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Cradle Songs of Comfort and Bones Gnawed By Teeth

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    The Abbey of the Everyman warns against the many horrors of the Outsider. They say he is a dark creature, a monstrous thing birthed from the shadows of the Void to devour the souls of men. They say he lurks in dreams, with eyes like slick pools of oil and the force of an ocean storm in the face of a handsome youth, a boy with dark hair and porcelain pale flesh. He whispers to dreamers, his voice echoing with crackling music and mournful whalesong. He smiles with sharp teeth and to hear him laugh is to fall to madness. They say to dream of him is to lose your soul, to look into those black black eyes and forget oneself, lost for eternity in those black depths.

    To be Marked by the Outsider is to become something other. In whispers the Abbey speaks of the Marked, the twisted soulless things the Outsider touches and takes a part of, only to give something back to them in return. They say the Outsider’s Marked are fey creatures, Void-touched, inhuman. Though they look like men it is only a mask made from the shell of what they were before they were changed. They possess all sorts of unholy and twisted magicks, able to move through space faster than the eye can follow or even meld into the shadows unseen or heard until the shadows themselves move to snatch men away into the dark. No matter their dark gifts, the one thing they all share is the hunger , the thirst for the blood of men. With teeth like knives, they drain men of blood until they are but empty husks, shriveled and dry. They say this hunger is never sated, that they will kill and feed until one manages to burn them until they are nothing but ashes.

    Corvo has never been particularly religious, never much thought of the Abbey. He was rather skeptical of the Overseers in their gruesome masks and their hatred of the Outsider. He wasn’t sure he even believed in the dark god the Abbey preached against.

    But there is no denying the existence of that god now, not when those black black eyes are looking down at him. The god before him is wreathed in shadows and pale as moonlight, and Corvo can’t help but wonder if those oil black eyes can see into his soul.

    “My dear Corvo,” the Outsider, for the being in front of him can be no one else, croons,  “What a sad hand fate has dealt you. The beloved Empress dead, her precious daughter Emily lost somewhere in the city, and everyone thinks you’re the killer, but we know what really happened, don’t we? The Loyalists’ gave you the means to escape Coldridge, to escape execution. In the days to come, Corvo, you will play a pivotal role. This is why I have chosen you and drawn you into the Void.”

    Fingers as cold as ice beneath his chin, tilting his head up, the god leans towards him. “I offer you a gift to help you on your way. Do you accept?”

    Lost in the depths of the Outsider’s eyes, the god’s cold fingers upon his face, he knows there is only one answer. Whatever the Abbey preaches, the Outsider is something holy, divine , and who is Corvo to refuse the gift of a god?

    The Outsider smiles, his teeth like any man’s, except for two delicately pointed, infinitely sharp fangs.

    “My dear Corvo…” the god coos, as Corvo lets his head fall to the side, his neck bared to the deity. There is a flash of pain when those fangs sink into his flesh, but it is washed away by the wave of pure ecstasy that follows. His eyes flutter shut and he finds himself clinging to the shoulders of the god, the god’s own arms wrapped around his waist, impossibly strong, his knees suddenly weak and a moan slipping past his lips as the god drinks the blood flowing from his neck. He can feel a trickle of wetness soaking into the collar of his shirt, hyper-aware of every sensation, the feel of the god ice cold against him, the feel of his heart pumping blood into the god’s mouth.

    When the deity finally pulls away, Corvo draws in a shuddery breath, nearly a gasp. He can feel his heart trembling feebly in his chest, struggling to beat. He feels faint, light like gravity is beginning to loosen. He is nearly limp cradled in the Outsider’s arms, in the embrace of a god.

    “Fascinating.” the Outsider whispers and Corvo hears him as though they were under water. His blood is bright crimson on the Outsider’s lips, smears of it around his mouth and then the Outsider’s wrist is above him, the god’s blood is as black as his eyes as it drips onto Corvo’s lips. His tongue flicks out to taste it and he shudders. The wrist is pressed against his open mouth and he cannot help the needy sound he makes as he struggles for the strength to suck more of the oil black nectar from the deity’s veins. The black blood is cold as ice and he can feel its chill seeping into his veins, into his bones . He shivers and shudders in the god’s arms, his own hands clutching the Outsider’s wrist to his mouth with surprising strength. There’s a sudden sharp pain in his left hand, a burning heat , so shockingly different from the cold that he jerks back with a gasp. There is a mark on his hand glowing ethereal blue. He tears his eyes away from the startling and strangely mesmerizing sight of it, when the Outsider draws his thumb across Corvo’s lips in a caress, smearing the blood with an expression that looks almost tender.

    “My mark. There are forces in the world and beyond the world, great forces that men call ‘magic’, and now these forces will serve your will. In the days that follow, your trials will be great, Corvo. To help you in your journey I give you this:” in the deity’s hand a heart takes shape, stitched and held together by clockwork, the heart beats and its gears turn, “the Heart of a living thing, molded by my hands. With this heart, you will hear many secrets, and it will guide you toward my shrines and other places where the Void bleeds into the world, no matter how they may be hidden.” The heart disappears in wisps of shadows and Corvo can feel the weight of it suddenly beneath his coat over his own heart, beating in tandem with his own.

    “How you use what I have given you falls upon you, as it has to the others before you. And now, I return you to your world, but know that I will be watching with great interest.”

    Corvo, suddenly inexplicably tired beyond measure, sighs as the god’s icy fingers, no longer seeming as cold as they were before, carefully brush over his eyelids as they slide closed. As he slips into the oblivion of unconsciousness, he wonders if he imagines the brush of the god’s lips against his forehead.

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    When Corvo wakes, he’s never felt more ill in his life. His whole body shudders and shakes with a chill so sharp it burns. His insides feel like they are twisting around themselves, writhing within him, the feeling so visceral, he suddenly worries he will burst open like the poor souls he’d seen in Karnaca infested with blood flies. His left-hand burns so fiercely it was as if he had stuck it into an open flame. Time is meaningless, he has no idea how much of it passes while he’s tangled in this web of suffering and agony, be it seconds or hours or days.

    The whole of the horror ends. The illness and pain leaving him so suddenly all he can do is gasp and twitch helplessly in his bed while he readjusts to the sudden change. Sensations return to him slowly. The hard lumps in the mattress beneath him, the sweat clinging to his skin, the stale smell of cheap alcohol and dog. The Hound Pits Pub. He remembers now where he is, taking a breath to calm himself. As he breathes in again his breath hitches, the frantic thumping of his heart is quiet, he should hear the rushing of the blood in his ears after such a moment of frantic panic, but even as he brings a shaking hand to his neck to check he knows, the heart in his chest is as silent as the grave. Fingers pressed to the point of his pulse find no reassuring beat. He lifts his left hand up before his eyes. The mark is there, sharp black lines that flare teal and gold with a surge of magic that makes him suck in another stuttering breath, a flare of pain making itself known in his gums, an ache that’s source Corvo discovers with a quick run of his tongue over teeth that have lengthened, sharpened, changed into something better suited to piercing flesh than before. A whisper from beside him makes him jerk up and search out its source.

Why am I so cold? ” the voice is hauntingly, achingly familiar. Jessamine . The clockwork heart lies beside him on the old mattress, and Corvo takes it into his hands reverently.

What have they done to me? ” the heart whispers in the voice of his Empress, “ I am not alive— nor have I received the gift of death.

He wants so desperately to speak with her, hating suddenly that his voice has never worked, wonders if she would even understand him were he to find the strength to set her back down and speak to her with his hands, but how can he lay her back onto this filthy mattress, how can he lay her down anywhere, when her heart fits so perfectly in his hands. There is a pressure in his chest, like a bubble about to burst. He opens his mouth in a wordless cry.

Shock jolts through him, for while his cry is wordless, it is not soundless . The pressure in his chest releases and where there has only ever been silence, soft notes rise up, haunting and mournful, music spills from his like oil. Wordless, but not meaningless. The notes sound nothing like words, but they mean something.

Jessamine .” Empress, love, loss, grief, a thousand feelings, everything her name invokes in him swept out in whalesong from the throat of a man or is it once-man now? The implications of the Outsider’s gifts are vague and tangled in myth and fear, and Corvo knew little of them before and he knows little of them now. He knows only that he has done another impossible thing in the long list of impossible things he has done in the past what feels like only hours. The heart in his hand beats, steadily, there is a glow behind the glass of the clockwork and the heart seems to warm in his hands.

I can feel a great age ending, ” she whispers as he strokes a thumb delicately over the glass. Yes, an age is an ending, but with a sense of determination settling over him, Corvo knows he will usher in a new one.

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    It’s raining when they reach the Distillery District, fat drops that land on the lenses of his mask and slip off, whatever science Piero’s worked keeping the water from leaving streaks behind to hamper his vision. The mask still feels strange, the visage of death, cold metal and cloth concealing half of his face. He nods to Samuel once the man pulls the boat up to the shore, before climbing out and slinking for the shadows. Stealth had always come naturally to him, maybe because he’d always been silent, his voice motion instead of sound, his tread quiet, his hands quick. It’s strange and familiar now. The shadows are his friends, they always have been, but Corvo can see clearer in the dark now than ever before, and the shadows seem suddenly to reach for him just as he reaches for them. His steps are as quiet as a whisper as he sneaks down the street, the cerulean glow of the Outsider’s mark bleeding through the bandage he’d used to hide it as he used its strange new magic to Blink past guards and stay out of sight. He sees the rats scurrying about, can hear their little feet skittering on the stones, their little voices high pitched whispers that he suddenly understands, a little language all their own. They come up to him in the shadows, sniff at him, following as well as they can, chittering little greetings and random things, friendly in a way that he cannot help but find slightly disturbing knowing what a swarm of them can accomplish.

    “Hello, hello,” they chitter, “hello, hello, Shadow-Friend, hello, hello. Seen anything good to eat? We’re hungry, yes, yes, yes. There’s blood to drink and flesh to eat, yes, yes, yes. Hello, hello.”

    They’re strange little creatures and despite being unnerving, Corvo can’t help but tread carefully not to step on them. It’s strange how hearing something speak can change his opinion, but he can’t quite simply see them as vermin anymore, not when he can understand them. He’s drawn into a strange affection for them, their little voices childish and he feels as if he can reach out to them through the mark, touch their tiny childlike minds. He finds himself crooning his own quiet greeting to them in his new strange song-voice, as he makes his way down the street, the Heart cradled carefully in his hands, beating and guiding him towards some source of power, a shrine perhaps.

    “Ohhhh!” they twitter, “ohhhh! Pretty song, pretty sing-song. Hello, hello, Shadow-Song-Friend, hello, hello.”

    His attention is drawn away from the excited chattering of the rats by the sound of things breaking and the muttering of a woman. There’s an old woman on her balcony, tossing her things into the street.

    “Garbage, garbage, garbage. All of it,” she mutters to herself.

    Corvo watches her, feeling strangely drawn to her. There’s an aura about her, something not-quite-right, something that makes him think of the strange feel of the Void. For a moment he sees the face of a beautiful young woman, but it is only a short moment, and she is nothing but an old woman once again. Intrigued, he Blinks up onto the balcony behind her as she walks back inside. The way she disappears in a sharp burst of shadow startles him and he takes a wary step back. He can hear her muttering to herself below him, having apparently used her own sort of Blink to move downstairs. He spares a moment to puzzle over the room, is that a boat upside down and hooked to the ceiling— strange, but he ignores investigating it further and instead slips down the stairs. The old woman is in what might have once been a kitchen, muttering about the placement of the knives. He approaches her slowly and she whirls around to face him.

    “Is that you, my dear husband?” she says and he can see her eyes are milky and pale. She turns her head to the side shyly, “My eyes aren’t what they used to be. Have you seen my little birdies? The dear things must be starving without their Granny. Here birdies!” she clicks her tongue as she calls for them. There’s a sharp rapping at the door, so sudden that Corvo catches himself startling just a bit, so caught up in the strange aura of this old woman that he was neglecting his surroundings.

    “Oh, my my my I think I have gentleman callers again, but not the way I used to, not the nice ones. I hear them and they’re not very polite ones either. Granny Rags, Granny Rags, let us in!” her voice is mocking as she reaches behind into her back pocket and pulls out a key, “Ah well, they’ll go away again if they know what’s good for them, but what a bother. Here’s the key to the front door, love. You’ll see to those ruffians, won’t you?” she offers him the key and he takes it warily. The pounding on the door continues. He turns towards the sound, blinking his eyes while clenching his fist, the mark on his hand flaring with teal light. The rush of magic washes over him, and the color of the world around him shifts, another gift from the black-eyed god. He can see three glowing yellow figures outside the house. Opening the door and facing them is unnecessary, he can easily gain a greater advantage from upstairs on the balcony. Moments later he’s perched on the railing, looking down at the thugs below. Bottle Street Gang, it looks like. He watches them, listens as they complain about the old woman. There are multiple ways he could incapacitate them, drop down, choke out the one farthest from the door, then choke out the other one while putting a sleep dart in the third pounding on the door. It’s doable. He could also stay perched on the railing, hit them all with sleep darts while they’re distracted and confused, his hands are quick and the crossbow is designed to be easy to reload. But the longer he watches them, the more the pounding on the door becomes replaced with the pounding of their hearts. He could kill them. It would be so very easy. His sword is sharp, he can kill the two in the back by blade and the third with a crossbow bolt to the throat easily. But no, he doesn’t want to kill them, not like that, not messily. His teeth ache, his mouth waters, his stomach twists. Blade and bolts would spill their blood, waste it. And he’s so hungry . Six months in Coldridge prison, surviving on nothing but pitiful and scarce meals, his body ravaged by malnutrition and torture. Free for less than twenty-four hours before he tasted the sweet nectar of the Outsider’s blood. No, he doesn’t want to kill these men, he wants to feed .

    The first one’s neck snaps quick and easy, the second one’s too, the third is turning towards him now, alerted to Corvo’s presence by the sudden silence of his companions. His eyes widen, his hand reaches for his blade, but Corvo is fast, faster than he’s ever been, faster than is humanly possible. Barely a sound of surprise makes it out of the man’s throat before Corvo is on him, teeth piercing into the flesh of his neck, slamming the man into the door of Granny Rags house, pinning him there as he struggles against Corvo’s grip, but Corvo is stronger now too and the man’s struggles hardly phase him. He is lost in the taste of the man’s blood, warm and sweet on his tongue as it flows into his mouth, pumped out by the man’s stuttering heart. When the man runs dry, Corvo turns to his dead companions, hauling their dead bodies up to drink, first one then the other. Once he drops the last one back onto the ground, he turns back towards Granny’s house, the door is open and she’s watching him with those pale milky eyes.

    “Oh, my dear, I knew you would help me with those ill-mannered boys. My brave man. You’ll bring the bodies inside, won’t you dearie? My little birdies love leftovers and I’m too old to go dragging dead louts about.” Granny Rags smiles at him with teeth that are at once perfectly straight and white and sharp, but also yellowed and crooked and dull.

    Corvo can only nod to her numbly, somewhat shaken by the past few moments, the hunger that had come over him, the way his teeth pierced the flesh of the third man’s throat, the taste of their blood. All of it is new and overwhelming. He drags the bodies into the old woman’s house easily, mechanically, before being ushered back into the once kitchen and pushed towards a door.

    “Go on now dear, he’s waiting for you,” Granny Rags is pulling out wires and bones and knives from the cabinets beneath the sink. “Go on. I’ll be here when you’re finished with a nice present for all your help,” she looks at him with those strange eyes and makes a shooing gesture. “Go, go.”

    He opens the door to a backyard bathed in purple light. The Heart, tucked into his coat over his own, beats frantically. He knows who is waiting for him and with a deep breath that he no longer needs, Corvo steps out to meet a god. After all, Corvo really doesn’t want to keep him waiting.

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    The shrine is tucked into the corner of the backyard, draped in blue-violet fabric embroidered in swirling gold, littered with trinkets of metal and bone, glowing with the light of small intricate whale oil lanterns. The Outsider hovers above it all, the blue-violet fabric curling behind him like the shadows that writhe around his form. The glow from the lanterns gives his pale skin a bluish hue and darkens the shadows around his eyes, he smiles with a hint of sharp teeth. Corvo stumbles forward, suddenly graceless, caught in the depths of the god’s eyes, entranced as if he could find the answers to all that has happened tonight within their inky darkness. The god leans down over him, one slender pale hand reaching out under Corvo’s chin, tilting his face up towards the god’s, cool thumb brushing over still bloody lips. 

    “The first is the worst. All fresh hunger and new sensation. Overwhelming.” The god’s smile widens. “You did so well, my dear, quick, easy, quiet. You take so very well to my gifts.” The god tilts his head to the side, fingers skimming over his neck where the god’s teeth so sweetly pierced his flesh, sharp smile softening before fading entirely. The deity straightens, arms folding behind his back.

“Be careful, Corvo. They call her Granny Rags. You wouldn't recognize her real name or even the name of her family, but an Emperor begged for her hand once, and rich young men fought each other for her favor. I watched her consider them all, measure their worth, and find them wanting. Then she made a different choice.” Those depthless eyes seem to shift towards where the old woman works inside, Corvo can hear her muttering to herself as she bends metal to bone.

The god’s gaze shifts back to him. “You're on your way to face the High Overseer, the leader of a great cult dedicated to loathing me. What will you do, I wonder?” The Outsider leans forward again, the god’s fingers gliding over the metal of his mask. “Do you even know yourself? Either way, I will be watching with great interest, my dear Corvo.” The god dissolves into shadow, the echo of his ethereal voice all that remains and soon that fades as well. 

For a moment all he can do is stand there, mind swirling. How many times will the world shift drastically beneath his feet? Though nothing has been so drastic as this, the death of his beloved Jessamine, the kidnapping of his precious Emily, his strange new connection with the god of the Abbey’s nightmares, his new voice .  

The door to Granny Rags’ house opens. He turns towards the sound. The old witch beckons to him.

“Come here, darling. Granny has a nice present for you.” she holds up a charm of metal and bone, covered in intricate symbols burned into the bone. Corvo takes the small charm from her with a nod of thanks. The symbols flash with teal light and Corvo feels the strangest sensation of its magic snapping into place around him like a lighting quick splash of icy water against his skin.

Granny Rags smiles her unsettling smile, “It’s a good charm, for a good boy. He gave me the idea, something simple to turn the eye, make their gaze forget His Mark, ignore your pretty teeth. A sneaky trick for the newly blooded.”

The old woman turns away from him, a clear dismissal and hums to herself, pulling out more bone and wire to twist and shape and carve. Corvo slips away in silence, unnerved but grateful. He catches a glimpse of the rats devouring the corpses in the living room as he leaves, hears the happy chitter of their voices. He knows where the Abbey is the only question is how to get there unseen. Instinct urges him up, no one ever looks up. He blinks onto roof after roof, vision overlaid with magic for any signs of danger. There’s a man in a stockade, an overseer, Martin. Havelock mentioned him. 

Corvo blinks down onto a lamppost, it’s a precarious perch, but he feels steadier than ever. Neither Martin nor the other overseer, Jasper, his name overheard from Martin, have noticed him. Another blink and he is sneaking out from the shadows behind the overseer. Careful to be quick, but not too quick, he catches the man in a chokehold and drops him to the ground unconscious.

“Corvo! What a sight you are in that mask. I know who you are and what you’re here to do and I can help. Unlock me and I’ll buy you a drink in a couple of days. By the Void, I’ll buy you a hundred drinks!” Martin’s voice is surprisingly calm for a man who has been trapped in a stockade for two days, but the relief in his voice at the sight of Corvo is real enough. Corvo pulls the lever to release him. Martin falls with a groan before pulling himself back to his feet. 

“It feels good to stand up straight. Thank you, Corvo.” the overseer rolls his shoulder to release the tension from his captivity. “What you’re here to do tonight is of the highest importance. We’ve got to find Emily, so kill Campbell and make it quick. Once it’s done, search his body for the journal, his notorious black book, and get out of there. Campbell is meeting with a guard named Curnow and word from my informant is that Campbell is going to poison him, maybe you can use that to your advantage.” Martin sighs. “Alright, I won’t be of any help here. So I’ll make my own way back to the hound pits pub. If I see Samuel the Boatman, I’ll tell him to pick you up in the backyard, behind the Office of the High Overseer. May all the spirits guide you and may your enemy’s head hit the floor without you taking a scratch.” and with those dark words of good luck, Martin was off. Corvo watches him go for a moment to be sure the overseer would not turn back to look at him before he Blinks his way back up to the rooftops. 

It’s easy enough to slip through a window and up onto the chandeliers without being seen. The place smells like blood, heavy and thick enough that he thinks he would’ve been able to smell it even before the Outsider changed him. He is not surprised the Office of the High Overseer smells of murder, he’s heard the tales, and as Lord Protector, he knows secrets he wishes he never knew. He finds the room where Campbell is to meet Curnow easily. There are two glasses of wine on the table. For a moment Corvo waivers, indecisive. He’s going to save Curnow, the man has a good heart and a caring niece who worries for him. The sound of the two approaching makes the choice for him. He quickly spills the glasses and lays the bottle open on its side, wine spilling out onto the table, before blinking back up onto the chandelier. 

Campbell struggles with the door for a moment before flinging the door open triumphantly. “Ah, here we are! Now if you’ll join me…” Campbell trails off before addressing his and Curnow’s men, “Men, we’ll come get you when we’re finished. Keep each other entertained in the meantime.”

“I don’t understand how this got so unpleasant!” Curnow complains.

“Oh I agree, I agree. A whore dies, and suddenly this. Will you have wine? It’s a Tyvian red.” Campbell gestures, but stops, “What on- who’s been in here? I owe you an apology, Captain. This is hardly the hospitality I planned for you.” Campbell stares at the wine and mumbles, “Well, time to do this the hard way.”

“What was that Campbell?” Curnow asks, suspicious. 

“Never mind. It’s a stroke of luck for you, Captain. I’m forced to break out the real vintage. Leave the men here, or we’ll have to share with all of them.”

“Very well, Campbell. As long as we get this dispute settled.” The two men begin to walk out of the room. Corvo blinks to follow them, slinking along the metal ledges along the walls, slipping past guards all the way down the basement. Campbell reveals a secret room by pressing in the eye of a bust. 

“Ah, you see this painting? Believed to be early Sokolov. Something primal in there, the way the brushwork slashes across the canvas.” Campbell draws his sword and before it has fully left its sheath the world bleeds grey, time slowing to a stop. Corvo blinks forward sword in Campbell's throat and pulling Curnow into a chokehold as color floods back in and time resumes. There’s a gurgle from Campbell before he collapses to the ground, Curnow stills in his arms and he lays the Captain gently down propped up against the wall before turning back to Campbell, the man’s throat still bubbling blood. The scent of it stirs his hunger, but the thought of consuming anything from such a man turns his stomach. He finds the black book with ease, flipping open its pages to see it written in code. He growls, dark frustration curling within him. The shadows of the room warp and suddenly their little furry bodies slipping out of them, tiny voices chanting,

“Hungry! Hungry! Hungry!” the rats tear into Campbell’s body with a frenzy. Corvo watches them, with a morbid, dark satisfaction as they strip him to the bone. The rats cluster at his feet. 

“Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, Shadow-Song-Friend! Thank you, thank you, thank you!” their tiny voices sweet. Corvo cannot help but offer them a low croon of thanks, reaching out to brush his fingers lightly over their furry bodies as they rub against him.
    “Bones for Granny! Bones, bones, bones! Granny loves, loves, loves bones!” They chitter as they begin to drag what they can of Campbell’s bones away with them. “So long, Shadow-Song-Friend! See you, see you, see you!”

Corvo watches them go as he gathers Curnow into his arms and turns to go. There are plenty of safe places to stash the Captain until morning, and Corvo finds himself tired of this night and its strange happenings. The Heart beats against his own still heart, he wonders suddenly how much he has changed in these past six months. He was never going to come out of Coldridge Prison the same man he went in, but he is even farther from the man he was now, with a god’s blood in his veins. How different will he be in Emily’s eyes when he finds her? And will he even regret what he’s become to reach her?

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    As Martin fervently pulls the secrets from Campbell’s black book like rotten teeth, Corvo dreams. A great whale swims effortlessly through the blue around him, he can hear her mournful song. It is a haunting melody, that strikes too close to home; a young calf lost and alone, calling for a mother that shall never return, dragged away, and murdered by greedy men for the power of her oil. He cannot bear to listen to it, so he Blinks and Blinks and Blinks, until the void blurs and warps around him as he flits from edge to jagged edge. Faster, faster, faster, until there is nowhere else to go and he is falling down, down, down into darkness with no end. 

    And then suddenly, it is no longer that he is falling, but that he is being pulled. The Outsider’s depthless eyes meet his as the god drags him into the deep, smile wide, and teeth blade sharp. The world around him blurs until the only thing he can see clearly is his god’s black endless eyes. 

    Their fall ends with the gentle caress of blue-violet fabric embroidered in swirling gold; the same fabric that Corvo saw draped about the Outsider’s shrine, now cushions them and surrounds them. He meets the lips of his god with his own. The Outsider’s skin is cool against his hands as he cradles the ethereal face of his god. 

    “My dear Corvo…” the Outsider whispers against his lips, before tilting his head back and baring a scarred pale throat, “Drink.” It is both command and request and Corvo is powerless to resist. His lips close over the porcelain white skin of his god and his teeth sink in to stain it with black blood. The Outsider’s blood is as bitingly cold as he remembers and just as sweet. His mark flares as he suckles and he can feel the power of the Outsider flooding his veins, pulsing through him like an echo of his still heart’s once rhythm. 

    “ Enough ,” it is a whisper in his mind and the tightening of chilled fingers in his hair that stops him. He pulls back, and the wounds he left heal as if they were never there at all. The Outsider pulls him back into a kiss, licking his own blood from Corvo’s lips, before tilting Corvo’s head to the side and sinking his own fangs into the tan flesh of Corvo’s own neck. The drag of his pull from his body is different, there is no longer any pulse to fight the pull of the Outsider’s mouth and his blood seems to flow eagerly into his god. 

The moment seems to stretch into eternity, the feel of his god’s arms around him, his lips sealed on his neck. Eventually, it ends and he finds himself, tasting his own darkened blood on the Outsider’s lips and tongue and teeth. The song that rumbles in his chest and slips from his lips between bloodied kisses is of devotion and awe; it is an expression of the strange yearning desire he feels for his god, the sadness and despair he feels at the loss of his Jessamine, the worry over the safety of his little Emily, and the strange beauty and sense of peace he has found in the strange feeling of the favor and desire of a god. It is a culmination of all the twisted feelings inside of himself, grief, love, hope, and despair.

“My dear Corvo,” the Outsider croons, “the world is never as it seems and the path you walk is littered with spiders, eager to trap you up in webs of lies,” the god’s hand caresses his cheek, endless eyes that see endless things filled with a well of things that Corvo cannot see, “Trust no one but yourself, my dear…”

Corvo wakes with those words ringing in his head and the sounds of the Loyalists moving about the Hound’s Pit beneath him.