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The Incline

Chapter Text

 

“The huge dragon, the ancient serpent

An ancient leviathan,

Who is called the Devil and Satan

And the Outsider

Who deceived the whole world,

Was thrown down to earth

And its angels were thrown down with it.”

Revelation 12:9


i.

It’s been days since he’s last heard from the Outsider. Every night over the past few days, when he expects to wake up in the Void with the Whale God’s piceous gaze prodding him, baiting him, all the while as the Mark burnt far too hot for comfort, instead he wakes the next morning, relishing the waking haze of his dreamless and thankfully uneventful sleep.

Sometimes, Emily sits on the foot of his bed, even reading against his legs and the warmth is something he wakes up to.

Even in his relief, he cannot help but feel apprehensive of the Leviathan’s lack of overwhelming contact. Perhaps, that the god had lost interest?

Corvo finds himself deflating at the thought for reasons he cannot explain, for reasons perhaps he doesn’t want to know the answer to.

Eventually, the days pass, Emily settles in with life at the Hound Pits, and everybody adores her. Corvo smiles at the thought of her ruling peacefully once this was all over. Havelock and Martin continue with the planning the next phase of his mission, solidifying exactly what it is that they want him to do, since the ride of the Pendleton twins at the Golden Cat’s happened almost a week ago. Treavor Pendleton still speaks to Corvo in a restrained voice that sounds thin from impatience and instead it is Wallace who tells Corvo to keep his distance.

Corvo still remembers the overwhelming cloud of perfume that was far too much like the stench of rotten flesh from the sewers that the courtesans forcibly wore by Madam Prudence’s command. He remembers the girls and their misery. Some of them have held on to each other for support, and they’ve danced in each other’s embraces while others revelled in their solitude, taking drags of their age-old cigarettes. Corvo had only come to finish off the Pendletons and get Emily out. He had not expected that misery, and her voice telling him more secrets than he’d wish to know had not made the mission any easier.

But the Outsider is quiet. And even in this brief respite Corvo’s found, he cannot sit still and his jaw is set on edge. Emily mentions nothing further of her nightmares with the Outsider and Corvo decides that something is truly off.

Once he knows that everyone has fallen asleep, he asks a favour for Samuel for the night, a boat trip to Distillery District.

“I understand things have gotten a bit slow for now, Corvo. I mean, with Lady Emily back and safe, I thought that you’d been okay with relaxing,” Samuel says to him as he boards the boat, fixing his mask back into place as they move from the docks under the cover of the dark sky. “I understand the restlessness though. Times like these, no change is worse than any.”

The boat cuts silently through the Wrenhaven’s waters, away from the lights of the City Watch that’s cast over the river. Samuel navigates the small vessel to nestle at that familiar spit of land where he had waited for Corvo to return with Emily not too long ago.

He smiles behind his mask and claps Samuel on the back. “Thank you, Samuel. I’ll be back soon, I promise.”

“Stay safe, Corvo.”


He doesn’t know what he’s looking for.

The rats are boundless at night, feral, hostile, swarms and swarms, a beast in its own right as they devour corpses and corpses of the dead left by the City Watch. Corvo may have power over them, but even he has learnt to fear the plague and steer clear of it. He keeps himself as far from the ground as possible, avoiding eyes of the Watch and the teeth and claws of the rats. As he sprints across the rooftops, silently, his Vision is sharp as he hold the Heart, her Heart, in his right hand and Blink in the other.

There will be no bloodshed tonight.

He’ll be damn sure of it.

He sees the familiars and he sighs at how used to it he is. Corpses in abandoned apartments, some half-eaten by swarms of rats that guarded their meal dangerously, some of Slackjaw’s men guarding the entrance to the Distillery as per usual, their heads snapping up to the sound of him sprinting and slipping at the roofs, yet they do not see him.

Her voice is silent. He’s taken every rune, every bone charm in this area, kissed the mark for good luck after managing to escape the shrines unharmed, yet all this happened days and days ago. The Heart speaks in unbearable tones of silence to him.

Perhaps it was all for nothing coming here, Corvo thinks. 

Then she screams and he slips from one of the roofs, almost dropping her.

“HE HAS FALLEN. THE VOID IS QUIET BECAUSE HE IS HERE. THE OUTSIDER DOES NOT WALK, HE CANNOT YET.”

He blinks to the safety of a nearby roof, and holds the Heart steady in his fist.

Nothing stands out in his vision, everything is in place, every City Watch guard, every corpse, every rat, every piece of tinned and brined foodstuff that he might be able to partake in, everything is untouched as it was days and days ago.

But he sees someone breathing, past the buildings of Clavering Boulevard, and back further into the apartments closer to the Distillery itself, back at the apartment where he had first met that odd old woman, Granny Rags. He sees someone breathing, slumped against a wall and head lolling to the side.

The Heart beats manically in his hand as he jumps from roof to roof. With arms outstretched as he leaps a gap much too large for his safety, and the overwhelming sound of the rats’ teeth and claws beneath him like tiny gears and cogs and knives sharpening and grinding, ready to tear him to pieces when they begin with his coat—

Corvo blinks.

“HE IS NEAR, AND HE EXPECTS NOTHING. HIS MIND IS BLANK, AND YOU HOPE THAT HE REMEMBERS NOTHING.”

The Heart beats madly in his fist, and the heat that he feels from it is enough singe, but Corvo does not let go. He holds it steady as he kicks open the barricades to the old apartment. There is not the familiar song coming from a rune when nearby, but Corvo knows where to look for the old woman’s shrine.

Even after she’s deserted this apartment, the whale oil lamps still burn brightly.

And so he sees.

The Heart is quiet.

He has to shake himself to prove that he’s not dreaming.

The Leviathan does not sleep. Gods are perpetual, so Corvo’s been told, but to see the curled up figure of the Outsider against lamplit wall, draped in the rich blue fabric that shrines he’s seen are often fashioned out of, Corvo inhales sharply.

“HE SLEEPS. THAT WAS HIS MISTAKE. AND NOW HE HAS FALLEN.”

Corvo stands over the figure of the young man, the god, the Outsider, and notes how soft, how human his features look up close. Even with the whale oil lamps casting their eerie blue glow about the room, something tells Corvo that the Outsider is so much more than abstract right now it this very moment.

He crouches over the sleeping figure, noting the uniform rise and fall of his chest, noting his breathing, something so human which the Outsider proved to be anything but.

Corvo grits his teeth.

His brand grows red hot when he brings his left hand over to shake the god from his sleep. The pain is something he wishes not to feel so he does so quickly.

“Wake up. Wake up.” His own voice is gentle. He’s heard himself wear this tone when Emily was much younger, refusing to go to bed without a story from him. Why he’s using it with the Outsider, he cannot fathom. He respects men when they sleep because he hopes the same of them, but the Outsider is not a man—

Gone is the blackness around his fluttering eyelids, the pit, the void, the abyss. The Outsider blinks up at him. His eyes, all too human, clouded with sleep, are looking blindly up at Corvo.

The Outsider yawns.

Corvo does not breathe and he says next to nothing as he watches the god sit up against the wall, shakily, gracelessly almost, as though godhood was never a glove that he’s worn so well.

“What is this.”

The Outsider’s head, still heavy with sleep lolls to the side as if trying to hear his question again. Was it even a question? His lack of inflection’s made it sound more an expression of exasperation, and the fact that he’s hissed it should be an indication. The Outsider exhales, squinting at him behind closed eyes and brings a hand to his forehead to abate a headache of sorts.

Corvo’s seen that in men who are hungover.

Does the Leviathan even drink?

Before Corvo can utter another repressed exclamation, the Outsider rubs his eyes, his human eyes, and steels himself against the wall, taking slow measures to stand. The rich velvet is in pools around the god’s ankles and Corvo steps back, distancing himself as the Outsider slides out of the tangle of fabric.

He can hear the Outsider’s every breath and it sounds all too human. He hears Samuel breathe like this as their small boat goes ways on the Wrenhaven and he hears Piero inhale in the same manner when the philosopher holds himself steady against the edge of his desk, head cocked as he looks down at one of his blueprints with a critical eye. Cecelia breathes the same when she dusts the bar and shines it clean, and Havelock and Martin and Pendleton share it as well as they speak to each other, of the mission.

The Outsider breathes in time with his own breaths, inhale, exhale, exhale, inhale.

HE HAS FALLEN.

The Outsider holds his gaze steady, and Corvo doesn’t know if he feels more unsettled with these tired eyes staring him once over as opposed to the usual oil-slick black pits that the god’s been poking and prodding him with from the beginning.

The god’s voice, much to Corvo’s unintended relief, still remains to be the smooth monotone, and like his voice, the Outsider’s face clears to form a passive mask.

“Hello, Corvo.”


The Outsider is far from intangible, far from abstruse and Corvo learns of this the hard way.

They traverse the rooftops of the Distillery District's back alleys as silently as Corvo can manage while he supports all of the Outsider’s weight against himself. His right arm hooked around the god’s waist and his left held out to blink at a moment’s notice.

The swarms of plague rats still run rampant on the streets below, and one of Slackjaw’s wayward men has already fallen victim to their feral operations. He can see the bones picked clean.

When the Outsider attempted to walk, Corvo can only be frank to say that it was a disaster.

Swiftly, he caught the god, who did not utter a cry or a yelp or any sound men would make upon falling. His Mark was far from settled and it burns hot as he feels the Outsider’s fists holding parts of his coat severely, like a man would hold onto a rope for dear life. He feels all of the god’s weight against him, the Outsider’s head burrowed against his shoulder, warming it with shaky breaths as attempted to keep himself standing against Corvo.

She told me that you cannot walk.” Corvo hooks one of the Outsider’s arms around his shoulders, and they stand instead, side by side. His hands move to secure the god’s waist and their bodies are warm. He can feel the Outsider’s hand on his shoulder clenching into a fist as they walk gingerly steps.

“Yet. I cannot walk yet.”

The whales have no legs, and Corvo understands the brief setback.

He doesn’t know what he’s doing, taking the Outsider back to the Hound Pits with him. He cannot imagine what the others might think, or how Emily might react seeing the object of her nightmares in the bar nursing a drink. Corvo thinks that perhaps she would not recognize the god, but even with his eyes as human as the rest of them, she is far too clever to be deceived.

He thinks of what reasons he might be able to provide Samuel as to why he’s dragged a crippled survivor (as far as Samuel knew) with him, but for now, Corvo forces them on, quietly so as the guards hear nothing.

He only asks one thing, and he never asks questions. “How?”

How did this happen? How are you a man like the rest of us and not the god that’s been playing games for centuries and centuries on?

The Outsider stops him walking with a gesture as they loom over the entrance to the main strip of Clavering Boulevard, far from the rats and the back alleys of the Distillery and into the paths of the City Watch. They stay on the roof.

And so he understands why he has to take the Outsider back with him.

“I will answer your questions, dear Corvo. But I will only do so when we are out of harm’s way. Back to the safety of your Loyalist allies.

He needs answers.

But he feels more relieved now than he has in the last few days; all from hearing the Outsider’s voice after all that stretch of silence.