Chapter 1: The Messenger
“My. Dear. Corvo.”
The Emperor leapt to his feet and stared, transfixed at the man now idling in his presence. No, not a man. A boy really. He couldn’t be older than 16…
“Surprised?” The kid chuckled. “So was I. Who could have predicted that of all my pets … Daud would turn out to be the most interesting after all.”
Daud was alive? Corvo felt his face burn at the thought. He should have stuck a sword in the assassin’s gut all those years ago.
“Daud killed an empress,” Corvo replied coolly. He was still standing in front of the throne, as if he couldn’t bring himself to sit on it in front of his visitor.
The kid laughed and ran a pale hand irreverently over the stony face of the throne room’s most precious statue. Small cracks were evident all over her body, two washed down her face like tears. “And you didn’t?”
The guards had obviously had enough of this display. Usually, Emperor Attano would have ordered anyone talking back to him like this be removed. Forcefully. What was he waiting for, anyway?
Captain Rhodes drew his sword and approached the peasant.
“Captain, did I give you an order?”
Shit. Who was this guy anyway? Another of Attano’s bastards come to beg some of daddy’s new wealth? Wouldn’t put it past him…. “No sir, I just-”
“Than stand down.”
Captain Rhondes sheathed his sword and bowed, but didn’t move too far back. He remained in a ready position just in case.
The boy laughed again. “Oh, Corvo.” He paused for dramatic effect. “Or, I mean, ‘Emperor Attano’. Heh, that is how you’ve styled yourself than? Either way. As you can see, I’ve been reduced to a mere messenger. Another courtesy of my favorite pet.”
Corvo blanched. What in the Void? How? Is that why his mark had disappeared? He couldn’t fathom it. This had to be a dream. One like before…
The visitor left the statue alone and came within just a few steps of the throne. Corvo held his breath, almost waiting for this whole bad dream to end. He could almost hear the song of the whalebones nearby, almost see the endless Void come back into focus around him.
But those eyes. They were different. They were normal. Not the endless, depthless black. No, they were white with brown irises. Narrowed pupils in the afternoon light. This had to be a terrible dream. Please let him wake up. Please let this all be over. All of it.
Though when the visitor spoke, the whale songs faded and the throne room was no closer to being an island in the Void than before. Emily’s statue was still crumbling. He was still in front of the throne.
“Corvo. The woman you once knew as Meagan Foster has sent me to share something with you.”
He came now within inches of the Emperor’s face. This time as the guards approached to restrain him, Corvo didn’t stop them. What in the Void had happened?
“And what could that be?”
The kid grinned, and for a brief moment, Corvo could have sworn the blackness had returned to his eyes and the depth of the Void along with them.
“You’ve fucked up.”
Chapter 2: In The Beginning...
She could see … Everything.
Everything that was, that could be, or that might have been. All around her swirled whisps of the world, entangled, shattered, mended, wrapped around each other. Every path that everyone could ever take or had ever taken.
She could see Everything. But holding it all at once in her mind was another question altogether.
Compound this with the fact that her right eye was still very much stuck in her own reality, and it was safe to say that Billie Lurk hadn’t known a day without a severe headache since that night deep in the bowels under Shindaerey Peak. And go figure, now that the Outsider was mortal, he couldn’t do much except reassure that she’d get used to it eventually.
“And how long is ‘eventually’, exactly?” she’d asked. His shrug that followed had made her almost wish she’d ended his miserable existence like Daud had wanted. Cryptic little shit.
But he was the only kid in the world who knew what she was seeing. And she was now the only person in his world that knew what he’d been through. If either of them had any hope of adjusting to their new lives, they’d have to at least tolerate each other. For awhile.
Billie sat up on the worn mattress in the old Shindaerey North Quarry. The two of them had settled there, at least for awhile now that the Eyeless had abandoned the mountain. Where else would they go? The woman had no intentions of taking any new contracts, not in this state. And what in the Void was the kid going to do for a living? He couldn’t even decide on a name for himself that she could pronounce.
She groaned and held her temples, wishing she’d packed more sleep darts for this mission. Maybe a drug induced sleep would actually be dreamless.
“I take it back!”
Billie looked up to see the kid approaching with two cans. She hoped he hadn’t been watching her again. That’d been just creepy.
“I told you last night that the first thing I wanted to do in Karnaca was to visit one of my shrines. But I thought it’d be more fun to visit the Overseers first!”
Billie raised an eyebrow over her good eye and scoffed. “I didn’t spare you just so you could run off and get killed, you know.”
He shook his head, brown eyes sparkling with mischief. It was eerie. Something else she’d have to get used to. “I’d like to shake one’s hand! And let him know just how well he’s protecting the city from me.”
“Well, from The Outsider, of course.” His grin was as wide as the split in her head felt.
She opened the tin and scooped out a bit of the pickled whale meat. “Do you even know the Seven Strictures?”
“Probably better than you do,” he chuckled. He was digging in to a can of jellied eels. He’d made it very clear from day one that he wouldn’t ever consider eating the flesh of a whale. And while that was most of the meat up here … she’d been stuck with it ever since.
"Restrict the Wandering Gaze that looks hither and yonder-”
“Yeah, yeah.” She didn’t need a sermon. “I get it.”
“So will you take me to meet an Overseer?”
She glared at him for a moment before relenting. He seemed so damned excited. And honestly, at this point, she wouldn’t mind being put out of her own misery. “Sure, kid. First thing.”
He jumped up excitedly. “Wonderful! So when do we leave? I watched you and Corvo enough the last few months to know there’s still probably a bunch of abandoned houses we could stay in.”
She finished her meager meal knowing how much she’d love to give her body some actual fresh bread. Or fruit. Or by the Void, any kind of alcohol. Say what you will of the Eyeless, they certainly knew how to run a good bar.
“You sure you’re ready for this, kid?” She stood slowly, stretching sore muscles for the day. It would be quite a trek back to the city. “You can’t exactly just *poof*, traverse the distance anymore.”
He became almost serious for a moment. “I’ve been ready for four thousand years.”
She nodded. There was no way he was fit enough to make the trek in one day. “Well then. Find a pair of backpacks and grab what food you can fit. We’ll probably be spending a night or two on the mountain as we go.”
He obeyed excitedly.
Billie had to admit, having an ex-god obey her every command wasn’t the worst part of her new life.
Chapter 3: What's In A Name, Anyway?
I doubt he'll ever settle on one....
“What about Thaddeus? He was a fisherman that learned to carve whalebones with a particular flourish that I really appreciated.”
Billie jumped down another few crumbled stairs and gave a noncommittal grunt. He’d been doing this for two days. She’d run out of input after two hours.
“Or Barnabas. He built more shrines for me in the 1620s than anyone else in the isles. Pretty nice guy.”
“I bet.” The city had grown on their horizon all day. A few hours and they’d be in the outskirts. Soon enough he’d have to have SOME name to give to the guards when they got in. Any name. Any collection of syllables that even remotely sounded like a name. “You know,” she offered ... “Not like you have to decide on your actual name today. Void knows I’m not giving them my real name.”
“Orville Eliab. That’d be the rough translation anyway. It's funny, I almost offered him my mark … but then he ‘fell’ off a bridge near where Fraeport is now. A shame.”
She sighed. “What was he gonna do, cure the rat plague a thousand years before it started?”
The kid laughed. “How? He was a musician! A master of the harp… though harps were different 2,500 years ago.”
It just went on like this. Step after step. John, Hank, Quinby, Jehu, Ezra … an artist, a fisherman, a whaler, a barber, and a banker. Ezekial the drunkard with a knack for poetry. Enoch the butcher who fed all the local stray dogs. Langdon Artemus, an assassin that might rival Daud from another era. Rhone the bookie who would have made millions if not for an unfortunate addiction.
“You know,” she offered, trying desperately to change the subject, “you’d probably make one hell of an author. You could write plays or stories or some shit. People like the fantasy of escaping their own drudgery sometimes.”
He stopped in his tracks and his eyes went wide. “I could write HISTORY!” He turned a grin toward her in thanks. “No one else knows exactly how the rebellion of the ancient Pandyssian tribes helped shape how the inter-island medieval economy came to be.”
Billie gave him a cockeyed gance before moving on. “Not that I think anyone knows or cares that there was some ancient rebellion on Pandyssia.”
“I bet someone would care!” He scrambled a bit to catch up. “I bet I’d make the best history professor in the isles.”
She shrugged. “You may. But not before you have to go to an Academy for years and get in to their whole little society or whatever. Trust me. Don’t go that route.”
“You don’t think I could do it?”
“I don’t think you’d fit in.”
He bowed his head and kept trudging along. “Cephas Langridge. He taught history until his retirement about 60 years ago in Morlay. He didn’t fit in very well either.”
“What happened to him?”
“Taken by the Overseers. No one ever heard from him again except his captors and me.”
Billie laughed despite herself. “And you want to visit one.”
“I’ve always had a rather morbid curiosity about the kind of people who would devote their lives to trying to destroy me.” He chuckled. “Owen Harcourt. One of the first classes of graduating Overseers. Talk about dedication.”
They finally hit the outskirts of the city. By all subjective accounts, it was a beautiful day. Sun shining brightly overhead. Wind blowing off the water bringing with it the scent of salt. Nice enough that people milled about their daily business and elsewise in droves. The more people out and about, the better. The less conspicuous two more travellers might be. She wondered vaguely if her little commandeered apartment by the conservatory was the way she’d left it.
Billie’s arm was suddenly hijacked and her companion was chattering excitedly. “An Overseer! Look! At the entrance gate! This is more exciting than I thought it would be!”
“Hey! Kid, let go of me.” She wrenched her arm away, wondering how exactly she was going to explain him to anyone in their way.
“I’m not a ‘kid’ you know - I’m older than you are.”
“Then pick a damn name.”
He pursed his lips, still staring toward the gate anticipating his meeting. “Zophar Lovegrove-”
“Please no. What the shit kind of name is ‘Zophar’?”
“It was really popular in the middle of-”
She grabbed him and pulled him slightly aside from the road. “I really don’t care. Look. This isn’t funny right now. Just get your story straight. Pick a name. You’re my nephew, ok? We’re in town to stay with your mother Louisa. She’s my older half sister and she lives just inside the Cyria Gardens area. I’m your Aunt Helene. You’re dad died on a whaling boat when you were young, and you’ve been staying with me in Saggunto for the last two years for school. Got it?”
“Jothan Lester,” he answered. “His dad died on a whaling boat before he was born. His mother was a seamstress.”
Billie grabbed his collar. “You think this is a game?”
“No,” he answered with a smile. “I think that’s my name. At least for now.”
“Oh.” She let him go. “You good then? You got the story?”
“I can’t wait to see mom again. She promised me she’s made me a new shirt! This one has too many holes in it.”
Billie nodded. “Good enough. Come on, kid. Let’s go meet your Overseer.”
“You said you’d stop calling me ‘kid’ once I picked a name.”
“Yeah, well. Now you’re my nephew. I can call you whatever I want.”
He laughed. “You know, Agatha still wonders what happened to Helene sometimes. When the nights are rainy and she’s alone.”
Billie stopped and stared at him, her one good eye wide open in surprise.
“I wouldn’t worry,” he answered. “You weren’t the only one she played the part with back then.”
She shook her head. “Nice to know she’s still kicking at least.” She shifted the weight of her nearly depleted backpack and checked her pocket for the few coins that she’d managed to stock up on from the Eyeless’ pockets under Shindaerey. “Come on. And stop being creepy.”
The laugh she got in response wasn’t very promising.