Crossed Eagle

Chapter 10

Days soon stretched into weeks. The warm summer months quickly changed into a rapidly cooling autumn, turning the air sharp and crisp with deadening foliage creating a new landscape. Meanwhile life in the Kenway manor was relatively uneventful for Selah. Bored, she spent most of her time locked in her room or within the library. It wasn’t a surprise for the Assassin find majority of the books were based on Templar philosophy, and she didn’t hesitate to cast them away. She did however (after a great deal of looking) find a few safe novels, including Shakespeare and political readings. Anything would do at this point.

Her demeanor softened somewhat as well, becoming more tolerable of Haytham and closer to Ann, even couple of the other servants. It didn’t take long for the maid’s stubborn warmness to thaw Selah’s cold barriers. They eventually became more open with each other, Selah finding herself confiding with the other woman. However her relationship with Haytham still remained distant.

She never told him any more about herself—not even her likes or dislikes—while she never pried any information from him. The only time they really spoke with one another was during meals—and then it was only idle chitchat. The Grandmaster would then spend the rest of his time either in his study or gone into the city. There would be times he would be reading papers far after Selah had fallen asleep or he would be gone for days without a word. Selah honestly didn’t care, or at least she didn’t think she did. In return the Templar respected her solitude, never invading her privacy or even trying to enforce Templar studies upon her. He wisely decided it was still too soon for that.

Haytham also wisely never tested her, even though the emotional girl still had her fits of depression and homesickness. The minor fits would usually be tamed by Ann’s soothing words (although Selah never told her what the cause of her distress was). Haytham would participate, too. Whenever he noticed her souring mood, he would either force her to do some extracurricular activity or sometimes even have her accompany him to New York. The stronger fits would have her long for escape and relit her hatred of Templars, having her stare at her window into the long hours of the night. She even acted on it a couple of times: once escaping in the dead of night only by either bad luck or Haytham’s ingenious, ran straight into a redcoat patrol.

The patrol dutifully returned her to where she belonged. She was surprised Haytham didn’t punish her or even mention the incident to her. He did however seemed somewhat colder the several following days, at times not even looking at her or when he did there would be disappointment. Selah refused to say anything; deciding she would not give him the apology he probably wanted. She attempted to prove this point by slipping away again. She was accompanying Haytham through the streets of New York when she crawled away when he was distracted. However once again she didn’t make it very far before she caught—this time by Charles Lee himself.

Although Haytham was able to convince him that Selah had simply wandered off by accident, being a curious teenager and all, but Lee still didn’t hesitate to imply her misbehavior or send her suspicious glares. Selah didn’t care, using it as another excuse to dislike him. Meanwhile Haytham got her message and returned to his normal demeanor, understanding not to expect anything from her. As for other Templars, Selah avoided them altogether. Whenever Haytham happened to bring his associates home as guests, the teenager would usually lock herself in her room until they left. Haytham allowed her, even letting her be absent for meals with them. And when she was forced to go with him on his “business trips,” Selah would make no contact whatsoever.

And then there were the nightmares. They would come every few nights; the severity of the dream was varying. But the content would always be similar: the death of the Assassins, the destruction of her home, murderous Templars thirsting for blood, the carnage of faceless figures. Some would simply leave Selah awake for several hours—shivering in fear—until sleep retook her. Others would have her scream into the night, attracting Haytham or sometimes Ann to wake her. Either one would stay by her side until she reluctantly drifted off into sleep.

However there would be the few nights she would awake in a fit of hysteria, causing her to seek shelter in the Grandmaster’s quarters. Usually he pretended to remain asleep, but if he sensed her trembling uncontrollably or on the verge of sobbing, he would spare her a few reassuring touches. But every time he would spend the night with her, the man would be gone by morning. It couldn’t help but remind the young girl of the first night she spent in his bed.

Even though Haytham told her what she knew was one of his darkest secrets, she had still fallen asleep somewhat content. But when she had opened her eyes, she found herself back in her room with her door closing gently. And the fact Haytham never remained after her nightmares made it that much clearer. It wasn’t that Selah expected more of him—in fact she still kept him at careful distance, despite all his kindness—but it put her in a strange state of self-consciousness. Did he dislike her company? Was he secretly fearful of her? No, that didn’t make sense. He wouldn’t offer his home in the first place if that was true—never mind strain so much to comfort her.

Eventually she came to the conclusion he was almost as uncomfortable with the situation as she was. He knew just as well they were enemies and apparently the Grandmaster had no gift with children. Selah had even dared to ask Ann of the man’s family, only for the servant to confess she hadn’t known him to have any sort of women in his life. Still the British noble had an art of placing a mask of his true opinions—Selah would give him praise for that. It actually made her wonder if she could make a greater attempt of kindness, but quickly decided the idea was too absurd. For now the Assassin would continue her solitude. Or try to, at least.

Selah collapsed onto the library couch with a groan, tossing away her book. She had officially read all the non-Templar volumes in the entire household. And none of them were worth re-reading. The teenager half-wondered if she could request Haytham for more, but quickly dismissed the idea. Not only did she not have a clue what she precisely wanted, she couldn’t simply walk up to the Templar Grandmaster and say, “Your library is too boring. Find me something based on Assassin philosophy.” The best she would get would be a laugh.

The bored teenager opened her eyes and stared at nothing as she thought of some other activity. She thought of none. Ann was still cleaning, Haytham was locked in his study, and she was forbidden to leave the grounds without an escort (Haytham still didn’t have full trust in her, either). She remembered she had been able to befriend a couple of the chefs, even given permission to help them cook (according to Haytham she wasn’t half-bad), but it would be couple hours before dinner would be made.

With a growl, Selah looked back to the lines of editions crowding the wall. Already her stomach was twisting, but she really didn’t have a choice. Getting up, she scanned the shelves for any titles that happened to stick out to her. After somehow procrastinating her search, her eyes oddly glued to a certain thicker book, actually looking aged. Reading the golden title, she read: The Templar Knight and the Crusades.

Ugh, it just screamed of Templar propaganda. But for some reason the teenager found herself intrigued. It was during the Crusades the Templars made themselves famous, and it was during those times the Assassin-Templar War was at its peak. Yes, the Assassins fought in the Crusades as well, but thanks to successful Templar propaganda, no one knew. Selah had a sudden wave of curiosity if this book could tell what had happened during those years. It would obviously be extravagated in the Templars’ favor, but her imagination could fill the rest.

And so the young teenager sat down with the book in hand. She expected it to be distasteful. Boring. Anything that would make her regret her choice. What she hadn’t expected to be engrossed.

Instead filled with holy praises for the Order, it was filled with romanced adventure and drama. Young knights from all over Europe traveling across entire kingdoms and spans of seas for years, destined to arrive in the Holy Land of their religion’s birthplace. There would be men who would go to fight for the honor of their families, the pride of their nation, or simply prove their love to their interest. Although each knight had a different cause for their departure, they all eventually became bound in a common cause and to Selah’s surprise—chivalry. Each warrior was made to vow their valor, honor, and loyalty, and expected to follow it. The Assassin was amazed to find it similar to the Assassin’s Creed, though she knew the Templars had no such thing.

To respect the weak. To never harm another Knight, Christian, or the unarmed. To serve one’s lord or lady without hesitation. To defend one’s religion and kingdom. To never lie. Honor. Every expectation was filled with honor.

Of course there were a few brief mentions of the Assassins, usually depicting them as mindless murderers, but Selah was able to push pass it. And what the Assassin didn’t expect to find a passage personally written by Robert de Sable, Grandmaster of the Order of the Knights Templar.

“The war between the Christian Crusaders and the Muslim Saracens drags on, each side fighting for what they think is just. But I know the soldiers grow weary. Already I have convinced many to swear loyalty to the Cross, promising a New World. Yes, little do they know they are just pawns in a war that is far greater than just the Crusades. The war of Templars and Assassins. Indeed, hashashin that form a cult in what they call a Brotherhood. They are weak; hiding away in their so-called fortress called Masyaf. But they are getting stronger. Already eight of my Inner Sanctum have been killed. Only I remain. And I know of their murderer.” Selah’s eyes almost popped out of her skull as she read the next few lines, rereading them over and over. “An Assassin by the name of Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad. A demon in a man’s skin. No, not a demon. A warrior. A very skilled one. He will come for me. I can only pray that Maria—”

“Selah?”

Selah slammed the book closed with a start. She looked up to see Haytham standing in the doorway, interest in his eyes. This was his library, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he every book by heart. So he would know what book Selah held in her hands. However the Grandmaster’s made an attempt to veil his curiosity while Selah hoped her cheeks weren’t as red as they felt.

“Come. Our supper’s ready,” the man reported.

Supper? Selah didn’t have to look at a clock to see how late it was. When before the sun was shining brilliantly through the window, the glass was now painted a deep purple of the growing evening. How could so much time pass so fast?! However the teenager gave an obedient nod. Not finding a place to stash her read, she helplessly placed the book on the table and joined Haytham outside the room.

The gentleman courteously stepped aside and allowed her to take the lead to the dining room.


What Selah had read burned through her mind all through dinner. All her life she imagined Templars to be brutal and evil—especially after her recent experiences. However the Templars of the Crusades seemed to be of a different breed. Ones who fought not only for their own values, but for peace as well. How could that be? And Robert’s letter echoed in her thoughts.

Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad. The greatest Assassin ever to live. As long as Selah could remember she had heard great tales of him. Mentor Davenport had tried to silence the rumors, saying Altaïr did not want to be remembered as glorious legend. That didn’t stop the stories though. How Altaïr defeated half an army without a scratch, how he single-handedly saved Masyaf from a Templar siege, how he assassinated many high-ranking members of the Knights Templar—including Robert de Sable—and how he had saved the Brotherhood from its darkest hour and rebuilt it to the Creed it was today.

The Assassin’s poetic train of thought was broken when the door to the dining room opened. Ann strolled in, a steaming mug in her hand.

“Here’s your tea, Master Kenway,” she said.

“Ah, thank you, my dear,” Haytham smiled.

Ugh, he was so high maintenance. Only a Brit couldn’t last an hour without his damned cup of tea. Ann placed the beverage by him and exited the room with a dip of her head. Selah glanced at her leave and found herself voicing what she had been wondering since she came.

“Does she know?” the girl asked.

“Know what?”

Selah suppressed rolling her eyes. “That you’re a Templar…”

The Grandmaster blinked in surprise and stared at her for a moment. Then suddenly the man gave an honest laugh. Selah quickly noted that was the first time he did so, and that it was just as musical and deep his regular tone.

“Lord, no,” Haytham chuckled. “Ann has no business in that sort of affairs.”

Selah was actually surprised. Ann must have some idea. She lived in his home, for Christ’s sake!

“But isn’t she your personal servant?” the teenager questioned.

“So?”

“Well—” Selah stuttered, really not knowing what to say. “Then what does she think you do, then?”

That had to be some foundation she could use. All the man did was work! Did his head maid really never questioned it or caught on? Even though, she felt self-conscious and embarrassed when Haytham only seemed amused by her argument.

“Simple. I am just a businessman to her,” he explained. “Which isn’t too far from the truth. She has no reason to think otherwise.”

Selah stuttered again, only for this time her voice to leave her entirely. She quickly looked back to her food, though she still felt Haytham’s amused gaze watching her.

“Any other questions?” he asked.

Selah gulped as she remembered her reading. She did, actually. But to him it would only sound as random as the first. Not to mention it bordered on treason of the Brotherhood. Her mouth moved on its own, but her voice wasn’t very strong.

“What do the Templars strive for?” she asked. She quickly tried to word more properly. She understood the Templars wanted ‘order,’ but for what purpose? She decided to voice it. “What do you plan to achieve by gaining control of everything?”

Haytham leaned back and his amusement vanished, but he wasn’t solemn, either. “Same as you. Peace. Justice.”

“How?” Selah said the word before she could think of better phrasing, but it was honest.

Haytham seemed to understand her meaning. “No different from what you Assassins go on about. Everyone will stand as equal. People will be given the same rights and mind under a single rule.”

Your rule.”

Haytham didn’t seem offended. “If it must be so.”

Selah went back to her food. Little did she know now it was Haytham’s turn.

“And what about your lot, hmm?” he questioned. “How does do you gain equality from anarchy?”

“Freedom,” Selah corrected through a mutter. Haytham only shrugged. “And it’s freedom of mind we seek. They will become equal because no one will be chained. I already told you. And it’s the only way the world can move forward. With their own independence people can do what the wish to change the world, at the same time have understanding of one another.”

“How can you understand each other if everyone has different privileges?”

“They’ll have the same privileges.”

Haytham shrugged. “Then your world is no different from ours.”

Selah glared at him. “Of course it is. Then why do we fight?”

“A fair question.”

The Assassin blinked, but Haytham regained his charming smile.

“It is amusing, isn’t it? We wish for the same goal yet we continue to slaughter one another? All because of difference of opinion.”

“Yet we say the other is wrong.”

“Then it appears both our Orders are flawed.”


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