December 3rd, 1735, London, England
The sun was high in the sky, signalling the early afternoon. The family opened the gate of their friend's household and walked up the path to the door. The light snow crunched beneath their feet and they breathed out plumes of warm breath in the cold air as they shivered.
"Guards." Jemima whispered to her husband, noting the two British uniformed soldiers that stood outside the Kenway's home. "Why are there guards?"
"I don't know." Thomas answered as his wife clutched their son's hand a little tighter. "I guess that's something we'll have to ask Mister Kenway."
They knocked on the door to the large house in Queen Anne's square and a maid answered. With a smile, she beckoned them in.
"The Kenways are expecting you." She said.
"Thank you." Jemima replied as the maid led them into the decadent house, much nobler than their humble home in Oxfordshire.
Due to the distance, it was rare that they could visit the Kenways but they made the effort as often as they could. Edward Kenway, the man of the house, was a good friend to Thomas and Jemima and his son, Haytham, was a lonely little boy and his only friend appeared to be their son, Edward Young.
"Thomas! Jemima!" Edward Kenway stood as the three reached the living room.
"It's good to see you, Edward." Thomas grinned as they embraced.
"It's been too long. Jemima, you look as beautiful as ever." Edward gave a sly grin as he respectfully kissed her hand.
"Thank you, as does your wife." Jemima averted her attention to the woman beside Kenway. "Tessa, you look lovely."
"Thank you, dear, so do you." The two women kissed each cheek, giving each other a delicate smile.
"And my, hasn't little Edward grown!" Tessa Kenway exclaimed as she noticed the twelve year old boy standing behind his father.
"I could say the same to Haytham!" Jemima clapped her hands at the sight of the Kenway's son. "And it must be your tenth birthday tomorrow, yes?"
The young boy nodded.
"Turning into a strong, noble man, I see." Thomas grinned.
"Yes, takes after his father." Kenway nodded.
"But where is Jenny? I thought she'd be here?" Jemima noted the absence of Edward's daughter.
"Ah, she'll be around. Probably with Reginald." Tessa waved it off.
"Reginald?" Jemima raised an eyebrow.
"Reginald is Jenny's man-friend, they're courting!" Haytham giggled.
"Thank you, Haytham." Kenway smiled. "Now, why don't you and Edward run along and play, yes?"
"Yes, father." Haytham nodded.
"Don't get into too much mischief." Thomas told his son before the two boys scampered away.
The adults sat down for tea, to talk about various adult things, to close the gap of their time spent apart and most probably, the arrangements for the following day to celebrate Haytham's birthday. Meanwhile, the boys ran into the games room to do their own catching up, as though no time had come between them.
"Why are there guards posted to your door?" Edward asked, looking out the window at the way he came in.
"Reginald and Father had a... Disagreement." Haytham said as he rummaged through a box of toys.
"What about?" Edward further questioned as he watched the guards below, decorated in the noble British uniform as they stood transfixed.
"I don't know. But he said something to me as he left."
"Reginald. He said 'I tried to warn him.'"
"Tried to warn him about what? Is your father in trouble?"
"I don't know." He repeated.
A silence flooded in and both boys were given a brief moment to ponder this, but any slight worry that had clung to them, fell away as Haytham spoke.
"Reginald wants to help with my training. He knows how to fight, just like father."
"It's good to have two teachers instead of one." Edward smiled. From a young age, both his mother and father had taught him how to fight. "Does he know about the secret compartment?"
"Yes." Haytham nodded. "He may as well. I trust him."
Edward shrugged and approached his friend. Haytham grunted as he struggled to find the button but gave a small victorious cry as it clicked and a panel gave way. Inside the secret drawer were weapons, hidden from his mother, sister, everyone but his father, Reginald Birch, and his best friend, Edward. They each took a sword from it before closing it up again.
"Enguard!" Haytham grinned and stood in a fighting stance.
Edward returned the grin and struck his blade before Haytham parried and went for a lunge. Edward jumped back, height and experience on his side. The two fought on and they were evenly enough matched, although it was Edward that appeared to be winning.
As the light began to disappear and the room became dimmer, they were called from the other room.
"Haytham! Edward! It's time to go to bed!" Tessa called.
"Aww, can't we stay up a little longer?" Haytham called back in protest.
"You can, but then your birthday will not come as fast."
"Fine! Can we sleep in the games room?"
"If you like, I'll have Edith bring you two some blankets and pillows. Edward, did you bring pyjamas?"
"Yes, Mrs Kenway!" Edward called.
"Good boy. Haytham, go fetch yours and I'll bring you two some hot milk in a moment."
"Thank you, Mother!"
"Thank you, Mrs Kenway!"
The two boys lay on the games room floor, made comfortable enough by excessive sheets, blankets and pillows that the maid had brought them. Lights from down the hall indicated that their parents were still awake, although the lights in their own room had to be extinguished as they were meant to be asleep.
"I'm glad you're here, Edward." Haytham said as he pushed his empty cup to the side.
"So am I. You need to have a friend to celebrate your tenth birthday with. It's an important age."
"But twelve is even better. You're so much older and you know so much more."
Edward smiled. Of course, he wasn't that much older, but he did think he knew much more than Haytham. Two years ago, when he was ten himself, he was taught the ways of the Assassins and all about their history in battling the Templars. Maybe Haytham knew about that too, but he wasn't going to be the one to tell him.
"We're practically the same age." Edward told him. "But, don't you have any other friends? Like, if I wasn't here, who would you celebrate your birthday with?"
"There is a boy next door, Tom Barrett. But I've only spoken to him a few times. I wouldn't call us friends."
"So, your father doesn't let you talk to anyone but me?"
Haytham shook his head.
"I don't think he trusts a lot of people. He's known your parents for a long time. He trusts them. He trusts you."
Edward nodded and sat up.
"Our fathers are like brothers, don't you think?"
Haytham thought for a moment and then nodded in agreement.
"Yes. They greet each other like brothers would. And, they have their arguments but they are always resolved in laughter."
"They used to sail together, my father, your father and my mother."
"I still can't believe your mother, gentle Mrs Jemima Young, used to sail on all sorts of ships."
"I know, it's funny." Edward laughed. "Your father was the captain, wasn't he?"
"Yes, of the Jackdaw."
"That's a funny name for a ship." Edward giggled.
"It is." Haytham gave a little laugh. "I would have chosen something more heroic, like the Lion, or the Dragon."
"Those would be good names."
"My father bought me a little figurine of a jackdaw the other day. He said it looked like the figurehead on the front of his ship." Haytham pointed lazily to the bird figurine that sat on the window sill.
Edward stood, pushing his blanket aside as he went to the window to examine his friend's toy. It was a pretty figurine; delicate yet it held a crafty look in its eyes. Unsuspecting. Maybe that's why Mister Kenway called his ship the Jackdaw.
His eyes drifted out to the front lawn where the moon shone against the crisp snow. It gave a comforting, gentle glow and he sighed, peacefully. His eyes continued to wander until Edward sighted the two bodies of the guards, their blood pooling, melting the snow.
"Haytham..." He breathed, setting down the figurine as calmly as he could.
"What is it?" The boy sat up, noticing the fear in his friend's voice.
Edward opened his mouth to speak but the door crashed down and the ferocious shouting and the distressed screams drowned him out.