Thirteen years have passed since the Great Rat Plague was finally brought to an end. Empress Emily Kaldwin sits on the throne as ruler of the Isles and her Empire is on the brink of a Golden Age.
But in the back alleys all across her kingdom forces that no mortal man should wield are being toyed with...the tides of the Void are changing.
And the fate of Dunwall with them.
Lightning split the sky in two. The rumble of thunder that followed loud enough to shake the very ground itself and dim the bulbs of the street lights for a few seconds. Rain slashed down like wire, hard enough to hurt if you were caught out in it for too long, Corax was lucky. He'd found a doorway to bed down in a moment before the lightning released its heavy payload.
Strange, how he always seemed to know when the storms were coming.
The Month of Rain was always bad, it didn't get called that for nothing, but this year seemed particularly heavy. Maybe it was just because he was out in the open more than last year, or that the constant flood warnings over the radio towers made it seem worse, or maybe there genuinely was more rain than usual. Corax didn't know. He didn't care. He just wanted it to stop.
The rain made sleeping even more difficult. And the constant patter could hide the footsteps of anyone trying to sneak up on him. Four times this month Corax had to fight for his life, battering away gangs of thugs from Bottlestreet or just other homeless who liked the look of his coat.
But such was the life of one of Dunwall's forgotten children.
Midway through his second decade of life Corax was a man grown, with dark hair spiked by grease and eyes so brown they could pass for black on a dark night, a definite child of Serkonos. Given a privileged or even normal upbringing he could have passed for attractive, a lifetime of fighting for every meal had given him good musculature with a broad chest and wide shoulders, both qualities modern women looked for in a man, and beneath the muck of his face he had a strong jaw and high cheekbones. All things that women liked. Or so he had been told by Grandmama.
Even as the rain poured down his unshaven face and the headache pressed deeper into his brain a small smile pulled at his narrow lips, even the memory of that plump old lady could make him happy.
She was the only family Corax had ever known, Gertrude Merryson. The owner of an orphanage back on Serkonos, she answered a knock on the door one night to find a baby at her feet, a tiny boy, wrapped in a moth eaten blanket and wailing into the rain. She took him in, there and then, and raised him along with the dozen other children she had chosen to care for.
It was a tradition in Serkonos for the mother of the child to choose the name, and Gertrude had named Corax on his fifth year, as was tradition. "You always did like the dark," she used to tell him. "My little raven." and that was where his name came from. In Serkonan, Corax literally translated to 'Child of Raven.'
Sighing he rubbed a calloused hand across his face to try and stay the rain and the headache splitting his skull, but it was no good, in fact, the rain seemed to be falling harder.
Damn he missed her. Corax left the orphanage after his thirteenth Fugue Feast, hoping to find work in the factories in Cullero or on one of the trading ships that ferried goods between the isles. He'd said goodbye, hugged her, and taken a gift from her he still kept wrapped up in his pocket to this very day. And left.
A week later she was killed. Murdered by burglars breaking into the orphanage, butchered protecting the children she loved. He lost all love for Serkonos that day and bribed his way onto the first ship off the isle. At the time he didn't know where it was going, nor did he care...he just wanted to get away.
Looking out over the street Corax watched the people run to their houses, husbands and wives sprinting arm in arm, as if by running they would somehow get less drenched than everyone else. Families strode by him, the children splashing and playing in the huge puddles while their impatient parents called for them to keep up. He watched them all pass. And not a single one so much as looked at him. Not that he was much of a sight, but still.
But, in many ways Dunwall was still recovering. The people most of all, and they took the longest to forget.
The rat plague may have ended over a decade ago but its scar on the great capital was plain for all to see. A quarter of the entire population of Gristol had fallen to the sickness, introduced from a land far to the east by the Arch-Traitor, Hiram Burrows, as a way to cull the poorer populace of the Dunwall. And more than a decade on people were still recovering from the fact that one of their greatest lords had poisoned his own city, murdered the empress and kidnapped her daughter, all for the sake of his own personal gain. But like all Traitors he got what was coming to him, when his assassin murdered the then Empress, Jessamine Kaldwin, Hiram Burrows framed her most trusted bodyguard for the crime.
The Lord Protector, Corvo Attano.
He locked him in Coldridge prison and sentanced him to death. But Corvo did what no man had ever done before him. He escaped. And over a period of weeks unravelled the conspiracy behind the Arch-Traitor's plans before revealing them to the world and restoring Emily Kaldwin to the throne. Now Hiram spends his days rotting in the prison cell he had once thrown Corvo into.
Corvo, another Serkonan name. Corax thought while looking up at the huge clock tower in the distance, its illuminated face shining out through the lashing rain like a second moon.
A scream jolted Corax awake. Listening through the heavy patter of the rain he heard another, louder, and getting closer. A woman rounded a corner and charged down the street, dress half torn from her body and hair billowing behind her in an umber curtain, bare feet splashing through the puddles as she sprinted towards his doorway. Two men rounded the corner after her. Huge and bald they snarled as they charged her down, sprinting forward with all the inevitability of a charging bull. 'Get 'ere you bitch!' the one in front yelled, gripping a fistful of her hair and pulling hard. The movement so violent she was thrown from her feet and sent crashing into the cobbles.
'Pin 'er down you fuck wit!' the other ordered as he struggled to undo the buttons of his trousers.
'No! Please, let me go!' she screamed.
'Shur' it!' the first one yelled, striking her hard across the face with the back of a meaty hand.
'That's it!' sneered the second one wetly, spreading the woman's legs with his feet and standing over her. 'Now you be a good gurl',' he muttered. 'And don't scream.'
The bastard never even heard Corax approach.
Firing to his feet behind the thug Corax's arms were around his throat in a heartbeat, choking the air of his body, squeezing his biceps to increase the pressure. The man spluttered for a few incoherent words, kicking out with trousers round his ankles, trying to get his partners attention. Corax dragged him away from the woman, deeper into the shadows, and when he finally felt his body go limp he simply let go, and let the body fall where it wanted. Moving through the shadows before it even hit the floor.
'Garaf?' his friend coughed, still pinning the woman to the soaking ground. 'Garaf?' he asked again, turning to look over his shoulder. 'What da'?'
Corax materialised from shadow. Crouched so he was eye level with the rapist Corax shot his head forward. Catching his forehead right on the sweet spot on the bridge of the nose, breaking it with a crack of snapping ligament and spray of blood. Screaming in pain the thug fell backwards, sprawling in the rain and pinching his nose between thumb and forefinger. 'You lil' fuck!' he said nasally. 'You broke ma' nose!'
Rage took the better of him and the thug jumped to his feet and charged. Broadcasting a wild haymaker as he flew at Corax. In one movement Corax ducked beneath the blow, grabbed the thug by his waistcoat, and pulled him into a crippling knee strike. Fracturing no less than four ribs and knocking every bit of wind from the man's body. With a breathless groan he collapsed onto the cobbles, curling up in a small ball and clutching his broken chest. A shrill scream ripped through the rain as the woman staggered to her feet and ran off screaming, clutching the remains of her dress to her body with desperate hands.
You're welcome. Corax thought dryly. Watching her sprint through the street.
As he turned to walk away Corax flinched, catching sight of a thin man with pale skin in the edge of his vision, watching from a side alley, arms folded over a narrow chest and a blade like smile over his face. But when Corax turned to look he didn't see anything.
Only a passing Whaler ship sailing along the coastline, a huge sperm whale held in the metal harness above the main deck.