Jerusalem, 1191

Gratitude. The robed man in the square chastised the passing crowds with loud words and excited gestures, reminding them to always be grateful for the gifts Allah bestows and warning them that He shall surely withdraw his grace should they cease being thankful. The man's fervor shone in his eyes as they scanned, seeking a target for his lessons - lessons most of the citizens had seemed too busy to pay much attention to as they went about their business.

So it was that eventually the man's eyes found my own, as I sat on what I thought was an out of the way bench. I have been told that I have a piercing stare and I employed it, willing the man to look away and forget that he saw me. He did not, though I did notice the edges of his lips curled ever so slightly. His gaze was intense as he spoke the following strange words, seemingly to me alone: "Do not forget to count your blessings each day. Allah is kind, but time is a lion and you, my friend, are a lamb."

Our eyes remained locked a few seconds more. He smiled in earnest before turning away to seek another soul to impart his wisdom to, and I was left vaguely impressed and unsettled as I stood and vanished into the crowd.

Time is a lion and you, my friend, are a lamb. I have to smile at the words. A more apt metaphor for the tenuous nature of existence I have not heard.

Now I sit here beside the candle's warm glow, quill in hand, contemplating the idea of gratitude. The man would no doubt be pleased. I must admit that it is not something that in the past I have spent much time thinking about, at least not overtly.

On the basest level, I am grateful for my life as every man is. More specifically: Am I grateful for my life's work? My spirit answers immediately with a resounding yes, despite recent events. I am grateful for the Creed, for the enlightenment I have found within its framework. I must endeavor to remain humbled by it and not place my own ever-persistent will above it. It is no small task.

I am grateful to the Master, for taking me, a nameless boy and giving me purpose. His lessons were often hard - so hard that at times I thought the man simply delighted in cruelty. I know now the reasons behind many of them, and I am thankful for each and every one. I am beginning to understand this most recent, the hardest of all. A man broken down can either grow bitter or wiser from the ordeal. Despite some initial floundering, I choose the latter.

I have much to make amends for. I had a stark reminder of this earlier in the day when I visited the Bureau. Malik's response to my presence cut me to the quick and evoked an impulsive, childish and habitual response from me that I regret. It caused me to seek lodging elsewhere rather than risk aggravating the situation.

I am wandering from the topic. Or am I? Why should I think of Malik while contemplating gratitude? On reflection, I realize that though I have no right to or faith that it will come to pass, part of me hopes that I can somehow make things right with him. I have no idea how to even begin, though I am sure the attitude I displayed today is not a good start.

Random things for which I am grateful...

Twilight in the Garden. It has been too long since I've enjoyed the unfolding of the night from my favorite vantage point on the lower terrace.

The perfection of the hidden blade, a well-balanced throwing knife and a sure and steady hand to wield them. It should come as no surprise that I would be grateful for my weapons, for they define me as much as my missing finger. I passed a vendor who had several fine throwing knives for sale and I was momentarily tempted, given that my own have yet to be returned to me. With a mixture of regret and resolve I walked away. I will earn them, again.

Sitting atop a high observation position and spotting an eagle circling nearby. If it calls out, something stirs deep inside of me – affinity, longing, a desire to answer. Those are the times that I usually cannot resist the urge to take a deep breath and leap. There is nothing equaling that sense of exhilaration.

I suspect that some day I shall be grateful to have known love, but it is not today.

Minutes have passed since I wrote the last sentence. Just that simple thought has spoiled my concentration, so I will end this entry before it becomes something else entirely. In any case, I should review the information I have pieced together regarding my mission.

~Altair Ibn La-Ahad

A/N This entry was written for the Visionary Assassins challenge "Thanksgiving/Gratitude." I owe the line "Time is a lion and you are a lamb" to musician Joe Henry. Thanks for reading!