Chapter Six: The Eagle Discovered
I open my eyes and see Lorena, sound asleep next to me. A satisfied smile curls her luscious lips. Memories from the night before slowly arise and I suddenly remember why I brought her to my chambers. To take advantage of her, whilst I lusted for someone else.
This might be the worst thing I have ever done.
Shame overcomes me when I stare at her angelic face. This classical beauty deserves so much more than anything I have ever given her. I do try to keep her at a distance, but she makes it so easy by throwing herself at me, time and time again. Even though I do not return her feelings.
I decide to slip out of bed before she wakes. While dressing myself I freeze when Lorena turns around and is now facing me. Thankfully her eyes are still closed, as she remains asleep. Relieved to have avoided any awkwardness, I pick up my boots and weapons then quietly sneak out of my own room.
A pink sunlit sky greets me, stretching out an orange glow across the desert, making the sand look like it’s made of gold. The gentle warmth of the still-rising sun soothes me as I walk towards the arena for my early morning training. At this time it should be relatively quiet, and that is exactly how I like my mornings to begin.
Upon arrival, I see two of my brothers working with a boy, no older than twelve. Watching them I am impressed by the skillful way the boy handles his sword.
Branko, one of the older Assassins in the ring notices me.
“Good morning brother. Care to share some words of wisdom for my little brother? He wants to be an Assassin someday.”
I answer with a single nod and step into the ring, approaching his little brother. The small and lanky boy bravely stands his ground, never taking his eyes off me when I come to stand before him. First I look him up and down, then push him using just my fingers, forcing him to take a step back.
“What is your name boy?”
“Adil,” he states loudly.
“Adil, you do not seem to be intimidated by your opponent,” I say and slowly start to circle around him. “Fearlessness causes consternation deep within the hearts of your enemies. So it can be perceived as a positive thing.”
The boy nods, his gaze following me as I continue to walk around him. “But, let yourself overcome with arrogance, and I guarantee you will lose.”
Coming back around, I kneel down to face him at his own height. “When it comes to fighting, there is only one thing you need to know. Everyone has a weak spot. Even those who seem unbeatable.”
I lower my voice so now only Adil can hear. “Your brother exposes his side as he attacks. When he does, punch it.”
Adil grins big and nods excitedly.
“He’s all yours,” I say turning to Branko who looks at me with narrowed eyes.
Walking towards his little brother, Branko lifts up his sword and lashes out. As he does, Adil punches his fist into his big brothers’ side. Groaning, Branko instantly drops down to one knee, placing his hand on the expanding bruise, inflicted by his little brother.
Adil runs up to me smiling big. “Did you see?!”
“I did, and it was perfect. I could not have done any better.” I say and pat his head making him grin even wider.
“Say, what is your weak spot?” he suddenly asks.
Amused by his enthusiasm I step back into the ring, pulling my sword out of its sheath.
“Why don’t you try and find out.”
Adil lashes out first.
After the sun has fully risen, Branko takes Adil home due to the morning bustle of Assassins showing up for training. In the distance I see Asad approaching. He greets me tunefully.
“Ah brother, such a beautiful morning is it not?”
I sheath my sword and wipe some sweat from my forehead. Noticing the time of day, I am surprised to see him, for he usually sleeps past noon.
“Why so early brother? Has your latest conquest kicked you out of her bed already?”
Asad grins broadly and I see some kind of shimmer in his eyes.
“Actually, I think I’m in love…”
“In love? With whom, a sorceress?” I say and stare at him with widened eyes.
“More like a Goddess… Her name is Medina, and I met her in the Garden last night.”
I take a big sip from my water bag without taking my eyes of Asad and his idiotic smile.
“Okay, so how did this happen?”
“I was eyeing the girls as usual, when suddenly this gorgeous unknown woman passed me by. I walked over to her, but before I could get a word out she raised her hand and said: ‘I don’t think so.’”
“I like her already, she sounds very sensible.”
Asad’s eyes narrow briefly before his face is lit up again as he continues to speak.
“After that, she just walked off. I decided to pursue her and eventually persuaded her to talk to me. Once I got her to laugh we ended up talking all night, and I found it to be most satisfying…”
“Well, that is great, brother. You deserve more people in your life who are willing to put up with you.”
“Thanks. I guess?” He says and laughs, then places a firm hand on my shoulder. “I do pray that you too will experience this feeling someday brother.”
I pull away from him, shaking my head. “I doubt there will ever be a woman who I’d care for more than I do the brotherhood.”
“Do not despair brother. As I know for sure, there is a beautiful woman on the tribune right now who has already sparked your interest.”
Curious, I turn around following his gaze until halfway up the tribune. It is pretty common for girls from the Garden to come and watch us train. Usually, I barely notice, only this time Lusia is among them.
Her elegance hovers far above that from the others, making her stand out in the way she glides across the concrete stands with confidence, smiling sweetly at every Assassin trying to gain her attention. Ali, one of our better Assassins, places his hand on the small of her back, pulling her closer. Watching him stroke her bare skin bothers me…a lot.
Ali looks down towards the arena and immediately pulls his hand away from her. It is then that I realize I am stood glaring at him with both my hands clenched into fists.
“Or must I be mistaken brother?” Asad says, eyeing me curiously.
“…Let us just focus on more important things brother,” I say, pulling out my sword and backing away from him. “Come, I have some energy to burn.”
“Oh no, today I am a lover, not a fighter.” He says and takes a seat on the tribune where he just sits and watches.
I roll my eyes at him and am just about to find another partner to train with when suddenly Lorena appears out of nowhere.
With haste, she charges up the tribune straight towards Lusia dragging her down viciously by her hair. Lusia screeches but retaliates by digging her nails into the hand of her attacker, scrambling up as soon as she is released.
Before I can make my way up, I see Malik is already there. He firmly grabs Lorena’s face, forcing her to look at him. I keep a close eye on his every move as Malik likes to abuse his power and does not shy away from hurting others when he sees the need for it.
Malik pushes her back roughly, ordering her to leave the arena. Lorena rushes down the tribune towards the exit, but before turning the corner she looks at me ashamed with tears stinging her eyes. I look back at her, stoic, hoping I am not the reason for this act of violence.
With Lorena gone, I walk up the tribune towards Lusia who is now talking to Asad. She seems startled still, but I also see her smile as I am sure my brother told her one of his bad jokes to ease the tension.
He notices me walking up.
“Just in time brother.”
“In time for what?” I ask curiously.
“To give this beautiful woman some company, as I have my own woman to pick up for a date.”
Smiling exaggeratedly, he finally takes his leave after raising me two thumbs up behind Lusia’s back.
“Please excuse my brother, he tends to act strangely in the presence of beautiful women.”
“That’s alright. He is quite charming actually,” she says and sits down on the tribune. “That encounter though, that I just had with your girlfriend was less charming I’m afraid…”
An exhausted sigh leaves my mouth.
“So that was about me?” I ask and take a seat next to her.
“Well, she warned me to stay away from you. Apparently, she seems to see me as some kind of threat?”
“Lorena should not need to worry about those things. There is nothing between her and me. She knows that.”
“…Are you certain about that?”
I look at Lusia taking me in and honestly, I have to admit that lately I really am not that sure anymore.
“I am certain I wish to change the subject.”
“Well, that makes two of us.” She says, flashing me another breathtaking smile.
It feels strange sitting here alone with her. But at the same time, it also feels like it’s anything but.
“Share your thoughts then. What do you think of everything you’ve seen so far?
Lusia looks around the arena and nods to herself.
“I find it…intriguing. You Assassins, and what you do.”
“And what exactly is it that you think we do?”
“Well, I think you all seem to work in the shadows to serve the light.”
The way she makes us sound like we are all part of some kind of fairy tale makes me smile.
“It sounds nicer than it really is though… but we do our best to rid this world of those who contaminate it. And that does feel good.”
Lusia searches for my eyes and I am drawn towards them, quickly drowning in her emerald gaze.
“Are there any other things you do besides,…assassination?”
“We make ourselves useful in any way we can. Helping people down in the village, should they need something. We take care of our people, so they can live here in safety and peace.”
“It does seem like a wonderful place to be… even the Garden. I have never known a place where women are treated respectfully, even though they are just here for your sheer entertainment.”
“Our Master condemns any type of violence in the Garden. He thinks it is best that the type of services that our women provide are done with equal permission and consent. And I agree.”
“Well as do I. It feels nice to have a place where you can feel safe.”
“As long as you are here, you need not worry,” I say and look her in the eyes. “You are safe with me.”
Lusia’s eyes widen as she stares straight into mine.
“…It is you… isn’t it?”
I stare at her confused, seeing some kind of hope shine through her eyes. Then suddenly, my mind starts to wake and I look at her while holding my breath.
“You said the same thing to me in the desert... that and your dark brown eyes... they were all you’ve ever shown me.”
My mind wanders all over the place as I try to find a way to talk myself out of this situation. But there is none.
Lusia places a hand on my shoulder, making my body quiver as all kinds of mixed emotions run through my skin.
“Why didn’t you just tell me?” she says in almost a whisper.
“Assassins work in secret…you should never have found out it was me.”
“Did you know about my recovery?”
“My Master kept me informed of your progress until I was sure you’d survive. Knowing that, was more than enough for me.”
“Why did you just leave me to my own devices?”
Her overload of questions is getting on my nerves. I stand up from the tribune to create some distance.
“Leave you to your own devices? I brought you here to get medical attention because YOU begged me to help you.”
My raised voice startles her, making her look away as some of my brothers turn to see what is going on.
“I do not know what you expect to come from this. All I can say is that, saving you was the biggest fault I have ever made while on a mission.”
The shocked expression on Lusia’s face makes it clear that I have insulted her.
“Well, I for one am glad that all of this has been clarified…” she says standing up from the tribune. “…at least now I know that all thoughts I had of you, were very much misplaced.”
Without granting me another glance she turns away and walks straight down the tribune.
Watching her I feel an immediate regret as I did not mean to offend her.
As soon as she turns the corner, I run down and go after her.