May 5, 1191
The crowded streets of near dull city that was Jerusalem were fairly routine and normal; the usual days activities going as planned like any other day. Citizens of the city had gotten up from their good nights rest - if they were not busy spending time with whores and drinking till the early hours - and were currently wandering the streets, doing their own duty for the day. Merchants, while their exotic items for sale, called out to those passing by their small shops, presenting their items in which they were planning to sell and make money off of; some were there listening to what they were offering, others simply walked by without a glance over their shoulder. Jar carriers and delivery men casually wandered hither and yon, their destinations unknown to many if not all. The local guards on patrol for the day were on their normal morning duties, making sure no one was doing anything suspicious that would go against the Templar rule while at the same time casually speaking to comrades about their night. Upon seeing the guards, many people slowly parted to different sides, similar to the Red Sea that God had parted for Moses, mainly to avoid trouble. Others were out of polite, but mostly to keep their limbs or their lives No one really did enjoy causing trouble for the guards these days, knowing the lethal consequences fairly well. On many occasions, it was usually death, but that was just to show who was in charge.
A sigh escaped my lips at the thought of such horrible things, remembering a day when someone was accused of stealing and beaten nearly to death and losing a finger. It would be the first time moments like have occurred in the streets; in fact, it usually happened from once a day to once a week. Things like that happened all of the time, whether it be in this city or another. Nevertheless, I was a Templar as well. I was used to it all by now, yet despite that, I still felt my heart sink at the thought of the people, imy/i people getting hurt for a little misdemeanor.
The reason I say the people were mine was because I was…related, I suppose I could say, to Richard the Lionheart. My name: Cynthia Richard; I was his daughter. At least, that was what I was told. Some people, guards mainly due to the fact that I saw many of them on a daily basis, knew who I was simply by sight and occasionally sent either a small bow of respect or a simple nod when they passed by. Since I had been in Jerusalem for some time and have been here before in the past, it was no surprise to see such things. Many of the civilians in the city had heard of my arrival days, even weeks, ago from the passing guards – some of which were my own personal bodyguards who were given patrol duties from their superiors. After the news, many of the civilians made sure to greet me in the street, bowing or sending me a small wave and a smile, and offer me gifts to show their appreciation for the things that I had done for them. They greatly respected me and the compassion I showed to those less fortunate, even going as far as to put a stop to more than one public beating for a small crime, especially when it was just a child who had nothing. Some had told me that I would one day become a great leader when the time was right; they believed I would make the world a better place for them to live in. Unfortunately, I seemed to think otherwise from what they were thinking, which seemed unfair for them.
I started to, unconsciously, chew on my lower lip as my mind wandered off to other places. The thought of becoming an actual ruler made my stomach churn with nervousness and uncertainty, unsure if I really was able to rule an entire nation with the help of a King. Even though I was twenty-three years of age, I felt I was unprepared for something as big as controlling a land much bigger than I had previously imaged when I was but a mere child. The thought never really occurred to me until I actually saw it for what it really was, so vast and so unknown yet glorious and filled with majesty. Despite all that, I still felt unprepared; I even went as far as to tell my father that I was not as excited to become the next ruler as I was back then. Instead of consoling me and giving me advice that would sooth my thoughts, he simply replied with a, "No need to worry about what the future my hold, my child. I know you will be a great ruler, just like me." Although he tried his best to cheer me up with his words, the thought still continued to linger in the back of my mind, gnawing as if it were a mouse chewing through food. People wished for me to be a good queen like my father was King, even if at times his rule seemed rather unfair to the people, but I certainly hoped it would be the opposite and that I would help the people on more occasions than him.
Forest green eyes lowered my feet at the thought of Richard the Lionheart, the man I had looked up to as my father. For as long as I could remember, probably as far back as my days as a young girl, my father and I had not been in the best relationship; we never could see eye to eye on many situations that occurred. Even though I was able to put a smile on my face and talk about how great a man he was to others, it was different in comparison to what people had heard through word of mouth. "They usually fight," one would say. "They would always argue about what was best for the land," another would add. The happy life that I portrayed to many was not true; in other words, the rumors were the real stories told in different ways. For as long as I could remember, he and I seldom spoke to one another, the exception being either through letters sent to one another while I was in another city or when we were arguing about the future of the Kingdom. No one had really known about our distant and rather rugged relationship, since I always spoke so fondly of him, but it was the truth. When I was a child, he was always so worried about his Kingdom that he rarely made any time to spend with family, and when he did he would barely pay much attention. I will not lie when I say I understood his reasons and I respected his decision to focus on his duties, as being a King was very difficult, but it made our relationship grow farther and farther apart as time went on. As much as I did not like the idea of becoming distant from my family, there was nothing I could really do anymore but allow it to happen.
My thin lips pursed as I turned a corner and continued walking down the dirt street; a distracted expression was plastered on my face as I patrolled the area around me, occasionally looking at the merchant shops nearby. It did not feel as though I was patrolling when I was; it felt more like wandering the streets by myself and looking around at everything to see if I had missed something on my previous travels or if something had changed. At the moment, there was nothing; just the same buildings with the same shops, sometimes the same people walking about and nothing more than that. As beautiful a city as this place was, it really seemed rather boring on the inside.
I stopped in my tracks as I heard a voice call my name, or the respected form of it. When I turned around, I found the person, a guard of about mid-thirties, approaching me before bowing low. A small smile appeared on my lips. Even when I tell them that bowing is not necessary when my father is not around, I thought to myself, they do it anyway.
"You know, you do not have to refer to me as that, right? It is only around my..." He quickly looked at me as he stood up straight, a curious expression on his face. I paused for a moment, realizing that was dangerously close to mentioning the deteriorating relationship between my father and I. Before he had time to question me about it, I quickly shook my head, causing strands of my long, light brown hair to fall past my shoulders in the process. "Nevermind. Forget I said any of that." A small smile graced my thin lips again as my kind, forest green eyes stared into his dark hues. "Now, what is it that you wish to tell me, sir?"
It took him a moment to respond, as he was just returning from his curious moment from before.
"I was sent here to retrieve you," he said, standing a bit taller than he should have. He must have been one of those uptight higher authoritative figures I heard rumors about. "Your fiancé wishes to speak with you as soon as you are available."
My eyes narrowed at that name as a frown spread across my lips in an instant. There was one other reason as to why I was here in Jerusalem, and it was not just for patrolling as I had mentioned before. In fact, people knew what this particular reason was. That reason happened to be the arrival of my upcoming wedding. As wonderful as it sounded to many, I was not very excited about it like I should have been. Reason being was that the man I was to marry turned out to be a hypocrite, and I mean a real hypocrite not the kind who did it out of fun. I came to realize over the past few months that the man that was to be my husband only cared about himself, the wealth, and the attention he received from others. It was sickeningly cruel to know what kind of person he really was, and I still could not stand to say I was actually marrying him. The man's name was Abel, or Lord Abel of England due to his noble heritage. However, the only difference between he and I was that he continuously took advantage of it all without much of a care for others, while I seldom asked for much from...well, anyone.
Even though I spoke about him with great distaste, his physical appearance and voice - apparently he had an "English" accent - made him seem like a gentle, kind young man with a caring personality and heart as big as an oversized boulder. His appearance made him seem less than the evil brute that I had seen in the past on more than one occasion. Short, well cut black hair adorned his head, and ocean blue eyes gave him a look of innocence, eyes that would make any woman fall for him at the first sight. I would know; I had done so when I first met him many months ago. His physique was slim, yet muscular, as I had seen that he was able to handle a sword very well on his own. His attire consisted of his noble background - a yellow and orange color theme, which was a very strange combination in my opinion, but I did not judge their traditional family style. Nevertheless, despite all of the good things I may have picked out, it did not change my opinion of him. Never let appearances fool you, I always told myself since the day our marriage was made official by my father, after I realized just what kind of man he really was.
When Abel and I met for the first time, I made sure I was always on my guard, keeping an eye out for anything suspicious about the man, as I was brought up to be that way from the very start. I was told to always get to know a person before making any judgments. Sadly, as I spoke to him more and time went on, I mistook him for that kind, young gentlemen who just wanted someone to love and be happy with for all his days. I was a blind little fool back then, even at the moment I accepted his proposal. Since then, he had treated me as if I were nothing but a beggar on the streets, looking the other way and pretending I did not exist. His only reason behind our marriage, I learned, was to become rich and have anything he could ever ask for in life. I had seen him speak of how much money he proposed he would want when he became King, and became disgusted since. I had warned my father of this important matter, not wanting the Kingdom to fall into the hands of a spoiled child, yet he refused to listen to me due to the fact that he was unable to see the evil in Abel's heart. That was when I realized I could not even trust my own father to help me in a situation as urgent as this, and as time went on, I realized nearly every person among the cities did not believe me and was praising Abel, iworshiping the man/i. How could he do such a thing, blind these people with lies and fake promises of a better future?
I quickly removed the expression on my face and simply sighed before saying, "All right, then. I suppose I am available right now. Not much going on here, anyway, why stay?" A quick, hesitant pause as I glanced over at a nearby building with a look of disinterest. "If I may so...kindly ask, will you please lead me to him?"
"But of course, Milady."
He bowed once more out of respect, only this one was much more brief than the first one, before leading the way to wherever Abel was currently located. Forcing my legs to move, I silently followed close behind him, resisting the urge to just run away before the guard had time to notice anything. Unconsciously, I pursed my lips with distaste, glancing at everything else around me in a futile attempt to distract myself from what was to come in the future. This was going to be a painfully long and slow walk, a walk I was forcing myself to trek.
"Well, well, it seems you have returned, Altaïr," stated Malik, a hint of venom clear in his tone, as I entered the room as silent as a mouse. My dark eyes narrowed at his words, yet remained silent, for I was not in the mood to banter with him again as we had in the past. "I assume the Master has sent you here to eliminate yet another Templar to help restore your ranks."
His voice was bored and monotone as always, as if he already knew what to do and what he was meant to ask. I could not blame him very much; the Dai had been stuck here within the walls of the Assassin's Bureau in Jerusalem for some time now - several months I suppose, since he now only had one arm to work with instead of two. I knew the reason for behind the matter, as he had blamed me for it all this time without much question and with his own reasons. It was not only due to the events at Solomon's Temple, where we nearly lost the Piece of Eden to Robert de Sable, but it was because he had lost both his arm and his younger brother Kadar Al-Sayf as well. There was no other reason than that, and it was clear he hated me since. Not wanting to reminisce on the past, I pushed the thoughts and memories of that day to the back of my mind. I did not wanting to reopen the old wounds of the past as Malik had done so without much of a care on more than one occasion. What was in the past is finished now, I told myself, and worrying about it now would only be a distraction to me. The only way to repent for what had happened back then was to find and kill Robert de Sable, the man who had caused it all. It was he who had brought upon the death of Kadar and the loss of Malik's arm. It was he who had to pay dearly for his crimes.
Approaching the desk, I brought myself back into reality, while Malik barely paid much attention to me at all.
"Cynthia Richard," I spoke in a blank tone, "is the target Al Mualim sent me to eliminate."
The Dai raised an eyebrow with interest as he glanced up at me for a brief moment, his expression different than what I had expected. It seemed he appeared to be interested to hear such news about someone as high in royalty, especially when it was Richard's daughter, yet his voice said otherwise.
"Richard's daughter? Sentenced to death?" He sounded as if he did not exactly hear me, but the look on his face knew exactly what I had said. Instead of repeating myself, I simply replied with a small nod. "Why does the Master wish to see her dead?" He paused for thought. "Has she done something to grab the attention of the Brotherhood?"
I simply gave a small shrug as Malik returned his attention back down at his work.
"He only told me that getting rid of her would most likely give us a higher advantage at finding and finishing off Robert de Sable," I explained. "He did not give me any more details as to what kind of trouble she has caused towards the Brotherhood."
Malik remained silent for a brief moment, taking in the information, before sighing with disinterest.
"I would recommend searching the Rich District," he suggested in a bland tone, "since she is very high in nobility, thanks to her father as you know. There is bound to be some information about her possible troubles around there. Besides," He sneered, "I am sure she is loved by everyone, anyway. Tch. Stalked by everyone is a more appropriate. I would not be surprised if you came back saying she brainwashed them all with either her money or her looks."
I blinked curiously, taking note to Malik's muttering toward the end of his sentence. Knowing Malik rather well, even before the events at Solomon's Temple, I knew it was not like him to suddenly speak to himself out of the blue the way he did just now. It was out of character for a man like him. Then again, I had not been around in the bureau for long enough to figure out whether he had suddenly lost it or not. My eyes narrowed. No, I thought. Malik was not one to feel loneliness, especially not enough to talk to himself. He may have been a rather stubborn man, but he would not stoop so low as to feel alone inside the Assassin's Bureau, let alone talk to himself when he had no one else to converse with. Maybe, from the way he spoke about Cynthia, he actually felt something for her. Not love, of course, as he believed love would only make him weaker as the Master constantly mentioned to us during our days as novices, but it was something different than that. An idea came to my mind started to assume something that would probably never come to mind. Maybe...
"You pity the woman," I stated, finishing the thought with my own voice. It sounded more like a statement than a question, one Malik did not appreciate very much as he glanced at me rather quickly, disbelief filling in his eyes, before answering with a glare and a harsh tone.
"No, I do not." He spoke as if I just asked the stupidest question in the world, but it did not matter to me all that much. "That is a thought that will never cross my mind.
I raised a curious eyebrow before continuing, "It sounded as though you did, but it was only a curious thought and nothing more. Also, it sounded as if you may be jealous over the fact that everyone adores her."
Malik growled at my words, his glare hardening in the process.
"That is absurd!" He snapped angrily. "Why the Hell would I be jealous of a mere girl who has everything a person could ever ask for in the palm of her hand?" When I did not respond to his question, he shook his head and looked back at his maps. "She is nothing but a spoiled, immature child just looking for attention. That is all she is and ever will be."
"I am sure she is, no doubt about that," I spoke as I began to leave, "but who is to say that you are just like her...?" Malik glared at me. "Well, excluding the whole adoration idea, of course."
"Watch it, La'Ahad," he hissed as I turned and left the Bureau silently, "or I'll have your head on a pike!"
"Are you excited about the wedding, Milady?" The guard asked as we continued to make our way to where Abel was. "I am still surprised that it is tomorrow! Everyone is just as happy for this special occasion" He chuckled a bit at his exuberance; I felt a small smile appear on my lips. "Time seems to fly by fairly quickly these days, you know? I barely remember what I did yesterday."
I looked at the ground and watched my feet move one in front of the other in a repeating matter, thinking the complete opposite of what he had spoken. I could not blame him, really; he, among others, were very excited to know that I was finally going to help the upcoming King - Abel - lead the land. Unfortunately, I knew that the future for this wonderful place was going to fall down a dark path.
"I apologize for not sharing your...enthusiasm, sir," I replied. I sensed him look at me with confusion filling his gruff features.
"How can you not be happy about such a wonderful event?" He questioned. "You are getting married to a nobleman of your father's liking!"
"I know that..." I muttered, "but to Abel, and we all know..." I trailed off for a moment as I realized that it was only I who thought one way, "Well, I know that he is nothing more than a hypocrite."
"He is a great man, Milady. How could you not be excited to be marrying a noble just like yourself, and one your father and the Kingdom both approve of?"
I looked at the sky for a long moment, before sighing and looking at the ground once more.
"I told you many times before, but you do not see the ireal/i him, the one I see almost every single day..."
"I do not see any flaw in him," he continued while I shook my head. I had expected choice of words. "I think your father made a great choice when finding you a suitable husband."
At that, I looked in front of me, my eyes filling with anger, yet my voice remained calm as I said, "You mean a stupid choice. Abel is nothing more than a selfish, spoiled, ungrateful child that cares of no one but himself. He bosses me around as if I am his little servant, a pawn in his little games and nothing more. He does not treat me the way a soon-to-be married couple should treat each other, but as if I were a worthless dog. I cannot stand to even look at him or even know that he is in the vicinity." I sighed and looked away. "I just...I just want this all to be a dream. I just want to wake up and forget that he even exists in my life, that he ever existed in my life. I just want someone better than him, someone who actually treats women with at least a little respect and not like some animal..."
The guard sighed and shook his head. Clearly, he did not listening to word I said as he stated in a matter-of-fact tone, "For a woman your age, you act a lot like a child."
"I am not acting like a child!" I snapped in a low tone, not wanting to a bring attention upon myself by others around me. "It is the truth, but you refuse to listen to it!"
He simply chuckled at my words.
"If you say so, Milady…"
I looked away from him and remained silent, shaking my head with disbelief. No one understood what I had to deal with every single day when it came to Abel. No one understood the pain I had to endure with him, to know he was evil while everyone else saw a young man ready to marry and take on the world with an iron fist. Everyone may adore us and respect us as a couple, thinking that the Kingdom was to be placed in the right hands, but they could not see the pain behind every one of my smiles. They did not know that I was dying to burst out of my skin, to scream for all the world to see and expose him for what he really was. I may not have wanted people to pay attention to every little pain I had in the world, but just this once did I want someone, anyone, to help me. Those who adored Abel, obviously, had not seen the real him. If they had, though, they were probably too blind by his "handsome looks" and "kind heart" to actually pay any attention to anything he did. It killed me to know people actually loved him, looked up to him, worshiped him, as if he were God in the living, breathing flesh, yet they could not see the selfish side I had seen mere days after he proposed to me, since the day my father officially began arranging this marriage. It was a day I would always regret, even if the marriage were somehow broken off by luck.
"I am going run away from all of this," I spoke aloud, making the guard look at me with a bit of shock, before I sensed a smile appear on his face.
"Those are just words, milady," he chuckled. "Not to show any disrespect, but I do not think you will have a chance at escaping this marriage, no matter how hard you tried."
"That...is what you think..." I responded, ending the conversation with those simple words.
"Good work, Altaïr," said the Informer, a tone of relief hidden in his voice as I approached him, speaking of the good news his life would be spared. "Those men will not have my head this day."
At least an hour had passed since I left the Assassin's Bureau in search of information on Cynthia Richard. Heading to the possible location where she may have been near, I was able eavesdrop on a group that spoke of Cynthia's whereabouts and where she would be in near the future. According to them, she was going to be somewhere near the center of the city, but for what reason I was unable to find out. Later, I pick-pocketed a letter that she wished to send to her father, claiming she wanted it sent as quickly as possible. I had yet to read the letter, but I was planning on doing so in the near future when I returned to the bureau for the night. However, after that, there was not much about what I was looking for, yet I continued looking for even the smallest of clues that would benefit me. After another few minutes of searching through the Rich District, I ran into the Informer standing before me. He appeared to be somewhat afraid for his life before explaining that some Templars were after him after they caught him pick-pocketing one of the guards in the Middle District. If I eliminated them, he told me he would speak about what Cynthia was up to at the present time. I immediately took the offer without hesitation and returned fifteen minutes later with the Templars eliminated and gone from this world.
I glanced around for a moment before looking back at him.
"I am in a bit of a hurry today, as the Master wishes for her demise as soon as possible," I explained in a blank tone. "Just tell me what I need to know, and I will be on my way."
"Yes, yes. Of course," he spoke. He paused for a moment before realization struck his shielded features, as if he just remembered something very important. "To tell you the truth, Altaïr, Cynthia Richard had just passed by here while you were away."
I blinked at his words, shocked by the sudden news, yet my expression remained unfazed.
"Was she with someone?"
He responded with a quick, brief nod, and said, "Yes, in fact. A guard was with her at that point." I cursed under my breath as he continued. "They were talking about her marriage that is to happen...I believe it was tomorrow from the rumors I heard around the city."
"Marriage?" I questioned, earning another nod from the Informer. "Where and when will this event take place?"
"Here in Jerusalem, actually. Just before noon tomorrow. To Lord Abel, I might add." He paused as he collected his thoughts. "Not only was I going to tell you of the marriage, but I was also going to tell you a way to get iinto/i the ceremony unnoticed and eliminate her at the altar."
I crossed my arms over my chest and navigated my eyes, not really caring if Cynthia was to be married or not, just as long as the mission was completed.
"I am sure she is...very happy about this," I spoke out loud, a sarcastic and disinterested tone clear in my voice. "Any woman would be if they were to be married at her age."
The Informer lowered his head slightly before crossing his arms over his chest, mirroring my motions.
"Actually, it is quite the opposite." I glanced at him, raising an eyebrow slightly at his words. "She claims her fiancé is a...a 'selfish, spoiled, ungrateful child that does not care about anyone but himself.'" He uncrossed his arms. "Obviously, she does not like the man at all. She even went as far to say she wished to run away from it all."
A heavy sigh escaped my lips as I uncrossed my arms and allowed them to fall to their sides.
"She will not have to worry about him for very long, for she is not going to live long enough to walk down the aisle."
The Informer chuckled at my words as I turned and entered the moving crowd.
"We shall see about that, Altaïr." He said as I left. "We shall see..."