Crossed Eagle

Chapter 27

Weeks passed. The Morrigan continued her journey south, away from the ice. Although it was still cool, the air grew warmer and the sun burned in the sky longer. Like Captain Cormac had promised, storms were rare and mild, but it was the wind and water that was the problem. For the entire journey, the current fought against the Morrigan, trying to push the small vessel back to northern waters. Some days progress was so slow one could jump off and walk faster if they could.

Because of that, Shay chose to resupply at almost every major port. Better safe than sorry. Sometimes they would stay the night, allowing the crew shore leave and to drink their fortunes at a local tavern. Occasionally the sailors would indulge themselves in other pleasures, but usually celebrating with their shipmates was enough.

Meanwhile, Selah learned. The ways of the Templar Order. Their basic principles to their core philosophies. Shay taught her all he knew, teaching her the same lessons he had received from Haytham, and Monro. Selah listened intently, never once questioning what she was told.

Even though, she couldn’t help but be reminded of how she had first been brought into the Assassin Brotherhood. James mentored her in a very similar way, telling her of the Order’s ideals. Of freedom. Of free-will. Of faith. Of love. Selah very much believed in such. One had to own those, in order to very least to be considered human. But instead of using that independence to force it upon others and remove restraints, one could use them to bring order.

Society did not need to be governed. That only wasted time and resources. Misery was a risk, as well. Instead, one could bring discipline and direction. That way, people could learn how to do things for themselves, but in a way that it could bring the greater good. Absolute control to gain dominance and power and wealth gained nothing. Assisting the populace did better. Strong shelter. Full bellies. Warm Clothing. Freedom from want was the greatest freedom of all.

Although freedom was a noble goal, it was a fire. Left unintended, it would spread and become destructive. It was the Templars’ duty to regulate this dangerous flame. Meanwhile the Assassins only believed to fuel it, but too much fuel, and it would burn violently.

The Assassins were flawed. It struck Selah’s heart, but it was a realization that weighed her to reality. Maybe there were times they were of noble warriors, but not anymore. It was better to pursue the goal of peace, rather than the goal of freedom, which was far less predictable.

Selah still loved James. He was her teacher and her father in more ways than one. But even him. He never questioned the Order’s controversial means or when Achilles was obviously mislead. He would not hesitate to mock the Templars or anyone else that opposed them. Selah wished with all her heart that it wasn’t so, but she knew it now.

Even the Creed, the core of the Assassin Brotherhood, could not solve everything. But what was it? An invitation? A wisdom? A warning? It did not matter.

Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent. No one was innocent. Everyone had committed a sin or owned a skeleton in some way or another.

Hide in plain sight, be one with the crowd. It was better to not reveal yourself at all than to take the risks.

Never compromise the Assassin Brotherhood. But at what cost?

If nothing is true, then what can be trusted? If everything is permitted, then no one is safe.

Selah understood that now. She followed a new understanding. The Brotherhood would always have a special place in her heart, but it would be buried deeply away. She would find a new life to fill the rest of her soul.

Selah was no longer an Assassin. A new Selah was to be born.

The seas of the Caribbean were beautiful. The clear, sapphire-blue water glistened under the gleaming light of the sun that banished any cloud to form in the sky. Small waves rolled across the ocean, gently slapping across the Morrigan’s hull. The warmth of the ocean spread across the air, thawing any frozen bones that had happened to sail into these waters. The humidity was at a minimum, thanks to the season. It was warm enough for Selah to shed her overcoat and wander on the top deck, relishing the wing playing with her long hair. She half-listened to the shouts of the sailors as the dark line of land slipped into view.

“Prepare to make port in Havana, Gist,” Shay ordered.

“Aye, aye, Captain,” the quartermaster replied.

Selah made her way to the pair. “How much influence do the Templars have here?” she asked curiously.

“It’s stable,” Shay replied. “We have a large rite here, last I heard. Though not as strong as it used to be under their last Grandmaster, Governor—Governor…”

Gist leaned towards his captain. “Governor Laureano de Torres y Ayala,” he pronounced flawlessly.

“Yes, that one.”

Selah smiled while Gist rolled his eyes with a chuckle. Deciding her curiosity was satisfied for now, Selah moved away to lean on the railing. She didn’t really pay attention to the comrades’ conversation of their adventures in the West Indies and the lusty women they bedded here. Instead she enjoyed the feeling of the warm wind as she watched the skyline of Havana crawl closer.

Seagulls squawked happily overhead as the Morrigan docked, lines being tossed overboard to tie the ship in place. Instead the air being filled with the commotion of English docks, the Spanish language drowned out almost all noise. The dock itself was like most ports: filled with sailors working on cargo and ships as merchants organized their supplies and sold it to any travelers. The smell of rotting merchandise and other waste wafted through the air, but it was blown away by the salty sea breeze. Selah stepped off the ramp of the Morrigan, memorized by the bustling activity and sights. She had never been in a Spanish colony before!

Even with her fascination, the girl didn’t fail to recognize a familiar, proper figure waiting patiently by the Morrigan’s dock. Selah blinked. I-impossible!

“H-Haytham?” the teenager called.

The Colonial Grandmaster’s head turned at her voice. “Ah, there you are. I was worried you might have gotten lost.”

The statement in the tone he used was obviously sarcastic, but Selah didn’t care. She closed the distance between them in rapid steps, ramming into the man’s chest and wrapping her arms around him in an embrace. Haytham immediately returned the gesture, tightly securing his arms around her. His chest reverberated as he chuckled softly.

“I missed you, my dear,” the Templar murmured softly. He stroked her hair to prove so.

Selah smiled, but she gently pulled away and looked up to him with a puzzled look. “I don’t understand, though. What are you doing here?”

“I’m here to attend some business that must be done. I am a Grandmaster, after all.”

The teenager only nodded, turning around just in time to see Shay nearing them.

“I assume everything went well,” Haytham offered.

“She’s still in one piece, ain’t she?” Shay replied.

“I suppose she is.” The Grandmaster scanned their surroundings, obviously taking account the number of eyes and ears around them. “Come, you must be weary from your journey.”

One arm around Selah, he ushered the girl away from the crowds, Shay trailing behind them. Gist and the crew would watch over the ship. The group didn’t stick to the main roads for very long, instead slipping between buildings and alleyways in seemingly random routes. They preferably stayed away from any prying eyes. Selah followed along, knowing Haytham knew what he was doing, while Shay glanced around for any possible danger. When they were alone traveling down a back road, the captain spoke up.

“What’s the Assassins’ presence in the area?” he rumbled.

Selah listened intently.

“Pitiful, honestly,” Haytham reported. “The local Grandmaster and Mistress de L'Isle have initiated a purge against the current Brotherhood. We are to be done with them shortly. However, there are some cells still active, trying to gain some control. Poor attempts, I’m afraid.”

Shay nodded, a solid mask hiding his features. “Who’s the Grandmaster here?”

“Alonso de Ojeda. He comes from a wealthy family that possesses influence over most of the island.”

“So I see.”

They continued on in silence, following their discreet, twisting route. The morning sun moved into the afternoon by the time they neared their destination. Selah didn’t have to know Spanish colonies that this was the wealthier side of the island. Wooden buildings and makeshift shacks were progressively replaced by stronger, larger structures as they traveled to the other side of the city, but now every building was such. The fancier establishments were designed like architecture from Spain Selah had seen in paintings.

Finally the group made it their destination. The teenager had to stop her jaw from dropping. The villa was larger than the manor at the Homestead! The Spanish manor had the same blocky design, like all large buildings, but instead of red-brick, it had white-washed walls that shined in the sunlight. The width of the villa was twice as the Homestead’s, with extra wings branching out across the property, sometimes folding back on itself. The villa overlooked the ocean, providing a gorgeous view. Towering iron bars and impenetrable brick surrounded the property, protecting it against any unwelcomed guests. However it failed to hide the carefully tended establishment and gardens. This was like a governor’s palace!

“The home of Ojeda and our headquarters,” Haytham introduced.

“Subtle,” Shay quipped.

The Grandmaster rolled his eyes, but it seemed to be in agreement. “Yes, unfortunately…”

Selah could understand their distaste. In the colonies, it was not only the Assassins’ who preferred solitary and discreetness, but the Templars as well. Due to the raging war between the two factions, both orders worked very hard to hide themselves and prevent any unwanted attention. Even Haytham’s private home could pass as some businessman’s manor, and not the leader of an organization with unlimited wealth. Meanwhile the Assassin’s headquarters in the middle of the frontier could be described as a modest Masyaf. Obviously it was not the same with the Caribbean Templars, who weren’t as cautious of their enemies.

Haytham led his guests to the main gate, where two Spanish guards awaited. At first they stiffened at their approach, but Haytham must have been here for quite a while, because they relaxed once they recognized him. The group slipped through without any trouble. Selah braced to head up the grand staircase made of polished limestone that led to the broad, mahogany double doors, but instead Haytham ushered her to the side. They followed a convenient path through the gardens. Selah looked around as slaves tended to the floral, some even moving back and fro as they moved plants and large crates. The teenager even had to duck out of the way when one dashed passed her.

“Busy here,” Shay observed.

“Ojeda is planning a party tonight,” Haytham explained. What he said next made both of the sea-worn travelers’ hearts drop. “I want you two to attend.”

Shay did not dare complain to his superior, but Selah was unable to hold her tongue. He wasn’t her boss.

“We were hoping to get some rest,” the girl protested.

“Yes, I understand you’ve had quite the journey.” His tone wasn’t very sympathetic. “But I am afraid this is a Templar gathering. That means you will be expected. You will have plenty of time to rest until tonight and tomorrow.”

Shay was still deathly silent and Selah fought back a groan, especially as she noticed the sun beginning its descent. Not much time…

Their current journey reached its destination as Haytham found a backdoor and slipped inside. Immediately coolness touched Selah’s skin and her eyes adjusted to the gloom after the bright sunlight. It was some sort of meeting room, with the prominent furniture being a decorative and polished table. A ring of similar chairs surrounded it. It wasn’t surprising Haytham took the head, leaving Shay and Selah to find their own chairs.

“Now, then, tell me of your travels,” the Grandmaster started.

“Well, we sailed for Newport from New York in order to rendezvous with Captain Cook at the local stronghold, Fort George,” Shay reported. “However, only after a few days at sea, we engaged a French fleet that had sailed into British waters.”

Haytham raised his eyebrows. “An entire fleet?”

“Aye, sir. The Morrigan was able to sink half of ‘em, but the rest escaped. But if I was told correctly, the Royal Navy caught up to them not long later. Captain Cook informed that this wasn’t the first time the French had been found trespassing, and they have been caught collaborating with local pirates. On Cook’s orders, we followed a pirate route to Fogo Island. There they had a supply cache they used to stash their plunder and for trade.”

“Trade with whom?”

“That’s where it gets interesting, sir. We interrogated a man stationed there to only learn it was a gang hiding there, not a smuggler ring. The member confessed they were collaborating with someone, but he claimed he didn’t who.”

“And I assume this prisoner was taken care of?”

Selah glimpsed Shay’s jaw clenching as he recalled the image of the gangster’s suicide. “Yes, sir.”

Haytham nodded in approval. “Good. And his mysterious friends?”

“On our way back, we spotted the Aquila, sir.”

Immediately the Grandmaster’s eyes narrowed. “I thought her captain was dead.”

“He is. The Aquila is being captained by her first mate, Robert Faulkner.”

“So he’s captain now?”

“No. Faulkner turned it down. He’s not a leader, despite he’s already acting captain.”

“The Aquila could be a true pain if left unintended; we must handle her upon our return.”

“Agreed. But this time she was harmless. She appeared to be running supply runs.”

“Is that so? Could you judge her course?”

“South. Near Boston, perhaps.”

Haytham was nodding. “That area has been occupied by smugglers. I highly doubt that’s a coincidence.”

“What would they want with smugglers?” Selah blurted.

Haytham folded his arms and closed his arms for a moment. “While you two were away, I took the liberty to investigate mysterious smuggler routes that have been crossing the frontier as of late. We discovered they were being run by former Assassins.”

A ghostly look fell over Shay’s face. “We suspected such from our end.”

“The Assassins have been attempting to run supplies to a secure location. Although we were unsure what that was for a time, I was eventually able to come across some interesting information. It seems the Assassins located here in the West Indies are trying to rebuild themselves. And they are collaborating with the remains of their sister branch to create a joint Brotherhood.”

Automatically uneasiness filled the air.

“That’s… not possible,” Selah said finally.

“I’m afraid it is. I aware of trade between the colonies, but I assumed they could have decreased to nonexistent when we dispelled the Georgia Brotherhood. Apparently not.”

“Does Ojeda know about this?” Shay questioned.

“Yes. That’s why I have come here. So there may be a joint operation between us as well. It’s also the reason I ordered you here.”

“You want us to rid of the Assassins.”


The uneasiness worsened and Selah had to fight the urge to shift uncomfortably. She dreaded when she would discover it was in fact the Assassins behind everything, but she couldn’t have imagined it was like this. The teenager could tell Shay was having similar thoughts and Haytham did not pleased as well. However, the Grandmaster spoke up.

“If the Caribbean and Colonial Assassins form a successful alliance, everything we have worked for over the last decade will be undone,” he stated solemnly. “Many will die.”

Shay’s dark eyes dangerously narrowed. “I had about enough of death.”

“That’s what I assumed. We are to assist Ojeda in his purge and finish the Assassins once and for all. While we handle things here, I have left Charles Lee in my stead in the colonies while Jack Weeks will be the head of eradicating the smuggler routes. Any questions?”

Shay and Selah exchanged glances. Although both solemn, neither thought of anything to add. They looked back to the Grandmaster and shook their heads. Another nod of approval.

“Good,” Haytham purred. “I hope you two enjoy tonight, because you have a lot of work ahead of you.”

“Yes, sir,” Shay affirmed.

Selah only remained silent, twiddling her thumbs beneath the table. After thinking for weeks straight, she had decided she was angry at the Assassins for what they had done. To innocents. To slaves. To Shay. But… Selah had seen one purge. She could not stand another. Despite she had shrunk and was tight with tension, Haytham glanced over to her.

“So, Shay, what do you think?”

Selah blinked while Shay followed the senior Templar’s gaze. He gave a quizzical smile.

“I think well enough. She certainly has made a name for herself.”

Haytham chuckled. “I have no doubt.”

Selah continued to blink as the man lifted himself from the chair and stepped away from the table, Shay following his example. Haytham waved the space in front of him.

“Selah, come stand over here,” he ordered.

The girl’s somber thoughts were immediately erased as realization hit her. The teenager rose from her chair and crossed over to Haytham. The taller man loomed over her, but she didn’t feel afraid.

“Do you swear to uphold the principles of our order and for all that for which we stand?” Haytham questioned.

Selah had to fight the growing tremble. She secretly hated how meek her reply was. “I do.”

“And never to share our secrets nor divulge the true nature of our work?”

Some part of her was in disbelief. No, this couldn’t be happening. It couldn’t have. But Selah’s body ignored that mocking voice, instead replying in a stronger voice. “I do.”

“And to do so from now until death—whatever the cost?”

Stronger. “I do.”

“Give me your hand.”

Selah obeyed, placing her fingers on Haytham’s palm.

“We welcome you into our fold, my sister. From this moment on, you will aid in ushering the dawn of a New World.”

A silver ring appeared in Haytham’s hand. Even in the dimness, Selah could see the insignia of the Templar Cross etched into it.

“You are now a Templar.”

The former Assassin apprentice did not dare move or even breath as Haytham slid the ring onto her finger. Immediately it felt like a gigantic hand had snatched her from the heavens and placed a crushing weight that planted her feet onto the earth. Selah now felt herself buried into reality. This is what the world was.

“May the Father of Understanding guide us,” Haytham chanted.

“May the Father of Understanding guide us,” the Templars echoed
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