Selah snarled as her fingers got twisted between the robes as she attempted manipulate it into an impressive knot. How did Shay do this? How did anyone on this blasted ship do this?! The young girl snarled again as she tossed her work away, the yarn perfectly straight and undone, mocking her. She tried not to bury her face in her hands. It was not this hard with William…
She actually wasn’t with Shay this time, instead practicing on her own. She was dying of boredom and was desperate for something to do—that would allow her to avoid the Templar captain. The Assassin hadn’t spoken with him since their encounter and he had showed no signs of continuing her “training.” Selah wondered if he was still angry at with her, but decided she had no desire to truly know and avoided him at all costs.
She still couldn’t believe what she had found. Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad's Codex. The Mentor’s journal of everything he learned and discovered, as well as the principles of his Brotherhood. Principles that the Assassins still followed, five hundred years later. Many considered it the physical form of the Assassin’s Creed. Selah remembered being told that the Order had been searching for it for centuries. Over time, the Codex had been separated and lost across the world. The Assassins sought to restore it. However the last time the Codex was assembled was three hundred years ago by Ezio Auditore, only to be lost again and the Brotherhood having no progress in finding the forgotten words.
So how did Shay find a page? Why did he have one? The teenager was expecting as a traitor, he would want nothing to do with his former allegiance. Then Selah remembered what the words were describing. That Altaïr himself was questioning the creed. Did… did that make sense for Shay to have it?
The girl grumbled when she felt the beginnings of a headache and an unsettling feeling in her stomach. She had been on the Morrigan barely a week, and it was already miserable. How would she survive for the rest of journey? She still didn’t know how long it would be. Selah knew for certain it would be weeks, but could weeks draw out to months? The apprentice sighed, feeling homesick. How she longed to be on solid land.
The young girl meant to move away, but glanced back at the rope. It was taunting her. Selah snarled again before she turned back around and attempted again. Instead of waiting for Shay, Selah had asked Gist if there were any rigging she could practice on. He pointed one out to her, which she worked on now. The girl was halfway tying her pathetic excuse of a knot when suddenly a light laugh interrupted her.
“You really don’t know anything about sailing, do you?”
Instead of an accented, deep voice Selah half-expected, the voice was instead smooth and clear. Lighter, too. The girl glanced over her shoulder to see a new figure. It was a boy, probably only a couple years younger than her. He was somewhat short, but his thick build made up for it; his muscles rippled under well-tanned skin. The boy had mangy coal-black hair that roughly reached his shoulders. His ocean-blue eyes and crooked teeth gleamed with amusement as he watched her. Instead of feeling offended, Selah released the line with a slump.
“No…” she whined.
The boy laughed again. “You’ll get it soon enough. It’s easy.”
The sailor shrugged and took a step forward. His smile seemed to widen and his blue-eyes glowed. “My name is Nicholas Biddle. What’s yours?”
Selah tilted her head. “Selah.”
“What are you doing on the Morrigan?”
The question was filled with curiosity more than anything. Selah could understand, knowing that many of the sailors had the same question. She was a girl they never heard of, walking around with permission to meddle with riggings. And on a ship full of men that had always been filled with men, it was quite a change of environment for them. Selah only shrugged at the boy’s question.
“Your guess is as good as mine,” she muttered.
“Well, you must be really special, for the Captain to give you private lessons,” Nicholas pointed out.
Selah’s stomach knotted at the mention of Shay. “I don’t believe Shay thinks so…”
Nicholas’s smile disappeared but his eyes continued to gleam, but this time with understanding. He must have noticed her loneliness. “The Captain’s a good man. He allows anyone of his ship. But if he thought so little of you, you wouldn’t be here.”
Now it was Selah’s turn to be curious. She glanced at the boy. “What makes you say that? Shay allowing people onto his ship?”
Nicholas hesitated for a moment, finally frowning and turning away for a moment. He looked back and explained slowly, “I used to work for the Royal Navy. Not an officer, of course—only a deck-hand. One day the ship I was on was attacked by pirates. Captain Cormac saved me from the wreckage and allowed me to join his crew.”
“Why does everyone speak so highly of him?”
Now it was becoming aggravating. Was Selah the only one who saw Shay of what he was? He murdered countless. He was the Assassin Hunter. The girl wouldn’t be surprised if the red accents of his cloak or the sails of the Morrigan were dyed with the blood he had spilled. The Templar had done it all after betraying his brothers, when they placed so much trust in him. Even if he for some reason thought the Brotherhood was corrupted, that was no excuse for the lives he ruined. He was a monster.
Nicholas opened his mouth to speak, but he never got the chance.
“I hope you’re not distracting my deck-hand.”
The dark voice sent shivers across Selah’s skin. She had to learn to stop speaking of the Devil’s work. The girl glanced over to see Shay nearing them, inscrutable as always.
“Get back to work, Nick,” the captain ordered.
While Selah was involuntarily shrinking, Nicholas bobbed his head in an eager nod. He glanced at Selah one more time, giving her wink. The teenager allowed herself to roll her eyes as the boy slipped away. Trying to ignore Shay settling next to her, she turned back to the rigging, even lifting her hands. Suddenly a gloved hand intercepted her.
“Allow me,” Shay rumbled.
Selah gave him permission, inching away as he took her place. Like before, the sailor tied slowly to allow a chance for the teenager to observe and memorize what he was doing. And like always, he completed with a perfect piece. Selah fought a growl of frustration, the urge becoming stronger when he untied it and ordered her to try again. Reluctantly she went to work, Shay watching her with folded arms.
“You’re getting better,” the Templar suddenly complimented. “A little more work, and you’ll make a fine sailor.”
“I thought you were mad at me,” Selah retorted, trying to use coldness in her tone instead of allowing warmth to settle in.
“I just don’t like you sniffing through my belongings, that’s all.”
Selah fought a huff. Now he was possessive, too? His tone didn’t sound angry, though, telling her he had calmed down since he confronted her. Though, the Assassin could still pick up on the traces of annoyance in his tone. Little did she know the Assassin Hunter noticed her opposing demeanor.
“I could visit your cabin, if you like,” he offered, voice almost friendly. Or mocking.
Just the idea of the violation coursed a wave of annoyance through Selah. She was about to retort, but it caught in her throat when she realized the captain’s point. She snapped her gaze to the knot, trying to conceal her pout. The girl could practically hear Shay’s smirk of victory. Insolent—
Selah finished the thought with colorful insults as she stepped away, bracing for Shay to evaluate and correct her knot. Instead she was astonished when the captain simply nodded in approval.
“Good,” Shay rumbled. Immediately he turned around, heading towards the wheel to switch shifts with Gist. Suddenly he called over his shoulder, “There’s some rigging over there that need to be secured. Take care of them, would you?”
Selah bundled into the hard cushion of her cot, trying to fight on the coming consciousness and to fall back to sleep. The teenager growled as she forced to keep her eyes closed, feeling the heaviness in her limbs and the pressure of unconscious against her mind. However, she still heard the slapping of waves against the Morrigan’s hull, the bellowing of sailors… and the clanging of a bell.
Selah had heard the sound before. Only once, when she was on the Aquila. It sounded when—
…The Aquila was going to battle with the Royal Navy.
The Assassin snapped her eyes open and leaped off the cot. She ripped her clothes on and stroked her hair quickly before racing to get on deck. Immediately the bellowing was much louder and now Selah could hear the frantic tone in the men’s yells. The sailors darted in every direction, every set of hands working on something. The teenager barged through the chaos towards the helm of the ship.
Shay was already there, gripping the wheel with a dark scowl over his face. Gist was beside him, owning the opposite stature of relaxed shoulders and folded arms. However the man was still shouting at the top of his lungs over the commotion.
“Beat to quarters!” the quartermaster hollered. “Man your battle stations!”
Selah made her way next to them. “What’s going on?” she demanded.
“French ships,” Gist replied. “A whole fleet of them.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” Shay growled. “They’re not supposed to be in these waters.”
“I suppose there’s been some miscommunication.”
Meanwhile Selah had found a forgotten spyglass, holding to the monocular to her eye to peer at the nearing shadows on the horizon. It was a fleet. A frigate flagship, two brigs, and three schooners. And the Morrigan, only slightly larger than one of the enemy schooners, was heading straight for it. She didn’t have time to question Shay’s intentions.
“Well, they’re trespassing in British waters. It’s about time we let them know,” the captain decided. “How do you feel about informing them, Chris?”
“Sounds like a fine plan to me, Captain,” the first mate readily agreed.
Now Selah was about to demand if the Assassin Hunter was downright suicidal, but once again Shay cut her off as he finally noticed her existence.
“Selah, I want you on the puckle gun,” he ordered.
“Pucker what?” the girl echoed. She seriously never heard of such a thing in her life.
Shay didn’t try to hide the roll of his eyes. He pointed behind her. “Puckle. Use it. Fire only when I tell you to.”
Even Selah still was reluctant to have anything to do with the Assassin Hunter, she found herself following his orders. She crossed over to a large barrel attached to the railing, looking like a miniature cannon. She snatched the handles in a death grip. Selah looked back to the ocean, noticing the fleet was still a ways off and didn’t seem to notice the wolf-ship charging for them. The girl looked back to see Gist give a crooked grin.
“Do you think we should say hello?” the man suggested.
Shay’s scowl turned into a sneer. “I think so.” Selah raised an eyebrow, but suddenly the captain’s voice rose to a yell. “Ready the mortars!”
Now both eyebrows were raised with wide eyes. There were a few moments of tension as sailors frantically loaded the advanced cannons with ammunitions.
“Fire!” Shay roared.
There were a couple blasts of explosions as the bulky weapons were fired. Almost immediately, a rain of cannon fire fell over the French fleet, looking like some sort of hellfire cast upon damned souls. The pounding of thunder and impacts echoed across the ocean waves, loudly reaching Selah’s ears. After a moment of uncertain silence, a clanging of distant bells echoed as two schooners and a brig turned towards the Morrigan.
Immediately the crew exploded with yells and battle cries, eager to see some action. The last few preparations for the cannons were completed in less than a second, all of them pushed against the railing with men hovering over them. Meanwhile Gist had finally leaned down to grip the railing before him for support, as the waves had suddenly gotten rougher. It was like the ocean was sensing the animosity in the air and was reacting in a similar state.
“Well, I believe we got their attention!” Gist exclaimed.
“Good,” Shay purred. He called to his crew again. “Let them regret invading our waters to cross the Morrigan!”
Another explosion of cheers and roars of agreement answered him. Selah’s knuckles only turned white. Once again she was having unsettling feeling in her gut, but it wasn’t from the aspect of entering a battle. It that horrid sense that this was wrong. Selah had always favored the French, half the Brotherhood being so. It was the French she was supported. Yet she was to participate in a battle on a ship that waved a British flag with a crew that bade for blood.
“How am I supposed to fight the French?” Selah wondered aloud. She immediately regretted it, because somehow Shay had heard her.
“Flip the coin, you serve the British now!” he barked.
Selah snapped her head towards him, her glare meeting his. They stared at each other, completely oblivious to the roars of the ocean and the sailors. It was almost like time had stood still. Finally Shay turned away, looking back out to open sea. Selah followed suit by glancing back her newfound weapon.
By now the French ships had drawn closer, just on the edge of firing range. Captain Cormac responded by turning starboard, having the port side of the ship greet the trespassers. It was only a matter of seconds before Shay howled.
If the mortars were loud, the explosions that followed completely deafened Selah and the entire top deck was enveloped in smoke. A volley of cannonballs sped towards the Morrigan’s prey. Immediately the onslaught ripped into the brig’s sails and explosions of splintering wood breached the bow of the ship. Now they were angry.
A schooner cut across to intercept the Morrigan, but Shay would not have it. In a blink of an eye, the Templar ship pivoted, towards the schooner. Selah wouldn’t be surprised if a thousand curses rolled off her tongue as the captain charged the enemy ship with reckless abandon. The world shook and Selah almost fell overboard as the bow of the Morrigan rammed into the flank of the ship. The sickening sound of impact of crushed wood and groaning protests filled the air.
Selah knew those sounds came from the French ship and she was much worse than her British counterpart. Like the fangs of her wolves, the Morrigan’s ice ram dug into the schooner, without a doubt breaching her fragile hull. Selah grounded her feet to the deck and gritted her teeth as the world continued to tremble and groan. Shay turned the Morrigan away, forcing the ice ram to dislodge. As the ship slipped away, Selah could already see the schooner listing and the waters of the sea swallowing her. She looked away before she could hear the screams.
The second schooner had the misfortune of being in the Morrigan’s path and didn’t realize until it was too late. Either by Shay’s order that Selah failed to hear or the crew’s independence, another volley of cannon fire was shot, this time from the bow. A stream of flaming ammunition arched over the water, crashing into the schooner with balls of fire. The ship was immediately decimated and alit with flame, allowing the Morrigan to abandon her to turn to face the brig.
Or somewhat face. The two ships circled each other across a span of sea like two dueling hounds, daring the other to fire first. It was the French ship that did so. The port side of the ship disappeared in a cloud of smoke while great black specks sped at a dizzying speed towards the Morrigan.
“Brace!” Shay screamed.
Selah didn’t have to be told twice. Completely letting go of her gun, the Assassin dropped to all fours with her head close to the deck. The ship gave a violent shudder with thunders of impacts. The sound of shattering wood surrounded Selah and the smoke of debris entered her burning lungs. Screams of agony split her eardrums, making her distantly wonder who had been injured or killed. Even though it seemed to last for eternity and that her realm was falling apart, it must have not lasted long, because Shay was already back to his feet with another roar.
Selah shakily returned to her former position as the order was carried out. The girl looked up to see the brig retrieve similar treatment as the Morrigan, but its hull was still intact and had enough sails to move. However the brig was closer than it was before, allowing the Assassin’s sharp eye to see several crevices in the hull as the wood struggled to remain together.
“Puckle guns, FIRE!” Shay howled.
Selah didn’t know when or how she started shooting. She only registered that the puckle gun she manned suddenly came to life. Miniature cannonballs fired from its small barrel with blasts of fire in rapid succession. Selah found herself aiming at the weakened areas of the enemy ships.
“CEASE FIRE!!” Shay boomed.
Selah stopped shooting with a start. She almost thought she had somehow overdone it, but quickly released Shay was simply yelling orders over the intense noise. The teenager looked back to see the brig had slipped behind the Morrigan, charging at her with an eager naval ram.
“She’s going to ram us!” the girl cried.
“Oh, I don’t think so!” Gist countered.
Shay glanced behind him to see his adversary attempting to swap the scales. He didn’t look concerned, instead shouting another order.
“Drop the fire!” he yelled.
Selah blinked. What? She didn’t have to wonder, because suddenly water behind the Morrigan’s stern lit up with flame. The girl started at the absurd sight, watching the fire dancing across the water’s surface. How? Then she remembered. Burning oil. William mentioned it once, describing it was a common tactic used by Templar ships and a handful of pirates.
The young girl watched as the brig sailed right into it, unable to move away in time. Immediately the crimson fire enveloped the hull, licking away at the wood. It must have quickly reached the top deck, because Selah found her ears being assaulted by agonized screams of sailors being burned alive. While the teenager trembled and swallowed the bile in her throat, she heard Nicholas laugh.
“Haha, watch her burn!” he cheered.
Shay continued to ignore the noise as he pivoted the ship around. Once again using his ship’s great maneuverability, Captain Cormac spun the Morrigan to come beside the enemy brig. Even with the tension racking her mind, Selah couldn’t help but be impressed by the agility of the ship. While the Aquila and Interceptor were hailed as being the fastest ships in the Brotherhood, the Morrigan made up for the lesser speed with her impressive rudder. The Morrigan was sailing past her adversary when suddenly Shay pointed to the French ship like the hand of God.
Selah lost all hearing as everything on the Morrigan’s deck was fired and slammed into the brig within seconds. Once again the puckle gun came to life on its own, firing towards any openings in the hull the onslaught of cannonballs exposed. Selah swore her teeth cracked as they grinded together and pain exploded from her shoulders as they shook violently in their sockets.
Within moments, deafening roars echoed across the ocean as suddenly the brig appeared to be collapsing in on itself. Its tall masts fell over like trees in a storm and the hull split apart like paper. The groaning grew louder as the ship list to the side—and continued to list. Selah watched as the bottom of the ship pulled out of the water, the flames of the still burning oil eating it despite being moist. The ship fell to its side and rolled into the water, disappearing into Poseidon’s realm.
Only fire and chunks of debris remained. Selah didn’t even hear the triumphant cheers of the crew, even louder than the cannons. She barely made out mentions of the victory and the Morrigan’s glory. There was something about she was the greatest ship to sail the north seas. Selah tuned out the noise, letting out a shaky breath as she slowly released the puckle gun and stepped away. Her hands were sore from the death grip she had kept the entire time.
She paused to close her eyes and steady her irregular breathing and racing heart. Suddenly a comforting hand fell on Selah’s shoulder. The girl felt too drained to even flinch, simply looking over her shoulder to see its owner. Shay.
The Assassin Hunter wore an honest smile, instead of the cynical smirks Selah had seen occasionally. The captain nodded in approval.
“You did good.”