The Let's Play Archive


by woodenchicken

Part 8: Chapter Two - pt.3

Klara remembered Alexander’s words about the revelation his wife had had. Since all her tasks for the day were complete, she decided to stop by Katherine’s wing and try to learn more about it.

Now I shall tell you about the mystical reasons for the disaster that’s taking place. They are invisible like roots of a plant. The one who cuts down the weeds only gets rid of the results but not the cause. You are the only one who can truly win this, so I shall tell you about the roots. Listen to my story.
I am listening.
These are our factions. The first thing that existed was the earth. Ancient, it was giving life to plants and animals. It begat the Abattoir and the Order. It gives and it takes. All that is born returns into it some day. It is the beginning and the end. It is the Law. We, Saburovs, act on behalf of this Law. Our faith is the faith of Humility.
A wise faith.
From the earth emerged the Town. Human acquisitiveness, activity, labour, constant creation have built a human town on this everlasting, fertile earth. The factory and the railroad have been built in addition to the Abattoir. Olgimsky’s hands created an environment where people were able to develop and think. Their faith is the faith of Formation.
A necessary faith.
Finally, the ideas of people who wanted to overcome limits set for human beings by nature and life led to all sorts fantastical and audacious schemes. Thus emerged and flourished the faction of creativity and invention, the party of Kains. Their faith is the faith in Utopia. Faith in miracles. Faith in the place that doesn’t exist.
A strange faith.
I think I know why punishment has befallen us. The town lived, grew, developed, and finally tried to break its own borders. The earth that had borne it, struck it on the head that had been thrust out too far, as a strict mother strikes her foolish child...
No mother would hit her child to death...
To death? The town will live... The earth doesn’t care whom it is peopled with. A mother doesn’t think about the microbes that live inside her child... Until the child falls ill from them. There are useful microbes as well as harmful ones. When the child falls ill, mother gives him medicine to drive harmful germs away from his body...
So whatever’s happening is the will of the earth?
I believe that the earth desired to reclaim that which had the insolence to rise so high above it. But before I explain what path I destine for you, I want to know whether my dear child is on my side.
I shall keep my eyes open and make my own conclusions. But for now, I must obey. There is no other way for me.
You shall tell the Adherents about the truth of Humility. You shall convince them of the wisdom of the true faith. If one turns out to be stubborn, you shall use the power that was given to you by Fate itself.
...What will happen to them? If I do convert them?
Evil won’t touch them. You’ll see for yourself. They will become invulnerable for the scythe that will cut the impudent, the blind and the disobedient. Save them.
I will.
You shall begin with Laska, the daughter of the late graveyard keeper. She is especially dear to me.
Laska? Isn’t she already on your... our... side?
I want to make sure of that. Make friends with her. Try to make her sympathise with you, love you. This won’t take much. If you need to learn more about her, Lara Ravelle is the best person to ask. She is an angel of kindness just like the poor girl... and her father has recently died too.
One shouldn’t try to please if they want to convert to the true faith...

What was that Adherent business and what did they adhere to? To one of the three faiths, probably. That would mean that the other factions also had their lists of important names and she would have to check them out.

The husband brings the sword while the wife brings peace... just as a ruling couple should. Katherine gave me an opposite assignment, and tells me to save rather than punish. The first person I need to take care of is yesterday’s Laska. Lara Ravelle should know a way for me to please her.

Inside, Lara Ravelle’s home was one open space with some folding screens barely separating different areas. A few people were standing around silently. They didn’t look like servants – besides, it seemed that in this town it was not common for servants to show themselves in front of guests anyway. Lara must have been quite a socialite to have this many visitors in such an early hour.

Impostress found the only place – a small bedroom – that was somewhat separated from the rest of the house. There was no door, but the room did provide some relative privacy. The tired-looking, frowning woman that occupied it had to be Lara Ravelle.

I haven’t seen you here before. Whom have you come to?
I am Klara. You haven’t heard of me yet.
You decided to come because you heard that we were preparing a refuge, didn’t you? Do you want to help? But it’s only for people we know, and I haven’t seen you before...
I do want to help! Can I donate money?
No, you cannot... Harpist won’t let me accept it... I have a rule – my house never denies hospitality to anyone who asks for it and is a worthy and honest man. But Harpist said that I would have to forget this rule, otherwise our refuge would be useless.
My house is too small... and it’s still my father’s house, you know. We have found a new, empty house for this purpose and even started preparing it for a protracted siege, but we have recently learnt that it had been contaminated! Perhaps the contagion got in with food supplies, but how? Nobody knows...
Is that harpist your lover?
Harpist is a friend. But only a friend and nothing more. He doesn’t usually command me, but this time I decided to entrust him with my life. He has shrewd common sense; he is forceful and resolute. And I am a bit of a scatterbrain and a ditherer... That’s why I must do what he says.
I am a practical person, Lara. If my reputation doesn’t bother you...
...I’m not ready to allow you to provide supplies for the House of the Living, but there’s something you can do to help. Harpist went to examine the empty house and hasn’t returned yet. If he is there, tell him to come back sooner. I just can’t get anything done without him. I’m feeling utterly discouraged...
And what will you do in return? If the house is infected, this errand is more dangerous than you think.
Very well, I will give you money. I don’t have much though... I have spent it all on medicine and food. But I will give you the last shirt off my back if only you can make sure Harpist is safe.
No need for that. That’s going too far.

The contaminated would-be refuge was a three-story house in a rich neighbourhood. Why such a mansion was standing there tenantless, Klara couldn’t imagine. Had its owners died? Moved out?

A friend of Lara Ravelle’s went to examine the hazardous house. I wonder why? Nothing good will come out of this.

The only door was locked with a key. Wasn’t that harpist man supposed to be inside there? Klara tried knocking, but there wasn’t a sound coming from the other side. With a sigh, she fished in her inner pocket and produced a large passepartout. She proceeded to attack the lock then, fumbling, mumbling to herself, trying different prongs and probes, until the massive bolt snapped open. Klara looked around – being seen breaking into houses wouldn’t help her public image – and entered.

What had looked like a perfectly respectable house on the outside, turned out to be dilapidated horror on the inside. Broken furniture, crumbled tiles and plaster, walls smeared with black and red... White mist was carried down the halls by draught. Some cold green luminescence seemed to hang in the air... Caused by the Sand Plague, surely. Klara shuddered.

She didn’t find anyone in the nearest rooms and decided to check the second floor. Up the stairs, she spotted a young man, standing immobile as if in a trance, staring at a wall. When she came closer, she noted the man’s blank unblinking eyes and sickly complexion, although she realized she could just be imagining the latter in the dim light of the oil lantern.

What is this miraculous visage?
I like your choice of words. You are a lucky man; you shall survive, I’m telling you.
So what brings you to this house of sorrow? This is no place for a human being; see?
Then what are you doing here? Have you been here long?
I’m fulfilling my civil duty. I’m Harpist, and I am going to establish a House of the Living. I’m just making observations for now. See what happens when living matter gets in touch with these infectious vapours?
It starts fading, flaking, losing colour.
Go home, Harpist. Lara is worried about you.

She was heading back down the stairs when she saw a wall of white mist fill the first floor corridor.

The mist cleared just as quickly as it appeared and Klara decided it was safe to descend; then something else almost made her jump in surprise. Bachelor Dankovsky was watching her from across the hall. Had she been followed?

What are you doing here? I’ve just seen you at Anna’s place! How many of you are there?
I’m not falling for that... Be off with you!

Slamming the House’s door behind her, she inhaled the autumn afternoon air greedily.

It is done. This Harpist is a suspicious fellow, but it is difficult to tell what he is up to. I let him go for now, but I had better pay him a visit later. I can now go back to Lara.

A pigtailed girl of about ten had noticed her exiting the house and was watching her warily. Then, probably deciding that Klara wasn’t threatening after all, she approached.

Hello. Do you know how to play Reflections? You don’t look like a usual girl. I wonder what you would look like when you’d come out on the other side.
Hello... I remember you. I was very little then, and you were even smaller. Are you upset by something?
Really? I don’t remember you at all... Tell me, what’s the point of the House of the Living? It’s Lara’s idea. What if I don’t get there, shall I be dead?
On the contrary, you’ll be dead if you go there.
I would never go there. If something happens, we’ll all be in the Polyhedron. Khan says it’s the safest place. But the adults aren’t allowed there.
How many of you are in the Polyhedron now?
Many. One of us lost his father yesterday. He doesn’t speak anymore. Khan says it’s better for him to be in the Tower from now on. It allows you to see those who are gone.
Khan thinks he knows something that’s hidden from the others?
Khan doesn’t say something unless he means it. At least now, the boy’s family has one less mouth to feed... Wait a minute; I must hurry to the grocery store! What am I going to tell mom? The prices go up every hour!
People are just panicking. The supply train will not come, so there’s going to be less food, but there’s also going to be less people.
I want milk. They won’t let us milk cows any more. Do you have any milk?
Who won’t let you milk the cows?
They say that the cows have been giving some sort of ichor instead of milk. My aunt said so, and my mommy nodded and said that Aiga the cook had told her the same thing. Aiga comes from the Steppes; she knows about cows. She says that their cows’ milk has gone black.
Yes, it’s better not to drink such milk.

The girl ran off and Klara walked back to Lara’s.

Well? Has Harpist returned?
Yes. So, that house is really infected, isn’t it?
The plague won’t be there for long... Be patient.
Here, I want to thank you for your help. Take it; I don’t need it any more.
You are very generous. Thank you.
Tell me about Laska, Lara. You know her, don’t you?
Why do you think so?
You both live for the dead... am I right?
Oh yes you are.
I would like to ask you something about her...
I really don’t know much about Laska, we don’t see each other often. Do you want to make friends with her?
Of course!
If you want her to open her heart to you, just bring her flowers, some milk and bread for the dead – she will be delighted! She’ll do anything for you.
That’s convenient. Is there something else she would like?
She needs nothing. People like Laska only value the good you do for the others, not for themselves. I thought you’d understand it.
I do! It’s called selflessness.

The house’s guests hadn’t even moved in the time it took to find Harpist and come back. A lady closest to Klara leaned forward and followed her with a dull slack-jawed stare. Were they all Opium smokers?

Did I get into favour with Lara? I do not know. And what is it with that empty «House of the Living»? I really don’t like that place. Something tells me that the whole idea isn’t going to work.
I need to find a flower, some milk and some bread. This should be enough to please Laska.

Klara remembered seeing some flowers in FACTUS EST earlier, so she dropped in again and bought a bouquet for a coin.

Then, after a short trip to a store for milk and bread, she hurried to Laska’s graveyard cabin to test her faith as Katherine had asked.

You’re so skinny... Your wrists are even thinner than mine are.
Do you hear metal tinkling on my chest? Those are neither keys nor picklocks; those are my special tiny hooks.
Do you use them to catch people’s souls? Why do you need so many different ones?
You can actually see them? You are truly special...
Ah... Flowers! So beautiful... thank you! How did you know? Just the kind I wanted to give to Farkhad... He loves red ones... Do you?
I do, Laska... And I love you too.
Well... the flowers are for them... right?
Of course.
Is there anything I can do for you? Just ask. When I looked at you yesterday, thought about you, I suddenly wanted to... to give you... a hook.
Laska, Laska, I know that you sing merry songs to the dead on cold nights and murmur lullabies for them on warm ones...
Don’t do this. I have no secrets from you. Why do you treat me like I’m a stranger?
I’m sorry... So... do you believe that I am a blessed messenger?
I trust you as I trust myself! I am listening, sister.
Who are you, Laska?
I am Laska... My father was the sexton... He would pour milk and twyrine on the graves... My mother would sweep the gravestones with her hair... They taught me how to listen to the dead...
Are you scared, Laska?
Really... Really scared...
What will happen to us, Laska?
There will be pestilence soon.
Why is this happening to us?
Because it can’t be helped now... It has been approaching from the Steppe for a long time... Getting closer... The dead were feeling its steps... It pierced the ground with sharp bones of its stilts... Reaching them... Nobody will escape...
Do you know why it happened?
No... but I’m afraid it is the punishment for our sins, faults, and offences... One of us has provoked wrath of the Heavens... This is the inevitable punishment for our insolence. So says panna Katherine.

So was that it? It seemed that Laska was indeed humble as could be; Katherine would be pleased.
A little too humble, maybe, actually. Such low spirits... Klara suddenly had the urge to say something, to shake her up a little. But it would be such an inappropriate thing to do! She’d agreed to help Katherine, after all...

She couldn't decide how to proceed.

So it is. It is comforting to see that your faith is so firm. Nothing will hurt you as long as you have the strength to resign yourself to the divine will.

B) I doubt it, Laska. The faith of Humility is a faith of the doomed. He who welcomes death deserves to die. Don’t think that the reckoning is inevitable...