The Let's Play Archive


by woodenchicken

Part 15: Chapter Four - pt.3

On her way back home from Griff’s lair Klara remembered about the rain-damaged letter she had found at Stem's entrance earlier.

If you truly are who you say you are, you won’t deny me help in my good endeavour. Help me save the life of a person who is as persecuted as you are. I’ll be waiting for you in Shelter.

Lara Ravelle

There was still a lot of work for her to do, but since she did think she was who she thought she was, and Lara’s home wasn’t too out of the way, she decided to pay the sad lady a visit.

You can walk everywhere. You are not afraid of anything. I need your help again. Will you do me a favour?
What do you want?
Young Burakh is being hunted. It looks like your patron Alexander is behind it. But he is being unfair to Artemy.
Why is that?
Haruspex has a reason to cut dead people. He is trying to invent a panacea. Please find out what’s happening and stop Alexander’s hand. His anger is blind.
All right, I’ll help him.
I’ll give you a good reward if you help Haruspex.
I haven’t done anything yet...

Alexander wants to make a raid and catch everyone who uses a knife on human tissue against his orders. His main target is the bloody Haruspex. Lara insists that Burakh’s goals are pure despite his appearance, and asks me to reason with my father...

Since she was already going to get a confessed sadistic murderer off the hook, she thought she might as well help a doctor too.

I’ve learned something about Griff... more than I ever wanted.
Well? Is he the cause of our troubles? What is your verdict?
No, it wasn’t he. He isn’t the one who’s responsible for the troubles that have befallen your town... our town.
Your constant acquittals are getting frustrating. Nothing good will come out of this.
They say you’ve started a hunt for the Haruspex. Is that so?
Yes, and thanks for reminding me! I’ve decided to get rid of all killers who use any kind of blade: scalpels, razors, knives... The plague mowing down the town’s population is bad enough. At least there will be order in the streets! By day and by night.
Haruspex isn’t so easy to catch.
Executors have just reported that he had been seen in a quarantined area, near the factories. He was prowling about empty houses... Pillaging, obviously. We can lure him into an ambush. You can.
Why don’t you just grab him if you know where he is?
The militias are afraid of the infection, and I don’t trust the executors. And you are immune. Tell him Rubin is waiting for him at his «home». According to the Bachelor, Haruspex wanted to ask Rubin about some cadaver.
Is Rubin really there?
No... Nobody knows where Rubin is. The Kains assigned about a hundred people yesterday to search for him. They’ve looked under every stone, but have found nothing so far. But I think I know where he could be. I’ll seize him – that’ll show Kains who’s in control of the situation.
But what about the Haruspex?
He is in one of the contaminated houses. Make haste. You have a chance to show you are on Law’s side.
We’ll see. Can’t say I like this plan... too treacherous for my tastes.

Leading an unsuspecting man into a trap just to prove her loyalty to the Law? What had the Law ever done for her? Klara didn’t like this assignment one bit. But there was still time to think about it later, while she worked on today’s assignment from Katherine.

Things are happening too fast... But we must continue our work... We must act quickly. I am now certain that the Utopians are to blame... Maybe only a few, or maybe all of them... We must make them depart from this heresy one by one.
I am ready.
...Today we’ll strike where they don’t expect it... You’ll talk to Mark the Immortal today... He is a stage director in the theatre. He stages prophetic pantomimes with his Masks... His play about the death of King Kuron debuted right before Simon’s death... He knew...
What am I going to tell him? I don’t know any of his secrets.
It won’t be as easy as yesterday... it may be more like the other day... He might be on our side already, or it may be he who’s inspiring the Utopians... in his own way. Try to learn his thoughts.
So he’s an artist... Could there be a connection with the Caravan?
He has been living here for a very long time... I don’t even remember... But he has never been interested in children. He won’t even look at them. He doesn’t allow them to visit his shows... No, you’re wrong.
So he is not a real evildoer... But why do you need him then?
I do need him... It has been revealed to me that the Bachelor is going to try to convert the theatre into leprosarium. Tell Mark about it. Let’s see if he can find a way to stop it from happening... I need this theatre! We need it... I can feel it.
How can Mark prevent it?
I don’t care! I want him to make the building unsuitable for Bachelor’s purposes! It’s important for me to save the building... for my own needs. I can feel it, my daughter... I feel that my gift of prevision depends on it. It may have something to do with those Masks that predict the future...
Who can help me?
Maria knows. Only she can control him... I think he admires her. Nobody but Maria knows how to get closer to Mark... But you mustn’t visit her! You cannot handle her yet. Think of something yourself...

Klara tried to think of something for a while, and finally decided what the best course of action would be: to visit Maria.

Mark the Immortal, director and puppeteer of the town theatre, seems to have lapsed into Utopian heresy – probably under the influence by this terrible Maria. He is a dangerous adversary, but I must try... Katherine becomes so agitated when she speaks about him.

She recalled the previous times she had met Maria and decided it was time to stop taking the stories about her awesome powers at face value. For all the threats and arrogant speeches, Klara still hadn’t seen any of the Kains do something that amounted to more than simple parlour tricks.
Was Maria really all bark and no bite? Or was she merely holding back, biding her time?

Mark was there, right in Maria’s drawing room, paying his addresses! Not the most convenient situation: how could you talk about someone behind their back when they were standing right there facing you? On the other hand, Klara remembered how Mark had refused to let her inside his theatre, and hoped to get a chance to interrogate him on neutral territory.

She didn’t expect any real help from the head of the rival party, but the talkative mistress could reveal something useful by accident.

Well this is charming! I won’t even have her killed – this is how curious I am right now... Let’s ask her herself – Mark, keep in mind what I told you... What do you need, Impostress?
I need to talk to Mark – in private! We don’t need you.
Heard that, Mark? Come on, let’s give it a crack! It’ll be fun! What were you going to tell him, girl? The same lines you used on my uncle Georg back then? I would be so angry if I wasn’t so entertained right now...
I, uh...
You came to allure us. So adorable... No, don’t say anything, you are a success. But you should have started with someone else, someone less powerful... At least then, you wouldn’t look so ridiculous, and we could just go ahead and kill you. But now... I just don’t have the heart...
You mean I was saved by my foolishness?
Of course, Klara. You couldn’t have thought that your tricks would actually work on us... Or did you? Maybe it is I who’s naive, and you really are a saint? Wait, let me look inside... No, it’s not the case. Do you realise that I can break you just by focusing my will?
I can feel that. I have no right to call myself a saint...
You’re not as bad as I imagined...
You too... And you’re also pretty.

After some cajoling, she decided it was safe to approach Mark.

Oh! You have come on an errand from Katherine, haven’t you? She needs something, doesn’t she? Is she really worried?
How do you know that?
It is written all over your face. But let’s get down to business, for you have little time – the very walls of this house are hazardous for you, young devil. So what is it about me, or the charming hostess of this hospitable house, that is bothering you?
Did you just call me a devil?
I did it affectionately. I’m willing to take my words back though. The title doesn’t suit you so far... but you are getting dangerously close... Although there is still hope. For everybody’s sake I hope you stray from that path.
I’ve come to ask you what will happen to the theatre...
Amazing! I didn’t know you for a theatregoer! I had no idea! Who could have thought your hobbies are so diverse, o pure one! And here I was, positive that a holy person like you couldn’t be tempted with such vain divertissements...
You’ve bid defiance to the heavens. The disaster came to this town because of you...
I love the choice of words.... Thou art too sensitive, o young one. Katherine is using her prophet-like rhetoric as the last resort, because she foresees the beginning of the end... Speaking as a professional, I find this gimmick cheap and inelegant.
Yours is the world without faith...
What’s with all these perverse concepts? Why is there so much hatred inside you? Calm down, it’s just a game! This game is just a shadow of reality, its tiny fragment, its likeness. Not a superficial likeness though – on the contrary, it’s too complex! It’s not empty; it’s bursting... because the container is too small.
There is place for God even in an infinitesimal fragment...
What made you think that He is not here, Impostress?
I’ve seen only dead, toy-like emptiness here so far!
Well that explains a lot, doesn’t it?
Only to you, puppeteer!
Yes, that’s my nature. But let me explain why Katherine is so interested in the theatre. It has nothing to do with my Masks. A certain animal made its home there... A disgusting bogeyman that likes to hoax people... we call it the Rat Prophet.
What? What is this utter nonsense!
Yes, yes... The fact is, Katherine is barren – she cannot foresee future. The Rat Prophet can though, and it visits her every night. But unlike a Mistress, who cannot lie, it can, and it uses the ability to the fullest!
I don’t believe you...
Go see for yourself... It is in the theatre right now. Tell the Masks the words «An ear and an eyelid» and they’ll let you in... I envy you, child! I really do. You have so many discoveries ahead of you...
I don’t envy you though.

A man who could talk to rats and see the future? At any other time, in any other situation, Klara would be burning with curiosity, but as she was heading toward the theatre, she gradually went from running to walking to plodding slowly as some kind of languishing dread was getting stronger the closer she became to learning this secret.

What is this? They say that there is a weird creature living in the theatre, a malicious spirit that has long since taken possession of the dreams and prophecies of Katherine and whispers lies into her ear, passing them off as visions of a Mistress? No, I shall not believe it until I see it...

From one gate to the other, skipping the third... That’s the way man goes from birth to death. He-he...
An ear and an eyelid, Mask. Let me pass.
Go ahead then... Look at her, she’s not even afraid! What a cutie!
Try not to scratch me with your claw!

The inside of the theatre was dark as before, and at first she didn’t even notice the tiny figure on stage...

By Simon’s beard, it was an actual rat with human body, standing upright, in a coat and with a cigarette in a miniature ebony quellazaire???

Hello, Plague! Wait just a little longer; we are preparing your kingdom for you. The very heart of the town will become a temple of the disease. Soon enough, everything will be at your feet.
Why did you call me that?
It’s your nature.
That’s not true!
All this time you have been nothing but Sand Fever disguised as a human, an instrument that restores the balance. Your sister never came here. All this time, Klara has been chasing her own shadow, confused by Katherine’s visions that kept coming true.
I don’t believe you...
Rejoice, for your actions have attracted the attention of the all-powerful Authorities. Do you know what the Authorities want from you? You’ll receive a message from them today. Now, the only chance for you to prove that you are not living plague is to perform a real miracle – as opposed to magic tricks...
You’re lying. I’ve already performed many miracles.
You’ve caused many deaths, too. Nobody knows what you are. No, you need a large-scale, full-blown wonder. Change the world, and then we’ll believe you. Saving so-called «lives» of these crude sackboys won’t impress anyone.
Will the authorities tell me what to do?
Just take whatever they tell you with a grain of salt – they are quite the fibbers.
And what about Katherine? Did she really start all this because of you?
She need not worry; I won’t leave my beloved alone... And you, Miss Plague, come visit me sometime. Tell Katherine not to feel bad about Mark – he is hopeless and impossible to convert. Besides, it’d be pointless. You’ll defeat him yourself in the final act.
You’re playing with me!
In the end, you’ll learn that everything you have heard was actually true – including things that are mutually exclusive.
I’ll see you later.
Stay just a little longer... Contemplate the old theatre for a while! Remember it the way it is now – it will never be the same again!
Pathetic rat... It’ll be better than you can even imagine!

What is it talking about? What is this Rat Prophet? I can feel it twisting its speech, telling lies with words that are true. Could it all be a ploy? Maybe it’s Mark the Immortal who put it up to this... I must go to Katherine at once!

Almost relieved, Klara headed to Stem. The implication that the previous three days she had been running on errands dictated by a pranking troll was unpleasant, but she just couldn’t get the comical sight of a gentlemanly rat out of her head, and it was hard to be distressed and amused at the same time.

Besides, the whole meeting could easily be a performance orchestrated by Mark to mess with the Humble. Mark didn’t strike her as a trustworthy fellow, not to speak of his rodent pet. Still, it was better to let Katherine know about all she’d learned.

I have accomplished the task... I’ve talked to Mark.
And? What are you waiting for?
Do you trust my insight? Do you believe that I can read human soul?
Would I have asked you to do such things otherwise? Would I have let you rewrite and redraw people’s destinies if I didn’t trust you, my little angel?
He isn’t a man who sides with anyone. He is on his own. Maria thinks she has him under her spell and considers him a Utopian. But he’s merely humouring her.
Is anything wrong? What is this look on your face? There’s something else you’re not telling me, isn’t there?
Do you know about the Rat Prophet?
...I sense something. I had this familiar feeling as you were saying those words... It was as if some tiny claws ran across my back...
It is the creature that whispers you false prophecies when you sleep!
Very well... Thank you, daughter... You did everything you could... So that’s who would come to me every night. What a horrible thought... I thought those weren’t rats... but friendly earth spirits...
This is an unpleasant thought...

Katherine’s reaction made the rat’s words seem more believable. Unpleasant thought indeed. Katherine’s earlier desire to keep the theatre vacant and prevent it from becoming a leprosarium wasn’t her own idea, but thoughts of an animal, aimed at self-preservation, that have been broadcast into her mind in hopes she could do something about it. If this was true, it was just too disgusting to think about.

My soul is in turmoil... And to think I believed everything that she said... believed because I could feel the truth in her words... But I am able to distinguish truth from lies! What is it? Deceived Katherine spoke true, but this truth resulted from deceit? How is this possible?