AN: This was (and is still being) written as an epically long one-shot, not a multi-chapter fic; keep that in mind for issues concerning pacing and the sad lack of dramatic chapter endings. It's also my first foray into the fandom...I hope I have the canon right at least, even if I'm not so up-to-date on the fanon. Updates will come quickly since, again, this is really a very long one-shot...much of it is already written, and I know exactly where it's gonna go. This is more of a prologe; the actual plot will show up next chapter, and will be much, much longer.

The slash, such as it is, is pretty subtle. Nothing to burn the eyes, anyway. Why isn't the paring name Maltair? Altmal just doesn't have the right flow.

Figured I'd throw in the Arabic as well, so that someone who can actually read it can tell me how badly google translate murdered the quote.


Battle of Eagles

"Who fears the ghost, sees it."
اللي يخاف من العفريت يطلع له

He knows something is wrong from the moment the figure in front of him takes off its helmet. Its movements are too smooth, its features too slender. The man Altair has been tracking for months removes his mask and is not a man at all, but a woman. She stares at Altair triumphantly, the faintest of smirks on her lips.

"Surprised?" she asks. "Expecting to see someone else?"

"You are not—"Altair grips his sword tighter in his hands and hisses in frustration. "Where is your master?"

"Robert de Sablé?" The woman who isn't Altair's target folds her arms across her chest. Behind her, dying men huddle against gravestones and groan; the twisting spires of the fortress bordering the cemetery stab deep into the sky. "He is riding to Arsuf, to unite Templar and Saracen against a common threat. Against you."

"His plan will fail. The two sides will never work together. They despise each other far too much."

"You think so?" There is a slight, foreign lilt to her laughter when it comes. "Maybe. Or maybe they will look at all the men cut down by assassins and wonder. Maybe they have grown tired of having their fate decided for them by cowards in white who skulk in the shadows." She stares hard at Altair. If she fears him as the decider of her own fate, she doesn't show it.

"It is not I who makes such decisions," Altair says, "and it is not the Brotherhood who are the cowards. You work for men who would see all of humanity enslaved, for some mockery of peace."

"And you work for men who avoid the battlefield, preferring instead to slit the throats of weak, old men." She laughs again. The sound clashes with Jerusalem's church bells, which are all ringing furiously to warn the city of Altair's presence. "Does that make us equal?"

Altair thinks of the madhouse in Acre—Garnier's 'hospital', filled with desperate people driven insane. He thinks of the poisoned guests staggering in Abu'l Nuqoud's garden. He thinks of de Sablé, getting farther away with every passing second…

"Lie to yourself if you must. I have no need to justify myself to a stranger." Altair sheaths his sword, ignoring the surprise in the imposter's eyes. "And I do not have time for it, either. Robert de Sablé will not succeed in his mission."

"Oh? Do you think you can stop him on your own?" the woman asks. "How conceited of you, assassin."

"His plan is laid out before me. It is not conceit that assures me of victory, but your own foolishness in talking so freely."

"Foolishness, hm? Well, then." She shrugs at him, offers him a smile that's almost sweet. Her face is smooth and young-looking; he wonders for a second how old she is…how she came to be in Jerusalem, fighting cruel battles for crueler men.

"You might as well put an end to such foolishness. Kill me, the way you killed all the others. It will be one more death to haunt you before the end."

"No."

"Surely you aren't afraid to take the life of a woman. Come, pull out your blade and we'll—"

"You are not my target," Altair tells her. "If it is your wish to die, you will have to find someone else to grant it."

Impatience spikes in the imposter's eyes. "What if I choose to tell someone of your intentions to attack Robert?"

"It makes no difference. Obviously the guards in this city are already alerted to my presence. Tell whoever you'd like."

He turns away from her surprised protests, and with one smooth leap is over the fence surrounding them. The graveyard he leaves behind is newly adorned with bodies; the image of a young woman dressed in blood-drenched Templar's robes, surrounded by the corpses of the dead, lingers in his mind for a moment before fading away.

Altair is an assassin…he is used to death. He recognizes it for what it is and does not dwell on it for long. If all that he has seen in the past few months bothers him—if he still sometimes hears Kadar's scream echoing in his ears—then it does not show on his face or in his eyes. He hides both his emotions and his expressions behind the clean white of his cowl. He is an assassin, and he is used to seeing suffering walking behind him, like a shadow.

He heads for the Bureau, church bells clanging in his wake.