The voodoo Assassin neared Shay in predatory strides. Her gleaming blade looked too much like a fang, eager to dig into his throat. Shay could feel the adrenaline in his veins and tried to obey its orders to move, only for his muscles to twitch in minor convulsions. Paralyzed, all the Templar could do was writhe pathetically with frustrated hisses and growls. He glared at the Assassin, showing he wouldn’t express his helplessness.
The woman didn’t care, coming closer with a growing maniacal look. Shay gritted his teeth as he tried to move his arm. He knew his fingertips were touching a pistol. If he could just summon enough energy to draw and fire…
The sound almost deafened Shay’s sensitive hearing and he would have started if he wasn’t paralyzed. He watched with shock and disbelief as the woman’s face fell with death. She stood upright like a statue, staying there for a moment until gravity finally forced the corpse to collapse onto the ground. Shay just stared and almost believed he had fired without even realizing it. A quick glance showed his flintlock was still holstered. How…?
A bellowing laugh was his answer.
“Shay Cormac! I thought I heard a familiar voice!” a deep, accented voice exclaimed.
Shay couldn’t believe his ears. That couldn’t be… Neck painfully stiff, Shay glanced towards the jungle at an awkward angle. There he saw a large figure, almost as large as him. Larger, if one judged by muscles. It was a Maroon, skin as dark as chocolate. Or what was left of it. Ragged scars of all shapes and sizes lay all across his skin, result of years of slavery and pirating. Not to mention his brutal fighting style. One could easily see his scars, as his tunic barely fit him with his gigantic physique. Hell, if even tore in the center, looking more like an unfitted vest. The intimidating look he wore would have sent many running for their lives, but for Shay it filled him with relief.
“Kumi!” he gasped.
“It has been a long time,” the pirate, Kumi Berko, laughed as he re-holstered his pistol. He gave the pathetic Templar a single glance. “You look pitiful.”
Shay didn’t know to smile in embarrassment or amusement. His fine clothes were shredded and stained with blood—both his and Babatunde’s. That was multiplied by the fact he was a twitching mess on the sandy ground, almost looking like a meal for a passing scavenger. Yes, pitiful indeed…
“Ngh. Help me up, will you?” Shay demanded.
Kumi merely shrugged before crossing over to him. The Irishman couldn’t help but be amazed by how strong his old friend had become. He was fearsomely strong before, but now Shay felt like his arm was being pulled from his socket as Kumi yanked him up single-handedly. The Templar could only make a strange growl of his discomfort as the Maroon forced him to straighten and threw the Irishman’s arm over his shoulders. Unable to stand, Shay could only lean on him heavily, which only added to his embarrassment. Kumi didn’t seem to mind, holding his weight easily. The pirate glanced down at Babatunde’s body, which was in much poorer shape than Shay.
“So I see you are still getting yourself in scrapes,” he chuckled.
“We just had a disagreement,” Shay muttered. The Templar paused, looking at the body of the woman Assassin. “You saved my life. I owe you.”
Kumi followed his gaze, but to Shay’s surprise, his expression immediately went solemn. It took the Templar several moments to realize it was sadness, which shocked him even more. Kumi was never one of sentimentalism. But the look he wore now, Shay knew all too well.
“Her name was Dominique Jean,” the pirate explained in a low tone. “I loved her, once.”
Shay’s heart swelled with empathy. Oh, he knew all too well. He shoved the image of Hope’s bleeding body out of his mind.
“I’m sorry, my friend,” the Irishman murmured.
Kumi only shook his head. “It could not be helped. After all, someone had to save your arse, eh?”
Shay only smiled, despite the situation. He allowed Kumi to support him as the man turned around and traveled further down the beach. It was painstakingly slow pace, the Maroon half-carrying, half-dragging Shay as the paralyzed man could only half-stumble and half-hop. And that was only when his muscles decided to obey his command. They had only gone a matter of feet before the Templar was a panting mess, forcing Kumi to pause to allow him to catch his breath. The pirate spared him of pity by trying chitchat instead of concern.
“So what brings you to the West Indies, my friend?” he asked curiously. “Have you followed your father as a merchant?”
Shay gave an amused snort as he gave a final pant. “No. I’ve taken to privateering.”
Kumi’s snort was more of disgust. “Bah. Don’t tell me you follow orders of decadent fools.”
“Then I won’t tell you.”
Kumi made another snort, but showed no sign of further annoyance. That didn’t stop him from expressing his own opinion, though. “I rather enjoy my life of my own destiny. My ship will sail with the wind, not tied to some fleet of Spaniards.”
Shay stopped at that. “What makes you say that?”
“My crew and I spotted a fleet of galleons on our way here. There were a couple British ships with them, too.” Kumi noticed the man’s interested look. “Friends of yours?”
Shay kept a controlled look, but he was inwardly cursing furiously. That was Ojeda’s fleet! He didn’t expect them to find the Assassins’ location so quickly! The Templar gritted his teeth. Selah!
He tried to rush forward, only to awkwardly stumble and for Kumi to hold him upright. Shay cursed. There was no way he could continue the mission like this. He couldn’t even walk! Going to the Assassins now was like serving himself on a silver platter. But if he didn’t find Selah…
“Are you alright, old friend?” Kumi’s voice suddenly came, the pirate finally noticing Shay’s growing stress.
Immediately his voice gave the Assassin Hunter a brilliant idea. Bloody foolish, but brilliant.
“Kumi… can you do me a favor?”
Cacicaná smiled as he clasped his fingers around Selah’s.
“Now you see, my sister,” he purred.
“Yes, Mentor,” Selah chimed, her thoughts still swimming aimlessly.
She allowed the Assassin to usher her further into the village, following on his heels.
“The Assassin Brotherhood has existed long before you colonists’ history,” Cacicaná continued. “It is older than even my people. It has lived. It has thrived. It has been standing in plain sight. However, our Brotherhood has been reborn many times. One of which was with the Mentor Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad. Another by Ezio Auditore. Achilles Davenport attempted his own, but failed. And so it falls upon us. We must destroy the Templars once and for all. Retake the land they stole from us. We will then stretch our influence across all of the New World until the Templars can do nothing but cower in fear.”
Selah blinked slowly. “You speak of conquering America…”
“No. Liberating it. The people have been blinded—they must see the truth.”
The girl narrowed her eyes. It was still hard for her to think clearly. Everything went by in a blur. But that didn’t stop a horrible feeling from controlling her. Something was wrong. Why was she here? What was she doing? Selah was ripped from her thoughts as the Mentor went on.
“My teacher was the Mentor before me, François Mackandal,” he explained. “He was not pleased with Achilles’s Brotherhood. He hid his Assassins behind too many minions and he was too hesitant in his actions. He did not confront the Templars, even as they killed his men.”
Selah felt the comings of the headache. That was not how she remembered it. “The Assassins do not reveal themselves,” she said slowly. “We stay to the shadows and kill our enemies in silence.”
Cacicaná huffed. “You see where that resulted. We must be reminded of the true ways of our Creed. And that is eliminating our enemies… no matter the cost.”
Selah glanced at the missing finger on his left hand. “The Brotherhood no longer needs the sacrifice of a finger.”
Cacicaná glanced down at where she was staring. “But we must, if we are to prove our faith and loyalty. It is why we are stronger than the Templars. A ring can be shed at any moment. A sacrifice cannot be replaced.” The Mentor paused for moment as he glanced at Selah. “Much like faith.”
Selah glanced down, her headache and discomfort growing. Here we seek to reveal danger of blind faith, yet we are practitioners ourselves. Selah started. That was the first complete thought she had. Suddenly the strange colors of the jungle were replaced by wood and the foreign aroma smelled like salt. The image disappeared as quickly as it came. But Selah clearly remember what it was. The Morrigan! Sh-Shay! Suddenly her train of thought was broken before she could hold on to it.
“You have completed the first phrase of your indoctrination,” Cacicaná’s voice came. “Speaking with your demons and banishing them from your mind. Now we will finish the rest, and you will be one of us again.”
Here we seek to open the minds of men, but require obedience to a master and a set of rules. Selah’s body stiffened. She shut her eyes as suddenly the clashing of steel echoed in her ears, along with a voice of authority sounding. Selah opened her eyes to see a stone color of another’s, even though she wanted to rip them out as their owner mocked her creed. Haytham…
The teenager barely noticed that she was now ascending a stone staircase. It led to a large clearing, completely circular with Taíno buildings surrounding it. The heart of the village. Loose, dark soil covered the ground, but did not stir beneath the Assassins’ footsteps. The sky lay above them; the bright, white sun burning down to cook the earth. But the clearing was not completely barren.
A large pile of dried lumber lay in the center, most likely for bonfire uses. The sticks leaned against each other to form a short, triangular tower. A group of Assassins gathered before it, majority of them being Masters and the others being half-naked Taíno. But Selah noticed a figure that was neither. They were dressed in an overcoat of a yellowish-tint. Or whatever was left of it.
His clothes were in tatters, his coat hanging off one shoulder, exposing a smeared waistcoat over a ripped shirt. His once combed hair was messy and mangy, several strands hanging in air and plastered to his face. Dried blood and mud colored his face as well. Fear gleamed in his dark eyes as they darted across his surroundings constantly. The man shivered madly in place, easily seen by the movement in his shoulders and the slight chattering of his teeth. He was on his knees and slumped miserably, his arms bound tightly behind his back.
Selah blinked as she noticed he was one of the conquistadorsfrom the patrol. What was he doing here? The girl was too confused so she just followed Cacicaná as they neared the strange group. Not surprisingly, the Assassins dipped their heads deeply in their presence of their leader, but the Mentor did not seem to notice. Instead, he continued to speak with Selah.
“Now you prove your commitment to our Brotherhood.”
He turned to the girl. Selah’s eyes widened when she saw a jabbed stone dagger in his hand, the blade tied to the wooden hilt. He gently held out the knife to her, as if offering it. Selah was so fixated on it she didn’t even notice the prisoner’s eyes widening and his shivers somehow increasing. She only paid attention to Cacicaná’s next words.
“Kill him and then prove your faith to the Creed. You will be welcomed as a sister.”
His words turned in Selah’s head. Her body was completely frozen as she just stared at the weapon in the Assassin’s hand. Some strange, hidden instinct was stirring at his words. Yes! This is what she wanted! This is what she had been trained for!
“You are an Assassin now, Selah…”
The girl reached out in a trance. She was transfixed she barely noticed her arm twitching as she neared the blade. Instead she felt her headache worsen as the strange instinct was violently assaulted by something Selah did not know.
“You are now a Templar.”
The teenager made a noise of discomfort and shut her eyes, but it was too late. Before she could stop herself, she snatched the hilt of the dagger from Cacicaná. The Mentor’s expression was solemn as he stepped away. Selah balanced the weapon in her hand, staring at the blade. Her palm was burning, like the wood was coated with flaming oil. Something was wrong.
Selah wanted to fall to her knees at the horrid feelings in her body. It was as if two demons had dug inside her body and now fought a war within her. Her mind spun as thoughts desperately tried to recollect itself, but fought against the two instincts that pulled it.
“Nothing is true, everything is permitted.”
“May the Father of Understanding guide us.”
Selah’s stomach knotted and churned. Her boiling blood raced through her veins and roared in her ears, accompanied by the pounding of her heart. Her skull felt as though it was split in two. The girl’s skin crawled. She ignored her discomfort as she took a step towards the terrified conquistador.
“Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent.”
“Uphold the principles of our order and for all that for which we stand.”
“Hide in plain sight, be one with the crowd.”
“Never share our secrets nor divulge the true nature of our work.”
“Never compromise the Assassin Brotherhood.”
“Do so from now until death—no matter the cost.”
Selah’s breath was stuttering and she was shivering as badly as the Spaniard. She locked with his eyes. They were full of fear and pleading desperately towards her. He was completely defenseless. He strangely reminded Selah of a lamb about to be slain. Here we seek to promote peace, but murder is our means.
Selah dropped the dagger.
Immediately tension and alarm lit up in the air like a fuse to a gunpowder keg. Cacicaná narrowed his eyes dangerously and took a step towards Selah. The teenager took several steps back from the prisoner—and from the Mentor.
“No,” she gasped, shaking her head. “This is not our way.”
“Of course it is!” Cacicaná retorted in a near roar. “We must kill our enemies!”
“We are Assassins! We do not murder! How are we meant to protect one’s freedom if we are to steal it from others?!”
“The Templars did this to you! Th—”
“They did nothing to me! I chose this for myself!” Selah turned to the Mentor, eyes blazing and body burning. “I choose to be with the Templars!”
The Assassins stiffened and leaned away from her as if she had announced she was Satan. Cacicaná was the only one that did not flinch, instead losing his composure. His black eyes burned greater than Selah’s and his bulging muscles were like one of a bull’s.
“How dare you! Traitor!”
“I am not a traitor. I am following what I believe in. It is you who betrays the Creed.”
“How dare you…”
The Templar did not dare flinch as the Assassin unsheathed his hidden blade.
“Then you leave me no choice…” he snarled.
Selah only narrowed her eyes with a cold glare, as if in challenge. Her feet buried into the soil and her soul weighed her in place. She did not care that she was defenseless and that the Assassins were shifting uneasily, disturbed at their controlled Mentor’s outburst.
Cacicaná braced as if to lunge, but he never got the chance. Suddenly several sounds of thunder filled the air, sounding loud despite they echoed in the distance. Everyone winced at the noise and tried to find its source. Before they could, panicked screams and battle cries sprung from the jungle, overwhelming the song of the creatures that had once been there. The Assassins stirred, the tension and alarm sparking even more. Even though, a heavy sense of dread planted them in place.
The conquistadors had arrived.