Crossed Eagle

Chapter 19

Selah stifled a yawn, hovering a hand over her mouth, as she crawled up onto the Morrigan’s top deck from its lower levels. Sure enough, the sun was just breaching the horizon, having a pink aura light up the east side of the sky. The lasting shadows of the night still fought to cling on, having a dim, twilight realm suspend over the ocean. Meanwhile the sea was calm, not a single wave slamming against the Morrigan’s hull. Selah felt disappointment when she didn’t see any distant silhouettes of land.

The Assassin quickly scanned the deck, finding several sailors patrolling, either finishing up their night shifts or they were early risers. However Selah saw no trace of a particular dark form.

“Shay?” she called.

“Up here.”

Hearing the response above her, the teenager craned her neck up to the fore sail. Immediately she found Shay balancing on his haunches on a broad beam above her, gripping onto the wood for support between his legs. Although he almost looked like a monkey, the Assassin Hunter was as dark as ever, preventing any sort of tease from escaping Selah’s lips.

“Can you climb up?” he asked.

Selah nodded before jogging to the foremast in front of her. Using a combination of her Assassin skills and nautical lessons, the teenager used the ladder of ropes tied around the stem to climb to Shay’s level. She settled on the same beam on the opposite side of the mast, balancing on her heels like when she was tree-climbing. Selah glanced at Shay expectantly for his next order, only to see the Templar scaling up netting to climb onto the foretop. In a blink of an eye, the captain bounded off the landing and ascended up the mast to the beam of the second sail.

With a sigh, Selah scrambled after him. She had just clawed up onto the higher beam when Shay continued to flee from her. Using a rope that should not be able to support his weight, the Templar scuttered across the line like a circus member, easily making it to the beam of the main mast. Finally he paused, this time kneeling onto the wood, fingers touching his foothold to keep himself steady. Meanwhile Selah was grumbling as she made her way to the same rope Shay had used. Oh, hell no.

The rope was like the size of a hair compared to her body. Hands clinging to beam for support, Selah tentatively placed the sole of her boot on it like a child testing the waters. It didn’t even respond to her touch, bound tight to ensure to would remain unmoving. It certainly explained why it hadn’t bucked beneath Shay’s weight and why he didn’t seem afraid. Still, the Assassin apprentice crossed far less gracefully, alternating between desperately gripping the line or swaying her arms for balance. She stole a glance at Shay to see the Assassin Hunter was once again ignoring her.

Without a care in the world, he dropped from the beam to land squarely on his feet on the maintop. Before Selah could agape her mouth, the ex-Assassin lunged forward. He snatched a suspended hook single-handedly, and this line did react to his weight. In a dizzying speed, gravity pulled Shay back to the deck, only for the captain to land expertly in a practiced crouch. Not a single soul glanced in his direction, like it was of the norm to them.

Now Selah had her mouth dropped open. How did he—? Here she was, shaky and unbalanced, while Shay swung around his ship with grace and speed not even a Master Assassin would have. The teenager grumbled again. This was going to be a long day…

Selah spent the rest of the morning and even part of the first half of the afternoon under Shay’s wing. He continued to have her navigate around the riggings, swinging back and forth like monkeys in the trees. Being a quick learner, Selah was able to get slightly more stable, but she still felt pathetically clumsy. When the Assassin apprentice was dangerously close to falling or her weak legs collapsing beneath her, Shay would have them take a break to tie knots.

At first he would tie them in a frightening speed, only having the girl stare at him dumbly. However Shay humored her by showing the process step by step, Selah following his example. Her knots were less than impressive than his and she had a redo it a few times when she did it incorrectly, but memories of her former lessons were coming back to her.

As ignorant as she was, Selah was waiting for the Assassin Hunter to snap or mock her skills. Instead Shay remained quiet for most of the time, only speaking to approve her progress or calmly correct her errors. Surprise was the least Selah had felt. All in all, it seemed to be going well. Until—

Selah yelled as her foot got caught in an unbound rope. She slammed painfully face-first on the beam, a fiery wave burning from her ankle. It didn’t help it was the same ankle she had sprained all those months ago. With a snarl, the Assassin tugged her foot, ignoring the firings of pain. However the rough fiber had constricted around her ankle, attaching her to the mast. Selah snarled as she writhed for several more moments. Finally she was just about to unsheathe her hunting knife when a shadow fell over her.

“Stay still,” Shay’s dark voice ordered.

Immediately Selah involuntarily froze. Shay was behind her, standing upright on the narrow wood. Like he was walking on solid land, the captain stepped over her and crouched next to her imprisoned leg. He tried tugging at the rope with his fingers like Selah had done, only to have no avail. Shay furrowed his eyebrows before flicking his wrist, immediately having a shiny blade materialize. So he did have a hidden blade…

Selah’s didn’t dare to even twitch as the Templar sawed the rope bound to her leg. Even though he was taking pains to be careful, electric shivers sparked across Selah’s skin whenever she felt the cold steel. In only a matter of seconds, her foot was free. Immediately the girl retracted it while Shay calmly straightened himself. Selah stared at him.

“Th-thank you…” she murmured.

Shay nodded, almost humbly. However, his voice was still deep and slow. “We’re done for the day.”

Selah sat on the railing of the Morrigan, staring out to sea. She ignored the sailors working around her, bellowing at the top of their lungs or muttering as they still wondered why a girl was on the ship. She didn’t even pay attention if one glanced at her hungrily. Instead of sulking about her current misfortunate, she used the time to have nostalgia course through her.

Yes, despite Selah had almost no sea knowledge, she relished being out on the ocean. It was one of her greatest joys to sail on the Interceptor with William. It was one of the fastest brigs in the Caribbean, and the French captain quite enjoyed using its namesake. The girl still chuckled when she remembered William’s story how he retrieved the ship when he stole it off some redcoats by outsmarting them. Even Faulkner on the Aquila was enjoyable, the man loving to tell her legends of the sea and the adventures of his travels. The frigate’s captain was a little bleaker, but Selah never had to deal with him for too long.

Selah closed her eyes and a sudden pang stabbed her heart. She remembered the Aquila’s captain had ordered to fire upon a convoy of merchant ships, claiming he had required intelligence that they were supplying Templars. However, Selah never saw nor heard any evidence of such. When she complained to James, the man only hushed her that it was none of her concern. Suddenly her pang was replaced by a strike of panic.

Had… Had William ever broken the creed? No. William was one of the most respected members of the Order. He was the second-in-command of Adéwalé, the said incarnation of the Assassin’s Creed. William was told to be his equal and successor. However, Selah remembered several times of the captain complaining about Achilles, saying that the Mentor had become misguided after the death of his family. He even once defended Shay Cormac, saying the boy was following what he thought was best for himself.

Selah had once feared that the Master Assassin’s faith was wavering, and asked him if he was accepting Templar philosophy. The Frenchman had only laughed at her, assuring her he would give his life for the Brotherhood no matter what happened. He explained his point-of-view, but his words still confused Selah.

“After you had seen the world as I have and sailed across the seas, you find the world is not black and white,” William had said. “Nor is it only gray. The world is in many shades, you just have to open your eyes to see it.”

“The world is in many shades…” Selah repeated in a murmur.

“Ah! Welcome aboard the Morrigan, Miss Selah!”

The Assassin started as she was forcibly ripped out her thoughts, the loud voice having racked her eardrums. That was nothing to the powerful slap to the shoulder, having Selah buckle with a gasp. She swore it almost knocked her off the railing—whether onto the deck or into the sea, she didn’t know.

Steadying herself, the girl glanced up to see who had practically assaulted her. She was greeted with a tall man, even taller than Shay. However the man was much scrawnier, but his layers of clothing seemed to hide it. Especially his large, brown overcoat. The leather of the coat was faded and smudged, showing it had seen better days. The man himself as well, owning untrimmed, mangy hair that fell to his shoulders, gray staining the auburn shade. A neglected, scruffy beard covered his face. He wore hat with a broad rim, casting a shadow over his brown eyes. However, the man’s gaze gleamed and he wore a large, crooked smile.

Selah only stuttered at the man, lost for words. The sailor assisted her by widening his grin and extended a large hand.

“Christopher Gist, first mate of the Morrigan, at your service,” he introduced.

…This was Shay’s second-in-command? There was no way. They couldn’t possibly be more opposite. Silent, deadly Shay with Gist, a loud and jovial sailor. Even with the juxtaposition in her head, Selah cautiously held out a hand and took his. Immediately her hand was crushed in his giant one and she thought her arm would be pulled from its socket from his shake.

“The Captain told me a few things about you,” Gist chimed. Suddenly his eyes widened. “Hey, is it true that you went at him with a saw?”

Selah truly wondered if it was possible to die of embarrassment. The flashback of her failed escape attempt doubled when she realized Shay had gossiped to his quartermaster about it. Maybe he wasn’t so quiet. Realizing Gist actually wanted an answer, the teenager nodded meekly. Immediately her hearing was butchered again as Gist let out a deep, hefty laugh like an old man would have.

“I thought he was pulling my leg when he told me that!” the quartermaster exclaimed. “You must a feisty one, aren’t you?”


A fresh bruise formed on the girl’s shoulder as Gist slapped her again. “Haha, don’t worry, it’ll be our little secret!”

He didn’t say it in a mocking or fearsome tone, instead choosing one like he was telling a joke over drinks. However Selah still failed to understand exactly what the “secret” was. Wanting to change the awkward subject, the girl decided to question him what was on her mind even before she came upon the Morrigan.

“Um, may I ask why we were sent out to sea?” she asked.

Gist only shrugged. “Nothing troublesome. We just need to take care of some housekeeping for the Order. The Morrigan’s the only ship that can navigate northern waters in winter—thanks to her ice ram.”

“Why Haytham waited so long for Shay to return instead of sending another.”

Gist nodded with a hum. Before Selah could think on the subject any further, she realized something with horror. Wait. Northern waters? In winter? She looked to Gist with wide eyes, the frontiersman’s grin widening again as he seemed to read her thoughts. He gave her a sympathetic pat before walking away, laughing over his shoulder, “I hope you brought a warm coat!”

Already the teenager was subconsciously bundling within her overcoat. Thank God she did…

“Hey, Selah,” Gist’s voice came as the Assassin attempted to flee to her quarters.

The girl paused to glance over her shoulder, waiting for the man to catch up. Instead of beaming and smiling as he was before, the first mate seemed a little more serious.

“I forgot to tell you before, but I meant to assure you if you have anything to discuss, come to me or the Captain,” Christopher explained.

Selah realized it was a ploy to make her a little more comfortable. It was that obvious? The girl wondered where this had come from, curious if it was Gist’s idea or Haytham’s order. Or... was this coming from Shay? Immediately the girl shook her head, deciding it was an offer she could decline. The Assassin politely thanked the sailor for his kindness and continued on.

Then Selah stopped short of her cabin (or if it could pass as a cabin, as small as it was). Wait, actually there was something Selah was curious about. As silent as he was to her, Shay was making it clear he had no interest in her—if not, he utterly despised her. He even threatened her life. But why didn’t he follow through? She was an Assassin. One more to his endless list of death would not matter. He had dozens of chances to kill her. Why didn’t he?

It was a stupid thing to wonder, never mind think to ask. She was likely to get rewarded with Shay’s hidden blade in her throat. But it had been haunting her for months, ever since Selah spied the Assassin Hunter watching her duel with Haytham. If she was going to stay on this damned curse ship, she had a right to know. Not just out of curiosity; but to ensure she wouldn’t wake up with a dagger in her.

After another moment’s hesitation, the girl spun around and stormed back up on deck. It was night now, having a similar sight of that morning of only a handful of sailors present. Once again no sign of Shay. Selah glanced at the rear of the ship. It was clear if the Templar could not be found immediately, the only place he would be was the captain’s cabin.

Swallowing her growing nervousness, Selah crossed to the back of the ship. The entrance to the captain’s cabin was below the steering wheel, a short flight of steps leading to its double engraved doors. Her legs suddenly shaky, Selah very cautiously descended one. Single. Step. At. A. Time.

It was like sneaking into Haytham’s quarters again as the girl hesitated and desired to take back her decision. However, this Haytham was far more unpredictable. At least to her. With a final tremble, Selah swallowed and tapped the wood in a knock. She waited for several long, agonizing moments, only to be greeted with silence. The girl was curious if she should knock again, but realized if Shay didn’t answer the first time, it was unlikely he would a second.

A sane person would shrug and walk away, but Selah found her fingers wrapping around the door’s handle. Before she could stop herself, she pulled. Immediately the doors were broken with a crevice, a loud creaking disturbing enough to awake the dead in Davy Jones’s locker. Selah winced and gritted her teeth, awaiting the snarl of Shay’s voice. None came. Now officially having no control over her body, Selah slipped inside the wide crevice.

The cabin was alit with several candles, a modest chandelier even hanging from the ceiling. However there was no sign of Shay. What the—? If he wasn’t here then where in blazes was he?! Instead of immediately heading back out, the Assassin took a step further to observe the interior.

The cabin looked half a living quarters and half a storage room. Half the room was crammed with junk, from cargo to a couple rotting chairs to several cannons. …Why there were cannons in the captain’s cabin was beyond her. The Morrigan must have been low on space. The rest of the cabin looked more fulfilling of its role. A large, wooden table occupied the center of the cabin, with a map, dozens of papers, and several candles cramming it. In the back of the room were a finer, more decorative desk and a worn, but elegant chair stationed behind it. Only a matter of feet beside it was a bed built next to the windows, crimson sheets wrinkled after a half-hearted attempt to make it. Selah eyed the several banners in the room, adorning the Templar Cross. If she didn’t know any better, she would’ve thought this place was a shrine.

The young girl tentatively neared the desk first, glancing at the map. Several ink lines were stretched across the parchment, which Selah assumed must have represented trade routes. She picked up a random letter and glanced at it, soon figuring out it was orders for a ship. Narrowing her eyes, she looked at several more. All of them showed correspondence between Cormac and several captains, the traders receiving orders from Shay. It didn’t take long for Selah to piece it together. Was… Shay an admiral? But he was a captain!

With a shake of her head, the teenager pulled away before the dull ache in her head grew into another migraine. She rounded the table to continue her exploration, eyeing the room carefully. She noticed many things were placed haphazardly, especially a shelf of books on the window still. Obviously despite a high-ranking Templar, organization was not one of Shay’s strong suits. Selah glanced at the row of books. She couldn’t see Shay as the reading-type, so she assumed it must have been for decoration more than anything.

She neared the mahogany desk to glance at its surface. It was similar to the table: covered with parchment, books, and candles. Suddenly something caught the girl’s eye. Selah dragged a several pieces of paper towards her, glancing at them. One paper was littered with hieroglyphics, which she finally identified as Arabic. A few more papers showed scribbles and gibberish, having the girl stare at it in confusion. The last page was what captured the Assassin’s interest.

She had meant to read a couple lines or quickly scan over the passage as she had done with the other letters, but instead Selah found herself drinking in every word. She couldn’t believe what she was reading.

“What follows are the three great ironies of the Assassin Order: Here we seek to promote peace, but murder is our means. Here we seek to open the minds of men, but require obedience to a master and a set of rules. Here we seek to reveal danger of blind faith, yet we are practitioners ourselves. I have no satisfactory answer to these charges, only possibilities… Do we bend rules in a service to a greater good? And if we do, what does it say of us? That we are liars? That we are frauds? That we are weak? Every moment is spent wrestling with these contradictions and in spite of all the years I’ve had to reflect, still I can no suitable answer… And I fear that one may not exist. Is our creed meant to provide the answer, then? That one may be two things—opposite in every way—simultaneously? And why not? Am I not proof? We of noble intentions, possessed of barbaric means? We who celebrate the sanctity of life and then promptly take it from those we deem our enem—”


Selah was ripped from her strange trance as she jumped to the ceiling with a scream. She spun around, only to see Shay looming directly behind her, eyes narrowed dangerously. How did he—?! Selah didn’t even hear him come in! Immediately the girl’s body started trembling on its own when she translated that Shay’s rigid posture meant he was angry. No, furious. Instead of fleeing, Selah stuttered for words, trying to make her tongue and lips move. She had completely forgotten the original reason why she sought him out.

Instead of an excuse or apology, Selah blurted, “Y-you have a page of Altaïr’s Codex!”

Now the Assassin Hunter’s eyes were slits. “I said. Get out.”

The Assassin apprentice knew he would not say it for a third time. Not making any contact whatsoever, Selah slipped away from Shay’s space and fled towards the door. As she made her escape, she heard Shay snarl after her, “And learn to respect one’s privacy!”

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