What has happened so far: This story is told from the perspective of Serena MacRae, a young girl growing up in England. She had an older brother who was two years older than her named Sean, and a sister one year younger than her named Alice. Sean goes off to join the Templars when he turns 18, and two years later he returns home for a few months to teach Serena everything he's learned, so she can join him someday. A few months after he goes off to battle, Serena's family receives a letter from the Templar order saying that he's been killed, and they must go to London to learn more about what happened.
�Serena's father takes her with him when he goes to London, and tries to pass her off as a man. They visit the Temple church, and Serena spars with Nicholas, one of the high-ranking knights. Though she loses, he is impressed with her determination and decides to let her in. Just as the deal is sealed, a winter wind blows back Serena's hood, revealing her to be a woman. Chaos ensues, and Serena is run out of the church while her father stays behind to negotiate with the men. Nicholas meets her by the river, and tells her that he wants to help her avenge Sean, as the two were close friends. He tells her to return the next day, and she will be initiated into the Order.
Serena returns, but is not initiated. They decide instead to send her to a camp just outside Jerusalem run by Robert de Sable, who is not really affiliated with the Templars yet. She is given an Arabic pseudonym, Sana, to mask her affiliation with the West. Her partner, William, is also given the pseudonym Asad. They both have mentors, Hakim and Suleiman, who make their first appearance in this chapter. Serena is 23 by the end of this chapter.�
A/N: Many thanks to Ilada Jefiv for editing this chapter!
Disclaimer: I do not own Assassin's Creed. I do, however, own all of my original characters.
Seven years ago, I arrived in Acre. As soon as we touched the land, associates of the Templars herded my comrades and I into a caravan like slaves and shipped us off over land to a small campsite just outside of Jerusalem.
"A young woman? Hakim, surely you must be mad!"
"She is my daughter. My wife died recently, and she is the only family I have left," Hakim bluffed. I looked to the ground, my face completely wrapped in a red silk scarf.
"Why don't you sell her and keep the money for yourself?" the sailor asked as he helped us unload our belongings from the ship.
"Do you have a daughter?" Hakim asked the man.
"No, sir," the man replied, a confused expression on his face.
"Then you wouldn't understand," Hakim snapped, grabbing me by the shoulder and pushing me into the rickety caravan that waited for us
"Thank you, sir," I whispered graciously, hoping I wasn't stepping out of line.
"Don't get used to it. I'm here to teach you to protect yourself, not to provide shelter for you," he hissed once we were out of earshot of the sailor.
I folded my hands in my lap and secluded myself in a corner of the caravan for the entire ride.
Once we reached camp, we were introduced to Robert de Sable.
Suleiman and Hakim fell to their knees as they stepped out of the caravan. Asad and I followed suit, staring at the dirt even though we both wanted to look into the eyes of our new master. I assumed our guardians held this man in high regard by the way they acted in his presence, and wondered idly how long they had known Robert.
"You may stand," Robert said in a powerful voice with a thick French accent. I stood and looked him in the eyes, the smooth fabric of my veil rustling against my skin like water in the afternoon breeze.
He wore the standard Templar armor, despite the rumors I'd heard of him not being affiliated with the Order. Unlike the others, a mundane gray cape was draped over his shoulders. He had a dark, handsome face with many scars and traces of stubble around his square jaw line. He was bald; the pale sunlight reflected off his skin. I tried not to stare, but I had never seen a man with no hair before.
Robert caught me staring.
"You in the red scarf, let me see your face," he commanded. I reached up and began unwrapping it, trying to ignore the panic in the guardians' eyes. Once I had finished, I pushed my hair back from my face and met the dumbstruck gaze of Robert de Sable
"WHAT! I ask for your finest novices, and you bring me a woman!" Robert exclaimed furiously at Hakim and Suleiman, refusing to look at me any longer.
"Sir, we assure you that we had no choice in the matter. If you wish, you make take it up with Nicholas," Hakim said in a voice that seemed to berate my friend. I wanted to wring his neck for insulting Nicholas, but I stood silently in respect, pretending to ignore their anger.
"Master de Sable, if I may?" Asad spoke up after a moment of tense silent.
"Yes?" Robert asked, annoyed.
"I think it could be advantageous to have her along. From what I've heard, the Hashashin are required to abstain from… certain evils just like the Templars. We could use the girl as bait for the hungry men" Asad bartered. I shot him a dirty look, but it bounced off of him and fell to the ground. I returned to playing with my hands, trying to reassure myself with the idea that he was just trying to protect me.
"You have a point. I will consider it. For now, set up your tents and prepare for dinner. Your teachers and I have much to discuss," Robert said, his voice now calm and contemplative. I exhaled deeply, releasing the breath I had been subconsciously holding.
As Suleiman and Hakim left with Robert, I turned to Asad, hoping for an explanation. He just smiled and winked.
"Thank you, Asad."
It wasn't long before I realized Asad had broken the code of the Order when Sean died by coming back from a failed mission alive.
"Asad, why are you-" I cut myself short. He was eating on the ground, the guardians turning their noses up at him.
"I was hoping you wouldn't find out so soon," Asad said. His forehead was creased, and his head inclined toward the ground in shame. "I left your brother when he needed me the most, and he gave his life to make sure we would all escape alive in return."
"Could you tell me more about what happened?" I asked, taking a seat on the ground next to him. He looked over at me in surprise, not understanding why I would want to eat on the dirty ground, especially after telling me he believed it was his fault my brother was dead.
"Sean was in charge of our group," he began. " It was his first mission as the group leader. We were supposed to infiltrate Saracen territory and learn all we could about their tactics, since the Templars didn't have much information about them.
"Your brother led our group through the mountains of Persia, searching for the Hashashin fortress called Alamut. We were almost there, when we were ambushed. Feyadeen, as they are called, seemed to attack us from all sides. Sean gave up his horse to some of the other novices that were working with us and stayed to fight. We rode away, and as we descended the mountain, the scent of burning flesh reached our noses," Asad finished.
"So it was a group of them?" I asked.
"No, it was only one. He was all around us, everywhere and nowhere all at once," Asad shuddered.
"How do you know?" I whispered intently, not believing such a person could exist.
"When we returned to the site, the name 'Altaïr ibn La-Ahad' was written in dried blood on tattered Templar armor. There were no other traces of life around, save the remains of a fire," Asad explained. I didn't wince at his description this time. My hands tightened into fists, and my fingernails cut deep into my palm, causing sticky blood to trickle down my forearm.
Altaïr would die.
Asad and I were trained to blend in with the Muslim citizens of Jerusalem,the kind of people the Hashashin worked to protect. I learned to speak Arabic, the verses of the Koran, and all other facets of the Ismaili doctrine.
"Sana, Asad this is dai Tahir. He will teach you about the Ismaili sect of Islam and how to behave around other Ismailis like the Hashashin," Robert said. His French accent made him difficult to understand, so I inclined my head toward him to understand better the information he had to offer.
"Are you deaf, woman!" Robert hissed. I lurched backwards, fearing his anger.
"N-no, Sir," I said, not adding anything else for fear of angering him further.
"My Lord, please. May I speak with my students alone?" dai Tahir asked respectfully, a kindly crinkly-eyed smile warming his face. Robert snorted, turned on his heels, and walked away without another word. The dai turned back to me and winked.
"Come here, child. Feel Allah's warm embrace and understand what it is to be an Ismaili."
On days that I didn't have classes with the dai, Hakim trained me in the art of sword fighting.
"How can you expect to win when you fight so passively! Don't just dodge – strike back!" Hakim yelled as he slashed at me time and time again. I grunted with each lightning quick strike, my arms crumbling under the pressure even after a year of training. He wasn't leaving any openings for me to get through. I eventually lost all of my strength and Hakim won the duel, beating me with his fists as he did each time I lost.
With each failure, my stamina grew.
He was aggressive as usual but this time I managed to think between each blow. I was able to watch his feet and movements to predict where he would go, and eventually I was one step ahead of him. When the time was right, I lashed out and nicked him in the cheek, causing him to flinch in pain.
I winced, afraid of receiving another beating for being so careless. Instead, he came over and clapped his hand on my shoulder.
"You're much slower than any other student I've trained, but I think you're ready to learn to wield a short sword" Hakim graced me with the first genuine smile I'd ever seen from him, and he never beat me in frustration again.
After I learned to use the short sword, Suleiman and Hakim watched Asad and I spar. I was generally stronger than he was, but later I learned it was because Hakim was much more skilled than Suleiman.
Beads of sweat ran down my forehead, the salty liquid covering my body. The hilt of my sword slipped about in my shaky hands as I waited to Asad to strike.
He was a defensive fighter like me, so the beginning of the battle was slow as we circled each other in the clearing. Suleiman and Hakim were positioned in the north and south ends of the field, their arms folded over their chests in anticipation. Robert stood by Hakim, his eyes trained on me expectantly.
I charged at Asad first, striking as quickly as a snake. The blade was propelled forward with strength I didn't know I had, moving so rapidly it faded into invisibility. Somehow, Asad was able to block all of my attacks, but his footwork was sloppy, and his breath grew short within moments.
After the second series of attacks, his sword flew from his hand, and I lunged at him with my blade, knocking him over and pressing my blunted sword to his neck.
"Dead," I said, letting the word hang victoriously in the air for a moment.
Robert de Sable was impressed by my victory, insisting that I be trained in the evil art of love to give me another skill to fall back on. He hired a woman named Rasha to care for my appearance and train me to entertain men through music, conversation, and other, less desirable means.
She secretly promised me that, if I went along with her training, I would only ever have to converse with the men to get whatever Robert wanted. Relieved, I worked with her to form a basic set of principals I could apply to any conversation that would fit the Ismaili doctrine, be it from politics to philosophy and medicine.
"You must always be the one in control. The coherency of the information you receive cannot be guaranteed if the man is drunk, so it is best if you can speak with them while they are sober," Rasha explained, her brown eyes large and sparkling with cleverness like a gazelle's. I nodded, writing her words down on a piece of parchment.
"The way to do this is to make the man think he is in control. Flatter him – put him on a pedestal. He will surely pursue you and tell you anything you need to know"
After the first two years with dai Tahir and Rasha, Robert started taking me to elaborate parties throughout the Holy Land to train me to get information directly from lusty men. I refused to go without Asad there to look after me, where he always watched me like a hawk from the shadows of the room.
"Tonight, we feast with Abu Nuqoud, the merchant kind of Damascus. There is certain to be wine, meaning there will be drunks. You should know what to do," Robert explained in a murmur as we walked down the bustling streets of Damas. I nodded with each detail, drinking in all of the information. It was my first mission of sorts, and I was determined not to fail. Asad walked alongside us with his arms folded across his chest, an unusual scowl plastered across his face.
Nuquod's palace was exquisite with gardens, fountains, and walls of red stone with elaborate designs carved into its surface. I ignored most of the merchant's speech from the balcony before the feast began, trying to focus on everything Rasha had taught me. Robert found a target for me and subtly pointed him out while I pretended to drink a glass of wine
"Go for that one with the crooked nose. Learn all you can about him, and then report it to me," Robert said. I winced when I saw the one he was pointing out. The man was thin and tall, and everything about him seemed twisted – the way he smiled, his spine, his nose, and his demeanor. Robert left my side and went to speak with some guards.
I walked up to my target with an inviting sort of confidence, but he didn't seem to notice me. Slightly annoyed, I decided to begin the conversation myself.
"Good evening, sir. Are you enjoying the party?" I asked coyly. He turned sharply to face me, his eyes growing wide and taking in my appearance. I felt uncomfortable under his scrutiny, but I managed to maintain my pleasant smile.
"Yes, no one throws parties like Nuquod's," he slurred, the stench of alcohol evident in his breath.
"That is certainly true. You sound like you've been to many parties before, you must be important," I purred, being sure to glorify him as Rasha had instructed. The drunken smile on his face grew; I had hit the right spot.
"I am one of Nuqoud's chief advisors. He couldn't possibly make all of these decisions himself," the man said arrogantly. I averted my eyes from his face for a moment and saw Asad leaning against one of the walls in the shadows, arms still folded over his chest and the scowl even more prominent. Deciding that I would talk to him about it later, I turned back to my target.
"What kinds of decisions?" I asked, making sure to sound as curious as I possibly could.
"Anything to do with gold," he said, a greedy gleam in his eye.
"You like gold?" I asked, batting my eyelashes and placing a hand on the hollow at the base of my neck, revealing the golden bracelet draped around my thin wrist. His eyes grew larger, a material sort of lust clouding them.
"Of course! I've got a plan to take Nuquod's within the week!" He said rather loudly, the drunken excitement getting the better of him. My mouth opened in shock as the guards Robert had been speaking with descended upon him, having heardthe man's bold exclamation. Robert came over to me and smiled in approval.
I put my whole self into the training, but Robert never discussed his goals with me. Knowing him, he probably had something planned out. I trusted him to wait for the opportune moment to share his plans.
In 1189, a messenger ran into our camp bringing news of the death of Grandmaster Ridefort. The Grandmaster of the Templars had been taken hostage by the Saracens and killed when the Templars refused to risk a rescue.
The messenger instructed Robert to return with him on a ship to London, that he might be officially initiated into the Brotherhood and have a chance to become the Grandmaster himself. Certainly not one to allow such an opportunity to pass by, Robert took Asad and I aside the morning of his departure.
"Sana, Asad, listen closely. What I am going to tell you now is something I've never explained to anyone else before," Robert said. The scars on his face danced as his intense expressions grew wild, a mad sort of intelligence dominating his features.
"I have trained you both to bring down the Hashashin together. They have many warriors, but they do not have the cunning, skill, or raw determination of both of you. Sana, tell me, why is it that you fight?" Robert asked.
"To kill Altaïr Ibn La-Ahad, the assassin who murdered my brother," I answered, my consonants sharp as razors as I spat out the name despite my effort to make my inflection neutral. Robert nodded, pleased by my answer.
"And you, Asad, why are you here?" he asked.
"The Hashashin stripped me of my honor when I was younger. I intend to take it back," Asad explained, his voice surprisingly filled with emotion as mine was. The corner of Robert's mouth rose for a moment, indicating his satisfaction.
"Over these past years, I have trained you using your emotions," Robert said. "They are powerful and deeply developed and will give you strength if you can shape them with concentration and discipline. You know every facet of the Assassin's Creed and can use it to talk your way out of trouble should the need arise.
"Your task is to find the Assassin's Bureau in Jerusalem and infiltrate it. Kill its leader, Al Mualim. With fear in their hearts you will take down an army," he finished. He pressed a tattered piece of parchment into my hands, mounted his horse, and rode off into the morning sun.
That tattered piece of paper held an insignia; the sign of the Hashashin. There was no writtenexplanation, but as I observed its sharp corners and supple curves, I understood what it had to be.
For one year, I searched in vain for anything resembling a sign that could lead me to my ultimate goal. As that first year without Robert came to a close, we received news of Robert's ascension to Grandmaster. Up until that point, I had felt like my master had abandoned me. Now, it seemed that he was building up a foundation to support Asad and I. Asad once asked me if he thought Robert would forget us. I smiled and shook my head.
"He is waiting patiently for us. We hold a key piece of a plan, one that is unforgettable. In time, we will find the Bureau and the Templars will descend upon the assassins mercilessly," I said. Asad's face brightened.
"I look forward to that day."