CS Sealey

Sydney-based sub-editor, writer and author

The Golden Cat

The brothel was the only place in that part of the Dunwall where flowers still grew — that was the first thing he noticed when he scrambled over the roof of an abandoned warehouse and looked across the empty square. It was vast, with balconies, courtyards and outdoor walkways on every level. Even the upper floors, where the workers slept, looked grander than most of the city beyond. There was no scent of the plague here, though the surrounding buildings, not only his warehouse, looked deserted.

Corvo Attano adjusted his optical lenses and scrutinised the front doors of the Golden Cat. A half-clothed female worker meandered past the grand double doors and flanking pillars, a cigarette held loosely between two fingers. It was impossible to tell which of the workers were whores and which were mere cleaners at this business. The madame was fascinated with beauty and couldn’t abide the thought of hiring anyone her patrons wouldn’t be delighted to see. The woman sat herself down on a bench near the doors, leant back and blew smoke upwards in a lazy fashion. Sneaking past her would be hard, but even if he managed it, going through the front doors would be unwise. The Golden Cat was an expensive establishment and frequented by the same upper-crust noblemen and officials. New faces were rare, men in masks were even rarer. He would stick out like a creeper at a funeral.

He looked towards one of the gazebos, one tangled in roses and dotted with flowering bushes and benches. A soldier was pacing there with a letter in his hand and a glass of wine in the other. There were other balconies but none offered such a clear path to the attic rooms.

Corvo crept silently to the edge of the warehouse roof and perched there, muscles tensed. He felt the mark on the back of his hand burn hot for an instant and clenched his fist, then he was looking through the air between the roof and the gazebo. To him, there was no air, no space separating the two points. There was no bone-shattering drop to the street below, no impossible leap ahead. He reached through the black smoke of the void and grabbed the edge of the gazebo roof. The man below him looked up from his letter upon hearing the thud of boots on the wooden slats of the gazebo, but then Corvo’s arm was around his neck. The soldier gagged and flailed with his arms. Red wine splashed over Corvo’s mask and slid down his optics, obscuring his vision, but he kept his grip firm and plucked the glass from the man’s fingers.

It took a few moments for the soldier to collapse, and a few more for Corvo to arrange the body in a convincing sleeping position on one of the benches. A moment later, he had heaved himself up onto the roof of the gazebo and leapt across the narrow gap to the Golden Cat’s ornate first floor roof. Keeping close to the wall, he shuffled along the ledge, crouching low as he passed open windows and pausing when he heard voices.

There was a drainpipe at the end of the ledge which he grabbed in both his hands. Before ascending, he paused. Again, the mark on the back of his hand burned slightly and his vision turned black and red. He glanced around, his eyes boring through the tiles of the building to pinpoint the moving bodies of customers and workers. A pair of women were reclining on a lounge just on the other side of the wall, but their steady breathing suggested to him that they were either asleep or close to it. Beyond that room, a man was standing guard outside the door, or perhaps waiting for someone. Further down the corridor, a woman was walking with a tray of wine glasses and humming to herself. Corvo looked up and spotted a large soldier standing on the balcony above, leaning on the balustrade. He swallowed and the black-and-red dark vision faded away.

Corvo quietly climbed the drainpipe and then heaved himself up onto the next floor balcony. The soldier staggered back and reached for his gun but he had no time to make a sound as Corvo’s sleep dart hit him in the neck and a hand pressed over his mouth. He struggled for a moment before the drug took effect and he, too, sagged in Corvo’s arms. Glancing around, Corvo once more slipped back into his dark vision. There was nobody within his power’s reach on that level. Retreating back to the coloured world, he dragged the unconscious man to the corner of the balcony, obscured by the door, and also arranged him into a propped-up sleeping position. Tilting his head downwards to the left, he was able to hide the red mark where his dark had hit him.

Reaching through the void again, he pulled himself up onto the top floor of the Golden Cat and shuffled along the ledge to an open window. The corridor beyond was empty and all doors were open, except one. He knew the door would be locked, yet he tried it all the same. Closing his eyes in frustration, he contemplated breaking it in, though he instantly knew that was not an option. Even in an establishment filled with music and laughter, a loud crash would draw someone’s attention.

He stalked down the corridor towards the stairs, blinking in and out of dark vision to ensure his path was clear. One floor below, the Madame was pacing in her study, muttering to herself about one of her girls who had fallen ill, hopefully not with the plague. Corvo paused on the landing outside her office and took a moment to peer through the keyhole. The Madame had paused her pacing and was now leaning over her paper-laden table. Corvo silently turned the door handle.

The door creaked and the woman raised her head; he leapt across the room and wrapped his arm around her neck before she could turn. She lashed out at his head with her long-nailed hands but he ignored the attempts as they bounced off his mask. She took longer to subdue than any of the men, yet he eventually laid her down on the sofa against the wall and plucked the keys from her belt. Slipping into his dark vision, he checked the route back to the attic and leapt silently back up the stairs. He tried the keys in the lock one by one, finding that the fourth one fit, and then turned the handle, his heart beating loud and fast in his ears.

Emily was lying on the bed, but her eyes were open. As Corvo stood in the doorway, he watched her raise her head and inch back against the wall. Remembering his mask, Corvo reached up and undid the buckles and clasps. He had been wearing it so much over the last week that taking it off felt strange. Yet, he pulled it off and then turned back to Emily. The fear in her eyes fell away immediately.

‘Corvo!’

‘Your highness,’ he said, smiling. My dearest girl, he wanted to add. ‘It’s time to go.’

Dishonored is one of my favourite games and there are many reasons for this. Firstly, the environment is dark, dirty and unforgiving—a Victorian steampunk city wracked by plagued and ruled by the wealthy and corrupt. It’s hard to remain true your morals when you’re also struggling to survive and the plight of the people is seen at every turn. Secondly, the game is full of choice—both in developing your character and also in gameplay. You can be a cruel deliverer of death and exact revenge on all who did you wrong, and go about it with the help of guns, swords, bombs, magic, gravity, rats, water… and much more. Alternatively, you can be as a shadow and traverse the rooftops, sneak into the houses of those you seek and twist their fates in malicious ways to neutralise them without killing them. Another reason I love this game is the fact that the levels are so diverse, including this one—the brothel. Each level shows you a different part of the city and give snapshots of how people live and die. It was hard to single out one level to pose as my favourite, because I legitimately love them all, but I will give a big shoutout to the DLC—as the game gives you the option to not only play as the hero (in the main campaign) but also one of your greatest enemies in the DLC. It’s great to play as the villain for once, but at the same time, the game reveals that he’s not actually as bad as the campaign painted him—or perhaps he is… it all depends on your actions. I love this game.

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