The Heart of the Abyss
THE STRANGER (smirking insidiously) : My dear Corvid. I’ve been watching you for a long time. When you fight, when you sleep. When you… bathe. And now you’ve lost it all.
CORVID (shocked and confused) : Who are you? What is this cold and shadowy place? Have I penetrated the Stranger’s Void?
THE STRANGER (with a flourish) : There are forces in this world, forces some men call magic, now you can bend them to your will. I am the Stranger, and this is my mark.
CORVID (studying the back of his hand) : Ah- It burns! What is this supernatural gift?
THE STRANGER (moving closer) : Oh, but I have many more gifts to give. What will you do with them, I wonder?
CORVID (admiring the young man) : Oh! What pale skin, what piercing gaze! You look more youthful the the legends say.
THE STRANGER (caressing his cheek) : Let me show you which legends are true.
Corvo sighed and rubbed his eyes, carefully not throwing the book out through the open window. Emily had given it to him, smiling so sweetly when she said she hoped he’d like it, and he couldn’t go back on his promise to read it. No matter how badly it made him want to avoid his daughter’s too knowledgeable eyes. It was just a book, nothing more—written with badly concealed glee, convoluted dialogue, and far too graphic an imagination.
He hoped the burning of his face was just his imagination.
The minutes seemed to take forever to pass as Corvo forced himself through page after page, only scrunching up his eyes a couple of times. If he could barely see the text it was easier to read, he told himself. For a while he even managed to believe it. But as ‘Corvid’ pressed 'the Stranger’ back against his bed Corvo had to close the book, desperate for a break.
Slowly he took a deep, measured breath, and just as slowly let it out again. What had he done to deserve this? Had he angered Emily somehow, done something to make her want to punish him? If he had then he could only hope his punishment would be over once he had finished reading. There was no way to make him feel more regretful.
“Oh, are we taking a break? How disappointing. Right when it was getting interesting.”
Corvo froze, feeling the texture of the book in his hands burn. He didn’t quite dare to breathe, didn’t want to move, didn’t want to see the owner of the too familiar voice, his head a mess as he tried to come up with something to say. So he froze.
With a soft noise—was it a chuckle, or was Corvo just being paranoid?—the Outsider moved across the couch to sit down next to Corvo, close enough that their thighs pressed against each other. For once he didn’t simply teleport, which Corvo had complained about several times, but he found he couldn’t take any joy in that simple fact. He stared down at the leather clad leg pressing into his, wondering how long the Outsider had been there. How long he had been watching, reading. There were no hints in his solemn face or in the dark of his eyes, no matter how hard Corvo looked, and Corvo could only fear that he had been there since the first word.
There was no way his burning face was an imagination this time.
“Why, my dear Corvo, have you lost your tongue?” The Outsider raised an eyebrow, draping an arm across the back of the couch where Corvo was sitting. He thought he could feel the heat of the Outsider’s arm, or maybe it was just the unblinking stare that never left Corvo’s face. “Or have you simply been struck dumb by my piercing gaze?”
Now he could see the tilt of the Outsider’s lips, the amusement deep in those never-ending eyes, the mocking tone of his voice.
With no small amount of relief Corvo stood up and threw the accursed book out of the window, far past caring about his daughter’s potential anger.