The Chronicles of 'Team B' - Chapter 12 - The Wages of Faith
A servant of Zinovii comes down the stairs of the mansion to inform the companions, who are gathered below, that his master has decided that Udyn has become too hot for him. In view of Yuri's detention, and the fact that they are obviously under the Vizier's close scrutiny, it would be best if he left town forthwith. The servant informs the companions that Zinovii will await them at a small fishing village just upstream from the city - the same village where Yuri, Lokan and the rest spent the night on the way down to Udyn. From here, Zinovii intends to direct the troops to find Yaqub and bring him to justice - a task that he now sees as imperative. Anatoly is to accompany the entourage. For Lokan, a lull in the party's plans means initiating a new attempt to make some money, namely, by looking for a buyer for the True Cross. He plucks a broken stake from a palisade fence off the street, and then meanders down to the river to look for driftwood, along with Alden. Realizing there are probably few buyers there, the two collect the wood, and then head back toward the monastery - where better to generate hype about a newly-found religious relic? While passing by the tavern where they ate on the first day after arriving in the city, they spy Agapia in the alley, scarfing down a pie. She became bored with her imprisonment, and managed to remove the bar outside her window, climb out, hide from the monks in a barrel, and then slip out the front gate while everyone was at the evening meal. Now, she is getting a bite to eat, before resuming her hunt for a new cauldron. Lokan assures Agapia that he will buy her a new cauldron after the money from his newest enterprise begins to roll in. But in the meantime, the group needs to attend to its nightly duties at the cemetery. As the three companions set up their vigil, Yaakov unexpectedly turns up. He says that he was unable to join them the previous day because of the Sabbath, but now that the evening star is risen, he hurried back to the Nart Quarter to check on Zinovii, only to find his patient gone without a trace, and the city gate locked. Lokan and Alden tell him that ZInovii has left town. Yaakov inquires about the why and when, which makes Lokan more suspicious about Yaakov role. He wants to test a theory which may confirm whether Yaakov is an informant, and talks it over with Alden. Then he asks Yaakov to meet the two of them down by the docks in the main town on the morrow, and suggests that Agapia accompany him - the doctor seems to be interested in the young girl, while she is interested in his pretty yellow ribbon. The rest of the night is spent telling stories about their life. The lead is taken by Alden, who has not fully recovered from his binge, and who has stashed a bottle away from his escapade. Hair of the dog gives him renewed energy, and he alternates watches with Lokan while the other two sleep. No grave robbers show up, and aside from having to take cover from the rain, the companions spend an untroubled night at the cemetery. When dawn breaks, Agapia accompanies Yaakov back to his house in Udyn. There, she meets Yaakov's sister-in-law Chaya, who is outraged about the fact that Yaakov brought her home. He takes her into his room, where she inspects his medical equipment while he receives patients. A particular patient with a serious affliction would like a little discretion, and Agapia is sent into the courtyard, where she once again encounters Chaya, along with some children. Chaya asks Agapia to leave, but the young Gaalite says she is here at God's behest, and in any case, has an interest in converting to Yaakov's Fogarma faith. Chaya is outraged, and says this is not done, asking the visitor to leave their compound. But Agapia insists that she must first receive ribbons, and Chaya complies, sending her to a younger woman as long as Agapia promises to leave. After receiving three ribbons - white, pink, and tan, the young girl exits the courtyard, and waits for Yaakov by the gate. When he has completed his appointment, he collects Agapia, and heads with her over to the docks. Meanwhile, Lokan and Alden headed back to the monastery to catch a little rest before setting their plan in action at the docks. They are awakened early, however - not only is it Nedelia - the Gaalite Sabbath day, but today is the day of Lokan's baptism, which, given the other religious matters filling his head, he had quite forgotten about. Hegumen Mitrofan leads Lokan into the church and hands him over to a Brother Ivan for preparations. Alden watches, not without glee, as Ivan takes Lokan into the rectory, where he is undressed, and then outfitted with a white baptismal gown. When Lokan reemerges, the hegumen talks about the vagabond's lifelong quest for faith, and then commends him as a worthwhile seeker who is helping his friend Yuri to find his enslaved relatives, and helping all the Gaalites in the Nart District by chasing grave robbers away, and holding nightly vigils at the graveyard. He then dunks Lokan, and baptizes him as Nikolai - a name the vagabond selects himself. The hegumen then presents the new convert with a wooden cross, and passes around a collection plate for the companions' good works, and returns it, laden with a few silver coins. The hegumen then takes Lokan and Alden to the large Irii Church, which is located next to the cemetery. Here, a collection has also been undertaken, and Lokan is presented with a decidedly heavier purse. Lokan asks Father Mitrofan whether he might not be interested in telling congregants about a holy relic the new convert has found, but the monk tells him that he still has much to learn about the True Confession. In any event, he is interested in collecting some of the companions' money for the performance of the baptism, which normally costs six rubles. The hegumen then asks about Yuri, and Lokan tells him about the events of the previous day, which ended with Yuri's imprisonment, before mentioning that he now intends to return to the docks. The hegumen is concerned about this state of affairs, and says that by going to the docks and provoking the vizier, Lokan and the others are putting him and the Gaalites of the Nart Quarter in great danger. Lokan counters that he was not aware of the fee before agreeing to convert, and says that the trip to the docks will be made incognito to see if an informant can be exposed. He asks the hegumen to borrow a pair of monastic habits. Mitrofan agrees to the loan, and also says that he will waive the fee if the companions leave the monastery no later than the evening. He also seems unhappy about their abandonment of Yuri. Lokan and Alden then proceed to the docks in Udyn proper, disguised as hooded monks. They haggle over some fish, and then scan the crowd, looking for the vizier's soldiers, as well as Yaakov and Agapia. The rain makes them hard to locate (though it also gives them cover), but Lokan's sharp eye soon spots the soldiers dressed in plain clothes. Soon, Yaakov and Agapia arrive, and Lokan clearly notes that the soldiers are watching the two of them very carefully. Though he feels that this is not unequivocal confirmation of this theory, it is suggestive, and besides, staying at the docks any longer creates risk that they will be spotted, so Lokan nudges Alden, and the two of them slip away, intending to return to the monastery to collect their things. Yaakov and Agapia, expecting to meet up with their companions, see no one (as they fail to recognize the monks). Agapia, bored and soaked, decides to take Yaakov to her favorite spot - a shop dealing in antiquities. They are greeted by the proprietor, who, seeing that Yaakov is a physician, offers him a special liquid that can cure various maladies, from gout to leprosy. Deciding that the establishment is likely run by quacks, Yaakov chooses to depart.
* * *This whole time, Yuri remains imprisoned in a tower at the citadel. It is completely dark here when the guards are not present, and the lack of a common language with his cell-block mate Karim soon dampens the young man's initial optimism, and brings home feelings of profound isolation. Yuri tests the bars and the door, and finds them to be quite solid despite directing all his might against them. Karim mutters, complains, groans and prays incomprehensibly, though Yuri does understand it when he mentions something about the vizier and Berke. A crumpled note also ends up in Yuri's cell. When the guards come in with torches to deliver bread and water the following morning, Yuri glances at it, and finds that it is written in incomprehensible script. He also spots suggestive graffiti with a few recognizably Norik letters in the back of his cell. He picks up some brick debris, and attempts to fashion it into an effective door jam, possibly to be used later. After he is given what he assumes to be a morning meal, the vizier himself appears in the dungeon, accompanied by two guards. He once again questions Yuri about his companions, and who he is working for. Yuri replies that he is simply trying to free his family, a plan to which he remains committed. The vizier is disappointed, and tells Yuri that his compassion is misguided and that he, the vizier, has a much more important task of protecting the whole city from reckless actions (such as provoking a fire-breathing serpent). The raid on Vladykino is unfair, in his estimation, but so is life, which is to be used to learn submission to God, and prepare for his judgment regardless of the vagaries of fate. As he turns to leave, the vizier suggests that Yuri ought to give up thinking about his betrothed, who is now irrevocably lost to him, and might give a thought to his other relatives, who will probably be sold soon (if they are not already). They would then be lost to Yuri as well, though there is a chance that some might not yet be.
- Bag of money for guarding the cemetery
- Pieces of a future "True Cross"
- Wooden holy symbol for Lokan
- A crumpled piece of paper with incomprehensible writing
- Three ribbons
- Connection between Yaakov and the vizier's soldiers investigated
- Lokan is baptized