“What is this place?” Selah asked curiously.
“Martha’s Vineyard,” Shay answered. “We’re stopping here for supplies before continuing on.”
“How long until we reach the West Indies?” The teenager was already dreading the answer.
“Erm… It usually takes two months on average. Longer if there’s a bad storm. But it’s the dry season now, so it shouldn’t be too much trouble.”
“We’ll also have to stop at a few ports to restock,” Gist added, Shay nodding in agreement.
The girl fought back a whine. She calculated the time she already spent on the Morrigan and added it to Shay’s estimation. She would be on the ship for months… However, Selah supposed it was comforting they would be docking every couple weeks. It wasn’t surprising really, considering how small the Morrigan was. Now the girl understood why most ships that crossed the ocean were large frigates or even Men O’ War. A small ship could never have enough cargo to last the journey.
Selah followed Shay down the ramp, Gist trailing behind them. She listened as the captain went on. “We’ll stay here for a night. The boys need a break.”
Selah noticed he was making a course inland. “And you?”
“I want a drink.”
The teenager rolled her eyes. Such a pirate… She wondered why she was even following. The girl couldn’t help but have an uneasy feeling. Selah clearly remembered the last time she went in a tavern and learned that young girls and drunk men did not mix. However the Assassin quickly shook it away. No, Shay would never do anything to her. The Templar led the way into the tavern, opening the door and stepping inside. A cheer greeted him almost immediately.
“Shay, darlin’!” a woman exclaimed. She appeared to be in thirties, the beginnings of crow feet next to her eyes and a few gray strands in her hair. She had chocolate-brown hair tied into a bun with gleaming earthy eyes. The woman wore a modest dress, like most colonial females.
“Amanda, how you’ve been?” Shay replied, voice light with a smile. Seeing her outstretched arms, he welcomed her embrace, but kept it brief.
“I’ve been quite well. Especially now that you chased out those French ships.”
Shay only smiled, but Selah could tell it wasn’t for pride. Still, as the woman stepped away, Selah stepped next to the captain and muttered, “Why are you so nice to her?”
Yes, Shay wasn’t as cold and distant as she first thought, but he usually wasn’t so open. Especially to someone she suspected he was not close with, which was condemned in the Brotherhood. The teenager really shouldn’t have been surprised by his answer.
“Because she has the rum,” the sailor grumbled.
Selah rolled her eyes. Right on cue, the woman called over her shoulder, “Can I get you a drink, dear?”
“Rum, please,” Shay answered.
“You have a preference?”
“No, anything will do.”
The captain sat down at a table that already housed a few of his crew that had gone on ahead. Selah and Gist found a seat to join as well, the teenager sitting across from Shay but inching close to the first mate. Shay calmly crossed his arms and leaned back in the chair, comfortable as he half-listened to the babbling of his men. However, Amanda returned only a moment later with a problem.
“Seems we’re fresh out of rum,” the woman reported.
Shay cocked an eyebrow and showed confusion. “Really? I thought you always kept some stocked.”
“We do, but… we’ve been busy lately.”
When Shay gave her a puzzled look, the woman cocked her head towards the corner with a glance of her eyes. Selah followed where she gestured along with Gist and Shay. Immediately the red coats of regulars caught the Assassin’s eye. There was a whole squadron of them, taking up the entire back corner. They were obviously drunk, eyes glazed and movements clumsy as they gave deafening laughs and intelligible yells that loudly reached the girl’s ears. The number of empty tankards on their tables hinted enough as well. Amanda huffed in disgust at the sight.
“They’re in here every day, drinking up the place,” she complained.
“I thought that would be good for business,” Shay replied.
“It would be, if they weren’t sucking it all up. I have to pay more to keep up with them than I gain. Say nothing on the ruckus they cause. I’ve lost several of my regular customers and the girls in town are terrified to come out.”
Anyone else looking at Shay would comment he would still look stoic, but after spending weeks with the man, Selah was able to see alarm lighting up in his eyes. “They’ve been pestering the girls?”
“Not when their sober. At least, most of them, anyways.”
“What are they doing here? The Vineyard doesn’t need soldiers with the war over.”
“Tell them that,” Amanda hissed bitterly. The woman shook her head, like she was trying to ward off a headache. “Some of the townspeople have been sending complaints to their captain, but I doubt any of them have actually reached him.”
Gist watched the exchange with interest while Selah tried to pretend to mind her own business, although she was intently listening as well. It was because of that she saw Shay subtly furrow his eyebrows, something darkening his eyes.
“So I see, then,” the Irishman replied in a careful tone.
Amanda shook her head again, this time like she was banishing thoughts. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to go on like that. I hope I didn’t burden you; it’s none of your concern, really.”
“Not at all.”
“Since we’re out of your drink, what else would you like?”
“Just some beer, please.”
“I’ll have some as well,” Gist finally piped up.
Amanda nodded subserviently and left to fetch their order. A minute later the woman returned with their drinks, the men using them to quench their thirsts with laughing and stories. However as the sailors enjoyed their time on land, Selah spied Shay occasionally sending glances at the still-drunk British soldiers in the corner with a dark look.
Selah snoozed peacefully in her cot, slipping in and out of consciousness. Shay had offered the girl could come to him whenever she needed anything, but Selah decided to stay in the lower deck to avoid questions from the crew. However, some nights with the orchestra of deafening snores made her wonder if she really cared.
Selah snapped her eyes open after visioning a particular graphic image, unconsciously squirming in her cot. The poor girl sighed, wanting to banish the problem. She pondered on staying up to avoid the coming dream or falling back to sleep as unconsciousness still tickled her senses. Before she could decide, a sound suddenly interrupted her thoughts.
Selah froze as she heard the slow creaking of wood. It wasn’t the signature sound of the ship rolling on water, especially since the Morrigan was still anchored. Instead the sounds came above her, the creaks long and slow after a pause between them. Selah immediately recognized it as footsteps, and realized that only person on the ship could have a stride like that.
The Assassin blinked several times, staring at the ceiling as the footsteps faded away. Immediately the teenager leaped off the cot, pulling on her boots. She had already had her coat on, which had become part of her nightly attire. Selah quickly adjusted her clothing and straightened her hair before slowly slipping out her cabin. She walked cautiously to avoid waking up the sleeping sailors or alert whoever was above deck. Reaching the top of the lower deck’s stairs, Selah carefully pushed up the hole-cover to appear into the night. Nothing. She then proceeded to slip out of her hiding spot, crawling into the cold air and quietly placing the cover back in place.
Selah thanked that there was little moonlight and her coat was dark, allowing her to blend into the night. Sneaking to the railing, the Assassin peered onto the shore to see a familiar figure. Shay.
The Templar was walking away from the ship, oblivious he was being spied on. He was completely armed, even having his prized air rifle clipped to his back and a bundle of rope darts tied to his belt. Selah hadn’t seen him like that since Fogo Island. Her stomach twisted. Something was wrong. The apprentice noticed the man wasn’t heading towards town, instead slipping into the trees leading to the other side of the island.
Selah narrowed her eyes suspiciously before leaping off the deck. She followed Shay’s footsteps, switching to her Vision occasionally to search for the Templar. Once a blue aura and a sharp tang of the sea flashed across her Sense, she immediately ducked behind a tree. Selah peered around to see Shay still hadn’t noticed her, continuing to trek through the forest on a wide trail. The Assassin continued her stalk as well, staying a fair distance from him and ducking tree to tree, sticking to the shadows. She was about to slip to another hiding spot when suddenly Shay stopped dead.
“Shouldn’t you be in bed?” he called out to her.
Selah gulped, realizing she had been caught. Well, he was a trained Assassin. The odds of successively tailing him would have been slim. Knowing there was no point staying hidden and that her game was over, the teenage tentatively crawled out of her cover. Shay peered at her over his shoulder, only one eye visible. Selah only replied with a solemn stare.
“You’re going to kill that captain, are you?” she accused.
“I thought you served the British.” The girl tried to make a point by reminding him what flag the Morrigan flew and what he had said to her.
“I don’t serve men that bother good people.”
Selah shifted her weight and glanced at the ground, not really knowing what else to say.
“Go back to the ship, Selah,” Shay only ordered. “This doesn’t concern you.”
The girl snapped her head back up, the demand suddenly giving her words. “I want to come.”
“No. I said go back.”
In attempt to show his point, the ex-Assassin began to walk on. Instead of following his instruction, Selah took a defiant step forward. She should have learned by now that stubbornness did little good, but this wasn’t like all those times before when she was just being a naïve little girl.
“I was an Assassin, too!” she called after him. “You can’t keep treating me like a child!”
“You are one,” Shay retorted, not even looking back.
“But I can fight! Please, let me help you!”
Finally the Assassin Hunter paused and glanced over his shoulder. “And what makes you think I need your help?”
Selah swallowed. “Because you think you’re alone.”
It took a long time for Selah to realize it. A very long time. But she pieced together from stories she had heard from both the Assassins and the Templars. And as much contact as she had been with Shay, the girl was beginning to know him well enough to see it for herself. As well as being to reflect on herself. Shay was the one that killed the Assassins, one-by-one, single-handedly, alone. Not even Haytham or Gist was with him when he completed the solemn deed. How used he must have been to carry out gruesome missions by himself. It was a miracle he allowed her to accompany him on the last mission.
But they worked well together then. Selah didn’t have to think about it. It was like fighting with a brother. Shay was her brother. He protected her like one. He talked to her like one. No different than when Haytham treated her like a father would have. Selah lost her family once. She wasn’t going to let it happen again. Not when she promised to become stronger.
Shay closed his eyes and sighed through his nose, like he was reading her thoughts. Selah refused to move a muscle, only glaring at him. Finally the Templar gave in, opening his eyes and waving his fingers at her, as he done so many months before. “Come along. But this doesn’t mean anything, you understand me? One mistake and I’m dragging you back to the ship.”
Selah only gave a vigorous nod and tried to contain her smirk. Shay was walking away again, having the teenager jog to catch up to him. She fell in beside him, but had to take large steps in order to match his long stride.
They were in silence for a moment for Selah said solemnly, “Thank you, Shay.”
The Templar glanced at her. “For what?”
“For everything. You… treated me better than you should have. When I know I was not as fair to you.”
Shay smiled, flashing a set of still-white teeth. “You just didn’t know me, that’s all.”
“But I judged you.”
“It was the other Assassins that told you about me. You would have.” Suddenly the man paused and turned to her, Selah following his example. “Whatever they said to you, I know they weren’t lying. I betrayed the Brotherhood, Selah. I killed my brothers, one at a time. Hunted them down. I am the Assassin Hunter they call me. I am the monster they say I am.”
Selah shook her head, even as she heard the sadness in his voice. He did not wanted to be such. “But you’re not, Shay. You care what happens to other people. It what makes you who you are.”
Shay smiled, this time only a curl of his lips. “We’ll see…” The ex-Assassin showed he had become exhausted of the conversation by quickly scanning his surroundings. He glanced up at the canopy above them. “We’ll travel by the treetops. We’ll move faster that way. We should be done with this by sunrise.”
Selah suppressed a groan as she glanced above them. “I don’t fair well with trees.”
“I’ll teach you.”
Climbing through the trees made Selah remember her lessons on the Homestead. Due to being located in the middle of the frontier, all Assassins learned how to navigate through the branches. It was said they adopted the technique from the natives. Considering Shay was a former Assassin trained on the Homestead as well, Selah knew she shouldn’t be surprised he also acquired the skill.
Still, it was amazing how swiftly he glided through the trees, almost better than when he was on his ship. Shay wasn’t as graceful or fluid as some other Assassins and Indians Selah had seen, but he was close. She was certainly surprised how easily he did it, considering his broad weight and loaded weapons. But taking into account how fast he skipped branch to branch, the footholds couldn’t probably register him, anyway. Selah tried to follow his example, but she found herself clumsier than she wanted to be. However, the girl’s skills had improved thanks to jumping around on the Morrigan for weeks straight. Finally they paused to share a particularly sturdy branch, capable of holding them both.
“There,” Shay gestured.
Sure enough, the duo had a perfect view of a British frigate, securely docked all alone, showing no signs of leaving anytime soon. The cargo placed haphazardly all over the dock gave it away. Selah didn’t see any signs of regulars, the soldiers most likely being asleep at this hour. Only a couple lanterns still burned.
“You have a plan?” the Assassin questioned.
“Simple. I sneak aboard and assassinate the captain,” Shay explained nonchalantly. “We’ll be gone before anyone knows what happened. The squadron will panic and with no boss, leave.”
“What I do?”
“You stay here.”
“This is a one-person job. There was a reason I told you to stay.”
Selah shot him a heated glare, even though deep down she realized she wasn’t really needed. “There has to be something I can do.”
Shay sighed again, staring into thought. Finally he had an idea. “This is probably too big for you, but…” The Templar reached over his shoulder to pull out his air rifle. Selah blinked when he held it out to her. “You think you can shoot this?”
The teenager wisely took it before he could change his mind. The weapon was the same shape of most muskets, only lacking a bayonet and was lighter in weight. The girl listened as Shay explained.
“It’s no different from a musket, really,” he confessed, “except it shoots darts instead of bullets.”
When Selah just
stared at him in confusion, the Templar fished through several of the pouches
on his belt. He pulled out several finger-sized darts, each owning feathers.
Two had sharp points, enough to pierce through cloth and skin. Each had a
different color, one light brown and the other a blazing red. However, the
third was short and blunt, peaking the girl’s interests. She listened as Shay
identified them respectively, hovering a finger over each.
“Sleep dart, berserk dart, firecracker,” he explained. “They should be self-explanatory enough.”
Selah nodded in agreement. Yes, she would say so. She accepted when the hunter gave her a handful of each.
“Try to stick to the sleep,” Shay ordered. “Use the other two only if you had to.”
Shay nodded in approval and shifted to leap off. “I shouldn’t be long. Stay here until I take care of Lobster Captain.”
“Lobster Captain?” The Templar just gave her a glare, telling to girl not to comment. However, feeling like she should say something, Selah murmured, “Good luck, Shay.”
The Irishman only grinned. “I make my own luck.”
And just like that, the man leapt off their perch. Meanwhile Selah positioned the air rifle on her shoulder, pointing it towards the docks. She had a moment of panic when she completely lost Shay, the man disappearing into the night. The girl was just about to switch to her Vision when suddenly she saw a flicker of movement. She sighed with relief as she recognized Shay darting cover to cover, blending into the shadows almost perfectly. A skill the apprentice had yet to learn.
Thankfully there were no redcoats patrolling the docks, allowing shadowy Templar to slip onto the frigate with ease. Selah found herself stiffening when he once again disappeared from view. She forced herself to relax though, assuring herself all was well. However, her tension grew as the moments dragged on and on. The Assassin would shift if she wasn’t in such a strict positon. What was—
Selah couldn’t even finish the thought as suddenly the unmistakable crack of a firearm filled the air.
The Assassin jumped and repositioned the rifle, just in time for a familiar shadow to be streaking across the frigate’s deck. The shadow was quickly joined by others of a red hue. It wasn’t long at all before the shadows started mixing and writhing together. Yells and the clashing of steel loudly reached the teenager’s ears. Now Selah switched to her Vision. Immediately several, glowing colors filled her sight and her senses mixed enough she could feel her surroundings. She sensed the dancing blue aura of Shay, surrounded by a sea of blood-red. Selah’s stomach twisted and she aimed the air rifle.
Thankfully she was just close enough to fire a couple of sleep darts, aiming at unexpecting redcoats. They crumbled almost immediately but the Assassin just as quickly realized putting them to sleep wouldn’t help. Even from here she could see Shay was outnumbered at least ten-to-one. Even if he was a trained killer, the ex-Assassin still had his limits. That realization drove the teenager to leap off her branch and onto the docks below. The Assassin leaped onto the deck, driving her hidden blade in the spine of a regular as she did so.
She quickly dislodged it to twist around to face another soldier who had just noticed her. The man attempted to thrust his bayonet at her, but the warrior used her blade to shove it aside. His defenses exposed, she unsheathed her second blade and plunged it in his stomach. Selah glanced over to see Shay was throwing his blades in every direction at the British soldiers, a scowl twisting his face. She just happened to see a redcoat going for him while the man was distracted. The teenager crossed the distance and plunged her knife into his neck. Shay spun around when he noticed her.
“I thought you said this would be simple,” Selah spat.
“Not my fault Lobster Captain decided to be a handful,” Shay retorted.
The two returned to the fight then, flailing and dancing within the red forest that surrounded them. Selah had no idea how much time passed. Possibly a few minutes. Possibly only seconds. However it seemed to last for eternity before the last soldier fell. Shay and Selah only stood where they were, panting desperately with heaving shoulders and a layer of sweat on their skin, despite the cool air. The wood of the deck was now covered in the red cloth of the soldiers and their blood. The time it took for the duo to recover seemed longer than the fight itself. Finally Shay straightened and sheathed his weapons.
“We return to the ship,” he decided. He made to move, but Selah stopped him.
The Templar glanced at her.
“I want you to teach me about the Templars.”