you're just a little girl, barely old enough to truly understand your place in the world, when your life starts to fall apart around you. one second you're as happy as can be; you always are with both mother and corvo at your side. you're not too sure where corvo went off to or why, but you hope he can stay for a while. you missed him a lot while he was gone, and you could tell mother wanted him to come back too.
one second everything is fine. you're happy, standing with the two people you love most in the world. and then your mother is laying in a pool of blood, and you're taken away.
the golden cat is the strangest place you've ever been to, with strange noises filling the air at the oddest hours, and the twins are probably the worst people you've ever met. you stay stuck there for a while, thinking about what happened to your mother, thinking about how corvo was executed. you don't want to believe that last part, even if it is what they've told you. nobody really pays attention to you here other than making sure you don't leave. they're not really doing much of a good job of it either if you can almost get out more than once. where you would go if you did manage to escape is a mystery, though it sounds a lot better than being here, lonely and listening to a lot of stuff you don't really want to hear. you're not sure how long you've been kept hidden away in the golden cat. it feels like forever.
it's another day in forever when corvo finally comes for you, wearing a weird mask to hide himself, and the two of you leave the golden cat behind for good. thank god, too, because you were planning another escape attempt anyway.
you're moved to the hound pits pub, which is definitely an upgrade to the golden cat. the people are a lot nicer here for one thing, and you don't feel so cramped anymore. your days kind of go by in a blur, between studying and drawing and watching corvo leave and come back over and over again. this place may not be the golden cat, but you still hear a lot, mostly just talking. grownups never think you're listening when they talk to each other in front of you, but you hear everything. you don't understand all of what they're taking about, and sometimes it's not all that interesting to listen to either. you really hope you don't become like that when you grow up, having nothing good or amazing to say and being no fun, all stuffy and mouthy. still, it's not like you suddenly just stop hearing once they start talking around you. you really don't know why they'd even think that, but it seems like it since they don't really bother being quiet all that often. you guess it doesn't really matter if you get it or not. you're not too sure what they're talking about half the time, but it must be pretty important if it's keeping corvo away all the time.
it's kind of lonely without corvo around. you hardly get to see him anymore, or at least not as much as you would like to. callista is pretty nice when she isn't making you study (what's with that anyway; you're not even at the tower and you still have to study), but it's not really the same. you've been ready to go home ever since you left. of course, you don't want to leave without corvo, so you have no choice but to continue waiting. thoughts of going away on adventures help you get through the days when you're bored out of your skull. you just want to go home. you hope that the next time you get on a boat or get taken away, it's to go back to the tower.
when the time finally comes and you are taken away yet again, it's not back to where you really want to be. you're so tired of being locked in rooms. you're so tired of waiting. the sounds coming from outside don't really sound too good for a while, and that's probably the only reason you're glad to be in here and not out there. you think about all you've been told, about what corvo's been doing, about all the people he's dealt with, about all the fighting and plotting that happening outside of your earshot. you hold your face in your hands, finding that you can't bring yourself to care beyond knowing right this second. you just want to leave. you want this all to be over.
you're almost to the point of covering your ears when the door swings open, corvo coming to rescue you a second time. you leave behind all that's happened and where you are, leave with corvo at your side.
you're home at last, and you're with corvo.
years go by, and time does little to soften the pain of your mother's death. if anything, it adds more to your burdens, and makes you wish things could be different, makes you yearn for an escape from your responsibilities. you don't feel nearly prepared enough to rule over an entire empire, even with everything you've learned over the past fifteen years. you wonder how your mother did it, not like you could ask her anyway. things were much simpler back then, when you were just a little girl who dreamed of adventure and thought the worst thing in the world was studying. part of you still longs for that sense of adventure to combat the monotony some of your duties entail and the problems that continue to arise under your rule. you might have grown up, but sailing away on a ship still sounds much better than anything you're currently doing.
throw in a killer and rumors ever circling around you and your father along with the upcoming anniversary of your mother's assassination, and you've got a recipe for one stressed out would be empress. you're sure your mother would have done a much better job at handling the crown killer killing off your opposition and making it look like you were involved. honestly, if a miracle could happen and your mother came back from the dead, you'd give the throne right back to her without a moment's hesitation. dunwall would do a lot better with her hand guiding everything.
the day of the anniversary comes around, and it wouldn't be lying to say you dragged your feet the whole way, dreading the celebration of an event that's still the worst thing to ever happen to you. were your father not by your side the whole way, you probably would be dreading the event much more than you already do. even so, putting a rose down in her memory with each year that goes by doesn't get any easier. you don't expect much to come from the day other than your own heartache.
you certainly don't expect a woman named delilah, claiming to be your aunt and rightful empress, to come in and turn your life upside down again, along with a group of traitors to back her up. everything happens so fast you don't have time to process it in the moment, but seeing your father turn to stone right before your very eyes moves your feet, your hands going for delilah only to be knocked down. the room fades in a haze of bodies and blood, your father frozen in place the last thing you see before your eyes grow too heavy to keep open.
you wake up locked in your room, your ring missing from your finger. you saw who took it, saw the body count increase as you were carried away. you take your father's blade with you, covered in blood and used by the wrong person, and you go after the man who took your ring. ramsey wanted into your safe room so badly? then he can have it, stay here until return for all you care. who knows? if he goes through your rations carefully enough, he might even get to see coldridge prison when you come back.
making your way to the docks, you get on a boat and sail away from dunwall just like you've been thinking of doing for weeks now, but the circumstances are too different for you to really enjoy it. you think that, had you been younger, you would have found the concept of this very thrilling. sailing the sea on a boat that may as well be yours to command for the time being, father's sword and a gun at your side, ready to take back what's rightfully yours; it's just like the stories you used to read and dream about when your studies got too boring to stomach. when you were young, you yearned for such adventure in your life. those fantasies all seemed so much grander than your real life back then, when being empress one day was the furthest thing from your mind. you never once thought life without your mother was a possibility; you just assumed that she'd be there forever. as it turned out, a life with both your mother and your father at your side was more a dream than you ever realized.
you wake up that night in your cabin, thoughts of the coup that took you out still fresh in your mind, but something feels off. you can tell without having to investigate very much. the room seems fine at a glance, yet the change in the air around you is undeniable, as if you're no longer on the dreadful whale at all, your suspicions proved true by the new hole in the wall that wasn't there when you fell asleep. you step through the hole, your guard raised as high as it can be, and you meet an entity whose name has been whispered around the streets of dunwall for as long as you can remember. the outsider's dark eyes match the wisps of shadow around his form, black and thick as smoke. you almost can't believe your own eyes aren't tricking you, but there's no way you could imagine something like this. he offers his gifts to you, and you take them, thinking they might be of some help to you.
the mark burns itself into your left hand, a black brand standing bold against your skin, and you wonder just what you've gotten yourself into now. it's done, though. you can't take it back now.
the void feels like an opposite of itself, if that makes any sense at all, which doesn't the more you think about it. the air is thin but also fills up your lungs to the brim. the scenery stretches out for miles as far as your eyes can see and beyond, yet the space you can travel is limited. you feel as though you're walking in your father's footsteps as you use what's been given to you to traverse the expanse of the void, scenes of your troubles frozen around you like wax statues. was this what it was like for him all those years ago when he had his own set of conspirators to deal with? you've thought a lot about back then, about the loss of your mother and what your father did for the sake of dunwall and you, but never once did you think that one day you'd go down a strangely similar path. hell, you can hardly imagine being an empress, much less carrying a mark of heresy and magic on your flesh. the existence of the outsider, along with the knowledge of your betrayers and the thought of delilah sitting upon your throne, puts your mind in a whirl. as if you didn't already have a lot of deal with already without adding in an entity you've only ever heard stories about but never quite believed.
you pick up a heart placed on what looks to be a shrine, surprised but also somewhat comforted by your mother's voice and image coming from it. all this time, you've wished she could be there to give you guidance, and here she is, just as you remember. it may only be a little bit of your mother, more a reflection that anything, but you'll gladly take it. it's better than what you've had for the past fifteen years.
it takes weeks to finally make dock at karnaca, just like meagan said it would. you step out into what was once a great city, your mouth covered by the scarf around your neck. there are already fliers hailing delilah as the new empress hung up, but you're not too surprised by that. the buzzing of bloodflies permeates all throughout the corners of karnaca, their own kind of plague, bringing back memories of the rat plague of dunwall. it's one of the worst sounds you've ever heard, something you'll be glad to never hear again once your business has been taken care of. right now, avoiding them is the best you can do as you have other goals in mind.
your first stop is addermire institute to see the alchemist hypatia, chasing after clues involving the crown killer and sokolov's kidnapping. the bloodfly infestation has even reached this far, ironic as far as you can tell since it looks like hypatia is searching for a cure for the sickness they cause. almost as ironic as meeting the crown killer in the very woman you came to see, her mind twisted from her own cure, her actions manipulated. the more you learn about the people who orchestrated the coup against you, the more complex it becomes, the more questions you have. hypatia is just as much a victim in this as you, if not more so, and for that reason, you help cure the disease in her mind and offer her shelter on the dreadful whale. had your encounter with hypatia gone any other way, the poor woman's life would have been ruined well past her death. you don't want anymore bloodshed in your name, whether it be from you or not.
the scope of the outsider's gift to you only grows broader the more you travel. reality breaks with each rune you pick up from shrines built for the outsider. you're still not used to it, not used to your world coming apart only to merge back together to form the void, but it happens whether you like it or not. you don't know whether to feel pulled or guided by the outsider, his messages too broad and cryptic to fully grasp in the moment, not until you've gathered your own information and made your own decisions. it's as though his hands are full of choices and you can only take one. he sees futures, possibilities, and dangles them in your face for your choosing, but he never tells you which path to take. in that regard, you're glad he doesn't have reign over your actions. these are your problems and your choices to make; leaving them up to someone else would be too much of a burden.
after that, finding sokolov becomes your next priority, the man with the greatest mind to have ever graced dunwall. the home of jindosh, sokolov's kidnapper, is one of the most interesting places you've ever seen, mechanisms ever moving the landscape around you in some places, his clockwork soldiers moving about as you sneak around them. those soldiers are what worry you the most about jindosh, as they're being supplied to the duke of serkonos, the ringleader of your coup. you can't allow jindosh to continue weaponize your opposition, yet you feel conflicted as you fry his brain with his own machine. is destroying one of the greatest minds in the world the right thing to do? you have no idea if killing him instead would've been more merciful.
you find sokolov alone, his skin badly bruised from what you can see, pallor about as unhealthy as you can get, especially at his age. taking him back to the dreadful whale and meagan feels like another victory under your belt, but you still have a long way to go before you can return to dunwall and reclaim your throne. you feel that distance and that separation almost phsycially, as if you're missing an arm.
you wake in the void once more, this time with delilah as your guide rather than the outsider. the story she paints for you about herself and your mother almost seems too wrong to believe. how much you can trust from what delilah has shown you is a mystery. whether or not she truly deserves the throne and rule over the empire is not up for debate anymore. it's not just because the throne was once yours; you can only see ruin in an empire ruled under delilah, who was bitter enough to take what you've had for years.
it takes three days for you to start becoming antsy, three days of sokolov recovering under the watchful eye of hypatia. your counsel always did say you lacked any sort of patience. you can barely think of much beyond what you're supposed to be doing. taking out the coup and freeing your father are your top priority above all else. you can admit to being a little hasty in wanting sokolov's help in dealing with delilah. after all, you looked up to him as a child, and unlike all the other boring adults you had to be around, sokolov was the most lively, the most wise and passionate. if there was ever anyone who would be the most helpful in your current situation, it would be sokolov. but even genius has its limits when it comes to magic, and pushing sokolov in his condition would do nothing.
you go through your next targets one by one, moving as swiftly as you can, feeling the weight of your purpose now more than ever. ashworth, a companion of delilah who was working to corrupt the abbey and the sisters, her powers striped but still alive after you're done with her. stilton, whose mind was so broken when you found him that going to the past was the only way to fix the damage. you think you'll never really understand how you've done the things you've done, or how the outsider can help you change reality as if it were nothing, practically giving you someone else's livelihood in your hands to do with as you pleased in your search for the truth. jumping from present to past, knowing what you know and seeing what you've seen, you don't think you'll ever be the same person after this. seeing the ritual which brought delilah back from the void only confirms that there's much to your world you have no chance of understanding
with delilah's soul housed inside an object and hidden away, your father's sword and the outsider's powers in your hand couldn't kill her, even if you wanted to go that far. you go to duke abele's mansion, intend on finding delilah's spirit as well as neutralizing the duke while you're here. it almost wraps itself up too nicely for you. a body double for the duke in place of the real duke; you can't see a better justice than that. given time and the aid you should've offered long ago, karnaca should one day be a great as it once was, instead of being run into the ground like it is currently. part of wishes you had done more, back before your throne was usurped. you can see now that you've been careless, wrapped up in your own troubles, blinded to the plights of the rest of your empire. if you have it your way, you won't be like that again.
you say goodbye to your mother, releasing her spirit from the heart so you may trap delilah's and return it to her. it feels like her death all over again, but there's no other way around it besides letting her go. with a mix of determination and renewed loss in your chest, within your own heart, you set your sights back home.
dunwall is a shadow of what it once was when you finally return. bodies line the streets, the scent of blood and death swirling around along with the flies, a feeling of gloom and darkness following your every step. the chanting and raving of delilah's minions can be heard the further you go, the closer you get to the throne. delilah has made a real mess of your city and your tower while you were gone, almost to the point where you can barely recognize it. how long has it been since you were last here? it feels like forever.
with all you've been through and all your done tucked under your belt, the last step for you to take is to confront delilah. her soul leaves the heart in a flash of light, her mortality returned if you decided to take it. you've learned that your choices affect more than just you, and what you do here could have lasting consequences for millions. placing the corrupted ruin on the throne and placing delilah on it, trapping her inside her fantasy life within her painting, ruling just how she's always wanted to, was the only thing you could think of to end this as cleanly as possible, without spilling more blood in your name. in the end, you could not bring yourself to truly eliminate delilah, even after all the wrong and hurt she's caused you. an empress who is ruthless and cruel to her opposition, no matter who they are, is not the kind of empress you wish to be. maybe delilah will finally be happy within the confines of that fantasy. you'll never know.
you feel as though history did repeat itself in a way, as you stand before your father, your hand pressed against his cheek, his body returning to normal at long last. you've reclaimed your throne once more from people who tried to take it from you, and your father is still at your side, just as he was back then. you've got a lot to explain, but you also have plenty of time to tell your story, and plenty of time to rule over your empire the way you should have from the beginning. your doubts are finally gone, your heart lighter than its been in years, your throne ready for you to truly shine as the empress of the isles.
and this time, you don't plan to give it up to anyone ever again.