You find your way into such interesting places, Corvo. Left for dead in the midst of these flooded ruins, betrayed by your allies, having failed to protect Emily yet again. A mountain of corpses behind you, and this is what you have to show for it.
Strange how there's always a little more innocence left to lose.
You’ll wake up soon, to find your life in the hands of the man who murdered the Empress. Another of my marked. Hear him out, if you can manage to hold back your fangs but for a moment. Perhaps, in meeting you, he’ll become interesting once more...
Corvo woke with a strained gasp. The air around him was stale and humid, heavy with the dank smell of mold and river water. A spotlight shone on his face, obscuring everything around him in bright white, straining his eyes. He tried to blink the spots out of his vision, and the blurred outline of several figures standing in front of him slowly emerged, though some of them dissolved into darkness just as immediately as he had discerned them.
He was tied to a chair, his hands bound behind his back. The last of the poison coursed sluggishly through his system, and his body still felt heavy with it, his senses lethargic from a long, troubled sleep.
A man stepped in front of the light. Though his eyes were still adjusting, and the man was half-covered in shadow, Corvo discovered a face familiar from wanted posters and his own nightmares alike.
YOU CANNOT SAVE HER YOU CANNOT SAVE HER YOU CANNOT SAVE HER
“Daud,” he said, his voice cracking with disuse.
“Corvo,” the other man replied, his own voice harsh and rasping, with the quality of sandpaper and thick smoke. Daud pulled up a chair to sit directly in front of him, and crossed his arms across his chest. Corvo grit his teeth, as his initial surprise subsided to make way for anger and murderous impulse. He pulled at his restraints, rope grating against his wrists, and his mark burned, it burned, he’ll cut the bastard's throat, blast him away with a gust of wind, or summon a swarm of rats to devour him—
“Don’t get any ideas,” Daud interrupted. With a small nod of his head, he gestured to a man standing in the corner, wearing a Whaler’s mask and holding an Overseer’s music box. “A souvenir I recently acquired from our friends at the Abbey. I’m sure you’re familiar.”
The assassin watched him attentively, one hand poised on the lever of the music box, and the memory of its music made Corvo flinch. Begrudgingly, he canceled the magic pooling in his left hand, and turned back to Daud.
“I thought that should make you agreeable,” Daud said, with practiced indifference.
“What do you want,” Corvo replied brusquely. If he could bide for time, he could loosen the ropes, wring one hand free, though how he should manage to do so without giving himself away he had no idea. Despite his affectations, Daud’s eyes were sharp, his hawkish stare leaving him feeling exposed and vulnerable.
“The Lord Regent has a bounty on your head for 30,000 coins. Wager I could get more, with a bit of haggling. That’s enough coin to disappear for good.”
When Corvo remained silent, Daud continued. “Give me a reason why I shouldn’t.”
“Kill me now or you’ll regret it,” was what Corvo replied instead, but Daud hardly looked fazed.
“That’s probably true,” he said, “but I’d gather you have some unfinished business to attend to that you’d rather I won’t. There’s still the matter of the late Empress’ daughter.”
Corvo's hands curled into fists, the ropes buckling against the strain. “Don’t you dare—”
“If I hand your head over to Havelock, you won’t have any say in what becomes of her.”
“So is all this just so you can gloat?” Corvo growled viciously. ”Wasn’t enough to kill the Empress in front me, and take her daughter?“
Daud brought a hand up to his temple, closing his eyes, as though talking with Corvo was giving him a headache. “I’m giving you a choice, Lord Protector. Havelock and his men are holed up on Kingsparrow Island, and they have Emily with them. I can help you retrieve her.”
For the first time since he woke up, Corvo felt more bewildered than angry at the man in front of him. “Why?” he asked, honest confusion in his voice. “Why would you possibly want to help me?”
"Does it matter?"
Corvo gave him a venomous glare, which Daud accepted with an look of resignation.
“Fine, if it would satisfy your burning curiosity. I killed the Empress and I—I regret it," Daud said, slowly, as though the admission pained him. "And now I’m trying to make amends for it." His face, lined with scars and age, looked grim and tired at his words, the first indication Corvo had of Daud being anything less than calm and controlled. Corvo glared at Daud, trying to find some sort of tell in his character, some hint of the ruse he was trying to play, but if there was any proof that Daud was anything less than sincere, Corvo could not find it.
“I’m supposed to believe you?” he finally asked.
“You’re not exactly drowning in options.”
“What are you proposing?” As he spoke, behind his back, he pressed the knuckle of his left thumb against the palm of his right hand, waiting for some opening, some moment of opportunity.
Corvo scoffed. “A truce?”
”My skills, and the skills of my men, to aid you in rescuing the princess from her heavily fortified tower. You already know what I can do. So, instead of trying to kill each other, I want us to work together.”
“What’s to stop you from driving a knife in my back?”
Daud’s mouth twisted in some wretched imitation of a smile. “Nothing. Same thing that’d be stopping you.”
It took only a second. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Corvo dislocated his left thumb with a vicious crack, allowing him enough give to wrench his left hand through the ropes. His hands now free, he blinked to the far end of the room and grabbed an assassin’s blade off the table. With a second motion of his left hand, time stopped. Everything blurred into a dull gray, thick dust motes frozen in beams of sunlight, but he had hardly turned around before a knife clashed against his, the clang of metal on metal muffled, as though heard from underwater. Daud was right in front of him, pushing their crossed blades against his neck, the Outsider's mark shining bright on his left hand through the black leather of his glove. “That won’t work against me, Corvo.”
Corvo pushed him off and lunged forward, blade aimed at Daud’s throat, but Daud was fast on his feet, dodging and answering with a lightning-quick riposte. Corvo hissed as the knife cut into his forearm, took a step back, looked for an opening to blink through, but Daud relentlessly pressed his advantage, carving away at his defenses.
“Why are you fighting? For your dead Empress? For the men who poisoned you and left you to die?” Daud snarled. “Go on, strike as if you mean it!”
Corvo swung wildly at him with the blade, but the blow was easily parried. His muscles ached with fatigue, and the world slowly bled back into colour as the effects of his magic wound away. A shot from the small crossbow on Daud’s wrist darted past him, grazing his cheek. Panic welled up as he continued to lose ground, inch by inch, Daud slowly cornering him against the wall. The other assassins stood around them, poised to strike, merely waiting on Daud's word to do so. Outnumbered, his powers rendered inert, equipped only with a knife, Corvo knew he could only last so long before—
The dull edge of Daud’s knife came down hard on the knuckles of Corvo’s right hand, forcing him to drop his blade. Corvo leaned back, curling his left fist to blink away, but Daud caught his feet with a wide sweep of his leg and, with his free hand, grabbed Corvo by his neck. Corvo fell to the ground on his back, hands clawing at the grip around his throat, but the knifepoint held an inch away from his eyes made him go still.
There was a pause, in which both of them were silent aside from his laboured breathing. Daud had him pinned down, knees straddling his waist, and Corvo could do nothing but bare his teeth at him.
Daud was the first to speak. “I don’t want to fight you, Corvo,” he said, sounding weary.
“You killed her,” Corvo said, barely holding back angry tears. “You killed her.”
“Yes, I killed her. I wish I hadn’t done it, but I can’t take that back,” Daud replied, before lowering his sword, then releasing the grip on Corvo’s neck. He sat back on his heels, allowing Corvo to sit up, and Corvo immediately reached for his disarmed blade and held it up against Daud’s neck. To his surprise, Daud didn’t move away, only tilted his chin up as if to offer easier access to his throat.
“Why do you want to help me?” he whispered, sounding desperate even to his own ears.
“When I killed the Empress...something broke inside of me,” Daud answered. “She was different. She didn’t deserve what I did to her.”
“You said it yourself. There’s nothing you can do to change that.”
“Yet I still regret it.”
“W—why should I care about some old man and his regrets?”
Daud stared at him, eyes cold and hard, unwavering, even as the hand holding a blade against his throat shook with ill-concealed anger. “Because you need me, if you want to save your Emily.”
The image came unbidden in his mind, Jessamine lying in a pool of her own blood, red bubbling in her mouth, dying, she won't stop dying—
“Because you’re alone and betrayed, with no shortage of enemies to destroy,” Daud continued. A small line of blood trickled down his neck from where the edge of Corvo's knife dug into his neck.
YOU CANNOT SAVE HER YOU CANNOT SAVE HER YOU CANNOT SAVE HER
“Let me help you destroy them.”