Oh, but this is a very small town. Get used to it all mysteries ,except those, for which one pays with lives, become public domain. Something always leaks through, somewhere, though the traditions of the Steppes are guarded more closely than others.
Well that's reassuring...
Speaking of traditions I was always fascinated how you Burakhs were faithful to your obligations. For your entire family, obligations are a sacred thing. In particular, that can be said about your debts. An Oinon, a Wise Man, can't let the dead carry their debts into their graves.
That is correct. If that happens, the the line of the servitors loses its right to its hidden knowledge. A Haruspex with an unclean conscience isn't a Haruspex. That's how it was explained to me, at least.
Exactly right. You, however, don't seem to know the local customs very well, even though you come from a local family. You were taken away when you were just a child.
You seem to know more than I do. Why is that?
I'm simply fond of local folklore, that's all.
I'm talking about the private affairs of my father. How is it that you know what I will find in his inheritance?
Simple, logical conclusions allow me to guess that, within his inheritance, with all the priceless knowledge, unique concoctions and, of course, other material goods, you will find an obligation a terrifying one, at that.
What kind of an obligation?
A very risky obligation one of a very dangerous sort... If I were in your place, I would think twice before accepting this legacy. It seems that you, very well, may find a poisonous snake in this cherished gift basket.
Does this advice come strictly from the goodness of your heart?
Of course. I am the heir of the richest family around here. My interest in this matter is minuscule. I'm simply sorry for you. You were awaiting riches but, instead, you will receive a whole lot of trouble.
What do you know, master Vlad?
Only that, yesterday, this burden has broken your father's back. I don't believe the tales about that woman the man-eater. No, I've heard the promise that he made. Promise that he has sworn to keep, on the honour of his line that is, on your honour as well. This is why he summoned you not because he was close to death, you see.
Do you know this for sure?
No. These are, simply, my observations and musings that allow me to put the whole picture together.. I am an observant fellow, after all. Regardless, that is my version of what happened. I can appreciate your eagerness, and I admire your principles, but you also have my sympathies. Think about it.
I am thankful, master Vlad, but I've already made my decision.
Vlad Jr. nodded. He clearly had an angle, but Artemiy couldn't quite glean its nature. Besides, his concern seemed genuine enough, so Artemiy didn't begrudge him too much for it. Every single damned person in this town had an angle, after all.
Having spoken with the Olgimsky children, it was time to visit the Stone Yard and talk to the man who trades in blood, as per Laska's request. He decided to cut through an otherwise unremarkable steppe and save time, this way. Coming up to the Stone Yard, however, Artemiy noticed a strange sight.
Artemiy knew quite enough about both architecture and physics to know that this structure defied certain natural laws. Isidore has always told him that defying the Law of Nature carried within itself a grave price. What was the price paid for this transgression, he wondered...
Finding the right house proved more troublesome than usual, for it was a rather unremarkable house.
The houses didn't carry within itself the grace that the living spaces of Adherents had.
Artemiy, checked the house room by room until he found the nice man he was looking for.
I think your face looks familiar...
I simply look like my father, that's all.
What do you want, botherer?
They say that you store donor blood?
No. You should know that one can't store blood outside of a living organism...
A wounded man needs blood.
If you're ready to give your blood, then do so. I'll pack it up for you.
I'm ready, that's why I came.
The procedure didn't serve to improve Artemiy's health, but, at least, he had what he came for. He made a note for himself in order to remember to give it to Laska.
The Surviving Factory Worker
I decidedly do not understand how can one perform a blood transfusion in these circumstances, but Laska, the daughter of the deceased Gravekeeper, took it upon herself to perform it. I simply need to bring her the blood I've managed to procure.
With this task done, it was, soon, time to start visiting his Adherents in order to finally figure how his father Isidore spent his last day alive.