Cobbled Bits Of Bone, A Dishonored Fanzine

Cobbled Bits Of Bone, A Dishonored Fanzine

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Dishonored is my absolute favorite game, and at my age it’s the only game I play anymore, mostly for nostalgia purposes. I love the aesthetic and the world, bleak as it is, for its art style and the completeness of the lore. The game came out way back in 2012, and the 2016 sequel was a bit lackluster thanks in part to the botched, broken release. The dearth (there’s a million dollar word, eh?) of content in recent years has spurred some direct action from the fans in many ways, including an upcoming fanzine. Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what that is, just go look it up. I know a lot of people kind of look down on fanfiction, but it has served as the nucleus for several successful book and film products in the past, so I wouldn’t be so quick to look down my nose at it.  Especially cause my nose is really short and stubby and it would be physically difficult.

Anyway, Cobbled Bits of Bone is a fanzine that will include original art and fiction set in the world of Dishonored, all created by and for the fans and not in any way officially licensed. You can see why I was drawn to the thing. The call for submissions included content creators for art, merch as well as fanfiction, and for the submission process I wrote two very short (1500 word max) pieces. Some of the digital art I’ve seen for this project really blows my mind, and there’s no way I could even conceive of the skill needed to produce it. For the written pieces, the creators selected a nice variety of content, and the piece of mine they preferred is one focusing on the character of Slackjaw, a gangster in the world of the game, and Granny Rags, a mysterious witch. The short story, “Granny’s Gift,” will appear in the fanzine when it’s published sometime around January 2022. The other piece I wrote, titled “Home, If You Want,” included characters that were already well covered by other pieces in the ‘zine, so I am including it here. It details a first meeting between a minor character, Thomas, and two major characters, the assassin Daud and his lieutenant Billie Lurk. An excerpt from this short story was used for my contributor profile in the official announcements from the Fanzine Twitter account. Until the final product is released (for free, as it truly is a labor of love, and cause of copyright law stuff), here’s a taste of what might be in store. Enjoy!

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“Home, If You Want”

Dunwall, 1829.

 

The youth tailed his target at just the right distance. It wasn’t a trivial calculation, he’d learned through painful practice. Too far and he’d lose his mark in the gloom of Dunwall’s streets that seemed to devour even full moonlight. Too close and he’d get his ears boxed. Or worse, the City Watch would be called. He had it down to a fine art, picking rich pockets, and this particular pocket was richer than most. The nobleman’s overcoat bulged with the outline of an antique war medal still in its original case, the tip of which poked out just enough to catch his eye. No doubt destined to be bartered for a bottle of King Street or a night at the Golden Cat. It had become a popular way for the wealthy to avoid the Empress’ new taxes, converting coin into precious baubles that couldn’t easily be traced, then back again. Such a precious would feed the boy for a month or more, if he could fence it.

But first to get it. The nobleman, whoever he was, drew ever closer to the Estate District, and the boy knew he wouldn’t be allowed to set even a foot in there. It was time to act. Only a few common citizens defied the Abbey’s admonition to remain indoors after nightfall, and none were paying him any attention. He walked faster to catch up with the nobleman’s steady, aristocratic gait. Closer, closer…

“Gyah!” The boy jumped back as he was nearly run over. It was one of the new electrified carriage cars, cutting straight down the street without heed of whoever might be in its path. He stumbled backward, stomping in a muddy puddle and sending a loud splash echoing off the surrounding brick buildings. The noble glanced back for only an instant, then continued on his way.

“Outsider’s cock,” the boy spat. The mark was getting away! He ran now, his head screaming at him to be careful and his legs utterly ignoring the advice. He turned another corner and came to a broad, open plaza. The boundary of the walled-off Estate District was straight ahead, the Clocktower looming high above. A lone Watch officer wearing the light blue jacket of the aristocracy guard stood idly beneath whale oil-powered streetlights smoking a cigar, and the mark was making right for him. It was now or never.

A cloud passed in front of the moon, and for one perfect moment the boy was as good as invisible. He dashed forward on the tips of his toes and, quiet as a rat, plucked the medal from the noble’s pocket. It was a chilly night, and the woolen greatcoat was heavy enough that the mark seemed not to miss its weight. An amateur would follow his instincts and take off running, no doubt attracting attention. But the boy was experienced, and only changed his direction a bit to cross the street. A few tense moments later he ducked into an alleyway and let out a triumphant breath.

“Got it!” He held up his prize. Such a silly thing to hold so much value. A bit of colored ribbon and crossed bars of metal. But it would bring coin, and coin would quiet his rumbling stomach for a while. Whistling an old gaffer’s tune and smiling for the first time in a long time, he stepped out of the alley…

A withered hand lanced out of nowhere to take a surprisingly strong hold of his wrist. The boy cried out in pain and surprise. It was the nobleman! He’d somehow discovered his loss and tracked the boy down. Seething with rage, the old man wrenched the medal away and struck the boy across the face. He fell to the hard cobblestones, leaving a comet-tail of blood trailing behind him.

“Filthy lickspittle! Try to steal from me? You just committed suicide, boy. You know I pay extra for the pleasure of dismembering mudlarks like you for sport?” He lay dazed, looking up at the aristocrat’s swirling visage. And just beyond that, something…moving? Something on the rooftop of the building across the way? The old man pulled out a slender stiletto. “Come here, I’ll show you why nobody dares cross an Estermont.”

“What’s going on there?” The shout came from the officer guarding the Estate District. With the nobleman momentarily distracted by the cry, the boy kicked away, stumbled to his feet and ran.

“Thief! Stop! Guard, after him if you know what’s good for you!”

The boy tore off down the alley with the Watch officer on his tail. He knew the streets of Dunwall well enough, but between the darkness and his desperation he soon found himself lost among the maze of buildings. The heavy footfalls echoed behind him. He ran as fast as he could, still dizzy from the blow he’d suffered and making random turns to try and lose the guard.

At some point the sound of his pursuer vanished, and not long after he tripped. The ground swung up to welcome him once again. “Shit!” He pushed himself up on skinned hands, then turned to see what he’d tripped over. Something big. Even in the dark he could still make out the light blue of the jacket. It was the officer! Blood oozed from beneath the body and into a gutter. Already a rat was poking at the feast. Who’d killed him? And so silently?

No matter. The boy was on his feet again and running, making far too much noise for someone trying to slip away. He found himself once again at the plaza, having gone in a jagged circle. He ducked behind a public notice board and peeked out to see the aristocrat who’d called himself Estermont prowling the streets that were illuminated by the expensive whale oil lights, but not venturing far beyond. He held his stiletto out in front of him like a magic whalebone talisman. Still hunting for his bloody entertainment, it seemed.

The boy was about to sneak away when something caught his eye. There was no mistaking it this time, something was on the rooftops. Someone, moving swiftly and silently. Another guard? Some rich fop out for some voyeuristic slumming? No. He watched as the figure, dark against darkness, crept along the ledge of a banking house with an advertisement for jellied eels painted on the side. Then there was the tiniest flash of light, and to the boy’s amazement the figure appeared instantly on the ledge of the next building over.

“By the Void!” the boy breathed. He’d heard stories, rumors here and there but never believed them. Could it be…? The figure was looking down at something. Into the plaza. No, at Estermont. In a flash he put it all together. That officer wasn’t the target of any planned killing, he’d just been in the way. And now Estermont stood in the middle of a well-lit square, far from any overhanging rooftops.

An idea came to him, a crazy and dangerous but maybe a brilliant one. He stepped out into the light, his hands shaking and stomach doing tumbles. “Hey! Hey you, you old choffer! I’m right here. Come get me!”

Estermont’s mouth turned into a rictus of hate as well as gleeful hunger. “There you are! I’m going to rip open your belly and wear your intestines as a belt! I’ll drain you like a whale! I’ll make sure it takes you days to die!”

“You’re welcome to try,” the boy said, then ran off, none too quickly, towards the end of Greasley Boulevard where it entered the Estate District. The way was closed for the night so it was a dark, dead end. But there were plenty of buildings all around, and plenty of rooftops.

The boy stopped just short of the heavy metal barrier closing off the street and turned around, his eyes scanning the ledges on either side for any sign of movement. If he’d guessed wrong, his guts would feed the hagfish of Serpentine Canal.

Estermont appeared at the end of the boulevard, huffing and puffing to catch up to the boy. He now stalked forward, an evil grin revealing gold teeth. He waved his stiletto in playful circles. “Nowhere to run now,” he said with a guttural snarl. “Let’s have a little fun, shall we?”

The boy held his ground, ready to dash past the nobleman if necessary. Estermont crept ever closer, as though he were now the one planning to pick pockets. “Come on, come on,” the boy whispered.

Estermont was upon him and ready to pounce, his excitement at the prospect of eviscerating the boy seeming to give him the strength of a younger man. “You have no idea..how much I’m going to enjoy what…comes next.” He leaped forward.

Or rather, he started to. At just that moment a gloved hand reached out of the darkness and yanked him backward, while another drew a long, angular whale butcher’s knife across the nobleman’s throat. Blood gushed forth, and Estermont spasmed in his killer’s grip for what seemed a long time. The strong arms let go, and the aristocrat’s lifeless body flopped to the ground. In his place stood a grim-faced brute with a scar running down one side of his face. “Was it everything you hoped for?” he said to the corpse, his voice a husky rasp.

The boy stood transfixed by shock, even though things had played out exactly as he’d wanted. Another shape appeared next to the killer out of thin air. The smaller form pulled off a whaler’s mask to reveal a young woman only a bit older than himself. With a sneer she kicked the body once. “Humph, it was almost too easy,” she said, sounding disappointed.

“Don’t complain Billie, easy is good,” said her frightful companion. “Coin is better.” He knelt down to pull the war medal once again out of the dead man’s pocket. “We’ll need this, as proof of the contract’s fulfillment.”

The girl turned her hard gaze on the youth. “What do we have here?”

“Another street rat, it seems. Like you were.”

“A witness. One we can’t afford.” She began to pull her own long blade, and the boy’s bowels clenched.

“Wait,” said the man with a halting hand. He turned to the boy. “That was quick thinking, luring him here. But dangerous. We didn’t need your help.”

“W-well, I needed yours,” the boy replied shakily. “He would’ve had the entire Watch looking for me if you hadn’t got him.”

“Hmm. You know, I think I could use someone like you. I make no guarantees about what you might become, but join me and you’ll never have to run from anyone again.”

“R-really?”

“If you choose to.”

The boy looked down at the remains of Estermont, at the pool of blood flooding between the cobblestones. “Then I choose to.”

“What’s your name, boy?”

“…Thomas.”

“Thomas. Let’s go home, if you want.”

###

 

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