Selah waited patiently from the top of the stairs as she listened to Charles Lee and another Templar—Hugh Jackson—shuffle out of Haytham’s home. They bid their thanks and farewells before they closed the door and disappeared into the night. Haytham took their place.
“You can come down know, Selah,” he called.
Selah obeyed as she traveled down the staircase. Haytham watched her approach.
“You can’t keep hiding forever, you know,” he reminded.
“Yes I can,” Selah replied, still unable to rein her spark.
Haytham hummed. “We’ll see about that.” He turned around and headed for his study. “Come along.”
Selah obeyed, following on his heels. She exchanged a smile with Ann before she ducked in the Grandmaster’s office. She paused in the center of the room while Haytham ducked behind his desk, fishing through his drawer.
“Don’t take this the wrong way,” he began. “I’m not rewarding you for anything.”
“Yes...” Selah drawled, wondering if she should be confused or not. Her greed’s eagle eye then immediately noticed a small purse of change in Haytham’s hand.
“I will be preoccupied for the next few days, you I won’t have time to train you,” the Templar explained. He was already noticing Selah’s curious gaze. “To make up for it, I’ll allow you visit town tomorrow. You’ll be free of escort.”
Automatically the Assassin’s eyebrows went up. She had never been allowed to leave the grounds unattended, always being escorted by Haytham. If he happened to be unavailable, she would be given to one of the servants or even a Templar recruit. Now hearing that wouldn’t be the case immediately uplifted her spirits. Selah caught the purse expertly with her palms when Haytham tossed it to her.
“You may do whatever you wish,” he allowed, “only that you don’t exceed what I have given you. And I only ask you bring Giles as your driver.”
Haytham nodded and settled in his chair. “A reminder that winter will be setting in soon. I advise you find yourself a coat while you’re out.”
Selah nodded. He waved her permission to leave, to which she once again complied. She smiled at the news she was given, causing her to pause by the door.
“Thank you, Haytham.”
Selah gave a large inhale of fresh air as she leaped out of the carriage. The sun was shining brilliantly as the streets of New York were crammed with the afternoon crowd. Men and women went on their daily business, not minding as children ran between their legs. Save for the orphans pranking on a local businessman. Selah chuckled at them, remembering her and the other young apprentices weren’t much different. The Assassin didn’t allow her positive mood to be ruined. She turned as the carriage driver addressed her.
“Is there anywhere you want me to escort you, miss?” Giles asked dutifully.
Selah just smiled at him. “No, thank you. I can take it from here. I’ll find you later.”
Giles blinked in surprise, most likely not being used to not being given direct orders. But he was a wise man, so he gave a slight smirk and nodded. “As you wish, ma’am.”
He turned away, leaving Selah to do what she pleased. At first she thought of joining the crowds or visiting the market that was popular this time of day, but then saw a convenient pile of cargo pushed against a nearby wall of a building. She grinned in delight. The Assassin crossed the distance in just a few leaps before bounding of the supplies to grip the frame of a window. She used its minimal leverage to haul herself onto the roof.
Immediately the wind picked up, sending her long hair flailing around her. Selah laughed, not knowing the last time she relished the sensation. This was even better than escaping from the fort. The open world seemed to welcome her, the weather beaming and whistling with joy. Naturally she continued to freerun across the city, soaring building to building and scaling any wall that happened to be in her way. Not once did her feet touch the accursed ground. She felt like a bird, flying about after being released from her cage to see just how much she had missed and just how capable she was.
Her flight finally ended when she leaped over the annex of a building only to crash feet-first into a redcoat sentry. The poor man let out a cry of both surprise and pain as he crashed onto the hard pavement of the roof. Selah skipped away from him, wincing at her mistake. The soldier tried scramble to his feet but he was obviously disoriented. He gave Selah the briefest of glances before the Assassin piped, “sorry,” and retreated into the streets below.
Automatically a stampede of pounding boots sounded behind her as a squad of soldiers gave chase. Selah only chuckled. There wasn’t an Assassin that didn’t have to go through this during the war. Escaping from excitable soldiers had become part of the business by now. Although the soldiers had more eyes, the teenager was far faster. She humored them for several streets and back alleyways before she ducked into the open door a shack. The Assassin stilled the door and became motionless just as the redcoats came around the corner, still pounding. Selah waited patiently as they charged right past her and continued on until their footfall faded. The girl slipped out of her hiding spot and spared a wave towards their direction before turning around slipping away.
She came to a wide street, panting lightly from her sprint. She looked around, finding a place she could blend into. It would be best to lay low for a little while. Just until the soldiers became bored, which wouldn’t be very long. The teenager’s gaze spotted a general store across the street. Deciding it looked safe enough, Selah crossed over to it.
Now that she moved at a comfortable pace and a thin layer of sweat covered her skin, Selah gave a small shiver. It was cold. Perhaps taking Haytham’s suggestion wouldn’t be a bad idea. Nonetheless the teenager enjoyed the warmth of the store as she entered with a bell ringing. Immediately the scent of leather, clay, and musk greeted her. She was intrigued to find the store was filled small shelves of books and pottery, as well as several common inventions. But she was surprised to find a few trinkets she never seen before. Including one pushed against the wall.
The contraption was raised on four skinny legs, like a side table would be. However its surface was anything but. Instead of a flat countertop was an open case, the top raised to press against the wall. What was inside puzzled Selah even more. First it looked like it wall one piece, a round object that was wide one side and stretched the length of the table to be small on the opposite side. But on closer inspection, the rounded piece was instead made of dozens glass bowls of decreasing size. The largest was on the left, with a smaller bowl halfway within it and so on and so on. Selah gapped at the strange invention, trying to figure out what to make of it.
“I call it an armonica.”
Selah jumped at the voice, thinking she was alone. She spun around to see a man in the center of the store, in his late fifties at least. He had almost unkempt gray hair that came to his shoulders, but he brushed it back in an attempt to be civilized. He had deep brown eyes as well, magnified by spectacles with flimsy wire resting on his nose. He wore a regal burgundy coat that barely fit his plump physique. He gave a friendly, charming smile at her.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” he apologized humbly. He had a nasally voice, that almost sounded misleading but Selah could hear the traces of intelligence in it. She couldn’t help but smile back.
“No, it’s alright,” she replied. “I hope I didn’t intrude.”
“Not at all.” The man extended a hand and closed the distance between them in just a few quick strides. “Benjamin Franklin, a pleasure to meet you.”
Selah continued her smile. Usually she should be quiet, especially to a stranger as an Assassin, but the man’s charm was amusing. He seemed friendly enough. She accepted his hand.
“Selah,” she introduced.
“Ah, a beautiful name,” Benjamin praised.
Selah gestured to the contraption, what she remembered the man had called an armonica. “Beautiful machine.”
“Oh, you like it? It’s one of my favorites actually.” Selah looked at him with interest as he positioned near it, gesturing towards it himself. “I got the idea from wine glasses, in fact. I have always enjoyed the sound made by them; however they are so hard to tune correctly filling them with water. So I produced this instrument. I spin the bowls using this here—” He pointed to large metal wheel on the table’s end. “—and wet the brim of the bowls with water. The result should please any ears.”
“Indeed. Will you like me to show you how it works?”
Selah nodded. Immediately Benjamin’s head bobbed in excitement as he moved to the wheel. After a few cranks, the bowls started spinning at a dizzying pace. The man then opened the armonica’s drawer to reveal a bowl of water, dunking his fingertips in the liquid. He then gently brushed the brims of few of the bowls like he would a piano. Immediately a musical ring filled the air. Benjamin was right; it did sound just like tuning wine glasses. But how he expertly skipped around the span of the instrument also like a piano filled the air with song. It was so sharp and so pure it sounded like music of the angels of heaven themselves.
Selah listened in awe, letting herself be lost in a sea of the harmony as Benjamin went on for over a minute. Finally he tentatively pulled away, a soft ring humming through the air as he did so. The armonica slowly spun to a halt.
“Beautiful…” Selah breathed, in more amazement that she ever been. She quickly pulled herself out of it, not wanting to be in strange daze in front of a stranger. “So then you’re a musician?”
“I am many things,” Benjamin replied proudly. “I fancy myself with all sorts of activities. I like to make a hobby with music, but my true passion is the field of science. And if both happen to dull me, I find myself a diplomat.”
Selah raised her eyebrows. “You must be a busy man.”
“So do you continue to build inventions?”
“Of course. I’m always willing to attempt new prototypes. I believe my last one went to… erm… yes, a Mr. Cormac.”
That got Selah’s attention. Her eyes went as wide as the armonica’s large wheel. Shay?!
“C-Cormac?” she finally stuttered.
“Yes,” Benjamin confirmed happily, oblivious to her state. “Er, what was his first name? Excuse my memory. Um, Patrick, perhaps?”
“Not Shay?” How many Cormacs were there?
“Oh, yes!! Shay Patrick Cormac! That was his name! Yes, yes, I gave him my grenade launcher.”
“Yes, I gave it to him when I was requested to create the prototype for his associates. Along with an efficient toxin that proved quite effective. A Miss Hope was the one to request for it, I believe.”
Selah recognized that name. Hope Jensen. She was one of the highest members of the Brotherhood, a Master Assassin skilled in the arts of stealth and assassination. Almost every gang that served the Order answered to her. But a grenade launcher? What did that have to do with Hope’s specialty? And how in the world did Shay get his hands on it before the Assassins? Selah was interrupted from her questions as Benjamin continued on with his musings.
“And from what he tells me, it serves him well.”
Suddenly Selah was absorbing what the man was really saying. She couldn’t keep the shock and surprise from her voice. “So you talked to Shay?”
Hearing of the Irishman from this man of all people was the last thing she would have expected. Perhaps none at all.
Suddenly a surge of raw curiosity thawed her frozen mind. She leaned towards the scientist. “What was he like?” she pressed.
“A young fellow,” Benjamin confessed. “But quite courteous, though. He seemed eager to please.”
Selah blinked. She certainly wasn’t expecting that. And eager to please? Shay? The teenager thought it was absurd. Then again, if you were hell-bent on destroying your entire former Brotherhood…
“Does something interest you?” Benjamin questioned gently as he finally noticed Selah’s perplexed daze.
The girl snapped herself out of it. “Erm, just curious of your inventions, that’s all. Do you have another?”
“Grenade launcher. Like that one you gave Sh—Mr. Cormac.”
“No, sorry. Honestly I considered making another since it sufficed so well, but Mr. Cormac requested me not to do so.”
He would do that. Selah tried not to look defeated. If it was such a sufficient weapon, the Assassin wouldn’t mind seeing—possibly even using—one herself. Then again, if it was Cormac’s, it meant it was used to kill probably dozens of her brothers and sisters. And it wasn’t like she was in an environment where it could be available to her… Even though she dismissed the idea, Benjamin still saw her disappointed look.
“I can offer you something else, if you like,” he offered warmly.
Selah blinked out of her doze. She wondered if the man meant another “prototype” or a simple service, but decided once again a weapon was of little value to her. Instead she thought of another idea she thought of when she first entered the store.
“Do you have any books I can rent?” she asked politely.
Immediately Benjamin’s face lit up. “Ah, I think I have one you will enjoy.” Walking in his unnatural speed, the old man crossed the small store and plucked a volume out of a shelf. He glanced at the cover as Selah calmly followed. “This one should do. Poor Richard's Almanack.” He handed the almanac to his guest. “It was written by a Richard Saunders.” The man gave a quizzical smirk. “He is one of my favorite authors, actually.”
“Thank you. How much does it cost?”
Benjamin didn’t hesitate to shake his head and hands. “No, no. A beautiful young woman shouldn’t have to pay for such things. Take it as a gift.”
Selah smiled, even though she didn’t know if she should be flattered or offended. She decided flattery as she nodded in gratefulness. “Thank you so kindly, sir.”
Benjamin Franklin shook his head again. “It is of no inconvenience.”
Seeing no other reason to stay, Selah smiled again and took a step towards the door. “I must be leaving now. I thank you again for you hospitality, Mr. Franklin.”
Now the scientist was bobbing his chin. “Come by any time. I will be here if you happen to wish for a visit.”
Selah gave a nod and exited the store.
True the teenager’s vow, the next store she visited was a tailor. Selah actually almost missed it; she didn’t notice it was tailor until she happened to peer through the window. Seeing several robes and dresses hung to the side and even an entire wall made of shelves for rolls of colored cloth, Selah decided to enter. This time unlike Franklin’s general store, a woman immediately greeted her.
She wore a modest yellow dress with a large apron covering her lap. A checkered red shawl was wrapped around her shoulders, tied at the base of her neck. She had sharp dark brown eyes with a stern features, her long chocolate brown hair tied into a bun.
“May I help you, dear?” she asked politely, although her voice wasn’t as near as soft as Ann’s.
“Yes, thank you,” Selah replied. She hesitated for a brief moment, not really used to being a direct costumer. Usually James handled affairs for her. Not really knowing what to say, she blurted, “I was seeing if I could get a coat tailored here.”
“Well, I am a seamstress, so I hope you can get one here,” the woman replied in a sarcastic tone. She looked at Selah’s attire. “And it looks like you already got yourself one.”
Selah wondered if this woman could be described as rude. However the Assassin saw no disdain from her and her amused gleam showed she was teasing. Selah still felt timid, wishing James was here. He always got along with others.
“I need one for winter,” the teenager stammered.
The woman gave a nod. “Ah, I think I can do that.” She crossed to the shelves of colors, glazing over them. “What color would you like, dear?”
“Um.” Selah didn’t really think about that. She glanced down at her current coat and got an idea. She looked back to the seamstress, plucking her arm. “Can you do a darker shade of this?”
“I believe I can.” The woman plucked a roll out of the shelf and carried it back to her. “Should this suffice?”
Like Selah requested, the color was significantly darker. While Selah’s current coat was only a light brown of earth, the one in the woman’s hands was one of the richest chocolates. Nonetheless, the teenager could see it complimenting her current outfit well, so she nodded her approval. The woman nodded back and shifted the roll in her hands.
“So you have a name, lass?” she asked.
“Name’s Ellen. A pleasure.” The woman, Ellen, strutted across the store. “Come over here, Selah, I need to measure you in order for it to fit.”
Selah obeyed, following the seamstress to a back room and followed her instruction to stand on a small box. She felt a little silly when she had to outstretch her arms like one of the dummies from the Assassin training grounds. Ellen meanwhile snatched a bundle of measuring tape and began her work.
“So how long do you want the tail?” she asked, requesting how long the customer wanted her coat.
Selah considered it for a moment. Her current coat only came to her knees. It felt a little strange, used to her Assassin robes that came to her heels. She had even wondered if she should lengthen it. Instead she had another idea to try it on her new one.
“Can you have it end at the heel?” the girl requested. “Without me stepping on it?”
Ellen nodded. “I think I can do that.”
“And one other thing.”
The seamstress glanced up at her curiously.
Selah reached behind her and pulled up the collar of her tan undershirt. She couldn’t help but make her voice a little meeker than she intended. “Could… you attached a hood to this?”
It wasn’t surprising the woman raised an eyebrow. “A hood?”
Selah’s cheeks burned and she hoped they weren’t red as she nodded. She knew the style wasn’t common in the colonies, especially among the people. But it was part of an Assassin’s identity, more so than their hidden blades or insignia. Selah had a hidden desire to have hers returned to her. Even if she was with the Templars now, she could have the familiar weight remind her who she truly was. And Haytham didn’t have to know. It was why she would have it attached to the undershirt. It could discreetly hide under the thick padding of her coat, making anyone who was unaware of its existence none the wiser. Only the assurance that it was there was enough for Selah.
Ellen turned away, both amused and skeptical at the same time. Nonetheless, she chuckled, “I can give it a go.” She placed her measuring tape down and meddled with some of her supplies. The woman raised her voice to a call. “Maria! Can you come here for a moment?”
Immediately a young girl materialized by the door. The girl couldn’t have been much older than Robert, being at least twelve years of age. Selah blinked when realizing she was a spitting image of Ellen, only her young face was softer and still gleaming.
“Yes, Mother?” the girl, Maria, said.
“Could you grab my roll of silk from the back for me?”
The girl nodded obediently and disappeared as quickly as she appeared. Selah couldn’t help but smirk at her energy. What she would do to be back in those days…
“So when do want it completed?” Ellen’s voice interrupted.
Selah blinked from her nostalgic state. “Erm, as soon as possible, if you may.”
Ellen raised an eyebrow, but nonetheless said, “That shouldn’t be too difficult. I have no other projects at the moment.”
“Really? I thought in this part of town you would be quite popular.”
Selah didn’t miss the clenching in Ellen’s jaw as she swallowed. “Well… business has just been slow, lately.”
The teenager stared at her in confusion for a moment, but nonetheless went still as Ellen made a few more measurements. Suddenly Maria appeared by the door again.
“Mother, I can’t find it,” the girl reported.
“What? Are you sure?” Ellen replied, sounding surprised. “Did you look on my work table?”
“Yes, ma’am. I can look again if you like.”
The mother shook her head, even though there was still confusion in her eyes. “No, that’s fine. Thank you, dear. I’ll have to get some more tomorrow.”
Maria disappeared again, leaving Selah to analyze the seamstress. The Assassin was terrible at reading expressions, could she could see the woman’s confusion be replaced by annoyance. Her eyebrows were furrowed and her lips were pursed, as well as her muscles were tense as she moved stiffly.
“Is something wrong?” Selah pressed.
Immediately Ellen attempted to mask her state by attempted to loosen her body. “Oh, fine. Just thinking that’s all.” The woman turned away, leaving an uncertain pause. The seamstress spoke up quickly though to fill it. “Is there anything else you require, lass?”
“No, thank you.”
“Alright, then. I’ll let you know I don’t rush my work. You should have your coat in three to five days.”
Selah nodded. “Alright, thank you.”
“And how would you like to do for payment?”
The teenager considered reaching for her purse to pay the seamstress then and there. Suddenly she had a mischievous idea. Haytham had given her freedom, but still attempted to restrain her with limitations. But Selah would not be so easily fooled, and she had plenty of tricks of her own.
The Assassins had unlimited amount of resources and contacts, allowing them to reach every aspect of the colonies. That included the Templar finances. Although the Assassins couldn’t find much use attacking from that angle, Selah still remembered what she had learned.
“Send the bill to Silver Tavern,” the Assassin ordered. “It’ll be taken care of for you.”
Selah remembered that the tavern masqueraded as a Templar outpost, mostly used to usher spies and bankers. No doubt a bill sent in that direction—even from a local seamstress—would make its way to Haytham. And no doubt the Grandmaster would learn that he wasn’t the only sly and manipulative one.
“I’ll come by next week to pick up the coat,” Selah continued, keeping her voice level despite her amused thoughts.
Ellen nodded and extended a hand. “Sounds about right. A pleasure doing business with you.”
Selah went to accept it, but then noticed something.
The Assassin ignored the woman’s sharp gasp as she snatched her wrist and peeled back her sleeve. Instead of pale skin was a dark coloration. A deep violet wrapped around her entire wrist with sickly green-brown lining around it. Selah could feel the subtle tremble in Ellen as the teenager narrowed her eyes in confusion and suspicion. Finally Ellen quickly ripped her arm away and pulled down her sleeve to hide the disturbing bruise. Selah was still able to question her.
“Nothing,” Ellen replied. Her tone was sharp and defensive. “Just fell down the stairs, that’s all.”
Selah narrowed her eyes, but Ellen didn’t appreciate it.
“I’ll ask that you leave now,” the woman demanded.
Even though the Assassin’s stomach was still churning, she realized she had no choice. Selah dipped her head and slunk away.