Part 13: Chapter Six - Part 2Chapter Six Part 2
The decision wasn't a particularly easy one, but, on the other hand, it wasn't too momentous. Artemiy seemed to worry too much about it that's all.
Cheery sights before Artemiy's eyes didn't help matters too much, either.
Telling the little girlie the truth would, most likely destroy any hope that she has left in her little heart. Whatever powers she has must have been useful to the folk in the Town, so far. Destroying that would be at least irresponsible at this point in juncture.
Besides, something told Artemiy that lying to Klara was simply the right choice, and he felt the need to abide by that.
Soon enough, Artemiy was at the Willow, ready to deliver one of his first major lies in this Town.
Coming close to Klara seems to have induced another episode of lightheartedness that was, so far, only produced by coming in contact with the Sand Fever. Funny, that.
Oh, such misfortune...
Hush. I've spoken with the Rat.
You have? What did he say? Tell me!
You are a supernatural being, Klara. You serve the Forces of good.
Oh dear... Can it be... You didn't lie to me, have you? Is it possible that he is lying?
You asked, and I answered. What more do you want?
Oh, don't mind me! I'm quite grateful to you, Burakh
If you're grateful, then try and help more people not everyone in this Town has the powers you do.
I'll try I'll do it even if I have to see her over and over again!
Good that's all I can ask of you...
The Impostress is looking for an answer
What's done is done. It's up to her to decide now I'm not sure she fully believed me, anyway. It seems to me that, for now, our paths diverge, although this won't be the last time we exchange words.
Strange bit of business all this has been not much to be done to help it, though, but to leave it behind and move on to the more pertinent stuff. It was time to visit the Apiary.
The Land seems to have been ravaged by the disease time and time again in the last couple of days. Indeed, it was the site of the first infected district. Was there something that attracted disease here?
The Land's maze-like streets seemed desolate as well even after disease left, people were still reluctant to return here. Was this desolation the eventual fate of the Town?
Soon enough, Artemiy arrived closer to the towering structure of the Apiary. It looked as cumbersome and filthy as ever.
If the other Klara's words were true, then what awaited him inside wasn't pretty in any sense of the word. Still, he heard of terrible conditions that the Order lived in before, although he didn't know the reasons, because of which the Steppe folk agreed to live in such conditions.
The blockade still seemed to be in place, but, for some strange reason, the patrolmen did nothing to impede his entrance. It was as if he was expected.
Track 13 The Apiary
The ambiance was quite hellish, to say the least. The space was cramped and filthy and the interior smelled of death. A very cheery place indeed how could anyone live in these conditions was beyond Artemiy.
It took Artemiy some time to find this stairway all other paths he tried were barricaded.
It was an exceedingly long climb up four or five floors. It was quite tiring and the constant moans of the diseased Steppe folk living here didn't help alleviate this fatigue. Finally, Artemiy found an exit out of this stairwell.
Three butchers... There seemed to be someone hiding behind one of them, though.
Was this the Mother Superior? This little girl was four years old, at most... Yet she, apparently, wielded the most power in the Order. Curious.
It's good that you've come to us in this hour, Servitor. Did you bring the ascorbic tablets?
Ascorbic tablets? What ascorbic tablets? What are you talking about?
Yellow tablets that burn the liver but keep the infection at bay. Don't you know? What did they teach you in the big city?
I see... I think I get it...
I need fifty ascorbic tablets. Exactly fifty five times ten. I need them so that those who go inside don't get sick. Do that for me, and I will shower you with my grace.
I need a bull, Mother.
I don't have one right now. They've deprived me of my wondrous cows white, silvery, red-eared, black-eyed and gentle. They've deprived me of my bulls with steel horns, with brass, stone and jasper hooves. I can tell you where to find another bull, though...
I see what you're driving at... Still what is going on here?
I, myself, live in the Long Housing section it's on the opposite side of the Apiary. Understand? I haven't been here yet, and I absolutely need to go upstairs! I won't go alone, though someone has to carry me there, so I don't stub my toes. My servants, the kind children of Bodkho, need protection too!
Why do you want to go up there exactly?
To lead out everyone who's healthy, understand? A lot of them aren't sick yet. They won't go anywhere without me they're terrified.
I see. There are other tablets out there, though better ones.
They don't burn you as much.
If they don't burn you as much, then they don't help as much either. It hurts only because the disease in you is suffering. Bring me the ascorbic tablets!
Tychik's daughter wants me to gather 50 yellow tablets of ascorbic acid for her butchers. She doesn't want any other tablets they only believe in the ascorbic ones.
Artemiy sighed this meant hunting around Town for barely useful tablets when Artemiy still had some left over from two days ago the ones that Bachelor gave him. He hasn't seen the yellow tablets for a while either, and even stopped gathering them ages ago. He decided to check his knapsack nonetheless.
It was in quite a bit of disarray various bits of medicine, ampules all lying about in a giant blood covered mess one of the tubes of blood must have cracked somewhere. Artemiy checked one of the smaller side pockets and, to his great surprise, he found five packs of yellow tablets neatly stashed away ten tablets in each, of course.
Amid all disorder, there they were waiting for their hour. When did Artemiy prepare these? Prepare was the right word they were prepared beforehand with a very clear purpose in mind... Still, this was all quite helpful it saved him quite a bit of legwork, however strange it was.
Before Artemiy would turn these over to Taya, he would ask her some questions that she might know the answers to.
You miss the old grandpa Isidore?
Very much. Mother do you know the meaning of the udurg tauro?
Udurg tauro... This was odd the word flew out of Artemiy's mouth on its own, without him understanding the implication properly.
A little bit. I've seen such signs before. It must be something very-very-very-very-very big! Maybe it's a mountain?
Maybe it's Earth?
I doubt that...
Odd... maybe it's the people?
Do you know or are you just guessing?
I don't know my ABCs very well. They haven't taught me yet. I do know that it's something very-very big or something very important. Don't you see this angle?
Is it something alive?
I think so don't you see the horns?
Can someone else tell me more about this tauro?
Only a servitor can. It's sad that we don't have any menkhu left. They've all died. All the knowledgeable odonkhe left for the Steppe they're getting ready for an important celebration...
Quite a shame that... In any case here are the ascorbic tablets. Fifty, as ordered.
She turned to her butchers in giddy excitement
Then, let's go! Let's go! Quickly! We've lost a lot of time! And you, Servitor listen to me. When you exit here, go past the Long Section and go straight towards the Abattoir. Exit out into the Steppe and keep going past the Abattoir. Do you know where Ragha's Mound is?
Go past the Maw those are the big gates through which the bulls exit into the Steppe. Go a bit further and you'll see a tall mound.
I see what will I find there?
Odonkhe will bring out a bull. I'll tell the worms to listen to you. Prove to them that you are you and then do what you want with the bull.
How am I supposed to prove that I am me?
They'll ask you some simple questions. Who knows, maybe you don't know what to do with bulls after all? Maybe you'll offend him or taint him... No a proof is necessary...
What questions will they ask me?
Something about bulls, I think... What else would they care about, anyway?
Very well I'll figure something out. Thanks, Mother.
Worms are preparing a bull for a sacrifice at Ragha's Mound, between the Abattoir and the cemetery.
It wasn't too far from the Apiary and, for once, Artemiy didn't have to wade through infected districts to get there a rare gift nowadays.
In all the commotion about the tablets and the Tauro, Artemiy forgot to ask Taya about the reasons behind the Order's living conditions. He doubted that she would be able to answer them, either someone like Vlad Olgimsky Sr. would likely know more - not that he would tell, of course.
Like Taya said that must be the entrance into the Long Housing section of the Apiary. Artemiy secretly hoped that he wouldn't have to go in there any time soon the conditions there probably aren't pretty, either.
For the first time in many days, the realities of the Town began to get to him. It became increasingly clear to him that the Town had a number of things wrong with it prior to the Disease's rampage. It was rotten to the core, with the treatment of the Order being only one of the things to showcase that fact.
This was the Maw that Taya mentioned Artemiy has only been here a couple of times during the last six days. This place didn't quite sit right with Artemiy the unnatural warmth coming from the Maw was very strong and rather disturbing, considering what was going on inside.
It took Artemiy a bit more walking, but, soon enough, he saw the fog break by a large mound of Earth with makeshift stairs leading to its top.
It suddenly occurred to Artemiy that he didn't know who or what was the namesake of this mound. Ragha? He has never heard of such an entity. Must be one of the minor gods of the Order or something he'd have to look into it while he's learning the meaning of the Tauro.
The Worms stared at him expectantly Artemiy was in the right place.
We called for a Burakh and a Burakh came. Open this bull up for us.
Nobody called for me I came of my own volition.
The Worms, admittedly, didn't seem to be interested in finer details.
Do you want to open this bull up for us or no?
Fine. Yes. I will.
Have you brought us the broth, the seed of Suokh, so that you can feed him before the rite?
The seed of Suokh? What do you mean?
Are you asking us? Do you not know, where the Fear, Iron and the Wheel came from?
Then tell us.
Boos Turokh expunged the Fear out of himself in order to vomit out his pain. Boos Turokh made the Iron out of his horns in order to form the Law and bind Suokh forever in his belly. Boos Turokh, with his thought, created the Wheel so that everything will always return to its source.
Artemiy knew a lot more about the ways of the Order than he was, sometimes, willing to tell. This knowledge extended far beyond any help that Klara provided with her tale.
You told it well. You are a true oinon. Feed him the broth, give him the seed of Suokh and open him up. Free him along the lines of Rhaga.
Perhaps, Artemiy knew who Rhaga was after all he simply wasn't interested in informing the others about it.
Artemiy shuffled about in his knapsack before pulling out a kidney sealed in a polyethylene bag a fresh infected specimen he thoughtfully picked up from one of the corpses in the Heart district. He handed it to the Worms, who began their rite immediately.
After the Worms made an incision, a strange thing occurred Artemiy heard his father's whispers once more. They were very quiet and far-away, but they seemed to say the same thing they did in the Rat Prophet's tunnels. Quite a strange occurrence and not an easily explainable one.
Throughout this process, Artemiy didn't question why exactly the bull was being sacrificed he did need the blood, of course, but it could've been procured without killing the bull. The Worms clearly pursued a goal of their own something akin to what butchers were trying to do yesterday?
Still, it seemed like quite a waste, with bulls being rare nowadays. Regardless, Artemiy had what he came here for.
Since the trek back to Dankovsky wasn't exceedingly long, Artemiy elected to not muck about with silly things such as journals. He headed straight towards his goal.
The Worms were still on the mound, chanting something unintelligible in the Order's tongue. Was their rite going to be effective? Only tomorrow would tell...
The same notion applied to Artemiy and Daniil's experiments, as well. The unfortunate truth of it was that Dankovsky was quite skeptical of this undertaking.
If one were to throw in the other Klara's musings into the mix, one would get a rather gloomy result. Still, Artemiy had to try there was nothing else to be done but this.
As always, the Sand Fever was quite unhappy to let Artemiy just sit in the neat little bastion of his thoughts it was intent on letting its presence and dominion be known. This time, Artemiy did manage to evade the Angel, though it took quite a bit of sprinting to outpace it.
Artemiy's thoughts turned, once more, to this inquisitor that was arriving tomorrow. The Government of this country wasn't know for its kindness and he is bound to wield a terrible power indeed.
Someone was bound to pay for the disarray, in which this Town currently was. One of the ruling families, most likely the Saburovs, perhaps? They were at the forefront of combating this epidemic and they've clearly failed miserably.
The more concerning prospects, however, were the ones regarding himself. Even if Artemiy cleared his name, he was still known as the Ripper. This inquisitor would surely be swift to dole out justice, and Artemiy could be one of the first people to taste it if he'd make a wrong move. Tomorrow was going to be a hard day.
Artemiy needed to stop this habit of letting gloomy thoughts be his roadside companions. At the very least, it made for a depressing read.
What sort of damned creature is transmitting this disease everywhere that is what I'm interested in the most...
I've brought you Bull's blood.
Well then let's see...
Once again, Bachelor took to the microscope
Ah... I see now why the bulls don't get sick. Their antibodies don't destroy the bacteria, but they block it and don't let it spread. It seems that after a certain amount of time, it dies. Hell even if it doesn't die it still fails to kill the bull... Perhaps, it assimilates...
What sort of conclusion can we draw from all this?
In an ideal world, you'd need a hybrid of a man and a bull. Human antibodies can destroy this abomination, while the bull ones will keep it from spreading.
Such a creature doesn't exist...
That is, indeed, where the problem lies, unfortunately... You're quite unlucky just as I am...
Perhaps, it can be synthesized in laboratory conditions? Take some tissue from a bull, some tissue from a human and combine it?
We could try it, yes, but Rubin has gone off somewhere again... I'd need him to get the samples. If he shows up, I'll give it a try. I'll let you know about the result.
Thanks... I'll be waiting...
It seems that trying to make a panacea out of an animal has proven unsuccessful. Tomorrow will be the decisive day that will put everything in its place... Still, I have a bad feeling. It seems that Bachelor is sure that his attempts at synthesis will fail...
Consumed by gloomy notions, what Artemiy sorely needed was a nap a nap that he got right then and there. Bachelor was leaving going out on his own business, no doubt so the bed was free and Artemiy had time to kill.
When Artemiy woke up three hours later, Bachelor was back and busy at his table. Not much changed, except Artemiy seemed to have a new letter waiting for him.
Victor Kain's Invitation
The true thief of Simon's body has been found. He arrived here to the Horns - today with a confession. Our family wants to make amends with You. I hope that You will understand our feelings if You'll try and recall Your own emotions when You have found out about the patriarch of Your family's death.
From now on, we will turn against anyone who dares to call You a Ripper.
Come don't hold a grudge against us. It's best that we get to know each other better.
With penitence and respect,
A strange, bombastic letter that seemed to try to apologize and seduce at once. Still, Artemiy didn't have much else to do and the Horns were quite close, so why not go and see what they have to say for themselves?
His destination was right there, to the right, but Artemiy decided to go on a bit further...
Over the last six days, Artemiy heard much about this monument to defiance. People were afraid of it, worshiped it and heaped all their hopes and dreams onto its nonexistent foundation. The Polyhedron.
Artemiy wanted to ascend its stairs and see what was at the top, but something told him that this was neither the time nor the place for it. He'd see the full glory and folly of this structure - in due time, of course.
There was some sort of a commotion down the street a commotion Artemiy wanted nothing to do with.
From the outside, the house looked quite spartan. Knowing Kains, however, the same couldn't be expected of the interior.
The house seemed to be about as richly decorated as the Olgimsky residence, but there was a palpably darker ambiance to it. It seems that Kains wanted to live up to their reputation.
Victor didn't seem to notice Artemiy yet he was a bit lost in thought.
He did, however, get up when Artemiy approached him.
We have been alarmed by the rumours of a provocation that is being prepared. Is this why you've come?
No. You've sent me a letter, remember?
Victor seemed rather focused on this one particular issue it's clear that he wrote the letter only in order to get Artemiy's help in the matter.
A procession made up of the diseased folk was supposed to come to the graveyard in order to perform the rites before the sacred gravestones. Now, we have received the news that those murderous arsonists are planning to attack the pilgrims. Have you heard anything about that?
No I haven't.
I do hope that those are just rumours...
Victor was trying a bit too hard to evoke concern in Artemiy something that caused Artemiy to say his next line in a very wooden, sarcastic voice.
I hope so, indeed...
Victor, however, seemed too lost in his prepared speech to notice.
My daughter also wanted to ask for your forgiveness for all the troubles our family has caused you. I think that you should talk to her. Lately, she has been the person to decide all the important matters in the family. She's becoming more and more like her mother.
Who was her mother, again?
Oh, of course you are a recent arrival. If you haven't heard anything about my wife, the godlike Nina, then I won't be able to describe just how important she was to us in a single conversation... How much it means to us...
Victor's thoughts trailed off and the silence lasted for quite a while before Artemiy broke it...
How much what means to you?
Oh... Why, the fact that my daughter is becoming more and more like her, of course. It means that soon, a real, powerful Mistress will appear in this Town one that will stop this pestilence with her primeval, primordial power that comes from the darkest depths of the Earth and will revive this Town for the sake of its future glory.
Well aren't you a poet... Fine I'll go and meet your daughter, if that is the case.
All this felt like a bad setup to use Artemiy as some sort of an errand boy. Just like on the second day, in fact...
Maria's house was located in the same housing complex, to the North of Victor's house. A short walk later, Artemiy went inside.
The house was quite a bit more lavish than Victor's in fact, the place was the most lavishly decorated house Artemiy has seen so far.
Almost all of the paintings shared the same subject it was unbearably narcissistic for a person such as Artemiy.
Further inside, Artemiy finally found Maria.
I'm sorry that we have been enemies for so long, Burakh. Our familial temper has caused you a great deal of discomfort.
The girl had quite the nerve...
Discomfort? Is that what you'd call it?
I'm terribly, terribly sorry. I'd like to have peace between us now. I've heard that you've performed a number of good deeds deeds worthy of great warriors of antiquity, in fact. It is true what they've been saying about your exploits, right?
Is this some sort of joke to you? What are you implying?
Maria smiled wryly it was, in fact, a joke.
Calm, Artemiy calm. Our meeting has occurred at the most opportune of moments. Would you be so kind as to help me with a small matter?
A small matter? Do tell...
I've heard that a mob of angry peasants is preparing to desecrate the tombs of the Mistresses. You see recently, I have broken Mr. Dankovskiy's moratorium and went outside to talk to my mother. Her tomb is closer to the cape you have seen it, I presume?
What cape? What are you talking about?
I brought her a gift that time. It was a diary a simple collection of sentimental memories. However, it is precious to me. When I was a little girl, my mother used to write letters in it for me in secret they appeared as if out of nowhere. I thought that the little book was speaking to me...
The notion seemed insane, but it was pretty clear what Maria was trying to achieve by taking the diary to her mother's grave. Still, it wouldn't hurt to probe a bit...
Hmm... Why did you take the diary to her grave, then?
The question brought a disproportionate amount of satisfaction to Maria she became positively giddy.
Oh, how your brow has furrowed, Burakh! Yes you are shrewd indeed! Precisely for that purpose, yes! Let that not trouble your pretty little head, though us Kains have a longstanding tradition of conversing with our dead. To be honest, they are quite a bit closer to the world of the living than most people think.
So that's how it is...
This diary doesn't just have a sentimental value to me, if you get my meaning... Will you bring it to me?
Artemiy had to admit that his curiosity was piqued. It was a short walk, too it wouldn't hurt at all.
I will. For a payment.
Oh my... I didn't expect you to be quite so straightforward about it - our relationship seemed to be so chivalrous, too... Of course, I won't be left in debt. Let us also pretend that you didn't say that last remark it's much more interesting that way.
The girl was clearly used to getting away with everything with just a wink and a smile. Damned aristocracy...
Do not toy with me, Maria.
In any case... bring me that diary, Burakh. I'm afraid that it's about to be desecrated. I don't want the diary to be damaged or, even worse, to fall into the wrong hands.
Don't trouble yourself you'll have your diary soon enough.
Track 14 The Bridge (Stone Yard)
Knocking at the Mistresses' doors
The young Kain is asking me to bring her her mother's diary. Mad, insane people want to burn down the Mistresses' tombs. Why? Because the Matriarch aren't taking care of the Town like they used to? I remember them Nina and Victoria. They were simple women, not goddesses. The deceased Matriarchs won't hear them. They aren't there they are not under the Earth.
Perhaps, it was presumptuous of Artemiy to dismiss the Mistresses' powers so handily especially, considering the fact that Kapella a daughter of a Mistress herself clearly had some prophetic powers of her own.
The little that Artemiy remembered of the Triumvirate of Mistresses' rule didn't present a compelling evidence for the Mistresses' mystical nature. Everything that was ascribed to them could, just as easily, be ascribed to the mass hysteria that occurred so frequently in this Town especially back in those days.
A short hop, skip and a jump later, and Artemiy found the crypt he was looking for. Dark Marble quite fitting indeed.
The interior was dark, cramped and disturbingly void-like for all its small space, it felt expansive, as if it threatened to consume whoever was inside. Artemiy decided not to dawdle here.
Artemiy didn't venture to read beyond the first couple of pages, although what he did read was quite disturbing disturbing enough that Artemiy threw it out of his mind upon reading it posthaste.
Knocking at the Mistresses' doors
I can return to Maria now. She is the one who knows everything about where the mysterious powers of the Town, to which the mad arsonists are calling, are located. That is the truth of it.
Upon exiting, Artemiy stumbled into a pair of arsonists flinging petrol bombs at a trio of infected persons.
Since Artemiy had the drop on them, the fight was a short one Artemiy was glad to perform a public service, for once.
The sick folks were quite grateful and orderly, having, seemingly, completed their pilgrimages. There was still a matter of getting back to the infected districts without being hassled by the patrolmen, but Artemiy left that to them.
Artemiy didn't run into any more trouble on the way back.
For all her flamboyant scheming, Maria was still a dangerous player in the games of intrigue. Artemiy, for all his annoyance with the girl, made sure not to underestimate her. Because of this, Artemiy didn't hold any illusions about this peace offering of Kains.
A halfhearted peace is better than a hearty quarrel. Isn't that right, Burakh?
What's true is true... I've found this in the Tomb.
Oh, thank you! Burakh you have done a great service for me! Let me reward you for your troubles and for the danger that you've went through for, obviously, my sake!
She winked slyly, as if chuckling at her own wit. Artemiy had nothing to do but to take his reward a small, by today's margin, amount of coins and leave.
Knocking at the Mistresses' doors
A curious woman, this Maria... Formidable, but charming at the same time... For someone like her, ruling is a birthright. One look from her, and one could willingly walk to his death or to the ends of the earth... Something about her reminded me of the little Kapella...
It seemed that meddling in the affairs of the Mistresses was an occupation reserved only for the most foolhardy people in this Town, and Artemiy was the foolhardiest of them all. With this little episode, his day was done the rest of it would be devoted to his less extravagant activities.
Today, he would sift his Father's notes in search of any mentions of a mythical creature that would resemble a hybrid of a human and a bull. Would he find such a mention? No of course not. It wasn't the time for it not quite yet.