Since before he could remember, there was the tales of The Outsider. So long ago, living on the streets, he came upon an old woman. In her madness, she thought him her darling grandson, and in her he found not just an unlikely caretaker but a way to a new life. She taught him of The Outsider and helped him carve a rune on an old whale bone he found by the river. She gave him charms and trinkets for protection, fed him, kept him safe, but never once looked upon his face, as her eyes were long ago blinded. He never asked how, but learned from her everything he would ever know.
Every day was a new lesson, a new gruesome way to learn the truth or right a wrong. “The pain rings true.” she would often remind him. And though he always offered what he could to The Outsider, always brought runes and eventually made his own altar to him, He did not come. The Outsider would not see him. Did he listen to him in the dark when he whispered? She always assured him that He did. If she said so, it must be true. She spoke to Him often, and she must know, he told himself. But that was so long ago now.
So many years ago, she had opened doors for him, though he would never understand how or which ones. In all the years he spent with her, he never saw her speak to anyone else. Not really. Somehow though, in teaching him the art of inflicting pain and gruesome death, she had provided him with a rather unique skill set, and a career for life. He still remembered as if it were yesterday, the sudden rise to his current position.
As he stoked the fire in the brazier, he thought of his next victim. The Royal Defender, having murdered the Queen and kidnapped the young Princess, was his next charge.
“He'll break like the others”, he told himself. “All who are guilty always break under my influence.“
So many years, and never once had he not gotten the truth, gotten the confession of crimes committed. Never once had he failed in his job, as torturer for Granny or as the Royal Interrogator.
As they brought Corvo in and shackled his wrists and ankles to the chair, he noted something very strange about him. He did not have the look of the others. He sat quietly, as if in another place. One would think he was sitting by the river lost in thought, for all the emotion he showed as he started. Hours passed, and while the screams of pain rang, they seemed hollow somehow. They were something more of the animal in us than the man. And still Corvo sat, lost in thought after a full day of the torture he so prided himself in providing.
“What would Granny say if she saw this failure?” he suddenly wondered.
Hours upon hours later, the torturer now as tired as the tortured, he gave up for the day. He ordered Corvo back to his cell, resolving to do worse tomorrow. As he made his way down to the farthest deeps of the castle, his home now, he sat before his altar. He never stopped believing in The Outsider, nor did he ever stop visiting Granny whenever he had the opportunity. Never once had he seen The Outsider. So when a young man of short dark hair started speaking to him, he simply thought it a new guard or someone from the kitchens who had actually dared to come down.
“Do not fret.”the young man said. “Corvo is different from those before. He is innocent.”
As he turned towards the young man, the room seemed to break apart, the world seemed somehow shattered, and the young man was suddenly standing before him. For the first time, he didn't just believe. He knew.
“And soon he will have my favor. Now you have nothing to fear but his wrath...” he said.
Suddenly the shattered world was to rights again, and he knew Corvo had escaped, or was escaping at this very moment. He realized now why Corvo had been so quiet, why his screams rang hollow, why all his gruesome torture had been for naught but empty screams ringing throughout the prison cells.
And more than anything else, for the first time since he met Granny and she taught him all those years ago, he felt he knew fear.
When he went to visit Granny the next day, she was gone. Even the path to her old broken apartments were gone, as if she had never been. As if they had never been together at all.
He guarded his thoughts, and prayed to The Outsider, new offerings every day, all for the chance that Corvo might forget him, that he never give him a second thought.
And as he stoked the fire once more, he thought he saw a shadow upon the wall. “Tricks of light from the brazier”, he told himself even as the blade sliced his throat. As he fell, he gazed upon his attacker, a shadow with a silver skull for a face. And so very quiet.