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What Will It Take?

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He took a drag of the cigar in his hand, and stared down at the pulsing muscle in his other. They were both safe, for now. He finally had a quiet night. Quiet nights allowed for reflection, though. Something he wasn't too fond of.

He'd already checked down every possible entrance to the Tower, three times over. Inspected the staff. He suspected they thought him insane, to be so adamant that everything remain in his supervision. He exhaled with some humour at the thought.

Corvo Attano, the Royal Protector, insane. No- he was just worried. He'd been betrayed too many times, seen his family in pain too many times, to even put an ounce of trust in anybody. He was sure, now. The only one he could confide in was The Outsider himself, and even he wasn't there to help Corvo heal. The past had scabbed over ugly, and for some damned reason he kept ripping said scab off and hoping the wound would become clean.

He stood up, and palmed The Heart of his lover. Sometimes it felt like he was holding her hand again, breathing her air. He wished her goodnight, and set her in her bed, something he'd made from things he knew she'd liked in life. She'd told him it made her feel warm that he would even consider such a thing- though, she said it in the third person. She was still confused.

Corvo settled into the night by cupping a candle, and staring at the ceiling to just.. Think.

 

It had been a pleasantly warm day when the ship had finally arrived to Dunwall. He was practically giddy to finally see The Empress again. Not because of the sex- he'd gone years before without it. A measly few months, and that thought hadn't even crossed his mind, but he missed her. Missed Emily.

Geoff herded him and another guard into a smaller boat that they dropped into the river without an accident. It was the best he could say, since the damned thing rocked like no other. He straightened after a few moments, and idle chat between the two Royal Guards filtered through his ears like pure water.

"They say there's a curse on us-.."

That didn't change anything. Whether it be curse or not, Dunwall was dying. They came to a stop in the waterlock, and large doors swept shut behind them. River water sloshed over the sides of the boat and seeped into the carpet, his boots. He made no mention. However, in all his ten years at Dunwall, he never understood the carpeting within such shallow water transport.

Thoughts for a later time, he supposed. There was a heavy mist on his face, soaking him to his bones. Even Geoff shielded his pistol by crossing his arms. The boat rose, rocking again, and he felt more water splash his boots. Damned things would break apart. He frowned, but looked up to find there were only a few more moments to withstand.

Finally, they settled, and a bridge swung down to welcome them. Geoff led, asking something about what they'd done wrong, while Corvo lamented over the loss of his boots with a silent gesture. He was brushed off, however, so he continued along with what pride he could retain when his boots were squishing along.

He came to the stone- marble? Bridge. He never did ask about that. Emily flung herself at him, and finally, he felt at home.

"Corvo!" Her voice cooed sweetly when he hooked her under the arms and tossed her into the air. She dipped down, and the warm feeling of a kiss on the cheek graced his face.

"Do you want to play a game of hide and seek? I want to see if you're still as good! Aw, don't worry about mother. She's just speaking with that nasty old Spymaster." He couldn't help the smile spreading across his face at her words. He patted her head, and turned. He raised his hand in a motion for her to lead the way.

She bounded down the stairs, and led him under the bridge. Moss grew in some places, which reminded him of his home in Karnaca. On his journey, he'd visited it on a late night solo expedition. Emily cleared her throat, apparently noticing his thousand-yard stare.

"Alright, I'll count, and you hide!" Corvo knew how the game worked, but she loved to tease him. She closed her eyes and turned, to begin counting. Corvo got low, balancing on the balls of his feet to minimize the sound he made, and realized, with a wince, that not even that would save him from the onslaught of water that had barraged him earlier inside his boots.

He decided to hide in the area out of fairness, as she reached 8. Counting down, he realized. The stairs would be his hiding place, for now. Her giggles with every step agonized him as he paced up and slid to a stop, low on his ass, just to play a game of hide and seek.

His shoulder pressed uncomfortably into his neck, but this was life or death, damn it! He waited for Emily to find him.. or not. Finally, Emily announced that he was free for now, but he had to teach her more climbing strategies later.

He slid down the railing and hit the dirt with a squelch. It sent him into a cringe, but he pressed on, jogging along with the princess. They raced up a set of stairs, and came to the famed painter, Anton Sokolov, producing a painting of the High Overseer Campbell.

"Oh, Corvo, you're back. I'm sure the Empress will be giddy to see you again, eh?"

Corvo shook his head, back in the present. That wasn't what he said, but his memory hadn't completely failed him yet. Maybe if he kept going, he could find his slip-up. He lit a lantern and checked the time. One AM.

His hands were warm and calloused on his face as he sat up in silent anguish for lost sleep. A familiar cold seeped into the room, and the lantern flickered a luminous purple, before fading. He felt oddly compelled to sleep. So he rolled to the side and thanked the Outsider for his favour.

His dreams were just a more accurate recount of events from the same point he'd started, and he was granted permission to just watch, trapped behind his own eyes.

Emily had pointed out,

"I don't think that looks like Campbell." For some reason, they all let it be, and Corvo followed her up to the gazebo, where, finally, he saw the face he loved, and the face he hated. Oh, how he longed to take her into his arms and never let her go. To keep her safe from Daud's blade.

But, oblivious to the future, he ignored Burrows' words that illustrated the plans at play, and stepped forward indignantly to face the Empress. She had a look of fondness on her face.

"I trust you've received my letters?"

He nodded. Her smile was welcome, after so long without it.

"Well then, what news have you brought me?" His heart sank. The letter that would doom Dunwall. He put it in her waiting hand and silently waited for her to read. He nearly reached out to comfort her when she began muttering about the state of the Empire.

The rest was a hazy blur.

"Who sent away the guards?"

"Mommy? What are those men doing on the roof?"

Black magic crept up on them in the form of three assassins in whalers' masks. He reached for his sword and pistol, a simple, yet deadly combination. He shot two bullets, and sliced outwardly; they turned to smoke and ash.

Thinking the danger was over, he turned to hug the princess, give her some comfort. Just as he'd let go, he felt a crushing pressure on his chest, and he was pinned to a pillar. His head ached in the back, where he'd hit it, and he could only helplessly watch as a man in red slaughtered Jessamine in plain sight.

He tossed her bleeding form onto the ground like a beat up hound in the pits, barely even turning to look at her. Corvo wrenched himself away, and tears stung at his eyes when they disappeared with Emily.

He crawled over, and wrapped his arms around her. Why must life be so cruel to those so fair? His thoughts became a flurry of hurt, and only a few words stood out to him, though he had his full attention on her, with her hand in his.

"Find Emily. You'll know what to do. Won't you..? Corvo?" The life drained from her eyes, and his strength drained with it. He looked up, devastated, with a black hole for a stomach, to find Hiram Burrows and High Overseer Campbell, with two armed guards.

"What have you done?" The accusation hung for a moment. Burrows interjected, "Yes! He's killed the Empress!" He looked around in a dramatic spying motion. "Where have you hidden Lady Emily? I'll see you beheaded for this, Corvo!"

Everything faded out then. He'd been spared the end of that sequence, and permitted the relief of a dreamless sleep.

Chapter Text

It was a mildly successful day; he'd dug up information on local gangs with the web of spies planted all over. The Drapers Ward gangs were clashing again, but the Hatters had nearly wiped out completely with the death of the Geezer.

Since then, they'd branched out into offshoots of the original thing and began fighting over the scraps of territory left behind. Which meant utilisation of more unusual methods of destruction, as there was no governing over what they could or couldn't use.

It was anarchy. The best he could do was alert the City Watch to their methods and order heavier training on how to deal with the rowdy bunches. He sighed and found a letter he hadn't yet opened on his desk. The wax seal was.. Exactly that. A wax seal. There was a stamped pattern, one that seemed to swim around in the very confines of the wax.

It was off putting. He'd open it after his routine check. He stood from his desk, and took his pistol- and his sword. There'd be no use in leaving it, after all. He waited for the people in the hall to pass, before he finally left. Nothing seemed to be collapsing yet- which was good. Better than he could say most of the time.

It was a long stroll around the inside of the Tower that refreshed him. He kept a personal checklist of places to check up on- people to be suspicious of. Everything appeared to be accounted for, except for the whereabouts of Emily.

He took the stairs to the roof and found Callista, frowning to nobody in particular. When he approached, she turned to him with a bow, which he knew he'd never get used to. She gave him a displeased huff.

"I told her we could take a break nearly an hour ago, and she's taken to hiding from me again."

Corvo knew the struggle very well. Their affinity for hiding was a shared trait, one that Corvo took pride in. At least he knew that in a dangerous situation, if he were to fall, she could hide until her escape.

"Allow me to find her."

Her shoulders dropped, with what he expected to be relief. He turned to his right, and listened closely for the stray Empress. There weren't many hiding places on the roof that he couldn't reach, which didn't exactly narrow down the search, but it made it easier in the long run.

He heard a shuffling step from a corner behind the roof entrance. He found her there, crouching unhappily. She sneezed at him, he could only assume that it was due to the dust he stirred up.

"I'm sorry, milady. But you're required to continue your studies for at least another two hours."

She whined, "But it's all so boring! Why can't I hear about pirates?"

He thought on it, though the answer was obvious. Maybe there was some sort of game to be concocted from this mess.

"When pirates influence your rule, or anyone after you, we'll speak about it."

"Can you at least stay with me? What if bad guys come in, or something?"

He'd love nothing more than to stay with her and meddle, but alas, he had other duties. Unless..

"Are those official orders from the Empress?"

She hummed, and gave him a smile. Her affirmations had essentially given him reason to clear the schedule he'd prepared for himself. He'd write the time out later.

He reached out, and held her hand, small in his. She stepped out, and Corvo brushed the dirt from her otherwise pristine lacy shirt. She only turned and smiled. He really needed to see to it that the roof got further attention.

Callista approached them, and asked if they'd sorted it all out. Which, of course, they had. Corvo tailed them to their place of study, and stood guard by the door.

Callista looked wearily at him, though he was unsure why. Until he saw the books she had out. It was Gristollian law practice and capital punishment.

His face went numb. This wasn't something he wanted to think about- No, nonononono-

He was back in his cell, nursing a fresh wound on his side from another one of The Torturer's little experiments. It was sure to fester with infection within a day or so, and he could only wish he didn't want it to kill him.

The way he took care of it was simple, bind it closely with his arm until he could use a jacket button to semi-cauterize it. But that would be a few hours, assuming clouds didn't roll in and take the sunlight off the metal.

That happened most days.

He was exhausted, so he laid his bare back on what was basically a rock with some sheets on it. He could practically feel his consciousness slipping away, until a loud rapping on the cell door shook him.

"Corvo. Come with me, and don't ask questions."

"Right, that's your job."

"Don't make me hit you."

Corvo painstakingly rose, and came to the door. He was pulled out and thrown forward with a stumble.

"You're extra lucky today. Regent isn't finished with you."

Corvo knew this meant more horrific methods of torture. When they got there, he was chained up by his wrists, and the chains rose so his feet barely touched the ground. Burrows smiled up at him.

"It's as simple as this, Attano. Confess, and I let you off easy today."

"You're a pathological liar with the face of a rat. I'm not confessing."

"You heard the man."

A crushing blow was dealt to his gut, and he crumpled in. The chains rattled unpleasantly, and he could feel his shoulders slowly dislocating. It was all too much.

"Maybe he isn't high enough. Will the altitude change his answer?" The Overseer suggested, and Corvo seethed. No, no. They couldn't kill him already. It felt like he was dying, anyways. Was that right?

He sucked up what breath he could, heaving a shaky gasp before he was off the ground completely. He couldn't even hear their questions and offers. He tuned them out to the idea of finding Emily.

He felt a blade carve down his thigh until whole chunks of flesh were gouged out and patched with cloth to either preserve him, or cause further agony.

His vision went black.

At some point, he must have woken up again, amd resisted again, because he had angry red marks from lashings over his chest. They stung, but it wasn't anything he couldn't handle. What if Emily was suffering through worse somewhere? She was only a child.

What if she, too.. Was dead? He needed to stop thinking about it. He thumped his forehead on the cracked stone beside him until he didn't have to think anymore. He knew he was fracturing. Only a matter of time until he broke.

His heart was in his throat as he looked away from his precious Empress, off toward the door. He could hear Callista continuing her lesson without any difficulty, and Emily pounding her fists at the way it all worked.

"That's the first thing I'm gonna change. The people deserve proper trials before they're reduced to… To husks in prison!"

"That's very adult of you, Emily. I'm glad these lessons are helping you."

Corvo eyed a clock, and found that it was nearly time for him to begin training those guards- supposedly the cream of the crop. He knew Callista wouldn't report him stepping out of line, so he dipped down to place a kiss in his daughter's hair, and turned to the door.

"Awww.. Corvo, are you leaving already?"

"Don't let me interrupt your learning, Emily. Send for me if need be." He opened the door, and was greeted with an air that wasn't tainted by bad memories.

Ah, Void. He forgot to read that letter.

Chapter Text

Corvo sidestepped a flying sword, and rolled to evade another punch. He grunted, "You have to be prepared for your enemy to be better than you."

With a gulp of exerted breath, he tossed a woman- a Martin- over his shoulder, and kept at a crouch to step back. His back hit cold marble, and he waited for their next move. The other Guardsmen seemed to be forming a plan. Yes, finally, he'd gotten them to work together.

Yu and Feldman came at him from both sides, and attempted to crush him into a compromised position. He put his hands behind his back, on the cracked surface to search for any kind of purchase. Martin brushed herself off, and slid under them to get underneath him. He wasn't sure what they meant to do with that, but Corvo braced against the wall and pushed up- To jump over their linked arms.

No Void tricks.

He turned, and fired blanks above them.

"If we were actually fighting, you'd all be seriously injured or dead. I understand you're in the heat of battle, but that's what we're here for. It was good of you to work together, but you need to think clearly and assess your options. Take that advice, and work at it. I'll see you all tomorrow."

He turned, and looked at the flowers below. They were arranged in the exact way Jessamine had wanted. He heard one of them kick a wall. Hushed voices.

"We haven't won once!"

"Did you expect us to? Honestly, Feldman. The man broke out of Coldridge. That would be a 300 to 1 fight."

Corvo stiffly walked off to plan a trip out. There were just too many things happening in Dunwall for him to feel like Emily was safe.

As his footsteps echoed down the mostly silent hallways, he found himself thinking about his escape again. If only they knew the whole story of how he got out. It wouldn't be nearly close to the feat they thought of it.

He was sick. Not like the plague, but he ached constantly, couldn't keep anything down.. He could walk barely any more than a few feet without being winded. He was dragged into the Interrogation Room the very day before his scheduled execution, and hit, and burned for a confession. His mind was not a place to be.

He stared up at Burrows, barely hearing his words. His head fell back, and Campbell personally slapped him, just to get him to stay up. Something about the confession being unneeded.. He'd heard that before. But the crime of killing an Empress carried a high price to pay.

Well, wasn't Burrows in debt? He must have signed something, or he must have blacked out- the.next thing he knew, he had a hot poker at the base of his neck, an awful scream tearing itself from his chest.

Burrows left his field of view, and he was left there, alone, for what must have been hours, because he woke up back in his cell.

More rattling. More food he likely couldn't eat. But it was bread. Bread is good for sick people, isn't it? He tried to tear a chunk off of it. A dull metal clank seemed to come from the bread when he placed his hand on it for leverage for the tear. Curious, he set it aside.

On the tray was a key, and a note. Fuck, reading? Alright…

Corvo,

Who we are is irrelevant right now. Just know that we have faith in you.

Here is the key to your cell. Once you're out, head for the prison's Interrogation Room. Take the explosive there and plant it on the outer door. When the bomb goes off, run. Make for the river and lose yourself in the sewers. You'll find some useful gear stashed there.

One of the prison guards will leave a weapon just outside your cell.

And good luck. We need you alive and well for what's to come.

- A friend

 

Fuck. Fuck this. He was semi-free? Was he reading that correctly? He fumbled with the key, and basically tripped over himself to get the door open.

This was his chance to find Emily. He lowered, and kept to the balls of his feet no matter how he ached, then picked up the sword. Most of these men had done him no harm. No sense in killing them.

He found three guards, and timed it just right to pounce. He grabbed the first one by the throat, pulled him back, and quietly choked him unconscious. That left two.

The rest of it until the explosion was a blur. He had evidently gotten into a scuffle and made it out alive, but.. He was still shirtless, and a deep cut ran down his arm. He had bigger things to worry about. He ducked, and shielded himself from flying debris. He couldn't remember the name for it. Shrapnel?

Once it was clear, he made a mad dash to the bridge, where he took a dive that very well could have killed him. But it didn't. It stunned him momentarily, and he flailed in the water for a moment, until he finally began to swim. Into the sewers, he had to swim, and seemingly solve fucked up puzzles… He watched two men be eaten alive by rats.

There was a crate. He opened it. Found a crossbow, and a.. Folding sword. He tested it out with an even swipe. It was light, balanced, and sharper than a razor. The creator knew their shit. He moved a body off a wheel, and opened the gate to the next area.

Some parts of the sewers seemed to repeat. Neverending. He found a hole in the grates, and fell onto a large rock. Two men spoke. He heard his name tossed around. Both of them were asleep in a few moments. There were three more men. A fight broke out, and his sword proved its' worth. He thought once of Jessamine, and how easily the blade slid through her chest. Then he was pushing overgrown leaves to the side. There, before a boat, was a stout old man.

"Corvo! I'm glad to see you've made it. I'm a friend, I won't attack you." He inched closer, exhausted.

"Name's Samuel Beechworth. I'm with a group named The Loyalists, who worked to get you out of here. We're just across the river. Oh! Wait, by the way.." Samuel reached into the boat, and pulled put a tidily folded coat. His coat.

"That guard brought me this. You look cold, maybe you want it back?"

Corvo dashed out to put it on, feeling oddly reassured by Samuel's presence… And the coat.

"We could really use your help, Corvo. Our mission is to restore Lady Emily to the throne, and end the Regent's reign.-"

Corvo didn't let him finish. He simply stepped into the boat.

Yeah, how heroic. Not remembering half of the escape, not knowing the amount of blood he spilled. He lifted that blessed blade off the table, and prepared for a night out.

Chapter Text

Corvo had his mask on wrong. He stood atop a building, and hesitated to adjust it. Finally, he hooked his finger through the eyehole, and pushed the lens until it was centered correctly.

He focused on his breathing at the same time. It wasn't too heavy, but he'd been running at nearly the same speed for twelve minutes. He took a deep breath, and looked over the edge of the roof. Gang symbols everywhere, he was in the right place.

He pressed close to the roof, crawling on his belly to get closer. It left him open and susceptible, but this was a stealth mission. Nobody should find him.

He waited until he heard footsteps, and distant chatter.

Somebody had tipped him off. A member of Parliament was meeting with them to dig up information on the Empress and her advisors, to undermine her before she really even got started.

Lady Grey walked with a man who definitely belonged to the Dead Eels. Had they relocated here? No matter.

"So, miss. You know we don't fuck around. Miss a payment, and you're dead. We always get our due."

"Yes, of course. I've already laid down your funds, now tell me what you've found."

It was quite the haul of useless information. He wondered how she'd plan to do anything with this. Her loss, she'd paid good money for this. She appeared to be dissatisfied with this, and left in a hurry.

Corvo didn't dare to move until they were both gone. And that didn't seem to be happening. The man called out,

"Come out, Spymaster. I'm your tipper." Corvo couldn't help the smile that spread across his face. Just the dirty backstabbing he was used to. He pushed himself up, and took out his sword.

"Nice to see you. But I'd prefer if we could speak at eye-level."

Corvo almost thought about it. Within the last few months he'd worked with gangs a few times, Slackjaw being a key ally. But he wasn't familiar with the Eels.

"Prove this isn't an ambush."

The man sighed. "Nothing'd be good enough. Name's Darnell. Jean Grey came to the Eels a few weeks ago and asked for dirt on Emily. What you just saw was a slew of bullshittery."

He tsked. No shit. Not a single true statement had been meaningful, and the other things, he could easily disprove. Blatant lies.

"We ain't on her side. We think Emily's our last hope, if we want the plague to die out."

Corvo decided to give him a little peace of mind. "A cure is coming."

Even in the darkness, from 15 feet up, he could see the man get visibly excited. "Really?"

"I'm not one to tell a lie. Especially when it involves false hope. It's not coming soon, but it's coming." Darnell sighed, and leaned against a wall.

"Best news I've heard in weeks. For that, I won't tell her about who Emily's pops is."

His eyes widened. He put his hand down on the edge, and swung his legs over the roof. He dropped down quietly, and seethed,

"Who might that be?"

"No bullshitting, Protector. I know you bedded the Empress. Kinda proud, too. You and I got the same blood, you know. Serkonos's got it rough. Now knowing that the Empress has your heritage, maybe it'll get fixed up. Here's hoping."

He was stunned. He tried to speak, but found himself almost completely dumbfounded. He signed, "Thank you." and unhooked his sack from his belt.

He tossed him the bag, and watched him reflexively catch it.

"What's this?"

He calmly signed, "Payment. Your tip helped me, and you're being a great ally to the people. If she comes to you again, your payment will be heavier."

He turned, and set off to the Tower to embrace his daughter.

She was laying over the arm of a sloping couch, probably not the most comfortable way to rest. He crouched down, and brushed the hair out of her face. Who had left her unattended?

"Mmn.. Corvo?" Her sleepy voice asked. He gave an affirmative grunt, and cooed, "Little Empress, you must sleep in your room."

She groaned, and rolled over. "Carry me, Corvo.. I'm so tired." He smiled, and slid his arms under her tiny body.

"I'm sure you are." She pushed her face into his chest and inhaled while he straightened his back, and began walking up the hallway to her quarters.

"I remember when you would carry mother like this. She never did sleep enough, did she?"

He laughed, but pain spiked his chest. She was dedicated to helping her people; sometimes she forgot herself.

"No, I don't think she did. But I also remember how she would sing you to sleep when you were a baby. Except you wouldn't actually rest, because her voice entertained you so much."

She just made a sleepy little noise. With minimal effort, he slid her slippers off, and tucked her into the bed that just seemed too big for her.

"Will you stay with me tonight? I think I'm scared."

It didn't require much thought; but worry did bubble up to the front of his mind.

"There's nothing to be scared of, Emily. Of course I'll stay, but I want you to know that as long as I'm with you, I'll keep you safe."

She was already back asleep. So he turned off the lamp, and reintroduced himself to the darkness.

He looked back on fond memories with the previous Empress, a break from his awful mental retellings of other things from his life.

On her birthday, he would smuggle her out to the river and open a good bottle of wine. They'd stay on a boat, cracking jokes, until the sunrise. One morning in particular, he'd held her soft hands, and kissed her deeply. She had asked him what made him do that, and he told her that he saw the universe in her eyes, and the universe told him to kiss her.

She'd pointed out the first rays of light on the horizon, and they had huddled in close to watch the colours burn together. She was warm, and he felt as if he'd shared something astounding with her. Her deep passion to protect everyone was in the air that morning, and in every breath, he heard the stars. It was the sappiest thing. It didn't take long for her to point out that he was drunk.

She'd laughed about how he was a lightweight, and he'd cried that he'd made a fool of himself, but she only cupped the back of his neck, and planted a kiss directly on his lips. He remembered her words exactly.

"If this is you as a fool, my dear, I might have to change your job."

That was the best he'd felt in a while. Every moment with her seemed to be the best, and he knew he was doomed to love this Empress forever. One day she'd give in, and find a suitor, and they'd be doomed.

Well, that never did happen, did it? It was a cruel joke. They'd never have to go to such a place, but she left to another.

He wiped his eyes and tried to steady his heart.

She'd play the harp for him sometimes, at night. Usually when nobody was around, or when the mood struck. She'd send everyone but her Protector away, and she'd have him select a song.

And every time, it blew him away. Often, she would stand behind him, and lay her hands on his, to try and teach him in her own patient way. He never liked how it turned out, but she swore it was beautiful.

He missed her spirit. When she was met with injustice, she'd keep her composure, and tighten, and use her wit to turn it to the people's favour. She didn't serve herself. Or any of the aristocrats.

More than a few times, he'd heard her pressing facts into the table during meetings, demanding she be heard out over the voices of concerned higher-ups. Even bearing child, she retained this, no matter if it winded her.

One time, a Pendleton insulted her to her face. He watched her brighten, and he knew the Pendleton was about to be disgraced in the worst way possible. Without a word, Corvo had essentially thrown him out the door, and let the meeting resume. Jessamine had thanked him. She'd been spared the bad press.

Corvo felt something hot on his face. Expecting blood or some other horror, like another poker, he reached up and brushed his cheek off. His fingers came away wet, and he realized he was crying.

So was Emily. She shivered and sobbed in her bed, likely for the same reason. So he walked over, and laid a hand on hers, just to ease her. She seemed to like knowing he was there. Gradually, she relaxed, and he wiped her tears away.

This wound wouldn't heal for a long time, and he only wished Jessamine were there to help ease the pain.

Chapter Text

He spent the night there, waiting for her to wake, nearly drifting off himself. A knock came at the door, and he opened it up after a tentative thought. There was a woman there, someone he couldn’t quite place. But she had a look of shock.

“Lord Corvo? Have you been here all night?”

He gave a begrudging nod, and squinted.

“Forgive me, but I don’t believe I recognize you.”

“You’re usually on patrol by the time I wake her up. I’m the new nanny.” Corvo was a bit on the fence about that. He stiffened, reaching towards his sword. He meant nothing by it, but he knew it scared people. She didn’t seem to even notice. He turned, and let her pass. She hummed in thanks, and quietly turned on Emily’s lights. Dust particles swirled through the air, and he watched her place a glass on Emily’s bedside table. He’d neglected to notice the pitcher she’d been carrying, he guessed. Emily stirred, and the blankets rose over her head.

The nanny crooned, “Wake up, my Empress. You have a busy day today.”

“It’s always busy, Rina…” Corvo relaxed when he found that Emily knew her name. She clearly hadn’t been lying. Reassured, he relaxed, and turned to leave. Emily rose to the glass of water next to her, and snuck a sip, before she finally groaned, and sat up. He turned back to look at her. Her hair was a rat’s nest. This was clearly a symptom of being a fussy sleeper, something they had in common. Jessamine would often laugh about how she watched him as he rested in her arms and somehow he ended up upside down.

He finally left, and slowly walked downstairs, feeling like a door that hadn’t been oiled. Not unlike the floors that creaked with his every step. He walked through the large room, draped in flowers, and found himself back on the roof. Cold air hit his face, and his eyes widened. The wind seemed to flow between all his teeth, and he exhaled with a faint whistle. Oh, Void. One of those days.

He pushed his tongue against the gap to silence himself, and opened the door to the stairs. He glided his hand over the railing, and found no splinters. That was good.. The wind had refreshed him, in a way. He took in more information about the hallways. It was under some extreme renovation, for example. Pale blue walls streaked into old wood paneling, and black and white tile broke apart to reveal the hardwood. In some places, there were plants. Above him, hanging lilac, and rhododendron. How they’d managed to get such a bush, he’d no clue.

The sagging walls were being propped up and tended to around him, and it seemed that the Tower might not collapse after all. He saw deconstructed Walls of Light, and small litterings of metal where Arc Pylons had been. Footsteps pounded down the stairs behind him, and two tiny arms wrapped around him. Emily seemed to have quick;y gained her pep.

“Hello, Corvo! I’m about to do the announcements, once I talk to mean old Sokolov. Want to come?” He smiled. He was glad she’d taken to such things already, but he could feel her growing weary. He was, too. It’d been too long since he’d last had a peaceful day, and he didn’t expect many more. Same with Emily. He only wished he could protect her from that, too.

He declined softly, and urged her to continue along. He thought maybe he should get to that letter, finally. He watched her leave, first, then made his way to his office, that, for some reason, smelled like the ocean, and the breeze of a meadow. Something strange had occurred. He took a glance at the letter, and found that the stamp still appeared to be swimming. He peeled it up, and slid out the letter.

Dear Corvo,

I’ve made you another gift. When you finish your reflection on everything that’s brought you here, open this once more, and you’ll find it. I hope to see that you use it.

The name was scratched out harshly. Couldn’t The Leviathan leave him alone for two minutes? No- something told him, like passing wind through his brain. He sighed, and somehow the room now smelled of woodsmoke and something unidentifiable. Having a desk job was going to be nightmarish until he finished thinking things through, he supposed. It wouldn’t help to ignore it all.

He had woken up in the same boat he’d wordlessly gotten into. The boatman passed a glance at him every now and then, like he was a diseased animal that would snap at him at any moment. Corvo realized how bunched up and cold he was, finally having the chance to rest easily for a moment. He didn’t trust this at all, but he didn’t have any other option. Maybe he’d squeeze his last bit of life out before someone killed him.

The boatman- Samuel, he called himself, gestured to a building in front of them. All he heard was something about the Hound Pits, before they rocked to a stop. He had some trouble just rising to step out of the boat. But inside he met a man named Admiral Havelock, who was apparently in charge of this operation. Then, just like that, he was sent outside to go meet Piero Joplin, an inventor they’d hired for the cause.

Piero cursed at his industrial drill, and asked Corvo to fetch some whale oil, which was just upstairs. He seemed to regret it as soon as Corvo tripped up them, and recovered without a word. Embarrassment burned hot on his cheeks while he filled up a tank and brought it down.

“Don’t drop it. Whale oil is highly flammable.”

He almost wanted to take that as a challenge. He got the tank in the drill, and Piero worked just a bit longer, before he came up with a mask, that would supposedly strike terror into all of his enemies. It seemed to be a skull, hashed together menacingly. The man carefully placed it on his face, and adjusted the lenses with a screwdriver.

“Can you see yet?” Corvo swiped his hand back in a pinching motion. Piero seemed to understand that, because he kept checking.

“I’d suggest you go rest. Pardon my bluntness, but Coldridge must have been a nightmare, and you’re clearly exhausted.”

Corvo nodded, and a woman introduced herself as Callista. Then she showed him his bed, which he almost cried about. Almost. He refused to believe he was bawling like an idiot. He was not.

He had then found himself in a twisted version of the room, with something lurking nearby...

Chapter Text

Something was wrong.

When his eyes cracked open, the warm glow of the lantern didn't cast on his face, but a cold, indigo blaze. His lips were dry, and his throat felt raw, but something seemed to wash away all his previous pains. His joints weren't stiff, and the itch and burn of forming scars didn't coat his back and chest. He sat up, expecting his muscles to protest, but he seemed to be just as spry as usual. Which was… Unusual. Once he'd gotten through with his initial analysis, he stood, knowing something- Someone? Was waiting for him. He took a step toward the door, and noticed cold light shivered through the cracks in the floors- and the walls.

It was almost familiar, in a way he couldn't place. Like all of his memories had been placed into a pile and told to mingle; to make something out of themselves. Finally, he twisted the knob, and heard running water, and wind through grass. He let go, shocked by the sudden noise, and immediately it stopped. But then he remembered that there never was a door there. The door became non-existent, like he hadn't turned the knob mere moments ago. And that was when he figured it out.

He'd been placed into the Void. Of course, it only took him seeing the upside-down stream of steady water flow directly in front of his face, and the broken boards giving way to endless blue. He scoffed at himself for not realizing it sooner. Especially at such a low point in his life. Or death, now that he thought of it.

He frowned, and walked up some broken up steps and boulders, to find the very gazebo where the Empress had been murdered in cold blood. The place he watched her die, unable to see him. The place where he held her as she pleaded for him to find Emily, despite not even knowing she was in his arms. He stared at it in horror, when a form coalesced in front of him.

"Corvo. Your life has taken a turn, has it not?" The words sent a shiver down his spine, and he absently listened, while he tried to place… Anything. He knew that voice, but he'd never heard it. He knew the name of the person using it, but it wasn't the name he was born with. Was he ever born? The Outsider never elaborated.

Before long, he had a burning Mark on his left hand, a symbol of the god's name. It was essentially another brand, as if he needed more. But it was filled to the brim with magic, that he could feel. He looked down, and immediately regretted it. Jessamine was laying there, in a pool of her own blood. A letter was just beside her head, written with a mocking voice that tormented him. His heart pounded, and he realized that he had to make this right. For Jessamine. For her lost Empire, and for Emily. He ran forward while tears stung at his eyes, and balled his fist. The Mark seemed to channel his emotions into a power that he could feel.

He took a leaping guess as to what it would do; but hopefully it would get him away from the scene. He let go, and he snapped like a rubber band, to the next island floating in the Void. Or so he thought. His hands scraped along the edge of it, and fear struck into his heart. He tried to scramble up by hoisting himself over the ledge, but the moss was too slippery. Wind rushed around him as he watched it all fade from view, his hair tossing up in his eyes. He knew his fate, so he closed his eyes.

His back hit solid earth, and he let out a gust of air. His lungs hurt, and he was in something sticky and warm. A pained groan escaped his lips, and he rolled over on his side. His hair dripped with.. Blood. He looked up and saw the ceiling of the gazebo, and that sinking feeling set in again. He needed to leave. Again! He tried to get to the next broken up piece of land, and heard a whalesong in the distance.

Finally, his boots landed on solid ground, but his legs felt like rubber. He shook, and fell to his knees. It was hard to get in a breath, even with his lungs cleared like this. He coughed, and stood up again, feeling stronger. He reached out again to Blink- as he'd subconsciously named the power-, and found himself at a frozen scene, Emily's face twisted into a snarl of defiance while one of the Pendletons dragged her by the arm. A rolled up letter hung in the air.

The section smelled like salt and sweat, with harsh plant aromas to mask that stench. Wherever Emily was, he needed to get her. He stopped wasting time, and again, led off into a Blink, but he had to angle himself at a point where he'd be able to climb up a wall. Another whalesong echoed through the Void, and he continued on his path. One of those damned inventions of Sokolov, the Tallboy, as it was called, was being piloted by a man with no mercy. Frozen missiles sped toward two healthy men, though the heavy stench of illness hung around him. Somehow rain fell on his shoulders, and he splashed through a puddle in his effort to get away.

He found himself at another staircase, and The Outsider offered him another "gift". The Heart of a Living Thing. Once he took it, it- She spoke to him.

"This place is the beginning and end of all things."

He screamed, clasping a hand over his mouth. Jessamine was reduced to an echo of herself, meant to guide him? He felt a sob building in his chest, one that couldn't release itself, as much as he wanted to let it out. She only said something else, pulsing every time he looked in a certain direction.

"That way, assassin. There lies your reward."

It wasn't like her at all. He hated it. He hated the Outsider for this Void-awful "gift", and he hated himself for not protecting her to the end of his life. But she urged him on. He passed through a building on its' side, and came to a small shrine to the awful god, where a rune with his name lay. He took it, and the god sent him on his way.

He felt her in his hand when he realized how dry his eyes were. He'd been staring at the ceiling for who knows how long, and she whispered his name.

"Corvo, don't torture yourself with echoes of the past." He looked down at the warm muscle, and pondered when he'd grabbed her. She had an answer ready for him.

"I answer your call, no matter where you are. I am invisible to all except those with the touch of the Void." He sighed, and brought her close to his face. It would be too strange to kiss an actual beating heart, so he just memorized the formations of vessels and such, the wires in her surface. She seemed relatively at peace, and he swore- he could almost see her at the chair across from him.

"I must return soon, to the Void. I cannot guide you any longer, my love." Corvo knew, and it pained him greatly. He grimaced, hating the reminder, but it was the inevitable truth.

"But I still need you." His voice was feeble and pained, and he could feel her soften for him.

"You'll always have me, you will only have to rely on your own heart. You returned my thoughts to me, and helped clear my mind. The Void took no part in that. You have more strength than you believe."

He contemplated, setting her on the desk. He buried his face in his hands, and exhaled. He admitted slowly,

"I'm not ready, Jessamine."

He could swear he felt her hand on his shoulder. She gave him comfort, made him rest when he needed it. She was 98 percent of his impulse control, and she was… Her. Parted for six months, he nearly died. How could he do it again? But finally, he gave himself a chance.

"I love you, Jessamine. Know that I always will, and that you are my only. I'll meet you again some day."

Her presence faded, and the room was empty of all its' warmth. Patterns of light were forming on the back of his eyelids, and he finally took his hands away from his face. An empty spot on the table seemed to take more space than she did, and he swallowed hard, heartbroken once more.

He stood up to find Emily.

She'd already moved on from her announcements, to sitting and watching aristocrats get into screaming matches amongst themselves. Corvo joined them, and it seemed that the topic of discussion was a new taxing policy that Emily had proposed, just a little less harsh than Burrows' plan. Emily shifted uncomfortably as a Tyvian representative sideyed another Serkonan rep.

"In what way will this benefit business owners?"

Emily sighed, not quite prepared to explain this to a man twice her age. Corvo stood next to her for encouragement, a silent threat on his lips. Emily leaned forward, and placed her hand on the long table.

"The proposed bill benefits the common people, whose livelihoods depend on the whale oil energy. If a company is purchasing bulk amounts of whale oil, I'm assuming they can afford such a meager tax! May I remind you that a good portion of tax money is going toward the cure for the rat plague? The one that the man you readily supported brought about?"

The man's face darkened with red, and he looked away. Corvo felt a surge of pride in her. She'd been memorizing conversational tactics, and somehow.. Surprised him with her vocabulary? A bit in his heart festered with guilt that he'd always see her as a little girl, deep beneath that thick skin she clothed herself with, and fierce attitude. He needed to work on that; she wasn't going to stay little forever. Already a few days away from eleven, she was going to very quickly surprise him over and over again.

Emily cleared her throat once everyone shut up.

"Let's put it to a vote." It was nearly unanimous, Esma Boyle eyeing her from across the room with the same pride Corvo felt. Nobody was going to be happy with the taxes, but it wasn't much to war about. There was a severe shortage of whales, and the methods to squeeze them were cruel and inhumane. The fact that they felt the need to debate this bill that they created was ridiculous.

They moved on to issues with the import and export of goods to Dunwall. Corvo looked down, and found Emily with a hazed look in her eyes that worried him. He pulled a card from his pocket, and placed it on the table. He rumbled,

"We're taking a recess." The now-concerned argumentative bunch turned to him, all puzzled. But one by one, they left the room. Emily sighed and turned to him.

"This is exhausting. How did mother manage, Corvo?"

Corvo shrugged, frowning. He'd never understood either, Jessamine being able to sit through hours of incessant debate.

"I'm not sure. But if I glean the trick, I'll tell you." He admitted this freely, and kneeled down to her. She huffed, and his hair moved around his face. He huffed in the same way, in a sort of teasing way. She smiled slowly, and suggested,

"Hey, so it's called recess.. Want to see how far I can climb?" He was unsure. They only had twenty minutes, but she already seemed so exhausted. Maybe a little free time would help her regain some composure? He gave in, and nodded.

"You remember the technique, right?" She gasped indignantly, jumping out of her seat.

"Me, forgetting? Impossible! I'll race you to the roof!" She took off, and even with her head start, Corvo knew she had no chance. He stood, and climbed out the window, reaching up and above him. He gripped onto a brick that jutted out by mere centimetres, and jumped up again. That Blink sure did come in handy. He leaned on the railing, and checked his nails. Perfectly clean, as he liked them, since having to swim in sewers became one of his job requirements.

Emily burst through the door, and gasped.

"You didn't even leave the room! I checked!"

He just shrugged, a shit-eating grin plastered on his face. He walked forward, and she threw herself into him. He embraced her tightly,still with pride. She laughed into his ear, a sweet noise that made his heart falter a little bit. He lifted her up and leaned against the rail behind him, while she just breathed. He loved every part of her. She was just like her mother sometimes, and others, just like him.

"I'm proud of you for standing your ground, Emily. Are you ready for your lessons?" She scoffed, with an off comment about how she was born ready. He lifted her up to a good holding position, where she steadied her feet and pulled herself up to a higher place on a long pipe. It puffed out smoke at the top every so often, up to the sky. He became nearly entranced by it. Emily pulled herself up to the top, and smiled at him.

"Catch me, Corvo!" His heart kicked into overdrive. "Emily, that's a terrible Ide-AH!" She had jumped off, and he rushed to catch her. The sheer force of her landing in his arms nearly knocked him over, and his shoulders felt dislocated.

"How about we don't do that again? Come on, it's best if we get back to the meeting." She pouted, but walked down the steps, checking every so often that he was behind her.

The event was long and uncomfortable, but Emily made it through. He couldn't be more thankful for that. After a quick fireside chat, she dismissed him. First, he walked down to his office. He took his letter opener and pried the flaps apart on a crisp envelope. Just from the material, he could tell his spy had gotten somewhere important. Finely milled white paper and hard, powerful strokes of ink. Likely in the presence of a rich man, or royalty of some sort.

The letter only confirmed it. Once he'd put on his glasses, he read that she was in the Serkonan Palace as a gardener, and she'd heard that they were breaking apart at the seams, and Theodanis Abele was scrambling to keep it all together. Not much more than that from her. He sent a response letter with his instruction, and looked over the other letters.

No more important news, really. He leaned back, and decided to continue thinking about that letter from the Outsider himself.

He was drawn into the next chapter of his dramatic life.

He'd woken up with that same Mark on his hand, the one of heresy. He'd be killed immediately if he was caught with it. And next to the bed was the Heart of the dead Empress, Jessamine herself. Or not. She never seemed to know. He took the muscle in his hand, and traced over her many parts. His heart was in his throat. He swallowed hard, and his eyes burned with tears that threatened to spill at any moment.

He fell back onto the bed, and set the Heart next to him. He couldn't gather the energy to get up. Once he wasn't actively being punished for her death, having this reminder just broke him down. Sick and sad, he laid there most of the day, just crying. He could hear them talking below, some taking pity, some not. He heard the Admiral comment about being lazy. Whether he liked it or not, Havelock was right. He slowly pushed himself up, and tried not to feel as agonized as he did with the simple action.

Internally, he berated himself for being pathetic. He stood up, and found his mind cluttered with noise. When he looked around, bones littered the room, infused with magic. They all had some sort of metal cap or wiring, and smelled strongly of alcohol and cleaning solutions. When he picked one up, he knew exactly what it did. It allowed him to run slightly faster, and another whispered to him about- He cringed- eating rats. He wasn't thrilled with the idea.

Once he'd picked up all of them, selected the useful ones, and hidden away the others, he made his way downstairs. They all seemed tense. Havelock and Pendleton appeared to be gossiping about him over alcohol, and Havelock pulled him into the conversation. A key element in their revolution was being held captive by the Overseers, the last people he wanted to see. But the High Overseer Campbell had a book that contained Emily's location. He refused to postpone the trip.

He talked to Piero, and Samuel took him to the Distillery District. It was dark and rainy, but he didn't care much at all. The Heart beat in a satchel he'd insisted on taking in case he found food or resources for Piero, but really brought just for her. They got up to the shore, and Samuel set up camp just a few steps away.

With a few words of advice, Corvo set off to the bridge. He loaded his crossbow and aimed at a man throwing plagued bodies off the bridge. With a click, a dart full of a kind of poison flew toward the man. He slapped his neck, and got a handful of glass. He squealed, and stumbled away from the ledge. His companions asked what was wrong with him, and he collapsed into a sleep. Knowing they worked, Corvo loaded up once more and shot the other two.

Keeping low to the wet stones beneath him, he dragged them away, under a cover, and away from infection. He climbed around the edge of a gate to find an old camp with a bone charm and some coin. As well as skewered rats. He flinched away and wrinkled his nose. His mask, luckily, did not reflect his surprised disgust. Once he'd looted the area, he ran forward, toward a large Wall of Light. He turned right, onto a destroyed street. Most of it was closed on account of the Plague, but three men stood outside a door on the end, pounding on the door and yelling for Granny Rags to come out. He snuck behind them, up a fallen AC, and scrambled up to a balcony, wet with rain and something he hoped wasn't blood.

He walked calmly inside, ducking an upturned boat. An old woman mumbled below about garbage and birds. He stepped slowly and quietly downstairs, and found a decrepit woman at a sink. "Is that you, my dear husband?"

He couldn't find his speaking voice, so he let her ramble about gentleman callers. She pressed a key into his hand. "Now, go take care of them, won't you? A have a gift for when you come back."

He ran up the stairs and leapt off the balcony with his sword. It slid easily into the neck of his target when he came down on him. The other two yelled in surprise, and got out bottles and lighters. He offered them no chance, firing twice with his pistol. There were three bodies in front of her dwelling. He opened the door and walked in.

She made him another offer. If he poisoned them, he'd receive another gift. He mentally declined, deeming that a fate too torturous. Not only that, but he knew people purchased their bootleg elixirs. How could he knowingly allow citizens to receive the plague? Quietly, he followed the Heart to her basement, where he found a Shrine.

The Outsider appeared before him. A chill surrounded him, and he submitted. The Outsider puzzled about the choices he'd make, and Corvo made away with another rune. He held six in his satchel. He laid them out, and designated three to the ability to slow time. They disintegrated, and he slid the other three back into his bag.

He couldn't remember much between that and being in Holger Square. Martin was chained up and on his knees, with another Overseer just in front of him. Silently as possible, he crept forward and choked the Overseer until he was unconscious.

"You're Corvo, right?"

He shushed the rogue Overseer, and released him from the shackles. He thanked him and ran off. Corvo hopped a fence, and Blinked forward to a ledge that ran all around the office. He had no intention to kill Campbell. Only destroy him, and rescue Curnow. He kneeled in front of a window, and hopped in. The poisoned wine was just sitting there on the table. He almost laughed at the stupidity while he poured both glasses out onto the ground.

He hid outside the window once more, and Campbell seethed.. Politely, somehow, about the spill. He insisted they'd get some more wine elsewhere. Before he could get to the door, Corvo fired two sleep darts in rapid succession. They collapsed on top of one another. Now, what was a fitting punishment? He remembered the Heretical brand. A devious smile spreading over his face, he picked up Campbell and carried him to the Interrogation Room. He placed him in the chair, and shackled him.

He retrieved the manual on the brand from the desk above, and the brand itself. Campbell woke up screaming. Corvo bit his lip, unsure of himself. But he needed to get Curnow away from this place. He dashed back into the office, leaving Campbell there, and grabbed Curnow. Of course, the best spot for him was in a garbage bin.

Corvo found the rest of the memory irrelevant. What did The Outsider want him to do?