09 November, 2009

Pathologic - Angel of Death

(We now return you to your regularly scheduled Pathologic updates, already in progress...)


The previous night ended with the receipt of an ominous letter from my sister.

"Today by the evening I think to visit Cathedral. It seems to me that I am needed there, and that a misfortune may happen..."

It was, after all, inevitable. In the morning I received yet another ominous letter, which, unfortunately, would foreshadow my own problems to come.

"I was mistaken, wherefore wished to make the best - but lost all my gifts, and spent my forces, dissolved in the crowd. Now I must disappear to avoid a false accusation."

Regarding the incident in the Cathedral, Alexander gave me the details.

"Have you heard what happened in the Cathedral? ... A carrier insinuated there last night and infected the whole crowd with the Sand plague. ... I'm sure that a certain Julia Lyuricheva is to blame. Her belongings were found in the Cathedral. Don't loose your time until she escapes the punishment. Inculpate that witch! Or else somebody warns her... or accuse another person... Am I right?"

Stilted phrasing aside, it seems that Alexander is as zealous about finding someone to bear the burden of guilt (whether rightfully or not) as ever. But this is not surprising, as the Inquisitor is scheduled to arrive tomorrow. Alexander told me a little bit about these 'Inquisitors'.

"Those are very dangerous creatures. They are ambassadors of the Government, they specialize in solving unsolvable situations. They are intellectuals who have right to realize most perverted plans and combinations just for the result. ... The worst thing they have unrestricted power. It is as impossible to stop Inquisitor as it is impossible to stop a ghost or time. He'll everything if he wants to."

Very well. And in order to retrieve proof of Julia's guilt?

"She loves Eva. And it looks like Eva loves her. Try talking to Eva."

Ooh, do I sense some lesbian intrigue? *wink* *wink*

All kidding aside, on the topic of love, I thought about the note I had recently received.

"... Will you and Catherina love me as before? Will you dispose of me if you are asked to give me away?"

Leaving that open, I retrieved my daily errand from Catherina.

"We'll try to proselyte Younger Vlad today - we'll look for allies among termites. ... He is simple. You need neither recommendations nor introductions to talk to him. Though he is cynical. An interest is needed here... He loves money best of all... but he has other weaknesses. He is not digging that well because of money! He is unlikely to look for treasures there... ... Ask his sister what he loves besides money - she will speak about that with pleasure. As soon as her bright thought flies to him, he will feel how Kapella saddens for him... that will soften him and pass him to our hands."

(Sibling worship? Intense.)

Like a good little Mistress-in-training, I asked Kapella about her brother, and she provided me with the identity of his alternative hobby.

"Can one be his friend if the only thing he thinks of is money? However, not only money... He is really mad about the folklore of the Steppe inhabitants. But that's not the topic one speak of, either. ... Legends and myths. Traditions and ceremonies. By the way, he asked me to give him a collection of fairy-tails, my kids rewrote it for him. He will be glad to receive it. But you are a personage of the folklore yourself, I suppose."

"My kids" refers, of course, to her charges, and not her offspring. I passed the collection of "fairy-tails" on to Vlad, but he was in a troubled mood.

"I've committed a greatest sin, my dear child. It was only yesterday that I was waiting for you to open my heart to you. If you had been really a saint, I would have confessed to you right now. But it looks like you have outfoxed everybody... Saint healer has shown her evil grin..."

He was reflecting on the tragic results of his sealing the Apiary, condemning those inside to infection and death, and what his punishment would be at the hands of the strict Inquisitor who would soon arrive in town.

"Heads are going to fall like mad. I know the way those Inquisitors work. ... I've got an idea! I'll surrender to the worms in the Apiary! ... That would be a symbolical death. Inquisitor will open the Apiary tomorrow and will find those who had ordered to nail it up and then... No, that's decided. I won't wait until they catch me... I'll voluntarily surrender to those whom I sentenced to such a torturous execution."

Having humbly accepted responsibility for his prideful actions, it would seem my job of converting him had already been accomplished. So I crossed the river to speak with Eve.

"You weren't in the Cathedral last night, were you? ... A woman insinuated into the Cathedral at the dawn through walls and doors. She kissed everybody who was there in lips and gave them her belongings. All of them died. And the things they were holding in their hands belonged to Julia."

As Alexander had suggested, the evidence pointed to Julia. But Julia didn't do it did she?

"Oh, no... It is another person who is suspected... Yes, Klara, it is you who is suspected. And Julia really wants to talk to you."

I had begun to notice, after all, my reputation undergoing a steady decline ever since the morning. But why was Julia expecting me? Would she have the answers to my questions?

"I think it will be she who will ask and you will answer. And don't even try to allure Julia. One won't outwit her with things like that. She is rational. Be careful, she can noose you..."

Things were starting to look worse and worse for me. I remembered the letter I had received from my sister in the morning. It had provided clues to where I might be able to find her.

"From windows of the house in which I found a refuge till the next day, the alarm-bell is visible. The air around of it was heated. A heavy ringing will float above Gorkhon soon..."

The bell in question could be none other than the one behind the Cathedral. I spied the right house on the edge of the infected zone. After all, "where should she be, if not in the infected districts? If she is driven away - the infection will be gone. If she stays - the infection will remain." Inside, I finally came face to face with my sister, the twin angel, the angel of death.

"I am suffering here so much... it's cold, painful, dull and what is the most important-uncomfortable... Is it possible to anguish so long? Why have you done it to us? You should solve it as soon as possible and then off from here..."

I tried to warn her about infection.

"But you know - the infection won't seize me. I have no way anywhere now - those who used to love me, now hate me. They tease me, fire, throw stones at me... I have to hide. ... I know in another place, where the air is sound, my faithful are still waiting for me. They are longing for me... This night I am off from here. I'll look for a shelter at their place."

And who are these "faithful" ones?

"Common, outcast, rude, nonconfidants. But they aren't afraid of that who has been the only friend of mine, who faced the attack. They take care of him, an awkward creature, impossible, alive, made of nonliving matter. They didn't shift all sins and murders on him!"

The Albino, surely.

Conceiving of my sister as the disease, I come to a troubling realization. These faithful, the outcasts, they do not attack my character as they do not attack the disease. Perhaps, they want the infection. They want to die. They, the "humblers", perceive their own guilt, and feel it is their destiny to perish from infection. Humbling, indeed.

Julia offered me a disturbing implication.

"Who was there in the Cathedral if a thing found there had been given to you as a gift? And it was me who gave it to you. There were witnesses. They will confirm that."

So, those things of Julia's that they found in the Cathedral, they were actually given to me as a gift? And there are witnesses who will attest to that? That sounds like pretty solid evidence to me. The only problem is, I don't remember Julia ever giving me anything. Obviously, it was my sister... Of course, the town people (and even myself, sometimes) don't make any distinction between the two of us...

"I won't bury you to the inquisitor but I wouldn't go to Saburovs if I were you. Your guilt has already been proved. Besides, they have already adjourned their execution with your life. By golly, the Authorities don't think much of their feats..."

Great, so even my foster parents sold me out for their own safety. Julia told me that my sister had even plead guilty in front of Alexander... I asked her what I could do.

"It depends on who is in front of me. Find the Bachelor if you are innocent unless he finds you first. ... But if you are guilty, then you should wait for the end. The guard will come here soon if they are following you."

Better to find the Bachelor before he runs into my sister, who would undoubtedly make my plight all the worse...

But first, I decided to ignore all rationality and speak to the Saburovs. Catherina was in despair.

"I feel that the star of Saburovs is declining... We have too little time before tomorrow comes... We haven't been reigning for a long period of time. That's the price for us to turn to the most miserable people of the town from the most powerful... Do you need a patronage like that?"

She suggested I consult the Rat Prophet.

"Find that damned rat and talk to him... It may be all lie from the first word to the last. ... Try to bring him to light. If it is true that he is a liar then all my prophesies aren't worth a penny. And if he doesn't lie, ask him who you are."

Alexander was even stricter.

"Go away! The house is closed for you henceforth. ... I don't know who you are, what kind of daemon you are, but I have a feeling that you exist in two guises at the same time. I don't want to take chances any longer."

I was thinking about trying to locate the Rat Prophet, when I received a mysterious unsigned letter - though its author was obvious.

"Come to me. I wait 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."

"The girl who hears the dead" could refer only to Laska. She confirmed my suspicions.

"That yesterday's albino of course. It always comes with darkness. About three hours before the midnight. It has been driven out of the town today... The Bachelor attacked it. He had tracked him down, was shooting at it and shot it dead - so it is leaving now... forever..."

Apparently, for the mysterious Albino, "dead" isn't quite dead.

"It is still alive. The Bachelor offended him - but it is impossible to kill it...When it appears it will go away along the Abattoir, towards the Rotten field. But be careful... somebody may want to fight it, too. What will happen if the Bachelor sets up a raid? Fighters have appeared in the field, I saw them with my own eyes..."

So in the time before nightfall, I tracked down the Bachelor's whereabouts, but I didn't want to confront him before consulting with the Albino, who I feel may be my only true friend in the whole town. The Albino was out behind the barrow mound, and I had to sneak past a few arsonists that were apparently hunting it.

"We are alike... And it is the day when blades have coincided above our heads today... Our paths have never been so close to their ends as today... They, ho have revolted against us, can win today... ... Bachelor will kill me today... I know that, and I'll give him opportunity to do that... He believes me to be the shabnak-adyr, the carrier. There is no rescue from him... He is the one of the messengers of the Destruction of the World who has the sharpest sword in his right hand..."

Despite his apparent conviction in the inevitability of his fate, the Albino suggested that I may be able to help him, by surrendering myself to the Bachelor. If I gave myself up as the carrier of the disease, perhaps the Albino would be left alone. He insisted that the result would ultimately be positive for me as well, so I agreed to go along with the plan.

"That's a holy action as there is a self-abnegation in it. Holiness and beneficence are like two sisters, they are bound... like we are."

I asked if I was truly the "wondermonger" that I believe myself to be (as opposed to the angel of death that my sister is).

"You can become her. But everything depends on you... The main proof of your power is that you can choose your fate yourself."

And I told of how the Rat Prophet had addressed me as the plague.

"Don't cry... He is crafty. He says the truth just as everybody connected to the Earth but he distorts it... The prophesies of Mistress Catherina are just the same."

Bidding the Albino a sincere farewell (though hopefully not the last), I made my way to Eve Yahn's house to confront the Bachelor.

Eve was absent, but the Bachelor was waiting for me. In fact, the door was locked behind me as soon as I entered the house. I gave myself over to him, and he explained that he would watch over me through the night and then present me to the Inquisitor in the morning. My reputation received a modest boost for turning myself in, but I don't know how things will go tomorrow, when the Inquisitor arrives. Despite everything, I have a faint hope that the Inquisitor will believe my innocence, and may even support me, at least in so far as I have been holding the Utopians spiritually responsible for the arrival of the plague. But only time will tell.

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