First, I'm really sorry about the delayed update. I have had this chapter written for almost 3 weeks (has it really been that long?), but I was trying to finish the next chapter before I posted it. I normally go over and edit the last chapter before I write the newest chapter, and I like having a backup chapter. Well, 3 weeks after the next chapter is still only 2/3 done, so I'm finally posting this. I will likely update this with an edited version later - I know I have done some revisions to all three prior chapters, and I need to upload those. However, I only have time enough to upload this - my guilty conscience is attacking me now since I woke up a little early and I have 35 minutes before I need to leave for work. So, again, I'm sorry, but please enjoy the chapter!
Alright, I've written this as if I experience this from behind Altaïr's eyes – I mean, why would his DNA record what the back of his head look like, even though that's about all we stare it in the game – thus I've basically removed the glitches in the Animus when it switches to 1st person POV. They'll pop back up when Altaïr is speaking with his assassinated targets, but that won't be for a while. My character will probably comment on it sometime soon, but I just wanted to assure you that it wasn't a mistake or something I overlooked. …Alright, so they probably fed the visuals through the animus and returned them in third person to lessen the bleeding effect… but…
Well, so much for making the Animus exactly like how it is in the game. Alright, so I had a reason for this difference… experiencing the Animus in 1st person enhances the synchronization. I threw in 3rd person as an additional option in the menu, which I have included. Lucy and Warren aren't going to be as nice about letting me exit whenever, however.
This chapter is a bit longer; at least that makes up for the last chapter being a bit shorter.
Chapter 4 – There must be another way
There was the sound of a great noise, rushing towards me with a roar, filling my ears and overwriting my vision. It was a flood of feelings, emotions, memories that slammed into me at full force, knocking me over and pulling me under, until I was completely surrounded and subsumed. I couldn't breathe, couldn't move, couldn't do anything but hear and see and feel –
"Wait!" An accented voice broke through the pounding of the waves, the surface so far above I couldn't reach nor see it. "There must be another way; this one need not die." Irritation, impatience, and anger swirled around my struggling form, forcing the emotions into my heart. So, he disagreed with the idea of my eliminating the problem? Did Malik think we had any time to spare to search out another way when we had precious little time to retrieve Al Mualim's treasure?
The darkness covering my eyes lifted, and I could see an old man standing still in a darkened passageway. Malik still hadn't produced another option, time was running out, and we needed to act now. My hand darted forward and forced him to his knees, my blade leaping from its hiding place and sheathing itself within the man's neck before the man had the chance to do more than raise his hands. I ripped out the blade, and a spurt of blood accompanied the metal. I think I'm going to be sick. I pulled back, easily avoiding the man's lifeblood. I quickly lowered the body, now one less obstacle blocking my path. No, no, no nononono –
I parted the surface with a gasp, revulsion writhing within my stomach as a strong air of disbelief blew past. I treaded the top of the waves, Altaïr's thoughts left buried in the deep but still surrounded by what he saw, heard, and felt. I looked down and saw my disfigured hand, clean except for a spot of blood at the wrist. The memories rose with a crashing wave, dragging me back under, and I just barely managed to keep struggling even though I was submerged. I don't want to see this; I don't want to feel this!
Again, a voice called out to me and pulled my attention from the depths, "An excellent kill!" I looked from the dead man's body to see a younger man in similar grey garbs speaking, admiration coming close to worship in his eyes as he enthused. So young and innocent… well, innocent-ish; he is still an Assassin. "Fortune favors your blade!" So naïve…Kadar...
The praise was warranted – it had been one of my better kills. "Not fortune; skill. Watch a while longer – you might learn something." I don't want to listen to this; I don't want to see Altaïr like this. I don't want to hear his casual arrogance, feel his dismissal of a person as a mere obstacle, see the worship of Kadar as fully warranted and expected.
Malik remained unimpressed by my actions; more the fool, he. "Indeed, he'll teach you how to disregard everything the Master's taught us." He tried to displace Kadar's attention, turning directly towards him and managing to gain his attention for several short moments.
My temper flared; was he insinuating that I was doing anything less than reasonable? "And how would you have done it?" I asked, curiosity mixing with derision in my tone.
"I would not have drawn attention to us; I would not have taken the life of an innocent. What I would have done is follow the Creed." I really should have expected his answer, knowing of his single-minded worship of the creed. Yet, this man was obviously working for whoever was guarding Al Mualim's treasure; he was no innocent. I bet he wouldn't have been red in your eagle vision, if only you'd thought to check. How, exactly, was killing him drawing attention, anyways? It had been a quick, clean, silent kill – no one would know until they finished their rounds, and that might not be for hours in this place.
Well, if he was going to quote the Creed at me, I'd just have to return the favor. "Nothing is true; everything is permitted. Understand these words – it matters not how we complete our tasks; only that it's done." He actually believes this. Has he never been taught otherwise?
Malik was already protesting, waving his arms about in clear negation of my words. "This is not the way – "
"My way is better," I interrupted. I cared not what he had to say; I knew I was right, had seen the proof that my way was indeed superior. There's something more under these thoughts… I can't see it, and I don't think I even want to; I know I'm right in thinking that. There was no need for Malik to conclude such an erroneous thought.
Malik turned away in disgust, clearly giving up the argument and turning to speak with Kadar. Try and ignore me, would he? "I will scout ahead." He turned back to face me with casual disregard, scorn clear in his actions. "Try not to dishonor us further." Oh, if you knew what he's about to do, the things you'd say… He turned and walked away, Kadar turning as if to follow him before facing me once more, stepping closer.
"What is our mission?" The boy was excited, eager, and it showed clearly in the words he spoke. "My brother would say nothing to me, only that I should be honored to have been invited." This is no honor; this is leading the pigs to the slaughterhouse and retrieving their own demise. I wonder if Al Mualim chose these three for a specific reason – possibly the three most strong-willed of the Assassins. Was he hoping that exposure to the artifact would weaken any defense to it? Or was his only goal to ensure success, equipping Altaïr with someone unafraid to speak against his foolish actions and someone enamored enough to follow Altaïr to his grave, if need be?
I bit back a snort; Malik had likely said something somewhat different. It was no secret, our disagreements in acting for the brotherhood. It was highly unlikely he would consider accompanying me on a mission something to be "honored" by. Perhaps the importance of the mission had made it through his stubborn skull at the time, even if he seemed to have forgotten how vital it was now. "The Master believes the Templars have found something beneath the temple mound. "
I almost rolled my eyes as Kadar leaned forward, excited and speaking in a hushed voice. "Treasure?!" was his hushed exclamation.
"I do not know. All that matters is the Master considers it important, else he would not have asked me to retrieve it." Kadar backed away a step, bowing his head in acceptance. He, at least, understood the importance of my presence. Oh Lord, please help Altaïr lose his arrogance quickly; I'm not sure how much longer I can take this. I like Altaïr; I don't like seeing him acting and speaking like this.
There was suddenly a flash of light as everything seemed to still, and the torrent of emotions and feelings almost entirely disappeared. I stood there motionlessly, blinking in confusion, shocked by the stark difference. Rather than struggling for words, barely able to make myself known or separate from the essence of Altaïr surrounding me, I was figuratively wading through the emotional mess. I could no longer hear Altaïr's thoughts, returned to me when I had been drowning inside him. I could still feel the hint of his emotions, impatience and eagerness baying at my heels with a lingering amount of anger and resentment flowing through the stream of emotions.
I took a cautious step forward, only to feel my foot hit something soft. I froze and looked down, and bile rose in my throat at the sight of the dead man. The memory of my killing him was still fresh, the image of my hand buried in his neck as I forced him to his knees overwhelming my vision. Shakily, I crouched down beside the man, a morbid sense of horrified fascination forcing me to see what I had done.
His body was limply slumped across the rocks, but the pool of blood I had expected was nowhere in sight. Cautiously pressing closer, I could see that there was no blood on his neck. I slowly reached out, hesitating several inches from his flesh, my hand a pale apparition hanging in the still air. With the same hand that had murdered him, I turned and lifted his head, the dead weight heavy against my palm as I looked for the stab wound. It wasn't there, but the lifeless head suddenly seemed to gain 30 pounds in my hand. I gently lowered the head to the ground, clutching my guilty hand to my chest and backing up a single step, before abruptly turning around and dry heaving.
Bile burned in my throat and I saw a Synch bar turn black. I leaned against the cave wall, gagging while Kadar stared with unseeing eyes. Seeing this simulation of the long dead boy just made the sickening feeling even worse, and my body protested against its hollow stomach once more. I fell to my knees, desperately trying to pull myself together and holding my blood-stained-yet-clean hand to my chest. I hugged my hand close, as if by protecting the digit I could stop it from ever being forced to commit such acts. This isn't real. The man is dead, has been dead for centuries. This is just a computer construction; no blood has been spilled.
It wasn't working. Bolting to my feet, I ran away from the body, away from the waiting Malik, away from Kadar's death. I dashed for the tunnel entrance, fruitlessly trying to escape even as I came across a transparent blue wall. Error – Memory Sector Unavailable. I tried to scream, but the sound froze within my throat. "Dammit, let me out!" I startled at the sound of my voice, unexpected and entirely unfamiliar when speaking with my own words. This was the same voice that had just casually dismissed killing a man, complete with the same accent and intonation – the only thing that belonged to me were the words, and even those felt corrupted by the emotions swirling at my feet.
Can't the world just shut up and stop for a minute, please? Closing my eyes and praying to God that this worked, I whispered the word, "Menu." I nearly cried with relief as my vision was overlaid with the main menu, familiar words comforting in their sameness. I looked across the menu, trying to see if any were missing or different. There were six options, 3 rows of two columns with a bunch of little details above them. Memory log, Additional memories, Options, Resume Session, Map, Exit Animus. Instantly I focused on Exit Animus, trying to select the option but failing as the menu refused to even consider the option. The words were a darker color, unlike the rest of the white words. They remained unchanged, a mocking symbol of how little control I had. Bastards!
Wait – is options an option? It looks like the rest – I instantly refocused, selecting Options and blowing out a rush of air as a sigh of relief when a new menu appeared. Graphic, Audio, Gameplay, HUD Elements, Camera, Customize Controls. Alright, let's see if I can't turn off the blood… which was that under, again? I selected Graphic, and then audio, backing out of both almost instantly when I didn't see the options I was looking for. I was fairly surprised that both showed up, but figured that it probably meant something slightly different here. Do I still get background music?
HUD Elements flashed by almost as quickly, and I left everything on and showing – the synch bar, the GPS, etc. I almost instantly disregarded the Camera option as well, but noticed a selected option for first-person viewing. I'm 98% sure that wasn't there in the Xbox game menu… Gameplay options finally delivered what I was hoping for, and I instantly turned off the blood before looking at anything else. The rest seemed to be extraneous details about crowd density and such, and whether or not I wanted to have to keep focused on something to remain focused. I think I won't even try touching these until much later, if ever at all.
When I backed into the main menu, I realized that I had almost forgotten about the dead man in favor of the technology's options. Once more feeling sick to my stomach at myself, how could I forget it so easily, I selected the memory log and tried to ignore the entire problem and the rest of the world for just a few moments longer. I don't want to think – not yet, and maybe not ever. I opened the memory log to see 4 empty strands of DNA flattened out, and words filled a panel below them.
Memory: Acquisition. Memory Open – Al Mualim has sent me into the ruins beneath Solomon's Temple. He seeks the artifact held here by the Templars. But why me? Errands such as this are the providence of novices. Worse yet, he's asked I babysit Malik and Kadar. They'd best not get in my way.
I winced at the summation of Altaïr's thoughts and feelings pressing into my head and becoming far more than words across a screen. I could feel the confusion behind the words, and the annoyance – as well as the resentful resignation as Altaïr acknowledged the order. There was no mention of the man he'd just killed, nor any feeling possibly representative of it. Maybe this was recorded from just before the memory started? I mean, I know Altaïr doesn't care, and that killing the innocent man probably didn't even count as a minor footnote in his day, but surely he would have mentioned his argument with Malik?
I selected back and resigned myself to leaving the menu and returning to the present in the past as Altaïr, but I further procrastinated for several more minutes by checking the map. I reassured myself of the branchless path, noting that though Solomon's Temple had an approximate population of 246, not approximately 245?, there were less than 10 people that we would actually come across – and that was counting Robert's entourage. Status: Retrieve the Artifact from within Solomon's Temple. I get it; I'm going, even if I don't want to… I really, really don't want to. I could probably just wait in this menu for hours, ignoring the world until I'm forcefully dragged back in by the two outside the Animus…
Back – Resume Current Memory; I closed my eyes as the menu disappeared, waiting just one more moment before confronting my new reality. There was no more ways I could procrastinate, no more places to run away. Pretend you're Altaïr, stuck up prig who can just shove blindly forward, but fully believing in your actions and your cause. My lips twitched into a light smirk without my input, and I turned back around to face the cave.
I had to move forward; if I continued delaying for no reason, Lucy and Warren might get suspicious. Or, really more suspicious, because breaking down over broken computer bits is so normal… no matter how much it resembles a person or how awful it feels to have ended even an artificial life. I slowly walked back through the tunnel, carefully stepping over the dead body, unable to help but look down once more on the broken man. Don't think about that yet – worry about Malik and Kadar now. You can have your breakdown and panic attack tonight, preferably where they can't see you.
I stopped in front of the young assassin for a moment, but the figure did nothing. I waved my hand in front of his face, but again received no reaction. Mildly creeped out and disheartened, I turned away and began heading towards Malik again. Man, Abstergo's Animus sucks. I felt a slight pang of disappointment that I couldn't interact with Kadar before his de- before we reached the ark, but pushed it aside and focused on walking.
The floor gave way to a large pit, the gap crossed by several wooden bars. I had noted Malik jumping away across them earlier, but hadn't actually fully realized the fact that I would have to jump across these bars myself, with no help from a machine. Well, I guess the Animus counts as a machine, but I was thinking more the computer or Xbox. I braced myself, hesitantly starting to move and landing on the first beam, pushing off instantly to land on the next one before I even realized that I'd made it across one safely. I used my momentum to fly across the tunnel, barely pausing when I reached a small portion of land and shooting across the next gap as well. Malik was racing just ahead of me, having waited at the small interval between the two gaps.
I turned back, pleased that Altaïr's muscle memory had helped with such a relatively simple, such a complete cakewalk compared to what will come later, feat. Kadar was soon jumping across as well, skipping the last beam entirely and landing in a crouch. Man, someone really is excited to be here, huh? The eager boy stepped next to me, sandwiching me between him and his brother.
I tried to take a closer look at Malik, but he made no motion to move on his own other than turning empty eyes to look at me. His clothes were almost identical to mine – all he was missing was a blade at his side. I put a hand to the hilt of my sword as I took in the rest of his figure, noting the lack of a missing finger. All he had was a short sword, his fists, and some daggers. How had he managed to survive the upcoming fight? Wait, I can see his hidden blade, so why does he still have his finger? Oh - right. The Animus only showed Altair missing a finger. Malik is missing a finger on his left hand – such a small handicap compared to the mutilation that follows.
Wincing, I turned away from Malik and to the ladder. I climbed the wooden rungs slowly, not wanting to misstep in this unfamiliar body. Really, it was only a miracle and Altaïr's sense of balance that kept me from plummeting to the ground below in those pits; I still haven't figured out my new center of balance properly. I effortlessly pulled myself over the top of the ledge, marveling at the easy strength my body now held. I was distracted as my gaze was turned on a single guard, armored and standing in an archway. I narrowed my eyes and focused my mind, my vision narrowing slightly and the rest of the world fading away as I locked the guard in my sights. I could feel Altaïr's impatience weighing with mine, his anger at Malik driving him with the need to strike out.
I could almost see myself lunging angrily at the guard and shouting in frustration, but I managed to hold myself back. Instead, I slowly crept closer to the other guard, not making a sound as my feet slid across the ground. When I was directly behind him, I noticed a new option in the HUD on the upper-right corner of my vision: assassinate. I closed my eyes briefly before reopening them, desperately wanting not to see but instead paying homage to the life that was lost so many centuries before. This would be entirely my choice this time – not Altair's. I could foist no other deaths entirely onto Altair. There won't be blood; it won't be real.
With a split second decision I suddenly leapt forward, wrapping a hand around the guard's mouth and pulling him back onto my newly released blade before he could speak. He made a muffled grunt as he flailed wildly for a single moment, falling abruptly still as I released him, stumbling forward a step as Malik and Kadar walked past. Neither assassin turned to look as the man staggered back and fell onto the floor in a heap. I could feel my feet carrying me with the two assassins, and I only had a moment's thought to spare for the guard and the guilt rising in my stomach before my attention refocused onto the two Assassins beside me as Malik cried out.
"There!" came his hushed call as Malik pointed, and I moved forward so that I could see what he was pointing at. I stood directly behind Kadar and Malik, soaking in one last feel of their presence before everything went to hell in a hand basket and they were taken away. "That must be the ark." His voice sounded slightly awed, and I was surprised at the tone. I felt irritation flicker in my veins, an emotion not my own, but Altaïr's. I winced, expecting to be dragged back under as before, but nothing more happened. Was that a one-time thing, then?
The object he was pointing at was on the opposite side of the rather large room from us, but my advanced vision apparently allowed me to zoom in on command. The treasure looked like a golden chest, with an odd egg-shaped statue resting on it. It's that cursed apple, the stupid treasure that Al Mualim went crazy for. My hands clenched by my side as my gaze narrowed even further in anger, before I forcefully released some of the emotion and instead focused once more on the present.
I allowed my gaze to draw back, and I tried to find a way to reach the 'treasure' without drawing attention from any who might enter the room below. Let's see if there actually was a better way than the head-on confrontation Altaïr instigated. The room was made of solid stone, few chinks or gaps in the walls and boards only attached at sporadic intervals. Columns rose into the air and lifted the floor where the ark rested, but no purchase could be found on the round stones. Any scaffolding was located on the other side of the room, past the entrance and the table where the Templars would convene. All in all, the room was open, expansive, impressive, and would be incredibly difficult to sneak through.
Of course, my attention was drawn from the room and back to my companions when one spoke "The…ark? Of the covenant?" he breathed out. Kadar was as equally excited as his brother, and it was easily heard through his words and tone.
The ridiculous amount of fascination he was giving the artifact was highly annoying; the thing didn't deserve it. "Don't be silly," I bit out. "There's no such thing, it's just a story." Wait, no, that's wrong. That's no story, and I shouldn't be jealous over an inanimate object. I mean, the attention earlier was nice, but I'm not craving attention that badly… really.
"Then what is it?" Kadar interrupted before I had any time to think, almost cutting off my words. He did, however, turn his attention back towards me, so I was momentarily appeased.
Of course, the almost-return of my good mood was ruined by Malik's hushed hiss. "Quiet! Someone's coming." I focused on the doorway; the people entering the large room quickly becoming clear in my sight. I felt my teeth clench as I recognized the lead person striding into the room, and my not my anger flared up so sharply, so brightly that it was hard to see clearly, much less think. Calm down! I'm not Altaïr, Robert hasn't done anything to me personally, and I don't need to start a fight.
My breathing remained steady despite my inner turmoil, thought I felt my blood begin to rage as the cretin began to speak. "I want this through the gates before sunrise!" His voice was accented differently than the Assassin's had been, but I couldn't identify it. Who am I kidding – I can't recognize any accents, at all, whatsoever. The 'this' referred to was clearly the ark as he looked up, motioning at the golden artifact. "The sooner we possess it, the sooner we can turn our attention to the jackals at Masyaf." The bastard stopped by a table near the doorway, and my anger at him reached new heights. Oh, he did not just insult the Assassin's like that.
I knew that he was a threat, but to hear him so boldly proclaim to be seeking harm against my home was infuriating. Not my home, Masyaf; I must remember. The insult burned in my blood as I turned to my fellow assassins, no doubt equally enraged. "Robert de Sable," I called, claiming the kill before either of them could even entertain the thought. "His life is mine." My tone brooked no argument; Malik would not steal this from me.
So, of course, he disagreed. "No," he responded as he turned away from the scene, the single word only inflaming the burning beneath my skin. "We were asked to retrieve the treasure and deal with Robert only if necessary." He sounded so firm, arrogant in his belief that the words were law, and not open to interpretation and fluid depending on the situation. He spoke as if the words were so easily interpreted, only one translation from the Creed to action, as if following the words magically granted a perfect path that led to flawless victory.
"He stands between us and it – I'd say it's necessary." There was no easy path to the treasure – the quickest, most direct path was through the wretched man. Any attempt to circumvent him would likely be met with discovery; the beginning of a battle on their terms and not ours.
Malik, again, refused to see. "Discretion, Altaïr!" Every inch of him was negating my words, my actions, my decision, and me.
"You mean cowardice," I responded in kind, as equally angry with him as he was with me. "That man is our greatest enemy, and here we have a chance to be rid of him." He has a point – this is probably the least defended Robert ever is, and we have the benefit of surprise…
The returning volley was neither unexpected nor welcome. "You have already broken two tenants of our creed; now you would break the third. Do not compromise the brotherhood!" Malik was unbending, unable to see past his blind devotion to the Creed.
Can he not see that to let Robert live when there is another option only invites compromise to the brotherhood? You're both idiots – how about an actual compromise? Altaïr discretely kills him without drawing attention, and then you pick off the rest of the guards while they are confused, leaving Kadar free to retrieve the Apple. Surely there must be some weak point on the man's armor for a throwing knife to enter, and then, ta-daa! All problems are solved. I thought assassins were supposed to be smarter and more secretive than this. I mean, it would screw up the rest of the game, but…
I controlled my anger – mostly. "I am your superior, in both title and ability." Ooh, harsh and somewhat uncalled for. Altaïr is definitely not the epitome of tact. "You should know better than to question me." There was a flash of white light as the discussion ended, and I felt a mental relaxing as the mostly foreign anger drained away. The emotional flood had risen sometime when the scene had started, but I hadn't noticed it until it faded away. This… is somewhat disturbing.
I walked to the edge of the ledge, and tried to pull out a throwing knife to implement my simple plan. This action was an utter failure; not only did it take me several long moments to simply find the throwing knife I wanted, I couldn't figure out how I would hold it if I could actually pull it out! My hand refused to actually pull the knife I had chosen out of its sheathe, instead just awkwardly grasping the handle and staying still. I mentally threw up my hands in frustration, and then yanked down the tip of my hood in agitation.
The shadow falling further over my eyes and the feel of fabric beneath my fingers calmed me, slightly. Breathing out slowly, I reached out for Kadar one last time. He turned to face me, but showed no more reaction as my hand stopped inches away from his robes above his chest. Aw, man, this has to be as suspicious as hell. I repeated the action with Malik's left arm, reaching out to touch it and not really receiving any response. Neither one shoved me away, nor were they at all moved by my actions. I bent my head in a silent prayer, for a moment appearing as if I was trying to blend with the scholars, and then I was turning away and heading towards the ladder.
Slinging myself onto the wooden struts, I let the railings slide lightly in my grip and I landed silently on the floor, far quicker than I would have if I had actually climbed down. There was the barest twinge of pain in my knees from the action, but I was impatient by nature – and Altaïr's own impatience and lingering sense of urgency wasn't doing me any favors, either. I tried to climb onto the wood beside me and scale the wall to the treasure, but my fingers refused to curl and my feet refused to leave the earth. Angry at my inability, I avoided the next ladder entirely and simply jumped to the ground. Okay, I really felt it that time. Ow. I didn't lose a synch bar, though… so imagine how much a 4-story fall is going to hurt. Oh, the pain is going to be just great.
I felt my control over the situation lapse once more with a gentle pulse of light, and the emotions swirling around once again rose up. Please tell me they won't do this for every 'cut scene' I have to live through. I silently acknowledged my relief that I was not going to be the one carrying out these damning actions – only passively following along.
"Hold, Templars!" I called out, and each of the five men turned towards me. You bloody idiot! Stupid NOVICE, don't draw attention, especially not on purpose! "You are not the only ones with business here." Fine, Malik, I'll take their attention as well as his life so you and your brother can concentrate on getting the treasure. …he actually had a reason for that?!
As I stepped forward to the Templars, Malik landed quietly beside me. Although I was irritated by him and his presence, I did feel mildly reassured that I had a brother to back me up. I mentally grimaced and replayed the last few hours in my mind – orders or no, he might try to stop my actions if he felt they were 'wrong'. Alright, so maybe Malik wasn't a potential source of backup… but surely he wouldn't hinder my actions as they've already been set in motion? Interrupting him once he was already committed to the action was pretty ridiculous… just keep focusing on the little things, not the big thing – dammit, don't think about it!
"Ah. Well, this explains my missing man. What is it you want?" Robert folded his arms, tilting his head so that he was looking down upon us. The anger burned in my lungs at his apparent condescension, and I prepared myself to attack.
Words appeared in the side of my vision, reminding me that I had a part to play in this after all. I would be the one to choose whether to 'assassinate' Robert in high or low profile. As if there's anything low profile about this. If I was going to be obvious about my attempted kill, I would be so the entire way. High profile, it is. I narrowed my eyes on the man and flashes of white data crossed his figure momentarily, as I mentally shifted into a more aggressive stance. As I made the decision, I felt control being wrested from me once more.
I responded with one word, burying my anger in this one word and focusing on this one action: "Blood."
I began to lunge forward, being knocked horribly off balance moments later as something unexpectedly grabbed at my arm from a side that I thought was safe. What?! "No, don't!" I fixed my balance as best I could, but it was too late. Robert knocked my bladed hand aside so that I was now lunging towards the floor. Even as I tried to reorient myself, he slammed his other open hand into my face, and it was only by the barest inches that I managed to miss the majority of the blow. Ow ow ow! Kill the stupid Templar, Altair!
I let out a gasp of pain and anger as he managed a hold on my bladed hand, my newfound balance – damn you Malik – being worth nothing as his other hand locked into the fabric of my robe. Shock mixed with anger as I fought against him, slamming forward with all of my incredible strength but being in a horrible position to gain any leverage. My blade almost reached his head, but he stopped it with nary a flinch as he tightened his grip on my wrist.
His face was even uglier up close, and he spat out words filled with hate into my face. "You know not the things in which you meddle, assassin." I tried to stab him again with a vicious grunt of effort, but he only used the momentum to rotate us both so that my back was now closer to the doorway. "I spare you only that you may return to your master, and deliver a message." Our bodies both shaking with effort, he managed to finish turning so that only empty air was behind me now. I once more lunged forward, coming close but never quite reaching the hated man's skin. "The holy land is lost to him and his. He should flee now, while he has the chance." Anger lent my arms strength as I pushed forward once more, only to fail again and be forced back once more. "Stay and all of you will die."
The man took a step forward, forcing me back an equal distance. I felt his weight shift and my eyes widened as I realized what was about to happen. I managed to retract my blade as he forcefully shoved me backwards, and I collapsed through the open doorway. I managed to twist into a summersault, protecting my head but unable to stop my backwards motion as debris began to clutter around the opening. No! I tripped backwards over an unexpected stair, landing at the bottom on my back in a limp heap.
I forced myself to my feet, but the last of the rubble had settled into place and entirely blocked the opening off. White flashed and I had control of my body once more, hurriedly turning my body around and racing to the newly created barrier. There must be some way back to them!
The voice I was quickly coming to hate began to speak as I moved forward, calling out, "Men! To arms; kill the assassins!" Sounds of battle rose as I reached the rock wall, fruitlessly pounding against its solid structure. Inside were the sounds of men dying, screaming their deaths as I scrabbled at the rock. I tried to climb the proverbial mountain, but there were no openings to slip through, no place not locked firmly into its new position. "Damn it!" I screamed out, kicking the wall hard enough to break several sandaled toes. I ignored the pain and synch bar drop as the fighting continued, forever locked out of my reach. There must be some way… please… This never should have happened… Dammit!
I stood before the stones, my eyes almost tearing up as I was forced to wait and listen without being any help – being the cause of the loss on the other side of the barrier. Altaïr's eyes remained stubbornly dry, the Assassin's years of emotional restraint blocking any outward sign of emotion. Except, of course, for what caused the throbbing in my foot. I have the feeling that I'll be sorely tempting this body's emotional control – I bet I can make him cry before this week is through. I bowed my head as I waited, hoping for anything to be different: for Kadar to survive, to hear of their success, for an opening to present itself… but nothing happened. This is why I'm rarely optimistic: I know what's going to happen; it's not going to change just because I want it to. It's stuck just how it happened in the past, and there isn't a DAMN thing I can do about it!
As the sounds began to fade, I finally forced my useless self away from the blocked entrance. There was nothing I could do – Kadar was dead, and Malik's arm likely already injured beyond repair. Instead, I began to head for the exit, carefully stepping over the first low wall I came across. Remember it's just a video-game, and now it's time to climb through the obligatory introductory obstacle course. I walked up to a wooden platform just slightly taller than I, crawling up the side and standing on the wooden floor. I surveyed the best way to reach the exit, instantly throwing out the option of jumping across the small columns. I could work my way around and to the side, jumping across the swinging bundle of wood. …Or, I could just go straight forward, and hope that worked out for the best.
"Alright, Mr. Arrogance," I muttered under my breath as I remembered at the last moment not to say the name I wasn't supposed to know just yet. "Lend me your free-running capabilities." Despite my words, it was with slow and careful movements that I climbed the next 'step', placing my hands on the wooden floor just below my eyes height and heaving my weight upwards in a quick motion. I landed in a crouch, standing up and preparing to keep moving forward. There were 3 wooden beams ahead of me, and I would have to jump the distance and climb the height between each one.
Sending off another prayer towards the long-dead assassin, I braced myself to gather momentum and then to use it. I ran forward several steps, launching myself into the air and landing with one foot on the wooden bar, springing forward to the next, then the next, and then managing to grab the edges of the next solid platform with my fingers. Holy crap! I made it! I let my weight dangle there for a moment as I adjusted to my new position, and then once again pulled the entirety of my body upwards entirely by the strength of my arms.
As I pulled the rest of my body forward onto the new surface, I was quietly amazed by the strength of my new muscles. From fat to far more than merely fit – this is incredible! A small thrill of childish glee washed through my body, and I was racing for the next jump before I could even think. I just managed to land on the wooden platform, the same height as the last but much farther away. I continued running up the wall, not stopping for a moment as I climbed the solid stone. I paused momentarily when the next stone wall reached far above my head, but my new enthusiasm pushed me to try it anyways with little hesitation.
My feet pushed against the vertical stone, propelling my body further upward until I managed to catch the edge, reaching the new height without any further problems. I turned to see the floor far below, and a sense of triumph filled my body. Any positive feelings fled as I caught sight of the former door, the archway filled with rocks and blocking the path to Malik and Kadar. I'm sorry…
Gritting my teeth, I continued into the next room, no longer thrilled with my success. I was momentarily confused when no passageway appeared before me, only a rock wall, until I looked up to see the edge far above. The wall was filled with 'random' protrusions, odd bulges at regular intervals. I spent a moment looking for the easiest path, and found one that was a straight climb to the top.
I moved towards the wall, placing my hand against the flat stone and wondering just how I was going to do this. No, really, how is this supposed to work? I wasn't exactly paying attention earlier, between the misery and exultation. Alright – I'm just going to go for the simplest route. It may not be the 'easiest' route, but it'll probably be easier than jumping around like a monkey. Just go straight forward, straight up until I reach the edge. With a slow breath, I moved back several feet so I could get a running start. I nodded once to myself, in support and acknowledgement that this should work. This better work just as well as it did in the last room…
I dashed forward, using the momentum to propel me up past the first rock and to the second, which I desperately grabbed at with both hands. My grip held firm for mere moments as my legs drew up to crouch on the rock, and then my gloved hands were already reaching up to grab at the wood above. I pushed off from the rock and the wood simultaneously, stretching and reaching until I could grab the next rock and place my foot firmly against the wood my hand had just left. My other pair of limbs was following before the first even made contact, grabbing onto the same places as the first had once gripped. I forced back the instinctual panic as I bent down slightly, springing upwards once again, and again, and again; bending momentum and gravity to my will. Just keep moving, just keep moving, moving, moving; don't panic, just go straight forwards, straight up. Let the momentum do the work, your muscle memory be the driving force.
I nearly shrieked as I skipped a rock that I'd been expecting to grab, almost fumbling my grip on the next rock and the wood after that. Don't fall, trust Altaïr; don't fall, trust Altaïr; don't fall, trust Altair. Finally I crested the stone wall, and the sight of stone buildings in sunset greeted my eyes. Oh, thank you Lord!
"Skipping part of memory to a more recent one," the computer suddenly called out. Wait, what? Give me a moment to –
White blurred forward and overcame my vision, pressing into my mind and temporarily halting all thought.
A C – S I
And here is chapter 4! Wow, this was harder than I thought. I did not expect to hear Altaïr's thoughts, but what do I hear? Altaïr's thoughts, that's what. I've come up with the decision that his thoughts are available when my sync bar's top row is filled and it's a really emotional moment. I've waved away the close-ups with eagle vision – not only can Altaïr see the colors, he can enhance his senses; this is how he eavesdrops on targets so well. Or, you know, he can just focus that precisely when he wants; it doesn't have to have a mystical explanation.
Let me know what you think? Yes, I know I'm being weird over Malik and Kadar; I blame fanfiction. *sheepish grin* Lucy and Warren – who are indeed watching, or at least casually observing – are probably wondering just what is wrong with me. Hopefully they'll assume that the two assassins remind me of someone, or represent to me the order I left behind…
Safety and Peace.
Original upload: June 26, 2014
Last updated: July 15, 2014 (forget to check word count)
Words w/o A/N: 6,186
Words with A/N: 6,465