None of them ask – not until his interest wanes, and by then it is far too late. Their pleas fall on deaf ears - their cries for him to just come back, please come back, don’t leave me are just screams in the dark.
They never ask until he’s disinclined to answer.
Even Corvo hasn’t asked. Even dear, fascinating Corvo hasn’t dared to ask him for a boon.
Never mind that he’d given them freely before; the Heart, to help guide his way, and the Mark to help him get there. Gifts Corvo never asked for. Gifts he came to treasure.
(He’s suspicious about the Heart, but he fears asking. Some things are better left unknown.)
And still Corvo never asks.
It’s almost enough to make him laugh.
He counts them off – nine, for a time, but dear Delilah now screams trapped within the Void, and no-one cares to save her. Eight again. The future wavers; seven or six? Seven, six or five? Still eight, perhaps? A mystery. Corvo’s choices matter here, and it’s rare to see so many of his chosen all pitted against each other.
Which path will Corvo choose? He cannot say. Dear Corvo, the most interesting of all he’s marked. Dear, dear Corvo.
He can taste words in the future. you fascinate me, spoken frankly. A potential future. A glittering future. It won’t come to pass.
None he cares for asks for him. Daud calls him a black-eyed bastard, just to be contrary. Daud’s story bores him now. His last moment in the sun, paving the way for Corvo.
How would Daud react, if he knew that?
the seas would boil and the sky would rage, if you but asked
Corvo does not ask.
you fascinate me
Daud leaves on a ship, a handful of his Whalers beside him. A disgraced Overseer as well, at least in some futures, and that sparks perhaps the tiniest of interests again. Daud will imagine it amusing, to flaunt his Mark to an Overseer, and to flaunt his Overseer to his god.
Granny Rags wakes alone beside her cauldron, and her rage shakes the walls around her. Boring. She calls for him again, pleads for her boy with starry eyes. Dull. Let her alone. Let her be.
And then- Corvo. Dear, fascinating Corvo.
An Empress restored to her throne. Her Lord Protector, with hands unsullied, stands beside her. It makes a beautiful scene. The Mark on Corvo’s hand burns.
don’t, Corvo says, not at any shrine or rune. don’t take this peace from us just yet.
It’s less an order, more a plea, and one Corvo hardly expects to be heeded.
But even so. A request has been made.
Corvo’s gloves burn in the night. He wraps lengths of bandage over his hand, feigns injury. The bandages burn too, and he spends a day clasping one hand in the other. Fear lurks in his chest. His heart beats like a rabbit’s, always a touch too fast.
The gifts he’d never asked for could now spell his ruin.
And Corvo asks for nothing.
Corvo asks for nothing at all.
There’s a please, bitten into a pillow. A whimper- please just i need-
Shuddering under his bedcovers, one hand upon his flesh; the other, clenched in the sheets. The Mark flares bright white.
Corvo asks. It’s nothing of consequence; phantom lips brush his collar, his cheek. Hands not his own touch his heated skin.
fascinating, murmured into his ear.
Corvo moans and his body goes taut.
There are seven now. He feels their lives as fluttering moths crowded close; he’s the fire and the flame. They take care not to get too close.
This one flaps its feeble wings harder, then stills. The little moth falls.
But it’s not Corvo, so it hardly matters.
(Daud trails a skein of yet smaller moths behind him, and keeps as far from the flame as he can. Granny Rags huddles close to the fire. Soon her wings will burn away.)
Corvo asks for nothing and he asks for everything. He doesn’t ask with words – he asks with silences, and a mind gone quiet and still.
He asks for Emily to be happy and healthy; his mind runs from other outcomes.
(She fell. She fell and he did nothing to catch her. Dear Corvo.)
He asks for Dunwall to prosper.
(It lay ruined thrice over, and the masked man still walked the streets, his blade dripping blood, and a plague of rats behind him.)
He asks for stability.
(He never asked for chaos, for he spread it quite well enough by himself.)
Corvo never asks for himself.
So it will be a gift instead.
There are nights like this. The sea will be calm and quiet; the whales dead and gone in their slaughterhouses. The moon will hide her face, and the stars will shine somewhat brighter.
And on those nights, the Lord Protector will retire early. He will hurry to his room, and he might clutch his hand, as he does so. He will send the guards and the maids away, and he will bolt the doors and windows. He will enter his bedchamber and he’ll sigh and grumble and mutter tonight’s a full moon people will notice it’s gone dark and the person sat upon his bed will raise one pale shoulder carelessly, as if to say i don’t care.
The Lord Protector will cross the room, perch awkwardly on the bed. His companion will turn to face him – there won’t be a smile on those lips, but something about his manner will suggest one. A gift for you, my dear Corvo, he will say, and the Lord Protector will accept the kisses with eager grace.
The other man will press the Lord Protector – it’s Corvo, here in the almost-darkness. The lights will glow purple, though they burn with orange flame at all other times. A trick of the light, perhaps? In any case, Corvo will be pressed back upon his bed, his lover set astride him. Perhaps their touches will linger a time, or be only hurried and fleeting. It will hardly matter.
In almost no time at all, Corvo’s touches will become demanding. His companion will say as much, and perhaps say, you should ask me for more, Corvo, and Corvo will laugh it off and say i wouldn’t presume. His lover’s expression will barely change, but something in his manner will suggest irritation. His hands will touch Corvo with only a little care; when he accepts Corvo inside of himself, he will almost-smile to hear Corvo’s choked back pleas.
ask me, Corvo, he will say. ask me.
And Corvo will beg and plead and all but rip his sheets apart, writhing helpless on his bed.
Eventually, Corvo will cry out, like all the breath has been forced from his body in one instant. His hands will flutter on his lover’s hips, not daring to squeeze, but unable to truly let go.
And the Outsider will lean down and murmur Corvo, as if in exultation.
Outside, the skies will blaze with light, and the moon will show her face again.
In the morning, it will be as if nothing had happened at all.
He’s down to six. Dear Vera. How long she lasted. How long she waited.
Perhaps it was Corvo’s doing in the end. Stole Slackjaw from under her nose, but left her whole and healthy in her empty cave. A kindness, or perhaps a cruelty.
Vera does not beg. Her breath rattles in her chest, and her sightless eyes stare up at the ceiling. She hasn’t left her bed in three days.
goodbye, Vera Moray, he whispers in her ear.
Her heart stops in her chest and another moth’s wings burn and fall.
It’s amusing. Corvo doesn’t know. Doesn’t begin to understand. He frets and worries endlessly. No harm will come to Dunwall while he lives. Perhaps even after.
There are futures crowded close. Boring futures and interesting ones. But which is which, he never can tell.
shall i tear the sky open?
not tonight, Corvo yawns, i have a meeting in the morning
(The Heart beats softly in her case. She loves them still. It’s time to say goodbye; Corvo never asks where she disappears to, but then, Corvo never asks.)
A lie. Corvo is full of questions.
But he does not ask for Havelock to die in agony. He does not ask for Daud’s location, does not ask for Daud to be visited by leviathans from the deep. Does not ask that Burrows meet the same fate as Jessamine.
He does not ask for things another might. He always was fascinating.
come back to bed, Corvo asks.