Part 21: Chapter Five - pt.5
Klara hoped she was going the right way.
She just couldnt find the god-damned map anywhere.
It was night and she was walking through the Steppe along the towns border, to the West, where the cathedral-turned-shelter was waiting, full of survivors from the evacuated districts. No-one from the outside world was allowed inside without spending time in quarantine first. And Klara really needed to get inside. So she had volunteered to supply the shelter with water, hoping it would give her an opportunity to get into the clean zone.
The decision to walk through the wilderness had come spontaneously. Instead of returning to town after meeting the critter in the Steppe, she started walking west, intending to bypass Knots entirely. She was going to enter a quarantined shelter after all, so it would be best to at least try to avoid disease.
To her right she recognized the factory building where Haruspex made his home. She was moving in the proper direction.
A few minutes later a faint light caught her attention. It was more to the left side, making her doubt her orientational skills again.
But when she got closer it just turned out to be a lonely yurt, and a worm who was burning twigs and dry grasses in an attempt to warm up. Worm trying to get warm, what a joke!
A few minutes later, the huge rail bridge across Vein emerged from the fog in front of her. To the right, on the other side of the tracks, was the plague-stricken storage area where shed escaped from Braga and his men with a human head in a bag just the day before.
Despite getting cold and slightly annoyed by the drizzle that just wouldnt stop, she stubbornly decided to seek another way across. What good all that bottled water would be if she would get traces of infection on it?
The stream in that part was shallow, and you could hop from one bump of sand to another most of the way.
Cursing the bottles she had to drag around, Klara climbed the bank on the other side. She wished she had some kind of waterskin instead.
When she emerged on the other side, she found herself near the southern part of the warehouses, where Notkins lair was hidden. Sand Fever hadnt gotten there yet, thankfully.
Klara thought about the strange beastie shed met not an hour ago. She still couldnt get over how alien it looked.
Laska was right: earth didnt know how to make humans indeed. Earth didnt have the slightest.
Speaking of which... Klara craned her neck trying to examine herself from every angle. No, she looked decidedly normal.
Could be a good argument against those who kept calling her Shabnak-Adyr... Adyg... whatever the proper name was.
Going round the train station, she passed the rail yard where shed seen the aftermath of Burakhs massacre on the day of her arrival.
And delivered «justice» on the child in dog costume, she remembered with regret.
What was that about lies becoming true?
What if she just said «my boots are made of smoked salmon» that wouldnt suddenly become true, would it? No, it wouldnt.
She had lied plenty of times in these five days alone.
Besides, she wasnt even a Mistress when she made up her sister in a conversation with Saburov.
Or... what if the critter got it all backwards, and it was HER who had been made up at some point???
Klaras thoughts were interrupted by a splash. She had wandered into a marsh.
At least it didnt look like the scary kind, and you could always find dry spots to walk on.
Bottles in the bag were bothering her more and more. Carrying water across water, in the pouring rain... That made a lot of sense. She expected her back to be quite sore next morning.
Finally the marsh ended. If she remembered correctly, that meant that Stone Yard was close.
The outline of the fence that was surrounding the settlement confirmed her expectations.
She hoped the Cathedral was well-heated.
She figured maybe if she stood next to a stove, most of the mire would hopefully dry up and fall off.
Unfortunately there was no time to go somewhere and clean up before moving in.
The building looked completely different when you looked at it from the direction of the Steppe.
Long, thin buttresses that looked like legs of a giant spider or some other insect were sticking out of the sides and the back, giving additional support to walls.
Klara slowly went around to the entrance in the front.
She noticed that she was sneaking and told herself to stop it. There was nothing illegal about what she was going to do. She proudly walked up to the guard that had requested water and set the bag on the floor.
Look, Ive brought some water... Are you thirsty?
Thank you, young miss!
Look into my eyes. Let me... what do you have there?
Got something in my eyes... Must be sand... Or is it clay? I need to get it out... Where are you?
You dont see me. You havent seen anybody. And you havent heard my voice...
Whats happened? The clay, it wont go away... Hey, who is here? Who are you?
Dont worry, it will get better... Let me go in.
Klara hadnt planned on doing this, but she couldnt risk being denied entrance. Lives of many people were at stake.
Careful not to be seen by the rest of the guards, she opened the gate a little way and slipped inside, leaving the unwieldy, loud bag of glassware behind.
She had never noticed how unbelievably tall the building was until she saw it from the inside. The hall was crowded, although perhaps not as much as shed expected. People of all ages and walks of life were sitting right on the stone floor, because the refuge was not outfitted with any kind of berths. She thought she saw the proprietor of «Nutriment: Foods and Roughage. Eggs.» among them. Her arrival drew attention of the whole crowd immediately. People rose, gathered around her.
Whom did they bring this time?
Its Klara, the saint girl!
Our little angel...
Why did they put you here? You cannot catch this...
Bless me dear, give me a kiss!
Give me your hands, let me touch you... And you, and you, and you... Here, dont be afraid of anything... Nothing will happen to you now...
The Cathedral is safe. All the people there are alive. There is no danger. I can now reassure Kapella. It was all just a bad dream...
Well? What is going on in the Cathedral?
I was inside. Lots of people there, all safe and sound. I havent seen a single infected person.
You couldnt have seen any... It is said to kill instantly. A man faints before he can make three steps. Only someone special, like Burakh, Simon or an Adherent can survive it long enough...
Are you happy now?
Yes... As happy, as can be in a situation like this. Sometimes Im glad my dreams dont always come true... And what about Maria? Have you seen her?
Yes, I have.
She didnt insult you, did she? Was she kind to you? Did you mention my name?
No I didnt, rest assured. Our meeting went well. Talking to her was quite fascinating, actually.
Silly Kapella, worrying about nothing. Maybe her visions were also influenced, by some Dog Prophet or something. Klara would not be surprised by anything anymore.
The whole nocturnal adventure, complete with a fantastically long poorly-thought out wilderness hike, turned out to be fruitless. Yet, with so many lives at stake it was the right thing to do at the time. One couldnt get angry at the lack of slaughter and mayhem.
But that didnt matter anymore. Thanks to this errand, she learned that at least three people viewed her as a potential Mistress. Klara couldnt even begin to guess what that would mean for her and her efforts here. Shed never asked for this; but if this gift would help her save all those people, she would accept it.
No need to be afraid. I can feel myself entering upon my dominion. What is it? Did a visit to the Cathedral, unconsecrated as it may be, fill me with divine grace, or am I really becoming the Mistress of the Land, an equal to Victoria and Maria? I feel that tomorrow I shall present a new power before Katherine!
REEL 7: Later that night at the theatre...