The Let's Play Archive


by woodenchicken

Part 22: Chapter Six - pt.1

She spoke to me in a dream...
...and she told me: «I was mistaken, for I tried what I thought would be best, but I squandered my gifts, spent all my strength, and vanished into the crowd. Now I must disappear to avoid the false accusation. From the windows of the house I found refuge in, a belfry can be seen. The air is heated around it. Soon the alarm will ring across Gorkhon...»

Next morning, Klara was leaving her bedroom in high spirits. Things were looking up; Stanislav Rubin was working on a way to treat the Sand Fever, the town’s clans were dropping hints about recognizing her as one of the Mistresses.

And also,

Have you heard what happened in the Cathedral?
No... What?
By Bachelor’s orders, people who had been facing the risk of being infected were gathered in the Cathedral. Last night, the disease carrier managed to sneak inside and gave the whole crowd Sand Plague.
How terrible! Has everybody died?
Yes. Almost four hundred people. And I have no doubt that the real culprit will be found today.
Who could it be?
I am sure that Julia Luricheva is to blame. Some of her belongings have been found in the Cathedral. Waste no time – don’t give her the chance to escape punishment. Expose the witch! Before somebody warns her... or accuses someone else... Am I right?
...Will you and Katherine still love me if that happens? Or will you cast me out if they demand that you give me away?
Who can demand such a thing? I’m the commandant. The Kains are crushed by the loss of Simon. I’ve just learnt that the Olgimskys are in dismay as well. The story about the Apiary was revealed in the wake of tomorrow’s arrival of the Inquisitor. You are our heir. We may disappear, but you shall live on.
What’s an Inquisitor?
Ah, yes... You still don’t know. Those are dangerous types. Agents of the government, they specialize in unsolvable problems. They are intellectuals who are authorized to carry out most outrageous schemes and designs to achieve their ends.
But you won’t let them cross the line, will you?
Unfortunately, they have unlimited authority. Trying to stop an Inquisitor is like trying to stop time, or a ghost... He’ll do everything he wants to, eventually.
How can I get closer to Julia? She is smart as paint and seems to have an iron plug for a heart... None of my hooks will latch onto her.
She loves Eva. And it seems that Eva loves her. Try talking to Eva.

Four hundred, what? All pleasant thoughts were forgotten immediately. She had to look into that!

But before that she decided to see Katherine. The woman had been a ruin the day before, and Klara wanted to see if she had gotten better.

It’s time to turn our attention to the younger generation of aristocrats.
What will you demand of me today?
We’ll try to convert the younger Vlad today – we need allies among the Apiary faction.
I’ll do whatever you say.
I was thinking about working on Victor Kain, but it would be too difficult... The Utopians are furious right now. Our actions yesterday must have enraged Maria.
What is the best way to approach Vlad?
He is simple. You don’t need recommendations or introductions to talk to him. But he is cynical. There must be some sort of incentive... He loves money the most... but he has other weaknesses. He is not digging that well for profit! Unless he is looking for some sort of treasure...
What should I do?
Ask his sister about his other interests – she will be delighted to talk about him. When her bright thoughts reach him, he will feel that she still cares about her brother... it will soften him and weaken his defences.

She wondered whether Victoria’s thoughts «reaching» Vlad was just a figure of speech... Surely Katherine wasn’t talking about telepathy, was she? The extent of Mistress’ supposed powers was still a mystery to her.

Younger Vlad – he is only inclined towards the Utopian heresy and isn’t a zealot like the twins. But if this heir of a powerful house swears allegiance to Maria, it will be a disaster. But I will talk to Kapella and learn of a way to make him listen.

Oh, it’s you again? Have you forgotten anything? It’s not that I’m not happy to see you, but...
What are you talking about? I haven’t seen you since yesterday...
You’ve been here not an hour ago.
And what were we talking about?
You asked me to hide you somewhere. Some place where your pursuers wouldn’t be able to find you... I told you where you could go.
Of course!
...Where was that again?
In Folds, silly! Are you pulling my leg? Is this a joke?
No, I’m not in the mood for jokes... I wanted to talk to you. Your older brother... what kind of person is he? They say you two are not very close.
I love him very much! And he loves me. We worship each other.
Then why is it said that you two don’t talk? You haven’t seen each other for a year...
What would we talk about? All he cares about is money. Well, not only money actually... He takes great interest in Steppe folklore. But I don’t know much about that topic either.
Steppe folklore?
Yes. Legends and myths. Traditions and ceremonies. By the way, he asked me to give him my collection of faerie-tales, so I had the children copy it for him. It should make him happy. But you are part of the folklore yourself, I suppose?
No, I’m not. You know I’m a good person.
On the whole, yes... But I don’t know what to think anymore... You’ve been saying frightening things earlier today...
When? Oh...

An alarm bell was going off in her head. Kapella had literally seen HER? Could there really have been someone? So all the notes... But Klara had been awake for less than an hour!

She had to find that hiding place, make sure... Where was it, again? Klara's thoughts were interrupted by a sight of a brawl right in the middle of the street. She hurried past the battling men.

But first she would bring the book to Kapella’s brother and see if he would change sides.

Come closer. I am not afraid of you.
I see you are out of spirits...
I’ve committed a greatest sin, my dear child. It was only yesterday that I was waiting for an opportunity to open my heart to you. Had you really been a saint, I would have confessed to you right now. But it looks like you have outsmarted everybody... The saint healer has shown her evil grin...
That is not so!
It doesn’t matter now. Have you heard that Mark Karminsky, government inquisitor, will be here tomorrow?
Heads are going to fly. I know the way these inquisitors work. Karminsky is quite a ghoul... and he is shrewd; you can’t hide anything from him. No. I will try to forestall him. Probably... yes, probably it will even turn out to be a winning move!
Are you going to hide from the all-seeing eye?
There is a place where I can really hide from it. I will go to the Apiary. They are waiting for me there. Mother Superior is stamping her tiny foot impatiently!
Kapella asked me to bring you this old collection of faerie-tales.
Let me see... It’s not the one I’ve been asking for. Wait! It has tales that were not included in «The Saga of Sons» and even in «Uguhn»! My sister had handwritten copies of those made. But these... I don’t think they have ever been written down before! Thank you. Had I received such a gift yesterday, it would have made me happy...
What about now?
And now all it does is remind me of the fact that it’s useless to try to understand the essence of the things people are not allowed to know. I am even beginning to think that the earth itself got angry with me for making this wound in its side... I am going to give myself to the worms in the Apiary! It will be a symbolic death. The Inquisitor will open the Apiary tomorrow anyway, and will find those who had ordered to nail it up, and then... No, it is decided. I will not wait for them to catch me... I will throw myself in the mercy of those whom I sentenced to such a torturous ordeal.
Well, I never! What is going on? It seems the events have overtaken me.

...Or does my fame already precede me? He has embraced the faith of Humility and immediately sentenced himself to death as soon as he saw me – and I did not even get to decide anything! I can now go back to Katherine... but there is a heavy burden on my heart!

Failure? Success? Vlad did appear to feel regret about something, and surely Utopia wasn’t on his mind at the moment. Rather, he seemed intent on destroying himself... to avoid reprisal by the Inquisitor? This didn’t seem like Vlad at all – he had produced an impression of a pragmatic and calculating man. Maybe he was just saying that to get rid of her? No. His desperation felt sincere. Was Younger Vlad responsible for «nailing up» the Apiary? Klara would rather that the scary building stayed nailed up. What kind of «horror» had happened there? She was too preoccupied to try to think about it further.

Klara headed home. As she was crossing a bridge, she saw a man sneaking up on a guard posted at the entrance to a quarantined street. Before she could cry a warning, the man jumped the militiaman and threw him on the ground.

People were attacking each other everywhere! The horrible news must have caused civil unrest.

Klara navigated the streets slowly, careful to avoid the violence.

It looks like I have made a mistake. Young Vlad is in despair...
To hell with him. We have no time for him now... Do you know what has happened? We have less than 24 hours to escape the gallows. The governors will be brought to account first.
What for?
It is an unfortunate time to be responsible for this town. We shall see. Maybe the Inquisitor will do a better job... Start thinking of a way to deal with him... maybe you will be able to convince him that we only meant good.
Don’t worry.

At least Katherine wasn’t planning on offing herself.

I do not like her tone! It’s as if she had something on her mind... Is she losing her faith? Is she being threatened? What’s on her mind? I should talk to her again.

Then there was the matter of a note she had found on Stem’s doorstep earlier that morning.

Come to me.
I am waiting for you already. I shall hide there, on the edge.
The girl who sees me at night, who hears the dead, will bring us together again.
I wish to talk to you; I wish to save you from a trouble, from a false friend.
Know that I am your best friend, the only friend you still have...
As we are similar...
Come to me...

Intriguing... There was only one girl Klara could think of, who knew how to listen to the dead... Laska, daughter of the graveyard keeper.

Actually, now that her parents were dead, wasn’t she supposed to be called just «Laska, the graveyard keeper»? Or perhaps the title «graveyard keeper» had some special significance to the locals, and merely living in the graveyard and keeping it didn’t automatically make you qualify.

Have you seen a creature with two legs? With a supple neck and white-skinned face... It resembles a human being, but at the same time looks like it’s ready to become my client at any moment.
This can be said about almost everyone here. Who are you talking about?
Who but the yesterday’s albino? It always appears after dark. About three hours before midnight. It has been driven out of town today... The Bachelor attacked it. He had tracked it down, shot at it, multiple times – so it is leaving now... forever...
Is it still alive? But how can we catch it? Get it... Before it leaves...
It is still alive. The Bachelor hurt it – but it is impossible to kill...When it appears, it will start moving away, along the Abattoir, towards the Rotten Field. But be careful... some people may decide to wait for it too. What if the Bachelor sets up an ambush? There are exterminators in the Steppe; I saw them with my own eyes...
Who? Who are they?
They don’t listen to anybody; they just keep burning and burning... They are encircling the Abattoir as we speak... I know that they are going to set fire to the Apiary if they find a way to approach it. But they won’t spare a freakish albino if they meet it...
Those exterminators might want to exterminate me as well... But how do you know it will go in that direction?
I know everything there is to know about the undead. And it is undead. If an undead is offended it always walks that path... Into the Steppe. Forever.
Oh, poor thing! Well maybe I’ll still manage to meet it...
Things will settle tomorrow if you manage to get through this day...
Did the dead tell you this?

Klara remembered the word «albino»; it meant a person with white hair and skin, and red eyes. She was almost certain they were real people, not undead. Regardless, she didn’t recall seeing or hearing about an albino in town before. But whoever it was, they were hurt and in need of help; besides, the author of the letter called themselves her «best and only» friend, and she wanted to listen to what they had to say.

She decided to look around outside the cemetery while it was still light. Trying to search the steppe blindly after dark didn’t seem like the best idea. Her attention was drawn to a small hill (or maybe a burial mound?) with four lit torches sticking out of the ground at the top of it. Surveying the area from high ground would be quicker than covering the distance between the graveyard and Abattoir on foot...

When she got a few paces closer, she noticed movement on top of the hill. Could it be the albino, or one of the exterminators prowling the Steppe? A fifth torch lit up for a second up ahead, then disappeared... She heard a low loud POP! behind her – like a thick bladder bursting from being inflated too much – jumping from surprise, she turned to see a large circle of grass burning. One of the exterminators. It was definitely one of the exterminators. Klara took to her heels.

Reconnaissance would be useful, but it wasn’t worth sticking around with insane arsonists for. She would go to Eva as planned, and take care of the albino business later.

Suddenly she had an idea.

Whirlpool was in the Stone Yard, in its southern part next to the edge of town.

She would take a shortcut through the steppe. According to the map, she could travel south and west, across Vein and past the train station towards the Stone Yard.

It would be the same if not faster than to go through town, and she would take the wilderness over terrifying streets full of rioters any day.