The Let's Play Archive


by woodenchicken

Part 44: Chapter Twelve - pt.2

Continuing her quest to check the condition of all her Adherents, Klara went deeper into the Land, intending to enter Abattoir through the western gate. She followed along Apiary’s walls, and entered its inner yard. The Abattoir gate was just ahead, but she wanted to pay a visit to Mother Superior first.

Taya was one of Burakh’s Adherents and Klara needed to make sure she was safe as well if she wanted Haruspex to show up at the council.

Butchers and worms protected their little mistress well. Taya wasn’t showing any signs of sickness.
Klara only now remembered that she had promised the girl to come back and tell her the ending of the story about the Daughter of the Night. But Taya didn’t seem upset over or even remember about it at all, so she decided not to bring it up. On one hand, she wasn’t supposed to be able to lie, but then again, she HAD meant to keep her promise, so that probably didn’t count.

Back in the courtyard, she finally entered the giant cave at the far end.

She quickly found Oyun’s chamber in the back. The overseer was... thoroughly roughed up? His nose was swollen, and part of his ear seemed to have been chewed off! What was it with people beaten up that morning? First Haruspex, then Oyun... At this rate Klara wouldn’t be surprised to find Bachelor in a body cast.

Mistress of the Land, I bow before you...
Even kneeling down, you still tower over me, Oyun the Elder. Do you know why our paths crossed? I’m sure it happened for a reason.
I am a monster, Mistress. A Chimera. Another one of the humanoid, dual-natured kind you correctly call demons. I’m glad that you will undo me with your magical hands. You’ll destroy the evil I represent. I’m an abomination for combining two different natures.
You are so strong... Yet you’ve surrendered to me so easily!
I always knew there wasn’t a man on this earth I would have to kneel before. Yes, to all appearances this is what my angel of death must look like. Small. Fragile. Young. This is the way a real Mistress of the Land should be.
...Your grandfather was a bull, wasn’t he?
It is true. As you can see, my race must be eradicated. Evil runs through me, just as it does through your doppelgangers. Some dark will was stirring behind their backs, I could feel it – before you took charge. That soul has abandoned them now, and you must banish them. Do not let them make the choice.
Don’t worry. I won’t.

«Doppelganger... s»? She hoped that plural form was merely a slip of the tongue. She wasn’t sure she could handle it if more of her multiple former future identities showed up.

The street she had come from was making a turn west near the entrance to the Apiary’s courtyard. Klara followed it away from the Abattoir. Next destination was Spichka’s squat in the house down the street.

He was just as healthy as three days before. Whether he’d continue tracking down mystical creatures or join the struggle for dominance in the kids’ society was up to him.

Cutting through narrow alleys and overgrown yards of the Curriers’ district, Klara finally reached Stem.

Alexander was probably still governing in some technical capacity, making sure what was left of the town continued to run all the basic life-support functions.
But he didn’t seem to have any «governor» left in him. Even if he hadn't been chosen, and the government wouldn't put him on trial, Klara knew he wouldn’t be a factor for much longer.

Mistress of the Land, I bow before you...
I’m still not sure if I want to accept the title.
Mistress is not a title. After a certain point, you just become a person whom everything depends on. What you do with your gift is a different question entirely. But you cannot deny its existence. So, what will you do with our town?
Do you have any final advice for me?
You truly are a saint... Or has my mind become so clouded with grief that I fail to notice sarcasm in your words? No, I don’t want to believe that... Do you really want to hear my precepts?
Yes. I’ll do everything you haven’t managed to do. It was on an unlucky day that you took up the burden of government...
I’ll be brief then. First of all, find a man among Kains or Olgimskys you can rely on. Let him administrate the Project of the Bulls, let him send reports to the capital! The bureaucrats of the metropolis are the greatest threat. They slumber as long as meat trains keep rolling in on schedule; allow interruptions, and they will stir up.
What will this mean for us?
They won’t let us build our life as we intend to. Delicate magic of our community will be stamped out, and our blessed life will be gone forever. New people will come, and the ruinous power of the State will establish its own law here! Prevent it at all costs... as we did before.
Will I be able to do that?
You’ll have other things to do... your own fabric to weave... Let your chosen one be cunning! Let him learn to deceive them... disguise our unique identity... Let him prevent their inspectors from coming here... Let him hinder the construction of the North Eastern Branch Line to the east of the Gorkhon Delta! ...Let him be cautious...
Are the officials that easy to deceive?
Of course! We always did! It’s to our great advantage that they never took us seriously! To them, we are nothing more than a factory and a railway station. They know about nothing else: even the Inquisitor never learned all the facts.
Is that so?
Yes! Should an assessor come, take him to the Town Hall at once. Tell him the Abattoir is not operational. Quarantine the Apiary no matter what. If he wants to go for a stroll, take him to Rib. If he has questions about the Polyhedron, tell him it’s just a temporary installation... an attraction!
We wouldn’t even have to lie – that’s actually what it is... Now, rest. And forgive me. I shall remember your advice.

Katherine met her with clear and sober eyes. She must have been off her medicine for several days now. Katherine Saburov would not let anyone use her like a puppet again. Of course it was way too late for that, and nobody really had a use for her at all.

Mistress of the Land, I bow before you...
As long as you’re alive, you’re the Mistress of the Land. It is I who must bow...
Listen to my final admonition, daughter... Be clever. Don’t repeat my mistakes! You won’t be the only Mistress here. Maria is entering upon her title even as we speak, and Kapella will awaken in a few years. Do you understand what that means?
No, not really. What?
The time for the confrontation between you and Maria is coming. How will it split? Which one of you will become good, and which one evil? Why is it that the Kains always get to make this choice...? How can you be good if Maria doesn’t choose the wicked path?
Why does it have to be one or the other? Wasn’t seeing the world in black and white your fatal mistake? Our mistake...
That’s what I thought too... when I chose my dark path, that is! I thought that the struggle wasn’t between good and evil, that there was no such thing as good and evil... I was wrong! It’s in human nature to perceive any opposition – even the contrast between red and green – as battle between good and evil. We are doomed to make choices...
Have you chosen evil?
I am beginning to think so... Scarlet Nina managed to control her evil... and I didn’t. And Nina wasn’t even the one wearing the black tiara... Remember: never trust anything that’s alluring, attractive! That’s usually where evil lies!
Anyway, I wanted to ask about my sister... Did she exist or not? Back then... a week ago.
What do you want to hear?
I want to hear the truth.
She didn’t exist, daughter. We didn’t have anyone but you. But you were different every time you came...
I know... A Mistress can tell no lie. But which one did you love more?
You, daughter... Only you.
Farewell... mother.

A short walk south, along the bank of Vein, stood Willows, Anna Angel’s residence.

The former singer with a persecution complex looked worn, burned out... But she didn’t seem as jittery as before, and faced Klara without fear.

Mistress of the Land, I bow before you...
Your eyes are puffy... Poor thing, have you been crying?
Look at me, Klara! Do you think there’s a reason we met each other? Do you think it happened so that I could celebrate the fear and show you what it can lead to?
You think that’s the reason why you became a villain?
Of course it is. I know you’ve figured it out already... Caravan is nothing. Just a boogieman story children tell to scare each other at night... Chances are it never even existed. At least, I’ve never seen it. Do I really look like I could be a singer?
So, you’re a liar as well, on top of all that...
I’m the embodiment of fear. I live in a world that consists wholly of fear. I may have not become a singer, but I’ve become the voice of Fear. And fear is a poor singer... its voice is squeaky, piercing, capricious, completely tone-deaf...
Then why have you been sent my way?
Maybe to stop you from becoming like me. Voice – enchanting voice, beckoning and sweet like a dream – that is what we have in common. Do you understand? That’s the trait we share! Not affiliation with the Caravan, oh no! Don’t even think about the Caravan!
I don’t. But you can’t seem to stop thinking about it. What are you hiding, Anna? Even now... What is this Caravan? How did it get here?
You can ask the Authorities. You have already seen them, haven’t you? Let them tell you... what the plague is for, what the Caravan is for. That’s the kind of games they play!
Right, right... It’s all games, so nothing is that important.
Well... Will it be painful? When my turn comes, I mean.
Do you want to be the first one or the last one?
...The last one. No, wait! The first one! Although... May I tell you later? Or rather... can you just sneak up to me without me noticing? How about it?
This can be done. I’ll come when you won’t be thinking about it.

Klara then crossed the bridge across Vein into Knots, the middle part of town, where Julia’s mansion stood.

She didn’t see anyone on the porch from the distance. Clearly the warning from General was a false alarm and none of her Adherents succumbed to the disease. All of them had already been Touched, after all.

Julia wasn’t devastated over her best friend’s disappearance. In fact, it seemed that Eva’s demise barely affected her at all. Could it be that she had known about in advance from observing those «Strings of Fate», or even considered it inevitable?

My Mistress of the Land, I bow before you...
What can you tell me about myself... before we part ways? You watch people – what conclusions have your calculations led to?
Now pause for a second. Do you really want to hear my conclusions? Even if you don’t take them seriously, the moment you hear them, you’ll start following a predetermined path. Well... that’s what I think, anyway. So? Do you want to cross my String?
I do. It cannot harm me. This is my humble opinion.
You are an uncertain quantity. You have been this way throughout the whole thing. That was your strength. And if you become a constant magnitude by the end of the day – which is most likely – you will lose your advantage. What will that constant be? That is your choice.
I’m not a constant magnitude. I’m Klara.
It doesn’t matter. Don’t translate your difficulties into our language, don’t trifle with words. Can’t you see that there are no more people left? Now there are only vectors. Points of force application. Your force... Really...
Why did we meet, Julia? Why are you listed among heels and lawbreakers?
First, I’m not a heel. Lawbreaker, yes... There is a difference. You see, I still think that you should have put us all to death. There are no people anyway, just symbols. Each of us is a missed opportunity. One of nine ways to fall into a deadly swamp.
I’m walking this path instead of you; you should be grateful. If I wasn’t rotting here right now, you would. Hanging on strings...
You wanted to control people’s fates too... I understand. I would gladly swap roles with you. But I didn’t have freedom of choice.
Yes you did, Klara. Don’t forget: we are all born wicked, and evil is your nature. You were given just enough to let you manifest your evil identity. It is not too late. Let yourself go, and you can sink even deeper than I... Than all of us lawbreakers...
Enough. There is no evil in this world... and no reason to be afraid any more. I’m clean and there is no evil inside me. I’ll make my own choice.

She went west for a bit and followed the street as it turned south, along another of Gorkhon’s tributaries – Throat. Shelter was located there.

Lara’s house wasn’t locked up, and various random fools were still lounging in it. Those few acquaintances were the only ones who took advantage of Lara’s hospitality, and her ideas for House of the Living never went anywhere.

Mistress of the Land, I bow before you...
What are you thinking about, Lara?
Nothing, really... Tell me, how much life-giving blood could you make out of me? How many doses would I make for?
A hundred and fifty, at least. Or maybe half a thousand.
That’s... a lot. Even if I lead a most active life, I won’t be able to save so many people.
But why you, Lara? How did you find yourself among evildoers?
One must know how to sacrifice oneself. I did it incompetently.
That’s nonsense!
The same goes for Simon, by the way. This is why it is you who gets to decide the outcome, not him... Or are you him now?
Are you delirious?
You and Simon resemble each other in so many ways. Even the Adherents are nothing but toys... but you two are Human. With a capital H. No, I could never become one of you. And none of my children... if I ever had any...
Did you want to have children?
Well... Not really, but sometimes... I would have those dreams. Those sinful... But what’s the point in thinking about it now? Do what you must. I’m so sorry for you, you poor thing. I wouldn’t like to bear your burden. It is both terrifying to bear and dishonest to abandon.
There’s nothing sinful about this! Console yourself.

A bridge across Throat that led from Knots to Stone Yard was just upstream from there.
Klara travelled up Throat for a bit, crossed the stone overpass and ascended the long stairs up the hill with the Cathedral and the Polyhedron, and of course, homes of the Kains and Eva Yahn.

Since there had also been a letter from Dankovsky that morning, she decided to hear what he had to say.

Great Caesar! Look who’s here, it’s our demon hunter... I hope you’ve brought your aspen stake? And silver, can’t forget about silver!
You remain a slave of your world-view...
Indeed? And here I thought I’ve realized the meaning of my freedom.
Stuff and nonsense...
Here’s how my story unfolded. You probably already know that I have been deceived not once, but three times. First by the Authorities, then by the Inquisitor – and now I learnt the exact reason for everything that has been going on. I am a toy! And you are too, undoubtedly.
I already know... So what? Are you suggesting that I let you make the decision? But you say you’re a toy!
Not for me. For the town.
There’s no town here, and there’s no Bachelor, you blind man! There’s only you and I. And you are nothing but my past, so there is in fact only I and I.
Then my «I» is better.
Absolutely not.
Don’t jump to conclusions. I am on the threshold of my ultimate discovery. To put it shortly: I feel that there is a bigger meaning to my life, bigger than even I can fathom.
Very interesting, Bachelor. You are like that educated fool in those travelling comedy troupes. Try to say the same thing in Latin; you’ll be met with ovation. Good-bye.
You don’t understand; it’s all about selflessness! Renounce your point of view, and you win. Yes, exactly! That’s what I have discovered.
Sounds somewhat trite. Vulgar even, don’t you think?
Isn’t selflessness what your supposed miracle is based on?
No, Bachelor. It may be so for you. You think so, because you are evil by nature.
Oh, really?
I have always felt it in you. At first I decided that you were a demon because you weren’t like them, you had a different power rumbling inside you. Now I know why I felt that way!
And you are obsessed with pride.
Not at all. I have a responsibility and don’t intend to give up my power. Have you heard the saying, «Humility is worse than pride»? But I am humble enough to admit that your accomplishment is bigger than mine. It’s not in your nature to do good, so you had to overcome yourself, unlike me.
In that case, could you help me appear at the council so I can show General the arguments in favour of my plan? The ruined town must vanish off the face of the earth, and the Polyhedron must remain. It’s sterile and... and it’s worth saving, damn it!
What do you need for this?
I shall visit the Cathedral if I’m certain that my Adherents are alive. Are you ready to help me with this?
Wait for me.

Dankovsky was making little sense, but Klara decided to leave all options available. Burning bridges and slamming doors shut wasn’t the proper way to handle the upcoming trial. Everyone would need to work together in order not to make an absolute mess of things. She would make another round and meet the Utopians to see if any of them were suffering. There was still some time left.

Q: Is the general equally supportive of Bachelor and Haruspex in their playthrough?
A: He will support whoever wins the council and proves they know the best way to handle the situation. He's goal-oriented like that. He just has a soft spot for Klara and yearns for a patron saint that would bless the little crusade he has planned. If anything, that would make him secretly root against her victory, because of his creepy plans to take her away.