Crossed Eagle

Chapter 5

Blood. All Selah saw was blood. The ringing of a streak of metal struck her hearing before seeing a flash of red and a wet, warm liquid splashed onto her. The girl screamed in surprise, jumping away and glancing at her Assassin robes. The white cloth was red. She screamed again.

When she looked back up, she was met with a scarlet wall of fire. The intense heat was burning through her clothing and scorched her skin, like she had been placed in a baking oven. The flames’ thundering was quiet compared to the sound that accompanied them. Selah covered her ears at the high-pitched screams of men and women, like the blaze was burning them alive. She swore she could hear a couple of them begging for help.

“Selah! SELAH!” James screamed.

“James!”

Suddenly he was before her. His eyes were glazed and lifeless and his mouth was cracked, like he tried to say a final word but failed. The Master Assassin’s body completely covered in blood, more so than his actual death. The liquid poured from the gash on his chest and his neck was completely split open. But it wasn’t from an axe. It was more like a sword.

Selah was crying hysterically over her teacher’s corpse, but mad laughter covered her sobs. She was cut short as something poured into her mouth, making her choke. She spat out the residue, gagging on the metallic taste.

Suddenly James’s body was gone and Selah was suspended in liquid. She tried to swim through the water, but it was thick, sticky. Blood. The Assassin tried to keep herself aloft by flailing her limbs, but the blood was quickly rising with a deafening roar, so thick it restricted her movements. In a matter of seconds, she choked on mouthfuls that spilled into her mouth, the vile taste of iron cloaking her tongue. She was literally drowning in blood. Selah let out a bloodcurdling scream.


“Wake up, girl! FOR GOD’S SAKE, WAKE UP!”

Selah screamed as she was jolted awake. She shot up from the bed, slamming into Haytham’s chest. The man immediately wrapped his arms around her, lowering his voice to a low whisper from his previous bellow.

“It’s alright, it’s alright,” he coaxed. “You’re safe now.”

The girl was still flailing. She ripped away from his hold.

Get away from me!” she wailed in a high-pitched screech.

She scrambled away from him, but due to the bedclothes wrapped around her, she didn’t get very far. Selah’s chest was heaving and her look was wild. Adrenaline coursed through her veins and blood roared in her ears. The dream was still vivid in her mind, her vision covered with red and laughter still echoing in her ear. Haytham’s laughter. He had killed James.

The Grandmaster sat on the edge her bed, hands raised in a sign of peace. His eyes were wide with surprise, but still showed concern.
“It’s alright,” he repeated softly. “I’m not going to hurt you.”

“Stay away from me…” Selah whined, shifting further away.

Little did she know the Templar was stubborn, and she made enough room for him on the bed. Haytham quickly sat next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. The girl tried to flinch away, but now the adrenaline was dying, making her body stiff.

The man hushed her soothingly. “It was just a nightmare,” he whispered. “Nothing’s going to happen to you.”

Selah still panted and her mind was a blur. The dream was so real… Everything burned into her senses like it had been reality. She looked down to her tawny nightgown and stared at her hands, imagining the blood that had been there.

“There was…” she tried, but her voice only cracked.

Haytham hushed her again. He pulled his arm, forcing her body towards him. The girl’s face fell onto his chest and a fist clamped on his heart, gripping onto his clothing. Selah was shivering as cold sweat covered her frigid skin. She tried to pull away, but then felt the warmth radiating from Haytham’s body. Selah sighed as she pressed her body closer, her dulled senses detecting the coziness from him. Seeing she was stilling, Haytham snatched the bed sheets and pulled them over her, some draping over his own legs.

Selah kept her eyes half-open, fearful of sleep and what was happening, but drowsiness and a strange sense of content were lulling her to unconsciousness. Suddenly she felt Haytham’s light fingers starting to brush against her back. At first the girl stiffened, but her body quickly relaxed to the rhythmic motion. Her eyelids lowered.

“Selah…” she whispered.

“Hmm?”

“Selah. My name is Selah.”

Haytham was silent as she snuggled closer to his chest. She already felt exhaustion seeping in.

“Sleep well, Selah…” Haytham whispered.

The girl closed her eyes. For the first time since the night of the attack, Selah felt safe.


Selah twitched her fingers across the bed. The young girl opened her eyes with a sleepy murmur, only to see an empty bed before her. She blinked, already knowing something was off. She stared with half-closed eyes, trying to regain her senses. Then she remembered last night…

Haytham. She had practically fell asleep on top of him. After…

Selah shivered as her horrific nightmare flickered across her vision. She had relived the attack and more in just a matter of seconds. Although the dream felt like an eternity, and considering the panicked look on Haytham, she must have been screaming for a while.

But the girl stared blankly at the mattress, recognizing it was empty when there was supposed to be a body there. Had she dreamed it? The nightmare was real enough. Couldn’t she have hallucinated Haytham as well? No… something was different. He had been too real. But her thoughts weren’t rational. Her stomach knotted in sickness when she thought of the Templars, be he had been… comforting. Secure.

Selah couldn’t help but remember the nights in the Assassin village when she had been disturbed by dreams or after a long day of training, she had fallen asleep by James’s side much like last night. No. Haytham was not James. Selah decided it was treason to make such a comparison.

But Haytham had come to her last night. Where was he now? Finally the girl remembered he was leaving today for “business.” If he was gone it must have meant he had already left. Then she recalled what else he had said. She would have the freedom to walk around. What? Did that mean she could do whatever she wanted?

Suddenly Selah had the urge to test it. Maybe she could learn things about the Templars. Or better yet, learn a way to escape. She quickly decided Haytham’s kindness would do little to change her opinion of the bastards.

That in mind, the young Assassin quickly changed into her new attire and neared the door. Naturally she paused in front of it. What if it was locked? Or was there some guard on the other side, waiting to pounce her? She stiffened, but immediately shook her head when she realized her imagination was overworking again. Before her nerve could fail her, she quickly snatched the doorknob and turned. Selah imagined hearing the bells of alarms as she slowly opened the door, but she was only greeted with silence. She quickly skipped into the hallway and closed the door behind her. No guard. No Templars. The gray walls were as bleak and lifeless as most military forts.

Curious to see how far she could go, Selah walked down the long corridor. She traveled a short distance without any contact, coming to a room with a single wooden table with a ring of chairs around it. The only other piece of furniture was a small bookshelf lined with books. Curiosity getting the best of her, she plucked a random book. The teenager had just opened it to a random page when a voice interrupted her.

“Well wot do you know, gurl’s finally awake.”

Selah started and whirled around to see two men entering the room. One looked to be in his late twenties or early thirties, short and stocky and a youthfulness to him. He had short pitch-black hair and dull brown eyes. His outfit was almost identical to all the Templar footmen. However the man next to him was taller and older. He had reddish-brown hair with a bushy beard, but it was short enough that it looked civilized. He wore a neatly buttoned crimson coat, but what interested Selah he wore what looked like a blanket wrapped around his shoulder. Its design suggested Native American.

“Almost thought ‘Aytham wuz makin’ you up when he said somethin’ about you,” the younger man commented. He had thick uneducated accent, which was only stronger with his poor grammar. Selah actually had to quickly translate his words. ‘Aytham. Haytham. Haytham had told him about her.

“Well do I look real to you?” she questioned. She was able to keep her voice light and challenging at the same time.

The man smirked at her spunk. “I reckon so. But ya don’t look like some deadly Assassin to me.”

Selah immediately frowned. She was about to retort, but suddenly the second man stepped in. He placed a hand on his associate’s shoulder and gently shoved him.

“I’m sure she’s deadly enough,” he said calmly. “And for your sake I wouldn’t test her.”

The young man sneered before settling in the corner of the room. The taller man however neared Selah without hesitation, holding out a hand.

“William Johnson at your service,” he introduced. He waved a hand at his associate. “That lad over there is Thomas Hickey. Don’t mind him; his bark is worse than bite.”

Selah heard a distinct huff from Hickey’s direction. Her stomach twisted. William Johnson and Thomas Hickey. Members of Haytham’s Inner Sanctum.

When Johnson noticed she wasn’t moving, he gave a shrug and retracted his hand. “I think Haytham warned us you would be a hard one.”

“Oh?” Selah narrowed her eyes. “And what else did he say of me?”

The Templar looked uncomfortable, like he wasn’t expecting her hostility. Or he didn’t want to gossip about his leader. Nonetheless, he confessed carefully, “That you were scared. Can’t blame you, really.”

Another huff from Hickey. She shot a glare at him as he spoke. “She’s an Assassin. Like a few dead men gonna change that.”

Selah’s chest flared. A few?! Johnson noticed her violent reaction, wrapping an arm around her shoulders across her chest.

“Settle down, you two,” he warned. “No point in fighting, now. Would you care for something to eat?”

The question was aimed at her. He was desperate to change the subject. Selah could feel the rage and adrenaline in her veins, directed at Hickey. But she regrettably remembered James’s teachings of choosing her battles and keeping control over her emotions. Clawing at Hickey’s face would win her nothing. Except give the ill-mannered man a better looking one.

Body ridged and still glaring at the Templar, Selah allowed Johnson to drag her away. The man excused his co-worker’s words, but the teenager didn’t really listen. He led her to a room near the building’s kitchen, where he requested a meal for them. Selah rewarded with a roasted chicken, which she ate in a controlled manner but was merry about having something over than soup and bread. Johnson gave a few attempts to speak with her like Haytham had, but the teenager either shot down his attempts or said nothing.

The meal ended when Selah had cleaned her plate and Johnson stood to leave, saying he had things to attend to. Selah didn’t care. The Templar bid her farewell and disappeared, leaving the Assassin alone. She wondered if she could continue to “investigate” the Templars or return to her room to avoid any more unwanted encounters. But she still felt energy in her legs, eager to move after being unused for so long. Selah obeyed.

She wandered aimlessly around the halls, observing every brick in the wall. Her search awarded her nothing, except bouts of shivers. The Homestead back in the village wasn’t as complex, but had a strong sense of warmth and life. No matter what time of day it was, the interior had the comforting smell of freshly-baked bread. Selah was always assured whenever she entered the manor, not only were those things, but fellow Assassins lazing around just as content as she was. In Fort George, the walls were made of bleak gray bricks that looked like they hadn’t been painted in years. A frigid draft blew through the corridors, making Selah bury into her coat. The only light was from oil lanterns and the occasional window.

Wishing for a brighter setting, the girl navigated her way to the outside. On her way there she passed several lower-ranked Templars who gave her curious glances, but she avoided eye contact. When she finally stepped outside, like before she had to squint her eyes to the sunlight until they adjusted. And like before, she noted the outside of the fort was much livelier. Already there were soldiers and civilians crisscrossing the streets, completely unaware they shared the same space as men wanting to enslave them.

Selah’s lip curled in disgust. She needed to get out of here. The Assassin quickly headed for the entrance of the outer wall, but was careful not to attract attention to herself. The doors of the fort and the arch they clung to were made of wood, with wooden spikes lining the ground threatening anyone who got too close. It was a strange contrast to the forbidding stone around them. But it was a sharper contrast that made her stop dead.

At the threshold of the fort were four regulars. They stood like statues as the faced the street outside, clutching their loaded muskets across their chests. But Selah knew their position to guard the fort was just a ruse. They were there to guard her. No doubt the soldiers would pounce on her if she got too close. Taking a step back, she peered up on top of the walls. She was greeted with the glints of bayonets and shadows of patrolling men.

Selah cursed. Haytham wasn’t jesting, after all. He wasn’t going to make simply leaving easy. No doubt her encounter with Johnson and Hickey wasn’t just a coincidence, either. The Assassin hissed. Fine. Not the first challenge she had to overcome. Certainly not the most difficult, either.

She was about to turn around to form a plan before a mocking voice stopped her.

“Well, well, looks like the pet’s off her leash.”

Selah whirled around. This time instead of two men, there were two women. And they couldn’t be much older than her. The one that happened to be closer struck out to her first. She had a thin figure and she wore her thick burnet hair down like Selah did. But what caught Selah’s eye that she wore a British uniform: fitting white trousers, a bright blood-red coat, and even a long right-handed sword clipped to her left. A black tricorne hat rested on her head, shadowing her piercing eyes that were narrowed with disdain.

The girl next to her couldn’t have been more opposite. She wore an emerald-green dress that hung tightly to her curves, but it was shorter than most, revealing some the skin of her legs. The low neck-line revealed the just amount of cleavage that it attracted the eyes of men, but didn’t show too much of her secrets. Unlike the long, bushy hair of her friend, her fiery red hair was cut short like a male’s. And her skin seemed paler than the tan color of the other girl.

This girl waved a fan before her face, obscuring it to where just her sharp eyes showed. Sharp eyes that glared at the Assassin with more disdain than Selah ever seen.

“Shouldn’t you go back to your cage, sweetie?” the redhead questioned in a far-too-cheery voice.

Selah snarled. “Excuse me?”

“She said to go back where you belong, Assassin,” the redcoat girl spoke up. “Unless you want something to ‘accidently’ happen to you.”

Selah stepped forward. “Is that a threat?”

Now the redcoat smirked. “Yes,” she said lightly.

Suddenly the girl in the dress snapped her fan closed. “I’m afraid you aren’t supposed to be here, dearie. This is a Templar fort, after all.”

Oh. These two were actually aware, after all. Templar recruits? But Selah didn’t care as she nodded towards the guarded entrance.

“Wave me past the guards,” she demanded. “And I’ll leave.”

“Ha!” the redcoat sneered. “And let you scutter all over the city? The street already has enough rats.”

Selah twitched her eyes. “Like you?”

The Assassin was pleased to see the burnet’s smirk disappear. The redhead meanwhile re-opened her fan and began nearing her, like a stalking cat inching towards a mouse.

“You know, I’ve been told Master Kenway has been keeping you awfully close,” she mused. “I wonder why that is, Eleanor.”

The redcoat, Eleanor, regained her grin. “Yes. And I heard he’s been having her locked up in a bedroom, too.”

Sickness pooled into Selah’s stomach as she caught on to what they were implying. Haytham’s visit started to become very vivid. No, he wouldn’t… She remembered her first fears that she was a trophy to the Templars. The teenager quickly shook the notion out of her head. If they wanted her, they would’ve done so. But she knew convincing the two Templars wouldn’t be easy. Though something told Selah she didn’t need to convince. That these two pests were just trying to get under her skin.

“You don’t know your Grandmaster very well, if you think he would defy a lady like that,” Selah pointed out in a purr.

“Oh! She’s a lady now, Gillian!” Eleanor laughed. The redcoat leaned forward with a sneer. “You are just a speck of dust. You and all your ilk.”

“Why else would we burn your little village?” Gillian purred. She glanced at her comrade. “It was your father who was in charge of the raid, yes, Eleanor?”

The Templar snickered. “Yes. Made sure every single Assassin was cut down and every one of their homes was burned. He did quite nice job, from what I hear. And he did tell me all about it.”

Bile rose to Selah’s throat. But she knew she couldn’t show weakness. The girl swallowed and spat with venom, “Is that what you are, then? A daddy’s little girl who plays in costume?”

Eleanor’s eyes dilated in rage as her face fell. Just as quickly, she raised a ridged hand to backhand the Assassin. Selah braced and prepared to retaliate. She never got the chance.

Just as the redcoat’s arm twitched, a black hand shot out and snatched her wrist. The Templars let out small gasps while Selah leaped back in reflex. She glanced at the source of the new limb, only for her eyes to widen.

It was a tall man cloaked in all black, his tied-back hair and dark eyes the same shade. A thin, red scar cut across his right eye. Selah had to crane her neck to look at him, but she shivered at the frown he wore and the frigid, narrowed glare he gave. But it wasn’t towards her.

“If you want to become a Templar,” the man growled to Eleanor. His voice was deep, slow. Deadly. “Then you should learn some respect.”

He had a thick Irish accent, thicker than even Haytham’s British one. But it mattered little. His voice sent chills across Selah’s skin. Apparently it did the same with the Templar girls, too, both being pale and mouths open. The man didn’t care as he tossed Eleanor’s hand down, taking a step back but continuing to leer at her. Selah swore the redcoat literally shrunk.

The silence seemed to last for an eternity before finally the dark-clad man turned away. The Assassin stared after him with her own mouth open, watching as he sauntered away without even glance over his shoulder. Gillian’s voice interrupted her.

The girl waved her fan in front of her face. “What a dreadful man.”

Eleanor sneered in agreement. “Once an Assassin, always an Assassin.”

“What?” Selah whispered as she snapped toward the newcomer again.

“Oh? Didn’t know that, did you?” the soldier questioned. “Yes. He was from your Brotherhood.”

Gillian huffed. “I don’t know what Master Kenway sees in him.”

Selah ignored them as she continued to stare, pieces of what she knew intertwining. Yes, she remembered hearing several prominent members of the Brotherhood being assassinated, rumored to be by a single man. Even a Master Assassin from the Caribbean, Adéwalé, was killed by him. And another rumor, that the Master Assassins of the Order desperately tried to hush. One discussing of a traitor who turned his back on his brothers. And Selah remembered what James had called him.

Shay Cormac. The Assassin Hunter.


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