01 November, 2009

Pathologic - Seeds of Caravan


Each night (so far) I get an anonymous letter from whom I can only surmise is my sister. Last night she told me she'd be appearing in the Tanner district today. Guess what's in the Tanner district. Infection. It's the first infected district. Maybe she's the plague, and I'm the cure? I can only hope.

So, Alexander has me interrogating the known/suspected criminals in town, in the hopes of uncovering the one who is responsible for the epidemic (frankly, I think he's searching in vain), and Catherina has employed me as an errand girl of sorts, sending me off to try to turn various others in the town to our side.

Regarding Ospina, I told Alexander she was not guilty. The bottom line is that Catherina told me to protect these adherents, and being criminals, she even explicitly mentioned not to reveal them to Alexander, since his first instinct would surely be to lock them up. So, criminals though they may be, I won't turn them in. At least so long as they are not unambiguously responsible for this epidemic. And if I lose favor - even with Alexander, my newly adopted father, himself - then so be it.

I had a chat with Alexander again this morning, and he mentioned the prior outbreak, seeming to suggest that it was a punishment for lawlessness. His approach towards "justice" fails to impress me, and despite how I should feel for this man, my distaste for authority is tainting our relationship. If there's any consolation, it's that he admits he's bound to make mistakes, although that isn't an excuse for making them.

"It's a cursed role and hard burden to rule during a plague... A ruler is fated to do only mistakes. Yes, all these measures is only the way to compose oneself. You are my only hope."

And then he sent me off to speak with Anna, to inquire whether she has something to do with this plague. But he didn't let me go without leaving me with a chilling piece of gossip and a general damnation of the singer.

"Since Anna appeared in our town she have been always coming off clear. Also, nobody knows where are the previous inhabitants of this house. A friendly family lived there..."

I asked if he suspected Anna of this family's disappearance.

"I suspect that one of the most bloodthirsty ghouls has infiltrated into our town in the name of this singer!"


In the other wing of the mansion, I spoke with Catherina, who sent me off to speak with Eve. She is unambiguously a Utopist, but my adopted mother gave me the task of converting her. She believes there is a mystery behind the discrepancy between Eve's "voluptuous" lifestyle and her devotion to the Cathedral. I was told that Julia (Luricheva, the woman of reason) would have the hooks I'd need to pull Eve's heart out into the open (figuratively speaking, of course).

But first, to Anna. She told me she'd received a threatening letter, and believed it was sent by Vlad Olgimskiy. Apparently, the Hump owed Vlad money, but refused to pay up, so Anna believes he'll use the truth behind Hump's involvement in the Caravan as blackmail to get the money out of him. And in order to get the truth, he's got to crack Anna, who was also involved with the Caravan - or so it is rumoured. At least that's how I believe the reasoning goes.

Anna wouldn't answer any of my questions until I got to the bottom of that letter. Rather than approach Vlad directly, she suggested I get to him through his children. I made a remark about her telling me to use the children as pawns, and she defended herself (presumably against the rumours of her kidnapping children - more on that shortly).

"I fled from here from political persecution. For singing freethinking songs..."

Next stop, Julia's house. Interestingly, she was expecting my visit. I'd consider her a prophet, like Catherina, except she assures me that her predictions are based purely on reason - solid calculations rather than vague notions. She gave me my hook against Eve without a struggle:

"Not so long ago Eve was obsessed only by the Cathedral, but now everything is likely to have changed and she has only the Bachelor in her head. Hoping against hope is forgotten."

But she took advantage of the opportunity to insult the Bachelor (it's strange, being reason-minded individuals, the two of them should have gotten along, but they never really did):

"So, he took hold of her, held her in thrall, and subjected her to his supernatural power. Yes, she is ready to do anything for him. It looks like to demonic obsession."

Making my way across town, I stopped in to chat with the Olgimskiy kids - Kapella, and Young Vlad - to ask about the threatening letter Anna received, and I ended up learning quite a bit about the Caravan. Both kids denied that Vlad had sent (or would even think of sending) the letter, and were visibly irritated at my insinuation.

Kapella: "Do you think has nothing to do but threaten your Anna? But I think, I have now something to do with her - how dares she to belie him? Anonymous letters with menaces... Thank you for having told me that. I'll strangle that snake, Anna! With my own hands."

Young Vlad: "She is afraid of a single rustle - and it isn't surprising. She'll have to be afraid during her whole life because of the horror released with her help. I supposed you know of the Caravan, do you?"

The horrors of the Caravan, as recounted by these two, are worth hearing in their own words:

Young Vlad: "A few years ago, the whole country was only speaking about the Caravan of the Ace of diamonds. That was a crowd of very dangerous criminals committing cruel and senseless nasty things under the cover of rambling circus. They became famous for kidnapping children."

Kapella: "That's a circus of rambling murderers. The one where singers kidnapped children... and committed lots of other ugly things. ... They kidnapped children. They are said to have made actors from them to attract new spectators... They were choosing the best ones. But now, with so many years have passed, lots of myths, ballads, and frightening stories have been concocted and nobody knows the truth now. The 'Caravan' word means awful horror and irreversibility to children now."

There is also apparently some connection between the Caravan and the Polyhedron. Considering the fear that the Caravan naturally instills in children, the Polyhedron may just have been the refuge they fled to when the Caravan approached the town. Thus, the Kain family has a bone to pick with those from the Caravan - most especially Kahn himself, the young leader of the Dogheads who reside inside the Polyhedron, and the one that Kapella confidently fingered as the true author of Anna's threatening letter.

"Kahn won't leave Anna in peace. For him, even a single alive actor of the Caravan is a creature who will plant and distribute seeds of the insensate dread as... as a communicable disease."

Perhaps if I explained this to Anna, she'd be willing to explain to me a bit more about what her connection to this dreadful Caravan was...

Meanwhile, Kapella asked me to check up on the Bachelor, whom she had sent to the infected district to look for some kids she was afraid would try and take some Powder (fyi: while the Powder completely cures infection, it does terrible damage to health, and is actually lethal to children - some have died from taking it in the past).

But first, it was time to speak to the lovely Eve. I got my hooks into her, but despite all my effort, I couldn't convince her to give up her Utopist ideals.

"No, Klara, you haven't seen all that we have. You are too serious. Who saw Crimson Nina building the town and Simon playing with our children will never say that it is impossible to demand miracles... It is possible and even necessary!"

Her allegiance lies solely and solidly with the Bachelor. Not like I expected anything different (Catherina, on the other hand...). I asked her if she'd seen the Bachelor recently, as he wasn't at the house, but she was sworn not to reveal his whereabouts - until it was his wellbeing in question; I explained that I had special medicines to distribute. It was a bald-faced lie. Don't get me wrong, I don't like manipulating people, but it unfortunately seems to be an unavoidable part of my job description. Anyway, Eve opened up and directed me to Rubin's makeshift lab in the warehouse district.

By the way, I had been informed (by Anna, I'm sure it was Anna) that Rubin and the Bachelor had conspired to steal Simon's corpse. If it was true, that would certainly be a valuable piece of information for the Kains. [According to other scenarios, Rubin was responsible for the theft, the Bachelor oblivious to it until after the fact]. I caught up with Rubin, who was alone, at his lab, and he outright denied Anna's accusation. Although when I suggested that Anna might disbelieve his denial and send a tip to the Kains anyway, he relented. He still didn't admit to the theft, but he bought my silence with two vials of Black Vaccine, made from dead tissue, with only a 60% immunity to infection over a period of only 2 hours. Should I report to the Kains, or not?

I decided to mull it over while I tracked the Bachelor down in one of the houses in the infected district. He was perfectly well, and had apparently dealt with the kid(s) Kapella had sent him to check up on. He denied any involvement in a plot to steal Simon's body, even going so far as to suspect the Haruspicus, whom he still believes is the Ripper, and whom he was currently preoccupied with hunting down, somewhere within the infected district. Obviously (you should be able to see these things coming by now), the responsibility of finding the Haruspicus switched over to me.

I explored quite a few houses, and with much effort (and no thanks to Rubin's vaccines, by the way), managed to avoid infection. I also recovered a decent pile of loot, including a whole dozen bottles of Twyrine (and I'm not even old enough to drink!), as well as another children's Powder! I finally ran into the Haruspicus. I don't even remember our conversation (I must have been woozy from all the disease dodging), but he gave me a couple of his immunity-boosting Twyrine extracts which, nevertheless, I have come to the conclusion are mostly useless. Some of the concoctions are pretty good (the ones with really high immunity boost at really low health risk), but they sell for dirt and you can't trade 'em to anyone... Plus, they don't even stack in your inventory, as most of them are of a unique flavor!

(If there's a moral to any of this, it's that if you're going to buy off the Devotress, you ought to show her some respect and give her something worthwhile...)

So yes, I talked to the Bachelor again, and I argued with my conscience as to whether or not I should tell him where the Haruspicus was hiding. Burakh wanted me to keep his location a secret. It's funny, the two of them seem to be enemies when, in the Haruspicus' scenario, they were practically best friends. Well, I ended up selling out Burakh, but only because I couldn't bring myself to lie. (Shut up).

And while we're on the topic of selling people out, I decided to visit the Kains. Just because I'm curious, and I couldn't simply leave things as they were. George refused to even hear me out, and was furious that I had the nerve to step inside his house. He all but kicked me out. Victor was far more reasonable, and actually offered me a reward and his word of trust for telling him the truth (finally, some validation for being pure and acting in a saintly manner!), although he didn't seem the least bit surprised at my information regarding the theft of Simon's body. Maria wasn't especially friendly (me being the adopted daughter of a rival Mistress and all), going so far as to address me as "girl-plague". But, she acted as though she would have believed me had I not implicated the Bachelor in the plot. Her faith in the Bachelor is 110%.

So I left the Kains with a severely spoiled reputation. But that wasn't all; if it was just my enemies whom I disappointed, I could live with that, but my benefactors, too? Let's continue.

So finally, I brought the news about Kahn authoring the hate letter back to Anna. And she opened up to me. She confirmed every bit of the Olgimskiy kids' fears of the Caravan, and to my horror, apparently confessed to being not (just?) a victim, but one of the perpetrators of their heinous crimes.

"I have become a crazy, obsessed troll which spoils and kills children..."

The details are ambiguous, but it sounds like she was involved with witchcraft, and may have either killed or absorbed in some unnatural way another woman's life. She was never really a singer, she just stole the life of one. Identity theft, perhaps? This woman, called Verba, had, in a sense, cursed Anna, warning her that her greed (for beauty, fame, riches, etc.) would be punished in the form of the plague that had broken out once before.

Again, we have a criminal, whose history and crimes uncover a supernatural, possibly superstitious, justification for the existence of the plague in this town. But, I am still not convinced that the source of the disease and its true cause has been found. And so I must return to Alexander and inform him that Anna is, at least for my intents and purposes, not guilty (if far from innocent). And to Catherina I must bring the news that Eve is unwavering in her devotion to the Utopia. Catherina was visibly upset. She said, she would have sooner accepted the explanation that I had been tossed out of the house by the Bachelor, than that I had willingly walked away from Eve without having changed her mind. I felt bad. I could have easily lied and told her Eve was with us, and she would have been pleased. But is my allegiance to the truth, or to pleasing people?

Tonight my reputation is so tarnished that the shopkeeps won't accept my business. What is my true mission, and am I following the right path?

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