Crossed Eagle

Chapter 22

Selah’s legs were shaking with exhaustion by the time she slowed. She panted steadily and there was a fine tremble was in her limbs. She didn’t know if it was from tiredness or fear. The Assassin glanced over her shoulder, not seeing any sign of a black cloak. Nor did she have any unsettling feelings. She had lost Shay. Selah sighed. If the Assassin Hunter was anything like his title, she knew he would find her eventually. The girl had to keep moving.

“Never call me that again.

Why? Wasn’t it true? Selah shook her head. She placed a tentative hand on her arm where Shay had grabbed her, already feeling a throbbing pain. No doubt it would bruise. The girl closed her eyes, trying to remember what happened. How it came to this. Selah remembered her excitement when she was finally free to do what she pleased. That pleasant feeling was immediately replaced by a crippling sickness. Then the girl trembled when she recalled the sailor. He had kissed and touched her without her consent. If it wasn’t for Shay…

Selah shook her head. The man had once again come to her rescue, only to immediately berate her. Maybe she deserved it. She was a lone girl walking a town full of drunken sailors. Of course there would be trouble. Selah’s remembered Shay’s orders to remain on the Morrigan. It wasn’t because he was being unfair. He was protecting her.

The Assassin wanted to bury her face in her hands. This was all her fault only because she was a weak little girl. Again. What had she done to deserve this?! She had tried to best to her ability to serve the Assassins, only for the Brotherhood to be destroyed by its own flaws. Yes, Selah was sure of it now. The Brotherhood may have been noble, but it had flaws. Flaws she failed to fix and the Templars took advantage of. And now when she attempted to redeem herself with a new life, she somehow ruined things again. The young girl fought back the urge to sob. If she attracted attention just by walking through a crowded tavern, there was no telling what a sobbing girl all alone would lure.

The sun was dying now and the clouds were breaking apart, allowing red light to pour through shadows of the sky. Light and shadows danced across the village. A voice told Selah she should be heading back for the Morrigan, but had no desire to. Instead, the young Assassin found a large inn settled between some buildings. Instead of entering, Selah clambered up the side—possibly scaring a few patrons on the other side of the windows, but she didn’t care. At the moment all she wanted was solitude, which the rooftops always provided. She clambered onto the flat roof, taking a deep breath to inhale the air and release the stress building up in her muscles. Sometimes she would freerun, but seeing the town didn’t have the proper setting, Selah opted to remain where she was. She went to the side of the building towards the dying sun, sitting down. The young girl bent her legs to allow her arms to wrap around them and her chin to rest on her knees.

Selah let her mind drift aimlessly as she stared out into the ocean, which she had a good view of. By now the sun had sunk further towards the horizon, alighting the sky in a blaze of fiery colors. The clouds surrounding the sun were dark to near blackness with bright-white edges. An even brighter fire burned on the water, rippling across the vast ocean. A beautiful sight.

Selah didn’t know how long she peered at it, only that she determined the sun would set in a few minutes when he came. The Assassin refused to move as Shay neared her from behind. Instead of attacking or berating her like she half-expected, he once again surprised her when he approached silently. She only her heard the Templar’s rattling weapons and heavy footsteps. Shay let out a grunt when he settled next to her, possibly somewhat sore from the bar fight. He bent one leg to rest his arm on it and allowed the other to hang over the side.

They were silent for several long moments, respecting the other’s privacy at they stared at the horizon. Finally it was Selah who spoke up.

“I never wanted any of this…” she whined.

Shay shrugged. “I’ll be surprised if you did.”

The silence returned, but it was shorter than the first.

“I just… I hate being so weak,” Selah confessed.

“Then don’t be,” Shay immediately retorted. Finally Selah glanced at him and the Irishman returned the gaze. He had his eyes narrowed in seriousness, but for the first time they didn’t seem dark. “Don’t expect others to do everything for you. Do things on your own by using your own strength and your own skills. I know the Brotherhood at least taught you that much. If you have something to complain about, then change it.”

Selah just gave him a heated glare. “You don’t understand! If I could change something then I would have done it by now! I have spent my entire becoming stronger, and nothing seems to work!”

“Then make your own damn luck.”

The Assassin flinched at the statement, but it was more because it seemed stab inside her instead of the harshness of the tone. She listened as Shay went on.

“Find your own creed. Not one that suits the Assassins or the Templars.”

Own creed? What did that even mean? One was either loyal to something or they weren’t. How could one move on if they didn’t have some kind of faith? Selah followed the Assassin’s Creed. At least, she used to…

The young girl shook her head. “The Brotherhood’s is the only one I have ever known. How am I supposed to just abandon it?”

Shay looked away when he regarded her question. Selah suddenly wondered if he had ever asked the same thing. Most likely. His voice broke her thoughts, but his voice was heavy. “Life’s hardest choices are the ones that force you to question your moral code. My choices led me to join the Templars; now you have to make your own choices.”

It was then Selah realized. It had hurt him. It hurt Shay to betray the Brotherhood. Maybe as much as her. Perhaps more. Suddenly something came to Selah, something she wondered ever since she heard of the Assassin Hunter. Automatically her throat enclosed and her mouth dried, but asked before she lost the ability to speak.

“Shay… What… What made you betray the Brotherhood?”

The Templar closed his eyes and was silent for several moments. “I rather not discuss it.”

Immediately Selah was filled with a strange sense of disappointment, but did not dare show it or press the matter. She did her best to ignore her growing curiosity. What could have been so terrible? Maybe it was better she did not know. Again Shay’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

“I don’t care what they call me,” the man said. “Traitor, rebel, or renegade. In the end, it doesn’t matter how history remembers me. What matters, I followed my own creed.”

Selah was silent as she thought of his words. Then suddenly everything that had haunted her for the several weeks came to her. She braced again. Maybe she couldn’t force Shay to tell her why he left, or why he didn’t care, but she could at least use his thoughts to compare to her own. “Do you think the Brotherhood was corrupted?”

It would make sense if he had, if he abandoned the creed without remorse. Again there was a pause.

“I believe the Order had noble intentions,” Shay confessed. “But misguided. Very misguided.” The Templar narrowed his eyes, almost in anger. “Achilles allowed himself to be a fool. I had to stop him.”

Before she Haytham saved her life, Selah would have argued his last comment, saying that Achilles was the wisest and strongest Assassin she ever met. She still believed that, but the Assassin had no desire to bring it up. Instead she said what had been echoing her mind for so long. And it was quickly becoming that. Nothing more than an echo.

“We are supposed to be Assassins, not murderers. We fight to protect freedom when the people can’t defend it themselves. Have faith that humanity will do the rest.”

Shay smirked at her speech, recognizing it. “I always liked that James-fellow.”

Selah snapped her gaze towards him. “You knew James?”

“Not very well, but I worked with him on a couple missions. He seemed like a reasonable man.” The Templar looked back to her. “I heard he had a troublesome apprentice—I didn’t know she was you.”

Selah rolled her eyes at the comment. She was somewhat astonished when Shay only smiled with a throaty chuckle. However the teenager looked back to him with a scowl.

“If I’m so much trouble, you do you bother with me so much?” she demanded.

“Let’s just say I have an idea what you’re going through.”

Selah watched him with puzzlement as the man stood up, obviously wanting to draw the conversation to a close. Shay gentlemanly offered a hand, which the Assassin accepted. However it was the arm he had abused before, so when the Templar gently pulled her up, the girl gave a small wince. Immediately Shay frowned.

“I’m sorry… that I hurt you before,” he apologized slowly.

He was sincere. Selah realized that was the first time she ever saw him with regret and had said such. Unconsciously she rubbed the sore area. “I’m sorry I disobeyed you.”

As much she had been denying it, Shay was in fact her superior. Haytham made that clear and told her to respect that. It was because of her naiveté that she didn’t. Taking the lead, Selah walked away to climb back down the building. She never got the chance as something suddenly wrapped around her neck and launched her back. Selah gave a startled cry as she snatched Shay’s arm.

“You better be sorry,” Shay snarled, but it didn’t sound as menacing he wanted it to be.

Selah only flailed. “Let go!” she yelped.

“You’re an Assassin; you know how to escape me.”

Selah hissed and she reluctantly realized he was right. James did bother teach her how to escape a chokehold—and how to retaliate. The apprentice also realized this was a test.

Selah closed her eyes as quickly reviewed her lesson. As quickly and efficiently as she could, she buried her chin in Shay’s elbow and shrugged her shoulders, all the while trying to pry his arm away. Her training taking over, she wrapped her leg around his, forcing it to bend. For added assistance, the Assassin elbowed Shay’s ribs as hard as she could, being rewarded with a grunt as she twisted out of his grasp. Just as quickly as she escaped, Selah spun around and shoved the Templar away while she took a leap back. She braced, but Shay made no movement towards her, instead his eyes twinkling with approval.

“Not bad.”

“Ah, there you are!”

Gist was waiting on the Morrigan, turning as Shay and Selah neared from the docks. The quartermaster quickly noticed his captain escorting the runaway teenager.

“So you found her,” he approved. “Where was she?”

Selah hoped her cheeks weren’t red. Shay just shrugged as he climbed aboard.

“Found her taking a nap,” he lied leisurely. Selah shot him a half-hearted glare, but was grateful he was covering for her.

“Well, at least you did. God only knows what would’ve happened to the poor girl if someone else got her hands on her.”

The twisted feeling returned to Selah’s stomach. So she was that foolish. She still felt her self-esteem being shot when she realized even Gist noticed her weakness. She was once again surprised when Shay came to her defense.

“I’m sure she could have taken care of herself,” the Hunt—the Templar, reassured.

Selah snapped her gaze towards him, only for Shay to give her a smirk. He turned around when his first mate regarded him again.

“Anyway, how did your visit to the fort go?” Gist wondered.

“I told Captain Cook about the French vessels we encountered,” Shay reported. “He said it wasn’t the first time they’ve been spotted and the Royal Navy’s working to resolve it. Only problem he has no idea what they’re doing and the Navy’s cautious not to start the war up again.”

“I can understand that. The peace treaty was signed only a matter of months ago. And it is only natural for the losing side to still feel bitter after a bad game.”

“Do you think they’re rogue ships looking for retaliation?” Selah inquired. It wasn’t the first time she had heard such and it certainly made sense.

Shay only shrugged. “That’s what Cook seems to think. But it’s hard to tell. What’s really concerning him is the pirating.”

Selah narrowed her eyes in confusion while Gist gave a puzzled look.

“I thought we took care of that,” the quartermaster protested.

“I did, too,” Shay agreed. “But there’s been reports of smuggling and thieves plaguing some of the towns. Even a few ghost ships.”

“Actually I remember hearing a whisper about that in New York.”

Shay nodded. “The Grandmaster wants us to check on it, too.”

Selah took the opportunity to speak up, but her stomach was knotting again. “There were some smugglers near New York as well. …They belonged to the Assassins.”

Shay was silent, only glancing at her. Selah pressed.

“Do you think these smugglers… have, have anything to do with them?”

The girl hated how she stuttered, but if… She looked back to Shay to see the Templar was staring out to the now-black sea, thinking.

“No,” he said finally. “It’s unlikely.”

Selah still felt a strange feeling in her veins, unconvinced. She had a feeling Shay was telling himself that more than anything.

“It’s possible it’s a gang or a group of pirates we missed,” Gist hypothesized.

“Whatever it is, they’ve been stirring enough trouble for both the Templars and the Navy to notice them,” Shay said. “We have our orders, Gist.”

“Do you have a course?”

“Aye. Fogo.”

Selah narrowed her eyes as she tried to place the location, unable to tell if she heard of it or not. Gist helped her out.

“That’s really far north,” the frontiersman drawled. “Not to mention a lot of ice to cut through.”

The Templar captain smirked. “Good thing we have a ram, then.”

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