Part 22: Chapter Ten - Part 2Chapter Ten Part 2
Taya didn't have anything more to say and Artemiy didn't feel like being lied to some more, even if the lies weren't lies but merely lame jokes a 4-year old finds funny. The Bone Pillar was quite close to the Apiary, so Artemiy headed there to check out this Aurox to try and figure out just where the hell it came from.
If nothing else, attending to this matter might distract poor Artemiy from all the doubt caused by the Mistresses and their vague phrases that are full of non-commitment. At the end of the day, the possibility of there being two Udurgs in play in this entire situation was becoming quite real and it increasingly looked like the Artemiy will eventually have to choose which one of the two is the one he is meant to protect.
The Bone Pillar wasn't very boney in fact, the rock itself wasn't particularly jagged or anything.
Upon further inspection, however, there was an actual bone present here and the bull was pierced by it at the neck level. It did, however, still breathe, albeit rather weakly. It was time to question the worms on just what in the world is the reason behind this strange scene.
You see? He is dying. Don't come near him... Don't touch him, either. Do not even try it won't work. How could you even touch him? You aren't an Elder or a Servitor, yet...
Where did this thing come from? The last one was killed three days ago, wasn't it?
You said it yourself... His blood seeped into the Earth, didn't it? It did, and so He grew. Ha-ha-ha!
Laughing, are you? What is to be done with him?
The children feel him. The little ones know what to do. Ask them. They will inherit the Earth. You have other Adherents besides this one here they are all tied together by the same thread. Ask your Adherents, ask the Children.
Adherents? The Worm was rather well informed for a Worm... He might have let on a bit more than he may have wanted, though.
Since when is this thing my Adherent? What... or... wait a second! What Tauro would you use to mark this beast?
Tauro was, after all, primarily used by the Steppe folk to mark cattle.
Ask my kinsmen. Each of them feels differently. Myself, I'll tell you that the Dualsouls have already came by. Their leader, the exile, the defender of beasts, weak and tiny offspring of Bodkho, surely has an opinion of his own.
Notkin? I shall ask him, Odonkhe.
Enter Boos Turokh
The coming of the bull is a mystery, and the Children know the answer to this mystery better than anyone else. Notkin had already gathered his own people to hold council. The Worms, meanwhile, are waiting for news from the other children. It seems that each and every one of the little orphans has their own part to play in all of this.
Artemiy approached the first worm, the leftmost one.
You see? Ask the orphan, whose voice the Earth uses to speak to us, who can never lie, who loves to listen more than she loves to speak. Answer me, how would she decide the fate of this Higher One? Answer me, and I will give you a drop of His blood.
Very well it is worth my time.
Enter Boos Turokh
The coming of the bull is a mystery, and the Children know the answer. Mishka, the girl who listens to the Earth, must voice her opinion, although...
You see? Ask boy-scout, who examined the body of the Town, who knows where each house grows, who knows the hidden connections. Answer me, how would he decide the fate of this Higher One? Answer me and I will give you a drop of His blood.
It is worth both my efforts and time.
Enter Boos Turokh
The coming of the bull is a mystery, and the Children know the answer. The little scout Matchstick's opinion is important as well. He's much more important than his tiny stature would suggest...
You see? Ask the daughter of the graveyard keeper the one, with whose voice speak the ones who then grow through Bodkho's skin as grass. Answer me, how would she decide the fate of this Higher One? Answer me and I will give you a drop of His blood.
That is worth my effort.
Enter Boos Turokh
The coming of the bull is a mystery, and the Children know the answer. Sensitive Laska can guess the nature of matters perhaps better than anyone else. The Children will inherit the Earth.
Oh dear that's a lot of people to visit. Artemiy was going to visit Mishka at the very least, but, at this rate, he'll be visiting all of his Adherents before the day is done. Matchstick's house is the closest to the Bone Pillar.
Artemiy didn't actually know if the blood of this bull would be good for the production of the Panacea, but if it were, then he absolutely had to try.
The house was quiet, but the kid was clearly at home.
Sigh... You know, I can't be going outside at all! I don't get it myself... It's all screwed up!
This kid had a bit more influence on the Town than your average child, but, just like the rest of the Adherents, he was quite powerless.
I saw a bull near the Bone Pillar. He is a Higher One.
Wow... Why didn't I get to see him?! I've been staking out the Steppe at night so many times I wanted to see how the Odongs brought the Higher Ones out from the Steppe... Never got to see one... And there goes another one! Damn! So, what is he very big?
Well... yeah he's pretty big. You, on the other hand, ought to tell me what should be done with him!
Heal him! You're a doctor, aren't you? Take the bull off of the spike! You know, I've been having a headache since this morning, too!
Funnily enough, Artemiy didn't tell Matchstick about the bull's predicament, but the kid knew anyway.
Hmm... is that so?
I don't think I'm the only one, too! Aurox is a sacred animal! Whatever happens with him will spread to everything around it. Why else do you think an Elder would be ought to know his rites, after all? Your Father should have taught you better, Servitor!
Shush, now! I know it without you...
Enter Boos Turokh
Matchstick asked me to preserve the bull. I can relay his words to the Odonkhe.
So... the Worms' words were true the kids felt the presence of this bull. It was strange, but not unexpected, of course.
Kapella told him recently that his Adherents are all tied together. That they are exiles from the Polyhedron all of them, except Khan. How would the bull play into all of this, then? Or is it a metaphor? Is the bull just like the picture that was put on top of his map by some trickster?
It was time to stop the gloomy thoughts and to ask Laska what she thinks about this whole affair. Probably nothing cheery, considering that she had a bit of a penchant for hallucinations.
Well? Is Laska at Kapella's yet?
She left for Kapella's place?
Such horrors have been happening around here... If I were her, I would go straight to Kapella's if I were to ever leave this cozy house... Where else is there to go, now? Only there.
Very well, then... I'll check at Kapella's.
Hmm... I should have known that this wouldn't be as smooth as simply going around and asking the children for their opinion...
What sort of business would chase Laska away from her precious graveyard, anyway? She would never willingly leave it behind. She's rather possessive of her congregation.
Truth be told, Laska was probably the creepiest Adherent Artemiy had.
The rest of the kids range from gloomy to pensive to crazy, but the obsessive,gravey bent Laska had to her is a bit on another level above the 4-year old with lame jokes and a power to execute anyone based on her whim.
Laska wasn't inside, of course.
You'll always help me, right?
Of course. So... Laska isn't here, is she?
Ah! So, it is Laska's turn now! She was captured by the soldiers! This is all that damned Klara's fault! I wish I could get my hands on her!
Soldiers? What do they have to do with anything?
A bunch of military doctors came to the graveyard with flamethrowers in tow. That was when they started bringing the dead from the Apiary there. She wouldn't allow them to burn the bodies. They got enraged and told her that because of the likes of her, people are dying.
I see... So, where is the girl, then?
Maybe, the General will order her released. Do you know where the military keeps its prisoners? Probably in the Town Hall, right where the General is.
That's not very far I'll go there.
The Army has been taking a rather fast and loose approach to criminals these days. It could, very well, be too late for Laska. Artemiy, of course, hoped for the best.
The General keeps a strange company indeed!
Interestingly enough, you can't talk to Klara here no dialogue initiates. It's like she's not there at all.
You have my utmost attention, surgeon.
I'm looking for a girl. She's very young. Her name is Laska.
She is the daughter of the late graveyard keeper. After his death, she's been taking care of the deceased.
This is not an orphanage, healer! Or, do you think that all the lost orphans are ought to be looked for at the military headquarters? Why the hell are you bothering me with such questions?!
She didn't allow the soldiers to enter the graveyard. It seems that they were going to burn bodies on your orders. Laska could have been hurt.
Lately, a whole bunch of people have been coming to me with requests to burn one thing or another. That will not happen! Klara is a saint! She orders to not burn anything! It is foul. You've burned her sister during the first day, isn't that true?!
Goddamn! Klara has certainly been busy... She practically has the Army in her pocket. This is disconcerting, indeed!
Talk to the Bachelor about that, if you must. How can I find out what happened to Laska?
...Godammit! Burning a graveyard? I never gave such an order. This graveyard keeper prevented insubordination she is a good young woman. She has faithfully performed her duty. She acted decisively and wisely. Isn't that right, Klara? It's kind of her, right?
Artemiy could obviously see Klara, but Blok did not seem to acknowledge the fact that she was in the room. Let's throw a curveball.
Who are you talking to, General?
What? Oh... Oh yes... What did you want to know?
An interesting reaction, though it does not answer much.
Where could they have taken her?
The flamethrower squad is under Captain Longinus's command. You can find him near the Cannon. The Officers' wagon stands out. You'll find your graveyard keeper there tell him that I ordered her released due to lack of evidence against her. The password is 413th. Hurry.
Captain Longinus? Really? Isn't that... a bit... heavy-handed? No? Okay, game. Okay.
Artemiy's path was taking him to the train station quite convenient. He could visit Mishka after he frees Laska.
It would be a good idea to visit Notkin too. His warehouse was on the way and it would only be a slight detour to come see him and to put a check mark next to his name.
Notkin was a bit distracted, or so it seemed.
I came to you about the bull.
Well, of course! Of course you did! You already know what happened? We have to remove the spike!
What are you so agitated for?
The Sacred Bull has appeared near the Bone Pillar! Perhaps He is absolutely the last Aurox on our planet. You know what sort of animal He is? Smart! Terrible! Majestic! Like a dragon! Unicorn! Manticore!
Shh... Pipe down, kid... What's wrong with you?
My agitation is quite understandable! This is going to be our most precious, most godly animal! If he wave such a beast under our care, even that Khan won't dare to try and touch is! We will turn from a street gang into temple guard!
You seem to be quite serious... So... how would you decide the bull's fate?
He must live no matter the cost! No matter the cost! I don't care I'll be the first to lay down my life for Him! Make it so that the spike is pulled out of his head! Promise?
That's quite the life you'd be laying down for it...
I promise, sheesh... Sit here. Don't you dare go outside!
Enter Boos Turokh
Notkin believes that the bull needs to be preserved, no matter the cost. I can relay his words to the Odonkhe.
Artemiy met a number of people who were in a rather... clouded state today.
Both Notkin and Matchstick seemed very agitated about this Bull. The General, on the other hand, seemed to be under the effect of some sort of charm. Perhaps, these things are of the same nature? Perhaps, they are different? It's... it's all quite bizarre, of course. In any case Artemiy was at his destination. It was time to fetch Laska from the hands of the Army.
I've come for the girl. You've been ordered to release her.
On whose authority?
General Blok's order. 413th.
I'm ready to release her to you if you will vouch for her. Have her promise right here under the fear of arrest that she won't be interfering with my soldiers again.
I will vouch for her. She'll confirm it right now.
You already know what happened... The Higher One has appeared at the Bone Pillar. Since I've been here, I didn't even get the chance to take a look at Him!
What did they take you here for?
I will not let them burn! They shouldn't even try! How can they burn that, which is ought to be laid down into the Earth? How could they live with themselves afterwards? How would they grow? How would they return to the sun? The body is sacred! To burn it is even worse than cutting it! You cannot burn the dead!
Oh dear... This will be difficult.
Listen. They will leave soon. You must give them your word that you will not interfere.
Fine. Very well. I'll calm down if you will not let them burn the most important body. You know what I'm talking about, right? If you haven't seen the Higher One, yet, then go to the Bone Pillar. You will see a puzzle. It has been made for you.
I already know about it. I wanted to hear what you had to say, that's all.
Calm down the Dualsouls, too! They want to guard the beast, or so it seems...
Sure... The Officer heard your words. You're free.
Enter Boos Turokh
Laska believes that the bull must live. I can relay her words to the Odonkhe.
Mishka's wagon was only a few steps away. Artemiy headed in.
It's you? But... but it hasn't returned yet...
The Doll... No... Not Klara. My Doll left to take a walk. Can you believe it? Probably to get some food. She didn't have anything to eat. It's my fault.
What does it eat?
It eats herbs that grow near the bull cairns. You know? The standing stones with bull heads.
Hm... do the herbs grow there?
I don't know for sure. But Worms walk there. Where there are Worms, there are herbs.
Okay. Stay put. I'll bring you your doll.
Who will feed the doll?
The Doll feeds itself near the Bull Cairns. Father said that these standing stones have been here since time immemorial way before the herdsmen came here. Afterwards, they were re-purposed for ritual needs and now they can be easily discerned from the rest by the bull bones that litter the land around them.
Of course, the Bull question remained.
You know that there is a bull near the Bone Yard, right?
I do. The Doll told me. He's in pain. He'll expire soon. Poor beastie.
Is it an Aurox?
He is not a real Higher One. The one who was killed four days ago was the last one.
Interesting... Mishka was, according to the Worms, the wisest of the children. If she says that the Higher One isn't real, listening to her would probably be smart. Still...
So... Is it a hallucination?What am I to do with him?
He isn't real, but he is alive. You need to take him off of the bone. A sharp spike pierced his head, after all! You need to absolutely take him off of it. He hurts and we hurt too.
Enter Boos Turokh
Mishka doesn't want the bull to leave. I can relay her words to Odonkhe.
The Bull matter was pretty much over with. The kids were unified in agreement, though they were not entirely in agreement about his nature. Still, if they agreed that he should live and the Worms said that he is tied to their fates, he should, indeed, be protected. Artemiy headed out into the Steppe to get Mishka's doll.
Here are the standing stones that Mishka mentioned. No sign of the Doll and Artemiy would be hard-pressed to find it in all this tall grass. Although...
This is Savyur a fairly rare herb. You don't usually find more than one in a large stretch of the Steppe. Here, there are two of them... Artemiy followed to fetch the second and, sure enough...
White Whip another rare specimen. It seems like there is a herb trail going further into the Steppe. Following it seems like a good idea.
All in all, the trail numbered about 20 bits of precious herbs. By the end of it, Artemiy was fairly well-stocked.
Ah. There it is.
Seems like an average doll to me... Although...
That fanny pack sure looks familiar... Whomever's idea of a joke this was, it wasn't particularly fun. Confusing, sure, but not funny. Artemiy took the doll and began making his way to its rightful owner.
Who will feed the doll?
It seems that this ugly little thing is Mishka's precious doll. It looks quite sated. I can return now.
It's cold here... I need a stove.
Is this your doll?
Oh, you poor thing... You're tired, right? Did you eat?
Well, go on take it.
Here. This isn't a simple vial. There's blood here. You make medicine out of it. Make some for yourself. Don't worry, it's nobody's.
Still warm... There's no doubt it's the same sort of blood that Artemiy got from the Elder. Holy shit.
Where did you get this? What do you mean it's nobody's?
I got it from a puddle under the Tower. When I was looking for the doll. There's probably a whole lake there now. The Earth gave it. I felt it. I thought that the Doll went there to drink some.
That's quite the doll you've got.
He's a good one. Kind. He doesn't do evil to anyone.
Artemiy wasn't nearly as spotless, but one could hope and strive to be the best.
So.. You got it near the Polyhedron?
There's more there. Go and check.
If it's true, then I'll be back to ask you some questions. Sit tight.
Who will feed the doll?
What? The blood appeared under the Kids' Tower? I wonder how it seeped there. Could the blood have been spilled from somewhere in the Tower? Who, then, are its inhabitants?
Artemiy is probably jumping the gun here a bit. Mishka did say that she heard the Earth tell her to come and get it. It would make sense that it probably came from the Earth, too.
Artemiy took the back way through the Steppe to the Horns. It would be a good idea to visit the Bachelor on the way and tell him the news.
Coming back to Dankovsky's place of residence reminded Artemiy of the news he was bringing to Daniil and thoroughly soured his mood once more. All the annoying crap about the Udurgs came back to his mind right then and there.
So... What do you have to say, Artemiy?
I've spoken with both Mistresses...
Kapella is already a Mistress? Hm... Well, no matter. So what's the answer? Can Simon be an Udurg? Is there such a possibility?
There is. That doesn't say much, though, now does it?
Artemiy acknowledged the state of the game on the board, but he didn't have to be happy about it.
Well, then... That means that it's all worth it. It will be risky, though, that much is true... I'll have to bet my reputation against that of the fearsome victor at the Battle of Shkery.
I imagine that the Bachelor was talking about the General.
I don't get it.
The key to solving these contradictions is in the Tower that you call the Polyhedron. It's clear that it is not what it pretends to be to the outsiders.
What does my Father's Udurg have to do with it?
I still have to test this theory from the point of view of optics... I must be sure that these are not just simple folks' tales. I will study the Polyhedron from within, and you, exchange, will get me the evidence that the capillaries beneath the Earth have a certain shape that would... confirm my theories. Deal?
From the point of view of optics? For shame, Daniil that's absolutely terrible!
What? You need to find a way into the Abattoir again, or something?
Don't forget that my task is to find the source of this disease. You are not allowed into the Tower, while I am not allowed into the Abattoir. Let us help each other. Tomorrow, I'll send you a letter. We'll come to an agreement.
Well we'll see about that tomorrow.
The reality splits itself into two. Two contradicting truths are hiding behind this goddamned sign. The Spirit of Simon, caged in the mirror-encrusted body of the Tower or the Town that was fed by the Earth and sculpted in the image of Boos Turokh? These are the two Udurgs, and there none other than them.
Artemiy still had the puddle of priceless blood to check out.
Is... is that it?
It wasn't much, but Artemiy scooped it up all the same. It was about enough for another vial. Good. It leaves questions, but it's good.
Who will feed the doll?
Yes. Mishka didn't lie. Quite curious. The blood doesn't look like it's that of a human... It doesn't look like the Tower was leaking, either... I should ask Mishka what else she knows about this...
I'm guessing that it started to dawn on Artemiy that the blood probably came from under the Tower and that Mishka would know a good deal about what happens under the Earth.
At least, Artemiy got more blood for Panacea the first portion since the 7th day. The Elder promised him some blood, but he never made good on that promise, the jerk.
I've gone to the Tower. There's blood there. You were right, but how am I to interpret this, exactly?
You see? I told you, and you didn't believe me!
Where did it come from?
I don't know. It's not the first time. When we lived in the Tower, we thought that it was a bad sign. That was when we would start to play the game of Swamp or Blanket.
So the folks in the Tower know about it?
They probably know about it in the Abattoir. All blood comes from there. They even make sausage out of that blood. We are prohibited from even thinking about going in there. So there.
All the answers must be there...
Who will feed the doll?
A number of conclusions can be drawn from this little episode... Something tells me, however, that I shouldn't be in too much of a hurry to do so... Let's just take note of the facts, like our good friend Bachelor tells us, and leave it at that.
There was one last trek left to be made tonight to go back to the Bull and deliver the kids' words to the worms.
They did promise Artemiy some of that bull's blood, too if Artemiy is lucky, he'll have five vials of precious blood before the days is over. An extraordinary haul, that.
Good. The worms were still there, and so was the bull.
Artemiy turned to the leftmost Worm once more.
Who knows how we are to live? It's a shame that you aren't yet the Elder, the Servitor.
The little orphan said that the bull must live. She did say that he wasn't real, though...
Check his blood if you want to know. Talk to the others around me. Talk to the Odonkhe.
Artemiy turned to the second Worm.
Who will breathe life into the dead Order? It's a shame that you aren't yet the Elder, the Servitor.
The boy said that the bull must be removed from the spike. He values Him.
It couldn't be any other way. Take his blood. Talk to the others around me. Talk to the Odonkhe.
Artemiy turned to the third Worm.
Who can be the one to lord over us? It is a shame that you aren't yet the Elder, the Servitor.
The daughter of the graveyard keeper said that the bull must live, Kinsman. His body must be preserved and untouched.
Take his blood. Talk to the others around me. Talk to the Odonkhe.
Artemiy turned to the Worm behind him, who was the Odonkhe, the leader.
Do you see? He is dying. What did the children, the heirs, the organs of the White Mistress say?
I need to remove this carcass from the spike. I wish to do so.
It is so. You have made a decision, Servitor. Come tomorrow. We will preserve life in him. Tomorrow at dawn, the helpers will come. They will help you remove him.
How will you preserve the life in him?
We gave you blood. Go and make some panacea out of it. Tomorrow, you will bring it here. It may be needed.
As you say, Odonkhe.
Enter Boos Turokh
He is quite heavy, this bull. We need to remove the sharp bone and to stop the blood loss. Odonkhe promises that some helpers will show up at the Bone Pillar tomorrow. They will help us take the bull off of the sharp edge... Perhaps, this is the one and only Udurg? Tomorrow, I'll have my answer.
A strange day, although Artemiy is likely set in terms of Panacea until the End. Still, yet more questions than there are answers. Business as usual, but one would think that the number of questions would diminish when the end is almost here. As it stands now, the end doesn't seem to be in sight at all...