Crossed Eagle

Chapter 33

Voices. So many voices. Selah screamed, covering her ears. Make them go away! They were talking all at once, making it impossible for her to understand. Then suddenly the voices began to be replaced by screams. Selah gasped as a sudden heat seared her skin and a brilliant light filled her vision. Crimson light. The screams were accompanied by sharp sounds of steel, violently piercing Selah’s hearing. She shuddered at first, but then started when loud gunshots and dying yells filled the air.

The flames surrounding Selah disappeared, replaced by writhing figures, pouncing and lunging at each other across the charred ground. Instead of joining them, Selah forced her way through, shoving figures out of the way as she tried move through the black sea. However, as she traveled further, the bodies became thicker. Then the voices began to chant.

“Nothing is true, everything is permitted. Nothing is true, everything is permitted. Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”

A familiar figure flashed across the girl’s vision.

“James!” Selah gasped.

She reached out for him, only for the Master Assassin to turn and vanish. Immediately the black sea of figures disappeared, having Selah fall when before she was wedged upright. She landed on all fours. Only when she did, the teenager felt something wet. She blinked to see a gruesome red color. Blood. It now covered the floor. Selah looked up.

“You betrayed me!” Achilles accused. “You betrayed your brothers! Shay disappointed me, but I could have put faith in you. Only for you to forsake me!”

“I’m sorry, Mentor!” Selah wailed. She was shuddering violently under his wrath, feeling pathetically small. “I—”

“I died because of you!” William roared.

The girl winced from the harshness of his tone. “I-I never meant for anything to happen! I swear!”

“How could you?” James demanded. “You promised me you would keep faith! You promised me you would stay true to the Creed! You lied to me!”

“You all left me! What was I supposed to do?”

Selah had never seen the Assassin this angry. No, the man she saw was not her teacher. His brown eyes were blazing all the fire and hatred from Hell, looking like a vessel of Satan himself.

“I gave you everything!” James’s demon went on. “I should have left you to die!”

By now Selah was sobbing uncontrollably, desperate for forgiveness she knew was not there. She covered her ears and shut her eyes. Make it stop! Make it go away!

“Mother!” the girl wailed. She no longer feeling like an independent warrior, but a small, defenseless child abandoned on the streets. “Mother! I’m scared!”

The woman was faceless, just like in Selah’s memories. The girl only saw her long, flowing dark hair, identical to her own. It was a like a river down her back, gliding across her beautiful dress as she slowly walked away. She ignored her child’s pleading cries. Selah tried to scramble to her feet to follow, only to collapse onto the bloody ground again.

The girl looked up to see a hooded shadow appear behind her mother’s retreating form. A glinting blade appeared from the shadow’s wrist, only to impede itself into the woman’s spine. There was a high-pitched scream that pierced Selah’s hearing, but quickly vanished from existence. The shadows were quick to follow.

The blood-soaked ground was replaced by spotless stone. Shaking violently and trying to stifle her sobs, Selah quickly climbed to her feet. The first thing she noticed was the storm raging around her. The sky was filled with dark clouds racing at an unnatural, dizzying speed, occasionally illuminated by a brilliant flash of light. The wind roared in Selah’s ears, which hurt whenever a deafening thunder boomed. The girl looked around to see he surroundings.

She was in a courtyard, but she wasn’t alone. Instead she was surrounded by figures, the crowd as thick as it was in Ojeda’s party. But as Selah observed the faces, she found they were not strangers. Her blood froze. Achilles, James, William, Liam, Hope, La Chevalier, Kesegowaase, Faulkner… Everyone she knew in the Brotherhood. But it wasn’t just Assassins. The Templars were here. Haytham, Shay, Ojeda, Hickey, Johnson, Pitcairn, Lee, Church. It was like everyone Selah had met in her life was here, all conversing and laughing together. They were oblivious to the tempest raging around them and the girl that shoved through them. She tried to eavesdrop on their conversations, only for their voices to mingle together in another chant.

“Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent. Hide in plain sight, be one with the crowd. Never compromise the Brotherhood."

Selah ignored the words, even as they repeated over and over and over, seeping into her bones. Instead, she looked up to notice a figure in a dark cloak. She didn’t recognize that one. A stranger. Face obscured, they turned away from her, crossing to the other side of the gathering. They seemed to be trying to blend in, but their presence was like a warning bell to Selah. The girl tensed. She had to rid of the stranger!

Body rigid, the warrior tailed after him, hidden blades at ready. She cautiously stalked the stranger, watching their every move. They paused, body as stiff as hers and head lowered. Selah took her chance.

She lunged forward, wrapping her arm around their neck and driving her hidden blade between their ribs. There was a gurgle of death and the body went limb with dead weight. Selah threw the corpse to the floor before they could crash onto her. Only when she did, her eyes widened with horror. Instead of a dark cloak, the stranger was dressed in pure white, a beaked hood hiding their face. An Assassin.

Selah screamed.

Selah snapped her eyes open with a gasp. Her skin was burning, even though there was a fine layer of sweat covering her body. Adrenaline was pumping through her veins, fueling her instincts. She tried to obey by jumping up, but only for a splitting pain to crack her skull and a wave of numbness to ripple across her body. The girl fell back, collapsing on her side with a hand touching the cold ground beneath her. She didn’t even notice she was in a bed this time, and she had no blanket to cover her still-exposed skin.

Instead, Selah only felt a pounding inside her head, reverberating throughout her skull in rhythmic waves. Nausea swam around her, making her neck bent at a strange angle. Her body was numb, occasionally a stab of feeling touching her senses. What was that? W-what was happening? With a groan, the teenager rolled back over, just in time for a shadow to fall over her. Cacicaná wiped the water streaming from her eyes with a gentle knuckle.

“Do not cry, little one,” he soothed.

“What-what did you do to me?” Selah demanded, her voice barely above a whisper.

“You were showed the truth.”

Selah didn’t have a retort to his strange words, instead submitting to another wave of dizziness that coursed through her. She couldn’t form a straight thought. She would try to think, only for her mind to veer away and her memory to fail her. Her memories. It felt like she was forgetting and remembering everything at once. It could not be described. The state she felt was stranger. She felt oddly detached from her body. The girl watched with fascination as she moved her body, feeling like she was a spectator. Cacicaná observed her with a careful gaze.

“Would you walk with me, my child?” he asked, voice gentle to Selah’s ringing ears.

Selah’s head nodded. The Mentor gave one of his small smiles, reaching to take her hand and hoist her up. Selah felt like she was still lying down, but when glanced down, she saw her body was standing. How? Her fascination grew as her body followed the Assassin back into the jungle, walking through the too-quiet village.

“Do you understand, Selah?” Cacicaná suddenly questioned.

“Yes, Mentor,” a girl who was not Selah chimed.

“The Templars poisoned you to turn you into a doll. But they were foolish. You are an Assassin. You belong here, with us, in the Brotherhood.”

“Yes.” Selah’s body balled her fists. Yes. An Assassin. She was an Assassin.

“You must forget everything they told you. They are liars and murderers. Each day they kill more of my brothers and my people. They burn our villages and our homes, enslave us with their prisons and their chains, execute us with their ropes and their stakes. They killed our Mentors: John la de Tour, Ah Tabai, François Mackandal, and your Achilles Davenport. It is time the tide is turned. We shall make them suffer as we have suffered. They will feel our steel and taste our poison. The Brotherhood will take back what is ours.”

Selah found herself listening to the Mentor’s monologue, hearing the passion and hatred that gradually filled it. No doubt birthed from months of seeing his brothers fall victim to the Templars’ purge. Cacicaná suddenly turned to her.

“We cannot do this without you, Selah,” he proclaimed. “Return to us.”

He held out his hand, the girl staring at it. The Templars had killed everyone she loved, and it still wasn’t enough for them. They would do here what they did in the colonies. Possibly worse. No, she would not let that happen again. She would not let them kill another innocent.

The Assassin took the Mentor’s hand.

Shay climbed over the trunk of a fallen tree, the bark as pale as a skeleton’s. He plopped back onto the sand, a hand resting on the hilt of his sword. The wind blew softly, tugging at his tied hair. The waves beside him roared at they slammed onto the wet sand, throwing white foam into the air and having seagulls squawk in surprise. The Templar trudged across the beach, his black boots throwing up white sand.

After receiving his orders from Haytham, the captain met up with Gist, who had caught word of some pirates visiting a nearby port. They immediately set sail and arrived in less than a day’s journey. Searching the docks wasn’t very hard, either. It took a quick tour and a scan of his Sense for Shay to find a lone pirate that had strayed from his pack. Catching him was easier, and it wasn’t very long until he broke under the Templar’s interrogation.

He reported that the Assassins had a village in the jungle where their Mentor resided. Kind enough to point it out on a map, too. Shay took his word, knowing the pirate was bound more by money than loyalty. Besides, he practically started balling when he discovered the Templar was the Assassin Hunter and it was hard for him to lie at the mercy of a blade. Taking that his information was correct, it seemed easier for Shay to follow the beach along the jungle and cut through to reach the village. It would be faster with more exposed terrain, and the Assassin Hunter wouldn’t have to worry about being so easily jumped.

He still had to make a plan how to infiltrate it and escape with Selah, if she was even there. It was no doubt that Shay was a master of stealth, even once successfully eavesdropping on a meeting between Achilles and his Master Assassins. However, a village of alert Assassins was a different story. And if he did find Selah, there was no telling state she might be in. She could either be dead weight or be able to follow him, but by then the Assassins would learn of her disappearance.

Shay sighed. He could worry about all that later. Now he had to find the Assassins. If blood needed to be spilled, then nothing could be done. The Templar quickly imaged the map in his head and made the calculations. A convenient trick he had learned after decades of sailing. He would be close to the village, soon. He could sneak into the jungle the rest of the way. But Shay never got that far.

Suddenly his skin crawled and his hairs stood on end. Shay immediately narrowed his eyes. He had felt this before. Sure enough, a pressure appeared in his mind, accompanied by the soft sound of ominous whispers. The Templar’s grip on his hilt tightened. Someone was nearby. Breathing through his nose, Shay dared to close his eyes for a moment, focusing. He snapped them open for the beautiful world to be replaced by shadows as he no longer saw his surroundings, but felt. Shay focused again, only for his instincts to flare. He suddenly sensed his instincts turning and began to pull at his mind, like they were pointing. Like a compass. Shay followed that internal compass to see the brush of the jungle, unmoving. He saw no flash of red, but the frequency of the whispers grew.

“I know you’re there!” Shay called. “Come out where I can see you.”

Little did the Templar know that his taunt worked and that there was a reply. Without warning, a black streak shot from the jungle, racing towards him. With a start, Shay leaped backwards, the knife burying into the sand where his foot had just been. The Assassin Hunter narrowed his eyes and glanced up, just in time to hear a laugh filling the air.

“I assumed killing you wouldn’t be that easy,” a rich voice chuckled. “After all, you are the Assassin Hunter.”

“Come out!” Shay demanded harshly.

There was another laugh as the brush rustled and a figure stepped out onto the beach. Shay narrowed his eyes at the Maroon. The man’s skin was the same color of the dark earth in New York, although it owned a shine underneath the blazing sun. A light, blue coat wrapped around his shoulders, long enough it almost touched the sand beneath him. Leather boots swallowed his legs and a fiery waistcoat protected his chest. The Maroon had a slender form and he was shorter than Shay, telling the Templar he was younger. Almost a decade or so. He had coarse dark hair that curled close his skull. Shay narrowed his eyes at him. He seemed… familiar.

The Templar quickly shook it off. He knew for a fact he had never met this Maroon. The captain bristled as he watched the young man settle onto the beach, directly in Shay’s path. The Assassin Hunter unsheathed his sword, but only partly.

“Out of the way, brat,” Shay snarled. “I don’t have time to spar with you.”

The Negro gave a snort. “Oh, so I should stand by and let you kill more of my brothers? I’m afraid not, Templar.”

Shay noticed the Assassin insignia on his belt. “I don’t want to kill you, but I will if I have to. Last chance, brat.”

The Assassin unsheathed his twin swords. “That is a chance I will take.”

“Your choice.” Shay followed his example by unsheathing his sword and dagger.

The two men neared each other then, taking long, calculated strides. It wasn’t until they had come to a matter of feet between each they changed course to circle around each other, like wolves. Their movements became more careful and shorter, glares never leaving their opponent. Shay watched the Assassin as the boy watched the Templar. The captain could tell he wasn’t a Master, but he must be skilled, if he volunteered to go one-on-one with the Assassin Hunter.

Without warning the Assassin struck. He leaped the distance between them, swinging his sword as if to slice Shay’s head off. The Templar quickly ducked away, striking out his own sword. It was parried by the Maroon’s second weapon. He sliced at Shay’s abdomen, but the Assassin Hunter leapt back at the last moment. The man struck again, forcing Shay back and on the defensive. He was good!

The Assassin alternated strikes between his double swords, sometimes using both at once. Despite all his creative offenses, he never pierced Shay’s defenses, who blocked his attacks with skilled use of his own weapons. Occasionally the Templar would feel bold and assault towards his opponent, only for the Assassin to just as easily deflect his attacks. Shay gritted his teeth. It was like their skills were on par. Shay hadn’t battled an enemy like this since… The Assassin struck another stab at him, forcing Shay to deflect it. It was then the Templar began to realize. The way the boy fought… it was filled with familiarity, recognized by some instinct Shay did not know. Their blades met.

“Do I know you, brat?” the Assassin Hunter demanded.

“No,” the Assassin answered. “But I know you, Shay Cormac.” They broke apart, the Maroon quickly adjusting his hold. He smiled, despite the situation. “You truly are Achilles’s student. You fight quite well.”

Shay disliked the mention of his former master. “Not anymore.”

“Yes. A traitor. Tell me, did you enjoy watching your brothers die? By your blade?”

Now the Templar’s scowl was turning into a snarl as he curled his lip. “You know nothing!”

In blind rage, the Assassin Hunter lunged. The Assassin met his attack with his swords, using them as a shield. He submitted to Shay’s superior strength by being forced backwards, but was still was able to stay on his feet. It was then Shay locked eyes with his opponent. They were light brown, shining with youth but dark with maturity. Shay’s heart stopped. He had seen those eyes before. They were full of disdain, then, but the Templar could recognize anywhere. After all, he had looked into those eyes as the life had quickly drained from them.

“You’re… Adéwalé’s son.”

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