Part 13: Chapter Four - pt.1
It was the morning of the fourth day, and Klara had just woken up and checked her diary for more fresh mysterious entries.
«I know why they call us a thief: because the one hiding from the Law is named so. The Law, relentless, severe, unrighteous that's what pursues us. The Law does not recognize anything that is between the bowls of its scales, the Law does not believe in anything that is between black and white.
The law is relentless, and its steps are grave. You managed to hide from its all-seeing eye for a while in this Steppe. You probably thought that it would not find us here and so it was for a long time.
But now, it seems, everything changed. Is it on my trail again? Could it be that even a wonder-worker cannot escape it?»
She hoped that the law as represented by Alexander wasnt quite onto her yet.
Well, daughter... how are you? Have you had much... work to do last night?
Yes. Plenty of work. Must go everywhere. Be everywhere. Miss nothing.
Yes... I understand... Will you tell me about it?
I dont think I should... Really dont think I should do that. You dont need to hear that at all... my good father!
Are you going to continue helping me?
It is my duty.
You are becoming famous. Evildoers are afraid of you. And not only them. You strike fear into the hearts of men... my dear daughter.
Is that so? Who is afraid of me?
Doesnt matter. Its all for the best. You already saw whats going on around you. Monsters, each one uglier than the next, appear beneath ones very eyes... You cant poke a finger anywhere without squashing some foul spider! Is it the epidemic that creates them or are they the cause to the epidemic? I am at my wits end.
Yes, it true. Many people cant distinguish causes from consequences anymore because everything is locked in a circle. And they are right.
Now Im sure that its Griff whos at fault! This man, head of the smugglers, an underground death monger, has unleashed a gang of cutthroats upon the streets. You saw everything yourself. They stab people... kill women... rob houses. Militia cant handle them.
But did he start the epidemic?
While conducting his investigation, Bachelor Dankovsky found out that Griff had ordered thieves to throw infected corpses into the river. Maybe a few dozens. The thieves wont tell us where the place is. In fact, they deny the whole thing. This should be looked into.
Thats horrible! But where did the infected bodies come from in the first place?
This is what I want you to find out. I need to know whether it is true, and if it is, I need to know the location... before we wipe the whole vipers nest off the face of the earth. Griff has done too much evil. Even if he isnt directly responsible, he deserves to be punished for the part he played.
I cant handle an entire den of thieves on my own!
You dont have to fight anybody. Did you really think I would ask you to do something even the bloodthirsty Bachelor couldnt handle? Ive already gathered a team that will perform a round up. It is led by Wolf, my brave lieutenant. Theyll find the killers den... once the guilt is proven. That sneaky bastard Griff denies everything... He pretends to be alarmed, frightened. But Im sure it is Griff who stirs up the murderers and it is he who buys up the loot. Find out whether it is true. Im sure it is.
Dont you have any way to make him speak?
Thats not all. I feel that Griff is under protection of the Olgimskys... and he gives them a cut of the money he makes by selling black twyrine. If Im going to ruffle Vlads feathers, I want to be prepared. Ask Griff about it as well. I want to know everything about him... before he is destroyed.
Who can know something about him? You know... Things that will help me hook onto him.
I cant help you there. Olgimsky is likely to know something but he wont tell you. Think it over. Its all up to you.
After thinking it over for a few minutes, Klara decided to go see Griff.
She chose to play it safe and walked along the channels bank again. It seemed that Sand Fever still hadnt spread to that part. Maybe open water was impeding its progress.
In one of the streets Klara was passing, she saw a severely underdressed young woman standing under a streetlight. It was probably a dancer or a patron from FACTUS EST. Klara caught herself staring and looked away.
Do you condemn or sympathize?
You dont wear anything to keep yourself warm; that means you have no warmth to give.
I know the dance. When I dance, I exist. I give my moisture to the earth, luring twyre out of it. But then, when twyre blossoms, I am not intoxicated by its aroma.
So its you who we owe twyres flowering to! Im not sure whether to thank or to curse you... Tell me more about your customs.
Body is a sacred thing. Naked body is the purest likeness of the world itself. People used to look after their bodies like they would look after a temple. Before the Saburovs took over, we used to purge all ugly and crippled people from our community. Thats what the Order demanded. They were devoured by the Steppe. The earth would correct its mistakes.
What happened to them afterwards?
Terrible things! Locals believed that if the Steppe didnt accept the freak back into its womb, then he would come back as an evil spirit, some kind of abomination, like Mara or Shabnak-Adyg. It seems like they were right. Thats why they dont take kindly to cripples around these parts.
What a vicious utopia you were building here.
Nothing like that... But its very important for the butchers. Its the law of survival. A guarantee that the world doesnt turn against them... like it has these days.
Do you know where I can find the disease carrier?
Open your eyes; theyre everywhere! Each one of them is dying and each one is ready to take you with them. Take your pick.
No, you dont understand. The carrier that spreads the infection but does not get sick.
Like the Typhoid Cook?
Whats a typhoid cook?
You hear all kinds of tales in these lands... They say that a hundred years ago, somewhere overseas, in the West, people would catch typhus for no reason. Turned out, there was this cook... She would go to peoples houses, make soup for them... She had typhus but would not die herself.
Exactly. Perhaps, we have something like this over here too.
That would be terrible! What if she doesnt even know how dangerous she is? Imagine! She probably doesnt feel anything...
Why do you keep saying «she» rather than «he»?
I dont know. Slip of the tongue? Must be all this talk about the cook. Plus that man-eater everyone keeps talking about... Could be the same thing... Nevermind.
The girl shook her head and trudged slowly in the direction of the Abattoir. Klara also went on her way.
She already knew which part of the warehouses the ruthless smugglers had their base in, but this time she had the exact location marked on her map.
Griff, a thief and a robber, prince of the underworld, a spider, in whose web hundreds have gotten caught, he is an alembic through which every drop of blood, tears and twyrine passes. This villain was surely involved in the beginning of the pestilence.
She was let in without any trouble. The room went silent the second she stepped inside. Nobody was engaging in any illegal activities. A clothing line heavy with laundry was stretching from one wall to another: even villains could recognize the importance of neatness.
The fidgety, lively fellow, whose facial features were indeed vaguely griffon-like, was looking at her amusedly.
I have a question for you, Griff...
Im so tired... What do you know: life hasnt really started yet, and its already time to retire...? No questions! I have no anger... Just exhaustion. All because of questions! They ask you a question and you feel energy itself escape your lips with the air as you answer. Anger disappears too... But anger is all we live for, little titmouse!
Im sorry... Does it hurt?
Save your sympathy, pipsqueak. I wont tolerate pity from anyone... may have to pity you myself soon enough. Little angel of mercy... Why am I going so soft all of a sudden? Anger... no anger at all... heh.
There is a reason for that, Griff. We have too much in common. Its not a coincidence that our paths have crossed.
You are a thief, too! I know, I know... You are always a welcome guest here...
Why am I a thief?
Like they say... He who hides from the Law is labelled a thief and will have to face a dreadful punishment... I can respect that. I wonder what you have stolen if they want to put you to death? Must have been something of national importance.
Stealing is not a sin these days. It can be forgiven. You, however, are much worse than a thief. Those bodies you dumped into the river have contaminated the towns water! You wont get away with that.
Oh, that business... I have a most reliable witness on my side. Reliable because hes an enemy. Wont miss a chance to tell on me. Notkin, that scraggy urchin, has had a grudge against me for a long time. Always sending his brats to spy on me... Nosy bunch, all of them they keep track of all my wrongs. Go ahead, ask him about the bodies.
Ill do that at once!
Klara headed outside, and crossed the tracks to the northern part of the warehouse district, to the barn with coloured lights and catatonic children.
Griff thinks that testimony from the enemy is the best alibi. This could be true it is evident that thieves do not get along with the orphans. I should ask Notkin whether Griff really is innocent.
Shall we be friends?
Griff says that the charges against him are false. Is that so?
Filin? Oh, hes as bad as they come. You cant accuse him falsely: name any crime hes done it! What is he accused of this time?
He is under investigation on charges of spreading the infection.
What? By whom?
They benefitted from the epidemic, thats a fact. Im going to tell you something very few know about : It could all be connected to the twyrine that is being peddled by the thieves... A new type that has appeared recently, «black» twyrine. There was so much secrecy about the whole thing, so many precautions... there is something behind that.
How did you learn about it?
Oh, we know a lot we live close by and we have good noses. Thats why he hates us, damned Filin! All I know is that theres something sinister about that black twyrine. Why is it such a secret? Twyrine has been sold for a long time. The whole town knows that. What is this all of a sudden?
What do you mean?
Ask him about black twyrine if you can... I would like to see the look on his face!
Is Filin his real name?
Hes actually Grigori Filin. Put two words together, and you get «Griff»
Guilty, innocent... Hard to tell. But Notkin also mentioned that Griff is involved in black twyrine trade, and I didnt like the gloating look he gave me when he was saying that...
She wasnt sure that teasing a criminal mastermind about some dirty secrets right in the middle of his lair would be wise under normal circumstances, but the man was her Adherent and she refused to consider him a threat.
Its us versus them now, am I right, girl?
Im going to question you now in the name of your greatest fear and you shall answer me.
Filin, Filin, I know that you had known in advance what trouble would come to our town. 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?
Go ahead baby, ask... Where do you know my name from? Was it Saburov, that rascal?
But you... youre awake...
He-he-he... Still want to ask questions? See that thing around my neck? A Steppe charm... just a little insurance against Maras like you!
Wow, is it magical? Just let me... Hey, what the?
Hands off! There, there... Im not mad at you. Theres a good tradition: I scratch your back, you scratch mine. Do something for me, and Ill answer your questions. Saburov is charging me with stabbings and other nasty things! And Im innocent, just like my fellows here. Hes mostly upset about his dead fighters, not the townsfolk... Id like to give him a real murderer so he would leave me alone. Clear my name...
Each of your innocent fellows has a knife you can pin three people at once with... Are these only for show?
For show, yes... And I can prove it. It is not them who kills people; especially Saburovs people.
Go ahead, prove it.
Braga the Barber should have a certain cloth sack lying around somewhere in his den. Steal into Bragas hideout, take the sack, bring it to Saburov and tell him where youve found that. Thats all. Just dont look inside the sack...
This doesnt sound simple.
And be careful; dont tell anybody you are doing that at my request! You may also ask Braga himself whether he is the killer.
All right. If youre lying, youll regret it. Oh, and by the way I dont believe in magic, Griff.
Q: "I have hypnotizing powers, and can heal or kill with my bare hands. But I don't believe in magic." What is she, the Bachelor?
A: Well, Katherine says she's a tool in the hands of some supreme power. It's like in christianity, all those miracles in the Bible are not considered magic. The prophet doesn't make shit happen, God does.
Q: Do they react any differently afterwards? Like does that one Bachelor-lovin' girl say different things after you've hypnotized her? Or is it just a one off thing?
A: No... I'm guessing they don't even realize that something happened, like with real hypnosis.