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Creed and Conscience

By CDrake

Drama / Action

Creed and Conscience

Queen Anne's Square, London

December 3, 1735

It was a still, quiet night that found the Kenway household stained with blood. Edith, the household nursemaid, lay bleeding near the entrance, her eyes open and glazed over with the cold kiss of death. Two soldiers assigned as guards stained the floors of the estate, their red coats made ever more crimson by their lives leaking away. The valet also met his maker, his body both pierced through and broken at the neck from a long fall. As nine-year-old Haytham Kenway sprinted up the stairs in a mad dash to find his parents, he pushed the surrounding carnage to the back of his mind and focused on the task at hand.

"Mother!" he screamed, spotting his father Edward about to confront one of the intruders with a stout blade in one hand and a lantern in the other.

"Haytham!" Edward called upon seeing both his son and the would-be assassin, the latter of whom saw Haytham a moment later.

A brief chase ensued, the ending of which placed Haytham between a rock and a hard place, two assailants effectively boxing him in while his father dealt with one of them. Edward dispatched with the first man in seconds, the second and a third retreating from sight as flames licked up the walls of the building. A look of realization and horror passed over Edward's face.

"The games room," he said quietly, immediately leaping into action as he descended into the entrance hall with a single jump.

Tessa, his wife, screamed after him, running toward the stairs with fevered steps. Haytham spotted him just before he grabbed her from behind, the villain moving to slit her throat yet finding himself unable to do so when the boy put the fallen intruder's sword through his eye socket. Trembling and frightened, Tessa held him close as he recovered a sword and descended the stairs. He heard the sounds of clashes and fighting from inside the game room, every fiber of his being shoving him to run and help, yet his mother desperately holding him back. Eventually, with a great yank, he pulled free, toppling Tessa yet bursting through the doors all the same.

Edward lay on the ground, winded and disarmed, about to have the point of an intruder's sword lanced through his chest. Haytham lunged, but in his heart of hearts knew he would be too late to interfere. The boy came to a grinding halt when a stiletto-tipped dart pierced the man's sword arm, a thin cable attached to its blunt end. The rope went taut an instant later, yanking the intruder off his feet and causing him to shriek in agony. Haytham looked to his left, seeing a pointy-eared man whirl toward the source of the intrusion. He swung hard and fast, the steel of his sword glimmering in the dim light of the fires.

His target? A man of just under six feet, in white and gray robes and a hood that concealed his features in the deep shadows cast by the limited lighting. The intruder's blade swung dangerously close to the man's neck, but he moved with such speed and grace Haytham might've mistaken him for an eagle, his namesake. Before he could process what was happening, pointy-ears sputtered and briefly collapsed to his knees before making for the exit, his empty hand pressed against a bleeding slit in the side of his arm. Edward's would-be killer tugged painfully at the barb in his arm, trying desperately to recover his fallen weapon. He only made it halfway to the blade before the glint of steel flashed next to the hooded man's hand as he palmed the masked intruder's jaw.

He sputtered and choked, eyes rolling up into his head as the hooded man released him. He then turned to Haytham's father, and the boy's hand tightened around the hilt of his pilfered sword as he ran to Edward's side, the point of his blade toward the new combatant. Coughing several times, Edward raised his hand and gently pushed Haytham's arm down.

"Easy, lad," he said quietly, rising to his feet. "He's with us. Where's your mother?"

Haytham blanched, looking toward the entrance and breaking into a run despite the protests of his father, who chased after him. At a first glance, Tessa was nowhere to be found, but Haytham spotted her prone body some distance to his right, her expression no less than terrified. Father and son discovered why a moment later, pointy-ears holding Jenny, Haytham's half-sister, hostage, a blade against her throat. Edward held Haytham by the shoulders, restraining him as his own voice deepened to a threatening growl.

"You don't wanna do that, mate. Trust me."

"Stay there," he ordered, pulling Jenny toward the door as another colleague joined him, this one bearing a torch. As they slowly made for the exit, the man with the torch lit up a set of nearby drapes, adding more smoke and flame to the already burning house. Edward and Haytham advanced on them slowly, keeping their distance as the assailants fidgeted and dragged Jenny outside toward a carriage in the distance. So preoccupied Haytham had been that he'd failed to notice the absence of a certain hooded figure. He was reminded of his presence when the man holding Jenny gasped at the coiling of a rope around his neck from above.

A horizontal flagpole attached to the top of the house was used as a pivot point when the hooded man leapt off it, right hand grasping the cable as his left angled toward the torch-bearer. Pointy-ears flew upward when his counterweight dropped like a rock, Jenny stumbling toward her family as the man fell atop the last intruder, his left hand impacting the assailant's neck with an audible slap as he plunged a stake into the ground with his right. Pointy-ears gasped and choked as his arms flailed at his neck, his body flailing for a few more seconds until he went limp. It wasn't until the hooded man rose that Haytham saw the blade protruding from the bottom of his left forearm, its shined steel glinting with red.

He immediately turned to Edward, who still had one hand on Haytham's shoulder, his other around his wife. "We need to move, sir. There'll be more coming."

Edward nodded gravely. "Aye. I suspected as much." He turned to Tessa, his hands on her arms. "Stay here with him, Tess. I'll be back in a moment."

She gave him a shaky nod as one of her arms went around a shivering Jenny's neck. Haytham's attention went back to the hooded man, who inspected his kills with grim satisfaction, then marched over to the empty carriage and took a brief look inside. Now that they were outside with the moon to provide light and little smoke in the way, the boy got a good look at their rescuer, hooded and robed, yes, but with leather armor over his shoulders, chest, and forearms. Additionally, he could see a sword strapped to his left thigh, as well as two pistols in plain view, each hanging from one side of his belt.

The man eventually gave a grunt of satisfaction once he verified the carriage's safety, his head doing a little nod before he turned back to the rest of them, the glint of his eyes turning to Haytham as the boy looked up at him with curious eyes. Even in the darkness, he saw the hooded man lift an eyebrow. "Something interesting, little man?"

Haytham stared at him for a few seconds, lips slightly parted as his mother's grip on his shoulder tensed slightly. "I've never seen anyone quite like you, 'specially not around London."

To his surprise, a warm series of chuckles flowed from his throat, and his shadowed features, though rough, danced with the glow of youth in the light of the fire. "Nor will you. I've actually just returned from the West Indies a few weeks ago, sent as a personal favor to your father."

Haytham's brows hiked up as he heard his mother take a quiet but noticeable intake of breath. "Did you know him then? When he sailed for the crown?"

The man's smile flattened a bit, his expression somewhat pinched as he shook his head. "But he has other friends there that did, people who love and care for him and your family." He looked up to see Edward walking out of the house, now fully clad in civilian clothing, with a tan bag around his shoulder. The man stood immediately, his posture sharpening. "Sir. I have a ship ready to sail as soon as you get to the harbor."

"Sail?" Haytham asked, glancing between the hooded man and his father. "Sail where?"

Edward smiled a little and put a hand on his shoulder, the look in his eyes saying that he had no idea. "Somewhere safe."

"Now come," the man interrupted. "We must be off straight away. No telling when those ruffians will be back in greater numbers."

A series of blood-chilling yells came from a row of houses nearby, masked men flooding from the corresponding alleys.

Edward's head tilted as he ushered his family toward the carriage. "I think you might be wrong about that, mate."

The hooded man drew his sword, a fine but simple blade with a slight curve to it, and stepped between them and the mercenaries, twirling his weapon as they closed the distance. "I'll hold them back, Kenway. Get to the harbor, now."

Edward just nodded and snapped the reins, and the horses took off like bats out of hell. Haytham's eyes were glued to the hooded man as he stared out the back window, the steel of his sword flashing in the moonlight as he parried and ducked and countered, two men falling to his blade within seconds of their arrival. The carriage took a left down a side street, taking them out of sight of their burning residence and the battle being waged there. The streets passed one by one, listlessly, not a soul in sight. Whether by coincidence or design, no one could tell, but the sheer emptiness left a giant black spot on the spirits of everyone in that carriage.

Two gunshots rang out in the distance, from the direction of the house, and Haytham's heart lurched suddenly, thudding against his chest as he watched the streets of London go by. Within minutes, they were in sight of the port, off several miles in the distance. Another gunshot erupted, Edward ducking down as chunks of the carriage's wooden frame started flying off. He pulled a pistol from inside his jacket and aimed at a nearby roof, firing once and prompting the thump of a body in the street. They passed by it a second later, the carriage's wooden wheels clacking against the rough pavement.

Suddenly, a series of sparks was seen in the road in front of them. Edward shouted and pulled the reins to one side, but it wasn't enough. A grenade exploded on the right of the carriage, its front-right wheel flying off, a good portion of the carriage's floor with it. The shrapnel from both the grenade and the broken wood nearly skewered Tessa, but instead dug into the roof of the vehicle. All the same, they tipped over and crashed, skidding to a stop as the horses pulled free of their harnesses and kept running. When Haytham regained his balance, he looked around feverishly, fear cramming into his system when his father was nowhere to be found.

"Ach…mangy beasts."

Haytham's blue eyes widened slightly as he scrambled to claw his way from the wreckage, his sister and mother doing the same. "Father," he called. "Where are you?"

The blonde man's bulky figure tore the carriage's damaged door off its hinges with some effort, his kind eyes peering down into its interior. "Right here, lad. Now come on." He extended his hand. "Up with you."

Haytham took it and allowed himself to be pulled upright, noting the way Edward was taking cover behind the carriage's remains even as he pulled Tessa and Jenny free. The elder Kenway knelt by his son, keeping one eye on the street as he reached inside the carriage and pulled a thin box out.

"Never expected you'd have to use it this soon, son…" he opened the box, revealing a short steel sword, a gift from Haytham's eighth birthday. "But I think it's time you learn to carry it."

The boy quickly took the weapon and strapped it to his left thigh, his right hand on it at all times as Edward moved Jenny and Tessa toward an alley. Haytham followed closely, his eyes scanning his gloomy surroundings for any signs of movement. So distracted was he that he failed to notice a figure moving in from the shadows until he was within striking distance. Drawing in a flash, Haytham deflected his downward blow and attempted to counter with one of his own, but found himself on the receiving end of a professional duelist's ire. The match hadn't lasted more than a few seconds before Edward, yelling and charging, tackled the man to the ground and beat him mercilessly.

Another mercenary emerged from the street, this one toting a pistol, and took aim at Edward while his back was turned. Before Haytham could cry out, he fired—straight into the pavement, as he was instantly pinned beneath a white-clad body, a blade in his neck. The hooded man looked up at a stunned Haytham and a recovering Edward before walking toward them with concern in his eyes.

"Everyone all right?"

Edward ushered his son toward the women. "A few bumps and scrapes, but aye."

The man nodded sharply and moved past them. "Follow me."

He pulled a pistol from his belt, a second look revealing it to be double-barreled, and reloaded it as they walked, turning from one street to the next in a never-ending twist of backtracking and maneuvering. The route became so complex, Haytham lost track of where they were just minutes into the walk. When they finally stopped, the docks were within spitting distance, the ship the man had mentioned sitting in the harbor, lanterns lit. The man himself nodded slowly, glancing about.

"Looks clear enough." He turned his head to Edward and the family, brandishing a pistol in his left hand. "Get to the ship, fast as you can. I'll cover you from here."

Edward stared at him for a few moments. "What's your name, son?"

He looked back and arched an eyebrow, an amused smirk playing over his features. "Why? You planning to name your next child after me?"

Edward chuckled despite the circumstances. "If we make it out of this alive, aye, we might."

The man's smile faded slowly, diminishing to a small curve with a trace of sadness in it. "It's Connor, sir."

Edward nodded slowly, patting his shoulder. "Thank you, Connor. My family owes you a great debt."

Connor's head bowed slightly. "There is no debt among brothers, Edward Kenway." A smirk played over his lips. "Though if you ever find yourself in possession of a fine drink or two, I'd be happy to relieve you of them."

The elder Kenway chuckled and nodded. "Good hunting, mate." He nodded to the rest of his family and started off, Connor staying behind and watching from a distance.

The Kenways ran for the brig at maximum speed, Edward's arms around his wife and daughter while Haytham kept just behind his father, adrenaline giving speed to their legs. They skidded to a rough halt when an armed man stood between them and the ship, a malevolent chuckle flowing from his lips.

"Edward James Kenway." He clapped several times, a genuine redcoat uniform over his body as half a dozen British Regulars poured into the dock, boxing the family in. "Led us on quite the chase, haven't you?"

Edward's brows furrowed as his jaw tightened and Haytham drew his small sword. The British captain crouched to be on Haytham's level as he leered at the boy.

"Now what're you gonna do with that, little man? Stick ye'self through the foot?"

The boy scowled and held it aloft. "I'll stick in in yer eye socket if you must know."

The man straightened and guffawed. "Your kid's got spirit, Kenway. I'll give 'im that. Pity it had to end like this. We could've settled this like civilized men."

Edward gently pulled Haytham behind him. "I don't know you mate, and I don't know what you want, but you sure as hell aren't getting it at the point of a sword. Let my family onto that ship, let them leave, and you can take me."

He lifted an eyebrow. "And if I refuse? After all, I have you outnumbered."

Edward's eyes narrowed, his right hand clenching into a fist. "Then this will be very unpleasant for all parties involved."

The captain motioned to his regulars, and three of them, musket-wielders, raised and pointed their weapons. "Chiefly yours, though, I suspect." Another four regulars flooded the dock, the red from their uniforms overwhelmingly bright even in the darkness. "Surrender now and this fracas can end with some…minor unpleasantness."

The elder Kenway's upper lip twitched. "You break into my home, burn my house, threaten my family, and now you just expect me to lie down and go belly-up on your say-so?" His head shook slowly. "I can't decide if you're mad, arrogant…or just plain stupid."

"Probably a little of all three," came a new voice from behind.

The statement was punctuated a moment later by the eruption of two gunshots, the corresponding regulars falling as half of them turned to face the new threat. Silver and red flashed as Connor cut through two men like butter, a bayonet thrust from a third man deflected off the base of his blade before his finger guard bashed into the side of his skull like a blackjack. Edward lunged for the captain when the scuffle distracted him for a moment, tackling him to the ground and keeping him from drawing.

"Go!" he shouted to his family.

"Edward," Tessa protested as they rushed over the gangplank, "we can't just leave—"

"Get on the bloody ship!"

The captain shoved Edward off as Connor parried a sword blow from one of the soldiers, then stuck him in the shoulder with his hidden blade, causing him to drop his weapon. The hidden blade snapped back into its sheath as he snatched the falling sword from the air, slicing its previous owner in the gut, and deflected two strikes from musket-wielding regulars. Twisting away, he rolled to the side and sprinted toward one side of the dock, away from the soldiers.

"Edward!" he shouted just as the captain drew his weapon, moving his pilfered sword to an underhanded grip and throwing it across the gap to Kenway's pier.

The former pirate and Master Assassin spun away from the captain's first strike, snatching the thrown weapon from the air and deflecting his next couple of blows as the clang of steel rang out across the harbor. Connor thrust his blade through the upper arm of one man as a bayonet just nicked his side, his hidden blade redirecting the next strike as he fell into a crouch and sliced through his attacker's hamstring. Edward was busy dueling the captain as his family looked on, Haytham itching to join his father in the fight but a warning look from Edward and both Tessa and Jenny's hands held him back.

Kenway deflected a swipe to his left, countering with a thrust that nearly went clear through his shoulder, instead ruining the white shoulder padding of his uniform. The captain countered with an upward slash at Edward's neck, blocked and countered with a pommel strike that was stopped with the captain's open palm. The captain's finger guard bashed into the side of Edward's head, causing a slow trickle of blood and an explosion of pain. Gritting his teeth, Edward withdrew and deflected several strikes with practiced ease, though his reaction time was somewhat slowed, both by his age and the injuries he'd already sustained.

Haytham lunged for the gangplank when Edward's chest was cut open with a backhanded strike following a feint. Tessa clamped both her hands around his shoulders, restraining him with a fierce grip even as she trembled. The elder Kenway tried his hardest to stay upright, but his opponent was extremely well-trained, not to mention a great deal younger, and beat him repeatedly with his fists and the blunt end of his sword. By the time Edward's blade clattered to the floor of the pier, he was sporting new bruises on his face, arms, and chest, plus a split lip and brow. Tessa shrieked Connor's name, prompting the Assassin to spin in their direction to see the captain standing over Edward, a sinister smile on his face.

He sprinted for them, left hand reaching to the back of his belt, under a fold of his robe to pull out a third pistol. Just before he could fire, a regular tackled him to the ground, throwing his aim off and grabbing his arm. Unable to get a clear shot, Connor was unable to fire without risking Edward further. Seeing this, Haytham finally broke free of his mother and charged for the captain with a furious yell, his sword flashing with lightning speed. Unfortunately, the captain was just as fast, and his young grip failed when a strong blow to the base of his blade separated him from the weapon.

Before he could do anything else, Edward grabbed his coattail and yanked hard, driving a fist into his spine. Something cracked, but he didn't go down on the first blow, instead driving his elbow into Edward's skull and clubbing Haytham to the deck.

"Bloody fucking Assassin," he hissed, turning to a kneeling Edward, lifting his blade. "Die knowing that your resistance has changed nothing but the suffering your family will endure."

Kenway's upper lip twitched, a dangerous glint in his eye.

"All we wanted was the journal…but it seems we're now to take everything." He snarled at his prone target. "Goodbye, Kenway."

The captain's sword fell in a diagonal path, arcing straight for Edward's neck as Tessa shrieked and Haytham and Connor looked on helplessly. Steel flashed, red streaming down the blade—from the cut skin of Edward's left palm and fingers, his hand wrapped around the blade, holding it just inches from his neck.

The captain's jaw dropped, along with most who saw, until it started to flop when Kenway drove his right palm into his throat, then knife-handed his sword wrist, still holding the blade. He spun counterclockwise, the sword in his hand coming with him and cutting into the choking captain's lower ribs. Gasping for breath and reeling from a deep slice in his side, he collapsed to his knees, Edward straightening up as his left hand closed into a fist at his side, blood dripping from it.

"You could've walked away from this, taken my offer, but you insisted on a fight." He scowled down at the man. "Should've never threatened my family, mate."

The captain's ornate sword punched straight through his chest, its bloodied blade coming out the other side as the life leaked out of him. Snarling, Edward tore the weapon loose, its metal surface dripping red as he turned to the remaining soldiers, of which there were only two.

"Anyone else?" he demanded, taking a page out of Thatch's book and using his bloodied appearance to play the devil. His hand gripped the sword tighter as fire flashed in his blue eyes.

Almost immediately, the two men exchanged a look and fled the scene, Connor staring after them for a few moments before shaking his head and walking toward Edward.

"You certainly aged well," he remarked, dark amusement in his eyes as he cast a look toward the blood-stained pier.

Edward smirked and dropped the sword, pressing a hand to his injured chest as Haytham managed to regain his footing and helped his father onto the ship. The elder Kenway turned when he didn't hear Connor following, seeing the man standing on the land end of the gangplank with a grim expression on his face.

"More than enough room for you too, lad. Come on."

His hooded head shook slowly. "Your path is paved into the future, Edward. Mine…mine must end here."

Edward's brows furrowed. "What is that supposed to mean? Speak sense, lad."

Connor's head tipped upward, and for the first time, with a gasp the Kenways realized they had never seen his features in the light. "I was born too soon, Mr. Kenway." He lifted his arms and made air quotations. "'Like so many others before.'"

Edward stared at him agape. "Jaysus…Roberts."

His head shook. "Born the day he died, but no better equipped to live like anything but what I am, which is no one."

Edward grabbed him by the arm. "Come with me, lad. You needn't die here."

"No…but the truth is, I'm not even sure I can. Not permanently, anyway." He glanced back, multicolored, heterochromatic eyes narrowing at the sight of torches approaching the harbor. "Besides, I've got a score to settle with the leader of these rogues."

"That's assuming you'll live long enough to get to him."

He turned back to Edward, a smile playing over his lips. "Don't fret over me, Kenway. You've got enough children to worry about already."

The blonde man's jaw tightened, his head nodding slowly as he stepped back onto the ship, its anchor hauled and its form floating from the dock.

"Hey Edward!"

Kenway looked back to Connor, his young face smiling. "Aye, lad?"

"Just…remember me, okay? Promise you'll remember."

The elder Assassin's eyes saddened as he nodded. "On my life, I swear."

Connor smiled sadly and nodded once more, then readjusted his hood and turned to face the dock, marching off the pier as his voice dropped to an inaudible whisper. "See you in the next life, boyo."

His eyes locked onto the group of redcoats flooding the dock and standing on the larger platform of the pier, their weapons raised as they came to a halt at the edge of the landing. Slowly, threateningly, Connor stepped toward them, twirling his blade on the draw and holding it at his side.

"You go no further," he stated in a growl.

The lead of this squad smirked smugly. "And who are you to deny us our quarry?"

Connor's head tilted. "Me? I'm no one. The winds and the sea have already decided your loss." He waved to the ship leaving the harbor, causing the captain to blanch.

He turned to his troops. "We must away, men." He glanced at the young Assassin. "We'll take care of you another day."

Connor smiled malevolently. "Oh, I don't think so. You see, I gave my word to a friend." He set his stance. "And I always keep my promises."

The captain turned back to him and chuckled. "Boy, there are ten of us, and one of you. Ten soldiers, each with guns, whereas you have only a sword and two pistols."

Connor chuckled. "No, what you have are bullets, and you better hope that when you run out, I'm not still standing…because if I am, you're going to find that this boy has a bite worse than any hired dog." He sent a pointed glare in the captain's direction.

The man's upper lip twitched as he stared at the Assassin, raising his sword threateningly as his men began to line up. Connor's left hand dropped to his belt before they could set up fully, one of his pistols clearing its holster and firing into the center of the group. Taken off-guard by the sudden shot and the death of one of their comrades, the redcoats nearly panicked, rushing to get their weapons ready and take aim. Connor fired again, tagging another soldier in his left arm and crippling his ability to aim before leaping for the captain. He stepped out of the way, but allowed Connor to tackle one of his men, a hidden blade sinking into his neck before he rolled away and angled his sword offensively.

Slashes and parries and deflects cracked the silence of the night with the screaming and skidding of metal against metal as Connor weaved through the men like a scythe through wheat. Albeit, very tough, very well-trained wheat. Two blows from the captain and his soldiers were parried before he countered with a stab to one's shoulder, causing him to drop his sword into Connor's waiting hand. Armed with two swords and an insatiable rage, he tore through the redcoats like a rabid animal, his roars splitting the still night air intermittently as blood stained his clothes. Six had fallen to his fury before the captain got in a lucky hit, a slash across his back made possible by his distraction with a musket-wielding soldier.

After kicking the soldier to the ground, he whirled on the captain, an enraged fire in his eyes. The man actually froze for a moment before coming to his senses. A moment was enough to gain an advantage. Connor came forward with furious strikes, battering his defenses with both blades, alternating his strikes in a never-ending barrage of steel that tired the captain out over the course of just a few seconds. Finally, there was an opening, and Connor took it with everything he had, knocking his blade away with one sword while he spit the captain on his other one. The sputtering leader slumped to the ground when he yanked his blade out with a disemboweling twist.

At which point a lead ball just grazed his left arm.

Whirling toward the source of the interference as his left-hand sword dropped to the ground, Connor's second pistol flashed into his hand, and he gunned the man down. In his peripheral vision, he saw more redcoats flood the dock and hurried to dispatch of the last three. He deflected a bayonet strike off his hidden blade, then tackled another soldier, plunging his sword through his chest on the way down and rolling off his corpse. Two soldiers came in at once, swinging their bayonets downward. He deployed his hidden blade and deflected one as his sword took the other, knocking them both to the side as he spun counterclockwise, the tip of his sword slashing through the neck of one a split-second before his blade slit the jugular of the other in the same maneuver.

Twelve more men ran toward him with furious steps, one aiming to skewer him on the end of a bayonet. Connor sidestepped at the last second, deflecting his weapon and head-butting him solidly before thrusting his hidden blade into the back of his neck. He felt the sting of a bayonet slice through the shallow of his right thigh and immediately pirouetted away from the source, twirling his body away from the throng with just a glance to see where the concentration of bodies was. He rolled under a sword swipe from another man, managing to nick his hamstring on the way up as he plunged his blades into a second redcoat's chest. His sword tore loose with a strike at another soldier, deflected and countered with a butt-swing of his musket that barely missed his nose.

Connor stuck his knee into the man's lower ribs, following with a shin-kick to his gut that sent him bending over double. A backhand smacked the Assassin in the face, forcing him to reassess his options, which weren't many, considering the density of the force facing him. Distracted by his considerations, he didn't see the man coming up behind him until it was too late, a sword-blade going clean through his right shoulder. An agonized yell was torn from his throat as his sword clattered to the deck, his knees buckling as they hit the wooden planks, the metal shaft in his shoulder leaving with a muffled shing. His attacker stepped back and charged up to split his neck open.

He swung hard a moment later—missing by a hairsbreadth when Connor tilted his head sideways, letting the blade sing over his head as he let himself fall sideways, his legs curling around the attacker's left. His hips popped upward as the grip went solid, literally pulling his legs out from under him as Connor rolled backward. Dodging a musket-thrust, he angled the barrel away from himself and kicked his attacker in the groin hard, causing him to seize and fire his weapon—into one of the redcoats. Knife-handing the reeling soldier in the throat, he relieved him of his musket and swung it in a circular motion, its bayonet warding off his surrounding enemies.

As he spun in several directions, stabbing and swinging, he just barely caught a glimpse of an approaching soldier, massive in stature and wielding a large boarding axe. He caught the first blow with a skating parry, the weapon's blade sliding off the metal barrel of the musket as he countered with a stab to the man's right shoulder. His axe clattered to the ground, but before Connor could finish him off, another solder stabbed him in the back of his left leg, just above the knee. Yelling and collapsing to his left knee, Connor glanced down and saw that the man had overextended himself, taking advantage of that and stabbing his hidden blade down into the man's foot.

Shrieking, the musketeer stumbled back and dropped his weapon, the bayonet sliding out of Connor's flesh as he fought through the pain and rushed for the injured brute. The much larger man promptly caught his blade-arm and head-butted him, throwing him back in range of a firing line. Spotting the injured musketeer nearby, he grabbed the man and put him between his body and the squad, their musket shot tearing into him as his red uniform was permanently stained. Tossing his body aside, Connor charged the firing line and leapt over the first bayonet strike thrown his way, feeling the sting of a shallow cut along the flesh of his left upper arm.

He hit the first man feet-first, his hidden blade rending his neck open before he rolled sideways and caught the barrel of a reloaded musket, pointing it away from him and toward another redcoat, whose knee was blown open by the shot. The bayonet at the end of the musket was pulled off by Connor as he stuck his hidden blade into its owner's left thigh, tearing open his femoral artery. With a hidden blade on his left arm and a bayonet held underhanded in his right hand, he faced the last five with a pained grimace on his face, the pain somewhat dulled by his adrenaline but just starting to slow him down. The brute moved around his flank as the sword-wielding captain moved for his front, two musketeers flanking him while a third made to charge Connor's left.

The Assassin caught his strike with both his blades, angling the musket away from him as they slid down the barrel of his weapon, using his own momentum to sever his jugular artery with a crossing strike. The brute made for him with heavy steps, his axe swinging through the air where his head had been as Connor rolled away and drew his last pistol with his left hand, putting a shot in his chest. To his surprise, the massive redcoat didn't go down, instead roaring and rushing forward to grab him by the throat, his pilfered bayonet clattering to the floor as he felt his feet leave the ground.

The brute drove his head into Connor's repeatedly, knocking his brain about and causing stars to explode in his vision before he was unceremoniously dumped on the ground. Coughing and blinking to clear his vision, Connor looked up at the brute to see his axe poised woodcutter style. His hidden blade cleared its sheath and stabbed into the man's right knee, sending his strike splitting one of the pier's beams instead of Connor's head. The Assassin made for the musket of the fallen man and lifted it just as the brute regained his footing somewhat and spun with a cleaving strike. He moved to block it, but between the large man's rage and the destructive qualities of his weapon, the musket's wooden frame cracked and its barrel sheared in two, the weapon splitting at the point of contact like a cheap timber. Staring at the ruined firearm in his grasp, Connor smacked the butt-end of what was left into the side of his head, then stuck him in the chest with the bayonet, making sure it went in all the way, piercing his heart.

Unable to take a breath, he was tackled from behind by one of the remaining musketeers, his fellow moving in before Connor could recover and stabbing his bayonet through his forearm's leather armor. The Assassin's eyes widened when he saw the man's index tighten around the trigger of his weapon, and an agonized roar tore from his throat when the barrel exploded in fire and lead, his forearm shattered by the bullet. Adrenaline and rage flowing through his blood, Connor's right hand shoved him into a sitting position as his left arm hung limply, still impaled on the man's bayonet. The redcoat's eyes widened when fire flashed in his heterochromatic eyes, teeth bared like a wolf as the bayonet was ripped from his ruined arm and thrust into the man's neck.

He yanked the blade out and quickly threw it into the lower chest of the last musketeer, kicking it in all the way before punching him in the throat hard, shattering his larynx. The last man, the captain, watched him with keen eyes, and Connor turned toward him with a wildness in his own, agony permeating every inch of his wrecked body but rage anesthetizing him just enough to keep him standing. Spotting a sword on the ground at his right, he kicked it into the air and caught it in his right hand, facing off with the captain with shaking legs. The redcoat's chest puffed up arrogantly, causing Connor to snarl and bare his teeth, widening his stance to stabilize himself somewhat.

The first strike was fast—and hard.

It nearly disarmed him on first contact, the shock of the blow reverberating up his arm and into his pierced shoulder as pain shot through him. Gritting his teeth against it, he parried and riposted with a stab at the man's neck. Swiped aside, the blow was ineffective and somewhat sluggish, opening him up to a shallow cut of his side. He drew back and parried two more strikes, countering every so often but trying to conserve what little energy he had left as he caught sight of the Kenways' vessel in the distance, its darkened form just barely lit by a lantern on the stern. A small smile came to his face as his eyes turned back to the captain just in time for him to see a lightning-fast stab come in at his midsection.

He knew he couldn't stop it in time, so he did what any good Assassin would do: he sacrificed.

Connor's sword pivoted just in time to prevent the point of his sword from piercing his spine, but not fast enough to keep it from piercing his left lung, the blade going straight through his chest and plunging in to the hilt. Gasping and sputtering wet coughs, Connor vomited blood on the captain's uniform, his face inches away from the man's triumphant grin. The Sage's head rose slowly, locking gazes with the captain as a defiant fire burned in his eyes. The smile faded from the captain's face when he tried to yank his blade loose, finding it stuck and looking down to see Connor's left hand wrapped around the cross-guard. His eyes widened in realization a moment before a startled choke left his lips, Connor's sword aiming true and severing his spine, as well as his ties to the land of the living.

As his eyes rolled back into his head, the captain fell backward, his sword slipping loose and sending Connor to his knees as his right hand dropped its weapon and pressed against the hole over his punctured lung. He knew it was useless. It was over, but his instincts, his will to live refused to quiet.

After all, Sage or no, he was only human.

A slow, choked gulp went through his throat, his eyes turning to the brig fading in the distance. Again, he smiled slowly, wanting to laugh at the irony of his situation but knowing the agony that would bring. It was a Sage that had, in the end, brought Edward Kenway to his senses through his betrayal. And now, a Sage was ensuring he still had a future. His gaze caught a new figure entering the dock with slow, measured steps, and he looked over only for his eyes to widen in shock. Standing just ten feet away, looking down at the carnage with sad eyes, was Marcus Tremaine, a man he'd known and looked up to as a child.

A ring with a red cross sat on his left hand.

Connor gulped hard, right hand pressed to his lung as the older man approached.

"Connor…old boy." His brows drew together as his eyes squeezed shut in pain. "Why? Why did it have to be like this?"

The Assassin said nothing, unable to speak due to his injuries and barely able to breathe as the adrenaline faded away, the agony of his wounds coming full-force.

Tremaine paced. "We were friends once, Con. Good friends. We could've changed the world together, could've—and now you're here, in agony because you refused to—" His throat closed, eyes burning with unshed tears. Marcus took a deep breath, composing himself as his voice steadied. "I suppose…it is only fitting that your end comes here, now…by my hand. If I'm to be frank…I wouldn't want it any other way." He looked over at Connor. "You understand, don't you?"

The Assassin nodded slowly, gulping hard.

Pain in his eyes, Marcus slowly drew his sword, an elegant rapier, and held it at his side as he knelt in front of Connor. "Just close your eyes, old friend. I promise this will be quick."

Connor nodded rapidly, his choppy breathing increasing in pace as the point of the sword hovered over his chest.

"I am…truly sorry."

Connor's eyes widened to their maximum as the blade went through him, his chest pierced and lungs spasming as they heaved for breath, struggled to keep him alive. His right hand clamped over Marcus' back, fisting in the fabric of his overcoat.

"I'm so sorry," Tremaine whispered.

Body shaking in the throes of death, Connor's lips brushed against his ear as he breathed his last words. "As…am…I."

Eyes widening, Marcus didn't realize what was coming until Connor's hidden blade plunged into the side of his neck. Gasping in shock, Tremaine released his sword and fell backward, palm to his neck as he bled out on the dock, eyes locked onto his dying friend.

"Well played, Connor. I had hoped…that my work would continue. But I see now that this was always meant to happen." A proud smile played over his lips. "Well done, boy." He coughed blood, slumping to his side as Connor stared at him with glassy eyes, barely alive. "Perhaps…we'll meet again someday…with all this pettiness behind us. I had so enjoyed our talks all those years ago. May the Father of Understanding guide us to each other in the next life." He smiled widely, eyes fluttering. "Drinks are on me…old friend."

Tremaine's head hit the deck as the life left his eyes, Connor gulping hard and closing his own as he inhaled once more, visions of a strangely beautiful woman flashing through his consciousness a moment before he breathed his last.


Some miles away, on a ship bound for the New World, Edward Kenway and his soon watched the whole scene unfold through a spyglass, the former's jaw hanging open as his brows drew together in sadness. His right hand fell to the boy's shoulder, grip tightening briefly as he took a step back.

"Come on, Haytham. Nothing more to see."

The boy gulped, taking one last look at the body of their savior. "Yes Father." With labored steps, they moved toward the hatch leading below deck, only stopping briefly to allow Haytham one last look at the hero he'd barely known.

"Just…remember me, okay? Promise you'll remember."

Haytham's jaw set as he turned back to the stairs and the darkness of the ship's underbelly. Always, Mr. Connor. Always.

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