The Let's Play Archive


by woodenchicken

Part 2: Chapter One - pt.1


REEL 2: Impostress wakes up.

The pit was fresh; its walls and the soil scattered around were still moist and dark. It wasn’t apparent what it was intended for; barely knee deep, nothing bigger than a dog would be able to fit in it. Still, it was there. In a fairly secluded location, with two large piles of boulders separating it from the rest of the graveyard.

It wasn’t vacant either – a short human figure was lying in it (actually, only half of it was; the other half was outside, because the pit was that small). It was a female youth: a dirty, malnourished, poorly dressed human being.
The girl woke with a start, grasped around instinctively, catching nothing but a handful of soil and a half of an earthworm that tried to squirm away. She opened her eyes; looked around, noticing the tombstones, withered grass, a light in the distance.

It was clear that the youth hadn’t had a relaxing time in the pit, as she was stretching uneasily, clearly sore from the uncomfortable resting place in nearly frozen earth.

A tattered little leather-bound book fell out of her pocket as she started getting off the ground. She picked it up and examined it curiously. The cover had no title. The girl flipped through the pages – all of them were blank, except for the first one, which was covered in compact handwriting. The ink seemed fresh.

«Tell me, why do they call me a thief?
What have I stolen, why am I so hated by the Law?
It is because I am beyond the Law, and for this they pursue me. This I remember clearly.
What could I have stolen if I am bare and destitute? But my crime must be terrible, for I can find no forgiveness, and every door I knock on will close before me, while all doors and all hearts used to be open for me. This is daunting... Where should I run? Who will give me shelter? How can I find what was stolen, who should I return it to, and should I even do that?
Who will give me answers to these questions, if not you?»

Did the journal belong to her? The entry read exactly like she felt – disoriented, full of unanswered questions.
She didn’t have Amnesia, but whatever was filling her head couldn’t be called «memories» either. Just scraps of thoughts, voices, images that were rather clear but impossible to put together into some kind of coherent story that would have a beginning and an end.

There were NO memories of crawling into a pit in the middle of a burial ground among them.

Shaking earth off her clothes, she stood, hid the book in a pocket and started towards the light, slowly, careful to keep her balance as she was still dizzy from her strange unnatural sleep.

The girl’s name was Klara, and she was not supposed to exist.

The light was coming from a lantern hanging on the front of a tiny brick cabin. Just behind it Klara could see the cemetery gate. The hut had to belong to a keeper or a watchman. Two peculiar individuals were standing on both sides of the cabin’s door, as if posted there to guard the entrance. The one on the right was clad in black tricot from head to toe, a twig-like frame wearing a blank white porcelain mask. The left one reminded her of a giant brown penguin bird with a large cape covering their entire body and an elaborate mask with a beak and orange eyes that seemed to be glowing a little.

Klara decided to address the less threatening-looking character for directions. She tried her best to sound nonchalant.

What happened to your face?
Why, it is covered with a mask so you can’t see it, of course! Just as I can’t see yours!
You can’t see my face? Hmm.
Look at you... so small, so fragile... Will you be able to survive in this hateful world?
You make it sound as if I’m a newborn child.
Aren’t you, though? You will have to learn to eat, drink, sleep, move and even breathe. People grow weak so fast here; even a seasoned adventurer needs to be careful.
Teach me, good Mask. How do I preserve my strength?
We all die one minute at a time. Thousands of cells dissolve, melt, burst like bubbles. It is necessary to restore your energy several times a day. If you are too tired, or your hunger is intolerable, you will start dying faster than usual. And «usual» is pretty fast. Such is the air around these parts...
I’m a bit hungry already... and my feet are sore, as if I’ve been walking in my sleep all night!
Buy food in a shop when you want to eat. You can find some eatables in people’s houses too, but these are only open on rare occasions. And if one decides to break into someone’s house, they will have to be nimble, as the owners will protect their property.
So what am I supposed to do?
You can take anything you want in mansions that belong to people destined to play the leading roles in the forthcoming drama – such is the custom of hospitality among local nobility and those who are eager to emulate them.
Who are these people you’re talking about?
You will learn to distinguish these people among other townsmen. Their houses tend to... stand out. By the way, you can sleep there to restore your strength, unless the owners have reasons to deny you, of course.
Where I can buy useful things?
Shops can be identified by their sign-plates. And some of the passerby will be more than happy to bargain with you. There are also secret, sleazy places, where trade is conducted illegally... But a young lady like you should stay away from them!
So there are things that ordinary shops won’t sell me?
If your reputation – which my gloomy colleague was going to tell you about – will be poor, even the most desperate men like merchants will not trust you, and you will not be able to buy anything at all!
Is there anything else you wanted to tell me?
Actually... you should be good for now. Remember to check out the lodge. Lady Katherine is waiting for you inside; she will support and instruct you better than I can. You are fortunate that she turned out to be on your side. She is, in fact, a Mistress and the wife of our ferocious ruler, Alexander.
Thank you, Mask. I don’t need you any more.

The «gloomy colleague» was waiting patiently for the two to finish their conversation.

Your appearing was most sudden! Lovely child... Look at your palms; they are so thin, almost transparent! You have wonderful hands, remarkable hands... And they are all smeared with red and black. Symbolic, isn’t it?
Who are you?
And who are you? That is what everyone is wondering... And so do you, I suppose?
You may call me Klara.
Before you enter the town and start your... hmm... cleaning activity, I would like to give you some advice. You have barely hatched, so to speak, and I don’t think you know what to do.
Tell me, please.
Time never stops. Day after day, hour after hour... everything will be over before you know it. You are not the only player on this stage, even though you are playing the leading part this time. The town is changing as time passes, and there is nothing you can do about it.
We’ll see about that!
Time settles the matters of life and death. It can turn out that you will be knocking at the door of someone you need when they are already unable to answer you. The news change too... Things that interest people today will be forgotten by tomorrow.
Life and death? Sounds depressing.
Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha... I have not laughed like this for quite some time. Who do you think gets to decide whether a person lives or dies? You, blessed child, that’s who! But you should be responsible with your terrifying talent. Every death caused by you will be taken into account. Do whatever it takes to maintain your Reputation...
Yes, my dear child, you will have reputation too... and I don’t think it will be easy for you to tame this little shrew... Your reputation will be deteriorating all the time. Everything depends on it: the number of your enemies, the number of your friends... Trust is what loosens both the lips and the doors.
Why do you think it’ll be dropping at all? I’m a good person...
But some may think otherwise. The image of you that will exist in people’s minds... and, let us suppose, in their memories... will be truly fearsome. Every day they will see more and more evidence of your otherworldly nature. It will frighten them.
No! I shall be remembered as a good person, you’ll see!
People always appreciate help. And soon there will be plenty of those who need help, trust me. The one who eases the pain of the suffering will earn much gratitude. And there are times, you know, when a person is in so much pain, that even euthanasia is a blessing, especially if they are doomed.
And what is my reputation now?
Now? Damned if I know. But it is easy to check. One should always keep track of their condition. Has my kind-hearted colleague told you about it yet?
Yes, he has.
And remember to check out the lodge. Those waiting for you there have no doubts about your identity. They have just learned about your arrival from a pile of magic bones... Your appearance will make a proper impression. Get going.
Hey! Careful. Don’t scratch me with your beak.
This is not a beak, my lovely child. It is a claw! For I am the finger!

The cabin seemed much more spacious on the inside somehow. A large altar with two female figures carved in stone was the only piece of furniture. A pale woman dressed in black and a tall adolescent girl were standing at the far wall, watching something on the floor. Klara scanned the floor for anything of interest, but there was nothing save for a handful of what resembled small animal bones. Were they magic? The cabin’s inhabitants were devoting all their attention to the pile as if something exciting was going to happen to it at any moment. They didn’t acknowledge the visitor’s presence for a long time.

The girl broke the silence first:

You won’t hurt the poor daughter of the graveyard keeper, will you? I may be of use to you. Who’s going to look after the graves if I die?
Why, dear! Whom do you take me for? You’ve confused me with someone else, haven’t you? Calm down, I won’t touch you.
Look! My Mistress came here to ask the dead about our fate...
Are those their bones lying in front of you?
No. These are the bones of the children of Suok. The legend has it that a splinter of Bos Turokh’s rib is hidden among them. But nobody knows which one it is. We draw lines with these bones; lines that summon the words from the house of the dead.
What words have the dead chosen this time?
They say that they have already vacated seven out of nine corners in their house to make room for future guests. All those who lived there are now crowded in two remaining corners; can you imagine the harvest death will reap in the near future?
How scary... I can almost see it!
And Mistress doesn’t want to believe it! She says that future can be changed... But anyway, what are you doing here? You are supposed to be at Grandfather’s place since yesterday evening...
What are you talking about?
But a girl who looked exactly like you visited me yesterday... It was still daytime. She went to visit Grandfather...
Well this is strange... it cannot be so. It must have been me, but I don’t remember anything like that.

The older woman was wearing an expensive-looking black dress. She seemed distraught.

Where did you come from... girl? Identify yourself.
Klara is my name... I saw the lights and thought I needed to be here. I’m cold...
It all makes sense now... I have been waiting for you, Klara. We need to have a long talk.
Ask, and I shall answer.
No, not here. Listen to me. Go to our residence. Report to my husband, ruler Alexander. He will take care of you. And I shall come later, when Laska and I finish our... business. If I am right about you – we are saved.
Are you in danger?
Yes. The bones are telling me that we are in more danger than this earth has ever seen. Go to our mansion, Klara. If you are the one we are waiting for, it will be easy for you to get there and nobody will hurt you on your way.
I shall do as you ask.
Hurry up then! You need to get warm, take some food and clean yourself. Look, you’re all covered in mud... And something... red. Must be clay.
And what about you?
Go, and I’ll see you there. Perhaps I shall reach Stem even sooner than you will.
How shall I find your house?
Stem is in the Tanners’ district. It is located on the cape, where Vein joins with Gorkhon. Go north-west and be sure not to cross any bridges. You will recognize our house by the high tower.

Stepping out of the graveyard’s gates, Klara started up the path that went across some railroad tracks. The sky was beginning to lighten, and already she could discern buildings in the distance.

They turned out to be a manufactory of some sort, and a dwelling house. The girl kept following the path further into the settlement.

After five more minutes of walking, she finally reached the river she had been warned not to cross. Following the cobbled walkway, Klara marched on along the stream waiting for some sort of tower to pop into view.

Stem looked like a fitting abode for a ruler of this inhospitable land. The vast emptiness of the courtyard that surrounded it was creating an illusion that the mansion was trying to distance itself from the surrounding streets and the crowded houses that were lining them. The turret was making it look oppressive, like a miniature abbey or fort.

Before opening the door, Klara paused, took out the leather book, fished a fountain pen from one of her numerous pockets, and scribbled a new note:

This woman’s spouse has dominion over this place. I need permission from this prince if I want to remain here, in this town. He will try me, test me, and when I manage to convince him that I’m he chosen one – he will defend me with the powers he is invested with!

Then she flipped the page back and compared... The earlier entry was written in the same hand.

The door led her into what could only be described as a throne room. Upholstered in red velvet and expensive oriental carpets, it was probably where the ruler accepted visitors and petitioners. Klara didn’t even notice the man himself at first – probably because his posture made him look like another one of the wooden pillars that the room had in great number. His heavy cloth suit of subdued colours resembling a military uniform only served to enhance the illusion.

He greeted her with a cold stare and a proverb.

Alexander Saburov, one of this town’s three governors, at your service. You are Klara, I suppose?
At least the half of what you said is true.
My wife Katherine told me that you had been seen at the cemetery. The late sexton’s daughter saw you getting out of the fresh grave of uncertain origin. Is any of this true?
Yes, I was lying in a pit when I came to. It didn’t look like a grave. Just a man-sized hole in the ground... Is that against the law?
Do you know that it is dangerous for you to even walk the streets? Are you aware of the fact that the powerful Kain family has put a price on your head? Their representative has just been here. And I promised I’d do my best to help them catch the criminal.
The criminal?
The head of one of the ruling families died last night. People say the killer was a woman who looked like you. Blinded by their superstitions, locals blame it all on a mystical creature that was born of the earth at night, under mysterious circumstances. Do you have anything you want to tell me, Klara?
Who was killed? I don’t know anything.
Simon Kain. The oldest and wisest among us. He was the founder and spiritual leader of our community. Don’t dodge the question. This is a serious accusation. If my wife weren’t so sure of you, I wouldn’t hesitate to give you to the Kains.
Do you suspect me too?
I don’t know why, but I believe you for some reason. I feel like I have known you for a long time. This is itself suspicious. It is as if you had some mysterious power that compels me to trust you.
I can’t help myself. Maybe it is the power of the truth that speaks for itself?
Then why are you called a thief? Thievery is an indication of evil!
Who calls me that?
Ask my wife about this. She has a mysterious power too: she sees prophetic dreams. Time has proven that these dreams do come true. They are the reason she knew about you.
Well, whoever it is, they are wrong! I have the gift of healing. I can cure the most dangerous diseases through laying on of my hands... I cured cancer. I even raised a man from the dead once. Everyone said it was a miracle.
Right... So you are a miracle-worker. Almost a saint. Too bad you’re being accused of murder and theft then! But then you should be able to explain all these coincidences? If I did not put so much faith in my wife’s words I would have no doubt that you are an evil spirit, a creation of the underworld. Tell me what’s going on, right now, or so help me even Katherine’s intercession won’t save you!
All right! All right. I’ll tell you. I... I have a twin sister. That’s it, a twin! She and I are as alike as two peas in a pod! She has the same name and wears the same clothes! I am afraid it was my twin who has committed all these horrible crimes!
...Very well. Your explanation is accepted. I believe you.
Thank you for trusting me.
So, Klara, what can you do? Tell me about your wonder-working abilities.
I can cure various illnesses with my hands.
I already heard that. Is there anything else?
I can put people under a sort of hypnosis – if they agree to it themselves, of course. Then they can speak nothing but the truth when they answer my questions.
Enough. I need some time to make a decision. Now go outside, find the door on the opposite side of the house and enter my wife’s rooms. Come back to me when you’re done talking with her. I shall determine your further fate.

Alexander listened to her words with visible reassurance. It wasn't the most elegant concoction, but it was the best she could come up with on the spot. Luckily, the alarmed burgomaster wasn't thinking straight, and the ridiculous explanation seemed to fit with the ridiculous nature of his accusations well. Alexander's agitation quickly subsided and Klara knew the crisis was averted for the moment.

And so, for the first time in my life, I told a lie... invented a nonexistent sister and charged her with these outrageous accusations... what possessed me even to pronounce something like that?.. but I promise, I promise I’ll find out the truth and explain everything when the time comes.