Part 18: Chapter Five - pt.2
After reporting to Alexander about the days mission, Klara moved on to Katherines room. The Mistress didnt seem discouraged by the failed attempts and disturbing revelations of the previous day.
The contamination expands so quickly! So many people dead... Thats because we havent been vigilant enough! It is not your fault; I must have been picking wrong targets. But are you ready to fight on?
You are beginning to sound like my job is to murder those people!
You must keep going! There are not that many Adherents left... Our town wont be spared for the sake of 10 righteous men; on the contrary, theyll destroy it to punish but one rebel. We are losing the battle so far... and who knows; maybe my husband destroys even truly faithful people in his rage.
What are we to do today?
...Im not sure myself. Desperation is a bad adviser! To play our cards too early is to lose what little we have left. But sometimes its impossible to resist the temptation even if you know theres little chance: what if it works? Its time to do just that... well check to the queen!
I dont know the rules of «Chess»...
You shall strike with your word at the very heart of the Utopian teaching. Even Kains themselves are less dangerous... Its the Stamatin brothers, the rebellious architects who have bid defiance to... too many things. You shall start with Petr. Convert him.
He is a killer, an insurgent, an insolent rebel. He subverts the laws of matter itself with his creations. He challenged the law of gravitation. He insulted the earth by erecting a building that doesnt touch our foremother, our nurturing Vein of Bodkho...
You too believe in those Steppe fables?
Never mind that... Think about Petr. We shall all breathe a sigh of relief when this weight is thrown off the scales. What if the pestilence ends because of it?
How can I make him trust me?
Hmmm... And everything hinges on Maria again... Her and Nina... yes, this stronghold is too solid... only miracle can help you.
Is Petr in love with Maria?
Yes, he is. Just like his licentious brother Andrei... Everything they do, they do together. Everything they feel, they feel together... Maybe thats where their weakness lies... Proselytize Petr! Well have the fierce Andrei in our hands then, as they are twins and one cannot exist without the other...
It turned out Petr was living in a simple apartment building right next to Stem itself. She could start Proselytizing right away.
My yesterdays mission for Katherine wasnt successful but only because too many forces worked against us. Today will be different. Petr Stamatin, the most arrogant of architects, burns the brightest and hottest but I shall extinguish this flame easily for he is weak in spirit!
Petrs house was all covered in scaffolding that looked long-abandoned. The man could erect the most impossible structures in a blink of an eye, but took forever to finish a simplest house renovation.
Petrs studio was the definition of artistic clutter: drawing papers hanging from bare wooden walls, a tub in the middle of the room, a human head... What one would expect in the home of a creator.
The architect greeted her with an absent voice.
What green eyes you have... Dont leave, sweet apparition! Stay a while with poor Petr. I have done so much to help people relive their dreams; I have nothing left for myself. Phantoms fly away without showing themselves clearly. Who are you? An angel? Or maybe youre Death?
Yes! You smell of heady herbs of spicy twyre or tart savyur, like an angel should. What is your name?
Call me Klara.
Drink with me, little one... You are as green as water in that whirlpool. You must be a faerie from this old bottle... I will listen to you... Drink up.
Petr, Petr, I know that you have challenged the law of gravitation... and prevailed. 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?
Ill drink with you if you will... What do you think? Will you?
How did you manage to build that thing?
W... Wait! Why are you asking this? I can see you taking my hand and leading me here... an area lit by a bright lamp... Stop! I was looking for oblivion in the embrace of a green faerie... I wanted you to give me opportunity to forget that... and you are forcing me to remember? Youre lying! Who are you?
Whats wrong with you? What was it that you saw?
I dont get it! My head feels rather... Where am I? I saw myself at the top of a very narrow flight of stairs... really high... and the force of gravity was so powerful that my knees buckled underneath me. I was so frightened that I lay down and couldnt go down... I heard people laughing at me down below. But I survived...
Oh no! Petr, youre already at deaths door! Do you understand what those visions of yours mean?
I dont know... Whatever Andrei says... Let my brother come to me... O brother, where are you? I dont believe anybody but you... Only ghosts and semitransparent green around me... Maras, Chimerae, the forked Impostress... only he is real, my one true supporter...
Why am I forked?
Look, there are two of you... Chimerae, monsters, whatever... One is hanging from the hook in the ceiling and is shining down on me instead of a lamp, her green lips smiling and whispering... The other one is over there, writhing in the corner, laughing at me... dissolving into... duckweed...
Hang on! Ill be back with help...
What was it with him and green? Klara had to get someone to communicate with the lunatic. She decided to convert his brother first, and bring him with her to persuade Petr.
She hurried to «FACTUS EST: Stamatins Bar and Drug Den».
This is becoming more complicated than I expected! Instead of one brother, I shall now have to convert two such similar yet such different people. It will be awfully difficult neither of them will listen to me without looking back to another. Mutual support reaffirms their dangerous delusions... But its time to take a look at Andrei.
Andrei was not there however. Two members of towns militia were present instead, asking the waiter occasional questions, but mostly just gawking at the dancer who was continuing her lazy dance as if nothing was different.
Klara waited until she got the opportunity to drag the waiter away and talk to him in private.
We only have green twyrine. Were out of black, and marsh twyrine will be delivered later.
Saburov is conducting mass arrests. Master Andrei decided to lay low in case they perform a raid. And he was right. As soon as he left, the militia came here to arrest him.
Where is he now?
Nobody knows that. Hell probably come back when the dust settles. Ill tell him that you were trying to find him, young lady.
Seems like Alexander finally decided to perform a round-up! I must go to him and ask for immunity for Andrei. It will not be easy... but, if the feeling of gratitude is not alien to Andrei, my intercession will make him more compliant... It will be harder for him to deny me. So far so good.
She didnt know whether Alexander would give in to her demands once more.
Did you give the order to arrest Andrei Stamatin?
Yes. The bastard is almost as dangerous as his brother is.
Dont touch him for now, please. I need to ask him a few questions.
Do you want him to poke his head out of his hole?
The Inquisitor will arrive soon. I must restore order before I lose the power, or I shall disgrace myself.
Make an exception for Andrei. You will get to punish him later, I promise you that.
All right, but remember that I must have the disease carrier by the day after tomorrow! Or else Ill just have to grab the first suitable candidate and turn her in so that the town wont be left at the mercy of that butcher Karminsky! Youll be guilty of that persons death.
Alexander magnanimously agreed to leave the architect alone. Now the twins have no choice but to open the inmost recesses of their hearts before me!
By the time Klara returned to the pub, Andrei was already there. News travelled fast in the criminal underworld.
Hey runt... Youve come here to get a job, I suppose?
Ive come here to talk to you about your brother. He is in danger.
What? In danger? You have my undivided attention! Whats happened to him? Lets go, we can talk en route...
Andrei, Andrei, I know that youre in love with Maria...
Nonsense! I dont love Maria. I admire her, to be sure, but theres only one person in the whole world that I love: my bro. Stop wasting time and tell me whats threatening my brother!
Your brother adheres to heterodox views...
Thats possible. He is a rebel, not a moaner. Since when are people with dissenting views branded heretics in our town?
Since the towns governors declared their adherence to the ideology of Humility. Andrei, Im afraid this plague has been sent here to punish him personally.
Even if its true, so what? If a wounded man comes rushing through your front door trying to escape murderers, will you cast him out just to stay out of trouble? Even if there was a hundred of them and only a miracle could save us Ill be damned if I wouldnt grab a dagger and hope for the best!
Persuade your brother to repent! Accept your fate and the plague will leave this town!
What did you say, runt? You want me to convince my brother to eat a Humble pie? Go to hell! Accept anything you want poverty, helplessness, filth, baseness, foolishness, weakness, rottenness, war, or anything else if you choose to, but we wont!
Do you really think that our impudence provokes the wrath of God? Lies! Shameless lies! I dont know what god you believe in, but I dont think youre capable of real faith! You are either an impostor and a liar, or you are a temptress, a hellish beast, Shabnak-Adyr, a man-eater made of dead bones and dirty clay!
You heard me! You know what I believe in!
Silence! What do you know about faith! What do you know about religion! You had scarcely drawn your first breath when this despairing prophetess, who clasps her hands in impotent envy looking at the rise of the new star, filled your head with her ravings! And you... You! Are trying to teach me how to live and dare accuse us of heresy and theomachism?
And Ill tell you this: only a renegade, a heathen, and a devil-worshiper like you Saburovs may dare deny the greatness of the divine plan! This tower wasnt created to subvert heaven! Its an entirely different world, you fool! Its neither faith nor nihilism! Its something entirely different!
There is only one world. You have been living without faith. Im going to shake you up.
I wont betray my brothers work and I wont let you slander it! Go to hell! Go back underground from whence you came!
Well see who goes to hell, mason.
The conversation had NOT gone as planned.
Such sharp words... He is a real fanatic, a paladin of arrogance and impudence. It seems that my matron is right it is they who caused the plague to strike this land, not the petty criminals pursued by Alexander! But why do they persist so? Do they not see the obvious?
But Klara decided to see this to the end. She could not disappoint Saburovs again.
Ive talked to your brother.
Dont you remember? You were going to adopt the faith of Humility.
Was I? How interesting... Well, what did my brother say?
Klara fell silent for a second.
She could tell him the truth about her meeting with Andrei, or she could lead the conversation away from the topic and hope he would forget. Trying to lie that Andrei agreed with her would be pointless: truth would come out very soon. Besides, according to Kain, a Mistress couldnt lie, could she? Perhaps it was time to act the part.
A) If Katherine is to be believed, you are the cause of the towns troubles! Its all because of your arrogance!
B) He said he wouldnt accept that.