Epilogue: She who is many things
"All Dunwall citizens feeling lightheaded, sick, or coughing heavily, please make your way immediately to your nearest centre for cure dispensation. City Guard have been deployed to assist with the relief efforts. Please remain calm and do not run, shove or shout, those particularly vulnerable will be singled out for faster treatment. All-"
"That's us." Vera Moray chuckled, sat on a bench as the speaker continued. It had been on loop for the past twelve hours. "Particularly vulnerable."
"I've spent some time with the propaganda machine." Replied Ex-High Overseer Campbell. "It means 'too diseased to think.'"
It was an accurate descriptor, Vera agreed, looking around. She and the clergyman were the only ones in the bustling square lucid enough to carry a conversation; it was filled with babbling fools, wide eyed and pale skinned. Those who hadn't quite turned to weepers yet. Many were in restraints. Guards were rushing around, ensuring that the plagued were brought to the doctors as fast as the cure was being administered. Well, 'Doctors' was a bit of a misnomer; almost anyone healthy who knew the right end of a needle was helping out.
"Economy's going to go to hell after this." Campbell mumbled, shifting in his seat and picking at his numb skin. "Can't just spend half a week not doing anything…"
"The city wasn't in too wonderful a state beforehand." Vera remarked, dryly. A guard walked over to them, and she waved him off to see to the worse afflicted. "At least now it can begin to recover."
"Hn." Campbell replied, noncommittally.
"Come, is this not the time for the church to be at it's peak?" Moray chuckled. "Salvation has come! Surely you should be extoling some virtue or another."
"I cannot give credit to divine providence." Came the man's reply. "I know who did this. It was no god."
"Quite." Vera chuckled. "I know her too."
Campbell turned to look at her. "Not a week ago you ruled the sewers of Dunwall. You ate people. What changed?"
"Well, I do believe I was quite mad for a while." She mused. "But if I had to put a finger on what changed things…"
"Emily Kaldwin." Campbell finished.
Vera blinked and looked at him. "Well, actually it was this boy who threw an enchanted picture of me into an inferno I kept in my house that did it. Emily just cut one of my hands off."
Campbell looked down at her stump. He…didn't really know what to say to that.
"Next!" Yelled one of the guards.
Vera slapped Campbell's shoulder. "Go, get yourself repaired. I'll be fine. There's still some life left in these old bones."
"I'm hardly the most-"
She glared at him, and he sighed. "Fine. I'm just not too excited for when I'm declared sane again. Between the abbey and the crown, it's a matter of who gets to arrest me first."
"If you're accepting advice, you might want to appeal to the Empress." Vera offered, smiling slyly.
"I broke her boyfriend's back."
"Oh, wow." She winced. "Well, you people believe in miracles, don't you?"
"Ugh." Campbell rolled his eyes, and walked away.
Vera chuckled, and looked up to the sky. "Miracles…" she hummed. "You certainly showed me one, dearie."
"So, over a week or so, the sun rose. Dunwall was cured. The shops reopened, the factories started back up, the government began to function again. Of course this was by no means an end to pain; the poor were probably poorer than they had ever been, the rich were very upset with their brush with death. Homelessness was down, which was a plus, but that was more due to the number of people who had been killed by the rat plague than anything else. And of course, once the immediate panic was over, people began to ask questions. What had actually happened? The last they had heard Burrows was the one responsible for the plague, and he had been arrested, but that had been proceeded by a period of utter chaos, and now apparently a child was in charge?
Dunwall wants answers. So, Miss Kaldwin, what do you intend to tell them?"
Emily glanced across at the Outsider. She was sat alone, in a room just inside the gates of the land entrance to her tower, and outside that gate was a mass of microphones and civilians desperate to know what was going on.
"Very little, ideally." She admitted. "Describe in vague terms what happened, paint the loyalists as the good guys. I…would rather focus more on my plans going forwards."
"I think you will find that the world is rarely so willing to forget the past." The Outsider hummed. "I hear things, Emily. The people remember the days imminently after your mother's death. They remember when the propaganda machine declared you a witch. And with all the strange events and inconsistencies…well, it only takes a moment to check the back of your hand. It's such an innocuous request, one no innocent person would ever feel the need to refuse. And you cannot wear that tiara forever."
Emily reached up and touched it. "No…no I suppose I cannot."
"If you like…I could remove the mark."
Emily looked up at him sharply. "You mean-"
"Remove the mark, and my influence from you." He smiled. "Thomas is already 'clean' from the plague's absence. You've said you would like to close the book, as it were, on these events. Is this not a perfect method with which to do so? Bear your hands to the world with a clear conscience, declare honestly that you are no witch, and move on."
She squinted at him. "Is this a trick?"
"Now where has that naïve trust gone?" He chuckled. "No tricks, no funny business. You've been more than entertaining enough thus far for me to do you one last favour. I might even prefer to end our arrangement in a satisfying way now, rather than for my interest to gradually dwindle away into indifference. That was what happened with Daud, until of course he paid your mother a visit."
Emily sat in silence for a moment. "Is this a onetime offer?"
"It doesn't have to be, no."
"Good. Ask me again in…about thirty minutes."
The Outsider gave her a questioning glance, but vanished into shadow as she stood up and exited the room.
"I'm ready." She told Corvo, stood outside, and he nodded. He whistled, and the guards higher above opened the portcullis.
Emily walked out to face the crowd.
Many of her advisers had told her to make her announcements from high up in her tower, but she had refused, deciding to instead speak from a dais scarcely a metre tall, leaving her only high enough up that the crowd could see her clearly.
And oh dear, was there a crowd. Hundreds upon hundreds of people lined the road leading up towards her, packed close in together and all clamouring loudly for attention. A scarce few guards formed a line between her and the mob. She gulped, and walked over to the microphone. A few taps was all it took to a) check it was working and b) get something close to silence from the crowd.
She coughed. "People of Dunw-"
It was louder than she expected, the microphone peaked and she winced. Come on, Emily. You took on an army of assassins in supernatural combat, you can do this.
"I'm…going to forego all the fancy language, flowery statements, etcetera." She began. "It's not what any of us need right now. I'm just going to speak my mind, and I hope you'll be patient with me. Goodness knows this would be easier if I'd actually prepared a speech…"
There was muffled tittering from the crowd, and Emily took what little encouragement that represented. She stood a little straighter.
"Scarce weeks ago, the assassin Daud and his Whaler gang assassinated my mother, your previous Empress, Jessamine Kaldwin." She gulped. "I was forced to watch. It is not a pretty sight, to have your dress stained by your mother's blood." After a pause to collect herself, while the crowd looked on in silence, she continued. "I later learned that the assassination had been orchestrated by ex-spymaster Hiram Burrows, in an attempt to wrest power for himself, and use me as the face of the empire while he ruled by proxy. I am glad to inform you all that it did not succeed. The Royal Protector, Corvo Attano, infiltrated the assassins, while I was rescued and taken in by a group calling themselves the loyalists. It was this group that kept me safe throughout the ensuing chaos, and facilitated the takedown of Hiram and his hostile government. This group includes the present High Overseer," She gestured to where Martin was stood, some distance from the crowd proper, "Admiral Havelock, of Dunwall's navy," he, too, was present, alongside her guards, "Treavor Pendleton, currently spending time with his siblings who have only recently been rescued from gangs in the city," she coughed at that, before continuing, "Anton Sokolov and Pierro Japlin, who I imagine you are all familiar with as the team the eventually cured the rat plague, and many others who I will leave unnamed, for their own privacy.
All of these individuals acted with exceptional honour, dignity, kindness, and patriotism. I'm proud to call all of them my friends, and if there are any appropriate medals lying about, I'm going to make damn sure they all get one."
She had almost expected to be laughed at for that, but to her surprise there was an uproar of applause from the crowd. She smiled, demurely, and waited for it to quiet down.
"This city has suffered a great deal." She said eventually. "Man, woman, children, elderly, rich and poor alike. In a few days I will be holding an official funeral for my mother, and as much as my economists are angry at me for it, I am making the day a national holiday. I encourage all of you to take the time to think on what you have lost. I know full well that without closure, it is very hard to move on." There was a much more muted reaction to that line, and she sagged a little herself, before raising her head again.
"But move on is what we must do. This city has had it's mettle tested, and it has proven itself worthy of it's own survival. Before, the Empire of the Isles was the greatest nation in the world, and I believe we are more than able to reclaim that title if we are willing to reach for it." More cheers from the audience. She spotted Thomas, sat atop a rampart above the crowd, and smiled. "If I have learned anything from this, it's that even the smallest acts, from the most seemingly insignificant of people, can be enough to change the world. Everyone in this crowd has the power within themselves to change the lives of not only themselves, but of each other. I ask that you use that power for the betterment of yourselves, and of the country you all make up a part of. To change the future for the better. And it would be my privilege to lead you all into that future."
The audience applauded, and Emily bowed low before them all. She glanced left to see Corvo shaking his head at her, smiling.
Eventually, the cheers stopped, and she moved back up to the microphone. "If there are any questions, I have some time."
The crowd erupted into noise again, but this time it was a cacophony of shouted questions and demands. Emily sighed, and pointed a finger towards one of the nearer members of the crowd, one that looked like a reporter. "You. Go."
"Empress Kaldwin, is there any credence to the rumours that a criminal has been assigned a position of great power in the government?"
"I assume you are referring to so called 'Slackjaw'?" Emily replied. "Yes, I have assigned Mr Mayhew to the position of Royal Spymaster."
"Does he not have a significant bounty on his head from the city watch?"
"Mayhew worked ceaselessly during the time of the plague to distribute elixir to those under his protection, including a large number of orphan children. He also assisted the Royalists at multiple points. I trust him, and the current leaders of the city watch, misters Jack and Geoff, have agreed to clear the bounty. And his daughter, Alexi, is already a good friend of mine. Any other questions?"
"Empress Kaldwin, what are your thoughts on the implied relationship between said guard captains?"
"They are absolutely adorable and I wish them both the best. Next?"
"Empress Kaldwin, do you have any plans for marriage, political or otherwise?"
"I am ten years old. Next?"
"Empress Kaldwin, what is your response to earlier accusations of you being a witch, later set at the feet of the mysterious Void-Singer? There are numerous eyewitness accounts of her being escorted into the lighthouse where you resided!"
The crowd quietened. Corvo made an aggressive move towards the overzealous reporter, but Emily held up a hand to stop him. "Thank you, that is a question I have been meaning to answer for some time." She looked to her right with a sly smile. "As this is obviously a religious matter; High Overseer Martin? Would you mind joining me here on the stage?"
Martin's eyes widened and he gulped, but he did walk over to stand with her.
"Thank you." She turned back to the crowd. "There have been many accusation by various parties that the Void-Singer was actually working with the loyalists, and assisted them in their takedown of the Regent's government. Allow me to address all those rumours now, in an entirely explicit manner, before they grow out of proportion."
"Yes, she totally was."
And just like that there was uproar.
"I'll leave it to the High Overseer to explain this decision." She continued, stepping aside and beckoning Martin to take the stage.
"Oh for-" He glowered at her, before sighing and taking up her position before the crowd. "Yes, it's true." He told them. "The loyalists were approached by the Void-Singer, and made the decision to accept her assistance. Now-"
The shouting of the crowd had become louder, and Martin rose his voice in response. "Now I Know that this may seem an incredibly hypocritical move for any member of the Abbey to make. Please, allow me to explain." He sucked in a breath. "The Singer never lied to us. She never attempted to seduce us with her magics, never affected our minds, never demanded recompense for her assistance. She merely helped. It was the Singer that extracted Empress Kaldwin, that rescued Anton Sokolov. She revealed the treachery of one Lady Boyle. She retrieved the confession of Hiram Burrows, and I do mean that literally; the audio recording everyone heard was taken from Hiram's quarters and then played, all without killing a soul. I reiterate; the Void-Singer has clean hands, as far as we know."
"Perhaps." Martin gulped. "Perhaps the Abbey has been too rigid in it's beliefs. That which we call sin is still sin, make no mistake, and those who meddle unknowing in the occult find themselves driven mad more often than not. Exceptions occur, of course, when the Outsider's mark is found branded on their skin. The Assassin Daud was a known witch, merciless but quite sane. And this Void-Singer…we must, as a country, let go of the idea that good and evil can be labelled so easily.
I believe that this witch is a good person. If my fellow Overseers believe that I am mad or wrong, then I will willingly forsake my position. But not my beliefs. We owe our empress, and in fact our empire's safety to this woman, and I would thank her if I could."
He gave the masses a shallow bow, and walked back towards his own party.
The crowd's reaction to that was a lot more muted. What they were being told to think by the church was clashing with, well, what they'd been told to think by the church. Let's mess that up a little more, shall we?
Emily retook her position at the microphone. "Thank you, High Overseer. I would offer my own opinion on the matter, but as you are about to see I am somewhat biased." She smiled down at herself at the inside joke. "Now then.
Before we finish up here, there is one last thing I'd like to confess to you all. I am many things but I am not a liar, nor a deceiver. If I am to rule, it would be very impolite to do so while concealing something from you all. So, with regards to all those rumours of me being a witch…"
"no freaking way." Thomas whispered from a distance.
Emily sighed, muttered "sorry granny," And reached up to her tiara. She pulled it off her head with a flourish. "Truth is-" She snapped the whalebone between her fingers. "I am the Void Singer."
The Outsider's mark blazed to life on her palm, and she held it up for all to see. With a flick of her will, she conjured a pair of shadow clones on either side of herself, and had them both grapple upwards and vanish out of existence.
Now that got one hell of a reaction.
People were screaming, Corvo was staring at her like she was insane, the crowds were pushing and shoving, it was raining cats and dogs. She took a second to just bask in the chaos.
Then decided it was time to stop it. "If you are all quite finished!" She called out, using the singing powers to amplify her voice, though not to give it any terror-inducing properties.
The crowd, slowly, quietened again. Emily took a moment to corral her hair, the veil had had a secondary purpose of keeping the locks in order. "I'm…not sure what I can say that our Overseer has not already said." She told them. "Merely that I did what was necessary to survive. That despite all that has happened, I have refused to surrender what I believed was most important. That I could have never let this truth see the light of day, but decided to share it with you." She sighed. "Or that I was mostly just doing this to prove a point to a god. Oh well. Like I said, it's our choices that define us. Our past gives us what we know, and what we have, but it does not affect what we are. What I have been through is ultimately irrelevant.
I am Emily Kaldwin. Daughter of Jessamine, Witch, and Empress of the Isles. What I will be, I do not know. I suppose we shall all find out together."
She turned away from the microphone, and the dumbfounded crowd. "I'll leave it up to you all whether I forsake the mark. If there are riots outside my home tomorrow morning, that's probably enough evidence for me to be rid of it." With that, she began to walk away.
Emily stopped. Turned around. A woman had elbowed her way to the front of the crowd.
"Name's Anna!" She shouted. "You saved me and a bunch of my friends from the experiments, back by the bridge? Listen, none of us care about any of that magic stuff! Far as I'm concerned, you're a damn sight better than any politician I've ever met! I'll follow you anywhere, Ma'am!"
"Yeah, what she said!"
"We're with you, Empress!"
Emily blinked, shocked.
A kid crawled under the legs of one of the guards, and shouted up to her "Does that mean you're the one who saved my ball from falling in the river? Thank you!"
"Lydia here!" A woman shouted, a little off from the crowd. "Thanks for getting one up on Waverly, that girl deserved it! Come around to play on the harpsichord sometime!"
"Thanks for getting rid of those Whalers! They had their claws in my district for years!"
"You're telling me our empress can do freaking magic? Bet Serkonos' duke can't do anything that cool!"
Emily took a step backwards as the crowd started practically roaring, but not in rage. In cheer. For her.
"All hail Empress Kaldwin! All hail the Void Singer!"
Thomas dropped down from the rooftops and landed by her side. "I mean, come on. What did you think was going to happen?" He grinned. "It's you."
She gave him a flat look. "Oh come on, it's not magi-" She stopped. Sighed. "Alright, I suppose it is magic, but-"
"Just do your thing."
She shook her head at him, exasperated, before returning her attention to the crowd. She gave them one last curtsy. "Corvo. Do your thing."
"Yes, my lady." He rolled his eyes and made a motion with his hand. All three vanished from the stage.
Emily stood, alone, in the gazebo. A small plaque had recently been inlaid into the stonework. 'Here lies Jessamine Kaldwin.' It read. 'Too kind for this world, yet too brave to abandon it without a fight.'
"I've decided." She said to it. "You told me you just wanted me to be happy. I can't promise that, but…I'm going to rule. After I've seen them all…I just can't leave them alone."
She smiled. "I love you. Goodbye."
The plaque did not respond, but then, it didn't need to.
Emily turned away, but a series of claps caused her to turn back. The Outsider stood there, shaking his head. "I truly cannot believe it. Out of everyone I've ever given my mark to, I can say without a doubt you were the most interesting."
"Is that all it comes down to?" Emily asked him. "Making things 'interesting'?"
"My dear, if you knew what I am, what I see, what I know…" The Outsider looked down. For a moment, he seemed genuinely weary. "There is no sorrow in the Void, Emily Kaldwin. That is why the downtrodden so often seek it. But there is no joy, either. No compassion, no love."
Emily tilted her head. "Are…you okay?"
"Now isn't that strange." He looked at her. "You would empathise? With me?"
"I did just make a declaration about my unwillingness to leave those in need alone."
"That you did, that you did." The Outsider closed his eyes. "You have done a very strange thing, Emily. Something I did not think any human could ever do. You have given me hope."
"Hope?" Emily asked, curiosity rising.
"I wonder…I am the source of your power, but I am also indirectly responsible for every ill that has befallen you. I allowed another witch to attempt to kill you, one your protector stopped without you ever realising. I am old, Emily, and I have sinned more in my time than any man, woman or child on this planet. Knowing that, knowing what I am, what I have done…If I told you there was a way, would you try to save me too?"
Emily smiled. There was only one answer. "Oh come on, you know me by now. So? What can I do to help?"
Well then. Here we are.
As for the superficial stuff, yes, I made Slackjaw's daughter Alexi from dishonoured 2. And yes, Emily is going to go on the death of the outsider quest. How that goes, how the future continues...well, I'll leave it up to your imaginations. Hell, write it yourselves, I'd love to read it.
Now for the important bit.
I began this story over three years ago. And that's a big deal. No, seriously, I'm young enough that three years is a big chunk of my life. It's been through two computers, dozens of IPhone notes pages, and it wins the dubious award of being the first long work I've ever finished that began when I was vaguely sentient. As in, I can reread chapter one without dying of embarrassment. Lord knows that's not true of all my fics...
I'm genuinely sorry for the long, long waits between some of the chapters. 35 chapters in 167 weeks isn't a very professional update schedule. All I can say is that sometimes, the motivation isn't there. Sometimes it stays not there for a looooong time. But Void Singer has always lingered there at the back of my mind, waiting for me to add more. And every time I thought it might go on haitus indefinitely...I came back.
I've learned a lot since I started. Hopefully became less stupid. If there's anyone out there who's still here from the start, sweet Serkonos you must have the patience of a saint.
And thanks for somehow making this the fifth most followed dishonoured fic on this site. Seriously. I'm ahead of Farewell Gypsy, Outsider knows how that happened.
I'm really not sure what else to say. I had an idea, an idea to put a girl through the worst her world has to offer and see if she could keep a hold of her hope. Ninety two of you said you liked it. A hundred and twelve of you wanted to see where it went. Forty Nine of you had something to say about it, and if that's still true feel free to leave a review here, I'll do my best to answer it. If you want to read anything else I've made, well, there's an Undertale one and a Naruto one I'm proud of, and we pretend the others don't exist.
Thank you all for reading this far. I hope you enjoyed. I've been Adamant39, and it's been a pleasure.
"Can you feel the new day rising,
Climbing up the East horizon,
They can't hold us down, we'll fight through,
Each and every one will start anew."
-Jon Licht, Honour for all.