Part 23: Chapter ElevenChapter Eleven
It was a new day that, for once, promised a number of exciting events. The Elder's final trial, getting the bull off of spike hopefully, some things will be resolved and Artemiy will finally have answers to his questions.
That's a good thing, of course. Eleven days of same landscapes with not a whole lot of progress and a whole lot of death and misery would make anyone rather apathetic. Luckily, Artemiy was persistent and the end was, apparently, in sight. Hopefully, today will be the last day Artemiy will have to fetch the map from Notkin.
What the yesterday's Bull has actually been freed? Thank you! Where is he now? We want to bring him here!
I don't know. Did he disappear?
I was thinking that that was your doing... Okay, sorry. I was counting on you, you know...
My scouts have reported that the bull is not at the Bone Pillar anymore... I thought that somebody took him off of the spike... Is he alive? You really have nothing to do with it, don't you?
I'm gonna go and check it out I was going to soon after seeing you... They are supposed to be waiting for me...
Exeunt Boos Turokh
What happened with the mysterious bull during the night? Perhaps, the scouts are mistaken?
Artemiy, of course, also asked the boy for a map the price remained the same as before.
Seven districts today... The disease's coverage of the Town continues to expand. Practically all the residential districts of the Town are affected by the disease today one way or another.
As usual, Artemiy would take out a bit of time to visit the Theatre.
The matter of the bull seemed curious, but not exactly time-sensitive. It was still early morning and the Worms were expecting Artemiy at dawn anyway.
The laws of Earth's gravitational pull are fatally incompatible with the ability to preserve one's daydreams. One must know when to part ways with one's illusions.
There is a tricky outcome which will allow us to save the Mirror Tower, but that will require sacrifices. What will you say?
The Law demands silence besides, as if there's nothing to save but that ludicrous tower...
There is another tricky outcome than allows us to save the Town. This will also require us to sacrifice something else... What will you say?
The Law is impartial. Decide however you wish.
Is there any outcome that disproves your unjust Law?
Our lot is a quiet one... Why are you fussing? There is still time - live a little...
REEL 13: The Masks' Nightly Attractions - Night Ten
The rebellion isn't going very well for our little Dankovsky surrogate.
It was time to check out the Bull and what exactly happened to it.
Before having a couple of hours of sleep last night, Artemiy prepared five doses of Panacea from the blood he got yesterday.
Artemiy had all five vials with him with the hope that he could use them to try and get more of that bull's blood. A sound investment, though on his approach to the Bone Pillar, Artemiy began to surmise that things won't exactly pan out that way.
Three Odonkhe cooked well, courtesy of the flamethrower squad. No sight of the bull, though. Artemiy turned to the fellow who looked like he was in charge.
Jog on! Nothing to look at here! Everything has already happened. Hey, soldier! Block the streets! Tell Longinus that we need another squad here!
Where's the bull?
It was a rather large bull so it's not like there'd be no trace of it after they burned it. Something was off.
I think you're lying. Where's the bull?!
Get the hell out of here before I burn your ass!
Who ordered you to torch the bull?
We have our own command. Captain Longinus. All questions should be directed to the Field HQ near the train station. My business is to burn infectious crap, not ask questions, and you fit the bill.
Gosh, so hostile!
Well, aren't you brave with that little flamethrower of yours? I bet your Longinus will be a bit more talkative...
Exeunt Boos Turokh
I can't believe him... The last bull of the tribe, the age of which is greater than that of the Town itself, has been burned alive by the rebellious soldiers. They say that they get their orders from a new commander, whom they call Captain Longinus.
Seems that Artemiy finally caught onto the interesting name of the captain.
A person having the name of the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus in his side with a lance made me raise a brow during yesterday and, sure enough, here he is ordering the killing of the last Aurox. Oh, allusions!
There is a small chance that the bull is not actually dead, though. It's certainly gone but someone in the Town might know his location.
The problem, of course, lies in the fact that the people who were supposed to help the bull never got there to help with keeping the Bull alive. On the other hand, the Worms never really specified the identity or the nature of the helpers, so it's very possible that both the Worms and the Bull have voluntarily died for the Town's sins.
Were you the one who gave the order to burn the bull?
Do you even realize what sort of creature that was? I could have made at least a thousand doses of Panacea from it!
The flamethrower squad burns everything that posits a threat in terms of helping spread the infection. The presence of the bull at the Bone Pillar went against all known sanitary measures. This entire Town is quite anomalous, truth be told...
Who gave the order? The General?
There is a fellow in the Town who advises us regarding the medical matters. Bachelor Dankovsky. He oversaw the process as the one responsible for the upkeep of sanitary measures in the Town.
I'm going to pay him a visit. Sorry for getting a bit shouty back there...
Exeunt Boos Turokh
Does this mean that the true inspirer of this crime is Bachelor Dankovsky? I'm curious to hear his explanation...
This wasn't the first time that Bachelor was a thorn in Artemiy's side, but this was, by far, the biggest screw-up of Daniil's.
Artemiy was quite mad, of course, and the Plague wasn't soothing him with its strategic placement of stationary disease clouds in tight passages.
Longinus's words also suggested that Bachelor oversaw the death of the bull he will be the person who can confirm the bull's ultimate fate.
I believe I've got it, Artemiy. I know now how to explain your riddle. Indeed there's a great deal of mysticism of the highest order mixed up in all of this.
Your Udurg is Simon. To be precise, it's not entirely Simon. It is an edifice, an entire architectural complex that means, the town side of the meaning is preserved and quite present here. Now, imagine that this edifice, in a way, accepts Simon's soul in itself... and becomes alive.
That's... quite unlike Daniil and his logical, scientific thinking.
How? I don't understand.
Well, the details here lie on the edge of understanding. This occurrence can be interpreted both in scientific and in mystical ways... I cannot explain it fully to you nor can I prove it, since the plans are already in Aglaya's hands. You have to believe me, though it's all true! Edifice-town takes into itself the spirit and comes alive!
Takes into itself the spirit? What does that even mean?
To be exact, that hasn't happened not yet. However, Kains swear up and down that they will make that happen. This matter is somewhere between optics and human psychology. Without a doubt, nothing like this has ever happened before.
The soul is contained within it just like it is in a body?
Exactly how it is in a body. Myself, I'm quite crushed... I could have never imagined that something like this is even possible... Chimera both in terms of live matter and dead. Without a doubt, this is your Udurg, Artemiy. You are aware, of course, that Simon was one of the last Adherents of Isidore's?
I will think about all of this... Still if this is the case, then who is my sacrifice?
I do not know. To be honest, I consider all that to be folk tales.
Without a sacrifice, I will not get enough blood for the panacea. I will have to guess and I will have to guess correctly.
Why don't you ask the Order directly? Let the Elder tell you what he wants of you.
He expects me to guess correctly.
Try and scare him a bit. I have not seen the Elder and I don't know what sort of person he is, but a sizable threat can spook anyone.
How do you suppose I should do that?
A Kain hinted today that your Elder is somehow connected to your Father's death. Big Vlad was also perfectly aware of that... Did he never tell you?
That's news to me... I'll certainly ask him about that! I have one last question for you, though. Did you order the burning of the Bull, oinon?
What bull? Think about it and think about it well, Burakh. There was no bull there.
What in the world is he implying?
A Higher One was laying near the Bone Pillar.
The Bull was, indeed, not there. But shh! I suggest that you don't discuss that topic too vocally. I gave the soldiers the order so that they have a chance to express their... frustration. It's best that they burn on the outskirts than on the square before the Cathedral.
You wanted to say on the square before the bridge to the Polyhedron, of course...
Sacrificing what's valuable to Artemiy to preserve what is valuable to himself... Daniil was playing a scummy game.
We understand each other, Burakh. I ordered him burned because he was an obstacle. His presence fueled the rioting. His giant body was filled with infectious spores. Finally, my conscience and duty ordered me to do so. Don't be bullheaded, Artemiy. I'm not obstructing your work do not obstruct mine.
Not obstructing Artemiy's work? Is he kidding?
Oh, let's wait and see about that...
Exeunt Boos Turokh
It's... reasonable. If one is to think rationally, then everyone involved acted correctly. Bachelor followed his sense of duty. However, somehow, the finale of this story reeks of a terrible sort of callousness. No all of this must be a warning of some sort...
I'm not entirely sure what Artemiy sees as reasonable here... It's rather strange... I, myself, would be quite pissed with the Bachelor certainly much more than Artemiy seemed to be, at the very least.
In the early hours of the morning before the daybreak, Artemiy set out to start his walk around the Town in search of sick Adherents. He started with the Kain residence...
...and immediatelly got a hit.
For once, Artemiy handed the Executor a vial of Panacea. It seems that Georgiy will not be having his health wrecked by the children' powder.
Artemiy continued his trek throughout the Town he wouldn't encounter anymore sick Adherents that day.
He was not at all done with his trek when the clock tolled 7 A.M.
Just as it did, Artemiy received a letter.
Before going to Abattoir today, you must absolutely visit me. I will be at Laska's lodge. Today, someone will lie to you and will try to kill you. I will tell you how to stay alive and how to make your enemies end up in their own trap.
Artemiy, by chance of course, was quite near to the Graveyard at this point in his trek, so he put his trek on hold to try and sort this matter out.
Artemiy, of course, had a guess as to who exactly would try and kill him, but he was, quite obviously, still curious to hear the details.
Very well you came to me, orphan. If you wouldn't come, then you would be doomed to die. You would not have survived until evening. I will give you advice and will come to your help today. I will teach you how to stay alive!
Well... talk, then.
You're going to the Elder now, aren't you?
Not entirely, but yes.
Today, the Elder will give you your last task. He'll tell you that if you endure it, then he'll reveal everything. He'll name your sacrifice and the only thing you'll have to do is to perform it understand? That's when the Order will give you the blood. All that, however, will be a lie.
How do you know?
Elder will give you a task that will very likely kill you. He'll tell you to go down into the Bowels or to go through the Throat something like that. He'll tell you to go through and come back. You will inevitably die there is no return from there. I know how to trick him, though.
How? Why do you want to help me?
Because I help everyone. I return the dead to life. I came with this gift into this world and, throughout all these days, I've done nothing but return health and life to the people. I have nothing to gain from this.
I've heard... different things about you.
So... do you agree.
Y... Ye... No! I don't want your help!
See the game is a total dick. Everything will go the way Klara says it will, of course. If you try and undertake the trial without Klara's help, you'll just die. Over and over. You can only do it with her help you have to agree to it. If you do, you'll survive and you'll even end up in a cool-looking cavern and will be treated to cool shots like this...
...but taking Klara up on her offer will inevitably and irrevocably cause one of her Adherents to die and there is no way around that. You will probably find out about it right after finding out that this locks you out of some of the juiciest bits of dialogue on Day Twelve and the only thing you can do is hope that you've got a save before this decision. Did I mention that the game is a dick yet?
Artemiy didn't quite know what caused his sudden revulsion with Klara. It was a very... innate feeling and he felt a strong urge to obey it. Something told him that this was the only correct way of proceeding.
Of course, Klara helped him a fair bit, just the same. He had suspicions, but now he was fully aware of Elder's duplicitous plan. He will be able to stop it without having to go along with it.
This was going to be the last conversation between Artemiy and Elder Oyun.
Why did you come, Kinsman?
I came to endure your last trial and to find out who is the Sacrifice that the Order expects from me.
I will send you to a place where the lines of Suokh converge. You will allow Her to swallow you. Find a way back and we will talk as equals.
Why will you speak to me as an equal only after I go through the trial?
Artemiy wanted to find out just how far the Elder is willing to push the lie.
Everyone goes through it... Your Father did. This way, you'll see how far the Vein of Bodkho goes. You will walk its path and will learn how to connect Life and Death and how to tie the vein into a circle. When untied, it spills priceless blood into the void.
When did he go through it?
Later than he should have... You ask too many questions. Are you going or not?
Where should I go?
Leave this cave and turn right. There will be a pit. It is the Cavity of Her Primary Maw. You'll see a well a place, where for the Knowing ones, Her navel is torn apart. You will fall lower. You will put your body there and will end up near Suokh's navel. Go towards the convergence of Her lines. Return here. That is when we will talk.
My... he actually talks as if he's been there...
Is it really that simple?
... You'll see.
I sense trickery in your words... I have a question for you, Elder. Did you kill my Father?
That decision was my own as was my action. Are you going to take revenge?
Unfortunately, there is no peaceful way to wrangle power away from this liar's hands.
I am. Right now.
Track 16 Abattoir (Battle)
The helmet looks like it is extremely thick, but it is Oyun's weakest spot.
Oyun reaches you quite fast, but he is actually painfully slow in terms of trying to hit you.
He can endure a lot of hits and deal a lot of damage if he hits you, but a punch-step-back-punch combo is quite enough to put him down, really. After about twenty blows to the head, Oyun goes down once and for all.
The Last Trial of a Servitor
...How do they summon the menkhu, those of the lineage of servants? By their hands they know them, the butchers. By their eyes they distinguish them, the surgeons. By their actions they judge them, the knowers of lines. A worthy servitor is greeted with silence by the Order that stews in burial pits, silent on the edge of death. It is a shame that you've come so late...
Artemiy was, of course, the last Menkhu and Oyun's death meant that Artemiy was the de-facto Elder.
Even if he was the de-facto Elder, the Order will not give him the blood he needs. Not until he comes into his power by performing a Sacrifice a Sacrifice, the knowledge of the identity of which died with Oyun.
Artemiy could guess that it was Aglaya, but he didn't know for sure and there was no way to find out for sure now. With this doubt in his mind, Artemiy received a letter.
A last request. A tragic one. I did not want to bother you, but this can ruin all our plans. Visit me if you have time.
Artemiy was near Olgimsky's residence at the time of receiving the letter he was going to visit Bachelor to see if he has any more ideas, but he was perfectly willing to run this supposedly last errand.
Artemiy was, of course, hoping that it was a small errand Kapella had a habit of making everything sound dramatic. While it wasn't without cause, it still couldn't be used as a good way to gauge the importance of the task because of that.
I only have one last task to perform. It is the most sorrowful... but necessary. There is no escaping it... And happiness? Doesn't true happiness lie in self-sacrifice?
You're scaring me, Kapella.
Maria is coming into her power. The Polyhedron will stop being a children' republic. The toy will, finally, become that, for which it was always intended. Little Kaspar feels it. He's wavering. I want to stretch out a hand of peace to Khan. I need an intermediary.
Tell him that I am offering my friendship. When a decade passes and he knows that my Capella will rise in that time I will give him my hand. I will become his wife and we will end the eternal confrontation between our families.
Oh... I see...
You are on good terms with Bachelor, right? At least, he has been currying your favour quite a bit. He is on good terms with the Utopians. He knows the way inside.
Are you sure about your intentions?
Very well. I will perform your request.
Will succumbs to Power.
Bachelor knows how to get into that accursed Tower. He crawls into its deepest reaches... I don't need to go that deep, but I do need a way through the door.
For the first time in eleven days, Artemiy will be getting into the Polyhedron. The Bachelor will, of course, co-operate, it's not a problem.
It also meant that Artemiy will finally be meeting his last Adherent. Khan. The boy was the leader of Dogheads who have been a thorn in Artemiy's side for a while. It would be interesting to get his side of the story.
I hope that I've managed to convince you.
I need to get into the Tower, Oinon. Tell me how to get in there.
Ah! That means that you, too, have decided to put your life towards protecting this treasure. Indeed, it is a worthy cause. I'm glad that you see everything clearly!
Somebody's jumping the gun a fair bit and Artemiy won't lie about it...
You misunderstand. I'm entirely indifferent towards the Tower itself.
If that is the case, then there is nothing I can do.
...won't lie about it unless pressed, that is!
Very well. I will stand by your side.
If that is the case, then tell the guards-Dogheads the password. It's Fortified. I found it out from Maria.
Bachelor must be getting really desperate if that sort of flip-flopping is enough to get him to divulge precious information.
Maria is quite insane. You won't get into trouble because you told me the password, will you?
No. She sleeps a deep slumber and is gathering her might. She's preparing to become a Mistress. Her hour is nigh. And she is not insane.
Khan will not listen to Maria.
Indeed! It seems that, lately, Maria does not garner a lot of respect from her little brother. If, perchance, the password won't help you, then simply tell them that I swear to save the Polyhedron and your help in this matter is absolutely necessary. That way, they will certainly let you in.
Will succumbs to Power.
The Kains are up to something. The family is quite large, a lot of heads are mixed up in there and each of them wants to survive... It seems that both Bachelor and Kapella know what sort of intrigue is brewing there... A royal game is being played... and I, honestly, don't give a damn about it.
Too right, Artemiy caring about Kains' intrigues was the Bachelor's lot. Artemiy had the Town to save and to do that, he need to finally ascend the Mirror-Tower.
Track 17 The Polyhedron
The Polyhedron. The root of all Artemiy's problems. The spike in the Bull's head.
Walking these steps, Artemiy felt amorphous. Weightless. It's strange, really, for Artemiy knew very well what sort of price the Town has been paying for this Tower, but it still had the power to take his breath and his spirit away. Even Artemiy had to recognize the fact that it was a true miracle. Unlike the Bachelor, however, Artemiy realized that the price paid for it was too high.
The guards were clearly surprised to see him.
What do you want here, Burakh?
Very well. You may pass, but only to our commander. You will go no further!
How do you manage to not fall from this height?
The kids blindfolded Artemiy for good measure. When they removed the blindfold, he was in an entirely new chamber that didn't look like it would be properly contained in the Polyhedron itself.
The writing on the wall was not readable. It didn't look like it was gibberish, but it was clearly mirrored and Artemiy could not make anything out. It was curious, but he had a marriage to broker.
Who are you?
My name is Artemiy Burakh.
Why did you come? Did Sister send you?
No. I come from Kapella.
From the Olgimsky girl? Now that's very interesting. I had a feeling that she would try something. Our paths have had to cross before the end, after all... Well what does she want?
She is offering you an alliance.
A children's alliance is worth nothing. Will she be my wife in a couple of years? Will she submit to me?
Oh dear, the kid was a complete asshole. It was not Artemiy's place to interfere, but Kapella's solemnity made a great deal more sense now.
Yes. In ten, to be precise.
They say that they've found blood under the Polyhedron. My dogheads say that it's the blood of my enemies killed by our soldiers, but they lie. Tell me the truth. Are we really surrounded by soldiers?
No. The blood came from the Earth.
Right. I've been told that blood came out from under the stem in the past as if the Polyhedron was plugging a hole.
Plugging a hole... Hmm... Unplugging the hole could be the solution, but how would one remove such a massive structure that defies the laws of physics?
What should I tell Kapella?
Tell the Olgimsky girl that I will come to her. It will be so. If proud Kapella decided to approach me herself, then I promise her my support. If she offers an alliance, we will accept it. I give my word.
Can you explain what is happening, exactly?
Kapella can explain it better. As for why I agreed? That is not for you to know. Our family has its own happenings and intrigues. It's not for Termites to know.
Termites? Boy, this kid was getting better by the minute...
Someone is ought to teach you some manners...
I'd very much like to see you try.
Don't worry it won't be now.
Will succumbs to Power.
Kaspar Kain doesn't seem like the most pleasant fellow to spend a life beside. I wonder how this little conqueror will turn out in ten years... Kapella's plans for his future seem to be quite correct such a hero is ought to be held on a tight leash. I can return to Kapella.
A small problem, though the room was sealed shut. There was no exit in here at all. Artemiy confusedly looked towards the kids and they laughingly motioned to a strange drawing on the floor.
Artemiy stepped on it and the room was replaced by the top of the Polyhedron once more. Best not to question such things.
Descending the Polyhedron, Artemiy had a better view of the stem that Khan mentioned. It did indeed look like a spike that went into the Earth.
More importantly, the ground around it looked reddish. Festering. It was all quite troublesome. All the more reason to not protect this wretched monument to vanity.
Despite marveling at it, Artemiy had no love for the Polyhedron. If the Bachelor hoped that Artemiy's visit there would change his mind, he hoped in vain.
Unfortunately for Artemiy, the day was drawing to a close and he was not at all closer to solving his Father's riddle. Hell, he killed the only person who gave the impression that he knew the answer to it.
It's true that that person was a liar and not at all trustworthy, but that seemed to be the sole area of the expertise that Oyun held and it's probable that, had things gone differently, he would've divulged that information before trying to openly kill Artemiy. It was a lost opportunity, though something told Artemiy that it had to be the way that it happened and not in any other.
Kapella was quiet lost in thought, her decision clearly weighing heavily on her.
The Town will change so much in ten years...
Khan gave me his agreement. He agreed immediately.
That means that tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, he'll come out of the Tower. His comrades will leave with him. You know how to make a lot of Panacea, don't you?
Something told Artemiy that, regardless of his blunders, he'll know soon enough, so he decided to play it confidently.
You can rely on me.
Let me thank you. Soon, you will accept the rulership over the Order. If everything works out and I will accept the rulership over the Town, we will rule together, you and I. Treasure my gift. Let it revive your warm memories of me... of what little girl I may have once been.
She gave Artemiy a bone necklace carved of the bones of great and mystical animals of the older days.
Tomorrow is the finale. A lot can change during the night. I feel almost nothing now... Are all my wards alive? Will the rebels kill the Inquisitor? If Aglaya Lilich falls even as a result of a plot the Town will not be saved.
Do not worry about a thing.
For the first time in a long while, Artemiy had a very strong feeling that, one way or another, everything will work out.