“Selah, may I speak you in my office for a moment?”
Selah cringed while her insides melted. He even used the same words as Ann. Selah looked up from her book (The Sins of the Borgia) to see Haytham standing in the doorway.
What happens if I say no? her teenage side wondered. However Selah immediately shoved it away when she noticed Haytham’s gaze told he would not take such as an answer. Gulping, the teenager set down her read and joined him outside. She couldn’t help but glanced at the front door, which right now looked like the Door of Freedom itself, but sensing that Haytham waiting for her said that was not possible. She obediently followed the Grandmaster to his study, unable to stop shuffling her feet. Her gaze was downcast when he closed the door behind them. She forced herself to look up at him, only to find he had his arms behind him and a strange patient look on his face.
“So I’ve been told you and Robert had an interesting time yesterday,” he started slowly.
Immediately Selah found herself like when she spoke with Ann. “I-it wasn’t like that!”
Haytham cocked an eyebrow. “Oh? So my servant didn’t find you playing with my knives?”
“Well, we were—I mean, I was—but not like that. I swear it!”
“Then what was it like?”
Selah gulped, realizing she would have to tell him the truth. “I was just showing Robert some of my training. He never touched any of the knives!”
The panicked girl was surprised by Haytham’s next words. “I believe you. I looked at the oak you butchered to find each strike was professional. None of them could’ve been inflicted by Robert.”
Even though his tone was stern, Selah saw the flash in Haytham’s eyes. He was impressed. However he still had to address the complaint of his servant and the safety of his co-worker’s family. His eyes narrowed.
“Why were you showing him your training?”
“B-because he asked.”
Another eyebrow. “He asked about you being an Assassin?”
God, his tone was identical to James’s. And Selah clearly remembered where that tone led her. She desperately tried to find words to make it not sound so terrible, but horrifying aware lying would do no good.
“N-no, he didn’t. He just asked about my former life.”
“And that led to butchering a tree?”
Selah shrunk and her voice lowered to a whimper. “Y-yes.”
Now Haytham gave a loud sigh as he pinched the bridge of his nose. “It’s my fault, really. Why wouldn’t a trained Assassin share her skills with an eleven-year-old?”
Selah cringed as his tone suggested his patience was thinning. The girl lowered her gaze and whined in a barely audible voice, “No one was to be hurt…”
Haytham removed his hand. “No, but very well could have.”
“I-I wouldn’t have let that happen!”
“Then explain to me why Ann told me Robert looked so intrigued.”
“Because he never saw combat before!”
Selah flinched as now the Grandmaster let his tone snap. She realized with horror that he was waiting for her to slip, and she very easily fell into his trap. Now the man’s patience was near gone as he stared at her sternly.
“You had no authority to coerce the boy until such an activity—whether he was included or not. How would he know the dangers? What would stop him from trying such a thing by himself?” Haytham narrowed his eyes. “What would happen then?”
The Assassin shrunk as she understood she had set a horrible example—and that what truly annoyed Haytham. What if the child decided to undertake her training, and as inexperienced as he was, what was to stop him from making a mistake and harming himself? It took months for Selah to acquire such skill. Longer still for her to completely master it. Such things never occurred to her at the time. But why would they? She had spent nearly her whole life in fighting. Even then she had attempted to put Robert’s safety first. What did they expect from her?
“If you were so concerned, then why leave him to me?” she demanded. Now both her Assassin and teenage sides were building their defenses. Apparently so was Haytham’s.
“My apologies if I assumed a few hours alone wouldn’t lead to so much so much trouble for you,” the man drawled.
“I am not one of your servants.” The teenager made sure that he understood as she did not have the same patience and gifts as the ones in his household. And just thinking about the serfs made her blood boil. “And I will never be your slave.”
“What gives you the impression that you are?”
Selah’s threw her arms up in exasperation. She had been cooped up for weeks and been dealing with frustrations the entire time. Now once again they were reaching their peak. “All I am is imprisoned. And then you give me one of your favors and expect me to carry it out correctly.”
Haytham crossed his arms over his chest like he was pouting. “I had thought giving you Robert would give you some company and aid in your adjustment. So I was proven wrong.”
“Then I’m nothing but a pet to you!” Selah spat.
“You are not. You are not imprisoned, either.”
“Ha! The last outsider I spoke to, you killed.”
Selah glared at him with fury as William’s death flashed across her vision. James had been lost in battle. William had been murdered. Haytham knew what she was talking about, and his expression went immediately solemn.
“I won’t apologize for that,” he confessed, though his voice was monotone. “He was to die.”
“Nor do I expect you to,” Selah snarled. “You are all murderers.”
“We didn’t kill you.”
“And we both know why.”
Haytham sighed through a frustrated growl. “Why is it every time we have a disagreement you must propose this subject?”
“Because it’s true.”
“Because you’re stubborn.”
Selah defiantly raised her chin. “What if I am?”
The teenager felt a small surge of victory when Haytham rolled his eyes and actually had to turn away to regain his composure. After another sigh after a few moments, he turned back.
“You’ve yet to excuse your behavior,” he decided on. Apparently he had gone tired of their war of ideologies.
Selah had heard that phrase before.
“Stop it!” she cried.
“You are not James! Stop it!”
Haytham blinked in surprise while Selah froze as her registered her own outburst. She had let her emotions get the best of her again. For almost half the conversation instead of Haytham, Selah saw James scolding her. Because of it she had steadily lost control of her sanity, causing her frustration to reach its peak. Now she was going mad.
“…What?” Haytham’s whisper interrupted.
Now she had regained control of her senses, Selah started and looked towards the floor. She hated herself. How she kept having her moods flip back and forth and how easy it was to change them. How easily weak and timid she acted and how pitiful it must have looked. Realizing what she had done, the girl’s voice went to a pathetic whimper as she tried to correct herself, but she did very poorly.
“I mean… you are not my father…”
What the hell was that supposed to mean? Pitiful. If Haytham owned pity towards her, he didn’t show it as he wore a somber mask. Maybe it wasn’t a mask as he looked away.
“No, I’m not,” he confirmed. Selah felt like he was referencing more of James than the father comment, but it mattered little. She knew he believed they were one and the same to her. “And I had no right to propose as such. I am truly sorry…” He made a point by a taking a step away from her.
That was twice he apologized for her loss. Selah could tell by his tone it was not something he was used to. The Assassin couldn’t help but wonder why. Why he pitied her so much. She called herself a fool the moment she remembered. His father. He had lost a father, as well. He possibly had suffered the same pain as her. So then it wasn’t pity. It was empathy. He had even confessed that.
Building on that, Selah thought for a moment how he gone through it without going mad, as she had been. Maybe he had. Maybe he still is. She wondered who had helped him with that madness, only to recall the name of Reginald Birch. But he had only betrayed Haytham in the end. The man Haytham trusted with his life was the very one who called the death of his father, shattering his young life. Now the girl remembered Haytham’s kindness to her without the intention of repeating the process. And how she had rejected him each time. How he offered his home to her only for her to repay with her rudeness in his own household.
She even remembered she had planned to attempt to be more tolerable of him, and was just now realizing how miserably failing she was. Yet despite her behavior Haytham remained patient and never scolded her until now. Selah tried to find ways to continue the argument to justify her actions, but was finding very little. She still didn’t like Haytham; but that was no excuse to ignore all her had done for her.
Selah swallowed. “No, Haytham, you—” She couldn’t stop from stuttering. “You’ve been very kind to me. And I’ve done very little to repay you. I… I meant no disrespect.”
She looked at the floor as Haytham stared at her quizzically. However the young Assassin could feel the surprise pouring from him in waves. After several long moments, the Templar snapped out of his gaze with an amused snort.
“Then we have both are fools,” he commented. Selah was silent as she continued her vigil, but it was interrupted when Haytham’s soft fingers appeared under her chin. He lifted her gaze to look at him as his voice dropped to the softest tone. “You have never disrespected me, Selah. How you should feel of us is natural. I simply wanted you to understand the environment you are in is the not the same as you were before.”
“I know…” Haytham removed his hand from her as she continued. “And I didn’t mean any harm with Robert.”
“Of course you didn’t,” Haytham commented matter-of-factly, re-crossing his arms. “And I spoke true when I said it was partly my fault. You are a trained Assassin. Yet, your set of skills has been rather neglected. You are an apprentice, no?”
Selah nodded, her heart aching in agreement that her training was cut short.
“And you’ve yet to uphold your side of your agreement of our deal.”
Now the teenager cringed as she remembered how she came to his home in the first place.
“So then we have to remedy both problems, don’t we?” Haytham continued.
Selah nodded and regretted asking, “What do you propose?”
“I’ll take up your training. You need to be reacquainted and I’m sure it’ll be a good pastime for you.”
Naturally the Assassin felt a rush of energy at the thought of the possibly of an active schedule again. It had only been a few weeks and she already felt her ripped muscles loosening. If she hadn’t skipped the occasional meal to avoid Templars, she was sure she would have a thicker layer of fat. Still, she was anxious with the idea she would train directly under the Grandmaster. There was the strong possibility that their versions of training contrasted greatly. Selah couldn’t help it.
“What sort of training?” she questioned.
“Hmm. We’ll continue your swordplay. Although you are inexperienced, you do possess a fair talent.”
Selah felt only minor warmth at the praise. Once again she was anxious. Although it was obvious Haytham would hold himself back, he had made it clear just how wide the gap was between them. His training would not be easy. But, it sounded like a pleasing start, and so far he hadn’t suggested any teaching of Templar philosophy. It was best to keep it that way.
“That sounds fair,” Selah agreed.
Haytham nodded in approval, but his look of accomplishment quickly faded. “But your little act still caused a mess. Fixing it is your responsibility.”
Whatever excitement Selah had was shot.
“I want you to apologize to Ann and Mr. Pitcairn. And to remind Robert of sense.”
The teenager naturally cringed. None of those options sounded appealing. She disliked that Haytham had remembered their original argument so quickly and had no intention of letting it go. Apparently the man wasn’t one to sway easily. But he didn’t become Grandmaster of the Colonial Rite for being passive. The teenager still tried.
“Err, do I have to?”
Logically Selah approached Ann first, and her discussion was similar to Haytham’s. Selah spent the better half of the conversation trying to explain herself and cautiously asking for forgiveness. She ended up continuing what she had done with Robert: explaining that she had been raised in the frontier, using methods of survival that were uncommon in the city. Once again she was telling the truth; just leaving out a few “important” details. Ann was unable to be cold, only first speaking with her in an annoyed tone. However as Selah explained, she slowly started to soften, becoming somewhat sympathetic when she was catching on what kind of grim upbringing the teenager had. She had no idea…
Finally Ann accepted her apology and they agreed to leave the incident behind. However once again Haytham didn’t make things easy for her, not forgetting her coerced promise and quickly sending her to Pitcairn. While the discussion with Ann had been unnerving, her discussion with the British captain was just awkward and uncomfortable. The fact he was a high-ranking Templar was barely a part of it. The Assassins lived in a world of sin; confessing one’s crimes was unheard of to them. So trying to explain what happened and seek mercy was challenging for the young apprentice.
But to her surprise, the man was patient and calm the entire time, only acting somewhat surprised and the faintest trace of annoyance appeared. He understood immediately, and more to her shock, only laughed at her predicament.
“Haytham’s just trying to humble you, you know,” he chuckled.
Selah only blinked in confusion, feeling too stressed to understand what he meant. It wasn’t later she figured it out. Haytham wasn’t trying to humiliate or punish her. Nor was he truly that angry. The teenager remembered that he briefly mentioned of trying to get her to adjust. So that was this was then. To prove to other souls that she was just a humble young girl and not some cold, emotionless killer. Maybe he was trying to show that to herself.
However she couldn’t think of it for too long before she had to speak with Robert. If confessing to Pitcairn of sin was hard, having a seasoned warrior tell a child to limit combat was near impossible. But his reply was more surprising than his father’s.
“I know that,” the young boy confessed, although his voice was timid and low as always.
Selah just blinked and said nothing, urging the boy to continue.
“I wasn’t planning to attempt anything. I-I know you’re different. I don’t know how, but you are. I won’t be able to do what you do, but I still admire it. Admire you, I mean.”
Immediately the boy blushed and looked away, just causing Selah to continue her stare. Finally she jolted herself out of it and forced herself to say words.
“I still want to get to know you, Robert. May we be friends?”
Robert immediately lit up at the idea, finally looking back to her and nodding eagerly. Selah allowed them to have a friendly embrace, immediately removing her uncomfortable burden from her shoulders.
Saying her farewells to the Pitcairn family, she escaped and met Haytham outside, who was leaning against the carriage with his arms folded in patience.
“Fixed?” he asked.
The Grandmaster gave an approving nod, even patting a hand on her back. For the first time Selah didn’t flinch.