Part 27: Chapter Seven - pt.2
Later that day, Klara was approaching Stem. The assignment she received from Inquisitor Aglaea involved questioning Saburovs about their role during the beginning of the epidemic. It seemed that none of her Adherents could avoid this interrogation.
The thought of fleeing town or hiding didnt even cross her mind.
Who would have thought that I would return to this house in such capacity... as a judge! How quickly everything turned upside down! How derisive fate plays us...
Alexander didnt try to avoid her and didnt pester her with questions. He appeared to have resigned to his fate.
My rule didnt last long...
Ive been sent to you by the Inquisitor.
Well then... that is legitimate. What does the Inquisitor want from me?
She ordered me to question you the way I questioned other people for you. I shall ask you my usual questions... and you shall answer.
All right. Let it be so. But Id like you to look into something thats very important to me before I sign my death warrant... It wont save me, but it may help me explain my actions better.
What is it?
I believe that the town was doomed from the start. If it was really so, then our actions were at least somewhat justified. I suspect that there are powerful people that agree with me. Do me one last favour, find out who has sent us the Bachelor, the Inquisitor and the General, and what for.
Didnt you know? An army is coming here. They will be here in a few days. I assume that the officer in charge is supposed to make a decision concerning the destruction of our town.
The army will destroy the town?
It is already clear to me that all three emissaries are destroyers. All they want is to destroy. None of them can even think about salvation or future creation. You must find out what orders they have received, these destroyers. I must know who gave them instructions and on what grounds.
Why do you want to know that?
Dont you understand? If I learn that those pulling the strings also believed that the town was doomed, I can die in good conscience. Otherwise, Ill go mad. Find that out for me, child! And Ill tell you everything and bequeath my entire heritage to you if you sentence me to death.
All right. I will.
Dont even try to seek the Bachelor in Whirlpool. He is looking for secret agents... By the way, thats another thing to think about... he is looking for secret agents of the Authorities to turn them over to the Inquisitor. The agents are disguised as executors.
Ill find him.
She didnt mind running one last errand for her former stepfather, but it seemed as if it could take a while, and she needed to report to Inquisitor by the end of the day.
Besides, she wasnt sure what Alexander hoped to find out. Even if Bachelor had indeed been sent into town for some different secret reason, he wouldnt be aware of it. Klara had an impression that he wasnt very well informed in general. Besides, she remembered hearing from someone that Dankovsky was summoned in town by Isidore Burakh, the town doctor, and not sent by Authorities. Although there was a rumor that the whole thing had been a set-up.
And she already knew that Inquisitor was sent by Authorities to eradicate heresy and uphold the Law, thus stopping the disaster. Not exactly what Alexander wanted to hear, most likely.
Klara still didnt know whether the beakheads that were carrying bodies or performing guard duties were actual theatre players or just volunteers using stage costumes for some basic protection. It didnt matter; if Dankovsky wanted to find some executors, he would most likely want to visit the theatre at some point.
Who could tell me where the Bachelor is searching for the Executors? He must have visited the theatre... People there may know where he has gone.
Dead bodies covered with sheets were lining the floors and balconies of the auditorium. So the plan to turn the building into a quarantine area had been put into action after all. Except it seemed that all the quarantined just died (as Sand Fever sufferers were known to do). Mark Immortal probably just moved back in as soon as that happened.
The Bachelor was right there searching for something among the cadavers.
This is fortunate! Youve come here because of your philanthropy, right? I need you to do me a favour and Ill pay you handsomely.
There was an accident recently... One honourable herb-gatherer, this anthropomorphic freak, lost his young wife... thanks to the guile of our good friend, the Haruspex.
Thats so sad!
Yes. I told him I would make up for his loss as I felt I was partly to blame. I wanted to give him money but the disconsolate widower asked for a weapon instead. Take this gun to him, and Ill give you the very sum I intended to give him.
Looks like a convenient way to get rid of the rival, Bachelor.
Nonsense. I owe this honourable herbalist, its the least I can do for him. So, will you do it?
Ill think about it. I dont like the way you smirk when you talk about duty...
Klara took the scattergun and headed out into the Steppe.
The demons started to sharpen their fangs against each other! The Bachelor wants to use a marionette to kill the Haruspex. He wants me to give a weapon to the angered Worm.
It was about noon when she finally reached the worms yurt. Her annoyance was increasing. Her standing with the Inquisitor and maybe even her life depended on the outcome of the days mission, and instead of questioning and investigating, she was delivering guns to worms. She hoped the herb-gatherer wouldnt send her on some errand as well.
Vein of Bodkho is getting cold. Mother Suok is covering us with her skin.
The Bachelor asked me to give you this. You wanted a weapon, didnt you?
Yes. I do not know how it works. It will work.
Point this at your stomach and press this thing.
I thank you. Take this Herb. The stems are tight. The roots are curved, white, true. Make twyrine for yourself. Sweet. Thick. Smoky.
Dont be sad. Every night your wife shall weep stars down on you from the sky.
At least she got ten stalks of twyre for her trouble. Maybe she could bribe the Inquisitor with them?
And that was it. It was time to walk all the way back to the theatre hopefully, for some answers that would satisfy Alexander.
Dankovsky still wasnt finished with the bodies.
I gave him the weapon!
Right! Thats perfect. The thing only shoots one time out of three and cant hit a broad side of a barn. So I suppose everybody will be happy in the end. What did he say?
I didnt quite understand...
Are you sure it was the right herbalist? Their faces all look the same... Or can you even call it a face? The front part of the head.
Yes, that was him. There is no mistake.
All right. Do you need money?
I think so. Also, I need to ask you a personal question. But dont try to hide anything from me. Ill learn the truth sooner or later, so its in your best interests to tell me all you know.
Cant say Im intimidated. You will always think Im evil, no matter what anyone tells you, so whats the point? Listen, plague girl, a mission of exceptional importance is in jeopardy. Ill answer your questions in return for an Executor mask.
A fitting crown for you, indeed. What do you need it for?
I want to eliminate some people... who really deserve it. But they are a cowardly lot, plus they are expecting me. Thats why I want to disguise myself before approaching them.
So you can rip the flesh, sink you beak in the bloody wound and quench your thirst? Well... whatever you wish. You can have it.
Yeah, so what was that something sensitive you wanted to talk about?
Tell me how you were appointed for this position.
Oh, it is a secret no longer! I can barely contain my urge to just go outside and start disturbing the passersby with this terrible story!
Do you think the Authorities knew that the town was doomed from the very beginning?
Not at all! The Authorities yearn to save the town its the only important thing to them even though they used philanthropic wording when they were giving me this cruel mission. Ill make them regret their mockery! Besides, Aglaea says that it is impossible to save the town.
This town is and unfortunate synthesis of unsolvable contradictions. They are eating away at each other but are forcibly connected by outside will. Pure spirit cannot be held back by material aspects of human life. Even if a miracle actually has sprung in this town, it must be set free. Instead of... well, you saw everything yourself... Aglaea is right!
What are her orders?
I dont know. But I can tell you where youll learn more. She was unexpectedly talkative with the Haruspex today. Ask him, and he may tell you about her confessions. I dont think her feelings for him are mutual.
Feelings? Interesting! How did it happen?
During the interrogation. She told him he was nothing more than a pawn and a weapon that is used to destroy her. But in the end, she was moved by his dignity. His firmness and confidence impressed her, and the interrogation didnt go as planned. In fact, it looked as if Burakh himself was doing the questioning.
How do you know? Were you there?
I met him an hour ago. He was heading for the Apiary, the Short Wing.
I hope hes still alive.
She would have to take another lengthy trip to get to Apiary from the theatre, but if Haruspex was supposed to know something important about the towns new top dog, she didnt want to ignore it.
Burakh is doing some dirty deeds in the Apiary... He must be feeling like a child in a toyshop with all the corpses in that place. But he knows something about the Inquisitor that even the Bachelor doesnt... I have to find him.
So the Apiary had become accessible again... Klara wondered if Younger Vlad was still alive.
A momentary flash through a crack in the fence gave her a pause. At first, she didnt know why she even stopped.
She came closer to take a better look and understood immediately. The familiar silhouette, shiny-white bone...
The Albino was there waiting for Klaras double again, surrounded by his followers who were looking in all directions waiting for their messiah to come.
They didnt seem to react to her appearance at all. But the freak gave her the same speech as before Klara supposed that meant she and the twin did look very much alike and the creature didnt want to make assumptions. She performed the same lightning trick with more ease this time and everyone fled once again. More would be gathered on the next day, she presumed.
All of the Apiarys doors were heavily guarded, but nobody seemed to object when Klara entered them. Were they guarding against something that could come out?
Anyway, the Short Wing seemed completely empty, with only one exception.
Artemy Burakh was examining some sort of barricade, which was blocking the path further into the complex.
Whoever he was looking for were probably hiding beyond it.
Klara, you have to help me!
This was inevitable, I suppose...
I promised to help a poor family... They hid me once. And now they are in need of help because of Bachelors evil.
What? What did the Bachelor do to them?
Dont look so surprised! He promised to get their father out of jail where he had been taken during a raid. But he must have had something more important to do. Their father died behind bars with dozens of other innocent people.
And how do you want to help them?
Will you give them these five phials? Its the extracts from... well, it doesnt really concern you. I cannot leave this place, you see... It seems that I have a chance of finishing my panacea today...
Where does that family live?
I dont know. But they must have come to my basement. They must be waiting for me there right now.
Give me the phials.
Another delivery order! Well, at least helping children who had lost their father was a noble task and well worth the time, unlike delivering the broken rifle to some nomad.
She just hoped the phials were something the family actually needed.
She descended into the familiar barbwire-covered basement, went down the hall...
The poor family was indeed there, mourning the death of their... father??
Weve heard all sorts of rumours about you...
Burakh sent me.
You know... Haruspex?
I see. What did he say? He couldnt do it, could he?
He asked me to give you these vials.
So honest people still exist... That means, not all is lost in this world.
Farewell. Youre right; there are different people in this world. Sorry about your... father.
With that, Klara left the basement and returned to the Apiary. Guards didn't pay any attention to her again. The warrant for her arrest must have been revoked by Aglaea for the time being.
I did what you told me.
Is that man...? Is he healthy, alive?
Alive today, dead tomorrow... Those vials wont last him long.
I used to think that you are an evil spirit. So you do help people from time to time? Take this. Its for you.
Thank you. You are not all bad either.
There is still hope. We can fight this, youll see!
I need to talk to you.
This will have to wait. Tell me, do the Executors have the right to enter quarantined districts?
Do you need a cloak of an Executor?
How did you know?
Intuition. Go ahead, try it on. I hope it will fit you.
What did you want to ask me?
Look at me. What did Inquisitor tell you?
Hold on. I cannot reveal other peoples secrets! Especially to you.
I only want to know one thing. Those who have sent her what do they want?
Oh, I see... A foul game is afoot. The Authorities are playing with everybody. Killing several birds with one stone. They have a backup plan for every failure. They benefit from every misstep. Sending this woman was one of such moves: no matter how she does, they win. Its only her speculations, though. Conjectures, even...
So they used Aglaea as a weapon against the town?
The Authorities gave her a hypocritical order. They need the town, with all the tumours and excrescences that have formed here. They want this mutant alive. But preserving it is an immoral and even impossible task. So they disguise this task, pretend they have other goals. They demand one thing while they secretly want another.
Why is it immoral and impossible to save the town?
Not the Town... It actually must be saved. But when they talk about the «town», all they really mean is this whole setup. This whole... pump... that sucks subhumans out of the earth, subhumans that feed their children to that terrifying tower. Aglaea thinks that this system is doomed. And this aint good news.
Does that mean that the Inquisitor will slash and burn despite her orders?
It seems so. But that is none of my business.
Did you like her? Such an elegant woman, isnt she? So intriguing....
Mind your own business, will ya? Is that all you wanted to ask?
Was she really changed just by talking to you?
Yes. Exactly. I was impressed myself.
She must be so unhappy... What do you think?
That was all she could possibly learn about the matter for now.
She had no way of knowing what that army general was supposed to do in town: he hadn't even arrived yet.
She guessed that Bachelor Dankovsky had received the same orders from the Authorities as she had in that letter two days ago: they demanded that he preserve the town in exactly the same state as it was, just without the Sand Plague. They wanted it to remain an «unfortunate synthesis of unsolvable contradictions», as Bachelor had put it. A cradle for ambitious creations that Kains and Stamatins were apparently capable of, in a quaint little town powered by the paganistic society of creatures made by the living earth. According to all she heard, these philosophies were not supposed to co-exist. The Law would not allow it, causing the disaster that was happening. Dankovsky was clearly in favor of preserving the Utopian achievements, by sacrificing the rest.
But it seemed that Inquisitor understood her goals differently. She would rather stamp out the bold projects the Kains were creating to preserve the settlement and the industry. In this her goals probably aligned with Burakh's. The Haruspex would most likely do anything to save his home town and the Order his father Isidore was a part of.
But the most important part was that the Authorities wanted everything to remain the same. What their pawns were trying to do was less important. Klara could return to Alexander Saburov and try to explain what was going on.
Q: So, we have the two goals of our, counterparts, clear. But what is our own? What are we trying to preserve?
A: We are not at that point in the story yet, but eventually Klara will decide that both the tower and the Order are neat. She wants everything. Artemy or Daniel may choose to sacrifice one part of town to save the other and call it a day... But a supposed miracle worker can afford to be more ambitious than that. What if there was a way to stop the disaster and not have to destroy anything at all? Wouldn't that be just awesome?
Q: So the Sand Plague is actually the earth rising up against the town, and the Authorities want whatever is causing that to happen? Was this little town planned to perform such a terrible experiment?
A: They want the town as the proof that you can fuck with the Law and get away with it, basically. But I don't think they designed it themselves or had anything to do with the disaster. They just saw that the plague was about to hit the fan, and started mobilizing whatever resources they could at such short notice. Maybe you could say that they are to blame if you remembered the [optional stuff you see at the end of the Bachelor's playthrough] and interpreted it too literally? Unless you do, most facts point to the town becoming this way slowly on its own, not by someone's clever design. Although there's that weird line from Albino that the town is only a month old, but I don't even know what the fuck is up with that.
Q: Or did the town do something to piss the earth off?
A: Well, there's no denying that the Polyhedron is not very eco-friendly, no matter how you look at it. All three protagonists have different theories as to how, but they all know that it was the tower that caused the shit to hit the fan.