Crossed Eagle

Chapter 34

Haytham paced back and forth restlessly. The Grandmaster clenched and unclenched his hands, hidden blades at ready. His boiling blood raced through his veins.

Blasted brat! He warned Selah to be careful! He even gave her an order to stay near Shay and ensure to return. Apparently the defiant girl took that as to throw caution into the wind and to be reckless enough to get herself captured! Now the Assassins had her. God only knows what they have done to her. Goddammit, when he got his hands on that disrespectful little—

Haytham shook his head. He was letting his emotions get the best of him. To lose control was to lose focus. To lose focus was to make a mistake. To make a mistake was to be killed. He had to calm down before he got as excitable as Ojeda. The Grandmaster stamped down the searing heat in his chest and forced rational thoughts to replace his panicked ones.

No, nothing could have prevented Selah’s capture. According to Shay and the handful of survivors, the ambush was chaotic. Everyone fighting for their lives and Shay had his hands full with sparring with two Master Assassins. Meanwhile there was no doubt that Selah was fighting to the best of her ability. But something about the story confused him. Selah had run off in the middle of the fight. There was no reason for her to react that way. Unless…

Haytham sighed. Poor thing was still a young girl, despite everything she had been through. Shay even informed him how he bore witness to her nightmares. Yet the Grandmaster was foolish enough to her send off to fight her former comrades, expecting no complications. What was he thinking?

He thought when he made Selah a Templar, she would be safe. Haytham even saw the look of conviction she wore when he announced her new allegiance. However, the look quickly went away when the girl was thrust into a sea of Templars at the ball. That was possibly a mistake, too. How dependent Selah was on her Assassin instincts. The Grandmaster thought exposing her to the Order would force her to become more comfortable. Instead it backfired terribly. There was no doubt that was the reason why Selah fled from her former comrades.

Why did he let her go? He knew that! The Templar could tell forcing the girl upon her brothers would be a costly mistake. Yet he let her go, anyway. He blamed his emotions. The girl reminded him of his former life, before he dedicated his soul to the Templar cause. It made him soft and to make poor choices.

Haytham growled and wanted to run a hand through his hair. What an easy plan it seemed at first. Pluck one of the Assassins’ apprentices and change them into a fine Templar. Take advantage of her ignorance and her potential to create the perfect Knight that would be an example to all. Maybe even his heir. Or perhaps after Charles, at the very least. But the Grandmaster had meant to keep her at a distance. That failed though when Selah proved to be too stubborn.

Haytham was desperate to win her. He thought if he forced her to accept her new reality, it could work. That was why he invited the apprentice to his home and attempted to take her under his wing. Not only did that initially have no progress, but he found Selah far more charming than she should have been. And Haytham fell for her. He fell for her like a mother introducing her child to him. He knew it was not rational. To become protective of the child of his enemy. But Selah was more than that. She was innocent and pure. The Grandmaster couldn’t stop himself from becoming concerned over her welfare. Especially when the Assassins raided the warehouse.

Just thinking about it had Haytham’s blood and adrenaline spike to the same levels they were that night. He couldn’t describe what he felt as he desperately scoured the city for Selah and the rage that captured him when he slaughtered those drunkards. It was then he vowed he would never let anything happen to her ever again. Apparently it was another promise he failed to keep…

“Master Kenway.”

Haytham had to stop the growl crawling up his throat.

“What is it, Ojeda,” the Grandmaster forced through a strained tone. He was in no mood to be bothered.

“My apologies for disturbing you,” Ojeda said, though his tone wasn’t very sincere. “I thought you would be like to be informed that the ships will be leaving soon.”

“For the purge?”

.” Ojeda gave another of his sinister grins. “We found a pirata who ‘willingly’ gave us the location of their nest. We shall burn those rats where they breed.”

It was then Haytham felt a strange feeling in his gut. At first he was confused. It took him a few moments to realize what it was. Nervousness. He was nervous.

Ojeda had prepared the raiding party quicker than he expected. Shay needed time to track a lead and drag Selah out from whatever hellhole the Assassins had locked her up in. What if he didn’t get to her in time? Then Selah was literally a sitting duck waiting to be shot by conquistadors or chewed by war hounds. Haytham tried to shake the notion from his head. No, Shay was the best among them. There was without a doubt he would find Selah. But what if he didn’t?

Overconfidence was just as deadly as too little confidence. What if Haytham convinced himself Shay could handle it, only for the Templar to fail and he would lose Selah forever? No, he had to make sure. He had to see for himself that Selah was gone, or if for some God forbidden reason she was still there, the Grandmaster would have to save her himself. After all, since when was he the type of man that lazily sat behind and let others do the grunt work, when he knew for a fact that he was far more capable than them? Haytham rather be damned than to be one of those men. He spun around to face Ojeda.

“In fact, Grandmaster, is there any chance that I may come along?” he asked, regaining his collected, polite tone.

You?”

Haytham narrowed his eyes to show he didn’t appreciate the lack of confidence. “Yes, myself. The men will need a figure of authority to be present to stay organized.”

“Oh, you underestimate my men, señor—”

“Nonetheless. After all, the Assassins won’t be expecting for a Grandmaster to be present. It will give us the element of surprise.”

Ojeda didn’t look convinced. If anything, he looked annoyed at the aspect of someone else controlling his men. Or someone else tagging along on his expedition. Haytham didn’t care, giving the Spanish Grandmaster a glare that meant he would not take “no” for an answer. Finally it dawned on the Spaniard.

Oh, this is over your muñeca. I have already told you, Haytham—”

The conquistadordidn’t finish as he drew the last straw for the British noble. Haytham rammed into him, snatching his neck single-handedly and slamming him against the wall. The Spaniard’s face was lit up in alarm and surprise.

“Now you listen to me,” Haytham snarled, using a dangerous tone he reserved for only when he was truly angry. “Selah is not a doll. She is a full member of the Templar Order. A Knight who is the guardian of peace and understanding.”

“Then how do you know she is not already dead?” Ojeda demanded, voice hoarse from being strangled.

“Because the Assassin won’t risk killing her. She is as valuable to them as she is to us.”

The Grandmaster’s eyes lit up with realization and shock. “You say—”

Yes. She was.”

Now Ojeda was chuckling. “Then she has left us, Kenway. What is to stop her from returning to her Asesinos?”

Haytham snarled, leaning closer to his prisoner until they were nose to nose. “Do not. Underestimate. Selah. I did not take her because she was weak.”

No. You took her because she was an Assassin. Now you will pay the price for it.”

Haytham leaned away. “No, I will not. I am taking her back.”

“I will forward to it.”

Haytham immediately understood the intention hidden within the tone. Ojeda froze when he felt the cold tip of the Grandmaster’s hidden blade.

“Let me be clear, should you ever dare to insult or threaten Selah again, I'll not hesitate to cut off your head myself. Are we understood?”

The Spaniard was forced to look into Haytham’s cold, unforgiving eyes, which were backed up by his icy tone. He gulped and gave a weak nod. Satisfied, Haytham released his hold, backing away and sheathing his hidden blade.

“Good.”


Shay was in a trance. Adéwalé’s son. The sailor and Master Assassin Shay modeled, only to be the one to drive the blade through his heart. Now his son was before him. It was impossible.

Babatunde took advantage of Shay’s momentary stillness. The Assassin pushed against him, forcing the larger Templar backwards. As the Assassin Hunter stumbled away, Babatunde sliced at his stomach with both swords. He was unable to pierce any flesh, but there was a sharp sound of splitting fabric as Shay’s crimson waistcoat was sliced. The Templar hissed and cursed at his mistake. He leaped away from his opponent, regaining his battle stance.

“My name is Babatunde Josèphe,” the Assassin proclaimed. “And I will kill you what you have done to my father.”

“It wasn’t my choice,” Shay snarled.

“And this is not mine.”

At the dark tone, Babatunde lunged, swinging his swords again. Shay met his strike with his own weapons, batting them away. They swung around each other then, like dancers. Their movements were in a similar harmony as they struck their weapons towards the other. The sound of clashing steel filled the air as blade met blade, over and over and over. Using their dual weapons, the warriors alternated between offense and defense, sometimes using them at the same time. Occasionally a speckle of blood will fall across the sand from a lucky cut and a grunt or hiss of pain would sound. The duo were truly matched, their movements near identical as they continued their deadly dance.

Finally Shay lunged away from the frenzy. Babatunde started as if to lunge after him or brace for another assault, but stood still. Both men panted desperately, shoulders heaving and dry mouths hung open. A shiny, fine layer of sweat covered their skin, which was sweltering beneath their thick coats. After several moments of the opponents staring at each other—daring the other to move—Shay regained himself enough to speak.

“Your father was a great man, Babatunde,” he praised, speaking honestly.

“I do not need you to tell me that, Templar,” the boy spat.

“I did not wish to kill him. I looked up to Adéwalé. He was everything I wanted to be.”

“You killed him.”

“I did. I could not let the Assassins succeed. …I asked him for forgiveness. I doubt you’ll offer that any more than he did.”

“You are correct.”

“I won’t bother, then.” Shay took a bold step forward, body rigid. Naturally Babatunde stiffened at his approach, but made no movement. “But I haven’t come here to talk about the past. You Assassins stole one of our own. I want her back.”

“We only took back what was ours when you were the thieves,” Babatunde retorted.

“Selah is a sworn member of the Order. Now tell me where she is.”

Babatunde glared with defiance. “Unlike you, I would never betray my brothers.”

“I’ll force it out of you, then.”

At his growl, Shay lunged again. As expected, Babatunde easily parried his attacks. However, it was now the Assassin who was on the defensive, gritting his teeth whenever Shay struck at him. He was ever so slowly being forced back, crossing the beach and kicking up sand beneath his boots. Thankfully for him there was no driftwood or dip in the ground to trip him. Even as Shay gave a particularly hard strike.

“Where did Mackandal take Selah?” the Templar demanded. “Tell me, Babatunde!”

Babatunde deflected his attack. “Mackandal is dead!”

“What?” Their swords met. “Then who is leading the Assassins?”

“If you do not know then I have business sharing with you.”

“Goddamn you!”

Finally the Assassin’s swords interlocked with Shay’s sword and dagger, their faces inches apart. The Templar was surprised to see amusement glinting in his eyes.

“If you want her so badly, Shay, then perhaps we can make a trade,” Babatunde offered, voice almost charming. “I am also in search of something. Tell me the location of the Manuscript.”

“…Go to hell.”

Babatunde’s grin widened. “As I thought.”

Suddenly the Assassin twisted, forcing one of his swords upwards. In a blink of an eye, Shay leapt away. The Templar let out a yell when the tip of the sword nicked his chin, unleashing a spray of blood. Hissing, the Assassin Hunter wiped at the wound, only to look down at his wrist to see fleshy fat mixed with the crimson liquid. Another deadly growl. By now the Templar’s patience was officially gone.

Shay glanced up just in time to see Babatunde swiping at him with a yell, face twisted in a feral look. Apparently he had grown tired as well. The Irishman quickly blocked his attack, but when the Assassin pushed forward, Shay stepped to the side. In a blink of an eye, the Templar wrapped his arm around Babatunde’s, locking it in place. The Assassin Hunter lashed out the butt of his dagger into the man’s chin, forcing his head to lurch backwards. His body was pushed away and he lost his grip on his sword, having it drop onto the sand.

In a desperate attack, Babatunde swiped his second weapon at Shay. The Templar blocked it with his own sword. Both men twisted their blades, forcing both to lose their grip and the swords to fly in different directions. Now the Assassin was completely defenseless and Shay only had his dagger. Or so the Templar thought.

Without warning, the boy rushed forward, raising arm with an unsheathed hidden blade. Instead of jumping away, Shay charged at well. However, the Templar grabbed the boy’s shoulder and shoved, throwing him off balance. It worked as Babatunde’s blade missed. The Assassin was forced to submit to the man’s superior strength, stumbling backwards, but not enough.

Shay rammed into him, thrusting his dagger into his gut.

Babatunde gasped in agony. He gripped Shay’s shoulders to steady himself, but it was useless. The Assassin Hunter ripped the blade back out, a thick stream of blood following. The Assassin tried to cling on, but the Templar pushed him away. Shay couldn’t decide to be surprised by his

own strength or Babatunde was that weak as the young man violently crashed onto the ground, landing on all fours in a twisted heap.

Shay watched solemnly as the Assassin hiccupped and coughed, like a fish out of water. His dark hand covered his stomach, but that didn’t lessen the blood flow that gushed from his deep wound. Scarlet liquid seeped from his mouth. Shay blinked as suddenly Babatunde made a strange sound. It took the Irishman a moment to realize it was a humorless chuckle.

“So you… truly are… a legend,” Babatunde breathed. “Thank you, Shay. Now I know my father was not killed by… ‘Irish luck.’”

“I make my own luck,” Shay growled darkly, annoyed that was all people thought of his heritage.

Another strange laugh. “So I see…”

Shay took pity on him by kneeling to his level. He kept his eyes and tone cold and dark, even though the state the Assassin was in was pathetic.

“I ask again: Where. Is. Selah?” the Templar demanded.

Despite the life was steadily draining from him, Babatunde’s eyes still gleamed. “You care for her that much?”

“I do.”

Babatunde smiled, flashing his teeth. It was interrupted by another coughing fit, ending with a heave as he collected enough breath to speak. “Very well, then. Ngh. C-Cacicaná took her to village. You will find her there.”

“Thank you.”

Shay stood and meant to allow the Assassin some dignity in his final moments, but Babatunde’s strained voice stopped him.

“I am told… you search for the Manuscript’s Box,” he heaved.

Shay couldn’t help but glance down at the man in interest. He was silent as the warrior gave another stuttering breath.

“The Box was sent to the French Brotherhood. A man named—hgh—Charles Dorian will have it.”

“…Why tell me this?”

Babatunde rolled on his back, either in excruciating pain or his body failing him. Shay applauded him for lasting so long and to remain strong. However, his strike was clumsy and imprecise, and a bleeding stomach was a slow death. The Templar was tempted to end the Assassin’s misery properly, but allowed him his final words.

“My mother… died in an earthquake that ravaged the island of Haiti,” Babatunde explained, momentarily interrupted a coughing fit.

Shay immediately understood. The Earthquake of Haiti… Another case of the Manuscript’s work. If only the Assassins knew then…

“Tell me… is it true… of the Artifact’s power?” the Assassin demanded.

“Yes.”

Babatunde’s eyes darkened with understanding. “Then do not let another die. Take your Selah. Take your Piece of Eden.” The Assassin looked to the sky, seeing something Shay could never see. “Father… I have failed you. Forgive me, Adéwalé.”

A last, long, shuttering breath filled the air, and the life slipped away from Babatunde Josèphe. Shay’s cold mask broke to a solemn, remorseful look.

“Forgive me, Adéwalé,” the Templar echoed, remembering all too well of that fateful day.

Not only had he killed the Master Assassin, but he had killed his son as well. He had ended a legacy. Shay half-wondered if there was a special place in hell for bastards like him. He closed his eyes. He remembered Adéwalé’s words. It did not matter. Shay would go there proudly, knowing he had done right. He did not fear death, and he did not fear the Pits of Hell.

The Assassin Hunter looked down on Babatunde’s body. The young Assassin’s eyes were glazed as he stared into the sky above. Shay was never one to pray, even as Achilles had lectured him giving final words to the decease, to wish their soul peace. He especially lost all faith in that aspect after the Disaster of Lisbon. However, an Irish prayer the man’s father had taught him rung in his mind. Shay was tempted, but as he moved to bend down again, he stopped. Even if it was a kind gesture, he doubted he, a traitor and a murderer, had a right to make it.

Closing his eyes for a moment, Shay prepared to move away. Although he never did.

Without warning, a sharp pain came from his neck, quickly spreading across his body like a sudden heat. Shay gasped, but all his breath was stolen from him as the pain was replaced by numbness. The man tried to stay on his feet, but his unfeeling legs gave out beneath them. Shay crumbled to the ground, landing on the sand face first. The Templar desperately tried to move, only to feel his joints locking in place and his muscles stiffening.

“So this is how the Assassin Hunter falls!” a voice called.

Shay quickly recognized another rich voice of the Caribbean, but this one was distinctly female. He heard the scuffle of sand as light footsteps neared him. The Irishman let out a strained groan and poured all his energy into his paralyzed limbs. He was able to awkwardly roll over onto his back, allowing him to see his attacker.

Like he thought, it was a female, barely half his size. She was also a Maroon, with dark, glistening skin. The woman wore a loose, thin tunic, large enough she had to fold it at her wrists. A long, blue skirt flowed across her legs, blowing in the light wind. Her many braids were tied back in a bun resting on her head. Her dark eyes were filled with detest and thirst for blood. But Shay wasn’t paying attention to any of that.

He paid attention to the curved knife in her hand, glinting in the sunlight.

Pointed towards him.

“Now you die, Assassin Hunter!”


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