Part 4: Chapter One - pt.3
Klara was in panic. Her attempt to use her healing power to save the dying ruffian hastened his demise instead. And Saburov's agent saw everything! The very agent that was supposed to testify her healing ability!
This is... quite a gift. So you can kill evildoers with a mere touch, cant you?
It was an accident! I wanted to heal him! Im so sorry...
So the verdict is in... And you are the judge and the executor of Fates will. True, true... its all true. He would be healed if he deserved to live, right? But the he deserved death and so you killed him. Oh, yes... Mistress knew something like this could happen!
Yes... She shouted in her sleep several days ago... The next day, the maids were whispering that Mistress allegedly was raving about the «messenger of fate» in a childs disguise... Could that be you?
I dont think so...
Howbeit, stay away from me! Im not a saint either, you know... what if I have enough sins to die from your touch? Master will surely be interested, but you were supposed to heal... He sent you here for this purpose, didnt he? Better find someone else.
What about the one lucky enough to escape the marauders... If he managed to survive this massacre, surely Fate favours him. Go; bring him back to life... if you really want to. Will you be able to you find him? The thugs figured he might have crawled into the Steppe, to the east. He was probably a local, and would want to be buried in living earth... If he is still alive, the daughter of the graveyard keeper will have found him.
I know her!
As she walked, Klara reflected on the man's words. If what he'd said was true, it would explain the accident with the boy, but why didnt she remember anything like that at all? Had all of her previous patients been saintly? Or had the boy's and the agent's sins been especially nefarious?
But nothing like this has ever happened before! Could the wonderful force that speaks to the world through my hands be as deadly as it can be vivifying? What shall I tell Alexander now? No, I cant show up without saving someone first... Perhaps, there are more injured people around here... A reliable man informed me that one of the victims managed to escape. He could be near the town cemetery.
She decided to look for a short route back to Laska. Crossing the marshes, she came back to the narrow-gauge that connected the train station and the mountain-like shape the graveyard was located near. She followed the tracks past the bull-pens and the manufactories, until the familiar walls came into sight.
Laska was still in her cabin. She was alone this time however, and the animal bones were nowhere to be seen.
You are back... What did Grandfather tell you?
Tell me, have you seen a wounded man recently?
How do you know?
I know many things. Have you forgotten who I am?
Yes, a wounded commoner crawled in here just a couple of hours ago. He was almost dead, so I went to the graveyard to find a good place for him. I found a great spot near the far wall, but then I decided to bury him in your grave... The pit where youve spent the night, I mean. And when I came back, there was someone else in the lodge.
Was it Death??
No. Kneeling above him was that frightening man, the one who made all those wounds in the first place. I asked him not to kill the victim, but to heal him with live blood. That man, the scary one, he kept silent for a while, and then grabbed the other one and carried him away. Said he would take him to his den...
How can you heal people with blood?
You need blood of a man who is still alive and can walk the earth. If you know how to inject this blood into the veins of the wounded, you can make them better.
Did this man know how to do it?
He comes from the clan of votaries; he knows the Lines of the body. He can heal people and has the right to cut bodies apart. He said his name was Artemy Burakh. But Im afraid he will kill the wounded instead of healing him... The commoner was his enemy he was one of the group that had attacked him this morning.
Well, well... So thats who you are... Ripper!
No. He is a Haruspex.
This is even worse. Where is his burrow?
I dont know, but that has to be somewhere nearby. He was quite hurt himself and wouldnt carry the lifeless body too far. Maybe, he is hiding at the factory? Or inside the bunkhouse... But his boots were covered in grey clay, the kind that can be found near the workshops.
Thank you, Laska! Ill try to find them.
Ah, Haruspex, one of the outsiders Katherine had been talking about. Klara left the graveyard and retraced her steps back to the factory by the tracks.
Burakh was in the first building she tried looking in, in the sawdust-strewn basement. It seemed as if she interrupted him in the middle of moving. The room was in a state of disarray. Rubbish and long boards were everywhere on the floor. Shelves fashioned out of boards and empty crates had animal remains and various vessels lying on them.
Carefully avoiding the barbed wire that the walls and the ceiling were lined with, Klara made her way to the Haruspex.
Ah! So youre the one whose crimes Im being persecuted for? How the hell could they mix us up?
Im Klara. And who are you?
Im Burakh. Artemy Burakh.
Dont hurt me, please.
What do you want?
Laska, the graveyard keeper, said that you had brought the wounded man here...
Have you... have you killed him?
Have you healed him?
Hes not around any more, cant you see? He disappeared when I went out for a minute. This is strange, because he was unable to move by himself. It means he was stolen. But by whom?
What do you mean disappeared?
I brought the poor bastard here. Examined him. He was beyond saving. I stepped outside to get... to get the tools... And when I returned, he was gone. It was about ten minutes ago. The trace of blood led in the direction of the town. And I think I saw blood on the embankment, but it could be someone elses. And thats how I lost him. Where could he have gone?
Why didnt you follow the trail?
Its better for me not to appear in town. Everywhere I go people gang up on me and try to grab me. The Ripper... What did I do to deserve this moniker?
Has nothing to do with me, thats for sure!
Just stay out of my way, Impostress! I dont care whether you are a thief. I just dont want our paths to cross again. Got it?
I understand you.
The wounded man eludes me again. He must have found refuge somewhere very close; there wasnt much time for him to hide. Could it be the house near the river? Burakh saw traces of blood on the embankment...
Klara returned to the riverside walkway she had travelled earlier that day. She didnt notice any traces of blood on the pavement, so she decided to talk to the owners of the isolated house that overlooked most of the bank.
There was turmoil inside; even from the hall she could hear loud voices, shouting and moans. In the middle of the room stood a dark-haired man in a long trench coat. He and all the other people were looking at something hidden behind the folding screens.
Using soft carpets to muffle the sound of her heavy boots, Klara slunk behind peoples backs to take a look for herself. A figure was lying on the floor doubled up, covered in blood from head to toe. There was no doubt that it was the man she was looking for.
Unfortunately, her exploit didnt escape a garishly clothed blonde who was standing in the back of the room. She demanded that Klara state her business.
What do you want from me? Are you looking for asylum too?
You are so beautiful! Whats your name?
Anna. Anna Angel. They gave me this name when I was little, because of my beautiful voice. And whats your name?
I am Klara. Dont be afraid of me.
I probably havent lived in this house long enough for these walls to be willing to protect me... First, this poor soul crawls in here and bloodies my carpet... and then this doctor arrives and is now acting as if hes in charge!
Is this your house?
Its mine... to some extent. But I feel like this extent has just become much smaller! Heaven, why are there so many predators in this world, from sea to sea, wherever you go! There is nowhere to run! They kill, they defile, they mutilate, they threaten, they batter...
There are good people as well...
Are there? Here are your good people. Look at them! The Bachelor... giving orders like he owns the place... What can I tell him? All I can do is shut it up and swallow my tears. And do you know why, girl? Im going to tell you something: The Law is against us!
Shh! Yes... You and I are beyond the Law. Law is a millstone, heavy as a church bell, merciless, and adamant. You need some sort of power if you want to oppose the Law... But where do you obtain it? There are many of us here, doomed to be victims of the Law.
What makes you think Im one of you?
Ive recognized you at once... Arent you the one being hunted? Arent you considered a thief? Havent you been labelled «shapeshifter», «Shabnak», «man-eater»? Didnt they feel you for bones under your skin and pour savyur juice into your eyes?
Hush! Hell hear you!
But he already had.
If I had not heard what a contradictory character you are, I would have shot you on sight!
My goodness. Why?
For murdering Simon Kain, the immortal man. Tell me, did you know him?
No. I didnt.
I am bachelor Dankovsky. Bear in mind, death of that man made my life pointless. If I find out that you had something to do with it, nobody will save you.
This bloody tramp is not the one I am looking for. He isnt guilty of Simons death. Well, looks like hes doomed, so my work here is done. By the way, I heard speculations that Simon was killed by a girl... Youre all covered in blood and dirt... Suppose I should interrogate you. Do you have an alibi?
Why interrogate me?
Because I have a theory that it was you who killed Simon.
Youre crazy! What?
Locals say Simon was killed by a demon. They call that monster Shabnak-Adyr... it is supposed to look like a girl smeared with dirt. I despise superstitions; however, it is not rare for urban legends to describe real phenomena that can be explained with science.
I am not a demon! In fact, Im quite the opposite! I can prove it.
Oh really? How?
Is this man already dead?
No, but he shall be. He lost so much blood that only a miracle could save him.
I can do miracles.
Thats interesting. How exactly?
I lay my hands on a sufferer, and then they are healed.
...What a town. Everyone who isnt a telepathist is a psychic! What is this, the Middle Ages? So... Care to demonstrate your skill right now for me to see it?
Yes. Look closely.
It was time for a second attempt. Klara felt none of the confidence she had had back at the rail yard. What if the worker turned out to be a sinner as well? She couldnt afford to kill a person in front of bachelor Dankovsky, who apparently had assumed the role of a Sheriff in this town. Besides, there was an entire crowd of witnesses present; it would be impossible to silence them all.
She knelt beside the man, putting his head in her lap. The smell of blood in the enclosed space was sickening; her skirt was beginning to get wet. She quickly put a hand on the man's forehead, hoping to get this over with as quickly as possible.
What happened next probably left the girl dazed for a moment, because next thing she saw was the man standing in front of her on his own, without any help. Klara knew that it was impossible, but even his clothes seemed cleaner. Looking down, she couldn't find any blood stains on her clothes either.
This seemed to have had the desired effect on the Bachelor.
How did you do it?
Ive been able to do this since I remember myself.
I cannot believe you.
Sometimes I cant believe myself...
Are you... a saint?
Im a thief! Do you understand?
With that, Klara turned on her heels and went for the door, but the queer woman who was apparently the same Anna from Katherines list demanded her attention once again. She didnt even acknowledge the fact that a half-dead man had been restored to life right in front of her whatever she had on her mind was clearly more important to her and she was determined to let it all out now that shed found someone willing to listen.
...Then there is another out-of-towner! Just as creepy as this one... hes probably even worse news... why else would they call him the Ripper? Why is he hiding somewhere here, in the Land, so close to my home? What is he up to?
You seem scared of him...
My goodness... Its obvious that this Ripper is a terrible murderer! Nobody can stop him. Even Andrei Stamatin is no match for him. Whats worse, it seems he has killed a homeless boy in the Steppe tonight...
Yes, this is terrible... monstrous.
There is nothing worse than a crime against a child, especially in this town... Only an outsider could commit such a barbaric crime. Any local inhabitant knows that the Kains, especially the younger one, wont let them get away with this!
But you had nothing to do with it, dear Anna... Why are you so worried? Whatever killed the child, poses the same threat for everybody. Trust me.
You may be right... What if he didnt kill the boy...? Then... then things arent so bad. Dear Klara, will you do me a service? I need to know whether it has really been a murder. I mean, I want to know whether hes really so ruthless. Please, do it!
...Do you want me to ask him myself?
Dont bother. There is a more subtle way. I heard he became friends with the warehouse inhabitants... Two gangs operate at the depots. There are Griffs smugglers and then there are those teenage orphans, Dualsouls. Ask them, the victim was part of their group.
About the Ripper? What makes you think they know him?
Our first priority is to find out whether the puppy was murdered! Go to the kids at once. Dont go to Griff. You are a girl after all... Anything can happen... But the boys wont hurt you. Do you understand? Will you do it for me? I will reward you...
I see, I see... Very well, Ill go see those boys. I may pay the thieves a visit as well if I choose to.
With the delusional woman out of the way, Klara raced back to Stem to share good news with her new allies.
I have fulfilled your request. I have healed a man in the mansion to the south. There was a witness, an intimidating scientist in a snakeskin coat. He calls himself the Bachelor.
This is perfect! Kains will believe this bachelors words over anyone elses! Seems like he has become their champion, seeing as how their late leader meant so much for him.
Do you know this man?
We met today. He made a good impression on me. He is determined, clever, an honest man.
Too bad he couldnt stand me.
Dont worry. I wont think worse of you, no matter what anyone says.
...Is that so?
You have a new task. Someone who looked like you is rumoured to have killed patriarch Simon Kain. But Im sure the Kains arent telling me all they know, and the murder is just a red herring they made up to conceal some terrible truth they know or suspect...
But you are the ruler. Why do you speak of the Kains as if they were more powerful than you are?
The Kains are the family that started everything here. Their colourful blood has been keeping the memory of ancient magic since epic times. They are descendants of heroes that could build the world from their flesh, create talking beasts, stretch chains of fire from sea to sea and assemble towers high as the sky in one night...
Such deeds arent for people, but for demons! Or, rather, sorcerers that are half human and half beast or evil element!
I didnt say Kains are this way. They are just descendants of such... beings. It was a figure of speech. The Kains are people, just like everyone else. But a spark of the fire that burnt in ancient gods and heroes still smoulders in them.
Why are you telling me this?
The town is ruled by a council of three houses: Saburov, Olgimsky and Kain. I am afraid that the Kains will use Simons death as an excuse to try to usurp the power. Their tyranny would be the beginning of the age of madness. I dont want it. But I cant confront the Kains unless I am sure they are guilty. You could help me.
You shall go to their mansion, Horns, which is in the upper part of the town called Stone Yard. Go to Georg, charm him with your hypnotic power and find out the reason of Simons death. It is a dangerous but important mission. If you complete it, Ill reward you, Klara.
Very well, Ill try.
Its not enough for you to look into persons eyes to make them tell you the truth and answer all your questions, right? You need their consent?
Right. I must ask for consent, and the persons mind only opens up if they answer «yes». Besides, I need to know the persons true name, and some sort of hidden fact about their life.
Its the only way for me to unlock a soul.
Well, well... Go to Katherine. She will tell you about Georg. You arent as naive as you seem. Why have you revealed your secret to me? Did you have no temptation to use your skill on me?
Why? You are on my side, and I have no secrets from you.
Yes, I am who I am: a messenger; and a visual demonstration of my healing power was proof of that! Who will doubt now that I have been sent to this lost town for virtuous deeds? No, my path shall not end here, but will only begin...
Q: So...how DOES the healing thingy work?
A: The thing above was scripted. Normally, it's context sensitive - the action depends on who is in front of you. If you are facing a Sand Fever zombie, you press LMB and Klara starts making these motions with her hands, while you try to stay out of melee range. You lose some HP and gain some reputation, and the zombie gets better, bows to you and runs away. In every other case, you press LMB and it's arterial spray everywhere.
Q: So only the zombies are good people, and everyone else deserves to die? Of course, the power might actually not base itself on alignments in the first place and it is just everyone being delusional about Klara's power....
A: I agree, the whole town couldn't be evil. Just because a guy in a sweater says that her hands work that way, doesn't make it so.