(To read Part 1 of the Haruspicus's Day 12, go here. To read about the Bachelor's final decision, go here.)
My talk with the Developers at the Theater has empowered me, convincing me that I am more than just a toy at the mercy of unpredictable gods. Ultimately, I may be walking the Authorities' predetermined path, but it is I and no other who has been choosing how I walk it, and it will be I and no other who will decide the town's fate at the Cathedral. I am more than just my in-game avatar—I am the player, and my choices make all the difference.
The thing is, free will is a double-edged sword. It carries with it the responsibility to make right choices and the possibility of making wrong choices. I've done some pretty disturbing things over the last twelve days, and right now I am not at all sure what my final action should be. Of course, as a puppet I would not be responsible for anything I do. As a free agent, though, I'm responsible for everything I do. Total freedom can be terrifying.
So when I step inside the Cathedral on the evening of the last day and find the leading figures in this drama all waiting for me to make up my mind, anxiety suddenly hits me. This is it. "The Haruspicus's words shall be my words. His deeds shall be my deeds," I told the Developers. In a sense, then, the consequences of my choice will be very real. I personally will share Artemiy Burakh's victory—or his failure.
The Devotress's Argument
I choose to speak to the Devotress before anyone else, hoping to find out, at long last, what her angle is in all this. I learn precious little, other than that there apparently were at least two of her running around the town this entire time. "Perhaps I am not the Klara you knew before," she says. "There are a few of us, you know.... The face is the same, but who knows whose will is behind it this time?" This does not inspire my confidence in anything she suggests.
She suggests that it's not actually necessary to destroy the town or the Polyhedron. Whatever weird errands she has been running since Day 1, they have all been in service of forging a miracle that will preserve everything as it is while eradicating the Sand Plague once and for all. Her visits with Anna Angel and Catherina Saburov, the upsetting tales she told my Adherents, her offer of help yesterday with the Elder's final trial—all to bring about this supposed miracle.
This is all very confusing for me. Already I am disoriented—I was expecting something less heady when I first entered the Cathedral, and the translated dialogue isn't helping. The implications of this for what I already know are difficult to parse. The
Haruspicus is a shaman of sorts, no stranger to the supernatural, but his is a mysticism of earth,
flesh, and the harsh inevitability of death. The Devotress's talk of a
miracle that can paradoxically save both the Polyhedron and the town is an alien concept. The Sand Plague did not arise spontaneously; it originated because of either the Abattoir or the Polyhedron. The only way to stop the Plague is to cut out its source. I tell the Devotress to keep her shadowy miracles and multiple personalities to herself and move on.
The Bachelor's Argument
As ever, the Bachelor is unbending in his contention that the town is a cancer and that salvation lies with the Kains and their Polyhedron. The only reason I think otherwise, he says, is that the Inquisitor has been lying to me, manipulating me to keep the town out of the crosshairs and her neck off the chopping block. When I ask him what makes him so sure of her cunning when I suspect her of nothing, he responds delicately that he's just better than I am at thinking logically. The Bachelor can be a bit of a prick sometimes.
Some of what he says makes sense to me: more sense than I anticipated, actually. I've been mulling over the revelation of my late father's involvement with the Polyhedron project, and I can't align it with my current beliefs. If my father, at one time the most important person in my Order, supported the Polyhedron's construction, shouldn't I as well? What if the Bachelor is right, and I've just been manipulated by everyone I've talked to? I have to trust someone if I am to decide, but maybe I've been trusting the wrong people all along.
The Final Decision
I talk to the Inquisitor, looking for confirmation of ... well, anything
that I've heard so far. She seems cool and collected, deferring to me
for a decision and not trying to guide me one way or another. I try to
frighten her into giving something away by once again demolishing the fourth wall, speaking in my own voice instead of through the Haruspicus. It's a cool trick that I've discovered, and it does scare her ("Give me back my Haruspicus," she wails), but it gets me no closer to knowing what I should do. I turn to General Blok, pull up the options for my decision, and sit there, thinking.
I agonize for about ten minutes, turning over my options in my head. The Polyhedron has stirred up the Sand Plague. It's acting as a womb for some ... thing. I've thought it was the root of the epidemic for some time now. On the other hand, my father seemed to have no problem with it. Back at the Theater, one of the Developers told me that the town will always be imperiled by one thing or another: if not the Sand Plague, then war, famine, or plain old human depravity. Perhaps I should give up on the town as a lost cause and cast my lot with the Kains and their Utopia.
Then I remember the conversations I had with my Adherents this morning. They will grow up to be, in their own way, just as weak and selfish as their parents. They'll fall in love and rebuild their homes, scheme for power and double-cross each other, and eventually bring some new calamity on themselves. That is to say, they'll be human beings. Hotheaded Notkin, spacy Laska, bedraggled Mishka with her dreams of growing into a beauty—they deserve to live the normal, messy life that everyone lives. Unfortunately, the Polyhedron is a beautiful lie, with its false, unnatural promises of immortality and an earthly utopia. It's been siphoning the earth's lifeblood in pursuit of an impossibility. The lie must be destroyed and the lifeblood turned to curing the Plague if salvation is to be achieved.
I tell General Blok to train his guns on the Polyhedron and to fire at midnight, giving me enough time to herd the children inside to safety. Opening my journal, I write, "Will shall make my choice right." I push open the Cathedral's doors and step out into the clear night air.
I find myself back in the Theater, now cleaned up and closed down. A disembodied voice echoes off the walls: "We admit the victory of the Player." I am standing on stage, with little burlap dolls scattered around my feet. For the first time in the game, there is complete silence: no dour music, no industrial clanking in the distance. The only sound is my hollow footfalls on the wooden planks.
Up against the wall, I spy three life-sized dolls of the Bachelor, the Devotress, and the Haruspicus, all leaning against each other, huge among the smaller burlap figures. Here, at the end of the game, I feel a strange affection for the creepy little things. The Haruspicus figure in particular interests me. If that is Artemiy Burakh's body there against the wall, then what figure is standing before it? Whose eyes am I looking out of?
Mine, I realize. I, the player, Kevin, am quite literally standing onstage in the game. I've been there the whole time. The entire game was just a stage on which played out the drama of my decisions as a player. Maybe the town was all make-believe, but one thing was real: the choices I made within that imaginary world. Those decisions constituted the drama that took place here. Now the play is over.
I see a door to my right and open it, floating away from the Theater into a starry void.