Last night Arkane Studios finally revealed a new trailer for Dishonored 2, full of stabbing and whales and black magic against a backdrop of the beautiful yet horrifically diseased city of Karnaca. Basically it was perfect and exactly what you’d want out of a Dishonored game. It also dropped one hell of a bombshell, revealing that the villain of Dishonored 2 is someone very familiar. Despite her extremely unpleasant fate at the end of the final Dishonored DLC, rumors of Delilah Copperspoon’s demise were, apparently, greatly exaggerated. After nearly brutally killing Emily Kaldwin once, she’s back to finish the job.
As shocking as this reveal is, however, it also probably went over a lot of heads. For those who haven’t played both Dishonored and its DLC, The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches, the thin and pale woman who appears in the royal throne room to harass Emily and Corvo is a totally new entity, and it’s not immediately clear just how threatening she really is. Yet Delilah Copperspoon may very well be the most terrifying figure in the Dishonored universe, and she’s a far greater danger than anything Corvo or Emily have faced before.
WARNING: Spoilers ahead for The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches.
Figuring that out takes a little digging into Dishonored history. According to a conversation Delilah has with Daud during the Knife of Dunwall DLC, she was once a baker’s apprentice in Dunwall Tower, and was a close friend of the young Empress-to-be, Jessamine Kaldwin. However, the two eventually had a falling out – though no specifics were given in-game, director commentary suggests that Delilah took the fall for something Jessamine did and paid heavily for it. Delilah then left Dunwall Tower and her baking career behind, becoming apprentice to eccentric DaVinci/Rasputin hybrid Anton Sokolov.
Whether Sokolov introduced Delilah to the ways of the Outsider (thirsty as he always is for Outsider attention) or she discovered it on her own is unknown. However, one way or another, she eventually found herself the proud owner of her own set of black magic powers. And she was very, very good with them.
The Outsider claims she “insinuates her will into her subject, whatever it is,” which allows her to possess objects or force the spirits of other people into them, using a painting of the person or thing to focus her energy. Over time her abilities allowed her to gather vast sums of wealth and form her own coven, the Brigmore Witches, headquartered in a mansion on the outskirts of Dunwall.
But Delilah’s ultimate ambition is much greater than playing den mother to a pack of swamp crones. She eventually discovered that through an elaborate ritual, she could fully possess another human being, forcing them out of their body and walking in their skin for as long as she desired – sort of like Corvo’s possession power, but a lot more permanent and murderous. With that arcane knowledge and a few important ingredients – Serkonan lazurite, Pandyssian chalk, some hair, all the witchcraft standards – she set out to possess Emily, kill her, and rule the Empire in her place.
Terrifyingly enough, if it was just up to Corvo, Delilah probably would have gotten away with it – he’s so focused on dealing with Jessamine’s murderers and saving Emily from Burrows’ coup that he has no idea Delilah’s circling in for the kill. Instead, it’s Jessamine’s murderer, Daud, who puts an end to Delilah’s plans. Wracked with guilt over his part in the Empress’ death, Daud is approached by the Outsider with a promise of redemption if he can solve the mystery behind the name Delilah.
And solve it he does, following a trail of death and deception straight to Delilah’s doorstep just in time to save Emily’s life. While there are two ways for him to deal with her at the end of The Brigmore Witches (either trapping her in a mystical tree in The Void via her own ritual, or keeping it simple and stabbing her in the mouth) the fact that she’s alive suggests that he went with option one, and sometime in the next fifteen years, she somehow manages to escape.
But before Daud casts his final judgment, Delilah says one last fascinating thing: throwing herself in front of the painting of Emily she planned to use for her body-swap plot, she begs him to stop, claiming “She took my life.” While it’s obvious that Delilah feels entitled to the throne in some capacity, this is the only time she suggests that the power she’s pursuing isn’t a new acquisition, but something that was unjustly taken from her.
At first it simply appears that, because of her intelligence and talent, Delilah feels she deserves the throne more than someone who was born into the role – she says as much to Daud, claiming that “The girl Emily Kaldwin will have the mind of Delilah the First, who did not inherit everything she got, but came to power through the force of her own genius.” Dishonored 2, however, presents another surprising possibility: included in the collector’s edition of the game is is a propaganda poster reading “All Hail the New Empress Her Majesty Delilah Kladwin,” suggesting that Delilah might have been a bastard child of Emperor Euhorn Kaldwin, Jessamine’s father. Plus, given that Delilah was born a year before Jessamine according to the official Dunwall Archives artbook, she may actually be Euhorn’s firstborn daughter. That would explain her passionate insistence on claiming the throne as her own and her particular hatred for Jessamine and Emily – while Jessamine was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, Delilah only ever got copper. Now she’s back for all the cutlery.
What Delilah’s been up to in the last two decades is a mystery for now – she looks even more corpse-like than before and seems to be pulling an entire sword out of her torso at one point in the trailer, but everything else about her remains steeped in shadow. How and when did she escape her arborium prison? How deep does her influence on the Duke of Serkonos, apparently one of the instigators of the coup against Emily, actually run? How can she confront Emily so directly now, when she had to work in the shadows before? And is she really a Kaldwin, or is adopting the name just a clever plot to gain legitimacy in the eyes of the Empire?
We won’t know the answers to any of these questions until Dishonored 2 launches this fall, naturally. But knowing what we do about Delilah from her magical and murderous misadventures in Dishonored makes one thing perfectly clear: we’re dealing with something a whole lot worse than a bumbling politician this time.