Crossed Eagle

Chapter 18

Selah was frozen as she stared up into Shay’s inscrutable dark eyes, which stared directly into hers. The Irishman was slightly changed from the last time the teenager saw him. He had finally shaved, leaving his face clear and smooth. His face was now a deeper red shade, most likely from long exposure to the sun and violent sea breezes. His scar was even redder, if that was even possible.

Selah was planted in place by his gaze alone, not even moving as she heard Robert scamper behind her. However the boy stopped dead once he noticed their guest, automatically falling into a similar state as her. If Selah was terrified of the man, she had no idea how to describe the effects on a timid boy like Robert. Somehow the boy found a way to speak.

“M-Mmaster Cormac,” he stuttered. “Welcome back.”

Finally Shay’s stare left Selah to settle on Robert. The girl only felt minor relief but knew Robert became stiffer.

“Where is Haytham?” Shay asked, voice just as deep and deadly with accent just as thick as when he left.

Selah could practically hear Robert gulping. “He w-went to the fort with Father.”

“Thank you.”

The man immediately turned, but not without locking eyes with Selah one last time. The girl swore her heart stopped. Shay walked back to door, the door closing behind him with a click. Selah and Robert immediately exchanged uncertain glances. Selah could tell Robert was relieved that the man had gone and dismissed it as a random encounter, but the Assassin felt shaken to her core.

The Assassin Hunter had returned.

Selah wasn’t surprised when Haytham returned late that evening. Even Pitcairn came before him to retrieve Robert, only saying the Grandmaster was “caught up with some business.” No doubt that business was with Cormac and they were “catching up” on reports over the last few months.

Thinking about it made Selah wonder. She almost forgot why Shay had left, but it soon returned to her. Adam and Eve. The twin Assassins that led the only cell left in America. The Assassin Hunter was sent to rid of them. So if Shay had returned, did that mean he was successful? The young girl shivered. Of course he was.

Selah was wide-awake when Haytham trudged through the front door, already shrugging off his coat with a tired groan. The teenager didn’t hesitate.

“So you’ve spoken with Shay?” she demanded. It was the statement of the obvious, but it burned in the forefront of her mind.

Haytham glanced up, looking startled that she was still awake. Even Ann and the servants were asleep. Finally he shrugged off the lateness of the hour, but he was still slow from exhaustion.

“Yes,” he answered slowly.

Selah wanted to say more, her head still spinning, but no words manifested. Instead she was silent as Haytham cross over to her.

“Go to sleep, it’s late,” he ordered.

The girl nodded obediently and flew to her room, but she did not sleep.

“Leaving?!” Selah roared.

Realizing this was not the reply he desired despite his gentle approach, Haytham closed his eyes with a sign through his nose. Selah should have known something was wrong. The Grandmaster had asked to speak with her, only for the teenager to immediately catch on to his cautious, slow speech. She doubted he was even this timid when they first met. He had a reason to. Haytham told her that he was sending her away for a mission. And Selah had no desire to go anywhere.

“It won’t be for very long,” Haytham assured. “Several weeks at best.”

“Why?” Selah demanded. “After everything that has happened? And just the other day you told me you didn’t want to put me up to anything because I still healing!”

Haytham leaned back in his chair and folded his arms, something he did when his patience was thinning. “You’ll be on a ship for most of the trip. If you hurt yourself there, I’ll quite impressed.”

His choice of words in the tone he used made Selah roll her eyes. He could be so aggravating. The teenager half-heartedly waved her arms.

“Why?” she repeated.

“Because I said so.”

Selah’s glared at him, forcing the Grandmaster to continue.

“You still need experience, first of all.”

“I thought that’s my training it for.”

“It is, but I find the outside world is the far better teacher. Besides, there is someone else that might be of use to you as well.”

“So you’re just going to hand me off?” Selah accused.

Haytham fought another sigh. “If it means you will learn more, then yes. On another note, there things here I must take care of. Things that do not concern you,” the man quickly added when he noticed Selah’s prying gaze.

Selah blinked her gaze away, but was still not pleased. She didn’t like the idea of it all and Haytham’s excuses were not helping. He was getting rid of her.

“If you tried so hard to have me then why send me away?” the teenager demanded, her voice becoming strained.

“Don’t be like that,” Haytham ordered. “No reason to be cross.”

“Then there’s no reason to toss me aside like a doll!”

A doll, that’s what she feared of being her entire life. It was why she had joined the Assassins, and she especially feared it when she was with the Templars. That the girl would be tool for them to use at their leisure. Selah thought she was proven wrong, when Haytham had been so kind to her and after he saved her life. But now he was manipulating her without her consent and at his convenience. And she had just gotten adjusted to her new life; had just gotten truly comfortable with Robert. Nor would she worry so much about being ambushed from jealous Templars… Now that was all for nothing?

Now the girl’s disrespectfulness was beginning to annoy Haytham, the man’s gaze narrowing. “If I remember correctly, you did agree to work for us. And you actually started to do so, so why should this be any different?”

“Because the last ‘work’ I did you, my head was split open,” Selah growled savagely.

Something flashed in Haytham’s eyes and his muscles twitched like he was fighting a wince. “I would not send you if I thought you were danger. You should know that by now.” Suddenly his voice dropped to a dangerous tone. “I will not tolerant your childish insolence. We had an agreement and you will uphold it. You leave in the morning. Have Ann help you pack you things.”

The man’s glare showed he had no interest in continuing the conversation. Even though words still burned on her tongue, Selah reluctantly realized she didn’t have a choice. With another heated glare, the teenager spun on her heels and stormed out of the study. She considered slamming the door, but quickly thought better of it and instead fled up the stairs. However, her stomps on the stairs were a little louder than necessary…

Selah made to her room, growling. Some part of her knew she was being unreasonable, but didn’t she have a right to be? She had lost everything she’d known, and just starting to know things she originally didn’t want to. Now it felt like everything was taken away from her again. How long will she be gone? Where will she even go? What would become of her?

Selah’s mind couldn’t stop racing as she crossed the dresser and pulled out several pieces of clothing. She really didn’t even have that much; she probably didn’t have to pack a case in the first place. But it would give her something to do. But as the girl tossed the clothes on the bed, her mind continued to drift. Was this what is meant to be a Templar? To take unknown or life-threatening missions without being told what they were?

You did the same for the Assassins, a cruel voice mocked her.

Selah shook her head to banish it. Soon her violent jerks turned into sluggish movements. Selah shut her eyes and gritted her teeth. The teenager sniffled and fought back watery tears. Suddenly the soft ruffling of a dress appeared beside her.

“Allow me,” Ann’s warm voice murmured, the maid already cautiously reaching for the bunched pieces of clothing.

Selah nodded and pulled away, fighting a whimper. Ann ended up folding all her clothes and expertly placing them in Selah’s luggage, every inch of space being used. Once the clothing of done, Ann went to see what else could be sent with a murmur. Selah watched her, rubbing a loose tear from her eye.

“I’m sorry…” Selah whined, hating her weakness had captured her again.

“It’s not your fault, darling,” Ann cooed.

While the servant slipped away from view, Selah allowed herself to collapse on the bed, burying her face in her hands. She stifled sobs for several moments, but was suddenly interrupted when something cool and wet pressed against her brow. Selah glanced up only to see Ann had returned, brushing a washcloth against her face. Before the teenager could protest, the woman used the cloth to wipe away the shiny rivers from her cheeks.

The Assassin must have had shame in her eyes, because immediately Ann hummed, “It’s alright, dear.”

Finally Selah’s mouth moved, but it was harder to speak with her thick tongue and constricted throat. “I don’t mean to be like this…”

“I understand that. No one wants to be.”

“I just—” Selah hated how childish it sounded. “I don’t want to go.”

Ann smiled reassuringly. “You’ll be fine, I know you will. You are quite strong. Master Kenway speaks quite highly of you.”

Selah quickly recalled her argument with Haytham. “It doesn’t seem like it.”

“Master Kenway is a quiet man. I do not see him be very open often. Only when he’s with you.”

Selah snapped her gaze at the servant, eyes now wide. Ann just continued to smile and her eyes glowed. “Give him another chance, Mistress. I am certain he wants the best for you. Even though none of this is pleasing to any of us.”

A flash of sadness appeared in the maid’s eyes. Immediately Selah berated herself for being foolish. Ann didn’t want her to leave, either. Now both of them were crying. Selah quickly regained herself, sensing she was dangerously close to a mental breakdown. She clasped her hands around the other girl’s.

“Do not fret, I can take care for myself,” Selah promised. “I’ll return safely, I promise.”

The two exchanged a smile and warm embrace. Suddenly exhaustion captured Selah, having the girl sink into the bed. Seeing her failing state, Ann snatched the sheets and calmly pulled them over her. Selah was already falling into unconsciousness as she fell onto the pillow, but was still able to feel Ann’s feathery kiss on her temple. The Assassin went into slumber, wondering what the morning would bring.

Selah honestly didn’t what returning to the docks would be like, after William’s death. Instead of ominous shadows and whispers of the waves, bright sunlight and the bellows of sailors greeted her. As well as the shrieking gulls and eager merchants and all the other sounds of the ocean. Selah was grateful for the musical; it distracted her somber thoughts. Haytham told her to come here. Or rather, Giles did, as the Grandmaster already left. What could be so important?

The girl suppressed her annoyance as she followed Giles’s instructions. Three ships down, he said. Selah had counted the third when suddenly a flash of red appeared.

The Assassin stopped dead.

A ship had its sails open even though it was docked, most likely making repairs to the fabric after a strong storm. The sails were blood-red, a dark design of twin wolf heads sketching across its main sail. Accompanying the heads was a third wolf on its bow, looking violent and hungry as it kept sentry for its meal. The ship they were a part of was small, looking like a bug next to a frigate that happened to be sharing the same dock. However the length of the smaller ship’s sharp ice-ram and the long array of cannons made up for any size difference. Selah immediately recognized the ship.

A ship with red sails…

The Morrigan.

The curse ship sailors of the Assassin Brotherhood had been vexing for years. It was the one responsible for the destruction of majority of the Assassin fleet. A runt morceau de merde, La Chevalier had called it. However, any mocking insults vanished when the French noble’s monster of a Man O’ War, the Gerfaut, was bested in battle and lost to the sea. Selah soon remembered the curse ship’s captain.

Captain Shay Cormac.

Oh, God no. It was too late. Sure enough, the teenager had to look across the docks to see Haytham… talking with Shay. Her insides shriveled and the irresistible urge to run coursed through her. The Assassin’s mind was filled with streams of curses as instead her body ignored her and approached the two men. Very. Slowly.

She kept eyes downcast, but as she neared, she heard the mutters of their conversation.

“…And did you complete that favor I requested?” Haytham asked.

“Aye,” Shay nodded. “I sent some pounds to the seamstress. Anonymous, of course.”

“Well done.”

What. Did… Shay sent loans to Ellen? Now Selah looked up, blinking. Finally Haytham had noticed her, turning to her. She was grateful when the Grandmaster was in a better mood from their argument.

“Ah, we were wondering where you were, Selah,” the Templar piped.

Selah knew she should make up an excuse, but she was deadly silent as she settled next to the towering men, trying to ignore Shay’s silent stare. Noticing her silence, the Grandmaster went on.

“This is the Captain of the Morrigan, Shay Cormac,” the Templar unnecessarily introduced. “He’ll be your charge for the next several weeks.”

It took of all of Selah’s willpower to stay upright as all her organs fell to her feet. However, Haytham noticed the two’s exchange of knowing glances.

“I assume you’re already acquainted…?”

“Somewhat,” Shay confessed, his face still like stone.

Selah just looked away, not looking up when she felt Haytham’s gaze settling on her.

“I’m placing you on the Morrigan. Does that sound fair to you?” the Grandmaster questioned.

Now he was asking for her consent? Bastard, he knew she couldn’t say no now. However, Selah still tried, using a fake, sweet tone.

“Of course,” she piped. Immediately she looked to Shay, swallowing her nervousness. “As long as Captain Cormac is willing to accept me.”

Yes, have him deny her. Then they both wouldn’t have to deal with each other on the smallest morceau de merde God had ever put in the ocean. However Shay just stared at her before looking away. Selah’s heart shrunk when she realized that was his version of rolling his eyes. Of course he would allow her onto his ship. It was what he and Haytham had spent the whole night talking about. Apparently Haytham caught on to the ploy, continuing on with business but with a firmer voice.

“You will do everything Shay tells you, is that understood?” the Grandmaster demanded.

Realizing she was defeated, Selah nodded slowly. She stood there awkwardly for a moment, but suddenly was pulled from her thoughts as she felt Haytham slowly pull her into an embrace. The girl blinked, but caved as she cautiously raised her arms to return the gesture, even nuzzling her head into his chest. Shay gave them privacy by looking away under the guise of looking out to sea, arms folded.

“He’s not as dreadful as he looks,” Selah heard Haytham whisper to her. “You just have to learn to tolerate him.”

Selah wanted to grunt in disagreement, but remained silent as he pulled away. The Grandmaster glanced at his subordinate. “Care for her, Shay.”

The captain glanced at him and gave him an assuring nod before looking back to his ship. Selah went back to her downcast gaze, but looked back up when she felt Haytham’s touch on her shoulder. The man gave her a small smile before slipping away. Selah would probably watch him go or end up running away, but Shay was already dropping his arms and heading towards the Morrigan’s ramp.

“Come along,” he grumbled.

Realizing it was an order, Selah reluctantly fell in behind him. The girl’s legs immediately turned to pasta as she stepped onto the wood, but she tried to hide it. There was a short drop from the ramp to the deck, Shay plopping off of it easily. Selah prepared to follow his example, but to her surprise, the Templar quickly turned around and offered her a hand. At first Selah wanted to blink in surprise, but then wished to ignore it. Again her body ignored her, hand reaching out to take Shay’s. The teenager fought a squeak from his grasp as he pulled her onto the deck.

If her legs felt weak before, there was no way to describe them now. It was miracle she was still standing. However, Selah pulled away from Shay before she found herself leaning on him for support. The Irishman didn’t seem to mind, already turning away. And already Selah was following him.

Here she was, on a ship that destroyed the lifeline of the Brotherhood and the dozens of lives of Assassins. Following her captain that had personally killed countless of her Brothers and had completely decimated the Order. Selah wondered how many heard the howls of the Morrigan’s cannons or looked into Shay’s fearsome, dark eyes before their death. The girl remembered during her stay with the Templars, aside from the occasional dark comment, many said Shay was quite tolerable. Even Hickey stated the man was good partner to drink with. Hell, Franklin seemed to adore him and if he was giving charity to Ellen…

But Selah couldn’t see it. Her faith in the Brotherhood may be wavering, but this was still the man who caused the destruction of everything she loved. That wasn’t half the problem. He was just so intimidating.

Suddenly the Assassin Hunter’s voice came, breaking her thoughts. “First rule of my Morrigan: everyone works.” Suddenly Shay turned to her, making Selah stop dead. “Have you sailed before?”

Selah stuttered. Yes, she had. The apprentice sailed several times on William’s ship, the Interceptor, and on the Aquila, the Brotherhood’s flagship. During those trips she received several nautical lessons from William and Robert Faulkner, the Aquila’s first mate (despite the man’s comments it was bad luck to have a woman on a ship; apparently he thought if she was seaworthy, it would accommodate), eventually learning how to secure riggings and even how to load a cannon. However, it had been quite a while since Selah practiced those skills.

The teenager stuttered again before her lips finally moved. “Uh, y-yes. I… helped the sailors, some.”

It was then Shay moved to the closest rigging, a complex knot tied to the wood. He untied it in a single tug, leaving it as a twisted, unbound rope. Before Selah could process how the hell he did that, the captain stepped away and crossed his arms.

“Show me,” he ordered.

Bollocks. Selah wanted to shrink to the size of one of the Morrigan’s stowaway rats and join them in the holes of the ship. Instead she stepped towards the rope, mind racking as she desperately tried to remember an impressive knot—any knot—only to be given nothing. With trembling fingers, the girl snatched the rope, finally remembering a basic tie Faulkner had taught her. Painfully aware of Shay’s analyzing gaze, Selah went to work, mind crushed from the pressure of being watched. After several long, awkward moments, the Assassin pulled away, looking to Shay expectantly.

The Templar stared at her work for a moment himself before crossing over to it. Once again he undid it in one pull and went to work retying it. The correct way. Selah’s cheeks burned. Fuck. The girl looked to the wood of the Morrigan’s deck, oblivious when Shay turned back to her. Suddenly she felt the roughness of leather under her chin and her head being tilted upwards to look into the Assassin Hunter’s pitch-black eyes. Immediately Selah felt every vein in her body freeze, praying it wasn’t as noticeable as her crimson cheeks. Shay stared into her gaze for several long moments before he released her, immediately moving away and disappearing into captain’s cabin.

The last blows of the day’s sea breeze rustled Selah’s hair as she leaned on the railing at the back of the Morrigan. The sounds of waves filled her hearing and a few adventurous seagulls squawked overhead, as if they came to give their final farewells to the ship as she sailed to sea. Selah stared at the skyline of New York, the dark silhouettes of buildings contrasting greatly to the bright crimson shades of the dying sun behind it. How long would she be gone?

“Oi, you,” Shay’s dark voice came.

You. So that’s how it was. However knowing she was the subject, Selah glanced over her shoulder. Shay had his body half-turned to her, a hand leisurely gripping the steering wheel of the ship.

“I want to teach you a few things,” the Assassin Hunter told her. “We start at dawn.”
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