Part 17: Chapter Five - pt.1
Klaras self-writing diary had a new entry on the morning of the fifth day as well.
«I woke up from the cold today, right before dawn. I was lying on a riverbank. My legs were half submerged in water. My arms were extended in front of me. I was squeezing dirt with my hands.
I rendered thanks for my rescue, and my soul turned to the beloved children. It was the children that I was charged with, you know but they are not easy to get to. Therefore, I have to deal with the other Adherents for now... Im already taking some of them under my wardship, so dont worry about them.
Having embraced my charges, I set out after you. I was searching for you all day. Seems like Ive missed you again today. My wonderful hands are so drained after the days work that they refuse to obey me any more... It is all right. We shall meet soon, my dear...»
She thought that the entry was decidedly more sinister than usual, and didnt make a lot of sense too.
On the previous day she had failed to lead haruspex Burakh to a trap that Alexander had laid out. She expected some stern talking to when she went downstairs to greet him in the morning. But Alexander didnt even mention any of the events of the previous day perhaps the results hadnt been reported to him yet.
It is not the time for sleep, daughter. The scythe is sharpened; the hooves of righteous horsemen are clattering... Its high time we knew whom they should descend upon. People are dying. The day of reckoning is near.
Whose turn is it today?
Rubins time has come. I have learned from a reliable informant that he knew everything about Isidores affairs. He was right at the source of it all.
I know that the Kains have set a good price upon the head of oynon Rubin. Almost as good as upon your... alter egos. There must be a reason for that. Georg is no fool. I sense a hidden skeleton or two!
Just dont send me to the Kains!
Theres no use talking to the Kains, honest Rubin will tell you everything himself... if you handle him right. He may be innocent. Id like to think so.
I shall handle him.
I dont doubt that.
Whos the best person to talk about Rubin to?
Junior Vlad. We currently have a diplomatic alliance. Hell help you find a better approach to the disgraced oynon. Just ask him openly. He likes sincerity.
All right. Ill do as you say...
She already knew where to find Rubin, but before that she needed to visit Younger Vlads shack for background information about the rogue medic.
She had to cross another diseased district on her way there. She could try taking a detour, but at that point who could have said how far that would take her. She decided to race right across, trying to breathe as little as possible.
Vlads shed wasnt surrounded by poison, thankfully.
Well have to stop the excavation... What a waste! Its the first time in many years that we have managed to dig a well this deep!
What if it was you whos dug up the Sand Plague?
Thats impossible. I examine the earth that is shovelled up. And now the Bachelor insisted on repeating my tests. He is almost sure that the disease originated in the soil. It must have sprung out of the ground... But not from my well, Im telling you!
Tell me about Rubin.
What do you want with him?
Hes in danger.
Is it true that the Saburovs have adopted you?
You see... I do trust Alexander. Id like to have a mutually beneficial alliance with him and weve almost managed to do that lately... but he is performing his duties with too much zeal!
Is that bad?
Well... All right, Ill be honest with you... Rubin wont be hiding forever; he isnt that kind of man... Listen. Do not give him to the Kains. He may prove useful.
Will he talk to me?
Bring him some twyrine and meat... Give him a good treat. Hell be thankful. Theres nothing like a dinner and a drink served by a woman. Hell talk to you.
Thank you! Its a good idea.
Rubin doesnt need much. Three pieces of good meat and three bottles of twyrine should sway him in my favour. If he is starving, does that mean that neither the Haruspex, nor the Bachelor support him anymore? Interesting...
A short trip to the grocery shop later, Klara was approaching the warehouse district.
Rubin opened after the secret knock.
Was anyone following you?
I want to talk to you, Stakh.
No time to chat... Leave me alone.
I have meat and twyrine, Stakh. Will you share a meal with me?
Meat and twyrine? Clever... Thank you. By the way, dont believe them when they say you shouldnt eat meat. Its safe as long as its not raw. We have discovered that the disease cannot survive long without a living host.
Why are you hiding here?
Im beyond the Law now, just as you are. And do you know what «beyond the Law» means?
I guess... that you are wanted by the authorities?
Nonsense. The Authorities have nothing to do with it. Its simpler than that. And it goes much deeper.
Law is destiny. I violated the Law not when I stole Simons body, but when I decided to resist, when I learned a secret.
Simons blood gave us vaccine. Yes, yes... Simon was the only one to put up a fight against the plague... But he died too soon! I believe there are other bodies like his. But his blood... thats what was really unusual.
Does it matter why? It was the blood that could fight the infection. And if this disease is the will of nature, then this was blood of a man who dictated his will to the Universe rather than obey all of its whims.
That was really deep. Are you a philosopher?
Just a little, like any doctor... I am of Menkhu origin too, you know; and every Menkhu is an oynon. But it was the Bachelor that gave me an idea. There are special people in this world that bid defiance to the Laws with all their nature. I shall look for people like these if you help me.
Will you become a Ripper too? Cut people open to test their blood?
Not necessarily. Ill try to look for them using the Order once the Apiary is reopened. Those folks deal with blood; they should know a thing or two about it. Then, theres another lead. There may be something to the basis on which Simon selected his Adherents. He would choose children, criminals... it doesnt seem to make any sense!
Can I ask you a question?
No. I know about your hypnotic abilities. Get me temporary immunity from the elder Kain and Ill tell you everything myself. I wont deceive you. All I need is a little more time, and then there wont be any reason to hide from justice any more.
Fine, Ill go see Kain. Go ahead and eat your meal, you must be starving, you huge beast.
Special people... People who could be key to developing the cure... Klara wondered who those people could be.
Rubin does not dare ask Georg for immunity himself, he knows that for such a crime there is no absolution. I am reluctant to bring such message to the Kains, but something is telling me that after this visit I shall no longer feel like an outlaw when I enter Horns, but more like a mistress...
She already knew that Kains were not very interested in punishing Rubin. All that was left to do was to get an official confirmation.
When are you going to stop haunting our threshold?
The famed Kain hospitality. Georg, I want to talk to you about your brother Simon!
What can you tell me about Simon that I dont know?
Simon is still around.
Yeah, yeah... Simon didnt die but he tried to fight the Sand Plague and now is in lethargic sleep. That traitor Rubin must have known about that. Find out where he is hiding and ask him if there is still anything that can be done...
Very well. Ill go.
But he must swear that he will not escape. His word will be enough for me. And youll have to vouch for him. Is it true that Katherine has recognized you as future Mistress? This means you cannot lie.
Ill vouch for him.
Now it seemed that they expected some good to come out of Rubins work and wanted to make sure they would be first to benefit from it.
It seems like Georg already feels that Rubins actions were justified... But whats important is that they consider me a Mistress!
Ive talked to Georg and I got you the immunity you wanted.
You already know what Ive torn the body apart for. I wont be able to bring Simon back, but I can try to unravel his secret. If Georg values the mission his brother was fulfilling more than Simon himself, hell agree to that.
What do you know about Shabnak?
Teacher did tell me that he had encountered a woman in the Steppe. He asked her where she was going, and she answered: «Im going where the warm people are.»
Could it have been just a really weird woman?
It was the plague disguised as a human. A spirit. It must be possible if Teacher himself said so. She really had a womans face. I know nothing else besides the fact that Teacher didnt die to the disease, but was killed.
Thank you... Though there is little comfort to take in your words.
Klara headed back to Stem to report the results of the newest investigation.
Rubin was frank with me... He believes that the plague has assumed the shape of a woman.
Is he guilty?
No. And he doesnt know who is.
All right, let him live. So the infection is going around disguised as a human, as a woman... But who could that be?
Indeed... who could that... be?
Well check Julia tomorrow. She is a recluse and I always thought she was up to no good. If shes not the one we are looking for, at least she can give us some leads. Let her think of something with that smart head of hers.
Alexanders choice of suspects was making less and less sense each time. It was beginning to look as if he was indeed just going off the list of Klaras Adherents, without any other reason to choose them. It was all right. She would see Julia the next day and make sure she was innocent. But for now she still needed to know what task Katherine had in store for her.
Q: So you can stave off the Sand Plague just by being too stubborn to die? ...hmm. Yet we're trying to stamp out the Utopians.
A: From what I understand, Simon was above factions and alignments. It's just that he got some very good genes, that's all. His bloodline provided him with really awesome blood. I bet he had a great head of hair too. Anyway, it doesn't matter, it's not like he didn't croak in the end, so...