Madelyn’s worked in the Tower for nearly five years. She’s seen more than her fair share of goings on, upstairs and downstairs, thank you very much – and that was before the Empress was killed. More peaceful under Empress Jessamine, but there’d still been plenty of happenings.
Not that Madelyn’d ever tell of them. She’s got a reputation these days, and it’s one of unusual discretion. Something to be proud of, and it certainly let her keep her tongue and head and position when Hiram Burrows was... in charge. Every resident in the Tower knows that if you want your sheets changed without anyone else knowing, Madelyn’s the one to ask. It earns her a healthy bonus, and doesn’t she need it with a mother, grandfather and two nephews to look after? Plague didn’t spare her brother, and Outsider only knows where their mother took herself off to.
(She doesn’t think the Outsider’s name too loudly. Empress Emily’s a little more lax in following the Everyman’s strictures, but that doesn’t mean the Abbey isn’t watching. One day, Madelyn’s sure, she’ll slip up.)
All that said and done, Madelyn still can’t help noticing.
Lord Protector Corvo had never struck her, before, as any particular sort of a man. He’d been quite nice, really – the Empress’ lover, they all said, and looked to Madelyn to tell but, well if she knew that was one secret Madelyn would never even think about – but that was before he was taken to Coldridge and before they’d put him to irons and fire and-
Madelyn didn’t like to think about it.
He smiles at her in the corridors. He smiles to their new Empress – his daughter, so they say, little Emily Kaldwin, and who’s to prove yes or no – but.... But they do say he wears a mask, sometimes. That he was the masked man who roamed the streets those few terrifying weeks, the masked man who tore down the Empire Hiram Burrows made for himself.
Madelyn doesn’t know about that.
She does know that when she changes his sheets, they’re often soaking wet. Like he’s put them in the bath, which would be strange enough, except the water’s never soaked through to the bed beneath. Once, she stripped them off and thick, oily fluid came off with them, viscous and blue, and it left her hands stained for days afterwards. It hadn’t come off no matter how much she scrubbed. She’d had to wear gloves until it suddenly faded, and hadn’t like to touch anything much ‘til it had.
She doesn’t talk about it to the other maids.
But when her mother suggests they leave Dunwall, Madelyn leaps at the chance.
The thing is he’s never been very lucky. His Mam always coos and laughs whenever anyone mentions it, but Lucky really and truly feels it. It’s like a joke. A big joke, played on him, always.
He’s currently sandwiched between two bookshelves, trying not to breathe. The Lord Protector just entered the library. He’s not alone. Lucky can’t tell who he’s with, but uh, well, it’s pretty damn obvious he’s not alone.
The noises are. They’re certainly happening.
The Lord Protector can’t talk anymore, but he can apparently make really-
Lucky covers his ears. He can still hear the squelching. It seems weirdly... loud. And much. And for some reason he can hear whalesong too, really loud and it’s not like he’s unfamiliar with whalesong because Da was a whaler before he was a Hatter and before he was dead, and he used to take Lucky out to sea sometimes.
(Lucky still has nightmares about the whales. Their big round black eyes, so sad and mournful, and their singing that just won’t stop.)
The singing is actually worse than the other noises. Lucky has to cover his nose and mouth and even then, he can feel bile clawing up his throat, practically taste the whale oil in the air-
Thunder rolls outside, and he can hear a voice in his head and in his ears and it sounds like whalesong and screaming as it utters the name, “Corvo.”
The head librarian reprimands him sharply for vomiting in the stacks later, and sends him home because he looks contagious.
Lucky never goes back.
Ket doesn’t think he knows they’re there. Fair enough really. Most people don’t know Ket’s there, and that’s the way Ket likes it. But the dogs know he’s there, and what the dogs know Ket knows, on account of how all the dogs started whining and growling and fair woke Ket up and it’ll be hell to get ‘em all back to sleep now.
Ratter snaps when Ket touches her. She’s always been a bit jumpy though, and she whines right proper a second or two later, ears slick back against her head; all the dogs huddle back against the kennel mesh, eyes big and teeth bared, spines curved round so tight as to put their tails all the way up between their front legs, ‘cept for Stumpy and him only because his tail’d been bit clean off when he was a pup.
Ket hushes at them, and eases open the kennel door. Ain’t too light out yet, and the door doesn’t creak on its hinges for once. Dell snarls as Ket slips out, and is immediately snapped at by the rest of the pack. Him what’s disturbed them doesn’t seem to notice. There’s talk instead. It rings weirdly in the kennels, bouncing strangely off the tin and wire-mesh. Doesn’t sound quite right. The dogs shudder all over.
Ket keeps to all fours as they approach. Close to the ground, easing along like a pup desperate for that last little sneak of milk. Ket’s always been good at dog language. They freeze on all fours when he laughs, something about it echoing oddly. Shadows in the sky look weird too – ain’t too light out yet, but... but shouldn’t be light out at all, by Ket’s reckoning. Something strange going on here.
Not too many people round the kennels anyhow, and him- him as is what is not alone, that’s what. Ket recognises him, more’s the pity. He’s a nob. Right fancy, proper high up. Ket keeps hidden behind the bins, but they know that coat. Mr Corvo. He’s... not so bad for a nob. Not so bad. Not the one doing the talking though.
It’s the other one Ket’s not so sure on. Never seen him before, and Ket’d know him by sight and smell and more things besides. All the hairs on Ket’s arms and legs are standing up just to look at him. No wonder as the dogs were scared. Even old Whaler, bless his bones, would’ve paused when faced with him.
He leans down and kisses Mr Corvo. The dogs are whining, and Ket can taste something sharp and iron in the air. Mr Corvo looks like... like the dogs used to do when the Overseers came ‘round and put stuff in their food. Foaming at the mouth, and as like to kill themselves as each other, but blissed on it. Old Whaler’d gone out that way.
He looks just the same somehow. Blissed on it too, Ket thinks, but there’s a storm in the air now, sharp as knives.
“My dear Corvo,” he says, and Ket shudders to hear his voice.
Ket creeps back to the kennel and huddles down amongst the dogs.
(His voice still rattles round their head. It will until they die.)
The Lady Aisling never speaks about what she saw that night in the Tower of Dunwall. She does, however, write it down, immediately upon taking permanent residence at the summer house in Serkonos. She knows she can never return to Dunwall, nor even to Gristol.
(Her memoirs are found some years later, and mistaken for fiction. They will become something of a bestseller in certain circles.)
She doesn’t bother with setting the scene or anything like that. Even naming her characters is too much effort for her.
The god, she writes, approaches the man as boy and beast both. He is smooth faced and young, and could almost be mistaken for any little lordling, save for the terrible eyes set in his face. I cannot describe them. They are hideous beyond description – to look upon them was to have your very soul struck from your body. She continues, The man kept his eyes averted in obeisance, and in this it must be said that the Lady Aisling could not have been more wrong. But then, she had been ill-equipped to parse what she was seeing.
Her prose faltered as she attempted to describe the god’s other form. Many eyed and many mouthed, she began, like a whale. I could not breathe in his presence. The god was larger than the room we stood in, and yet, it contained all of his immense size. The man laid his bare and naked hands on that immense flank – and at the same time, all he touched was the god’s clothed waist – and it was as if eternity stretched between us, and them.
How shall I describe the movement of those bodies? The god’s clothes melted away, dripping to the floor with whale oil splashes, and his beast form twisted – I feared I should be speared on its barbells, or knocked aside by his might fluke – and the man laughed and seemed as if not to care. Perhaps he was truly mad, to touch a god so irreverently, but-
Her initial account ends there; the rest is lost beneath spattered blue ink, which many consider strange, given that she began writing in black. The last legible words, written in a clearly different hand, simply read, He would not approve, my dear, and are scrawled elegantly on the final page of that first book.
Garret’s been wandering the Tower’s corridors for months now. Every time he returns to the Abbey emptyhanded they send him back to search again. You will find proof, they say. It is there to be found. How many other Overseers have they said that to? How many other Overseers does the heretic Protector allow to search for proof of his blasphemy? They haven’t told Garret and Garret doesn’t ask – he doesn’t actually see many people at all in his day to day roaming.
(Several times he’s stumbled across the heretic Protector, but the man does nothing more than smile at him. It’s unnerving. It feels like he can see through Garret’s mask – through Garret’s face, and into all the thoughts underneath.)
He hasn’t seen a single shrine or bone charm. No-one’s so much as mentioned that name in his presence. It’s possible, Garret thinks, this is a huge waste of time.
Also, he’s lost.
Garret sighs and absolutely does not pull his mask up and scrub a hand over his face in resignation. And if he did do such a thing, he would not have suddenly frozen upon suddenly hearing a creak from behind a nearby door.
Silence reigns for a few seconds, and then there is another creak. As if someone’s leaning on a table.
There can’t be anyone in there. Garret’s been up and down this hallway five times in the last hour. He was just in that room. There wasn’t anyone in there. He would have noticed.
Garret takes a tentative step forward, and the whole world seems to tilt under his feet. He has never been to sea before, but Garret is suddenly and violently seasick – his mask is already half off and it is easy to throw it the rest of the way off, just in time for him to lose his breakfast; Garret watches in mild horror as both mask and breakfast float towards the ceiling.
The door is painted blue and gold. Dark shadows seem to be creeping out from underneath it. Garret can hear, unpleasantly, the obscene noises of someone breaking the Sixth Stricture. There is a tortured, startled sob. It sounds awful, like dying.
Vaguely, Garret thinks this is probably the proof the Abbey’s been looking for.
He opens the door.