05 November, 2009

Pathologic - Sacrament of Rubin


As the Rat Prophet foretold, I received a letter late that night, from the Authorities.

"Yes, be not surprised. You believed that Authorities and Law are on one side? Long time we pretended that it was and is so - in fact the reputation should be maintained - but before you, the one who knows the hearts, we shall be exposed. The law has bothered us.
If you manage to save this Town - and it is unboundedly dear to us, it's already clear to you - and to save it as it is - we declare authoritatively you create a real miracle thereby. Everything that was earlier is only doubtful and cheap stunting. So it has been decided after thorough examination."

I spent some time overnight trying to repair my broken reputation by killing muggers, in order to, at the least, get those pesky guards off my back, and preferably, enable me to shop in the local stores again. And I discovered an even better method for building a good reputation than killing muggers - healing sick people! And not with my magic hands either, I mean the traditional way.

Go into the infected zones and listen for the screams. In some of the more open areas, you might find some people strewn about the ground, cringing in pain. Or, you could look inside the infected houses if you're having trouble finding them. Eliminating (completely) the pain from one of those suffering people gives you an appreciable boost to your reputation. It costs resources - in the form of painkillers, including Twyrine, which works, but not as good as Meradorm et al. - but if you happen to have some to spare, and you need the rep, it's absolutely worth it. Luckily, I had stocked up a bit of extra Twyrine since my raids on the infected houses, and Meradorm from trading amply with the youngsters about town.

What little of the night remained I salvaged for sleep. I slept in not more than a couple hours past dawn, but by the time I got up, Alexander was anxious to set me on my way.

"It is not time to sleep, daughter. The scythe is basilled, the hooves of righteous horsemen are striking. It's high time we knew whom to lower it on. People are dying. The day of reckoning will come soon."

Today's target was Rubin, who was privy to Isidor's actions leading up to the outbreak and upon whose head the Kains had put a price. What did the Kains want with Rubin?

"George is not a fool. Not a single dog's skeleton is earthed here!"

I have no idea what that means, but the obvious answer is that it has to do with Rubin's absconding with Simon's body. As for the hooks?

"It is worthless to talk to Kains, but honest Rubin will tell you everything... if you know how to deal with him."

How, then, to deal with him? The Saburovs allegedly have a diplomatic alliance with Young Vlad, who would freely give me the angle of approach necessary.

Stepping out to go 'round back, I noticed that the infection had encircled the Saburov residence, a fact that Catherina was not ignorant of.

"The infection does expand very quick! so many people have already died... That's because we have acted too careless! I think it is not because of your kindness, daughter, but because of my choosing false targets..."

It sounds like maybe the revelation of the Rat Prophet has finally knocked some sense into her...

"There are not so many confidants left... They won't have any mercy on our town because of ten righteous men, but they will try to destroy it because of one rebel... We are still losing the fight... and who knows, maybe my husband kills really faithful people in his rage."

It would not surprise me one bit. So what's on the agenda for today?

"The edge of your verb will be aimed at the very center of... of the utopian erroneous doctrine. Even Kains themselves are less dangerous... You'll go to Stamatins, the brothers. They are rebellious architects who have bid defiance to... to too may things. You start with Peter. Proselyte him. ... He is a killer, a rebel, and a bold rioter. He overturns the basis of the medium with his creative work. He bid defiance to the law of gravitation. He offended the Earth by constructing a building that doesn't touch our foremother, our nutritious Vein of Boddho..."

So I hopped over the fence (it's really that close) to visit Petr's house - you can recognize it by the scaffolding in front, and the tiny ladder which goes up a whole lot farther than I can imagine anyone wanting to climb - especially considering that there's nothing up there... Inside, Petr was drunker than usual (and that's saying something) - even this early in the morning. In fact, despite my apparent age, he freely offered me a drink!

"Drink with me, little one... You are as green as water in a whirlpool. You must be a fairy from this dim bottle... I'll listen to you... Drink it."

When I tried to get serious with him, he became offended.

"I see you taking my hand and leading me here... a shining light of a bright lamp.. Stop! I looked for oblivion in the embrace of the green fairy... I wanted you to give me opportunity to forget that... why are you reminding me that?"

He was clearly not in a coherent state of mind.

"I can see only ghosts and semitransparent green around myself... nightmares, vapors, a bifurcate Impostor... Look, there are two of you... oh, vapors, vapors, monsters... One is hanging on the ceiling hook and is shining to me instead of a lamp, her green lips are smiling and whispering something to me... The other is over here, she is laughing at me, she is squirmed in the far corner... and dissolving in the duckweed..."

I gave up, and resolved to talk to his brother Andrei. But when I got to the tavern, Andrei wasn't in his usual spot - apparently he had hid himself to avoid Alexander's raids. The guards in question seemed to be hard at work...

I asked Alexander, albeit using kinder words, why he was so insistent on being a hardass.

"Inquisitor will come soon. I feel bound to establish order before I lose the power. Otherwise, that will be an awful shame."

I was able to convince him to temporarily pardon Andrei, so as to get the guards off his back so he would come out of hiding long enough for me to have a chat with him. But Alexander was getting anxious about our lack of results. He said that if I didn't find the culprit responsible for the outbreak by the time the Inquisitor arrived, he'd pick a victim at random just to avoid having to abdicate rule, and then that innocent victim's life would be on my hands. Talk about pressure.

As soon as the guards went away, Andrei poked his head back in at the tavern, but our conversation was not pleasant. I made the mistake of indicating my (read: Catherina's) desire to convert Petr away from the Utopians, to our faith.

"What did you say, little one? Have you asked me to persuade my brother to turn his coat and become a humbler? Go to hell! You can humble yourself with anything - poverty, debility, hideousness, meanness, stupidity, weakness, dirt, and war or anything else if you want to, but we won't do that! ... Do you really think that our impudence calls down the wrath of God? You are lying! You are lying twice and thrice! I don't know what God you believe in, but I don't think that you are old enough to believe in any! And you are either Impostor and liar or you are a temptress, a creature of the hell, a shabnak-adyr, or a cannibal whose essence is dead bones and dirty clay! ... I won't betray my brother's creativeness and I won't allow you to blacken it! Go away! Go to hell! Go beneath the ground, where you have come from!"

With my tail between my legs, I tried to talk to Petr again. To my utter surprise, when I explained that his pride (as realized through his architecture) was the cause of his guilt, and the appearance of the disease, he seemed to genuinely agree with me. Granted, he was probably still drunk out of his mind, but he sounded sincere.

"Then... it's better for me to die. When I finally decide that when drunk... or, Heaven forbid, come out of soak and realize everything with horrifying clarity... I'll do just that."

I thought that, despite the little roadblock that was Andrei, I'd be able to return to Catherina with good news. But I didn't even get a chance to tell her, as the moment I mentioned that I spoke to Andrei, she flew off the handle.

"You are a fool! What an inexcusable stupidity that is! Why did you talk to Andrei? He is Maria's lover, a killer, and a brawler, he won't leave us in peace. He'll start protecting them as a cock protects his hen house! Oh, my temples! It is so painful! And you are worthless... you are more worthless with every passing day!"

It would seem that the whole round world is down on me...

As promised, Young Vlad gave me the key to currying Rubin's favor, while recommending that I not turn him into the Kains, as I might need him later.

"Bring him lots of twyrine and different kinds of meat. Feast him well. He'll be glad. It is pleasant to take meals from the hands of a woman. He'll talk to you."

I obeyed, and Rubin was happy to take the meal from me. In return, he told me about Simon.

"Simon faced the Sand Fever with dignity. He was the only one to fight with it... But he died too soon! I think there are other bodies like his. Yes, but his blood was really odd... That's the blood that can fight the infection. And if the disease is the will of nature then this is the blood of a man that dictates his will to the Universe rather than obeys all the whims of the nature."

He also spoke of "special people in this world that bid defiance to the laws with all their nature", and mentioned confidants - which Simon had chosen from among children as well as thieves. Gryph had confessed to being one of those confidants. Perhaps this concept of criminals - those who defy the Law - being crucial to my success has to do with this. Do they perhaps hold some natural immunity to the disease? Or is that too much to hope?

"I know of your hypnotic abilities already. If you bring an indulgence from older Kain and I'll tell you everything. I won't deceive you."

I don't understand what this "indulgence" is supposed to be, but regardless, it looks like I'd have to revisit the Kains again...

But, on the way, I talked to a teenager on the street, who mentioned a strange being that Spichka had been tracking. Apparently, it had asked for me. Spichka had nothing to say to me, but when I stopped by Laska's lodge, she frightened me with a strange tale.

"A very dreadful creature has appeared in the graveyard! It looked into my window last night. It didn't look angry, it was quite unhappy... but as soon as I saw it I understood that it had been born by the Earth! It consisted of clay... and... and of bones. ... It's anomalous. It looks like a creature the Earth could born. The Earth doesn't know what we really look like... It is not able to create a woman like real so that nobody would be able to distinguish it... is it? Earlier, I also thought that was a girl with sharp bones instead of legs... It wants to talk to you. It beseeches to defend it from some danger."

She told me the creature would be waiting for me on the barrow of Raga behind the cemetery after dark. As anxious as I was to meet it, I couldn't help feeling a bit scared...

On my way back across town, I passed the Olgimskiy house, and decided to drop in and say hi to Kapella. It was just as well, as she had an errand for me. She seemed pretty desperate, in fact. She was addressing me "as a Mistress talks to a Mistress". Apparently she had had a disturbing dream the previous night.

"I saw a dreadful dream the last night. I saw an uncanny creature, a thing from the Steppe, shabnak-adyr to come at night. It sneaked into the Cathedral to kill everybody hiding there! Lots of dead people were everywhere..."

The problem was, Kapella wasn't sure if it was just a dream, or a Dream, and she wanted to inquire as to whether Maria had had any similar prophetic visions. But she didn't want to admit uncertainty in her powers in front of her rival. Naturally, I was the prime candidate for errand-girl. Kapella assured me that Maria would receive me, since in the possibility that her dream was true, it would threaten the success of the Bachelor's mission, and thus his life - a risk Maria could not possibly afford to take.

Ah yes, the Kains do enjoy the peacockery! XD

But when I told Maria I had urgent news, she was less than cordial.

"You have no and cannot have any urgent news for me. You simply cannot know anything I don't know."

...And whether she had had a prophetic dream recently?

"I wasn't asleep as I was waiting for the accession of the Memory of Simon. I don't know why but he didn't come to Inner Chamber, neither yesterday, nor today... That means that Simon is still alive!"

So you say. At any rate, it was recommended that I check on the Cathedral to reassure myself that it was safe, and that the dream hadn't already come true. The Bachelor (just down the street) supposedly had the keys, although he forbid me entry, professing that even he couldn't get inside if he wanted to. He wasn't very cordial with me either...

"If I hadn't heard by chance what a contradictory character you are, I would have blown out straight your quivering heart out of court and investigation."

I spoke directly with the guards out in front of the Cathedral. The building was being used as an incubator, to determine whether a person could carry infection (and for how long) without showing symptoms. Naturally, breaking the seal could introduce contamination, and would ruin the experiment. But, now wasn't the time for me to start following rules. I brought the guards some drinking water, since they had complained of running out, and then I apparently cast a spell (or possibly just threw some dust in their eyes) to cause them not to see me while I slipped into the Cathedral right through the front door.

All was well inside - no sign of tragedy. However, knowing what was to happen, and knowing full well the likelihood that I myself, and no other, would be the cause of it, made me very uncomfortable to be in there. It seemed perfectly innocent, and I certainly bore no ill will, but I couldn't help getting the feeling that by my presence alone, I was sentencing these innocent people to such horrors that would shortly come...

Was it some form of self-fulfilling prophecy? I got the strange feeling that even if I hadn't gone into the Cathedral, the result would be the same. But it doesn't comfort me to know that I might have a doppelganger out there somewhere, picking up my slack, and holding up the dark side to my coin. At the very least, I was able to reassure Kapella that her fears were unfounded; and yet, I'm certain it will not turn out so well in another day...

Back at the Kain residence, I spoke to George, who was in a good mood.

"It's high time you stopped coming here!"

I have to admit, I'm a little bit confused about just what each side knows, between Rubin and the Kains, versus what they claim to know, and how much of that is true and how much is just wishful thinking. Rubin assures me that Simon is dead. George refuses to believe it.

"Simon didn't die but he tried to fight the Sand Plague and know he is in state of lethargy. Betrayer Rubin must have known of that."

Is it possible that if the Kains have some supernatural way of sensing one another, that perhaps George senses Simon's essence in the vaccines that were made from his tissue? Or is Simon's soul still resident in the town somewhere, merely separated from his body? You see that I do not have sufficient information. Another thing that confuses me is whether Rubin and the Kains are actually working together, or separately. Or whether Rubin wants to give himself in, or not.

Whatever the case, I got the vague impression that the Kains would be willing to accept me as Mistress (being Catherina's heir), if only I acquire Rubin's word of honor that he won't try to escape justice.

Rubin appeared to be satisfied with this, but again there seemed to be a misunderstanding regarding Simon's condition.

"I've told you already what I had torn the body for. I won't be able to return Simon but I can try to reveal his secret. If George thinks of mission his brother was fulfilling but not of his brother himself, he'll agree to that."

I'll leave it at that. Regarding the other questions I asked Rubin, I didn't receive as big a revelation as I was hoping for, but I learned a little bit about this 'shabnak' character:

"The teacher really told me that he Had encountered a woman in the Steppe. He asked her: 'Where are you going?' And she answered: 'I'm going towards warm people.' ... That was the disease disguised as a human. A ghost. The things happen if the teacher said so. She really had a woman's face. I know nothing else - besides the fact that the teacher died not due to s disease but he was killed."

So, Isidor encountered the disease in the form of a human woman, out in the Steppe? It's hard to believe - can I trust Rubin's words? I feel like I can, but what about Isidor? He's trustworthy, but...could it have been some ancient superstition? Symbolic language? And if not, assuming the Steppe beast rose from the Earth, what is its mission?

Hm, that question sounds familiar...

I reported back to Alexander and told him Rubin was not responsible for the outbreak. For once, I wasn't reprimanded. I told him about Isidor's encounter with the disease in the form of a woman. Who could it have been?

"We'll examine Julia tomorrow. She is an anchoress and I started thinking of her badly long time ago. If it is not she who we are looking for, she can give us a hint. She'll contrive with her mad head where to look for the witch."

But it was growing dark, and I had a date with destiny out on the barrow behind the cemetery.

Approaching the raised mound, I encountered a few "hazards", as Laska had ambiguously warned me about. After making short work of them, I climbed the hill, and there on top, standing before the sacrificial altar, the Albino was waiting for me...

What a mysterious creature. Was the Albino shabnak-adyr?

"No... Who says 'shabnak-adyr'? It should be said another way... It should be said 'shabnak-adyg'...that will lessen evil."

Was it my sister, or is she something else entirely?

"You lied about your sister - but do you know that you cannot lie? The sister exists now... But who is who between you two? That's the question..."

Apparently, my honesty, of which I am so proud, has a disturbing twist.

"Be honest. You have no need to discover the truth. You have power to make any lies become true."

But who then, or what, was this Steppe creature? And was it the same being Isidor met previously?

"I was made from everything that had no room in you... I was made for you... I am you... I am for you to understand better..."

It would seem that this thing is made from the leftovers of whatever was used to create me. Is it true, then, that I am an illness?

"... That's unclear. Your nature is still strange... That's why the ground is unstable... you have no solidarity in yourself... you are the emptiness in which everything disappears..."

Whatever danger the Albino was in, it was clear that the same danger threatened me.

"Be careful. You'll be hunted since tomorrow... Everybody will be against you, your protectors will repudiate you... Use your last hours to find a shelter and provision... Do everything you are asked to do tomorrow or else you'll die..."

"You may not believe me if you don't want to. But everything I say will become true, think good of me... Your flash is like my flash... and I love you, though we are only few days old..."

Only a few days old?

"The town is not older than a month, not to speak about years. Good bye. Remember me..."


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