Note: I've interpreted the Serkonos language as Italian.
"The Royal Protector, Corvo Attano, is originally from the Isle of Serkonos, making him an outsider in Dunwall. Assigned to serve the Empress as a diplomatic gesture, Corvo loyally serves as a bodyguard and agent."
-Dishonored Official Manual
Her eyes flickered across the name in slight curiosity. Jessamine leaned back to glance upward at the Ambassador with trepidation. "Forgive me Lord Vicci, but this clause here…"
"Your Majesty?" The Ambassador responded, jolting from his reclined position in the large leather chair before her immense desk. He was a small man for a from Serkonan, but Jessamine suspected he was only a half breed from the renowned island. She had also noticed he was a fidgety man. Since he had first bowed to her he had been nothing but nerves and spasms throughout their meeting. Not so reassuring given the situation, but she trusted his Lordship, Rossini, the current reign of Serkonos. It was disappointing Rossini himself could not come to negotiate their treaty, but duties were duties and she acknowledged his need to be with his people. She would see him later during her trip, to be sure.
It was not an unexpected treaty. The main things were there; the important ones. Between the legal garb of the document there was, in fact, the statement that the pirating of her trade ships would stop given a levy of taxes. The banning of certain exports was also being lifted to the ships along the isles that were in current low economic standing; a move that the upper court nobles and businessmen may tilt their noses at, but would benefit Serkonos and Gristol in the long run.
Then there were the small terms of endearment. Gristol was gifting Serkonos a barrage of new ships for their new trading routes. Donations of food rations and wine for the lower towns suffering in the drought were being offered. And of course, Serkonos could now trade whale oil they harvested themselves.
But Serkonos, as Jessamine began to find out more each day, was a traditional land. Traditional was perhaps not the best word. Superstitious was one. Ritualistic was another.
They were offering her Serkonos steel for her armory. Metal with engravings, and beautiful craftsmanship… steel here was an art form and the gift was appreciated if only a novelty. Dogs were another offering, along with leathers, foods, and spices to accompany the promise of ending the pirating. It's not as if Jessamine expected anything more, or substantial. The promise was all she wanted or cared about. Serkonos was small and many things it offered were things she could have anyway, simply because Gristol and Serkonos had already been joined under one rule; hers.c
"This clause here Ambassador," She spoke, leaning back to point a long finger down at the printing. Vicci jumped upward, his hands scrambling to fix his lenses down to his eyes and peer at the treaty upside down as she read aloud. "…to be appointed the hand of Corvo Attano…"
"A gift your Majesty, of course." Vicci attested and when he noticed Jessamine's still confused expression, babbled to explain. "A Hand. Or more known in Gristol as an assassin. The finest in all of Serkonos I assure you. Straight from the Gallows."
Jessamine frowned. The Gallows. Serkonos was traditional in many senses. And ritualistic in ways other high class nobles of Gristol would describe as barbaric. Crime being what it was in Gristol, one could only imagine the crime between pirates and shipped-out fugitives stuck on the ripping heat of a cluster of islands. It was rumored that every man had a personal assassin to off his neighbor and take his land. It was further rumored that this was the only way to move up in society. And from what Jessamine had seen herself, this was not far off the mark. Sleight of hand with blades seemed to be the normal handshake. It only seemed a shame that almost every assassin could be bought out from its target.
The Empress sighed aloud. The courtesy of giving her an assassin was not lost on her. But the idea of taking a man from Serkonos would upset her court. Not to mention if the assassins were like anything she knew, he could only be so reliable. Her trust for him was already about as much as she could throw him, and even less since she had never met the man nor heard of him. "I have no need for an assassin Ambassador." She waved, her hands literally gesturing at the treaty dismissively.
Lord Vicci seemed to think differently if his change in expression and huff of dismay was any indication. "Your Majesty, surely there are those you need disposed of with utmost discretion. There is no shame in such services in my land. We extend the same to you."
"I must insist that I cannot accept an assassin whose loyalties I do not know of-
"Your Majesty isn't insisting that she does not trust his Lordship?"
Damn. So that is what this was about. Not a gift, but entrapment. She could not refuse the gift without showing her distrust to the ruler of Serkonos, and yet she would be accepting a possible spy (or backstabber). Jessamine tried not to glare at the stout man and his thick rolling accent.
Perhaps there was another way around this.
"Not at all Ambassador. But I still have no need for an assassin. Perhaps as another personal guard." She smiled regally, being sure to let her eyes gleam in challenge. "Send this assassin to my guard Captain. Surely there is more work to be found in patrolling my Tower."
Vicci didn't seem pleased, but he didn't protest. It was the perfect solution anyhow. She accepted; and there was no chance of the assassin fulfilling spy duties with her Captain keeping a good eye on him. He merely nodded in acquiesce and Jessamine gladly reached for her quill, signing the clean parchment with flourish.
There. No more stray trade ships, more imports and exports coming into Gristol with potential market, and she avoided having a man from Serkonos stab her in the back without appearing ungrateful.
The cries from the dusty courtyard echoed through the narrow alleyways like wind and the rabble only rose with each passing second.
The skins of bare children blurred in the dust as they screamed and shouted. A barrel of sand kicked up in the air as a child fell to his side, his frail malnourished body struggling to lift up from the ground, leaving spots of muddy red blood in his wake. The boy pushed up to stand shakily on his feet from the fall. Other young boys around him began to form a circle, pointing and screaming and yelling in excitement. The blood dripped from his nose like a faucet, dribbling down his chin.
There was an older boy in front of him, his fist caked with the markings of blood. Proof of his debauchery. He prowled around the young boy, raising his fists quickly and pausing to make him flinch. His child's laughter was filled with malice.
The younger boy raised his weak arms before his head, protecting his face in fear of another blow. Tears streaked down his dirty face and he peeked out at the older boy in helplessness. The crowd of ruffians urged the bully on as he beat on the young boy, blood spattering the dirt and the sound of pounded flesh echoing off the small courtyard.
A clod of dirt smashed into the tormentor's head and he shook his scraggy hair and roared out, looking around the crowd for the source of the interruption. There was a yell and another small boy, with long dirty hair and darker skin leaped out, his arm curling around the bully's neck and tumbling them both to the ground.
The boys clashed wildly, shouts being thrown as much as punches. The newest boy with his long hair used the bully's weight to pin him to the ground. His small fists rose to punch him in the eyes, blood pouring from the orifice after a few strikes. He grabbed tight onto the thicker boys arms and rendered them backward. The crowd roared at the snapping sound of bone and the former bully yelled like a pained lamb as his elbow popped backward unnaturally.
A thunderous shout ceased the crowd's cheering. There were sounds of heavy boots approaching and the children scattered like wildfire. The long haired boy rushed off the broken and beaten bully, quickly helping the smaller bruised victim. Whispers of comfort are barely heard from the shouts of a man approaching the courtyard.
"STOP! You bastard boy!" The shouts call. The smallest victim nods with frightful eyes at his savior before running away. The man approaching is dark with a face full of hair and dirt. He spits as he yells, stepping right over the broken bully to snatch the long haired child. "CORVO! You stupid child of a whore!" He accuses. His great large hands yank Corvo's hair, facing him toward the broken bully. "That's the fourth fuckin' time I caught you! Pezzo di merda!"
The gruff man tosses the boy called Corvo to the dirt. He scrambles, his small hands moving to get away and on his feet but it's too late. A boot smashes into his head and drives him back into the ground. "You think it's fuckin funny to break bones!?"
Corvo spits blood onto the dirt and screams back. "He was hurt! He was too small!"
This only angered the man more. "You shit! Proca troia! You don't respect the pecking order! That boy was getting his lesson!"
"It's not fair!"
The boot pulled back from Corvo's tiny head before kicking into his stomach and turning him over. "Nothing's fair in the Gallows boy! You learn and kill, or you die." He leaned down, pulling the boy up by his neck. "There ain't no protecting in this business nor is there disrespect!"
He held Corvo still as he screamed, yanking him about and glaring at him. The bully on the ground some feet away began whining loudly, the pain of his broken arm and beaten face permeating the courtyard. They ignored him. A glint of light flickered from the man's hands and Corvo's small body stilled as a rusted knife peeked out in the sun.
"Now you little shit, you will learn your placen! No need for words in our business and I won't have you squawking with the others in MY Gallows." He hushed, the blade coming to rest on Corvo's cheeks, pressing into skin with a warning. "So you won't be needin' that tongue anymore."
The screaming in the courtyard didn't last long. Not with the amount of blood seeping from Corvo's small mouth.
Captain Morris tossed the papers down on the mahogany surface and wiped his brow on the fine wool of his regiment coat. "Blast this heat." He cursed. He walked around the tiny desk, cluttered as it was already. The small office was nothing like his own back in Gristol, but it made do for temporary services until the Empress herself decided to return. "I'll be glad to get off this island." He sighed, grabbing a perspiring bottle of whiskey and pouring some in a tumbler before turning to glance at the other men in the room. "Does it get hotter than this?"
Small black eyes looked back at him but did not answer.
The Serkonos man was tall. Perhaps not as tall as others he knew, but tall enough in stature and presence. He would probably seem even taller if he didn't hunch his shoulders so. The clothes he wore were naught but black leathers. Layers of clothing that made Morris sweat just looking at them. His skin was dark and tan and he was dirty. Not too surprising or uncommon for Serkonos people… nor was the long greasy hair. "Would you take a drink-uh…?" Morris leaned over to glance at the papers he had just deposited on the desk, "Corvo?"
The man did not reply.
Morris sighed. Assassins. He knew the Empress trusted him with this new assignment, and he had a duty to keep an eye on this man for her safety and the safety of the Realms. She couldn't very well accept him as her own working directly beneath her. He was Serkonan for God's sake, they were barbaric. Still, now it was his problem and he didn't like one bit of it. "We can't very well work without proper introductions, Corvo. You may not be pleased with your regency giving you over to the Empress but that doesn't mean we are to act like upset children."
"H-He's a mute, sir."
Morris paused, looking over the Serkonos man's shoulder to his guard at the door. He frowned, glancing at the assassin. "What was that?"
"A mute, sir. No tongue." The guard explained, shifting on his feet awkwardly. "The Ambassador said so in his letter. He signs plenty though."
Morris glanced back at the dark man's face that seemed undisturbed by the obvious conversation about him. Mute, unfortunately, did not mean deaf. No wonder they gave him away. However, a mute spy was still a spy. And tongue cutting was not uncommon in the Realm. Especially after the wars with Morley. Mutes were common folk even in Gristol. City Watch had made it a point to give lessons during training to better understand the sick and the old wandering the city. Not that Morris remembered a lot of it. "Alright Corvo…" He began warily. "Let's just get down to it then shall we? You've been assigned to me. Normally I'd put you straight into the barracks to begin the process of being in city watch… but seeing as we are traveling as security for her Majesty, I'll have to bump you to patrolling. I'll have you double up with some other officers so they can teach you the ropes. Patrols along the outside streets of Her Majesty's compound will be the easiest place to lea-"
Morris paused as Corvo suddenly raised his hands, his fingers sweeping the air before him if winding a clock or tracing a painting. They were deliberate movements that Morris followed closely, even as Corvo kept his own eyes on the Captain.
There was no sound from him, but his 'words' made Morris uneasy. "What about Her Majesty?"
His fingers moved again, a bit slower, but equally as deliberate.
'I am her Majesty's hand. Not an officer.'
Morris frowned. "So the treaty said. But the Empress has no need for an assassin. She wished you to be a guard instead, under my command."
'Then I will be a guard under her command.'
"To be frank with you Corvo, I'm not happy about this either. But orders are orders. The Empress has no need for you, so you fall under my authority."
Corvo didn't have to speak for Morris to see how frustrated he was.
"You have a new position now. You will do your duty for the regency under my command. You are no longer part of Serkonos, or their authority. You are under mine and Gristol's control and you will heed the command of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin. Those are where your loyalties now lie." Morris reiterated, hoping to set the assassin straight and break any ties here or thoughts to betray Gristol secrets to Serkonos. "Is that clear?"
Corvo's hard face tightened, his right hand coming out to sign alone in sharp gestures.
'I was to be assigned to Jessamine's side.'
Captain Morris straightened at the informality, his hand coming behind his back as he looked down on Corvo. "I don't think I should repeat myself again. Her majesty assigned you here and you will respect her by her right title and by doing your job."
Corvo Attano signed again, but this time, the Captain didn't quite catch the very quickness of his hands. No matter what he said, he had a feeling it wasn't very nice or happy. The assassin turned on his heel, storming out of the tiny office with a swift movement passed the nervous guard.
Morris sighed, taking a drink from his whiskey. This was bad news all the way around. A Serkonos assassin would not do well in the company of Gristol officers, let alone a man more than half his men would not be able to understand. He had hoped he would be reliable, cordial even, to grant knowledge of the area around them. But… perhaps not.
They had a month or more on this blasted sweltering island. Perhaps by then Corvo would either fall in place, or the Ambassador would take him back.
Or he would betray them and prove Serkonos a false ally.