The Let's Play Archive


by HellishWhiskers

Part 16: Chapter Eight - Part 1

Chapter Eight – Part 1

Artemiy woke up closer to the morning. Yesterday was a momentous day – he finally managed to produce the panacea. Today was going to be the day of finer details - how would he get more blood for the panacea and, more importantly, how would he find the Marked one?

Before attending to these matters, Artemiy would read the letters that he usually received overnight.

Letter from Aglaya Lilich

I have drawn an interesting conclusion from your visit to the Elder. The blood was warm, right? It is as much alive as it would be if it were just drawn from a living body.

This, however, cannot be the blood of the bull that was killed yesterday. Elder Oyun did not conduct the rite properly. If you go to him tomorrow, then ask him about the source of this blood.

P.S. Listen to the Bachelor's words. He has earned my trust and is now acting according to my instructions. He can help you reach your goals – provided that you need that help, of course.

P.P.S. I've heard today that you are fated to take leadership of the Order and usher in the rule of a new Power in this Town. That would be a sharp and reasonable solution. The time of the three families is passing. I must consider the future, too. Do you understand me?

A. L.

Artemiy didn't understand her yet, although, in time and with luck, he would. Not entirely sure what to make of it all, he picked up the next letter.

Diaries of Isidore Burakh: Excerpt on challenging Elder Oyun [pg. 131]

The Order is dangerously close to rioting. The animals are feeling the evil in the air. Yesterday, they had to pacify fifty eight brown bulls because of this...

I am challenging the Elder. Changing the order of the present rule is criminal, but trying to dodge my line any more is doubly so. Oyun is incapable of ruling the Order. This helmsman could not steer the vessel in the calm seas – he will surely sink us all during the storm.

I will announce my will to him and then I'm going to head out into the Steppe, to hear what Savyur has to say. I hope that, while I'm speaking with Bodkho, Oyun will understand the truth of my words and will come to an agreement with boos Vlad about the changing of the rule. If that doesn't happen, then the Order will riot. He will have to free up the Stones for me when I return.

My son isn't here yet... My boy – where are you? Who am I to rely upon in these awful times?

This was one of the pages that was harder for Artemiy to read. If he arrived earlier, it is very likely that his father would not have died of this damned disease – together, they would have surely coaxed the blood for the panacea out of the Elder... Why were the letters unable to reach him in time?

Still – it's no use to start one's day with such a crestfallen attitude – with luck, the Elder will provide more blood today and, with further luck, there just might be enough to save this forsaken Town. First things first, it was time to get the map from Notkin – as usual.

Unfortunately for Artemiy, the Elder has proven to be most uncooperative so far. If the threat of the Inquisitor did not make him more pliable, then Artemiy wasn't sure what would. Perhaps, challenging Oyun's rule would work? It seems that that was the route Isidore was going to take before he died...

Unlike in the previous two days, the Warehouse district was peaceful and quiet. Occasional hushed voices and rough-looking men aside, this place was downright homely compared to the rest of the Town.

The kids inside, however, looked tired and hungry – it seems that the gang was working fairly hard to make ends meet and a lot of them have, probably, died of the disease while trying to make themselves useful. Today, Notkin hiked up the price to two thousand coins, but Artemiy didn't begrudge him.

Artemiy produced the money and, in return, Notkin gave him a folder with the map of the Town. There were some surprises when Artemiy opened it, however.

This was the same image from yesterday – in fact, Artemiy probably had another copy of it lying in his backpack. It seems that someone was rather persistent in trying to force their interpretation of the nature of the Town on Artemiy.

Upon removing this drawing, Artemiy found something else on the top of the map that he purchased.

Artemiy raised the diagram, looked at the map and back at the diagram once more.

This wasn't necessarily some sort of a big revelation, but it still bore interesting implications. This was the truth of the nature of the Town if the Order's tales of Bos Turokh were to be taken literally. Even figuratively, interpreting the Town as a giant bull would have interesting implications – both for the Town and for Artemiy and his search for the marked one...

Nevertheless, this was nothing concrete and thought exercises were not something Artemiy had plenty of time for. The morning was almost here, and that meant that he could still be in time for the nightly performance. These things were useful, if not amusing, so Artemiy did not want to miss them if he could help it.

Artemiy was getting used to magically materializing letters and strange drawings finding their way into his pack, but it was still rather annoying to be toyed with in such a manner. He would much prefer a straighter answer than some halfhearted implications that are surely meant to try and steer him in some direction or another.

Even the theater itself was, most assuredly, nothing but a ploy of some sort – a source of amusement at best and a poisonous tongue at worst. Artemiy could do nothing but try to make his own road. That is all that he could do and all that he could do well.

The Theatre welcomed him with a familiar, stern voice that he had grown to respect and, perhaps, appreciate.

I understand the paths of the heavenly bodies. The logic of the numbers is known to me.

Oh yes indeed, Mistress!

The harsher fellow from before was trying his best at voicing supplication.

Heavy objects sink in water. That is the Law. Life decomposes into particles and is born again. That is the Law.

Do you see now how many mysteries the Earth is hiding within itself? The more awful the mystery, the more awful are its roots and less is the number of the wells that can reach it!

You can try to fool anyone, but not me – the emissary of the all-powerful Authorities. I know how this world was built. I know how life is structured within it. I know the laws, according to which it is organized. Everything has been conceived with simplicity, strictness and order.

Truly, Mistress – that is how everything was conceived...

Indeed, Mistress – that is how everything was conceived...

It shall be so – this is not the end of the world. This is, simply, an epidemic. The proportions have been violated. The Law, however, will prevail. I will restore the balance. I know where to look for the root of this evil.


REEL 9: Masks' Nightly Attraction – Night Seven

Empty hints, as usual, although it did provide interesting hints as to the knowledge that the Inquisitor possesses.

It was still early but Artemiy decided to start his morning by paying a visit to Aglaya. She will surely have a plan of attack on Oyun's lack of cooperativeness.

Artemiy was rapidly growing to rely upon the Inquisitor. She was a wise and powerful ally that was exceptionally useful in these times.

Strangely enough, Artemiy also felt himself becoming strangely... protective of Aglaya. The nature of her predicament and her actions while being in such a position struck a chord in Artemiy's soul. For all the talk of Inquisitors' treachery, Aglaya seemed very open, honest and straightforward to Artemiy.

Of course, this could have been a part of the lie for all he knew, but there was no use being paranoid and Artemiy felt an unusual inclination to trust her. She was very important – both for the future of the Town and for him.

Aglaya wasn't quite busy yet, and she was also expecting him.

Today, I will tell you about my goals and will reveal my plan to you. It's quite strange how that happened, but it seems that you – a person of a very different... environment – understand me better than anyone else might. For this, I will give you my honesty.

I, in turn, will give you my trust.

Above all else, I want to preserve this Town. I'll tell you the truth – I have no love for it. I'm guessing that this hopeless task is my last chance. It isn't even a matter of self-preservation, though, but simply a matter of professional pride.

Hopeless? How so?

For me it isn't, but it is so for them. A grave, into which they can shove anything they dislike without any repercussions because it will always rot. I'm guessing, though, that this Town is quite precious to them... They wouldn't have sent an artillery division here if it weren't, although they do have other Towns beside this one...

It is unfortunate that Aglaya had a bit of a tendency to ramble in response to what seemed like her own thoughts, but then so did almost everyone in this Town. Besides, it seemed that, behind her ramblings there was a wealth of information and horrible secrets, so she could be forgiven.

What are you planning to do?

We will find the source of the disease and destroy it. That is a question of two – maximum three – days, at most. Those who are sick we will cure with your Panacea. The plan would've been foolproof, were it not for a gaping hole in it. There is preciously little of this Panacea to go around. Its main ingredient is a relic. If I understand it correctly, then there are less auroxes on this Earth than there are leviathans...


They say that on the day before yesterday, the brought an aurox from the Steppes and sacrificed him in the Abattoir. The Odonkhe say that this was the last one, and that he was sacrificed to rid the people of this plague.


Something makes me wonder, though – they say that an aurox allows itself to be commanded only by a true Servitor. This is why Olgimsky rules the Order on his own, but can only lord over the Abattoir by the means of an intermediary. Isn't that so?

It is. Father said the same thing, actually...

The Elder watches over the rituals and, from time to time, performs the Rite – cuts open a Bull according to the ways in which it was done from the times of creation of the world in order to preserve the world. This Bull that he routinely cuts open must be an aurox. Within it are all the elements, all the lines, all the languages, all the connections – everything. Did they inform me properly?

Yes. It does sound like the truth – the nature of Boos Turokh.

However, the ritual did not seem to work. The Order is in turmoil. They are displeased with the Elder. That means that he must have done something wrong. If the Order was locked in the Apiary then, I imagine, the ritual happened with almost no witnesses. Perhaps, the aurox did not submit to the Elder's will? Perhaps, there wasn't even a ritual?

If that is the case, then where did the blood come from?

Well – that is the question, isn't it? The ritual happened on the day before yesterday. Many hours have passed since its completion. The Elder, however, gave you blood that was steaming. It was scalding and full of oxygen. It was alive – as if it were just extracted from a living body.

Indeed – quite puzzling, that...

You ought to ask the Elder about its source... I'm guessing that the Abattoir hides many a mystery... You are the only one who is fated to pierce its depths... The more I think about it the more it is I'm sure that we are on the right track. Even in our enlightened age, we will be saved by the ancient tales of the herdsmen.

I will follow your rather daring advice...

Good luck to you, Artemiy Burakh. Beware the Elder. He is afraid of you, but he is also one of those, who are more dangerous in fear than in calm.

What should I do if the Abattoir is closed?

Go through the Apiary. I've spoken with that girl yesterday – Taya Tychik. She commands a great deal of influence. For a second there, I even doubted whether I could bend her to my will or not. She can open the passage to the Abattoir for you...

Wait for me – I will be back soon.

Whose blood is it?

So, it's true – the sacrifice has failed. Can it mean that there was no sacrifice to being with? If that is the case, then whose blood was it? Why was it smoking, as if it were extracted from a body right then and there, and not two days ago?

This needs to be checked out. The path into the Abattoir goes through the Apiary.

Artemiy began heading in the direction of the Apiary when he received his first letter of the day.

Bachelor's Invitation

I have figured out that the nutrient-rich environment, in which this disease might have been born, is located underground. The answer to this riddle might be found in the Abattoir, because there is something strange happening in its depths, according to the local rumous.

The Inquisitor insists that you are the only one who can get in there without any repercussions. If that is the truth, then I'm asking you to meet with me. That is important.

Bachelor Dankovsky

P.S. Aglaya Lilich is acting quite strange. She was asking me about you. She wants to talk to you, but does not want to try and get you to come by her order. That is quite suspicious, if you ask me, but I can't explain her behaviour. In any case, be careful.

The letter was a bit odd, but it could also be chalked up to Dankovsky being a bit protective of his ally? If that was the case, then Artemiy felt touched by such a concern. He went to see Daniil immediately. It was 7 A.M.

Daniil, it seemed, was in low spirits.

On the other hand there was a strange, crooked smile on Daniil's face when the conversation began.

You've made the strongest of impression on the emissary of the Authorities. I should congratulate you. If this state of affairs persists, then, soon, we won't have a terrifying in Inquisitor – only timid and obedient Aglaya Lilich.

Well – this was a turn quite unlike of what Artemiy grew to expect of Dankovsky. He was angry, sarcastic and... jealous? Artemiy respected the man and, because of that respect, he did not say anything rash to a phrase full of strangely snide insinuations.

You are learned, Oinon and I grant you the respect that you deserve, but you should not judge things of which you know preciously little.

Daniil sighed and looked away apologetically. Good – perhaps that will be the end of that.

Very well. I'm asking for your help, Burakh. You, of course, know that my affairs here are far from over. Now, at Inquisitor's behest, I am working on finding the source. Just like you were, she has sent me in the right direction. Unfortunately, I have hit a dead end while following this path.

Go on.

I am conducting analysis of the soil and... Well, to sum it up, the results aren't very fruitful, but I have found something. It seems that the tectonic plates underneath the Town are structured in a manner that is entirely paradoxical. I need to find out what is hiding in the depths. I've heard that the Abattoir has its roots buried deep beneath the Earth. Tell me – do they know what lies in the depths of the Earth?

I'm quite curious, myself. Today, I'll find it out, if there's enough time.

You'll share the result with me, won't you? We work for the same case.

Do we, now? In any case, that depends on the result, oinon...

Artemiy didn't want to make promises he couldn't keep, and he was still a bit sour about the welcome he received. He left Daniil to his devices and continued on to the Apiary.

There was a strange bitterness growing in the Bachelor. Was it present in the past couple of days and Artemiy simply did not notice, or were it a product of yesterday? Artemiy wasn't sure but he was troubled by this development either way.

The Bachelor was an ally and, in some respects, even a friend – it would be a shame for this relationship to crash and burn just because of Bachelor's paranoid emotions, fueled by God knows what sort of uncouth thoughts.

Now, this is an interesting thing! What was an executor doing by Alexander Saburov's door? Was he sick? Artemiy decided to investigate.

This man is sick. No – do not blame yourself. It's obvious that one of your colleagues-competitors didn't preserve him... Perhaps, they even set his demise up. In any case, you cannot enter. Quarantine. A sorrowful watch.

Isn't there anything I can do to help him?

Whatever Alexander Saburov may have done, Artemiy wanted to protect as many people form the plague as he could.

He is a simple human being, even if he is an Adherent. You can cure him just as you can cure anyone else. You are the doctor here – it's your call.

Very well – I'll try and think of something.

There was no Panacea left, but Artemiy may have had something else. Artemiy rummaged about in his pack and produced a box with some white powder in it. He confiscated a number of these little boxes from the kids over the days – four in total.

On the first day, a Doghead told Artemiy that these powders supposedly cured the Sand Plague at the cost of great harm to one's health. It seemed like hogwash at the time – how can a random collection of antibiotics cure the plague? The reality of the situation was that Alexander Saburov was dead within six hours without a cure and there wasn't any to be found but this. Besides, this would make a good test case for these powders, however grizzly it might be.

Behind this door is a victim of your inattention. A victim of your neglect for your duty as a doctor!

The fellow was laying it on a bit too thick...

I have a box of children' powder right here. It may help.

This? You must be joking! This will make this man a lifelong invalid! It will burn out his innards along with the disease! Are you sure that you want to rid him of the Sand Fever for this price?

Yes. Feed the powder to him.

The Executor shrugged and went inside. After five minutes, he still did not come out, and Artemiy decided to go on his way. If Alexander Saburov was still alive tomorrow, Artemiy would know that this unorthodox cure worked.

Dire times call for dire measures and Artemiy was sure that no one could entirely blame him for this decision. If it worked, then Artemiy would have another cure option on his hands. Alexander was doing a public service – something he always strived to do.

In any case, this was an interesting and, perhaps, useful detour. Thoughts on it have certainly killed the time it took to get to the Apiary!

The men at the door were a tad more disagreeable today, but they did let him in in the end.

The situation in the Apiary seemed slightly better now that there wasn't an active blockade going on. Nonetheless, there were still many infected here much to Artemiy's dismay.

The door to Mother Superiour's abode was open and unguarded – quite strange, but then nobody of the Order would dare to think to go against her will.

Her chambers were still guarded, as well.

It's good that you're still alive!

Mother – I need to get into the Abattoir. They say that you can open the passage.

They are right to say so!

So, open it up.

If you reveal something for me, then I will! Let's trade?

Depends on what you want in return.

This Klara is very tricky! She began telling me a tale about a crystal flower. It was so interesting! She didn't finish her tale, though – she wants to get something from me in return.

What is it?

Well, that's the thing! You should've heard the tales that she weaves. I can feel that I'm under her spell and must obey her whims! I don't get it, at all, but I feel as if I'll have to give up my life for her...

This extremery powerful girl was quite terrified of this prospect – to the point of tears, it seemed.

How so? Here, here – don't cry.

Yeah... Or, it's like she will ask me to give up something that I shouldn't give up... She'll come soon and will start riddling her riddles... What am I to do? Perhaps, Kapella can help? Maybe she can, maybe she can't...

It's only a tale... Still – you want me to find it out for you?

Reveal the end of Klara's tale for me! It's a tale about an ice prince and a crystal flower. How did it end? She will come here, and I'll already know everything! She will fail and won't be able to make me do anything – she won't have any power left over me!

Very well – I will.

Whose blood is it?

Tychik's daughter isn't fussing – it seems that the Impostress really charmed her with her witchcraft. The girl won't calm down until she finds out the end of her tale – there is something important waiting for her at its end. Children's magic, though it clearly works. We'll have a talk with Klara... and with Kapella.

Taya mentioned that Kapella might know something about Klara's powers, and so the Olgimsky house became Artemiy's next stop.

The extent of Klara's powers was shaping up to be quite disturbing. Taya seemed entirely aware that she was under influence, but, nonetheless, was powerless to do anything about it. What sort of things could Klara force people to do? What has she been up to all these days?

With the girl's malevolent nature and her awareness of her powers, she could cause a whole lot of trouble. Luckily, there were two of them and each was working towards an opposing goal, which could mean that the two of them counterbalanced each other.

Kapella, being powerful in her own right, would know more.

Not much changed in the girl's house in the past couple of days. She still carried the same look of weariness on her face, though.

You came! I always knew that you were my friend, Artemiy! You are a friend, right? Listen to me, then! You know that I'm not just a daughter of a ruler. I carry a heavy burden of sacred power – a burden that you want to accept too, I know. I am the duchess and the sacred Servitor of the children!

The girl was serious and sincere, but Artemiy couldn't help but chuckle a bit at the zealousness of it all.

I know.

I want to solemnly ask you for your help. I beg of you – help me in a very important task. It's not only a good deed, but it is also important for the entire Town. Save the lives of a couple of children.

Are they in danger?

Yes! Horrible Klara is planning to use their lives and their childlike generosity to profit from them. I, on the other hand, can't do anything about it! She even has them feuding with me! I will help you with anything if you help me save their lives!

What is so horrible about her?

She is very powerful and dangerous. She is even more powerful than me, you know. It's because I create, while she destroys. Yes, indeed – that is her nature! She does not heal – while she kills the disease, you should also see those, whom she heals... She is stronger because she is a liar through and through, while I am the White Mistress - honest to the fault.

What does she need the children for, then?

She has special plans for them. Both me and her are looking for the same things in them... Self-reliance. Importance. Authority. I, however, am also interested in their human qualities, while she is looking for... something else... Somehow, she is planning to sacrifice them for her own gain!

You want me to watch after them?

Yes! Help them, Artemiy, and I will help you. I ask you as a child, and I will thank as a Ruler and a Mistress. Soon – it will all happen soon. You know, after all – the future is open to me. Help me gain power and I will help you keep it.

I don't need power.

But you need victory. Isn't that so? Can't you feel these bonds, these obligations, this trap that you were led into by the inevitability? Oh yes – you need victory! Otherwise, you won't become yourself! Let's help each other. Let's be grateful and generous to each other.

“Won't become yourself?” What does she mean by that? She is stranger than she ever were today... Still, Artemiy made a promise to this girl on the first day and he will keep it.

I won't do it for power – I'll do it because I'm your friend. I'll do it for you.

Don't let us down. You'll see – together we'll win.

You don't happen to know where Klara is, do you?

Lately, she had some dealings with Notkin. She was mucking about there, but I think she left without gaining anything. That's when she started showing her teeth. Long, crooked, sharp teeth... She could also be at Mishka's – she was asking Riddle about her...

Thank you, Victoria.

It was a short trek to Notkin's and it was supposed to be uneventful, but that was when Artemiy received a letter that would sour his mood considerably.

Bachelor's choice

Tomorrow, the military will be here. They came here to burn and crush. One can't sit idly on the fence – it depends on us as to whether something can be preserved out of all of this. I've made my choice.

I've come under the banner of a dream that has lost its battle with history. From now on, I will put all my strength towards saving those, who are doomed and their causes – causes that, just like them, were sentenced to death by the logic of evolution. I'm speaking about the so-called “utopians”. The four Kains, the architect brothers, my kind Eva and, as I'm hoping, Vlad Jr .

If these people survive then, perhaps, I'll manage to preserve one of the most wondrous monuments of this world. I don't hope that you will help me, but, at least, don't interfere with my affairs! Woe to you if it will be your fault that one of my “utopians” perishes! I will fight for my doomed banner until the end!

Bachelor Dankovsky

What sort of inane, hysterical drivel was this? What the hell was Bachelor thinking? Where was the man who earned Artemiy's respect through calmness, diligence and wisdom? What the fuck was this and what was Artemiy supposed to do with this?

First, the man acts in a bizarre, emotional manner and he then proceeds to completely fly off the handle, lashing out at Artemiy in a perceived defiance of... of what, exactly? This also came mere hours after he asked Artemiy for help with a delicate matter that would mean Artemiy betraying the confidence of the Order, too! If he thinks that Artemiy will help him now, then he can bugger off with his bizarre, scattershot, self-righteous bullshit!

Artemiy was done, pure and simple. This was a first for him, too, for he wasn't used to acting in a vindictive or angry manner, but this was a betrayal of trust and respect! Daniil could have come to him with this matter as a friend, but, instead, he chose to approach this in a manner that was, frankly, insane. The consequences of this were his to bear. Artemiy wasn't going to lash out against the Bachelor's “cause”, whatever the hell it was, but he was not going to provide any assistance to him anymore.

Artemiy usually kept the letters he received, but this one found its way into a trash bin awfully fast. Artemiy still had many matters to attend to and there was no use dwelling on this any longer - that was the end of that.

The kids of the warehouse, who were usually cocksure and quite rowdy, quieted down upon seeing him. Artemiy's dour mood was palpable, or so it seemed. He did not dally and headed straight to Notkin.

Well, aren't you angry-looking...

Have you seen Klara around?

I have – I'll even show you where! Quite the coincidence – she's looking for you! Quite forcefully, too – even I got scared. She's planning something, that Klara... I think that she'll trick us all.

Why do you think that she is up to some sort of trickery?

It's all gotten very lively around Klara in the past couple of days... Everything's about mysteries and all of them aren't looking too good. There's a bad air around her... She's so business-like lately, too – always demanding something and baring her teeth... She won't answer any questions, too – like she's hiding something. I'm creeped out by all of this, truth be told...

You aren't easily scared, too...

Yeah – that's why I'm telling you that you should be careful around her... She's planning something... It doesn't look good, mark my words. We should be careful so that she doesn't include us in the chain of her plans, although, by the look of it, she already has... It won't be enough that we'll lose out, but we'll also end up looking like it's our fault...

The kid was right to be paranoid, but he seemed to be overly so. Everyone around Artemiy was in a strange, exaggerated state today – except for Aglaya, that is...

We'll figure it out, don't worry...

Notkin pointed Artemiy to Mishka's wagon – just like Kapella did. It was located right next to the station, so Artemiy headed right there.

A week later and there were still no trains from the Capital. That will likely change tomorrow, but one would be hard-pressed to hope that the military will bring anything but more destruction with it.

There didn't seem too much hope for the Town except for the work of the healers. One of them, however, is a strange girl with mystical powers who also has a clone that is an avatar of the disease that everyone was trying to cure, while the other one just went batshit insane with bitterness and despair. It seemed that everything depended entirely on Artemiy.

There were hushed whispers coming from the wagon – since Mishka was usually alone, that must have meant that Artemiy was on the right track. He knocked on the door and opened it without waiting for an answer.

Klara smirked upon seeing Artemiy, but Mishka remained her usual detached self. He decided to talk to the “owner of the house” first.

Quite the tale they've told me... How could she say those things?

What sort of tale?

About an orphan and the underground denizens. About the gehkens, the falselegs who live in the Earth and dig tunnels under the houses... Also, about the water from Sugag Hadug...

What is so scary about it, then?

A lot. I've asked Klara if she can talk to my Mom and Dad and ask them how to not get sick... Instead, she told me that she'll tell me such a tale that both of them will come alive and I'll be able to talk to them myself... That's when she started telling the tale...

Come alive? How so?

I don't know. I've listened to most of the tale but I still didn't get it. She didn't finish it, either! I'll be worrying now because of it!


Because she summoned Mom and Dad! That's how it was in the tale. What if they come back and I don't know where they are? That part must be at the end of her story!

Klara was clearly pulling the same trick she did with Taya.

Don't think about it like that, Mishka.

No! What if I'll know how to meet them by the end? What if they come back?

The little girl was in tears and Artemiy had nothing to do but to leave her alone for now – there wasn't much he could do to help her right now. He turned to Klara, although he wasn't quite sure which one of them it was.

What do you need, Ripper?

Artemiy decided to not reveal his hand too early, considering Klara's treachery and all that.

Some Dualsouls told me a funny story lately – something about crystal flowers...

Where did they know this little tale from?

Well, they don't rightly know. They said that it had a funny ending, though...

There's nothing funny about it - it's quite scary, actually! I can't believe that they laughed...

One of them was laughing so hard that he got a bad case of hiccups. Especially during the part about the prince, or so they told me...

They couldn't have laughed, surely! Which part were they laughing about? The part where the prince despaired and decided that such a flower would never bloom in his garden? Or was it when all the other flowers started dying out because the crystal flower was taking everything – water, air and even light – from them? Was that it?

No, I think it was some other part...

Was it the part where the gardener came out with the scissors, but the prince tricked him so that, instead of the crystal flower, the gardener began cutting all the other live flowers? Or was it when the horrible flower grew seeds and a garden grew out of it that was a thousand times more beautiful than the old one, while the regular flowers never grew there again?

There was more to it, I'm sure of it – they said so themselves.

That's the ending. There can't be any more. They're lying!

That must be the case, then... They can't seem to trick you – good on ya, Klara.

Artemiy got what he wanted, even if he couldn't quite help Mishka right then and there. For now, he could only hope that Klara would finish her treacherous tale and leave the little girl alone.

Still, Artemiy could not say he wasn't proud of his own little bit of trickery that he pulled on Klara. Of course, it was also very likely that she was aware of what was going on and decided to go with it anyway. Still, that wasn't probable, since she must have known then just what Artemiy would use the ending of this tale for. There was, however, another consideration here.

Whose blood is it?

Now, I can come back to Tychik's daughter and finish the tale. It's not known, however, what sort of reaction she will have to it... I dearly hope that Klara won't manage to pull a trick on us all...

There was a sort of danger to it, but there was nothing to be done about it, since Taya was the only ticket into the Abattoir for Artemiy. With this in mind, Artemiy began heading in the direction of the Apiary, although, before doing so, he took a little break.