The Let's Play Archive


by woodenchicken

Part 10: Chapter Three - pt.1

Waking up next morning, Klara sat upright immediately and looked around, then grabbed the diary, half-expecting something new to be already written in it...

«So are you a thief or a saint, if you are called by both of these titles? It is not for you to judge, but if you cannot even remember what kind of terrible thing you have stolen, and why they drive and pursue you like a greatest criminal in this land, what is left to do?
Do not cry, do not be sad, and do not despair, my lovely sister. Because, as you can see – you have powerful enemies, but your friends are stronger.
The evil one must be exposed; the sacred one should work wonders. If you do not have time to deal with the chores of the day – do not be anxious, live happily. I shall do everything for you; I shall arrange everything in my own way!
Tonight I am going to visit the Tanners’ district.
Can you recognize my hand already?»

Had she been sleepwriting? If Ospina was to be believed, she was a thief for stealing someone’s name and fate. But that was a big if. She hid the diary in her pocket again and went down the stairs to Alexander.

You’ve been around and seen a lot. Tell me, Klara, how does the contagion spread? Does it spread through breath, skin contact, or maybe through bloodsucking parasites? There’s been a surge recently...
How am I supposed to know that? I am not a scientist...
Come here, my daughter. What measures do you think should be taken to stop the epidemic? Where should we send our brave militiamen and disposable executors?
It's not for me to decide! I cannot give competent advice in such matters!
It's all right: I'm just thinking aloud, trying to see whether the medium agrees with me. After all, someone or something is speaking through you, is it not?
Yes. It is so.
Five years ago the Sand Fever broke out in the poor parts of town, where dirt, unsanitary conditions and poverty were outrageous through our oversight. If it spreads through bloodsucking fleas like plague, shouldn’t we kill all bulls and other domestic animals?
Bulls don't get fleas; they aren't a threat. Now, rats, on the other hand... they should be terminated with extreme prejudice. Offer a reward for every killed rat!
Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll put a stop to all this talk about the plague! To prevent the spread of panic I must prohibit any kind of public display of grief. Let them rejoice! I recommended the Bachelor to reassure the afflicted and tell them that they have a «generic disorder».
Isn’t it a little late for that? Sand Fever is all that people talk about.
We’ll keep people from mentioning it for as long as possible. Next thing. If anybody starts saying that the disease is incurable and that a good pair of boots is the only treatment and tries to escape... they must be imprisoned. Do you approve of these measures?
There are much more important things that require your attention.
It's all part of my job. Don't worry about that. It's a thankless task, a hard burden to rule during a plague... doomed to make mistakes... Yes, these measures are merely a way for me to deal with this pressure. You are the only real hope. Do you need me to remind you what you have to do? Do you still have the strength to go on?
I only follow my designation...
You shall go to a singer called Anna Angel. Of all black souls in this town, hers is the darkest. There was a time when Willows was the happiest place in this part of town, and we were glad to have such neighbours. But these days every crack of that house runs blood and tears.
God... what happened there?
Nobody can tell. Anna knows how to cover her tracks. Nobody even knows where the house’s previous owners are. A friendly family used to live there...
Do you suspect her?
I suspect that one of the most bloodthirsty ghouls of our time has settled in our town under the guise of a «singer»! Do you know about the Caravan? No, of course not... Ask her a question about this and listen to what she has to say.
You’re scaring me. But I’ll do it.
Don’t be afraid. Who would dare harm a hair on your head?
Right! Besides, I have a hat.

So essentially Alexander was about to start throwing people into prison, mostly to deal with his bad mood. Then again, wasn’t that the way powers worked in all countries and all centuries?

Anna Angel... another woman whose soul is supposedly blacker than charcoal, her crimes awful and unprovable. But I shall make her trust me and unmask, and her soul will be revealed to me. Perhaps it’s less black than it seems...

She stepped out of the yard and in the general direction she remembered Anna’s house – Willows – to be.

She didn’t notice it right away in the darkness, but jumped back the moment she did... The green glow... the same kind there had been in the House of the Living the day before... The glow of the Plague! It had spread! She couldn’t believe the glow had covered the distance from the abandoned house to Stem so quickly,

Reluctant to step into the glow again, she retreated into Stem.

Katherine was already awake just like her husband... It was beginning to seem that the couple never slept at all.

Is your faith strong, my dear daughter? Did you manage to avoid temptation that would make you doubt my words? For I have nothing that could reassure you... nothing except love that is getting stronger and stronger inside me.
It’s the plague that I'm afraid of. It is already here, right under our windows!
Do you remember what I told you about the Adherents indoctrinated with the Utopian heresy – and that they have brought divine wrath upon our town?
I haven't met any of those yet...
There is a mansion in the Stone Yard called Whirlpool. A girl called Eva Yahn lives there. Both good and bad things are said about her... Some call her loving and good-natured, some call her dissolute and voluptuous... but none of that matters... Licentiousness isn’t punished with such vengeance...
Why are we talking about her then?
Eva has been seduced by Utopian ideas. What drew my special attention was the fact that Eva, the sweet Eva Yahn spends way too much time in... the town Cathedral. I don't know what keeps bringing her there... but her life style is incompatible with such godliness... There’s a mystery here...
I'll try to figure it out.
Eva is tender and weak... Start with her. She shouldn’t be rude with you. Use her to test your powers... You’ll have to face more dangerous and unyielding... interlocutors. They will surprise you with their anger... making it impossible for you to convert them.
I shall try.
Go. You have my blessing... Remember, the more souls you can touch with your missionary outreach, the less souls – including innocent ones – shall be crushed by my husband’s fury.
I am aware of that.
Remember what I've told you about Julia. She is clever... Very clever. Be careful with her. And look... I don't know her very well, but she seems to be a very respectable woman. And she loves Eva very much...

Julia? Wasn’t she supposed to start with Eva? She decided not to argue and found the building marked Julia Luricheva on her map. But it turned out that Anna lived closer than either of the women, so it was decided that Willows would be the next destination.

This time Impostress departed through Stem’s back yard, which, thankfully, opened into safe area. So the glow hadn’t covered the entire town after all.

The schedule for the next week was becoming more and more clear:
Each day Katherine would send her to convert influential and notable individuals to her faith. Meanwhile, Alexander would send her off to investigate people from the list given to her. It seemed like a convenient arrangement and would allow her to keep a close eye on the people in her care and find out more about the town’s society. Maybe she would happen upon a clue about herself and her intended role in what was happening.

Seeing Anna up in such an hour was unexpected – she didn’t seem like a typical morning person.

You are so pale... Do you want my rouge?
Never mind that. It’s my usual colour. I was sent to you by my patron... He wants to know more about you!
Oh, so now Saburov is after me as well? Literally all the powers that be are now against me! Never did I expect such a thing from Saburov, a man of firm principles and my old neighbour... And to think I wanted to ask for his protection from Olgimskys’ persecution!
What do they have against you?
Oh, I know what! I have a certain connection with Hunchback, the local moneylender... I’ll tell you more about it later. Well Big Vlad would like to lay his hands on the usurer’s bloody money. Too many expenses lately... had to transfer a considerable amount of money to your new father yesterday...
But what do you have to do with it?
Listen to me, darling. Hunchback refused to pay... so Vlad said that he would find a way to make him more appeaseable, that he would find someone who knows a few of his dark secrets and make them talk... That’s me he was hinting at! Vlad must have found out that the Hunchback and I know each other.
Alexander isn’t really interested in any of that...
Save me from the cursed Olgimskys, dear! Vlad is terribly cruel, and cannot control his fury. When angered, he can stave an oak table into splinters! Help me and I will tell you all you need to know! Find out if Big Vlad is planning anything against me!
Is he really threatening you?
Oh, yes. After yesterday, he thinks I’m a pushover... And today I received a message telling me that I’ll die just like... well, does it matter who? It’s all lies anyway. And «Tread lightly» instead of a signature... Now do you understand why I’m so terrified?
But how shall I talk to him? He won't let me set foot on his threshold. I can’t talk through walls...
Well think of something! You can do it; I sense strength of an angel inside you! Personally, I would use his children to get back at him... but they have grown... too big and strong for me. But you... you can do it!
Use his children... That didn’t sound good.
This came out wrong! Just don’t believe them if they start telling you about my past. I fled here because I was being persecuted for my beliefs. For singing seditious songs...
You seem like you have something else on your mind... I can see sparkles in your eyes!
I’m going to tell you a secret. Come closer and I shall whisper it in your ear...
I love secrets!
...Simon is alive. Alive and well, you hear? Eva told me about it in confidence!
How would she know?
Eva is entirely under the Bachelor’s spell! She obeys him as a slave, but she also knows his secrets. Check it out! He conspired with Stakh Rubin – Isidore’s apprentice, a former mercenary – to hide Simon from the Kains! They say he is dead...
I wonder if Simon is in on this plot.
I think he is... They are all in this together! They must have some evil intentions.
Why are you telling me all this?
Verify Eva's words... do it! And then tell everything to the Kains. I’m sure they will be delighted to learn that the Bachelor has betrayed their trust! Do you understand what that will mean to you? You will win their favour, and more money than you can carry... Don't you need money?
I’ll see you later, Anna.

So Anna was scheming against another healer this time... Klara wondered if Anna had some dirt on her as well, planning to reveal it to someone else in return for their favours. At least she learned something new about that Eva.

Eva knows where I can find the Bachelor. If what Anna told me is true – I shall expose the true nature of this snakeskin-clad agent! Eva is also one of those who must be converted. A pure heart ignited by blasphemous impudence of the ideas planted by Scarlet Nina – I have to extinguish the flame, so that the dangerous fire would not tease the supreme forces, incurring their punishment upon the entire town. The hooks for her soul could be in Julia’s possession...

It seemed that both assignments required her to visit Eva. But first, she needed to see Julia Luricheva and search for more hooks. The house she needed was across the bridge, in the north of the middle part of town.

Julia – a skinny blond woman with a boyish haircut – was alone among the bookshelves in a smoke-filled room in the mansion.

Who are you, lovely girl?
My name is Klara. And you must be Julia.
Ah... Impostress... I know. I've heard about you already. Let's have a talk! Sorry about all the smoke. I would like to keep the windows shut for obvious reasons.
I have a request. But I'd like to do something for you first...
Oh don’t worry, you will, you definitely will. In fact, you are doing something for me right now, without even knowing it. Believe it or not, your mere presence is giving me such pleasure... Although this pleasure is intellectual rather than physical...
Shame on you Julia, you are making me blush!
I thought you would be different. I imagined you tall as a beanpole, pale, bruised, with your ribs showing, with round and firm breasts, long light – almost white – hair, matted and shaggy, of course... and swollen eyes...
How nice. Did I have a long, curved scythe?
But I digress. Let's get down to business. I want to hear your request. Actually, I’ll try to impress you by guessing it. You wanted me to tell you about Eva Yahn. Everyone could have told you where she lives, but you were interested in something in her soul, weren't you?
I can’t believe it! Someone must have told you... it was Katherine, right? Are you two playing a trick on me?
I don't talk to Katherine. Morphine hounds and other addicts depress me. It’s the reason I stopped seeing the Stamatin brothers. Did you see them already?
How did you know I was going to ask you about Eva?
Let's say she is very and very religious. Not so long ago Eva was obsessed with the Cathedral, but now things must have changed and she only has the Bachelor on her mind. No more waiting for a miracle... I won't be surprised if the Cathedral will finally cease to be a Cathedral one of these days...
Tell me more about your cathedral! Why is it empty?
It’s empty because it was built before religion. I’m an atheist of course... but even I know what purpose these things serve. As Petr Stamatin says, a Cathedral is more than just walls and a roof. It is a sanctuary where miracles occur. But the Tower fills this role these days...
You shouldn’t be an atheist. Your views will change soon.

Armed with all this information, Klara headed to the Stone Yard and entered the mansion that was titled «Whirlpool» on her map. It was her mission to end Eva's infatuation with dangerous Utopian ideals, but she also wouldn't mind learning more about Bachelor's shady scheme that Anna had mentioned.

Eva’s lodger and sweetheart, Dankovsky, didn’t seem to be around, which suited Impostress just fine. She found the home’s owner in the bedroom on the first floor.

I know you! I saw you in a dream... you are Klara! You look like an animal at bay... Did someone scare you?
Not really... What is your name?
Eva. Eva Yahn... And you must be here to see the Bachelor.
I've come to you, Eva Yahn. Hello.
Why did you come? What do you want from me?
Where is your Daniel, dear Eva?
He is working. He is fighting Sand Plague tooth-and-nail. Seems like he is in all places simultaneously, preparing our town for defence against the disease; he meets people, questions, assigns missions, collects data, observes, analyses... He is preparing to get rid of the plague and stop the epidemic!
Where does he work, Eva? How shall I find him?
Why do you need him? If you want to see him, stay here at my place and he will certainly come back here tonight.
Do you know that he is in danger? The bandits want to destroy him.
What nonsense. My Daniel is afraid of no one. He is more fearsome alone than all smugglers and bandits put together. His hand is firm and he shoots straight. Anyone who tries to hurt him shall regret it!
I need to know where he is, Eva. It's urgent!
No, Klara, you don't. He’s forbidden me to tell anyone. Imagine how I’ll look if I betray his trust the very day he confided in me!
The plague has spread wider... Who knows, it could already be where he’s working... I’ve volunteered to deliver medicine to people who need it. I could bring him some right away. You wouldn’t want him to be infected on his way home, would you?
He is at the storehouses, in the northern part of the area, in Rubin's secret dissecting room! Nobody knows he is there; he ordered me to keep this a secret. I don't even know which one of the buildings is he in.
And did he tell you how to get in touch with him in case of an emergency?
Yes, he did! When you find the door, you must use the secret sequence: two quick taps, then, after a pause, one stronger knock, and then two quick taps again. And when somebody asks who it is, you should say: «I brought some water from the whirlpool».
Thank you, dear Eva. Do you hear metal tinkling on my chest? Those are neither keys nor picklocks; those are my special tiny hooks. Tell me about the Bachelor.
I don't hear anything tinkle... You are acting strange...
Eva, Eva, I know that you love the Bachelor more than anything in this world. Would you agree to get close to me? Will you let go, submit into the depths... And give unto my questions your honest, unbiased answer?
...The moment he set his foot on the dust of our roads, the moment he inhaled our air, the moment his shadow fell on our town’s cobblestones, I knew that my life changed and was heading towards its climax. He came, and now I only live for him...
...Why do you love him so?
He came here to witness a real miracle. He believes that it is here that he will find what he could never find in the Capital. He searched, and finally fate brought him to my threshold. He is the best man to ever tread this earth.
Could it be because he’s doomed? Maybe he came because nothing short of a miracle can save him?
Doomed? Him? Stop saying crazy things; you’re not making any sense... And what does it have to do with performing miracles? Miracle workers aren’t doomed! Even those of them who have a short life, live it up to the hilt and wouldn’t change it for a thousand ordinary lifetimes...
There is a huge gap between you two.
Is there? I don’t think so. He wants miracles, a vivid example of the impossible... But isn’t it what I’ve been thinking about day and night? Isn't that why I wept over our useless Cathedral?
What’s wrong with your cathedral?
Do you even have to ask? You, who are considered a saint, whose heart should already know answers to such questions? No, you are merely testing me... I’ll tell you. You see, the place in which real miracles should occur stands empty and dead like a shell of a rotten walnut.
Do you still hope it will come back to life?
Of course! And you know what? I have a feeling that it will very soon, now that you have all arrived. You are here for a reason too, girl with magical hands! I am sure that the Cathedral will resuscitate very soon – for him... And I shall help make it happen.
No, Eva. Nothing will happen as long as you think this way.
But why? No, Klara, you haven't seen what we’ve seen. You are too solemn. Someone who saw Scarlet Nina shape this town, who watched Simon play with our children would never say that you cannot expect miracles. You can and you must!

Once again, Klara stumbled for a moment. The woman was clearly very passionate about the Kains’ nonsense. She could be brought into a line, easily, but did she really deserve to?

So, this is what the Utopian heresy sounds like... Fascinating...

B) Very well then. I won't dissuade you, Eva. Live by your love.