Crossed Eagle

Chapter 14

Selah put down her new read, chuckling softly. She looked back to check the author. Richard Saunders. The girl chuckled again. She had read dozens upon dozens of books in her life. Never once have she heard of a Richard Saunders. She doubted he even existed. It was the writing style that revealed it. Instead hearing the voice of “Poor Richard,” she heard Benjamin’s nasally voice. He was most certainly the author. Saunders was just a pen name.

The teenager placed the book down, already near completion. She just may have to go back and request Franklin for another. Over a week had gone by since she visited town. Haytham was pleased to hear her trip was productive and she had enjoyed herself. True to his word, though, he remained locked in his study for the next couple days with paperwork with Templar messengers constantly running back and forth. However the moment he was finally finished, he immediately took her back to Fort George to uphold his vow of training her. As she expected, it wasn’t easy.

The first few matches were simply to test the waters, each not even using real strikes. The matches were only to get accustomed to re-using a sword and the other’s unique fighting style. However, soon after Haytham had her switch back and forth between offensive and defensive. He would have her take the offensive, only for her to be unable to break through his defenses. The Assassin would then have to defend herself, only for Haytham to quickly gain the upper hand. Selah refused to think about the contests that included both…

Finally after multiple matches, Haytham began to teach her swordplay stroke by stroke. He taught her new strikes, parries, and tactics. Once she was acquainted, he would have her use her new skill in the next match. Ever so slowly, she began to last longer against the experienced Grandmaster.

Now they had returned home, Selah was curious if they would be headed back to the fort. Deciding to investigate, she journeyed downstairs. The girl wasn’t surprised to find Haytham still in his study despite the lateness of the hour. He was hunched over his desk, which was for once covered in scattered documents. The Templar clutched one in his hand, reading it carefully. He only had one candle for light.

Eyeing the parchment, Selah saw it seemed to be made of slightly different material. She even saw an envelope by Haytham’s elbow. Apparently her conversation with Franklin was still on her mind, because she blurted, “Is that from Shay?”

Immediately the man glanced up from his read.

Meanwhile the Assassin bit her tongue. Where did that come from?

However Haytham only looked at her for a moment before admitting, “Yes, it is. He is just keeping me informed of things.” He placed the parchment aside. “It seems things are slow going.”

Naturally Selah wondered for a moment what was in the letter and what “slow-going” meant, but quickly decided she didn’t want to know. Instead of looking at her, the Grandmaster glanced at another document. Selah took notice of his furrowed eyebrows.

“What is the matter?” she asked.

“Nothing that concerns you,” Haytham retorted.

“I am staying on your manor, mind you, and am I not to be a Templar?”

Haytham glanced up at her, not missing her cringe at her own statement. However he played along with the attempted technicality.

“Well, I suppose you are,” he sighed. The man kept his gaze on his papers. “It appears I find myself in a predicament. There is business I need to tend in New York—however, I’ve been requested to Fort Division to receive some information.”

Selah’s knowledge quickly placed the fort on the outskirts of New York City. She spoke up with the most practical solution, “Why not just have a messenger deliver it to you?”

Haytham sighed through his nose. “I’m afraid it’s ‘sensitive’ information and Captain Pitcairn saw it safer for me to see it personally.”

“I can get for you.”

Selah clipped her mouth shut, surprised at her own words. Haytham was interested as well, glancing up at her with raised eyebrows. She certainly hadn’t offered anything like that before. Besides it was a strange thing to suggest. An Assassin requesting to transport valuable Templar information to the Grandmaster himself. His quizzical stare confirmed of his suspicions.

“I won’t look, I promise,” Selah assured. “And I’ll only pick it up and take it straight here. No one must know.”

Haytham continued to stare at her, still skeptical. Selah knew even if one removed the fact she was an Assassin, the Grandmaster sending a teenaged girl in his place would certainly raise eyebrows. But, it would be a good way to introduce her to the inner workings of the Templars. A simple courier mission would be a good way to start that. A special courier mission, but one nonetheless.

The Grandmaster sighed again. He pulled open a drawer and pulled out a fresh parchment and bowl of ink, already beginning to scribble. “Very well. I’ll send a letter baring my seal with you to prove your legitimacy. If you are still questioned, inform the person they are to answer to me. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” Selah replied. The girl could tell a Templar wouldn’t want to answer him. She shouldn’t have any problems.

Somehow already writing his approval, Haytham handed the letter to her. Selah took it gingerly. She listened on as the man’s expression went serious.

“I’m placing a great deal of trust in you, Selah,” he told her. “Use it well.”

Selah wanted to quip, but looking into his stone eyes, she said instead, “I understand, Grandmaster. You can place your faith in me.”

Automatically Haytham’s shoulders relaxed and his face softened. “Fair enough. You leave in morning. I bid you good night.”

He waved her away, allowing the young Assassin to take her leave. However she paused at the door for a moment as she remembered something. “Oh, by the way, I plan to visit that seamstress to pick up my coat tomorrow. It shouldn’t take long.”

Haytham nodded approvingly, but he was already absorbed back into his paperwork. Or so he seemed. “Just make sure I don’t receive any strange bills I didn’t approve of.”

Selah grinned mischievously, amused he had learned of her folly. He said it in an annoyed tone, but yet still didn’t seem truly angry. Nevertheless the teenager affirmed his request and left the room.

Selah walked to the gates of Fort Division, eyeing the compound cautiously. It couldn’t have been more different from Fort George. Inside of great, foreboding stone walls, the fort was surrounded a tall, spiked palisade. Through gaps of the fencing it could be glimpsed that most of the interior structures were made of wood as well. The military encampment pushed against the surrounding woods, looking like it was part of the frontier. But it looked like the entire establishment could be blown away with just a few shelling. However, a broad but shallow moat—perhaps large enough to pass as a small lake--surrounding the fort made up for the lack of defenses.

Selah crossed over to the bridge, ignoring the muddy earth on this part of the island. A dark overcast covered the sky, forewarning the brewing of a winter storm. The teenager was eager to get her errands over with. She walked up to the lone British sentry at the gate. The Assassin paused as he raised his hand.

“Halt! What business do you have here?” he demanded.

Selah lifted Haytham’s letter. “Delivery.” She decided that response would have fewer questions. Apparently she was wrong as the regular sneered.

“That is no task for a woman. Who sent you?”

Selah disliked the sexist remark. Even though society was ruled by difference of gender, the Assassins tried to demote such ideas. If the male Assassins fought, the female Assassins fought. The teenager decided to uphold such.

“Never you mind,” she snapped at the soldier.

The redcoat’s sneer turned into one of annoyance. “What was that? Little gurls like you should have respect.”

“This one doesn’t.” Selah passed him, slapping the back of her hand to his chest and pushing him away. Thankfully he was scrawny and wasn’t expecting the touch, stumbling away from her. She slipped inside the fort before he could stop her.

Like she expected, the inside of the fort was filled with red like the inside of a lobster cage. Unlike Fort George which was much more complex and active, Fort Division’s interior was made of randomly placed cargo and only a few buildings that yet to be completed. Soldiers mulled around, either huddled in groups or isolated from their peers. They cleaned weapons, conversed through muttered and slurred voices, ate half-rotted food, chugged down their drinks—whether it was water or alcohol. Thankfully not many paid attention to her, only a handful sending her curious glances. A younger soldier made the mistake of whistling at her, which caused the Assassin to stop in her heels and send him a heated glare, making the man flinch.

Finally the teenager made her way to the captain’s tent, showing her letter to the guards. With a reluctant grumble, the men stepped away to allow her entrance. Without sparing them a glance, Selah entered the tent. According to Haytham, Captain Pitcairn should be the head of this fort. That relieved the girl, assured she was meeting a friendly face that was familiar with her. However the man wasn’t Jonathan.

Selah stopped dead as she recognized the Spanish-looking officer from the halls of Fort George. A high-ranking Templar and father of the disrespectful Eleanor—Major Matthew Mallow.

He sat behind a table covered in documents and maps, although Selah could tell none of them have been looked at in a while. Nor had anyone tried to organize them. The multiple misplaced items scattered around the room certainly didn’t give it an appeal, either.

As for Major Mallow himself, he was a tall, but lean man. He had well-tanned skin and pitch-dark hair, some of it forming an attached mustache and beard. His sharp black eyes were the same as his daughter’s. Instead of wearing the red coat of his associates, he wore a pale cloak over his shoulders. The man was peering at his documents when Selah entered, but immediately looked up at her presence.

Selah’s skin crawled as she remembered the Templar girls had boasted he was the man who led the raid against her home. She swallowed the bile in her throat. Maybe he wouldn’t know who she was. The teenager’s slimmer of hope vanished when the major’s eyes narrowed with disdain.

“What are you doing here?” he hissed.

Selah didn’t appear to be intimidated, although her insides felt like they were melting. Damn, why couldn’t she be as solid as she was the guard? The girl realized with reluctance there was a very clear difference between the two. Knowing he was a Templar, Selah decided there was no need of secrecy.

“Haytham sent me,” she reported. She handed him the letter. Mallow took it, but only for a split-second before he jerked back in her direction, as if looking at it disgusted him.

“Haytham’s sending his servant girls now?”

“I’m not one of his servants.”

Mallow snorted. “No, you’re not. You shouldn’t be here at all, girl.”

Selah tried to ignore his harsh tone, but her body shifted slightly on its own accord. She muttered before she could stop herself, “I was expecting Captain Pitcairn.”

“The Captain was called away this morning. That’s how things work in the military—not that you would know.”

Selah rolled her eyes when Mallow looked away for a moment. What did unpredictable military schedules have to do with anything? Although it explained Pitcairn’s absence. Haytham would never had sent her if he knew she would encounter Mallow, if he really did destroy her home.

The very thought making her nauseous, she quickly demanded, “The Grandmaster sent me to retrieve something for him.”

The major sneered for what seemed the thousandth time. “You’re calling him Grandmaster now?”

“Isn’t he?”

Mallow made a noise, but he started fishing through his drawers, obviously looking for Haytham’s information. The man didn’t look at her, but filled the following silence by asking, “So, how is your little board with the Grandmaster?”


It was the truth and Selah decided it would be wise not to tell this man too much. Finally after an awkward silence, Major Mallow pulled out a large envelope.

“Here we are,” he mumbled before holding it out to her. Selah reached out to take it, but suddenly the commander jerked it back from her touch. The Assassin suppressed narrowing her eyes, knowing he wanted a reaction. The man’s eyes, however, did. “And why should I give this to you? After all, you are an Assassin.” He huffed. “A puny Assassin, but one nonetheless.”

“Because I am boarding with your Grandmaster,” Selah replied curtly, still trying to keep her composure.

Mallow shrugged before letting her take it. Immediately the man went back to the work, but spoke up once again. “My daughter tells me of you. So you are taking lessons from Haytham now?”


“Has he taught you anything useful?”

“That is not really any of your concern.”

“I could teach you a few things, if you like, Selah.”

How the hell this devil learned her name, the Assassin had no idea, but it sent her skin crawling. The tone of his offer didn’t sound suggesting, but it certainly wasn’t for politeness.

“No, thank you,” she replied quickly. She made her point by turning around toward the entrance. Mallow still continued, though.

“No? I thought you would like that, considering how ill-prepared your kind is. Your Assassins from your little village certainly weren’t that well-trained.”

Selah’s heart stopped. He was the head of the raid. Haytham was the Grandmaster and approved, but it was Major Mallow who organized the footmen. Her back to was the demon, but she still sensed his devilish smile as he noticed her tensing.

“It’s a shame, really,” he went on. “I thought I only had to burn savage villages aiding French mongrels. Then again, I doubt Assassins are much different from savages.”

Now Selah’s throat was constricting and bile rose to her mouth. She had to get out of here. “Good day, Major.”

She curtly headed towards the entrance.

“Good day, Selah,” Mallow purred. “Try to be wary around fires…”

Selah escaped, struggling not to cry.

The Assassin was happy to escape to the city to distract her thoughts. There was always noise and activity in New York—the stomping and chattering of the crowd, the whinnying of a horse, the barking of a dog or the screeching of a cat. It was a good way mute out her overthinking mind.

Selah knew it was unwise to run personal errands while she was on a “mission,” but she knew she still had some time left. And it wasn’t like anyone was going to steal it... The teenager subconsciously shifted the letter in place in her coat pocket. It was perfectly secure. Now all she had to do was go to Ellen’s—

“Please! Please help me!”

Selah blinked. Was that? The Assassin quickly picked up the pace into a jog, quickly rounding the corner. Like she expected, she found young Maria, Ellen’s daughter, standing on the edge of the street, shouting towards the crowd of people. Not even a single person paid her mind. But how the young girl’s face was plastered with panic and distraught along with her desperate wails said enough to Selah. Her stomach knotted.

“I’m begging you to help me! Why won’t you listen?”

Selah had already made her way over to the young girl. “Maria, what’s wrong?”

The child whipped around to face the older teenager, face still wet. The girl was either too panicked or too relieved that someone had finally listened to her to care that Selah was practically a stranger. Maria was already spinning on her heels.

“This way! Mommy and Daddy are fighting!”

Daddy? Selah’s stomach went even tighter. Maria was fast for her age, running fast enough that Selah almost had to sprint. It was a good thing they did, because all they had to round the corner to reveal what was wrong.

Ellen was pushed up against the wall of her store, a ragged man pinning her in place. He wore tattered clothing and even from here Selah could see his eyes were bloodshot. The man harshly held Ellen’s arms, provoking pained yells from the woman. The seamstress flailed against her captor, sending useless kicks and trying to rip her arms away. Suddenly the bruise Selah witnessed came ripping from the back of her mind. It filled the Assassin with fury. The man had caused them. Ellen’s husband.

Selah gritted her teeth and raced past Maria. She was next to the “fighting” couple in seconds. Immediately the Assassin sent a violent kick to the man’s kneecap, provoking a startled yell of pain. Like Selah anticipated, his grip on Ellen loosened, allowing the teenager to rip one of his arms away and raise her own knee into his stomach. Ellen’s husband gagged and let go of his wife completely.

Still having a hold on the mongrel, Selah dragged him further away from Ellen. She only had a grip on one arm and the man was so unbalanced he was forced to stumble after her. Finally though he planted his heels in place and snapped his head towards her. His face was red along with his wild-looking his eyes. The stench of stale alcohol filled Selah’s nostrils, making her gag. Apparently that was enough for the bastard to round on her, his vice grip now on her.

“Bugger off!” he roared.

“Like hell!” Selah retorted.

Flaring his nostrils, the husband tried to throw her down, but Selah was able to cling on to him. She wrapped both hands around his wrist and twisted his arm, provoking a loud yell. He immediately let go, allowing the Assassin to spin his body around, still holding his arm while his back was to her. She then angled her body and planted a powerful kick to the man’s ribs. He fell face-first on the ground with a yell.

Selah took a step back, staying out of his range if case he jumped up. However Ellen’s husband didn’t as he simply tried to recollect himself, only to get as far as lifting his body. With his red eyes and scarlet face, he looked back up at her, looking more beast than human as he growled and bared his rotting teeth. Selah saw the man’s fury grow as he realized his attacker was a little girl—and she had defeated him. The tremble in his body told of his humiliation. The Assassin could care less as she took a step forward, towering over him and her own gaze showing her own fury.

“Get out of here,” she demanded. “And don’t let me see you again.”

Another eruption of rage appeared behind the man’s eyes. “You’ll regret this,” he growled in a ragged, savage voice.

Selah only raised her chin defiantly, watching impassively as the pathetic excuse of a husband scrambled to his feet and sprinted down the street, not looking back. It was only when he disappeared in the crowd the teenager finally turned away, headed back towards Ellen.

The woman still stood where she was being held, arms crossed her chest. However Selah noticed she gripped where her husband held her, either trying to comfort the pain or hide her bruises. The seamstress glared at the ground, but Selah couldn’t tell it was of fury or wounded pride. She did however catch Maria gripping desperately to her mother’s dress, face half-buried in the folds of clothing. Ellen looked up when Selah approached.

“Thank you,” she said, but her tone suggested otherwise. “But that wasn’t necessary.”

“Any worm like that should get what he deserves,” Selah retorted. “How long has he been doing this to you?”

“That’s not really none of your concern. Besides, I’m used to it now and I can handle myself. Now when Quincent returns he’ll just give me twice the thrashing.”

Selah narrowed even more. “Why would you stay with such a man?”

Ellen seemed to bristle, telling Selah her mood was from damaged dignity more than anything. Like her husband was humiliated from being beaten, she was embarrassed a young stranger had to come to her aid and learn her secret.

“It’s my household and it’s my business,” the woman snapped. “It’s my tailoring that has paid for this place. I’ll take his drunken buffoonery than leaving behind what I built.”

Her tone suggested she was in no mood of patience or discussion, and she continued her disapproving glare at her “customer.” Her arms were now crossed in defiance. Selah was surprised at her reaction. She was upset for the Assassin saving her?!

Selah didn’t have time to take it personally, raising her own voice and throwing her arm. “Then just build somewhere else.”

“It doesn’t work that way,” Ellen retorted. “I don’t have the luxury to pick up everything and dump it where I please.”

“One should always have the freedom to choose.”

“Not in this society.”

The comment felt like a dagger to Selah’s heart. Did she? Selah was so used to the freedom within the Brotherhood, she had forgotten most women did not have such privilege. No, she didn’t know women were so degraded, to the point of the slaves. They were to be the meek servants of their husbands, “tolerable” of everything, even if that man was lower than a worm. The teenager was coming to realize it was an amazement Ellen was as successful as she was. And with the new laws limiting land, it would be impossible for her to find a new shop, especially in the city. And besides, who would care for a divorced woman as a seamstress?

Selah simply looked down at the ground, not knowing what else to say or do. What was the point of her teachings if she couldn’t even use them? They just had her cause more harm than good…

Ellen looked back to her, eyes still in a glare even though she seemed to know she won the argument. “Come on, then. I’ll get you your coat; but then I’ll have to ask you to leave.”
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