Part 5: Chapter Two - Part 1Chapter Two - Part 1
Shortly before going to sleep for the night, Artemiy received a letter.
The partial misunderstanding has been cleared up
Bachelor Dankovsky has managed to find out the truth. The murderer of Simon Kain, and, therefore, (because the connection between their deaths is obvious) your esteemed Father Isidore Burakh, is an enigmatic disease.
Your good name will soon be slowly restored, brick by brick. Nevertheless, we are swift in warning you that some biased personages will be willfully ignorant to the well-known facts and some fools will not listen to them at all.
Be careful. Each of the three families is playing a game to suit its interests.
Always at your service,
How the letter appeared in his personal effects Artemiy had no idea. It just did. Not thinking too hard about such circumstances, Artemiy went to sleep in the cramped attic of Eva's house.
Day Two, the only one during which, in all outcomes, Haruspex will gain more than he will lose.
Upon waking up, Artemiy found two letters in his personal effects.
Olgimsky Sr.'s invitation
The matter of your inheritance has been sorted out. Come to me for instructions. Be careful.
Short and to the point, the yesterday's more meandering tone was gone. On to the second letter...
I insistently ask you to visit me today, starting from 7 AM. Because of this visit, the usefulness of that, which you may find within your inheritance, may increase exponentially.
Your friend (or, at least, I would like to think so)
P.S. If the information that I have uncovered is correct, then this disease is truly abominable. I get shivers down my spine when I think of what is to come.
The letter seemed rather redundant, since Artemiy spent the night in the same room Dankovsky had. Bachelor, it seemed, would rather write him a long-winded letter than address him directly. Strange timidness from a man, who, yesterday, has sworn to drain him of his blood, drop by drop.
Have you received your father's inheritance?
Artemiy stared at him for a moment they have been in the same attic for the past six hours or so. To be fair, though, Dankovsky did look tired. It looks like he spent the whole night buried in books. Perhaps, he simply didn't pay any attention to the surrounding world. Artemiy decided to humor him.
Why are you so interested in it, exactly?
Why? Because there's sure to be some very important information in it. I, of course, am a skeptic when it comes to this... ancient medicine. In our situation, however, everything can be useful. There might be your father's notes in there, right?
It's possible, yeah.
Right now, I'm studying all the notes on the First Outbreak. If at least one tenth of these, then we are faced with a prospect of a catastrophe. However, it seems that Isidore Burakh has managed to defeat this monstrosity before. If there are any materials in your inheritance on this matter, then they could, very well, save us.
Stanislav Rubin one of your father's pupils, by the way told me that, a couple of years ago, there was an outbreak of a strange disease in this town a disease that had a lot of similar properties with the one that killed Simon Kain.
Bachelor suddenly became lost in his thoughts.
Then, the disease spread in one of the poorest districts and it was only contained due to a sheer miracle. It lasted for about two or three days, but the memories that it left behind reek of such a primal horror that... Well... In any case, Isidore's inheritance can prove to be very useful.
Vlad Olgimsky, who, I believe, is very invested in your affairs, is one of the three most influential people in this town. I believe that, if he wills it, then you will receive your inheritance immediately. In this town, the law is the will of its three rulers. Ask him for it.
I was actually going to see him after you.
When you receive your inheritance, head back to me. I believe that we'll definitely have more to talk about. I think that you will find many a mystery in there and, perhaps, my knowledge can help you shine a light on them. You'll come, right?
A night of intense study seemed to have left Dankovsky with nothing but desperation. It seemed that he was inches away from full-blown panic not a good sign for the fate of the Town. Artemiy left the house and headed to Clot, the Olgimsky family house.
The rainy weather did not make for a walk too comfortable. Besides, the feeling urgency in the air, as well as the smell of tvyr did not allow the rain to remove the air of stuffiness that permeated the town.
Vlad Sr. was dutifully waiting for Artemiy. Having seemingly not moved from the spot at which he was yesterday, he looked like an old, fleshy oak.
I have a number of news, Master Burakh. Most of them are bad, but there is one that is a good one.
Start with the good one, then.
You can officially accept your inheritance. No one will dare to bar you from it. They have no evidence against you. You can take the key from Alexander Saburov. I have no clue how or why he has them, but that is how it is... Those are the god news.
Alexander Saburov? Who is he?
Well, you see I'm not the only one carrying the burden of leadership in our town. The power is divided between the three families Olgimsky family, Saburov family and Kain family. The Saburovs have,within their sphere, the executive power at least, most of the time. The mechanism of enforcement, if you will.
I see. And the bad news?
The bad news are these I've spoken with Saburovs about your case. Well, without any exaggeration, I can that Alexander Saburov is furious. It seems, that he will make the utmost effort to completely and utterly annihilate you regardless of my word or my protection.
How did I manage to deserve such enmity from him?
I don't think that it's his ire you've garnered but, rather, his wife's. Katherine is a Mistress, a woman with mystic gifts... However her personal qualities are, her opinion is respected. In short, she received a prophecy that you will set in motion a great bloodshed. That is the price you have to pay to ascend, or so she says.
Is that how it is? I can assure you that a mass bloodshed wasn't part of my plans.
Oh, I believe you, I do... But, what else is there to say? Alexander trusts his wife much more than me. Saburovs, whose duty is to preserve order, can't be happy with you, having made such a ...discovery about your mission in this town. Alexander, it seems, made it his sworn duty to stop you from fulfilling this...ahem... prophecy.
Is the power of your name enough to stop him?
For now, yes. However, the news of Simon Kain's death, rumours about the start of an epidemic... all of this has blown the lid off of our little town. The people are terrified. Alexander is demanding emergency powers. If he receives them, then I will be unable to help as much as I can help you now. The Clot will not protect you.
What is there to do,then?
We'll hope for the best. In case of trouble, I ordered for a safehouse to be found someplace where you can take shelter and work, in case Saburov receives the powers he vies for and demands that you are given up. It's not the most comfortable place, sure, but it's protected. It will become your home.
What is this safehouse, exactly?
I ordered my son to sort the matter out... He'll tell you and, hopefully, lead you there.
I see. If that is all, I'll head out.
Wait for a bit, this is important. This Bachelor... he has all the power in the town, for now. I don't trust him, it feels as though he's plotting against us. He's a smart one, though, that is the truth... So it's best that you two become friends. Everything that needs to examined, he will do so and offer his ideas on the matter, to boot. I, on my part, will make sure that he doesn't cause any harm.
Hmm... well, I was going to see him after I get my inheritance, anyway. Thank you, boos Vlad.
Oh, don't be too thankful... I've done too little for you. Mad, dangerous times. Talk to Alexander and, perhaps, his wife. Use this short reprieve and however little immunity you have left...
Artemiy was grateful for all the help Vlad provided, but he wished that Vlad wasn't so transparent with his schemes. However much help a person provides, it will still be irritating if the same person is trying to clumsily pull a veil over one's eyes...
The Inheritance of a Servitor
My Father's house is sealed. His property is under arrest. Right now, it is kept under a watchful eye of Alexander Saburov, he is responsible for the order in the city. He will be the one to give me the key to my father's inheritance.
Before heading into the clutches of Saburovs, Artemiy visited Kapella.
The girl was quiet - slightly lost in thoughts, it would seem.
Me and my dad we'll defend you and give you shelter. We trust you.
Do you, now?
I've already heard that Saburov hates you. Katherine has twisted his mind with her prophecies. It seems, that he thinks that you are someone more dangerous than shabnak-adyr. If he receives absolute power, then we will have to hide you. He will demand your surrender.
His power isn't absolute now, is it?
Of course not. As always, there are three ruling families. After mom's death, however, Saburovs' position is stronger because Katherine is the last mistress left. How much longer will I have to wait?
Wait for what?
I am the inheritor of my mother. Time will come and I will take her place in order to grow this town and take care of my people. I told you already, silly.
You'll be a Mistress, just like Katherine?
Katherine is a weak Mistress. She sees the future, yes, but she cannot change anything, or grant power to the people, like Mom. Saburov wants to augment her weakness with his power. Wants to rule alone, with an iron fist.
How is he planning to achieve that?
Under the guise of fighting the epidemic. Have you heard Bachelor's announcement?
I have, I think. About the epidemic?
Yes... If he told the truth, and this rumour will become a reality, then God help us! Then, it's best that we all unite behind someone...
How will this help Saburovs, precisely?
Saburovs, for centuries, have been responsible for handling the administration of this town. It's the traditional role of their family. When everything was going well, they weren't really needed. Now... their hour has struck. I'm sure that he's glad for this epidemic. He'll make us remember the privileges of Saburov family.
When is all this supposed to happen?
Who knows... If Bachelor's suspicions are correct, then it will happen tomorrow. I, however, hope that it won't happen at all...
The prospects were grim, and it wasn't possible for his visit to Saburov to go over smoothly. Still, daylight was wasting, and Artemiy headed out.
The atmosphere in the town was of a decidedly trepidatory nature. Women seemed to hurry about, men were walking with nervous glances. The rumours have already spread, and everyone was bracing for the blow that was to come.
The building looked like a makeshift prison, and the poster on the wall did not serve to make it more reassuring. Artemiy hoped that he wouldn't have to pass by this place too much.
Yet more stairways to heaven... The stories about these things must be truly fascinating but, Artemiy felt, these were excesses that the town just couldn't afford at this point in juncture.
Finally, after a protracted trek, he started to discern what looked like the Saburov Family Home through the fog.
Artemiy was entirely unwelcome in this house, that much is clear. That wasn't a testament to Saburovs' perception of Artemiy, though this house did not look like it would welcome anyone.
The interior was as homely as the interior. Artemiy imagined countless servants bumping into these strangely placed columns that reminded him, very much, of prison bars.
Approaching Saburov, Artemiy noticed that the man looked as if he was slapped across the face by his presence. Artemiy allowed himself a chuckle.
Who let you in here?
The door was open, you know.
So, you have the gall to come here yourself? I thought that you would send someone here. Or, perhaps, you don't think that I know everything about your deeds both past and future?
Future deeds? Go ahead, this should be interesting...
Stop pretending, Burakh! You were born here. Your childhood was spent here. Sometimes, I think I even remember you. You were here even for the Long Battle of the Mistresses Victoria's and Nina's. You know, that Mistresses see the future.
What have the dead Mistresses discerned in my future?
Your future has been discerned by a living Mistress. Katherine Saburov, my wife. She knows the amount of woe that you will bring in the coming days. If only you weren't under Olgimsky's protection... You'd have been in the prison cell already!
Since when is the testimony of an oracle a basis for imprisonment?
I would have imprisoned you on my own, even without the prophecy by my own will. Perhaps, in the capital you may claim your civil freedoms - here, your rights begin and end with the will of the rulers!
Oh, I've understood that very well already...
I know that you are a murderer. Moreover, you are one of the most terrible murderers that the poor citizens of this town had the misfortune to ever encounter. You are accused of premeditated murder of, at least, four people. The death of Simon Kain and your Father's death are also currently being investigated.
You have absolutely no evidence.
I will have it, soon enough! Were it not for Simon's death, were it not for this sudden epidemic... All this chaos... If only my hands were untied... Perhaps, this evening, I will be able to free myself from these ropes, and your patron Olgimsky won't be able to veto my actions anymore.
You know, I'm starting to like Vlad more and more...
Only due to my respect for Bachelor will I be giving you your inheritance. He is, for some reason, convinced of your innocence something that is forgivable, considering that he is a stranger in this town. I will be keeping my eye on your every move. Don't try to hide.
Keep an eye, if you must.
Regardless, you are free to take your possessions. The affairs of the deceased were conducted by some personage by the name of Ospina. She lives not too far from here, in a den at the Raw Structures. Find the road there yourself, if you must. I won't give you a guide - and don't you dare leave the town. Your guilt is almost proven.
Alexander's intense hostility killed any desire to crack jokes that Artemiy may have had. He never liked zealots, so he decided not to tarry long here. He already had the key, now he only had to find the box. Besides, he still had the joy of visiting Katherine ahead of him. Perhaps, she won't be as unpleasant as her husband was? Artemiy delayed the meeting by expanding out his journal entry on the matter of the inheritance.
The Inheritance of a Servitor
Saburov sent me to someone named Ospina, who was conducting the affairs of my father. Perhaps, she can introduce me to his affairs. It's strange that Saburov didn't just give me the key and send me on my way...
Strange indeed, but, perhaps, he doesn't have the evidence he claims to have and is simply hoping that Artemiy will produce more. That must be it, unless there is some other angle that Artemiy is missing... No need for further delays, time to go see Katherine.
What a decidedly dour, garish and all-around unpleasant painting... Why would someone hang something like this in their house? Katherine herself had a dour expression on her face
So it was you, about whom I had that vision... The man, who will carry out a great sacrifice and will spill the great rivers of blood... I get it now...
Speak precisely, if you would.
What torment... Where is that fool, why aren't they bringing the morphine? Isn't there anyone to send for it? And you why are you here? Don't come near me!
Why are you afraid of me?
There was a prophecy... Oh how my temples hurt.... You are destined to drown our town in blood. These are the precise words. You will carry out a great sacrifice. You will spill rivers of blood. You will return into the Earth all of the blood that was taken from it in the past ten years... Leave! Now!
Why would I carry out such a sacrifice?
In order to ascend... and take your rightful place... You will be made to carry out this bloody sacrifice, so that you can fulfill your predestination.
What a collection of empty, vain words...
Dear God, what is happening... I need an injection... Get away! Leave... I need some morphine...
Fine, fine I'm leaving...
The conversation was haphazard, cryptic and entirely unsatisfying for both parties... Was this everything that Alexander based his zealotry on? Damn these people, and damn this town for its foolish ways... Artemiy didn't have to like them, even if he had the duty to protect them.
Exiting the house, Artemiy found a new letter in his personal effects.
Olgimsky Family is covering for you. They didn't give me the location of your hideout they need you alive too much. I, however, don't need the recipes nor the money. You will not escape.
Great, more fury and zeal for him to deal with. No use to worry about it now, though. Time to visit this Ospina.
The rain's wetness has only served to amplify the reek of Apiary. Still, mercifully, the rain stopped just as Artemiy approached it. Turning the corner, he soon found the house he was looking for
The house looked decidedly out of place a strange sight in the place of identical houses placed in winding rows.
The interior of the house felt otherworldly, and Artemiy could swear that heard whispers of voices below as he passed through here.
Ospina regarded him with a facade of timeless indifference that, nevertheless, betrayed a sense of keen interest.
So that's how you look... Haruspex, oinon, inheritor of Servitor Burakh. One of the line of menkhu.
Artemiy was curious of how much Ospina knows.
Menkhu? Who are Menkhu?
Menkhu those who know the lines of the body. Those, who have the right to make incisions. Those, who know how to sever the connections of the body in a way that won't offend the Earth.
Indeed... You know the answers to my questions.
Only through a miracle did I manage to preserve your inheritance. Now, you can accept it in full.
Through a miracle? How so?
Others almost managed to take it away from you. By the orders of those, who hold the power in this town. They managed to steal some of the notes, while I didn't pay attention. You would've received an empty box... and debts. Now, however, you'll receive a heavy one. There it is, right behind me. Do you have the key?
Yes, right here what did these people want, though?
To check the notes, I think. Find the trail of the killer. Do you believe that your father was also killed by the disease?
Well... They said that he had a strange wound in his chest.
Ospina winced when she heard Artemiy say it.
Hmm... So, you've already heard... Yes. They presuppose that this is a wound from the claw of Shabnak-adyg. That's why this manhunt after the woman man-eater began. You've already been told? You have... In vain...
Adyg? What is Shabnak-Adyg?
A demonic being. It's sculpted out of clay, bones and blood. Looks like a human, stuffed with bones. Steppe gives birth to it when it needs a weapon to fulfill the original intention.
I see... Who are you, yourself, exactly?
I am an evil spirit. That is my origin. They call me Ospina. In comparison to Shabnak, I am a relatively harmless being... I sow distress, fear, and awaken the heavy sensation of a time slipping away. Towards you, however, I harbor nothing but sympathy.
Why is that?
I don't know, myself, yet. You shouldn't trust the Big Vlad, though. You can trust his daughter, though. She...she will be a great one. Even if she is born of a foul root, her mother was very good. I pray that the girl takes after her mother. Vlad, on the other hand, is a scoundrel.
That may be, but I am grateful to those who helped me in hard times.
You know, I am glad that you've returned to us.
You are glad?
Yes and no... I see in all this the cruel will of fate. Your father died, and, immediately, there you were. We had great hopes for old Burakh hopes that he failed to justify. You, on the other hand, will absolutely justify them. The Earth made its will known. The Order made its will known, too.
Tell me about the Order.
The Order are your people. Children of Bodkho, the Steppe folk who are toiling here without rest. Out of their own flesh and blood, as well as the bull hides and bones, they, for many generations, have been building this town. The houses grow out of their bones, the trees are feed with their sweat.
How many of them are now?
Eighteen hundred are working in the Abattoir. Another eleven hundred are odongs, they herd the bulls out in the Steppes. Twenty four hundreds are working for Fat Vlad in the factories. A lot of those have disappeared among the folks that came after the Fire.
The one, after which the Apiary was built?
Exactly. That Apiary is closed right now. Sealed from outside, while the doors and windows are guarded by armed men, hired by Olgimsky. Now that you've arrived, however, this state of affairs won't last long.
Me? What am I to do with that?
Oh, don't mind me I'm just being superstitious. I can't hear the Earth the way the Brides can hear it, but I can hear the voice of the Order. I know their feelings. They wanted your Father and, now, they will want you. If they will survive until they find out about you, that is.
Why wouldn't they survive until then?
The infection spreads like wildfire, and there is no escape from it. The entire Order, except for a couple of refugees who were lucky to be outside, are sealed inside the wings of the Apiary.
Who locked them in?
Big Vlad. Said there was a mutiny of some sort. He's lying, of course.
I'll talk to him later.
Ospina grew quiet and that meant it was time for him to open the box with his Father's inheritance. He inserted the key, turned it and opened it.
Inside, he found a respectable sum of money, some notes, some tvyr herbs, two strange figurines made of herbs and a metallic symbol, the likes of which he has seen many times. A Tauro.
This was the strangest item that he had found in his inheritance. It was clearly full of meaning meaning that he could not yet grasp. He decided to talk to Ospina about the herbs first.
Do you know where and how to collect these herbs?
If you walk around willy-nilly, then you won't gather much. One needs to know the places, though, this year, there is an exceeding amount of Tvyr and Savyur out in the Steppe. Inconceivable amounts, really. Just like it was eleven years ago, when they were building the Cold Tower. It's simpler to ask the Gatherers, really.
Gatherers? Who are they?
A caste in its own right. All of them are, usually, Worms. In truth, there aren't many of them left. Some time ago, they had a war between themselves, of a sort. Killed each other, when someone started buying secrets from them. There was this fad here smoky Tvyr cocktail... That's when they started vying for it and... Well, you know...
Why do you call them Worms, though?
Well... Worms are the children of Bodkho, too like humans. They're simpler, but closer to Earth. They feel the soil better, speak with the herbs kinder. Tvyr grows differently from the rest of the herbs, you know. Every blade of it has its own name and character. It needs to be known, pampered, cared for.
Where can I find them?
On the edge of the town, there are three Worms... They were waiting for someone's death, staking someone out. He was trying to escape from here yesterday, you know... I can show you where to look for them, and, after that, you're on your own... They don't usually sit in one place, except at night, when they sleep...
Thank you, Ospina.
She showed him the location of the Worm tents on the map. It became clear to Artemiy that he met one of these Worms yesterday. Good, that means he already knew one of them. This would prove useful later, or so Artemiy thought.
He was getting ready to leave when he dropped one of the herbal figurines. Upon picking it up, he noticed that its herbal components were meticulously spun strands of tvyr. The two figurines were made of different herbs, put together in different order. This was clearly important, and Artemiy consulted the notes in the inheritance. Soon enough, it became clear that these figurines were, in fact, the recipes for tvyr remedies.
Here he is, before me the one Sought-For. Here he is, the Fiduciary, marked by the sign of Tauro. He is sick, he is dying. He is chest-deep in the Earth.
The affairs that my father didn't have time to finish will be concluded by me. I don't know who the one Sought-For is, but I already know how to prolong his life.
They started talking about the epidemic of Sand Fever. I don't know who's dying yet, but I already know the cause. The enemy has returned an enemy that has already been defeated by my Father once before. He didn't leave this box behind to give me his material fortunes, after all. It doesn't just contain the sign of an unfinished duty.
It contains the knowledge, the recipes of remedies, the key to creating a panacea. Panacea that is the true cure for the one Sought-For, the Fiduciary, marked by the sign of Tauro. I do not know who is dying, yet, but I already know how to return him to life.
There are two paths before me that I must tread. To find out who is marked by the Tauro is the first. Without wasting time, to find out the recipe of the Panacea is the second.
It is time to act.
First things first, Artemiy had to find out more about these remedies.
Tell me more about these remedies, if you would...
They have many various properties. In our situation, the most precious of roles that they may play is the role of medicine that is criminally absent from the local pharmacies. Some increase your immunity, while others can dull your pain and decrease your hunger or fatigue.
Do the pharmacies really not have any medicine?
Some do, but it's usually bad or expired. Someone has, recently, bought out everything that was brought in from the Capital. I wonder who would've needed all that medicine. It could've been useful. Tvyr, after all, isn't a healing herb. Earth is not for the man, but the man is for the Earth.
I disagree with you there. However, can you tell me more about Tvyr?
It transforms anything it touches. If you want to practice the same art your Father did, then you should beef up your stocks of the herb. There are stronger herbs out there, you know. White Whip, for example.
What does the White Whip do?
White Whip is ever the enigma. It's almost impossible to find out in the Steppe on your own, by the way it's best to ask the Gatherers. What properties does it have, though, I don't recall. One needs to know the recipes, and much depends on the Tvyr you use.
Every blade of Tvyr has its own personality, that is known. All of them are different, unique. All types of it, however, have the same commonalities. Thus, even if you don't know the life of each and every herb, you can try to make a remedy out of them at your own peril, of course. There will be an effect, one way or another.
I will take this advice, and many others you've given me. Thank you very much, Ospina.
She closed her eyes and nodded. It was difficult, but Artemiy had finally done it. He has come into the power, vested into him by his Father. Still, there were many blanks left to fill.
The Inheritance of a Servitor
Yes, there are a lot of confusing things here. Not so much in terms of chirurgy, but in terms of chemistry... It would be wise to ask the Bachelor's opinion on this, I think. Let him speak his mind.
Sound advice, especially for one given to himself. Artemiy headed out.
These were the factories where his people toiled... Why would Olgimsky seal the Apiary, Artemiy wondered. He decided not to press the issue quite yet, seeing as he was the only powerful patron that Artemiy had, but it was something that he would have to get to the bottom of eventually.
After an hour of walking, Artemiy finally arrived to the Stone Yards.
Bachelor was silent and looked like he was about to drop from exhaustion. Still, he noticeably perked up when he saw Artemiy.
Well? Were there any notes in the inheritance?
Can I see them?
I can tell you myself. They were recipes of tvyr mixtures. I don't think he gave them to the sick folks, not in this form. I think he used them as ingredients in preparing the remedies.
Dankovsky fell silent first, in disappointment, but, as he thought more, new plans formed in his head. His expression said it all.
Curious. Does that mean, that Isidore Burakh was creating these natural... well... reagents? Did he distill them, or did he extract the chemicals from them in some other way? Did he use them to cleanse the blood to create a vaccine? Hmm... Damn it - who knows what it was exactly...
A lot of people would kill for the secrets of these mixtures, oinon.
Yes, well I was expecting more... But, no matter. Let's sort these notes out maybe, we can use these recipes to our advantage. We'll do more together than apart, you know. On to the next matter I've heard that you have been enjoying the patronage of the Olgimsky family?
That is correct, yes.
The Elder Vlad seems a tad too busy right now, but the Younger Vlad seems to be a decidedly reasonable and useful fellow. Ask him if there is equipment in this town, by the means of which you can create one of these mixtures. I'm sure that he knows of some sort of a distiller that you can use.
I'm sure he does...
If you figure out how to synthesize these reagents or, at least, make something to work with, bring it to me. I'll run some tests and we'll figure out how we can use them.
Alright, that settles it. I'll be back when I have something.
The storm was coming, but Artemiy was getting closer and closer to the tools that would let him brave it. Before going to Vlad Jr. in order to ask him about the hideout and the distilling apparatus, Artemiy would rest. For now, he still had time to do so.