Part 12: Chapter Six - Part 1Chapter Six Part 1
Artemiy slept well due to morphine, most likely. The wake-up was a little shaky.
It was 2 AM and Artemiy wanted to ask Dankovsky about the results, but the Bachelor was a bit too busy and told Artemiy to come back in the morning while gesturing towards two letters on the night table beside the bed Artemiy slept on. Since it was past midnight, and there was a new presentation at the Theater, Artemiy took the letters on the go.
Analysis Results, Human Antibodies
The Vaccine works! Live blood gave us a stellar result. Microbes in it spread with a frightening speed. Unfortunately, I still don't have any good news specifically for you. Antibodies are produced and are destroying the infection the problem is that there simply aren't enough of them. Bacteria divides faster than the antibodies and, in the end, there is nothing stopping it from spreading.
My conclusion is that human blood simply isn't enough to produce a panacea using your methodology.
Another quite unfortunate dead end. Artemiy decided to wait until morning to despair Daniil will, very likely, come up with a new idea by the morning, as he usually does.
Coming out of the Folds, Artemiy was met with a strange sight a dying man who, somehow, set himself on fire. What was going on, exactly? The patrolmen were mum and the burning man was well burning so there wasn't much to glean right now. Artemiy moved on.
Diaries of Isidore Burakh: An excerpt on primitive immunoboosters (pg. 55)
Tvyr extracts, in conjunction with a proper combination of herbs, have been providing protection from the Sand Fever.
Now, it seems that the logic of these combination began revealing itself to me. Here are my most successful mixtures if it weren't for Worms' resistance, I would get even better results.
Savyur almost always improves the result.
Amber - Brown Tvyr (2), Savyur (2)
Tar - Brown Tvyr (2), Savyur
Bitterness - Black Tvyr, Brown Tvyr, Savyur and White Whip
Smoke - Brown Tvyr (3), Savyur
Earth is giving birth to both the herbs and the plague. Roots bind beneath the Earth that, which is unbound by the seeds when underneath the Sun. When Nature dictates us its will, we ought to listen and search for ways around it. Only fools insist that the only option left for us it to bow down to it.
Another page of his father's diaries that made its way to Artemiy through unknown means. Quite strange, but not particularly surprising anymore. It became clear to Artemiy that if he must receive something, then the postmen in this town will make sure that he will.
The walk was uneventful, even if the Folds were clearly infected once again and the Heart district was shaking off the effects of infection.
Inside, another presentation was waiting for him.
So that's how it is...
The voice was neutral, contemplative even.
Indeed! So much blood has been spilled!
This one, on the other hand, was overly dramatic shrill, even. It sounded incredibly insincere and hammed up the actor was clearly biting off a bit too much off of the scenery.
Has been spilled? Do you mean to say that you had nothing to do with it?
This particular voice had a streak of cynicism or, perhaps, even cruelty to it. He was quite harsh on the hammy fellow, perhaps rightfully so.
It was necessary though, was it not? We are on the path to victory, wouldn't you say?
Indeed now we know that we can fight the Sand Filth. The lies have been cast aside. It is not a demon, it is simply a collection of bacteria that die if they don't sink their fangs into blood.
People are afraid of Katherine's prophecy, but they don't pay attention to rivers of blood until they, themselves, become their tributaries.
Blood is, quite simply, a nourishing environment. Crops drenched in blood always grace us with a rich harvest!
Artemiy couldn't help but feel that one of the voices was ought to represent himself - he couldn't quite figure out which one, though... Or was it all of them at once, perhaps?
REEL 6: Masks' Nightly Production Night Five
It was time to head to Notkin's place to get the usual map before heading to his hideout.
The night was moderately quiet, apart from an occasional bandit and a scream in the distance.
Track 12 Steppe (Disease)
This, however, was rather unfortunate this marked the first time the disease got to the Warehouses, and it just happened to pick the spot Artemiy frequented the most an absolute coincidence surely.
Here was another of the firemen. It seemed that they were an organized force of some sort this particular one having set an infected person on fire using a makeshift petrol bomb. Quite disturbing were they trying to eradicate the infection through arson? Since the man didn't quite notice him yet, Artemiy walked on, not wishing to get tangled up with a crazed arsonists.
As usual, Notkin didn't have anything major going on although, unusually enough, he brought the price of the map back down to 500 coins. Quite a strange pricing system that kid has.
There were more and more infected areas each day. Today, it were the Folds, the Warehouses, the Tanners and the Skinflints. Knots, however, were free of the infection for the moment, although some of the districts in the borough were just shaking off the consequences of infection. There was no denying that the situation was becoming dire by the hour.
By the time Artemiy got out of the warehouse, the Arsonist was gone. From Notkin's warehouse, it was a hop, skip and a jump to Haruspex's hideout and the road wasn't too tough.
Safe inside, Artemiy killed time performing various bits of research and experimentation with the mixtures. The mixtures described in the latest uncovered pages of Father's diary did indeed work fairly well and were quite effective. Beyond that, nothing too concrete was produced by the time morning arrived and Artemiy received his first letter of that day.
Anna Angel's Invitation
You are, obviously, still mad at this poor singer, aren't you? You are, but you're being that way in vain.
I'm scared, and I'm not holding on to any hatred towards people anymore... Whatever that Bachelor is saying about me is all lies and slander! There are some very strange things occurring around here, though... This terrible girl an angel of death came to me today and she won't leave! I think she is hiding from someone.
This Holy Healer doesn't look as holy as she did before nor does she look like the Highest Authority. Quite the opposite, really she is disheveled, her sweater is wet and she looks like she's been crying. If you're the one she's hiding from, then you're very welcome here I'll keep her around until the evening.
Much obliged for your attention,
More correspondence from that poisonous snake Anna about some strange healer girl, no less. The townsfolk did, in fact, make some vague references to some girl-healer working around town someone they called Impostress. Yes that name came from Kapella, and that meant that the girl was important in some way. Artemiy had to see what that girl was up to, even if that meant helping Anna.
Artemiy was a couple of steps out the door when the Town clock tolled 7 AM.
Day Six, by the end of which the Haruspex will learn the important role that mythical beings can play in our lives.
The math didn't seem to work out, strangely enough. There were an extra four hundred dead unaccounted for. Where were these reports coming from? And who was this envoy that was arriving? What power would he wield?
Still, according to the map Artemiy was getting from Notkin, the disease was spreading exponentially it would make sense that the death toll would be snowballing as well, even if the math itself didn't add up.
Anna Angel's house - The Willow, as it was called by the locals stood on the line between two infected districts. The trek would be a bit dangerous.
On the approach to the house, an Arsonist began flinging firebombs at Artemiy most uncouth. In order to bring the fight to him, Artemiy would have to close the distance and that would be a bit difficult, considering the narrow corridor of house the two were in. Considering that and the fact that The Willow was right there, Artemiy elected to duck into Anna's house and hope that the man wouldn't follow.
Anna's house was its same catlike self from yesterday.
It took a moment for Artemiy to see the visitor, but she was there.
He decided to address the lady of the house first, though.
You know, I am afraid of you, after all...
You'd be right to do so. Still why did you invite me? What is that girlie doing here?
Shhh! Don't you see how shaken-up she is? So does that mean that you aren't the one who caused her such troubles? Still, don't feel too sorry about that I have nothing but gloating for her!
Kindness was, admittedly, not Anna's strong suit.
Again? Why is that?
Why? Well, because this girl caused someone a great deal of trouble recently... She has a talent for reading souls and twisting them inside and out. I think that someone has done to her what she's been doing to everyone else until now. Come to think of it, maybe there are two of them, and one of them has found the other? Or, maybe, she simply looked in the mirror?
Not only was Anna an abhorrent person, but she was also quite daft it seemed.
Mirror? Why mirror?
Well, no she obviously hasn't seen herself in the mirror... If she did, then she would find what she saw in it quite abhorrent and would straighten herself out. Do you think I should offer her some mascara? She is so ugly that she brings a tear to the eye and all the mirrors crack in her presence.
Well, aren't you the one to talk...
Anna snickered and waved her hand at Artemiy. At least she had a sense of humor, for all her faults.
The entire Town is after the witch again. Trying to catch the Shabnak-Adyr. I wonder who she is... Certainly not this weak thing... You ought to sneak into the Apiary and find that man-eater. What if she is hiding in there? I'm certain she is! Bachelor thinks so, Lara thinks so and, most importantly, Mistress thinks so too...
Maybe I will if I have the time.
A slightly better conversation than yesterday, though still full of poison. Artemiy turned to the girl.
Oh misfortune... Such misfortune... Won't even the lying beasts - the servants of evil who are always ready to do one a disservice help me?
Who are the ones who turned away from me?
I have quarreled with the Rat Prophet. Now, he hides from me and won't tell me anything... I have to hear what he has to say, even a couple of words! Especially now that I'm being exiled and hounded like this... What fate awaits me? What will happen to me? Why have I come into this world?
The girl was desperate and, in that desperation, has turned to a strange hallucination for answers.
You said yourself that he is a lying beast why do you need him?
Well, I have to need someone, don't I? Oh, Burakh! I've helped you, haven't I? Haven't I helped you come one step closer to finishing your panacea? Won't you help me now? Won't you show mercy?
Help? How has she helped? This was the first time Artemiy met the girl... Still, even if she hadn't, Artemiy would've probably helped her.
What do you want of me, then?
Let's trick him! Approach him, as if you are meeting him on your own business he won't refuse you. Appear as though you hate me and ask him about my fate! What will happen to me tomorrow? Most importantly, ask him who am I... Why have I come into this world? Will you remember? Will you ask him?
Ask him? I'm not even sure how to find him...
He lives under the Theater, or, maybe, even inside it. Burakh. Haruspex. Be good to me and find him! If you'd know how much I'm suffering... How much it hurts... How alone I am...
Very well I'll ask him.
The Impostress is looking for an answer
Klara is desperate. Today is clearly not her day... Or is it the other way around? In any case, everyone has turned against her even the dark creature that lives under the earth is refusing her... Let's see what that Prophet tells us about her.
By the time Artemiy left the house, the arsonist was gone just like the one at Notkin's place. Quite lucky that the fellow didn't decide to try and burn the place down or something.
While getting close to the exit from The Land, Artemiy received a letter from Daniil.
The Bachelor's Invitation. Bull's antibodies.
I've just received the confirmation of yesterday's observations: the steppe folk get sick and die just like the rest of us. Unfortunate. Human blood can kill Sand Fever's bacteria, but it can't do it fast enough. It seems that even the Steppe folk' blood can't produce enough antibodies in order to stop the spreading of disease it is simply faster than the organism.
I do have a new idea for you, though. Perhaps, today we will find the suitable material for your panacea.
Come see me and we will discuss it.
It was a straight shot to Dankovsky out of the Theater Artemiy got the letter at an opportune moment. He'd come to see the Bachelor straight away after seeing the Rat Prophet.
The Heart was a site of multiple scuffles, it seemed Artemiy even unholstered his gun in case anyone would try and pick a fight. Nobody did, though he only found occasional corpses and saw some fighting in the distance.
It took Artemiy a moment to find the manhole that he barely managed to crawl out of yesterday. Hopefuly, the Rat will be there.
Curiously enough, Isidore's voice was gone. The place was completely silent. The ratty fellow didn't seem nearly as agitated as he was yesterday, either. Artemiy approached him.
Are you here to hear your father's voice again? He won't be speaking with you. He is displeased with you, and I can't summon him that is beyond my power.
Artemiy's curiosity was still not sated when it came to the thing's nature.
Who are you?
I'm certainly not the one you deem me to be that's for sure. I can guarantee that...
Are you a prophet?
I'm just a little beastie can't you see that yourself?
The Rat was smirking, and it was clear this would get Artemiy nowhere.
There is a girl in our Town. Her name is Klara. Tell me who is she? Why has she come into this world? What will happen to her?
Oh I see. That's how this is... She sent you to me... Well, it's her own fault then. She should've known better than to keep forcing this intrigue to continue. I'll tell you who that girl really is. She is the sickness that ails us. A walking, living embodiment of Sand Fever.
That isn't true, is it? You're lying...
Well and this is the important bit she isn't aware of her nature. Because of that, she can still perform miracles and deems herself to be a miracle worker. She has been given a great bit of power whatever she believes will happen will happen. When she finds out about her true nature, though, is when she will lose that power. That is why I won't see her.
You're obviously lying you're clearly plotting something. This is all some sort of game to you, isn't it?
You think whatever you want to think. It's not like I'm forcing myself on you or anything you're the one who barged in here. You asked and I answered... What sort of an oracle do you think I am? Am I supposed to predict past, present and future? You have eyes watch. You have ears listen. You have hearts decide. Most of all, leave me alone, for God's sake.
The Impostress is looking for an answer
The little girl has quite' a secret to her... Makes you think about who any of us can actually be... The Rat Prophet didn't seem like he was lying, either... Should I tell Klara the truth? I don't think I should be too hasty here, this seems like an important juncture... It seems that the fate has hoisted an important decision onto my shoulders...
A tough decision Artemiy could use some advice, but there wasn't anyone to give it, was there...
When Artemiy exited the Prophet's hideout, all signs of battle were gone and the area was quiet once more, as if some sort of janitor always cleaned up whenever Artemiy was out of sight. Eerie.
Gloomy thoughts seemed to visit Artemiy whenever he was leaving the prophet's place, and this wasn't an exception. He felt exceedingly tired of this Town, of its repeating landscape, of its scornful people, of their meaningless secrets and, most of all, of his duty. How easy it would be to reject them, to leave them behind. Would they manage? No, they wouldn't of course, they wouldn't.
A strange thought, but an honest one. Artemiy wasn't sure if it was his, though it felt quite similar to the effect that Ospina said she has on people, even if it was different in nature. It would make sense for the Rat Prophet to be a sower of scorn.
It was pointless, anyway there wasn't a ship to jump or a stage to leave. Dying wasn't an option, either neither the elements nor even the Sand Fever were doing a good job of inhibiting him. Artemiy was prepared for everything coming his way. Quite strange, that...
All this meanderous thinking allowed Artemiy to get to Dankovsky's place of residence quite quickly time passes fast when you're lost in silly thought.
Yesterday's sample has given us a sort of a double-edged result. It will certainly be of use to me. I've caught the bacteria by the tail, and there soon will be a vaccine available for the public. The usefulness of the live blood for an anti-serum, however, isn't quite as concrete.
Antibodies do get produced, though right?
They do and they even destroy the infection - the unfortunate part is that they get annihilated in the process. The microbe, on the other hand, spreads so fast that there simply isn't enough of them to keep it at bay. The end result is quite unfortunate. The cells need to be able to hold the infection at bay, or they need to produce a thousand times more antibodies.
What are we to do, then?
Let's try a tried and true method introduce the disease into a bull's body and let's see what happens. I've been meaning to find a way into that particular animal kingdom - for ages have the epidemics been intrinsically connected to domestic animals. These, however, have a certain veil of mystery to them to the point where I'm not even sure how to approach them...
If the bulls were the cause of the epidemic, then we'd have a mass murrain on our hands.
What makes you think that there wasn't one?
I'd imagine that we'd find out by the smoke or the overwhelming stench coming out of the Abattoir that would flood the whole Town.
Hmm... Well, it's possible that the bulls don't get sick at all that's all the more reason to experiment on them. Give it a try. We can take a sample from an infected organ and introduce it into bull tissue and see how the blood will react to that little surprise meeting. It should work we still have a good bacteria sample from yesterday.
Oh? Have you found a good use for it?
I have the vaccine is almost ready. Let's focus on your work, though the plan seems easy enough.
Easy enough? I doubt that...
Let's repeat yesterday's experiment take a sample, infect a bull, wait a little bit then take a couple of samples of bull's blood. The result should be quite interesting, I think.
I'll try and find a bull then hopefully, not all of them are dead quite yet.
Bachelor didn't find the right antibodies I so desperately need in human blood. There's no recipe for a panacea there... Now, it's bulls' turn... A strange sequence, come to think of it it should have been the other way around. In a way, it makes sense it's quite hard to find a bull, considering the mass hunger - if not outright famine - that has struck the Town. Is there even one left?
Artemiy didn't know an answer to that question, nor did he know anyone who would. Vlad Sr., perhaps? That seemed like a flimsy lead that would likely turn up nothing, but it's the only person he could think of. Artemiy left Daniil to his devices.
Well, this was quite insane a literal Angel hovering in the air. Artemiy was about to write it off as some sort of hallucination when it began rapidly flying towards him.
This should have been it, but, instead, the Angel pivoted around and began flying towards him once again.
It was much faster than Artemiy and it caught up with him easily. It felt quite worse than the touch of the usual clouds like a needle piercing one's heart. It was painfully clear that this was a new form of the infection clouds as though the disease wanted to assert its authority in response to Artemiy's previous thoughts.
Amid all of this, Artemiy received got a strange letter from none other than Klara.
It's time for us to meet each other eye to eye. Come to Laska's shed. I'll be waiting.
I've been told that you're planning to cut open a bull and I have some things to tell you. Interested?
Meet each other eye to eye? What did she mean by that? They've already met today... And why, exactly, did she want to meet in a different place? Artemiy was going to humor her, but it was quite strange still.
In any case, the development with the new disease clouds was quite a bit more disturbing than whatever this little insane girl could throw at him, whatever her powers may be.
The old, weaker clouds didn't abate, either at least, Artemiy could hope that the newer version was quite rare it was very hard to evade it and they still posed a threat, even if Artemiy was already infected.
It occurred to Artemiy that he hasn't seen Laska in many days. In fact, he hasn't seen some of his adherents in a while and he hadn't even met two of them yet. Maybe, he wasn't meant to quite yet? Everything was occurring based on a sort of schedule in this Town, after all.
This part of town was quite a bit out of the way, and Laska was sure to have kept busy hopefully, nothing bad happened to her in these days. At least, the disease didn't survive in dead bodies that she, no doubt, was working with quite a lot.
Everything was calm and peaceful, just like on the first day. Artemiy went inside.
Just like on the first day, Laska had a visitor.
Look at those little beasties hopping on the ground...
The girl seemed delirious, but that was her normal state, it seemed.
Where did this girl come from?
Her? Her... She was here from the very beginning she crawled out of the Earth.
Out of the Earth?
It was... a long time ago a couple of days ago. Now, she came back and wants to hide.
Hide? Hide from whom?
From everyone... She says that she is being pursued and hounded because she is a witch, even if she isn't a witch at all... Bachelor is the one who is hounding her the most if he finds her, then she is finished...
I can't say that that is an unfamiliar situation for me... Let me talk to her, if you would.
Laska nodded then turned a little bit sideways and smiled at something crawling on her arm something only she could see. Artemiy turned to Klara her appearance seemed much more cleaner and resolute, though her words were quite the same.
What? Aren't you in a hurry to cut open my chest? Or would you prefer to give me up to the Authorities?
Neither of those, actually why the angry tone?
Her defensiveness evaporated quite quickly.
I'm glad that you aren't in a hurry... All my friends have denied me. Even Saburovs, who told me yesterday that I will be their daughter, have exiled me from their home. What do you have to say about that?
Me? Nothing... Is this why you called me here?
No... Not this. I called for you because I know your intentions. You are a knower of lines, isn't that so? Listen to me, then. Today, two lines have converged. You want to kill a bull, right?
I don't, actually. I do need to find a bull though.
Oh yes I'll even tell you why. You want to introduce infection into a bull's body to see who wins, right? I can tell you what will happen it will be a draw.
A draw? What am I to make of that?
I don't know... My feelings rarely betray me, though.... Tonight, an everlasting drama will play out here, Burakh it will be played quite poorly, though. Have you read the Tale of the Daughters? Do you know the fable of how Boos Turokh created the Wheel, Time and Fear?
I think I've heard a little bit when I was kid don't remember much, though...
Listen, then! Back in the time, when there wasn't a day or night, up or down, water or land, there was only the great Bull, Father of Flesh, a Layer of Lines, The One who Swings his Horn - Boos Turokh. That is when the dark Suokh emerged from the abyss and filled the world with itself. She devoured the stars and the light...
Wait a second if there was nothing but the great Bull, then where did the stars and light came from? And who was this Suokh?
Oh, don't interrupt me! Anyway, she devoured all the sunlight too. Suokh wouldn't burn in fire, wouldn't drown in water wouldn't age and she did not want to return to the Abyss. Darkness fell, and Boos Turokh, the Great Bull, froze in the darkness and his cry tore apart the darkness, but it didn't tear apart Suokh. Suokh was spreading farther, and the Darkness converged on the world.
Curious the tale is just like what is happening around here...
That is when Boos Turokh, in desperation, opened its maw from horizon to horizon and began devouring Suokh. Suokh fought back and tried to sneak back into the Abyss, but, bit by bit, Boos Turokh sucked Suokh inside of him. Now and forever, she sits there and tries to gnaw him from inside out while he entombs her.
Quite the riveting tale you've got there...
Intriguing, isn't it? The tale will resume, though I can feel you sculpting this fable out of clay even now. You want to feed a bull with disease to see if he manages to fight it off or not that suits my goals as well. If you manage to do what you want to do, then I will be left alone. Want me to help you?
Sure... Why not?
Good. Your path will lead you to the Short Housing section of the Apiary. A very important personage will be waiting for you there the Mother Superior, the convergence of life and will of the Order. Nowadays, only she, and nobody else, rules the Apiary. If you can come to an agreement, then she will gift you a bull.
Then, I'll see her in the Short Housing section. Thank you.
There were still questions to be asked of Klara, though.
Tell me about this Mother Superior, if you would.
She's still very little, but she is very important in the Apiary. All these terrifying butchers and worms obey her, as if by magic.
What did she do to warrant such obedience?
It's her birthright. She is the daughter of the previous commandant of the Apiary - Tychic. He was a very important man in the Order, too. They say that your father respected the deceased man.
How do you know all this?
Oh, just a rumour I heard in the wind...
I see... What's going on in the Apiary nowadays, anyway?
Oh, it's complete and utter hell. You'll see.
I thought that its inhabitants don't get sick.
Don't get sick? You're very mistaken. Not only do they get sick, but they suffer twice as hard as the rest. You'll see for yourself, don't you worry.
I can't wait...
Is there something else you wanted?
Yes of course. I spoke with the Rat Prophet, just like you asked.
Have you now? Funny... What did he say? Actually, don't tell me it's more interesting that way.
You don't want me to tell you? Why in the world did you send me to see him in the first place, then?
You have another part to play, Burakh. Go to Klara and tell her what that thing told you or lie to her, if that will make you feel better. You don't have to worry whatever your choice will be, I'll play the part you leave for me and I will play it well. It is really up to you.
Klara left the shed before Artemiy had any time to ask for any coherent explanations - she probably wouldn't have given any if he asked, anyway. Did Klara mean for him to go back to The Willow and meet the other Klara there? More importantly, why in the world were there two of them and what purposes did each of them pursue? He still didn't know whether to lie about prophet's words and he could still use some advice.