So this is going to be my massive attempt at novelizing Dishonored. It'll stay almost entirely true to the game, thought a few small changes. The biggest will be I'm giving Corvo a voice of his own, making him a character like Cole was in inFamous. The rest will be self-explanatory as they come. Thanks to the demand for this story, as well as my own obsession with the topic now, I will continue this story. However, it will be some time before I commit to working on it: I'm still in the process of finishing another long story for Mass Effect, and I want to take care of the followers of that story before I move on. Apologies for that: I put these chapters out as a test of whether or not people would actually want to read it. Thanks to your demand, I will. Until I really start working on this. ~MGA
Captain Curnow sighs to himself in the slightly-secluded library. He's turned away from the others in the room, toward the bookshelf running along the right wall. He can't allow his men to see how uncomfortable he is: it would frighten them even more than they are. But being in the Office of the Abbey has always had negative effects on the Watch Captain. There's something about the home of the Overseers that unsettles him. He simply doesn't like being here.
It's not the religion, as the other politicians like to believe. In fact, he comes from a long line of faithful members, and he can recite the Scriptures better than any Overseer. He's still a regular practitioner, as is his wife. And it's not the interior or construction. The lush carpets and grand libraries are quite welcoming with sunlight pouring over them from an open window. Even the interrogation room of this floor can't dampen the mood during a good day.
Damned masks. Around every corner, there's another Overseer, carrying a sword and grenade, and hiding his face behind the ceramic craft. They cover all of their skin with masks and gloves, believing it will protect them from the Outsider and his supernatural influences. The deity they oppose is rightfully feared by many and secretly worshiped by the same numbers, if not more. Their cause my be noble, but Curnow hates not seeing a man's face. A mask helps hide his feelings, his intentions and emotions. There's almost no way to read him and know what he's thinking.
"I trust your trip was uneventful?" Campbell asks from behind the Captain. Curnow turns back to the High Overseer, batting away his sudden urge to jump. He didn't expect to have his thoughts interrupted. "I hear the Watch is having trouble holding the side streets."
Curnow has to fight a sneer wanting to escape his lips. He'd like that, wouldn't he? A chance to expand, to put more of his underlings out in the city and let them enforce his will. The Captain doesn't like Campbell, even worse than being here. The old cult leader does not wear the masks of his servants, but he hides even more. He's a politician: no better, and possibly worse. Instead of using feigned kindness to conceal his intentions, he uses the robes of faith. Visits brothels more than churches, prefers to spend coin on fine cloth instead of prayer books. Exactly the kind of 'man' Curnow hates.
But the Captain knows better than to insult him in his home. He's here to play diplomat, so he'll act the part for now. "A bunch of children playing games, that's all it is," he says dismissively. Best not to let Campbell really know how desperate his group is.
The High Overseer smiles in one of those subtle political grins. The kind specially designed to imitate feelings about the welfare of someone you can't stand. "Good, good. And your niece- Callista, isn't it? I'm very concerned for her."
How does this bastard even know of his missing family member? He's made sure that everyone in the Watch knows to watch for her, but he never mentioned it to anyone outside of the force. What's left of this city's aristocracy has devolved into thieving criminals, looking for any way to get a leg up on others. For the politicians to know Callista's missing could be a big problem for all of the Watch. Still, he plays it off the best he can. "She'll be found. My men are searching district by district."
"The poor girl," Campbell answers. His eyes betray how he truly feels about the situation.
Feeling protective of his only next-of-kin, Curnow clenches his fist in anger. Damn this hypocrite. If it wasn't for the fact he had to be here, he would leave the house of religion. Go down Clavering Boulevard, find his carriage, and ride back to the Watch station to get away from the costumed hypocrite. Maybe a small glass of Dunwall Whiskey to ease his rage.
But he can't, not tonight. Last night's incident ties him here until it's resolved. His men tried a harmless prank on the Overseers, something to scare them and end the patrol boredom. When a street whore, chickens, and panicked gunshots got involved, things became much worse. Now there's a dead body, and they must decide what should be done with the officers involved. So he's stuck in this place, dealing with the liar and putting on a nice face for it.
"Callista's a resourceful one. Probably found a safe place to hole up in all this chaos," he declares, relaxing his tense fist. There is a good chance that's true, even if he doesn't believe it. Callista was the smartest in all of her school classes, and the foxiest of his brother's children, rest his soul. After he died, it fell on the Captain and his wife to raise her from the age of seven. It may be something of a blessing, with Amelia's barrenness: Mani's death gave him a child of his own. But that leaves him with a soft spot for the girl, which is something the other politicians may exploit.
Campbell nods. "If my Overseers hear any word of her, I'll come straight to you."
Before the conversation can go any further, the clock strikes midnight. The old man claps his hands together, another theatrical smile on his face. "Time for drinks. I hope you won't refuse: it will make this business pass all the quicker," the High Overseer announces.
Curnow feels a strange shiver pass through him, but attributes it to mere nerves. This building is getting to him more so than usual. "Of course."
The bald leader hunches over the door, fidgeting with the knob. "Locked? One of the servants must've been in here. Let's see..." After selecting the proper piece of iron to insert, the doors open to a grand meeting room. A pair of filled wine glasses sit on the far edge of the long table. "Here we are. Now, if you'll join me. Men, we'll come get you when we're finished. Keep each other entertained in the meantime." The two leaders make separate gestures: the Captain signals his escorts to stay in the library while the High Overseer whisks is fingers in a 'follow' command. The officers and Overseers wait, letting their commanders enter the meeting alone.
The wooden doors slam shut behind Curnow, pulled by the gloved hand of an unseen religious officer. "I don't understand how this got so unpleasant," the Captain explains whilst trying to steady himself. The cold, wet wind of an open window does little to help his frayed nerves. Even the fireplace's best efforts can't make the room inviting.
Campbell shakes his head. "Oh, I agree, I agree. A whore dies, and suddenly this."
He stops just in front of the wine tray, strangely making the Captain circle around him to reach his glass. The High Overseer puts on another false smile. "Will you have wine? It's a Tyvian red."
"I suppose a drink couldn't hurt," Curnow surrenders. Alcohol might help his hands' shaking. It must be the draft, along with the usual discomfort of being here.
Campbell reaches for his glass, then jumps back with a grunt. A long green arrow sticks from his chest an inch below his heart. The feathered shaft points to the ceiling and the shooter's position. Curnow reaches for his sword out of reflex and training. But before the blade can even leave its sheath, a warm body presses against his back. One of the assassin's hands pins the sword arm to his side. Cold metal slides across his throat, the razor edge of steel barely digging into his skin. Curnow freezes, accepting Death as it comes without a sound.
But it does not take him. Blood does not flow from his severed neck, no hands twist the fragile bones of his neck, no blast of a pistol signaling his leaving of this world. The Captain waits a heartbeat, then another, then three more. All he can note is the silence of the room, like the city itself is waiting for the opera's climax.
The sword against his neck is inched away until Curnow can breathe safely. "Silence," the owner orders in a whisper. His hushed tone is almost buried in the fire's crackling, but would instil fear in any man's heart. "I know the Overseers and your men lie beyond the door. But I have no quarrel with them: my business is with you and Campbell. Do we understand each other?"
Curnow swallows, thinking of his next actions. This assassin, this disembodied Voice, is fast. More so than himself or any man on the Watch. He would die first, his men joining him before his body hits the floor. With luck, maybe he can fall on the sword and spare the loyal officers. "I understand," he concedes.
The Voice's grip loosens. "Good. Now place your pistol and sword on the table. Quietly, please." Odd for a killer. Why let your target have such freedom, allow him to even touch his weapons? What kind of assassin is this?
Pushing those thoughts aside, Curnow removes the weapons with the free hand. They find their way to the table with only the slightest clink. His eyes never leave the door, praying no one enters.
The Voice shows his speed again. In two blinks' time, his hand slips to the armaments, pushes them to the far end, and grips Curnow's again without a sound.
"Thank you," he murmurs. "I will release you in a moment. Do not attack me or reach for your weapons. Bend over Campbell. You will be surprised." As promised, the blade returns to its owner, and the Captain's wrist is released. Is this some kind of joke? Or is he bragging, showing his dominance over them? The officer decides to obey the Voice, still curious to the reasons, but not enough to wager his life in finding out.
The High Overseer hasn't moved from his fallen position, the green arrow still protruding from his stomach. Curnow takes a step towards the downed leader and stares in confusion. What does the Voice want him to see, other than a poisoned corpse? He covers the distance between them and hunches over to inspect the body. Before he can see anything of note, a faint snoring reaches his ears. Campbell still lives, though he seems to be out cold. "Why didn't the dart kill him?" he asks quietly. Talking above a whisper may anger the Voice.
"A special coating and a small head on the arrow," the assassin explains. "The same medicine used to numb a man before tooth pulling, though far more potent. The blade only went an inch below the skin. His head will throb when he wakes, but that will be the least of his concerns."
"What kind of assassin puts his target to sleep?"
"At what time did I call myself an assassin?"
Curnow finally musters the courage to risk a peek at his attacker. It starts as a brief glance, but becomes an unblinking stare. His features are hidden behind a metal mask, one far more sinister than those of the Overseers. He appears as a skull, with wire for teeth and glass lens instead of eyes. Black cloth runs beneath the steel to conceal the skin of its owner. All but his hands are hidden by a dark blue cloak and hood. With a sword in hand, Death itself is gazing back at him.
Without acknowledging the fear in the Captain's eyes, the Mask grabs the wine glass closest to him. "You saw how Campbell guided you to this drink, almost pushed you towards it?"
He had noted it in his mind, though made nothing of it. Overseers are quite particular about their rituals. On four separate occasions, his escorts have demanded a different path based on the movements of a cat. "It was not the first time. Though it appears it will be his last."
"You are correct," the Mask laughs. Something in his voice sounds an alarm in Curnow's brain. One that does not signal knowledge, but a general warning of remembrance. "But there was more to it. Your wine was poisoned. Campbell tired of a righteous man impeding his progress."
Curnow shakes his head in doubt. "Campbell have never seen eye-to-eye, but that's not enough to murder me. Why should I take the word of a masked man, particularly one who shot the High Overseer?"
"I'm pleased to see you haven't changed." With a swift hand, the Mask captures a rat from the darkened corner. The Captain didn't realize it was even in the room with them. "This one does not carry plague," he says while forcing wine down the creature's throat. "If you still fear illness, Campbell has two elixirs in his breast pocket."
Despite the assurance, Curnow sips his own vial of Sokolov's concoction. Better to be safe than sorry with this damned Rat Plague. With half of the glass ingested, the rodent is released to the ground, where it immediately tries to flee. But within the first eight steps, its staggering and shaking reveal something wrong with the creature. His captor simply watches from where he stands, Curnow doing the same in mild fear. Before the rat can reach the safety of a vent, its body surrenders to whatever was in the wine. It falls on its side, twitches a final time, and remains still.
The Captain's eyes grow wide at the evidence. There is no way this man could have poisoned the drink since he has been in the room. It must have been done before. "How did you know?" he asks quietly.
"Listening to the maids," the Mask explains. "The one who planted the poison confided in her friend. Campbell forced her into his bed, then into this. She and her family were to be burned as witches if she disobeyed. I will not lose sleep over his fate."
Curnow starts to speak, but bites his tongue in thought. There is too much to process, to understand in such few moments. Campbell's corruption, the attempt at his own life, an "assassin" denying the title and standing before him. His mind races for answers. The largest question, besides his own survival, still hangs in the air. "What's going on, assassin? You have some kind of reason for all this. Why leave Campbell alive, why show me the poison? Why show me anything?"
The cloaked attacker turns to Curnow. "To establish a certain trust, Geoff," he says, now at a normal tone. A dozen alarms ring in the Captain's brain as it tries to recall the particular memory. "I remember how you hate a man who hides behind a mask."
His left hand pushes the hood back. A strange symbol is on his skin, like a tattoo that seems to glow. With the cover gone, his other hand grasps the wire teeth and pulls down. Long black hair falls to his shoulders, almost hiding his face. But his pale skin shines through with a ghostly aura, a reaper's scythe scar above his left brow that's slightly raised and darker than the rest of his flesh. He has a long, narrow face that speaks of his Serkonan bloodline. And yet, the feature that most tells his identity is his light green eyes, the old compassion in their irises. Corvo Attano, former Lord Protector. Killer of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin.
"Murderer!" Curnow tries to shout, lunging for his blade and pistol. But only the first syllable reaches the air. Attano's own sword presses against the Captain's throat, close enough that a cough would end his life, while the free hand grabs Curnow's wrist.
"Never. Call me that," Corvo commands. His voice is soft again, but a new fury is taking over. Rage burns in his eyes, daring any and all to challenge him. "Do not call me a killer, nor murderer, nor assassin. I am not any of these."
Curnow's own anger gets the better of him. "The Empress would not agree."
Corvo loses control. He grasps the Captain's neck with strength that would shatter an Overseer's mask, then forces his captives back onto the table. "I did NOT kill Jessamine," he declares quietly. "The Outsider himself could not make me lay a finger on her. I never hurt Jessamine Kaldwin."
A deep pain is barely concealed in the hushed tone. Not that of a guilty man's, but Curnow is not sure how to describe it. This pain comes from a source he's never encountered before, even in all his years on the Watch. Regardless, it is clear accusing Corvo of murder will only leave Curnow's body on the floor. He decides to use this, to play with the delusion. "What proof do you have? You were alone with the Empress and Lady Emily, and only you carried a sword."
Corvo releases his captive. He clinches his fist on air, then backs several steps. "Try to remember the day she died, Geoff. Think about where her blood was. What was on me? A large pool on my chest, where I pressed against her as she died. But there was no spray, nothing to show I was in front of her when she was stabbed. And my sword was still silver. How could I have taken her life and cleaned my blade before your men arrived? Surely you heard the pistol shots. I fired twice, none of them hitting Jessamine or a stone column. You must see the holes in the Regent's story."
The Captain did not have to think hard: he had lived that day many times in his dreams. He had questioned how he had not seen Corvo's deception, his treachery before he killed the Empress. When he thought of the Watch dragging the unconscious Lord Protector away, the story of blood rang true. His blue shirt had been stained by blood in one small puddle, just as a medic's after saving a wounded man. And while the sword was still in its sheath, not even a drop was on the handle. It was curious, but not enough to change his convictions that Corvo had killed her. He decides to continue the questions, to keep Attano satisfied. "Then who was the assassin? Again, you were the only one there."
"I know less of him than your men," he sighs. The former Lord Protector places his fingers across his forehead. "You have a bounty for his group, the Whalers. Five of them attacked, four masked men and their red-cloaked leader."
Wanted posters flash across the Curnow's mind, settling immediately on the one in question. "These assassins, did they wear masks from slaughterhouses?"
"With bows hidden at the wrist and movement like shadows," Corvo explains. "The Outsider has granted them powers. I've seen them disappear in a blink. Their leader is the strongest: I would wager he is the reason for their magic."
"Daud," Curnow says before he can catch himself. What the Hell is this, Captain? Are you starting to believe him? It's a story, one created by a guilty man. That's all it is. Attano still killed the Empress: there's no other real explanation. And yet, it does ring true in certain facts. His own men have given similar tales of the Whalers. How could Corvo know this without seeing it himself?
He tries to banish these thoughts from his mind. He has to keep Attano going with his story, to save his men. "We know his name, but not his face or where he hides. The city has too many places for those like him to scurry about."
Attano nods to himself. "So that is his name... He was the one to end Jessamine. One of his men pinned me to the wall with Void magic while he killed her. They took Emily, and then they were gone."
Curnow shakes his head. "That doesn't make sense. Daud is an assassin: he doesn't kill unless paid. Who could afford him to eliminate the Empress? Who would want her gone?"
"I know who, but not his reasons," Corvo explains. "The Lord Regent, as he calls himself now. Hiram Burrows was the man behind it all. Campbell was a part of it too, and I suspect the Pendleton twins. But the Royal Spymaster planned Jessamine's killing."
While that does make some sense, Curnow refuses to believe it. Too many things simply don't add up. Every story he knows, Corvo's and Burrow's, have too many holes in them. Attano's has the most. "Burrows doesn't crave power enough to justify that. Why would he kill the Empress during a plague? She held us together during the onset of the plague: her death has only created problems."
"I said I don't know." Attano is gaining anger again. It seems to be triggered by the mention of the Lord Regent, rather than Curnow's disbelief. "But he confessed to my face. Knowing I was to be killed today, after I was burned and beaten by the Royal Interrogator for the thousandth time, he said that no one will ever know the truth. I will prove him wrong. All of Dunwall, all the Isles, will know his crimes. I will make sure of that."
Now the Captain is truly questioning things. He has been a judge of truth much of his life, and he has excelled. Seldom has a man lied to him and gotten away with it. But all of Corvo's words have rang honest with him. All of the facts he has pointed to paint a strange picture, one that does not cast a favorable light on the Lord Regent. It is not enough for him to arrest Barrows, not by far. But it does challenge many of the convictions he's held for the last six months. "Let's assume you're telling the truth," Curnow starts.
"I am." Corvo interrupted him, a strong conviction in his voice.
"That remains to be seen. But let's assume: what do you want from me? I won't arrest Burrows, I can't. I can't pardon you, either. There is no aid I can offer you, especially with what you have done to Campbell. So what do you want?"
It is here that Corvo truly surprises Curnow. His blade folds into itself, and is then tucked into a small pouch at his hip. A small crossbow tries to reveal itself from under the cloak, but only a piece is shown. Corvo looks at the Captain with sorrowful eyes. "I wish for you to listen, Geoff," he pleads softly. "You are one of few people I know are honest. Since Jessamine's murder, things have been trying. I was framed and thrown into a prison with true murderers, beaten daily for a confession. My escape has forced me to trust men I don't know, to become a thief in the night. I have spoken to no one about what I've been through. I have not been asked for my story. I want to know someone else has heard what has happened to me. Please... allow me this."
Curnow feels pity for the man. His tone speaks of pain and sorrow, one he can't help but compare to. Amelia knows how the burden the Watch places on him. Each night, he lays in her arms and explains what he has gone through. As much as he wishes it wasn't so, keeping that locked away would drive him mad. And even if the Lord Protector is lying, it can't hurt his chances of survival. With any luck, he and all his men can escape this. "I have one question first. If the answer is satisfactory, you may. Why confide in me? We're not exactly friends, Corvo. I hardly know you."
Attano looks at him with determined, truthful eyes. "But you are honest. Before our travels to ask for Dunwall's assistance, I understood that. You are the only politician that does not lie for some hidden agenda. You are a true officer of the Watch: you wish for justice and truth. Jessamine applauded you for this, as do I. I trust you, and that is enough. All that I ask is that you listen to me."
Curnow manages a nod, but little else. "I understand. Speak your story, Corvo. I make no promise that I will believe you, but I will listen."
A relieved smile grows on Corvo's face. "Thank you, Geoff."
The Lord Protector places his mask on the table, then retrieves a pair of chairs. He places them facing each other, alongside the table and the wine. He makes no effort for the drinks, or to even move the weapons farther away from their owner. Corvo is placing a lot of trust in the Captain. "Please, sit," he offers.
Curnow accepts, though takes the seat farthest from the sleeping Campbell. Attano has no problem with the body behind him. "Where would you like to begin?" the Captain asks.
"Our arrival in Dunwall, if I may," he says. "Then skip to my final day of captivity. I will stop when I enter this building. It is not a long story, but I must tell it. As soon as I am done, you will be free to leave. Is that satisfactory?"
The officers Curnow brought with him are expecting the meeting with the High Overseer to last for several hours. They should be fine to wait. "It does. May I ask questions, if the need arises?"
"Stop me if you think of one. I will tell this story from my perspective, through my eyes. I apologize if it is... disconcerting."