04 November, 2009

Pathologic - Robbers and Bandits


Last night's letter supposedly from my sister perfectly encapsulated my feelings about "the Law" - to the point that it almost felt like a missing entry from my own journal (and maybe it was).

"The Law, relentless, severe, unrighteous - that's what pursues us. The Law does not recognize anything between bowls of its scales, the Law does not believe anything between black and white.
The Law is relentless, and its steps are grave."

There was also a letter from the Haruspicus waiting for me when I awoke, criticizing me for selling him out.

"You have betrayed me. Carelessly from your side. It was not necessary for you to get such enemy, as I. Now beware."

Great way to start the day.

Alexander informed me that the Bachelor had discovered somebody dumping infected bodies into the river, and the suspected culprit was Gryph's band of thieves. If they were disposing of the bodies, what were they trying to hide? Could they have been responsible for infecting them? Perhaps Gryph knew something about the disease's arrival in town.

The commandant already had a troop ready to storm Gryph's lair, but he wanted me to obtain proof of the thief's guilt first (believe it or not). Also, the troops were afraid of entering the infected zone - whereas, I, apparently, am invincible to infection (not the safest of rumors to have spreading around...).

Alexander also suspected that the Olgimskiys were engaging in some illegal trade with Gryph, so it was up to me to ask him some questions. So then, about those hooks I'd need?

"I can't help you here. Olgimskiy is likely to know something but he won't tell you. Think it over. It's all up to you."

Great. Thanks.

Don't worry, Catherina wasn't any more helpful. She's definitely got it in for the utopians:

"I know now for sure that utopianists are the cause... some of them or everybody... we must tear them out of the camp one by one..."

She had had an "oracular dream" indicating that the Bachelor was going to turn the Theater into a "leprosarium", and felt that for some reason the Theater was important for her own purposes, so she sent me to talk with Mark Immortal and see if I can't get him to put a wrench in the Bachelor's plans. Of course, everything's easier with hooks! So, then?

"Nobody but Maria knows how to get closer to Mark... But you mustn't call on her! You are not able to cope with her yet... Contrive something yourself..."

Great. Thanks.

At least I know my skills are being appreciated, even if my results aren't always satisfactory...

As soon as I set out for the day, I got a note from Lara, summoning me to her Shelter house. She informed me that Alexander was on a hunt for the Haruspicus for his desecration of the sanctity of flesh.

(My note) "Lara considers that he is terrible to look at, but his purposes are pure, and asks me to overpersuade my father..."

I don't know how she's so certain of Burakh's good intentions, but if she thinks I can talk my adopted father out of hunting him...

I checked in with the man and, as expected, he was enthusiastic about his hunt for the suspected Ripper.

"Executors have just said that he had been seen in an infected area, just near the Factories. He was prowling about empty houses... robbing, of course. We can draw him into ambush. You can."

Of course he was robbing. What else would a criminal like himself be doing in there? So I had to track down the Haruspicus in an infected house yet again, and he was a little bit harder to find this time. But I found him. I was naturally wary about approaching him, given the current condition of our relationship.

"Go away! Your presence hoodoos me!"

But I warned him of Alexander's ambush, instead of tricking him into walking into it, like I was sent to do, and he mercifully revised his opinion of me. Adopted father or no, Alexander be damned.

Stopping by the Theater to have a chat with Mark Immortal, I spied two Executors standing outside the doors, guarding the entrance. They informed me that Mark had left for the Kain residence (into the jaws of the beast, I say).

I think one of the Masks tried to make a joke, as they are wont to do (although the jokes are frequently tasteless), but it's a little hard to tell:

"From one gates to another, skipping the third... That's the way a man goes from his birth towards his death. He-he..."

I didn't relish the thought of meeting with the Kains again, so I headed instead for Gryph's lair. But with my reputation poor as it was, the guards at the boundaries to the infected zones wouldn't leave me be. I had made a shocking revelation the previous night - with a sufficiently bad reputation, the muggers will ignore you completely! Imagine that. But it's not worth being hassled every time you approach an infected zone. Those guards, though they fight bare-handed, are tough, and have quick reflexes.

And I can't use weapons. I don't know if it's because I'm too young, or if it has to do with my being a supernatural entity (?), or my healing[/killing] powers or what, but it sucks not having a gun to use in a jam. Though my magic hands theoretically work at a distance, the distance isn't any longer than what can be traversed in a few quick steps.

It's also frustrating not being able to shop at the stores, due to my reputation. Luckily, I had the means as well as the foresight to stock up on food supplies, and I have enough to last me maybe a couple - at the most, a few - days, but it won't last me forever. I can't even go in a store to sell off some of the goods I've been picking up! I don't know how long my reputation will remain tarnished. I just hope it eventually recovers...

Anyway, Gryph played the innocent martyr, and asked me to defend him against Alexander's wrath. I of course couldn't do that without proof of his innocence, and the best he could offer me was to consult Notkin. Since the two of them are enemies, I figure Gryph thought if even Notkin admitted his innocence, it would have to be plausible. But tough luck, Notkin did no such thing.

"He is guilty of everything! You can contrive any crime - and he'll be guilty of any!"

But lucky for me, Notkin had more to say than that. In addition to revealing Gryph's full name - Georgiy Eagle-owl (important for my hypnosis trick), he also mentioned an ominous black Twyrine brew the thieves were distributing in secret. Could it have some connection to the plague?

"Its appearance was surrounded with such dreadful fears and prohibitions... On the whole, the very black twyrine is kind of ominous... Ask him about black twyrine if you have the ability... I would like to look at his shifty eyes then!"

So I took my questions to Gryph, and tried to hypnotize him, but it failed. I'm not sure if the hook was wrong, or if what he said about the Steppe amulet he was wearing (allegedly some kind of protective charm) was true. Either way, he gleefully refused to answer my questions until I did a favor for him.

"Saburov is charging me with knifing and other nasty things! And I'm innocent there, just as my fellows are... I'd like to give him a real murderer so that he would leave me in peace. Besides, I'll be clean then..."

What can I do?

"There is a sack in Braga's den, you just mustn't look inside it. Wriggle into Braga's favor, steal that sack, bring it to Saburov, and tell him where you have found that. That's all. ... And be careful, don't tell anybody you are doing that at my request!"

Alright. So I snuck over to that thief Braga's den. In front, I persuaded the sickly marauder on guard to let me heal him - my touch, of course, sent him instantly to his grave. Inside, I pulled a truly lame trick on Braga - essentially equivalent to "look over there!" - and while he was searching the corner for a nonexistent surprise, I swiped the mysterious sack Gryph had mentioned and then ran for my life. Although closer inspection seems to reveal the disturbing contents...

Bringing it to Alexander, he identified the severed head as that of the leader of the troop he had previously set aside to deal with the thieves. With Braga successfully framed as the murderous thieves' leader, Gryph was off the hook. Now he would answer my questions. Or so I thought.

Well, one thing I learned today is that you can't trust a thief. I had gained some respect for Gryph due to his apparent straightforwardness, so I made the mistake of posing my questions to him honestly, minus any supernatural coercion. He pretended to comply while not actually giving me ANY useful information.

For example, when asked whether he had any secret dealings with the Olgimskiys, he responded as such:

"Which of them do you mean? There are too many of them. I may have had something with one and I may have not with another. That's the way they live. Left hand gives just where the right one takes. The spear-hand flogs the one cherished by the shield-arm... He-he-he. That's the answer."

And when I asked him to clarify...

"Hey, stop. The questions are over. Two Olgimskiys became one, and that's enough... He-he-he..."

Ugh. So I tried it again, and placed my hex on the lying bastard. He admitted that he was the true leader of the murderous thieves, and that the Braga gamble was all a scam - a set-up to clear his name.

"It was good for Braga to appear... I managed to cover myself with him... and I'm clean now..."

And his urge to murder?

"... My soul wants that... I need that.. to kill... My hands want that... I wanted to get some fun..."

Have I revealed the true blackness of Gryph's soul? All this time, I wanted to believe that, even though a thief, he was no murderer. And he conveniently allowed me to believe that. Serves me right for trusting the word of a thief. And yet, part of me can't help but wonder...if maybe...my hypnosis...what if the answers are somehow not genuine, originating not from the victim's own truths, but from mine or somebody else's? What if the words spoken are contrived by some other will? It's a troubling thought, but for the time being, the only thing I can do is take it at face value...

Gryph confirmed that Fat Vlad (i.e., the senior) had ordered the black Twyrine, which had been used during the first outbreak of the plague - suggesting that perhaps Vlad had anticipated the coming storm. Regarding the bodies being tossed into the river, Gryph denied involvement, claiming that it was Worms from the Apiary who were responsible. He also admitted to being a confidant of Simon, although I'm not entirely sure what that infers.

Shifting gears, it was finally time for me to talk to Mark Immortal, currently located at the Kain residence. Catherina expressly warned me against speaking with Maria, as I was not yet ready, so naturally, that's where I suspected I'd find Mark - and my intuition was correct.

Mark was dramatically incoherent as usual...

"Catherina is practicing in prophetic oratory as she is resorting to the last resort because she foresees the beginning of the end..."

"Those dislocated concepts you use... Why do you have so much hatred? That's just a game! And the game is just a shadow of the Esse, its tiny fragment, its similitude, and not an empty one - but on the contrary, too replete! The game is more complete than the reality is... as it's little."

...but he also confessed a startling revelation:

"And let me explain to you why she is so interested in the theater... There is nothing to do with my Masks here. But there is a creature living there... An odious ghost that can jeer at people...we call him Rat Prophet. ... The matter is, Catherina is sterile - she cannot foresee future. This creature can and it visits her every night. But as against the real Mistress, it can lie and it uses the ability perfectly!"

Catherina's prophetic dreams had been lies! Some sort of game (or plot?) instigated by a devious little rat-man! Mark gave me permission to meet the Rat Prophet back at the Theater, and he unambiguously verified his deceptive nature:

"You must know that I'm not as deceitful as my enviers say!"

Right. I've been tricked enough times today. He seems to be convinced that I am plague. He told me that the Authorities would contact me regarding my performing a real miracle in order to convince people that I am not a plague, as opposed to the "small tricks" I had been performing thus far.

"You'll be surprised in the end to find out that all that you have heard including things excluding each other was really true."

I can't be sure what is true anymore, but "I feel, he turns the words so, that they, being the truth by nature, actually appear a lie!" Something tells me this little guy is indeed the source of Catherina's dreams, so that's exactly what I relayed to her.

"... I feel something. I felt something familiar when you were saying that... as if something with clinging claws was running along my back. ... Thank you, daughter... You did everything you could... So, I know now who comes to me every night... That's very frightening, I didn't think that was a rat... I thought them to be agathodaemon of the Earth..."

And then I turned to Alexander. When asked about the secret trade between Gryph and the Olgimskiys, I conservatively told him that I couldn't be sure without speaking to Vlad himself (I'll be damned if I'm going to be duped by that thief Gryph's lies again!). But, as for Gryph's culpability for the outbreak of the plague, I had to pass yet another unpopular verdict of not guilty.

"Oh, I'm so embarrassed when you return verdicts of not guilty!"

But, dear father, "I can't lie. That's my nature."

Honest or not. Saint or devil. Tonight, my reputation is still hopelessly tarnished.

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