The Vileness of Man: Mission Eighteen — The Deadly Seven
By the time Corvo awoke in his brother's estate, the sound of birds praising the day's beauty had already begun to fill the surrounding air. He opened his eyes and lifted his head, and a piece of parchment immediately darkened his view. As he tore it from its stuck position on his forehead, he instantly realized that he had spent the entire night at his desk. Embarrassed by the notion, the lord protector quickly grasped his sword and revealed the blade with a flick of his wrist, using the glint of the steel as a mirror. His face flushed a bright ruby red as he saw dried backwards pen marks branding his forehead, which he hastily scrubbed off before putting away his sword. Let no one ever say that he didn't have conviction, for when one awakes to find the evidence of their works marring their flesh, it becomes obvious just how either dedicated or insane that person truly was.
As Corvo scrubbed his head to clean off the wording, he remembered last night, and he remembered Camille. He truly did not understand his luck with women, for whenever he tried to pursue one romantically, even if it was just for a night, he never seemed to have any fortune. And yet when he didn't attempt or didn't even want the affection from another he always seemed to attract it, whether good or bad. Even Callista had refused his half-serious advance all those years ago, but it still reaffirmed his trouble with the female species. Hopefully Camille hadn't informed her husband of her practically sexual harassment. However, it wasn't very likely seeing as she had nothing to gain from telling him. Yet the thought still dominated his mind, as he worried both of the sanity of that woman and the gullibility of his brother.
Perhaps he could try to talk to her before she had the chance to do anything they would both later regret, either by trying to reason with the clearly troubled woman, or with some small fib that would temporarily suit his purposes. Corvo threw on his coat after ensuring he had no more ink staining his flesh and quickly composed his figure before deciding to wander downstairs in hopes of finding the red-headed vixen.
When he opened his bedroom door, the groggy guest realized just how early it actually was. For the birds outside were not singing to embrace the day as he had originally believed, but to aid in the sun's gradual ascent into the sky, its golden rays not yet peeking over the warm horizon. Corvo sighed in disappointment. He needed to stop waking up so early. He was supposed to be on vacation, despite how unwanted or untrue that statement actually was. There was no need to wake before the house's host, or even before the sun. There was no food that needed to be checked for rawness or poison, no patrol logs to oversee and approve. He just needed to relax, to recompose himself and face his fate with some sort of dignity. And if that meant sleeping in for an extra hour or two each morning, well, he had to start somewhere. So he closed his door and went back to bed, this time actually laying down on the goose-feather mattress and allowing its soft folds to snuggly cradle his body. However, sleep never came.
It was so difficult to fall asleep in a foreign setting, especially one so…quiet. Which may have seemed odd, but at least in the Tower there was always some sort of sound to assist in his journey towards slumber. Whether it was the pitter-patter of servant's feet scuttling around the second floor's wooden planks, which sometimes squeaked under their weight, or the predictable resounding of Emily's grandfather clock singing to another hour passed, or even the lulling white noise of the Wrenhaven River crashing against the tower's cliff. Any one of these sounds would have done well to aid his sleep, but instead he was faced with the mere annoyance of chirping birds and incessant drone of waking cicadas to try to trick his mind towards rest. Sleeping in a strange place was a feat for anyone, but even aboard the Albatross the crashing waves against the hull and the familiar melody of the sailor's mantras were enough to put him at ease. After what felt like an hour of staring at his ceiling, Corvo concluded that today would not be the day he changed his routine and opened his door once more to wander the halls until it was time for breakfast.
He hadn't actually had enough time to thoroughly investigate the interior of the manor he was staying within (besides the dining room, bath, and upstairs hallway) and thought that these extra hours would be the perfect opportunity to tour the many rooms he had merely walked past. He quickly discovered that there was one other guest bedroom besides his own, which had a study in place of the small balcony his owned. Immediately upon observing this, he wished he had been placed within it instead, as it would have been much better suited for his writing purposes. Perhaps he could change that later. Although he was located in the West Wing he didn't bother touring its eastern counterpart, because that was where the master suite was located and he didn't wish to wake anyone. At the end of the west hall there was a small prayer niche with a lavish tapestry of the Seven Strictures. Its threading was brilliant crimson satin decorated with a dark border of the Abbey of the Everyman's logo, a capital C with a trident passing through, and possessed golden wording quoting each stricture in eloquent script for a passing viewer to reflect upon. Corvo grimaced as he stared at the words woven into the cloth, reminded of how many times he had broken them to protect his sovereign.
"Stricture I: The Wandering Gaze
Restrict the Wandering Gaze that looks hither and yonder for some flashing thing that easily catches a man's fancy in one moment, but brings calamity in the next. For the eyes are never tired of seeing, nor are they quick to spot illusion. A man whose gaze is corrupted is like a warped mirror that has traded beauty for ugliness and ugliness for beauty. Instead, fix your eyes to what is edifying and to what is pure, and then you will be able to recognize the profane monuments of the Outsider."
Do not covet. Do not fall into temptation, or be naive enough to believe the tricks of the Outsider. How many times had Corvo trusted the capricious god to aid his goals? Despite that he had not chosen to be gifted, he had embraced the life, amplifying his skills through the darkness of the Void. What did "pure" even mean? Surely it could not be tied to the Abbey of the Everyman, for they were as tarnished and corrupt as a slaver's silver, its opulent exterior shrouding its sinister origin. Dismissing this stricture, he continued to inwardly read.
"Stricture II: The Lying Tongue
Restrict the lying tongue that is like a spark in a man's mouth. It is such a little thing, yet from one spark an entire city may burn to the ground. The father of a lie will suffer a punishment compounded by each person relayed it. Better to live a life of silence than unleash a stream of untruth. The echoes of lies come back as the voice of the Outsider."
Do not lie. Do not slander. Do not gossip or spread rumors. Corvo laughed softly as he thought of his and Jessamine's little white lie. Then again, it wasn't necessarily little, nor was it harmless. For they both knew just how much harm could come from the truth and yet chose to ignore that which came from the lie. And as much as he hated to admit it, the Abbey was right about the power of even the simplest of words. However, they would knowingly create falsehoods that would burn homes to ashes, never turning to see those they had scarred if it meant holding back the Outsider for longer. But what were they holding back—the chaos or the freedom?
"Stricture III: Restless Hands
Restrict the Restless Hands, which quickly become the workmates of the Outsider. Unfettered by honest labor, they rush to sordid gain, vain pursuits, and deeds of violence. Of what value are the hands that steal and kill and destroy? Instead, put your hands to the plow, the fork, and the spade. For even the lowliest labor that is rigorous squeezes the muscles as a sponge, rinsing impurities from the mind and body.
"Stricture IV: Roving Feet
Restrict roving feet that love to trespass. They pay no heed to the boundary stones of other men's fields. They wander into foreign lands, only to return with their soles blackened by iniquity. Where have you strayed that destruction now comes behind you? Would you walk across burning coals or broken glass? Then why do you prowl into the homes of the honest, or into the dens of hidden things, for the result is the same. You will fall into the Void! Instead, rest your feet on a firm foundation so that when the winds of the Outsider shriek against you, you will stand firm and not be overthrown."
Do not steal, kill, or vandalize. Stay focused on honest work and do not fall into sloth. Do not trespass or wander without meaning. Surely these actions need not be questioned, for they were based on social principles rather than spiritual cleanliness. Yet Corvo had broken these as well without hesitation, without mercy, and sometimes without regret. He had broken into the homes of the honest and ravaged their belongings to finance his revenge. And though it had been a long time since his own blade had taken a life, many had died through his "passive" actions, and it did not clean his hands.
"Stricture V: Rampant Hunger
Restrict the Rampant Hunger or the intemperate will rise up among you like a virulent swarm, devouring everything wherever they go, even filth. For what goes into your body, poisons you, and if you eat filth then filth is what you will vomit up. Surely the glutton will sell away birthright, family, and friends for a morsel of meat."
Corvo's eyes skipped over the fifth stricture as he did not see it directly apply to his person. For although he was gifted a blessed life, one which starvation was a foreign concept and overindulgence a cultural norm, the sin of Rampant Hunger was one (the only one albeit) that he prided himself in keeping in check. And although he had slipped for a mere moment upon his first arrival within his brother's estate, when the scent of Serkonan meats and spices had momentarily rendered him incapable of manners, this sole act did not make him a glutton.
Unless the Stricture was meant to be taken figuratively, meaning not to indulge oneself too thoroughly into anything, but even then he did not see himself falling too far into most earthly temptation. He always tried to restrain his actions, thinking before acting, weighing the outcomes and making the appropriate decisions. He had not indulged himself with the blood of his victims, and even went as far as to spare one of his greatest enemies. Perhaps there was still some of his soul left to be tarnished, for the only thing Corvo could truly say he had given into temptation with was…
"Stricture VI: Wanton Flesh
Restrict the Wanton Flesh. Truly, there is no quicker means by which a life can be upheaved and sifted than by the depredations of uncontrolled desire. What avail is the concourse of a prostitute? The attention of a loose companion? Nothing. And what of the fruit of such unions? Only sorrow is born, only misery is multiplied; within these things, the Outsider dwells."
Emily. It was the only word his mind could muster as he stared at the last sentence of the threaded wording. The Outsider did indeed dwell within his contagious misery, taunting his disciple to give into his heart's wretched desires. If he ever returned to Gristol, no, when hereturned, would his empress still leap into his arms? For he had abandoned her, and though it was not his intention to bring her sorrow, he doubted she would forgive his disappearance so easily. Perhaps her certain anger would be for the best, as what fruit would bear from their licentious misdeeds? Their trysts could never be known; nothing could come from their love besides inevitable despair, but this did not stop him from selfishly dragging his empress with him into the Void.
Was he really a sinful man, or was sin just another term to turn the masses into mindless sheep, incapable of making even the simplest act of free will without the command of their righteous shepherd? For even a truly wicked man may absolve the most heinous action with the correct words and right amount of coin. And while those with blessed finances were not completely excluded from the burn of the Abbey's gaze, they typically did not need to worry about the weight of their soul. Corvo knew he was damned. He had accepted that fact when the Outsider had first marked his hand and placed Jessamine's beating heart into his grasp. As he glimpsed upon the last stricture, a sense of relief washed away his troubled façade and his scowl lifted into a smirk.
"Stricture VII: The Errant Mind
Restrict an errant mind before it becomes fractious and divided. Can two enemies occupy the same body? No, for the first will direct it one way, and the second another, until they stumble into a ditch. Likewise, two contrary thoughts cannot long abide in a man's mind, or he will become weak-willed and subject to any heresy."
Do not question the faith, for it is good. The mind leads the soul into temptations upon which the Outsider preys. So be mindless, for within unwavering faith lies the path to true salvation and deliverance from the Void. Be blind to the world, ignorant of knowledge or free thought. For in these lies the Outsider, an entity that no one within this plane can ever comprehend, and in that lack of knowledge lays hate and in that hate lays fear. For the ambiguous god and his dark magic represented an uncontrolled chaos. However, not all chaos was necessarily evil, nor can (or should) everything be controlled. A summer storm which causes great destruction will be remembered as horrid, yet nature does not make mistakes and even her most violent actions are not inherently evil. Such is the same with the Outsider. No one, not even Corvo, would deny that the magic the entity resonated has caused calamity, but is it the magic itself which has harmed, or those who have possessed it? Like a gun which kills, it is not the bullet which is wicked, but the man who pulled the trigger. So why try to control nature? Why blame the bullet? This was the Abbey's downfall, for their minds were plagued by fear of these things and instead of embracing the unknown they punished it with fire.
Corvo's stomach loudly growled and he clutched it with his marked hand. Though he knew breakfast probably wouldn't be for another hour or two, it didn't quiet the rumblings in his belly. Perhaps he could go bother some of the servants working early in the kitchen for a quick snack, something small to hold him over until Drusus and his wife decided to wake. Moving back from the insidious wall scroll, Corvo took a sharp turn and entered the west tower that the prayer niche was connected to. This tower served as the manor's library, a spiral staircase wrapping around walls of leather-bound books and records, with small seating areas on the upper and lower floors. When he got to the bottom and exited the tower, he found that he was in the grand foyer and that directly across from him, on the far right side of the foyer, was the dining room. Surely the kitchen was behind the dining room or at least very close to it, but as much his stomach willed him to venture forth he didn't really want to conclude his tour there. There was still a first floor to discover, so he wandered behind the grand staircase in the middle of the marble entrance hall and found a few more rooms.
Directly behind the stairs was a grand room that could maintain a vast amount of guests for a party, which had a massive fireplace against the far wall and doors which led to an outside back porch. The room could be viewed from atop the grand stairs, and yet the fact that Corvo had not noticed it when he had rushed to save the screaming servant only reaffirmed how much of a dash to get away from Camille he had actually been. To the left of this room was a smoking room, and to the right a sitting room that also connected to the porch. There was also a service stairwell tucked into an eastern tower close to the dining room that ascended to the upstairs east wing and descended to the servant's wing.
Another audible growl echoed from the lord's stomach and his faced grimaced as he looked back towards the kitchen. He just needed something small to pick at, a single fruit, a piece of bread and jam, something simple that wouldn't spoil his appetite. As he grew closer to the kitchen, the earthy smell of strong espresso and the sugary scent of fresh fruit enticed his senses. He could hear the sound of knifes knocking against cutting boards and water splashing in hot pans, leaving a trail of steam whisking into the hall. The flaking of fresh bread and whipping of delectable eggs made his mouth salivate, and as he reentered the foyer to turn into the dining room, there was a knock at the front door.
Corvo stopped dead in his tracks. Who could possibly be at the door this early in the morning? Perhaps it was a delivery for the servants, an order of fresh milk or fine produce, but why would a delivery happen in front? None of the deliveries came into the front at Dunwall Tower, why would it be any different here? Either way, a maid would answer it, for it would be unmannerly for the house's guest to do it himself. There was another knock, three more times and even louder. Then again, Camille had answered the door when Corvo had first showed, so maybe it was the duty of the houses' owner to answer their own door, however strange that sounded. But both of them were asleep and none of the help seemed to be ceasing their duties to welcome this strange visitor, leaving Corvo to stare flustered at the entryway. "Fuck it, what was the worst that could happen?" he thought as he marched across the marble floor and answered the door.
A lone man stood in the entrance's arch, with no buggy or any other mode of transportation to hint as to how he had suddenly appeared. He was dressed in simple attire, a white linen shirt, black pants, boots, and gloves, cloaked with a frayed crimson overcoat. His black receding hairline was neatly slicked back, with a few unruly strands curling into the air to further compliment his mysterious exterior. An aloof gaze completed his rugged complexion, that was, until he saw Corvo. For in that moment his emerald eyes flashed open and a sinister smirk curled the long scar that tore through his right eye. The Lord Protector's heart dropped into his roaring stomach as he stared at the familiar face, instantly grabbing onto his sword and revealing the hidden steel. One word was all Corvo could foster as his mark began to glow and knuckles whitened around his blade's hilt in a long-forgotten fury.
I'm alive? … I'M ALIVE!
So, I'm back. And yes, I realize I took a five month break. Honestly, I just couldn't look at this, or any, of my stories until this week. I had just burnt myself out on writing, just like a brand new song you listen to too much until you suddenly find yourself hating it. And then you don't listen to it for months and when it comes on the radio randomly you realize just how much you liked it. Same thing goes for this story.
So I've returned, although don't expect me to be as active in posting chapters. It'll probably be more like 1-2 a month instead of once a week. I realize my long hiatus has probably lost me some followers and I'll have to live with that consequence, but if I could ask you to review this chapter just so I know how many people have remained, that would be swell.
PS: Yeah, Daud makes his first appearance! I haven't played either Knife of Dunwall or the Brigmore Witches, so I won't go into much detail concerning those events. I did watch the endings on YouTube though, as well as reading walkthroughs, so I have a rough gist of what happened. If any of you have played either of these DLCs and wish to fill me in on certain things I should keep in mind when trying to write Daud, please send me a pm. Luckily my story takes place 7 years after everything, so I have a lot of leeway when it comes to time-lining things. Yay.
Tl;dr I'm back again, please review.
Edit 09/03/13: Changed a sentence in the paragraph after Stricture IV. I temporarily forgot that Corvo didn't technically kill anyone in my story's playthrough (Clean Hands, no Ghost), although he lead to the deaths of his victims.