[Excerpt from a dissertation on Dunwall's Rat Plague and the restoration of the city, Day 17, Month of Nets, 1840]
The dreaded Rat Plague, as every man, woman, and child who bore witness to it, was something of epic and tragic proportions--one that consumed the lives of many folk, both common and aristocratic, both civilian and military, in the great capital of our beloved Empire. While many speculated on the dreaded contagion's origin, from a curse sent out by a malicious Void spirit, to infilitration by a foreign power, the truth of the atrocity was revealed in due time, thanks to the apparent work of a Loyalist Conspiracy bent on restoring our current Empress, Emily Kaldwin I, to the throne. Based on evidence garnered by the investigators and detectives of the Dunwall City Watch, and affirmed by various individuals close to the source of the problem (such as one noteworthy broadcast officer who risked his life to reveal the wretched truth), it became apparent that the former Royal Spymaster--and at that time, Lord Regent--Hiram Burrows, was responsible for bringing in the plague, as part of a bizarre, sadistic, and ill-thought plan to eliminate the poor of Dunwall's slums. With the collaboration of a number of conspirators, ranging from aristocrats, members of parliament, and various important clergy, Burrows imported Pandyssian Bull Rats, the dreaded, man-eating, carriers of the plague, into Dunwall's poorest districts, in the hope that the city would progress once the poor were killed off by the rats.
Of course, the Spymaster, despite his villainous scheming and treachery, did not think through the effects it would have on Dunwall.
Within months, the plague had affected all levels of society, with aristocrats, beggars, and the common working folk of the city dying off in the droves. From a population of 600,000 people, two-thirds of Dunwall's population died off either due to infection, rat swarms, or violence in a span of three years, as the great capital of the Empire descended into chaos. During this time, the Empress, Jessamine Kaldwin, sought to save the lives of her citizens, whether they were rich or poor. To her, life was a sacred, valuable thing, as was freedom from the fear of a violent, gruesome death, which, unfortunately, was common during those dreaded three years the plague wreaked havoc upon our grandiose city.
In the year 1837, well into the plague's height of destruction and madness, the Empress sent out her Royal Protector (and presumed lover, if the rumors are to be believed), Corvo Attano, to seek aid from the other Isles. When he returned, he brought back bad news: the other nations of the Empire were ready to blockade Dunwall, in an effort to prevent the contagion from spreading to the other Isles. It was during this time that the unthinkable happened: the Royal Spymaster, Hiram Burrows, who had kept his involvement in the plague's introduction a secret, sent a group of well trained assassins to kill the Empress, abduct her daughter, Lady Emily, and frame her dutiful bodyguard, Royal Protector Corvo Attano for the murder. As per the Spymaster's orders, the City Watch arrested Corvo, and threw him into the depths of Coldridge Prison, where he would languish in a stone cell for six months in preparation for a state execution.
Of course, no one expected the work of a conspiracy beyond Hiram's knowledge. During those six months, he transformed Dunwall into an oppressive environment, brutally taking down any form of subversion or rebellion through the excessive use of authority, whether it came from the City Watch, the Overseers, or the new Sokolov Technologies introduced all over the already ruined city. Focusing on an almost obsessive vision to stem the tide of what he had wrought, Burrows--now proclaimed Lord Regent of Dunwall and Gristol--turned Dunwall against itself, with machinery oppressing an already dying populace (1). But this conspiracy, apparently led by a former Admiral by the name of Farley Havelock, sought to right things by restoring Emily Kaldwin, the kidnapped daughter of the deceased Empress, to the throne.
It was during this time that with the aid of two other individuals, Overseer Teague Martin and Member of Parliament, Treavor Pendleton, that Havelock plotted to bust Corvo out of the walls of Coldridge Prison. Using a combination of contacts, associates, and a strategically placed explosive device (2), Havelock and his men managed to allow Corvo to escape, with a minimal loss of life recorded from prison records, save for a few injuries sustained by men of the watch after the initial explosion (3). With Corvo believed to have escaped the Watch via the Dunwall Sewer Network, he was then transported to the Loyalist Conspiracy, where they would begin operations to eliminate or neutralize the Lord Regent's supporters.
It was during this period of time, throughout the calendar year 1837, that the Loyalist Conspiracy worked tirelessly to take down those individuals associated with the Lord Regent's reign of terror. While some names of the supporters, even today, were kept secret by order of the Ministry of Imperial Intelligence and Scrying, a variety of incidents came to the notice of the public, many of them involving people closely associated with the Lord Regent: High Overseer Thaddeus Campbell (4), branded as a heretic by an unknown assaliant, the twin brothers Custis and Morgan Pendleton, who vanished during a night of debauchery at the infamous Golden Cat Pleasure House, Lady Waverley Boyle, who vanished from one of her indulgent parties straight out of her Manor. This began severely weakening the Regent's foothold over Dunwall, as key individuals now revealed to have taken part in the Loyalist Conspiracy coming into positions of power in Dunwall's government. Ultimately, it led to the downfall of the Lord Regent, when an audiograph recording of his involvement in the Rat Plague's introduction to the city was broacast over every loudspeaker and klaxon in Dunwall. With the Lord Regent stripped of his position, and sentenced to be executed in Coldridge for his treachery, it seemed as if Dunwall would return to a sense of normalcy.
But, as with every tale of conspiracy and subversion, there always seems to be a twist at the end, that turns the very definitions of normal upside-down.
While little is known of what happened, members of the Loyalist Conspiracy, still led by Farley Havelock, attempted to poison Corvo Attano (whose role as an enforcer and agent in the conspiracy is better understood today), and take his own place as Lord Regent of Gristol. Thanks to the work of the loyal boatman, however, Corvo managed to escape, and successfully traced the location of Havelock, who had barricaded himself along with Lady Emily in the grounds of Kingsparrow Fortress, the most modern military installation in all of Gristol. How Corvo managed to infiltrate a heavily guarded military fort is unknown even up to today (and the source of many tall tales from around Dunwall), but the end result, to the relief of many, saw the forced deposition of Lord Regent Havelock at the hands of Corvo Attano (5), and the subsequent rescue of Lady Emily Kaldwin. All was well in the end, as it seems, as in the following days, Lady Emily was crowned Empress in the restored Dunwall Tower (6), with Corvo's record cleared of any crime.
Today, Dunwall continues to recover, as repairs are continuously made to the once-ruined city. The Empress, at the behest of her Royal Protector, pushed Parliament to initiate a purge of internal corruption in the City Watch, weeding out many officers and enlisted men suspected of committing atrocities during the days of the plague. The Abbey and its Overseers, feared for their zealotry and fanaticism during the Plague, underwent a restructuring phase, with an emphasis on spiritual guidance in the name of the Seven Strictures put into place under the administration of High Overseer Yul Khulan (7), rather than the torture and execution of suspected heretics and witches. Dunwall's previously convoluted legal system, guided heavily by corrupt lawyers and barristers, was reassembled from the bottom up, with many of the abuses conducted by the now-imprisoned Barrister Arnold Timsh rectified, with those affected recieving proper compensation from the state. Finally, many of the Sokolov Security Technologies deployed around Dunwall were disassembled and scrapped, with some of them repurposed for civilian usage (the infamous "Tallboys", in particular, were discharged, with the stilts reused for repair and construction work, most famously in the ongoing rehabilitation of the Rudshore Financial District). With the plague having been cured thanks to the work of Natural Philosophers Anton Sokolov and Piero Joplin, it seems to many that the chaos of the previous years is fast becoming a distant memory.
But even as Dunwall recovers, problems remain beneath the gleaming surface of what many are calling a "New Golden Age." Some Nobles have decided to question the lineage of our current Empress, with many suspecting that her "Royal Protector", may in fact, be her father. Given Dunwall and Gristol's pride in heritage and identity, many wonder if the Empress of Gristol may in fact, be of Southern blood. The Overseers, while having quieted down in recent years, still seem to hold Corvo Attano in an unfavorable light--many suspect his successful work in taking down the Lord Regent's cronies to be the work of Black Magic. And while Dunwall seems to be returning to some semblance of normalcy, portions of the city still lie in neglect, with gang activity surging in some areas (8). Given that many of the details surrounding the events of the Conspiracy remain full of contradictions, especially from "official" sources, many citizens are still suspect of the new government, and the new Empress. While much has been achieved in the past few years, much more work needs to be done, in order to dispel fears and safeguard the rights of our citizens.
We can only hope that the Golden Age they speak of continues indefinitely.
May the Cosmos guide us all.
1. Believed to have been reduced to 202,900 during the height of the Plague in 1837.
2. Delievered by a member of the City Watch, a high-ranking officer and a mole for the Loyalists, apparently.
3. Most of the guards who failed to stop the escape of Corvo Attano were executed, save for one.
4. While he is still considered the High Overseer for that time period (the position of Loyalist High Overseer Teague Martin is disputed), he is not regarded in the same positive light as Benjamin Holger or John Clavering, and is, for the most part, considered a debauched heretic.
5. While the details of what happened after this "deposition" are a state secret, many suspect that his head rolled in Coldridge.
6. Most of the "modern" modifications done by the Lord Regent were dismantled, although the East foyer was severely damaged during the removal of the scaffolding, and necessitated repair work for about a year.
7. The first High Overseer to come from a nation other than Gristol (the city of Wei-Ghon, close to Tyvia).
8. See: The Rise of the Hatters Gang and the Fall of Drapers Ward, published by David Greenhow, Endoria Street Press, 1839.