Selah finished her next several meals just like the first. A reluctant Templar server would present her food only for it to be gone within a matter of seconds. Each time she ate, the pain in her stomach would reside. Her heartache would lessen slightly as well. At the same time, her senses finally began to return to her and her thoughts became clearer each day.
The first she registered was the scratch of cloth on her skin. At first she thought it was clothing she wore. But noticing it was only a smooth, long-sleeved nightgown, she quickly investigated further. What she found horrified her.
Almost half her body was covered in tight bandages. She inspected the cloth on her upper left arm first, where Lee had shot her. Thankfully it was only a flesh wound, but it was deep enough to require stiches. Her search led to bandages wrapped around her raw hands, her stomach, and her lower right leg was completely encased. Whatever wasn’t covering her skin revealed dozens bruises and scrapes. When the girl lightly slid her fingers over her face, she felt the rough skin of scabs. No doubt some of them would scar.
She was really so injured? The night of the attack went by as a blur. The only thing she could remember was… Selah swallowed convulsively at the image of James’s death.
As the Assassin recovered her senses, the reality what was really happening was dawning on her. She soon learned she was in a facility called Fort George. She recognized it… it was the Templar headquarters in New York City. She was in the hands of her enemy. Why? Why was she here? Didn’t Haytham say all the Assassins were killed? They probably wanted her as a trophy… Just thinking if that was the case made Selah wish she had died along with her brothers.
But such a thought made her remember her first days here. It was almost as blurry as the battle, but she remembered enough. She almost did die. All because the teenager had been sulking about her misfortune. Some Assassin she was. James would be ashamed of her…
If it wasn’t for Haytham…
The Grandmaster hadn’t returned since he visited her. Every time the door opened, she half-expected it to be him, only for it to be some Templar recruit. For some reason a strange feeling resonated each time. Disappointment? No, that couldn’t be right. He was the head of her enemy. He had been that cause for her suffering. Still, the light touches he had gave her sent tingles across her skin. It wasn’t anything sexual, she was assured, but it continued to burn through her mind.
The teenaged girl was resting soundly now, eyes closed as her thoughts drifted aimlessly. There was nothing better to do… Her body was still weak, anyway. The clicking of a door interrupted her temporary peace, making her open her eyes. Probably a server returning with more food. She looked up, only to see it wasn’t a server at all.
The Grandmaster immediately noticed her peering at him.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked as he closed the door behind him.
Selah wondered what she should say. Deciding lying wouldn’t do anything, she said simply, “Yes.”
“That’s good to hear.”
She expected him to stand by the bed as he had before, but was both surprised and horrified when he carefully sat on the edge of the bed by her feet. Her body involuntarily stiffened at his closeness. She certainly wasn’t like this before…
But with her vision clearer and several lanterns lighting the room, she was able to see details she had missed before. He had dark brown hair tied back with a neat, blood-red ribbon. But even from here Selah could see several strands of gray, signifying his growing age. However the Templar’s face still seemed young, perfectly flawless and masculine with well-tanned skin. Only the crow’s feet by his stormy stone-gray eyes betrayed his age.
Those eyes stared at her as he analyzed her himself. He knew she was clearer than she was before. Her behavior would certainly be different. Haytham was silent for a few moments before he said softly, as if he was careful of his words, “I know all of this is difficult for you…”
“Why am I here?” Selah interrupted. Her voice was stronger. Before it was barely a whisper.
“You are too young to be concern yourself with politics that work above you. Especially when it expects you to cost your life in battle.”
Selah’s chest flared. He was questioning her age?! Just how young was she to him? Instead of challenging of him, she went on to her next demand, but made sure to add more venom to it. “What do you want with me?”
Haytham shifted. He could see the defiance building in her eyes. He had to be careful. Last time his bluntness almost cost her life. But he wasn’t the type to beat around the bush. Never mind feign unnecessary affection.
“Your improved health, to start with, my dear,” he tried. Her look said she wasn’t concerned. He went on with his true opinion. “Despite your age, it would be a shame for your talents to go to waste.” Selah narrowed her eyes. “And you can still be saved from your ignorance…”
“I won’t join the Templars!”
Haytham started from the outburst. Now the Assassin apprentice glared at him with fury. So much for being careful… He honestly didn’t expect her to realize his intentions so quickly. How intelligent she was…
No choice. He had to be direct now. “I’m afraid you don’t have a choice, dearest. We did save your life, after all.”
“And took the lives of many others. Why should I be grateful?” Selah spat.
Haytham smirked. “Because if you wanted to die, you wouldn’t have run off.”
Immediately Selah paled. Now the night was coming back to her. She had been confused, unfocused… terrified. She thought she was being wise when she left James. But when in fact it was she had left her brothers and sisters to die. She could’ve helped them. But no. She ran away like a coward. She deserted.
The girl looked away from Haytham, but to her disappointment he went on like he read her thoughts.
“Don’t blame yourself,” he sighed. “What you did was natural. Anyone would’ve done the same.”
Selah slightly bared her fangs. She wasn’t just anyone. She was an Assassin. Haytham noticed the reaction and went on.
“What would you have gained if you died that night?” he questioned. “At least now you have a chance to live.”
“As your slave.”
Haytham’s eyes widened and his eyebrows rose, like he was genuinely surprised. “What in the world would make you say that?”
Selah narrowed her eyes. Was he that stupid? Or was he actually trying to play innocent? Some Grandmaster he was…
“Because that’s what all you Templars do,” the Assassin accused. “You bend those to your ways and you kill those who disagree.”
Now the Templar’s mouth was opening. He certainly wasn’t expecting this… “I assure you, my dear, that is not the case.”
“Why keep me, then?”
“Stop calling me that!”
Haytham blinked, but finally recovered from his shock. He almost seemed to shrug. “I will, once you tell me your name.”
It was Selah’s turn to blink and her mind flinched. However instead of looking him in the eye, she looked away, pouting. He was trying to recruit her in into the Templar Order, and he didn’t even know her name? The nerve he had…
The girl heard the ruffle of clothing as he shifted closer. Even though he was several inches away, Selah still felt the soft breeze of his breathing on her neck.
“I am not the enemy…” he promised in a low voice.
“I beg to differ, Grandmaster,” the Assassin hissed.
Finally the man let out a heavy sigh. For some odd reason that pleased the teenager, knowing she had finally broken his unwavering demeanor. Her lips almost twitched in a smirk.
“It is only natural for you to be weary of us. Especially after what you been through.”
Selah glanced at him without moving her head. This time he was looking away, his face a mask of stone. He almost looked disappointed. What? Did he really think converting her would be so easy? The Assassin looked back to her interesting spot on the wall.
Haytham sighed again as he lifted himself off the bed. “I suppose I’ll let you get back to your rest, then. But a change of setting might do you some good.” Selah felt his eyes rake over her as he observed the nightgown she was in. “I might as well get you some proper clothing, too.”
Once again the Grandmaster disappeared from the room.
Selah gnawed the inside of her cheek. For the first time in days, of what she estimated was almost a week, she was standing on her own. She found it a strange sensation. Once again her instincts disliked the change, causing her legs to be tired and wobbly. At the same time, they were strong with stiffness, as they refused the very idea of sitting ever again. But her legs were not the cause of her discomfort. The girl stared blankly at the neatly folded clothes sitting on the chair in front of her. The clothes Haytham promised.
She knew she was being childish. Like a toddler being picky of clothing when they didn’t even know what they liked or disliked. She didn’t want to near it, to the point she wanted to throw it away. She couldn’t help it. It was a gift given to her by Templars. She wanted nothing to with them. But, then again, Selah was forced to realize the nightgown she wore was from her captors. And it would be nice to have a change of clothes.
So with a great weighty sigh, she began switched her attire. She just had to be grateful they gave her the comfortable clothing of trousers and a coat, instead of some dainty dress women were “expected” to wear. She first pulled on the leather-like dark brown trousers. They were loose, but thankfully not baggy. The teenager slipped tall boots that came to her calf over them, quickly strapping the many buckles up its side. She then tried the tedious task of buttoning her light-tan undershirt, followed by a brown jacket with hints of red.
Selah began gnawing again as she carefully folded the cuff of the tan shirt over the jacket. The cuff split, having a slash of red show. Even though, the Assassin couldn’t help but relate the outfit similar to the mercenaries… The men who killed her loved ones for pleasure. The girl found herself wanting to cry again. Here she was, at the mercy of her enemy, wearing their uniform.
She was so distracted with her thoughts she didn’t hear the door opening and closing.
“Ah, much better,” Haytham purred.
Selah bit harder. She changed her mind about expecting him; now all she wanted was for him to go away. Still, she refused to react as he neared her, close enough he was practically over her shoulder. The teenager reluctantly turned around, allowing the man to inspect her. She didn’t move her tense muscles as he nonchalantly adjusted her collar and jacket. Her skin tingled again when his fingers brushed lightly against her neck.
“That should suffice,” he decided. He was already turning around. “Come along, dear.”
Selah’s stomach boiled. He added that “dear” on purpose.
The Assassin found herself walking the streets of the military district of Fort George in a matter of minutes later. She found the facility quite more complex than she first thought. An outer wall armed with state-of-the-art fortifications guarded a sector just for military officials. However it could be overlooked as a closed-off village, the district being packed with large buildings that passed as houses and apartments. She even spotted a couple of civilians and town criers. But the population was mostly made of the red coats of British soldiers and the plain uniforms of the Templars. Did they even notice the other’s existence?
But true heart of the fort—and the Templar Order—was within the second wall of the complex. Protected by thicker, taller barriers were several large buildings, almost passing as small manors. They were the private buildings of the Templars for the specific use of their headquarters.
Selah shuddered as she thought she would have to return there in just a few minutes. Every two seconds the urge to make a run for it would dominate her mind. But the flash of soldiers kept her in place. The Assassin estimated she would make it ten feet before being tackled by half an army. And then there was the looming presence over her shoulder…
Haytham Kenway walked beside her, arms tucked behind his back and scanning his surroundings like he was on daily stroll. They had walked in complete silence, not even uttering a word. Selah didn’t know what to make of him. Now she disliked being this close him and his powerful presence loomed over her like a storm cloud, but she was grateful he egged her on. Because of lack of use, her body was shaky and quickly fading, but being so aware of another’s gaze, she kept herself strong and continued to walk straight. Last thing she needed was to fall onto the street alone and go through the humiliation of praying for some half-sober soldier to come find a damsel in men’s clothes.
“Just to inform you,” Haytham’s voice interrupted her over-imagination. “I’m leaving tomorrow for business. I’ll be gone for a few days.”
Any you’re telling me why? Selah wondered. Nonetheless a glint appeared in her eyes. Haytham noticed.
“Don’t get any ideas.” His voice and gaze was stern. “I’ll have my men keep an eye on you. I’ll lend you the freedom of walking on your own, but you are not to leave the premises.”
Selah chuckled darkly. “A Templar giving freedom. That’s a new one.”
“What gives you that impression?”
“I already told you: all you care of is bending minds to your will. Isn’t that why you are keeping me?”
“That is not what the Templars strive for.”
“What is, then?”
“Purpose. Order. Direction. No more than that.” How he waved his hands and talked matter-of-factly made Selah nauseous. But his next words would make her blood boil. “It’s your lot that wishes to confound with your nonsense talk of freedom. Time was, the Assassins owned a far more sensible goal: that of peace.”
“Freedom is peace!” Selah’s voice raised, outraged he dared twist the words of their creed.
“No, it’s an invitation to chaos,” Haytham argued. “I believe you have enough evidence of that.”
The apprentice winced at the darkness in his tone and what it implied. Still, she still had enough anger in her veins to make her snarl. She was just about to give a rude retort when suddenly she saw a flash of light on his arm. The girl stopped short as her sharp gaze analyzed it. What she saw made her burning blood freeze.
On his bracer was a small piece of metal; rusted but still shiny. It was curved in a shape that resembled a sharp hood. The insignia of the Assassin Brotherhood.
Selah didn’t have to look at Haytham to know he had followed her gaze and was smirking. The Assassin couldn’t stop her words.
“Y-you were an Assassin?” she gasped.
Haytham gave an amused snort. “Yes and no. If you asked if I served the Brotherhood, then no, I haven’t.”
Selah’s head still swirled. Yes and no? What was that supposed to mean? The answer came to the forefront of her mind, ripped from the knowledge of her memories.
“You… were born to an Assassin.”
The Grandmaster nodded. “Yes. My father, in fact. He even planned to indoctrinate me into the Order. But, I found the Templars much more suitable.”
The Assassin couldn’t suppress her shiver. If that was true, it explained why he knew so much of the Brotherhood. Was he a traitor, then? No, according to him, he was never an official Assassin. But what in the world would make him choose the Templars over his own family?
Haytham glanced at her and said in a lower voice, breaking her thoughts, “You and I are not that different. You’ll come to understand us some day.”
The latter allowed anger to disperse some of her shock, causing Selah to growl, “I won’t.”
Finally Haytham gave a real shrug. “No matter. You wouldn’t be the first stubborn woman I’ve dealt with.”
Selah blinked. Eh? Although it didn’t matter as silence consumed them, Selah reviewing what she had just been told and Haytham acting like nothing ever happened. But the girl was soon finding ways to push his words out her mind. She rather die than take the words of the Templars to heart. The Grandmaster interrupted her process as he spoke up again.
“So, how did someone of your age become involved with the Assassins?”
Selah suppressed rolling her eyes. There was that age thing. He made it sound like she was twelve years old. She was small, but she knew looked older than that. She was sixteen, for God’s sake! Hell, there were pregnant women the same age as her.
“None of your concern,” Selah muttered.
“Come now,” the Templar persisted. “That can’t bring any harm, can it?”
Selah glanced at him but said nothing. Haytham seemed to notice the attempt at conversation had died. He persisted, nonetheless.
“I wish you’d trust us…” he sighed.
“Trust you?” the girl gasped. She halted and spun on him, the man copying her movements. She raised her voice as she pointed an accusing finger at him. “You slaughtered dozens of men and women who fought what they believed in. Destroyed families and ruined the lives of many more. And I bet you can’t even recall any of their names.”
“Of course I can,” Haytham argued calmly. “John O’Brien, Edwin Jones, Caleb Garret, Alice Mayflower… James Crawford.”
Selah visibly flinched at the mention of her teacher’s name. Haytham noticed and his face softened.
“Is that someone you know?”
“No.” She turned away, lump in her throat. A hand appeared on her shoulder.
“He died on the night, didn’t he?” Haytham whispered.
Selah swallowed. “It may have been another man’s blade, but you were the master.” She swatted his hand away and rounded on him. “And I will never forgive you.”