'Your beautiful Highness,' said the portly man stood before her throne, bowing so low Emily was worried that the buttons of his jacket would pop off and fly out across the room. Rising he plastered the best courtly smile over his jowled face and began speaking. 'It is an honour to be in your presence and I hope that I am worthy of your valuable time. I, am but a simple trader,' she coughed away a laugh. There was nothing simple about this man, he wore clothes finer than some of her gowns and he stank of Tyvian perfume. This man has more money than sense. She thought, straining to listen to his boring monologue...
And every so often the Other voice would whisper to her. He lies as easily as he tells the truth. It told her, the mans voice soft and ethereal.
She'd heard the voice since she was a girl. It told her things, secrets, truths people wished to keep hidden at all costs. She didn't know why it told her these things, she struggled with controlling it all of her life, she'd told only two people of her hidden skill. The first of whom had told her to keep it secret, to tell no one about it but those she trusted utterly and completely.
The second, well, he had a similar experience himself.
As the liar droned on and on Emily's attention began to wander. She loved being Empress, who wouldn't really? But holding court with these people to hear their problems was one of the dullest parts of her entire week. Having a little daydream through these meetings was the only way to keep herself sane. 'In these glorious times under your reign,' he droned, smiling to himself as if he truly believed he was being charming.
When your mother was murdered he was the first to praise Hiram Burrows, she placed taxes on his ships. Taxes that cost him a great deal of coin.
She tried to ignore the whispers. The job of the Empress was to view all with the impartial love she gave all her subjects. But how could she do that when she heard their darkest secrets in her head?
Still he droned on, complaining about losing goods to pirate ships south of the Serkonos Archipelago, and asking humbly if she would assign Watch Officers to his ships for added protection. And halfway through his dull droning Emily yawned, small and quiet enough that she thought she had gotten away with it. But no. The fat man saw and his watery eyes narrowed sharply. 'Forgive me your Highness, but am I boring you?'
Yes, of course you are. 'No sir, not at all.' she said with a smile, trying to disguise the fact she had completely forgotten his name.
'Then why are you yawning?' he asked quickly. Anger simmering just below the surface.
If you were his child he would beat you for such insolence. This one hates having women look down on him.
'I have the burden of running an entire Empire good sir, such can have the effect of making one rather tired. I would have apologised if you would have let me, but I think you forget that I am your Empress. And should be treated as such.' she said, trying to sound as polite as possible.
The fat trader sneered sickly. 'Do you have any idea who I am? How much coin I pay in taxes that your mother-'
'No sir. In truth, I have no idea who you are.' she smiled. 'And I am sure you pay no more than any other trader, trust me. Now, as for the reason you are here. The fine officers of the City Watch are not for your hire, they are the law enforcement of Gristol and must serve the public's needs before the needs of a single individual. There are several private security company's in Dunwall, perhaps you should consider seeking their services. Good day to you, sir.' dismissing him with a small smile Emily bowed her head. The fat man looked ready to explode, clenching his fists so tightly it turned his knuckles white.
'How dare you! Insolent girl!' he bellowed.
Reginald and Maxine both took a step forward from their positions by her throne, each Watch Officer bringing a hand up to the pistols clipped across their chests. 'Her Majesty has dismissed you, Sir!' growled Reginald. 'Leave immediately or you will be detained by the Watch.'
'Oh girl. So brave and bold, even when your precious Royal Protector isn't here! You have no idea who you are dismissing so easily! I am Anthony Durnol! My family helped found this city!' he raged, face turning such a violent shade of red Emily actually pictured a tomato bursting.
'Mr Durnol, leave! This is your final warning!' shouted Maxine, drawing her pistol and pointing it at his feet.
'Bah!' he spat finally after faltering slightly under the gaze of Maxine's musket. Anthony Durnol turned on his heel, crossing the throne room in great angry strides, muttering curses to the Empress under his breath as he went.
He will beat the servants tonight. His rage always needs an outlet.
Sighing Emily rubbed a hand across her forehead and slumped into the throne, it was the only comfortable way to sit in this bloody thing, even now her buttocks ached and she could feel the corners of her shoulder blades being worn down by the hard marble. Looking at the wide doors of her throne room crack open Emily had the sudden urge to order Maxine to shoot the fat shadow walking out the door, but she couldn't.
She was no murderer. Her problems could not be solved by killing.
He had taught her that.
'Hold the next meeting please Reginald,' she said gently. 'I need a moment.'
'Of course, my lady.' said the old Watch Officer, bowing his head and signalling for Maxine to follow him out one of the well hidden security entrances built into the pillars that ribbed the room. Emily leant forward and brushed a hand through the well kept bob of her dark hair, staring at the floor in front of her with eyes that always saw more than she wanted to.
'That is one way of dealing with your subjects, I suppose.' said a deep voice.
She shouldn't be surprised. He was never far away.
'That man was a monster.' she said into her interlaced fingers.
'There's a monster inside every man, my lady.' he said, taking a step out of the shadows, half revealing himself.
'No there isn't.' she whispered. 'There isn't in you.' looking at him half cloaked in shadow Emily couldn't help but feel, safer, he had protected her since the day she was born. And he'd rescued her, twice, from the hands of traitors who wanted to steal the throne.
He loves you more now than he ever has before. He cannot believe how much you look like your mother.
He snorted a laugh and took another step forward, fully into the light. 'There is, my lady. I'm just better at hiding it than others.' Emily looked at her Lord Protector, Corvo Attano. The last decade hadn't been kind to his appearance, he'd always been scruffy, with a constant stubble across his hard jaw and shoulder length hair that always looked to be cut by the edge of a sword rather than scissors. But now his dark locks were streaked by silver, his cheeks were thinner and wrinkles had begun to appear around his eyes. Not that any of that stole from his rugged charm however, Emily had overheard conversations between the maids about Corvo, and the Whisper had told her one had even gone as far to break curfew to watch him train. Apparently every woman in the Empire fancied Corvo Attano, but with such a story behind him Emily couldn't blame any of them. He was the embodiment of the knight in shining armour cliche. And every girl wanted a knight in their life.
'I don't believe you,' she smiled. 'And call me Emily. I won't tell you again.'
'Yes, my lady.'
She smiled with a shake of her head. 'Emily,' he whispered, walking over to her. 'I know how hard it is to ignore what he tells you,' as he spoke Corvo rested a gloved hand on her shoulder, that glove hiding a tattoo given to him by the same being that whispered inside her head. 'But you have to try.'
'Why? Maybe it's a good thing.'
'It is a useful thing, but with him things are never good or bad. He doesn't interfere like that, he works on a plain you and I will never fully understand. I will not say I understand him, not at all. But what I do know is he cannot be trusted.'
'How can you say that after we he gave you?' she asked, dropping her voice to a whisper and looking at him, their dark eyes meeting solidly. 'He saved your life,'
'He did. But the things he gave me he has given to others, and they have become dangerous beyond measure.' Corvo whispered, he didn't need to say the name, she knew exactly who he meant. Daud. The assassin that murdered Mother. 'He does not care what people do with the powers he awards them, for good or bad, so long as they meet his expectation. I don't know why he chose you Emily, and why he whispers to you like he does, but try and ignore it.'
He still sees you as a little girl, asking to play hide and see, wanting to learn to sword fight. You are his only family.
Emily paused a moment, 'Do you still see me as a little girl?'
With a knowing smile and a slight spark of disappointment behind his eyes Corvo cupped her face and kissed her on the forehead. 'Always. But that doesn't mean I don't see the woman you've become.'
Emily smiled and held his hand, her palm itching where it touched his glove. 'Call Reginald and Maxine back, I still have a tonne of people who want to see me.'