Daud sat on the roof opposite the pavillion where Jessamine was being put to rest, her procession conspicuously empty without her bodyguard silent and grim. She’d been carried through the city, first, so the people could say their goodbyes and throw flowers at her feet, and now she was being entombed in the marble, facing the sea that the servants always said she loved.
There were, he learned, a few rites from across the isles mixed in with the usual Gristol dourness in her funeral, much to Campbell’s surprise. He hid a sneer, badly, behind a cough because even though everyone was wearing black, and she’d been taken through the city as Gristol did for its leaders, there were bright, sweet-smelled flowers like in Tyvia, and slow, sadly celebratory music like in Morley, and a few ritual items burned and buried with her like in Serkonos.
Daud assumed that was from Corvo, and that Burrows - looking annoyed, but then he always looked annoyed - either didn’t suspect it was or was too put off by the inclusion of all the other deviations to think about it too much. There was, Daud noticed, a carved love spoon laying on her chest while a few advisors and trusted, favoured servants said goodbye - intricate but crudely carved - and a rough-hewn crow beneath her hands folded across her belly. Daud was surprised Burrows had allowed them to be there, but maybe he didn’t know who it was from. Maybe it was his own bastardised respect for her, the same that let Emily’s nanny put a drawing of Jessamine, Corvo, and Emily herself inside the tomb.
Gently, Jessamine’s body and all the gifts she’d been given, from the people she loved and the servants who loved her and the one man she’d been close to in all the world, were put inside the tomb, and she was sealed inside. The plaque bearing her name gleamed in the dim, grey light as the sky gave a rumble like it, too, was as angry at Daud as Daud had been.
An officiator said a few words - should have been more, but Daud laughed to himself because what words were there for someone so good? It was hard to sum up a woman like her, who stood between the poor and the nobles and tried so hard to keep both safe and happy, protecting them both from the worst parts of the other because she was smart enough to know that, as things stood with the plague ripping its way through the slums and the sewers and everywhere else the rats got to, they’d destroy each other and Dunwall with it. She’d curbed the nobles’ demands for more money as best she could get away with, and built on the laws her father had started to protect the workers. She’d done a lot of good for the empire.
If not for Daud - he tipped his head back against the wall and smiled at the grim clouds - she could have done a lot more, and her daughter could have continued the work, and her child after her and so on, and so on. Ah, but he was an idiot, too blinded by gold besides, to know it until she’d fallen from his blade and he looked to Corvo and realised, Oh fuck.
After the officiator was finished talking and all the chairs were put away, servants gone back to work and Campbell left to let the mourning bells sing out through the speakers, announcing the final rest of the empress, Daud still sat on the roof, watching the sky get darker as it prepared to rain, and shoved his cold, numb hands into his pocket, annoyed with himself. Going to her funeral hadn’t helped, at all. Thomas was still hanging around at the edge of the roof, patiently waiting for Daud to be ready to go home, Burrows was still regent, Corvo was still in prison, and Emily was still lost somewhere in Dunwall. Or maybe dead, a child Weeper shuffling through the sewers with all the others or a corpse floating at the bottom of a river, her soul wandering the streets while she wondered why Corvo hadn’t been there to save her, or wailing in the Void, trapped because she’d died too young and without the proper rites to see her pass safely into the world of spirits as she was meant to.
Daud wondered how many of the old ways Corvo knew, if he knew any at all. He wondered if he’d taught Emily any of them, told her about the world of spirits where all souls came from and returned to on the anniversary of her grandfather’s death; about the souls needing to be helped through the Void because sometimes, in its confusing pathways, they got stuck and needed help.
“Sir?” Asked Thomas when Daud got to his feet and made power burn across the back of his hand, aching in the bones of his forearm and gleaming gold-blue even through his gloves.
Daud shook his head at him. “Let’s go.”
He woke from his bed fully clothed, padded out onto his balcony, and looked up through the hole in the roof of his office to see a whale drifting over head like a cloud drifting across the sky. Daud sighed “Damn,” To himself, because he’d hoped to avoid the Outsider. A stupid hope, to be sure, but it didn’t stop him wanting it - he only ever showed himself when Daud’s life was going to go ass over teakettle again, and he’d done enough of that to himself recently.
But, he sighed again, he was in the Void and he wouldn’t leave it until the Outsider was satisfied, so he took a step out into the waiting empty space where a wall and floor should have been and stepped out onto the path that unravelled for him. He passed through a handful of scenes of his recent past - the letter Burrows had sent him on his desk, lit by a frozen candle, and Jessamine’s corpse cold on the pavillion’s marble floor, a letter by her head screaming his own guilt back at him - but didn’t stop to look. He’d seen enough of them in his dreams the past few months.
Towards the end of the path - a few transverses across some islands because of course the Outsider wanted to be difficult, the night of the Empress’ funeral of all nights - he found himself stood in front of something that was probably the present, or at least a near enough future that the distinction didn’t matter.
Corvo, a frozen statue in the Void as the small island beneath his feet disintegrated into the waiting, endless emptiness beneath them; melting from human to wolfhound, pulling at the chains and lunging at the torturer with outstretched jaws. A guard, tripping over himself and falling into the waiting emptiness, was nursing an arm torn to shreds, and an Overseer was dead on the floor beside the torturer’s chair.
Corvo’d been a wolfhound in defence of the Empress and Emily, Daud remembered suddenly. Snapping and lunging, never afraid to fling himself at them despite their bullets and swords. He leapt, not seeming to care if his jaws closed tight like a vice on empty air, an arm flung out defensively, or an unguarded throat, then leaping back out of range and taking with him whatever torn out bits of flesh was trapped against his teeth. Sometimes he used his full, towering weight against them, knocking them down to bite more easily at anything in reach or using powerful hind legs to kick at their belly, disemboweling them as best he could with blunted dogs’ claws.
He’d flowed just as easily into other shapes too. A crow biting and pulling at their masks, more of a distraction than a threat but still effective. Even some Pandyssian animal, black and scruffy and skinny but unfathomably strong, vicious as he clawed and tore and bristled, lips pulled back in a silent, furious snarl; some kind of cat it seemed, but the size of a horse. He’d been just as terrifying when human, just as quick to strike and dodge and find the most vulnerable parts of their armour, sword and bolts driven deep into joints.
It was hard to feel scared of him when his wolfish, black eyes were blown wide in his own terror, tortured to within an inch of his life.
He was bleeding, Daud noticed - the dark fur half formed, pelt flowing down from his completed wolfhound’s head, was matted and stained a rusty red-black, ripped through with open wounds, and the wounds that weren’t open were smoking and lined with singed fur and skin, all in neat little rows. Daud didn’t have to imagine how he’d got them; the Void was helpfully showing him all the tools neatly lined up over his head. An odd thing to notice - of course Corvo was going to bleed. Burrows wanted to force him to confess to a crime he didn’t do, and he’d use anything to force that voice even if he killed Corvo in the process.
“Hello Daud,” Said the Outsider.
“What do you want?” Asked Daud, not really expecting an answer and not surprised when he didn’t get one. The Outsider liked to answer questions ten steps after the question was asked, if he answered at all. He turned to watch the Outsider hovering in the Void, staring at Daud with the closest he’d come to interest in years. He turned soon enough to Corvo frozen between them.
The Outsider smiled. “He’s an interesting man, Daud. So like you in some ways, so much cleverer in others. His mother loved him, of course, but she could never love the blood in his veins that gave him power; ashamed of her family gifts, skipping her but expressed in her children, no matter how she tried to suppress them. She hated that she was happy to see him cross the sea to Dunwall." His head tilted. "Across all the futures I’ve seen, all the possibilities that are and could be and never will be, only Corvo has ever been able to save or doom Dunwall. Despite your best efforts,” He added, his bland smile turning sharp, all his teeth hidden but Daud uncomfortably aware of them anyway, like a whale’s cutting-sharp teeth lining its jaws when it came close to the ship that first took him to Dunwall as an unwilling immigrant. “Dear Corvo,” The Outsider sighed, “Did you know I’ve given him my Mark, Daud?”
Daud crossed his arms, wondering if he should be annoyed or not. On the one hand, the Outsider was being obscure and mystical just to mess with him, and on the other, what could Daud being annoyed with him do to a god? He pressed lips tightly together against all the insults building behind his teeth. “Is there a point to all this?”
The whale, in the distance, floated serene, half between worlds and probably the only living thing other than Daud in the Void. The Outsider didn’t count - he was a god, and a dick, and Daud wasn’t feeling all that charitable with the reminder of his stupidity stood between them, a frozen moment of Corvo’s agony for Daud to enjoy and made far too easy for him to remember that for Corvo the session had probably lasted or would last hours. All because of him, and he had to wonder if it was the Void showing him because it couldn’t help reflecting the real world and all the things he felt and couldn’t help wondering, or the Outsider just trying to get a rise out of him.
“He’ll learn well enough on his own. He always does.” The Outsider tilted his head, and Daud tried not to shiver with how much it looked like the Outsider was going to eat him, and not in the fun way. “He might choose to use my gifts, he might not, but he always survives in the end. He’ll learn better with you to teach him, don’t you think? You’ve done so well with your Whalers in the past.”
“If this is about Billie!” Snarled Daud, absolutely not willing to put up with that!
The Outsider was unmoved. “My last gift to you, Daud. You’ve filled the river with blood and choked the streets with corpses. You’ve ruined so many lives as the blade in the dark, the wolf in the flock; not least your own. And now you want to change.” He spread his hands wide in a mockery of friendliness, a true nastiness in his face now, in his empty eyes that didn’t reflect light. “Here’s your chance, Daud. Corvo’s Mark is chained to yours. Save him, and save Emily. Then we’ll see.”