Part 10: Chapter Five - Part 1Chapter Five - Part 1
Artemiy came to many hours later, at 2 P.M, odd, quiet whispers having woken him up. It was, already, the fifth day. 2 PM, to be precise.
The clouds continued to assail him, and he must've blacked out once more, because the next thing he recalled was him standing in an open cell with the corpses of two patrolmen in front of him.
His vision was extremely blurred, and he was running a fever both likely to be results of the infection. Artemiy staggered out of his cell, in search of exit.
Did he kill these two? That was, apparently, the case, since the revolver now had only one bullet in the cylinder, while Artemiy found it with three bullets in it. Still, he did not recall killing these two, and that disturbed him.
What's one more dip? thought Artemiy as he covered his lower face with his elbow and waded in. Curiously enough, it did noticeably worsen his condition and made him hear a strange sort of whisper once more. The exit, however, was in sight and soon enough he was out.
He was still near the factories good. The first stop would be dropping by his hideout and seeing what he can do stem the tide of infection.
The small amount of Dead Broths that he made was there, and he was planning to use them having the knowledge of their effect first-hand would be useful. In fact, getting infected could prove to be a blessing in disguise and allow him to combat the disease more effectively.
Artemiy reached into the big wooden chest where he kept his materials and, sure enough, there they were. He took one of the bottles and drank the strange bouillon in one gulp. It was, single-handedly, the most disgusting thing he ever imbibed in his life. It didn't make him feel better, too in fact, it made him feel much worse. Artemiy collapsed onto his bed with the intention of sleeping through whatever was left of this day.
He dropped his pack on the ground and was about to lay down when he noticed a number of letters fall out of it as it hit the ground. With a groan, he reached down and began going through them.
Isidore Burakh's Diary: Excerpt on Dead Broths
The substance that we call Dead Broth acts as a primitive antibiotic. After imbibing the Dead Broth, the blood of the imbiber is enriched and starts fighting back against the disease. Unfortunately, this substance is far from an actual panacea. Only the luckiest of coincidences allow Dead Broth to completely defeat the infection (Me, Rubin).
The dead tissue was combined with mixtures Amber, Malachite and Basalt.
Basalt: Brown Tvyr + Black Tvyr + Savyur. Immunity 80 / Harm 15.
Malachite: Savyur (3) + Brown Tvyr. Immunity 100/ Harm 15.
The infection is concentrated in circulatory organs. Liver unpredictable results. Blood the cleanest of materials. Rubin proposed Arkh. - deemed unsuitable.
19 - IX Blood of Bud. - enriched, begins to consume the infection, then nothing?
27 IX Blood II being enriched, but too slowly.
2X Anml. Blood something else! Blocks spread? Does not consume the disease.
An environment with the strongest concentration of microbes is required. Try more! Treatment of organs, stricken with infection, by the mixtures from the Thick Group may, in the end, provide one with an antiserum broth. It might heal one, who may be in the latest stages of the Sand Fever.
My students already call it a Panacea. Let us sing preliminary praises to the one who will manage to create it.
It was quite strange that a page from his diary found its way to him even if he didn't take the time to study his father's notes the previous day. It must've been fated for him to find that page, regardless of his circumstances. He picked up the next letter.
On infected Adherents
With this note, you will be officially informed about the following sanitary measures.
Considering the fact that certain denizens of the town (the Adherents) that are playing a special part in the town's events are constantly visited by the people of various callings and occupations, (your two colleagues included), and are always trying, with their actions, to fill the void left by your and your colleagues' forced or absentminded inaction, the executive of committee of the Executors have made the following decisions:
1. If the Adherent gets sick, the door to his abode will be guarded by an Executor.
2. While the Adherent is conscious, the Executor is responsible for passing mail, food and medicine to the sick one.
3. In exceptional cases, one-time visitations of the diseased will be allowed. In order to bring the sick one into a state, suitable for communications, the Executor will accept from the visitor strong antibiotic for use by the infected.
4. Medicine that would cure the sick one of their infection is accepted by the Executor in the same manner.
e.c. of Executors.
A detailed list of minutia that Artemiy hoped he wouldn't have to deal with if his actions are swift, then none of his adherents will ever be endangered.
The next letter was obviously from Dankovsky.
Results of the analysis of the mysterious blood
Whoever the blood, stolen by Rubin, belonged to, the result is looking good. The new vaccine is working better than yesterday's. It does provide only temporary protection, even if it lasts longer. If you're planning on having a prolonged exposure to the disease, then use the blue vaccine.
Tests have shown that Rubin's methods and, by the same virtue, your Father's methods are highly effective. I'm full of enthusiasm and, thus, am confident in your coming success.
This blue vaccine that Dankovsky spoke of would've been highly useful last night, but, alas, one shouldn't cry over spiled milk. This covered all the letters from last night, but he had two new ones.
Bachelor's Invitation. Live environment (Important!)
I've found it. I believe that a live environment, with the antibodies that you so sorely require, may exist. It is a terrible decision, but you're already used to those it takes after your family's tradition, in a manner of speaking. Come, we'll have a talk about it.
I beg of you do not dally, put all other matters aside! The state of my affairs is worsening, there is very little time left.
The matter seemed urgent, and Artemiy would go to him immediately, but not before finishing the last letter, which must have been fairly important as well.
We hereby announce that anyone who catches a rat (those of a special sort of liveliness are especially prized) can use one to his profit at this address Factory warehouse Number 2. Confidentiality is guaranteed.
This clearly was some sort of a dumb joke that Artemiy wanted no part in. Besides, he didn't have time to gamble anyway.
With the world not letting him rest, Artemiy headed to Dankovsky's place of residence, though not before making a small stop.
Dropping by Notkin's place to get the map of the infection was getting more and more routine.
Everyone at the Warehouse was quite busy and didn't have much to say yet again Notkin included. He did, however, hike the price of the map up to 1000 coins. Cursing, Artemiy headed out and walked in the direction of Stone Yard.
The disease continued to ravage the Knots, taking over the Heart, Spine and Rib. The Folds and the Womb were just shaking off the infection, too.
The trek was harder on Artemiy than in the previous days, due to the infection. Luckily for him the fever was going down a result of the Dead Broth finally working, perhaps?
The Folds were shaking off the effects of the infection, inviting the Marauders in, just like the Curriers did the day before.
Artemiy was about to enter Eva Yan's residence when he received yet another letter. The postman was clearly working very hard that day.
Vlad Jr.'s Invitation
I have a matter to discuss with you an urgent one. It is about my well.
Vlad Olgimsky Jr.
Short and to the point, unlike many other letters that Artemiy received today. Artemiy proceeded inside.
You were quite lucky to escape your prison. Lucky indeed, but for how long?
I wonder who could've wanted me behind bars so badly...
It was sarcasm - Artemiy knew perfectly well that it was Saburov's doing, but it was lost on Dankovsky.
All these sorts of initiatives come from the commandant. I will try to use whatever influence I might have on Alexander to shield you from further pursuit, but I can't promise nothing.
No worries, I'll be grateful even without any guarantees.
I was looking for you...
You were? Why?
We need the diseased tissue with a high concentration of infection. It would be best, if this tissue would come from a heart. A live heart, at that. The time from extraction to examination must not exceed half an hour. The stage of the infection must be very early the earlier, the better.
Heart? Why the heart, exactly?
Outside of its environment, the microbe weakens or outright dies very quickly. We need a sample of bacteria in its most active stages. Rubin's experiments with... well, never you mind that. What you need to know is that the heart is the environment, where the bacteria spreads exceedingly fast and remains active for a very long time.
I see... Of what interest would the heart be to me, though?
I need a sample of infection, and you need a sample of antibodies. I believe that both of those things exist in the blood of a person, who is not yet consumed by the disease not yet consumed, because the antibodies would still hold the sickness at bay.
Curious do you believe that human bodies can fight the Sand Fever, oinon?
Not usually, no, but there is a rumour that some of the steppe folk are not dying from the illness - butchers, the dancers, those bull herders, whatever their damned name is... It doesn't mean that they aren't sick it simply means that, for whatever reason, the disease does not progress nearly as fast in them. I'm sure that there is something in their blood that keeps it at bay.
I see what you're driving at here... Butchers, brides and odonkhe... I have to wonder why, though...
Indeed, there is clearly a pattern here. It's a shame that most of them are locked up in the Apiary now. I wonder, if all the thousands that are locked in there are healthy... Would you... no, nevermind I'll be the one to check on that.
You won't find any butchers right now everyone who broke the blockade has ran away.
No... I've heard that not everyone made it out. I know of one rather poisonous personage, who is working on concealing these escapees. Her name is Ospina. You can also find the Steppe dancers at the pub, but it is Andrey Stamatin's domain I doubt that he would let you open them up right then and there... Maybe, you'll be able to spot one of the brides outside?
This wasn't a cheerful task Artemiy was tasked with protecting people and now he would be butchering them for a cure. Still, there didn't seem to be any other way to advance the fight with the disease.
Very well... I'll try and find someone suitable...
The Quivering Heart
Bachelor has divined that the only place where we can obtain the proper samples of the Sand Fever is a living, human heart. Something in the Steppe Folk's blood keeps the spreading of the disease at bay something that may be precisely the thing to help create the panacea. Would Ospina give up one of her refugees for that? Would Andrey give up one of his dancers for that?
Before Artemiy would get on this task, he would visit Vlad Jr. and see what sort of business he had to discuss with him.
The source of the strange orange hue that overtook the districts that have thrown off the disease, was still unknown to Artemiy. It did, however, feel suffocating like a strange sort of vacuum, born out of an absence of something essential.
Slowly but surely, the trek was becoming easier for Artemiy. Perhaps, this infection wouldn't be too big a deal for him after all.
Vlad Jr.'s little hideout still stood where it previously was, hiding from the town in the shadow of the station.
Do you see? The work has stopped at the most inopportune of moments...
Vlad Jr. gestured with a sad sigh to the well.
The ground collapsed under the workers. When they ventured out into the opening, they found a manhole, of sorts. The lower surface of this manhole looks to be of the same sort of toughened crust the we've encountered every time we tried to dig a well.
Every time? Interesting I didn't know that there were many attempts at this...
Oh, indeed there were. We've tried many time to dig a well each time unsuccessfully. Didn't get a drop from the Earth. Back then, everyone thought that there is some sort of plate underneath the town out of caked sand or, even, basalt. The folk do come up with all sorts of stuff.. I have another theory, though...
So - what is down there, exactly?
An entire cavern. Those slackers were telling me that they saw some sort of light down there, and heard some moans and low-pitched singing. All hogwash, of course. They're very superstitious, these workers... Now, they refuse to go down there - for all the money in the world, too. There isn't a brave soul between all of them it's a sacrilege for them, once more.
A sacrilege? Why?
Why? For the same reasons folk are forbidden from opening up the dead bodies, of course... This time, they say that we have, unlawfully and crudely, opened up the body of the Earth. Their sudden discovery reminded them that Mother Bodkho is a living being just like any other... Do you, too, happen to believe that the cavern is a part of its digestive tract?
Of course not perish the thought! It's obviously a part of its circulatory system!
The folk in this town weren't good with sarcasm or, perhaps, Artemiy just wasn't that good at it.
If you would go down there and find out precisely what sort of cavity it is, I would be deeply indebted to you.
How much are you willing to pay for such an expedition?
Seven thousand. That is all that I can put towards it today... Also, two recipes I've bought them, when the Worms were killing their traitors.
That seems appropriate you've got a deal.
Vlad gave him some lantern oil and set him on his merry way down the well.
Vlad Jr. has cut open the Earth's hide. I don't imagine that he expected to find life inside that opening otherwise, he wouldn't have been so surprised to hear talk of moans coming from inside that cut. He is offering a good reward for a thorough examination of the exposed innards.
The walls were solid to the touch, even if they looked like spongy flesh. Even with that in mind, the visage was still quite unnerving.
Further into the tunnel, Artemiy felt a gust of wind sweep past him. What followed on the heels of that wind was a chant loud and booming, at first, but quiet afterwards. The chanting voice, without any question, belonged to Artemiy's father, Isidore.
Track 11 Isidore's Voice
The language that Isidore's voice spoke wasn't a language that Artemiy knew, but was, rather one that Artemiy knew of. It was the language of the Order, the Steppe folk, to whom the Burakhs have always been beholden.
The chorus was vacillating in volume at times loud and booming and whispering a second later. Quite obviously, the place made for an unnerving journey, causing Artemiy to be relieved when he spotted a brightly lit opening at the end of one tunnels.
The opening, however, contained a child-sized rat in a suit that was brandishing a cigarette in a mouthpiece .
Aren't you a Burakh? Indeed... Indeed, you are one. What did you expect?
Hold on a moment! What sort of a creature are you?
Me? A prophet. Yes... I am a prophet.
A prophet? Prophesy my future, then.
Oh, it's as simple as a shrug. It is rather unhappy, though. Are you sure you want to know?
You will be loved. You will spill rivers of blood. You will think long and hard about what sacrifice to make. You will, inevitably, make a mistake. You will want to sever yourself from Bachelor's path and, thus, will make a miscalculation. Then, you will disappear. That is all. As I said simple.
Not very long, I see. What are you doing here, anyway?
Don't you hear your Father?
I do, but I don't believe it - it must be some sort of trick.
Hm... You didn't listen hard enough, it seems. Listen some more, then!
Isidore's voice grew louder perhaps, even angrier and more scornful. It seemed to coalesce around Artemiy, pushing on him with increasing force.
What do you want? Why are you desecrating the memory of the dead?
Desecrating? Who is the one doing the desecrating here? Look me in the eyes!
The meek rat's voice thundered across the tunnels surely, even Vlad Jr. heard it on his end. The pressure was becoming too much. Artemiy was suffocating.
I can't breathe...
Listen to how your father is moaning! Don't you want to know the identity of the one, who deprived him of his life? Listen closely! Isn't that his voice?
Artemiy tried to answer, but he could not. He had no breath left in his lungs if he didn't leave right now, he would surely die right then and there. Luckily for him, there was a manhole not too far from the Rat's podium. Artemiy stumbled towards it and, with whatever little strength he had left, brought himself up the ladder and through the manhole to the surface.
Unfortunately for Artemiy, he ended up getting out near the theater, in the Heart district. Him being already infected did, however, come as a mixed blessing as greedily breathing in a lungful of greenish, miasmatic air could not have been healthy.
Strange beings inhabit the womb of Bodkho. What was this creature? A spirit? A vision, born by my inflamed mind? Something born of a swarm of rats, the will of the many given a voice of one? They say that when rats form a large swarm, they gain the ability to implant all sorts of wild images into people's minds... Whatever it was, it's time to return to Vlad Jr.
After regaining composure, Artemiy wasn't going to tarry here any longer and headed in the direction of the Raw Structures, to meet with Ospina.
Artemiy managed to get out of the infected district without any trouble indeed, the guards didn't seem to stop him from leaving. Perhaps, the Dead Broth stemmed the tide of the infection to the point, where it was no longer obvious that Artemiy was sick? The Bachelor was the only one who noticed that he was ill, so far...
The Womb was also quiet. Artemiy didn't encounter anything out of order, except for a bandit prowling an alleyway in the distance.
Unlike in the previous days, Artemiy knew his way around the Raw Structures' winding alleys and paths. Soon enough, he was at his destination.
Quite cheery, as always.
The Order is ready to follow your lines, elder Burakh.
Is that how it is, sister?
I don't use words lightly.
My lines have put me on a bloody path...
Ah... I see you're looking for your sacrifice? I know. How can I help?
I need a butcher.
It's strange to hear you say that. Do you really think that your father thought about such a minuscule creature? You aren't looking for your Sacrifice in the right place. A butcher is a simple human. Why do you need humans?
They were clearly talking past each other not the most useful mode of communication.
I need him for a... different reason.
Ah... Will you tell me?
You know that I'm creating a panacea... I need the tissue of one of the Children of Bodkho.
What a troublesome idea! It's not my place to judge the elder lineages, but you are a special case. You haven't grown up here, you are a newcomer. I'm afraid that you've fallen under Bachelor's influence - a sharptoothed scoundrel, who will bury us all deep in the Earth. I won't be a helper to him!
Artemiy was taken aback by the usually meek Ospina's sudden defiance. He decided to push back harder.
Do not judge my actions, woman! I only follow my father's heritage in this matter!
If that is the case, then you'd be better off opening up one of the worms, or the bride dancers... Did you try to get into the Apiary?
No, and I don't even want to try. Dying would be too easy an exit right now.
Vlad Sr.'s blockade was, indeed, something that Artemiy could not brave through especially in his current, worsening state.
Very well... You are correct it's not my place to judge. Do you want me to tell you where the butchers are hiding out?
There aren't any escapees left in the city. This morning, they were all led out. I do know, however, that they are preparing to make a sacrifice and headed out to the gatherers with this goal in mind. Stupid animals! Do they think that they can guess the lines for performing such an act? I don't believe they can...
Do you know which gatherer they were going to?
I don't. They aren't looking for the gatherers, you know, but for a Herb Bride. Who is she with right now is something I don't particularly care about, although it might be the one near the Stone Yard. I'd try there...
I see, I will look there. Thanks, Ospina.
The Quivering Heart
The escaped butchers have almost left the city. Before they leave completely, they are planning to visit a Herb Bride, a cohabitant of one of the Worms, the gatherers of Tvyr. There is a chance that I might still catch them before they leave.
Artemiy still had to visit Andrey Stamatin's pub and see what leads he could scrounge up there. It was fairly close, too, which made it a perfect next destination. Still, he started to feel a bit too ill to go on. He needed a moment's rest, and Ospina was happy to provide him with a cot to rest on. It wasn't going to take long - just enough to keep Artemiy going until the end of the day.