Assassin's Creed - Altair

The cold was almost a solid, tactile thing, the snow swirling gently down, heavy flakes lacing themselves into the blanket of deep quiet, the quiet so complete that his smallest breath seemed an intrusion, Ashara's occasional soft neigh a roar.

It was not unbearable, but it was insidious, if one could assign such a description to the weather. It both numbed and permeated his bones, making him feel brittle when his mind slipped from its philosophical ruminations and pondering. Pulling the cloak tighter around his shoulders, he shivered and retreated back into his thoughts.

All around him was evidence of Nature's silent meditation. As the days had passed and he'd gained ever higher elevation, the effect was more profound. The solitude was complete. There was not much life here. The last people he'd seen were two Buddhist monks, days ago, on foot. Though language was a barrier, he'd been able to ascertain that they were making their way to a cave on some holy pilgrimage. They'd kindly offered him their blessing, folding their hands and bowing their heads in the precise gesture that the Brotherhood used. Some things are primal, he reflected, so ingrained in the collective minds of men that they cross the normal barriers of society and culture. If only men would focus on that, instead of waging wars based on slight differences in theology or ideology. If only the Brotherhood... He checked himself, realizing the futility of finishing the thought. They would always be needed, even though they dreamed of peace.

Peace. It had been on the lips of madmen, poets and zealots, who invoked it as if it were a lost dream, an elemental force or a divine right reserved for some privileged few. Thankfully there were those who understood the true meaning of peace, but the skeptic in him all but accepted that they would always be far outnumbered. It often left him bitterly resigned and jaded in his dealings with his fellow humans. He sighed deeply. Though he tried not to expect the worst, all too frequently he was reminded that man was, overall, a selfish animal.

He rounded a bend in the path and the world opened up, a sprawling mountain vista before him. Pulling up on the reins, he dismounted, retrieving an apple for Ashara to munch on. His boots crunched in the packed snow as he was drawn to the very edge where the ground fell away to take in the view.

The sky to the west was bluer than any he'd seen, a brilliant shade of cerulean. It didn't seem real, but like some artist's rendering. The contrast of it and the snow covered peaks was breathtaking in its beauty, almost blinding.

To the east, all was still shrouded in shades of grey, but it was receding against the unfurling banners of sunlight that pierced it, steadily illuminating the landscape, as if it were awakening from a dream. Looking at it, one felt cleansed, purified, and humbled by the majesty. No church or temple could offer such a potent, undeniable example of the imminent divinity of creation, he thought.

The skeptic inside of him was silenced as he stood in silent communion, the bitter weight of his earlier thoughts forgotten.

The snow had tapered off to just a few flakes as the first rays of sunlight he'd felt in days reached him. He closed his eyes for a moment, relishing the warmth, a slight smile thawing itself from his lips.

He stayed a few moments longer in that place of respite, but the sun was already past its zenith and he had miles to go before he reached his destination. As he climbed into the saddle and gave Ashara a gentle nudge, he heard an eagle call and looked for it, but couldn't spot it anywhere. Even so, he marked it as a good omen and felt it reverberate through his spirit as he continued his journey, renewed.

~Fin