Yes, here I am, long-time viewers of Masquerade. It's a different genre, I know, but bear with me. Reviews help. ;) So enjoy, no flames, leave long reviews and you get cookies!
Disclaimer: I in no way own the incredible game Assassin's Creed or any of its characters, because if I did there would be shirtless Altair scenes. ;D
Song: Walking on Air, Kerli.
"There's a little creepy house in a little creepy place, little creepy town
in a little creepy world. Little creepy girl with her
little creepy face, saying funny things that you have never heard.
Do you know what it's all about? Are you brave enough to figure out?
Know that you could set your world on fire, if you are strong enough to leave
your doubts. Feel it, breathe it, believe it, and you'll be walking on air . . ."
I ran. I ran until my lungs burned and my legs ached, and I ran until I felt as if I would no longer be able to move another step, and still I ran. The obnoxious clanking and smashing of heavy metal armor rebounded against the alley walls until the sound was quickly absorbed by the dirt walls. My worn leather boots made hardly a sound against the dusty unpaved street, and small clouds of dirt flew up where my feet hit the ground. The sounds of my pursuers increased in volume, and I realized that in my state, climbing a building would be futile. Sprinting around a corner, a slight sound and a flash of silver caught my eye; a sword had barely missed my arm. Vaulting over several small wooden crates, I aimed my run for an open, sunny souk. My dagger was pulled from its sheath before I had come to a halt. Twisting around suddenly, I caught one of the Damascus soldiers off guard and cut a deep gash across the man's chest.
At the sight of the blood and violence, passing civilians began screaming and ran in random directions, not seeming to notice that they were adding to the chaos. Dropped merchandise from nearby merchants' stalls cluttered the souk, making several people slip. The unfortunate passersby who fell were trampled underneath the parading steps of the others. Trying to ignore these morbid facts, I unsheathed my blade just fast enough to block an incoming attack from a guard on my right. Another, sensing an opening on my left, lunged at my exposed side. I knocked the sword away, which had cut close enough to my ribs that a small cut appeared in my robes. I felt a hot bead of blood drip down my side, and it was then that it dawned upon me that it was possible I would not live to tell how I got that scar. There were at the very least a dozen guards surrounding me, and I was already exhausted from fleeing from these same men. My thoughts were wandering to the poison vial hidden in robes, made for such a purpose as to keep information from our many enemies, when the guard directly in front of me made a chilling gurgle and fell to the ground, dead. A knife that was not my own protruded from his neck.
I turned my head slightly, and saw a figure silhouetted against the sun on a building to my right. The figure leapt swiftly to the ground and stuck a short, dirty blade into the chest of the guard closest to it. With a movement so fast even I had trouble following it, the figure's hand whipped to the left, grabbing the helmet of a very unfortunate guard. Another hand struck out and smashed into the man's chin, cracking his head to the side and snapping his neck. The figure turned to face me, and I blinked several times to make sure my eyes were not decieving me. It was a woman, and a red scarf covered most of her face, all but her eyes. But her eyes were the most peculiar of all. One iris was a shocking, sky blue, while the other was a dark, enveloping green.
Well, this little eagle had gotten himself into quite the uncomfortable spot, now, hadn't he? I smirked as Ieapt from my vantage point atop a house and quickly killed of two of the several surrounding men. After apparently getting over his initial surprise, the Assassin began assisting me in dispatching the majority of the remaining guards. Three particularily seasoned fighters who had survived turned and sprinted away with their tails between their legs.
A bark of laughter pealed from my throat and I called after the fleeing men, insulting them and their parentage. With a final rude gesture in their direction, I turned back to the robed man. I shifted the red scarf I kept over my face. The garment covered my nose and mouth, and I never, under any circumstances, removed it. It was something permanent; There was no one living who had seen my face below my eyes. But unlike other women, I did not wear this scarf because I was supposed to. I found the practise of keeping one's hair covered vain and idiotic.
Smirking, I strolled to where the man was standing. I observed his white robes with a red sash, his well-crafted sword and concealing hood. Raising an eyebrow, I said, "You are an assassin, are you not?"
The assassin narrowed his eyes at me. My grin was concealed beneath my scarf, and I took his reaction to confirm my suspicions. Rolling my neck, I briefly scanned the horizon and centered my gaze on the tallest minaret in the city. A single eagle circled the point; I had seen that very same eagle many times. This I knew, due to the unique dark brown streaks on the upperside of its wings-no other bird I had seen looked quite like that one. I had to wonder if it was planted, to search the city or something similar. Shaking my head to clear my wandering thoughts, I turned back to where the assassin had stood a moment before, and was taken aback when there was no one there.
My knowing smile was accompanied by closed eyes and a slow nod. I opened my eyes and turned in a full circle, observing the sun-baked rooftops around me.
"Very well, Assassin," I called out to no one in particular. "But I have a proposition for you. And I know you are interested, because you are still listening to me right now," My smile shifted into a grin. "I have a proposition for you. Meet me at sundown at the top of the tallest minaret. I will see you then." I turned and jogged down a familiar alleyway without another word.
The woman disappeared into a dark sidestreet. I abandoned my position inside a shadowed roof garden to return to the Bureau. My footsteps scraped across sun-baked roofs, and as I ran I contemplated the offer the woman had made me. That woman . . . she was something unlike I had ever seen. She wore tattered clothes and was covered in the filth of the streets, yet she fought as if she had been trained. She obviously had no disinclination towards violence, and yet she covered her face, like very other female in the Holy Land. I would consult with the Rafiq before sundown.
I reached the Bureau and dropped down into the shaded building. The Rafiq was behind his desk as usual, poring over more dusty scrolls and ancient papers. The man looked up at me as I walked in.
"Altair, welcome, welcome! Who's life do you come to collect today?" He asked.
"His name is Abu'l Nuquod," I replied. "What can you tell me about him?"
The Rafiq nodded his head, as if very interested. "Oh, the Merchant King of Damas, richest man in the city, quite exciting, quite dangerous! I envy you, Altair. Well, not where you were beaten and stripped of your rank, but I envy everything else. Oh, wait, except for all the terrible things the other Assassins say about you. But, yes, aside from the failure and hatred, aside from those things, I envy you very much!"
"I do not care what the others think or say," I scowled. The others could humor themselves however they wished, but rank counted for nothing. I still retained by skills, and those were what I had worked to gain, what most of the other Assassins were still working to gain. "I am here to do a job. So I ask again: What can you tell me about the Merchant King?"
The Rafiq had taken out a brush and ink and had begun painting a clay vase. "Only that he must be a very bad man for Al Mualim to want him killed. He keeps to his own kind, wrapped in the finery of the city's noble district. He is always up to something. I am sure if you spend some time amongst his type, you will learn all you need to know about him."
"And where would you have me begin my search?"
"If I were you, I would start with the Omayad mousk, and the souk Say'youja. Both of which are west of here. Further to the north is Salah al-Din citidel. It is a popular meeting spot, and has proved a reliable source of loose tongues in the past. Yes, these three places should serve your needs."
"My thanks for your guidance, Rafiq. But I would ask your opinion on a matter."
"Oh? What is it?"
"I encountered a woman today, unlike any I have met before. This woman was a fighter unlike any I had seen on the street, and she requested to meet me on the top of the tallest minaret in the city. I believe she has a deal that involves the Brotherhood, and I ask if I should consider what she has to offer."
The Rafiq bursted out in laughter. This was not the reaction I had expected, but I waited until he was finished. Wiping tears from his eyes, the Rafiq snickered, "Chasing after girls now, Altair?"
"No," I said firmly. "But seeing as you do not take this seriously, I will pursue the matter myself."
As I turned to walk out, the Rafiq called out, "Yes, I thought you would, Altair. Good luck on your search of the city!"
Warm wind blew through my hair, and I let my dark tresses fall across my shoulders and my back, down to my waist. My legs dangled over the edge of the sturdy wooden platform I sat upon. Pale pinks and reds shone through the wispy, dehydrated clouds, and I laid back to rest my head on the stone railing behind me and gazed up at the darkening sky, my legs from the knees down falling into open air. The light smells of dust and hay lingered in the air, and I inhaled deeply through my nose, taking in the comfortable aromas. Such scents reminded me of a time long ago, when I had something to live for, people I loved, tasks to complete besides disposing of brutal city guards and scavenging for my next meal. I wrapped a lock of my hair around my finger and absentmindedly rubbed at the greasy curl. I could not remember the last time I had taken a proper bath, if it had ever happened. Swiping a hand across my cheek, I saw that layers of dirt and dried sweat caked that as well. My light green dress (which I had stolen from a rather naive young woman) was ripped from the tops of my thighs, leaving room for me to maneuver and fight; though several times, due to the shortness of the garment, I had been mistaken for a woman of ill repute and I had taken much pleasure in beating the drunken slobs who had dared assault me.
A scraping of a boot gently woke me from my daydreams. Looking due west, I noted that the sun had just disappeared below the horizon. I shifted further back so my hands rested on the balcony that was connected to my wooden platform, and I was staring at the assassin upside-down.
"You came," I chirped. "I knew you would."
"You hardly gave me a choice," He said lowly. "Now what is it you want from me?"
I flipped backwards so I was standing in the narrow balcony, nearly nose to nose with the killer. There was a small vertical scar on his lips. I do not know why I noticed that; perhaps it was the fact that our faces, due to the narrowness of the balcony, were only centimeters apart. "Like I said, I have a proposition for you. After deducing that you belonged to the order of Assassins-do not glare at me so! It was quite obvious. You might as well have had a sign on your back declaring such. But that is beside the point. I am going to be blunt with you, assassin; I am not one to beat around the bush. The honor would be mine if you would allow me to join your Brotherhood."
This was something of a surprise to me. It was not what I expected her to say in the least. Although I was deeply inclined to say no, she seemed genuine in her devotion. As if sensing my thoughts, she was quick to futher alter my opinion.
"I am tired of living on the streets. And you have seen me fight; I would be more than capable than handling whatever you may throw my direction," I must admit, she raised a valid point, but there were many capable fighters who did not have a profession and were abandoned to the alleys, forced to steal for their income. We could not recruit every urchin that came to us asking for shelter, although some of my Brothers may want to. There was simply not enough room at Masyaf. Yet something-a gut feeling, if you will-told me that this was not just the average street criminal.
I hesitated, but after another moment of consideration, I nodded my head once. The woman was clearly ecstatic, but before she got her hopes up too high, I held up a hand to stop her.
"I did not say yes," I growled. "Your place in the Brotherhood is not for me to decide. You will accompany me to the Bureau, and the Rafiq there will send a message to my Master and he will be the one to admit you. When we reach the Bureau, you will not be permitted to leave or contact any accomplices or companions. From here, you are on your own. The same rules will apply when we reach Masyaf, if you get that far. Are you willing to accept these sacrifices?"
Her scarf covered her face, but her uneven eyes told me what her smile could not. "I live to serve the Brotherhood," She vowed.
I nodded once more. "Very well. Follow me, then."
I was soaring. Finally, after years of living on my own, of living in scum, I would be part of something bigger, something that I could be proud to fight and die for. At last my pent up excitement could not contain itself any longer, and I spun on my heel and dove off the minaret.
Peace enveloped me as I flew through the air, watched Damas racing up to meet me. Soft hay suddenly consumed me, and I leapt out and turned my gaze back to the assassin at the top of the minaret. A flash of white, and he was standing next to me. He immediatly took off at a jog norht, and I followed him into my new life.
We arrived at a small, nondescript building. I dropped down through wooden grating with which dense vines crawled across. A fountain chuckled against one wall, and a woven rug lay across the floor. But what caught my attention were the pillows. I had never seen furniture so beautiful. Decorative weavings patterned the cushions, and they were soft beyond anything I ever could have imagined. I slowly sank to my knees among the voluminous things, absentmindedly fingering a corner of one. It was then that my insides seemed to crumble. Thi was my life now, whether I liked it or not. This was something I loved, certainly. After all, it had been my idea in the first place. ut it was the sort of event that was difficult for one to wrap one's mind around. There was no other choices at this point. I turned my eyes to the assassin, who was watching me with a strange look on his face. Quickly looking away, I brushed a piece of hair away from my eyes, one that always seemed to be in the way. That was when I noticed that there was a doorway leading into a shady room, sweet-smelling smoke drifting out the doorway. I saw shelves lined with jars and bowls, all clay, and all painted with intricate designs in black paint. The assassin glanced at me again before walking into the room. I extracted myself from the pillows and followed him in.
A man wearing a black cloak and white robes stood behind the counter, painting another piece of pottery. He looked up as we walked in, and I noticed a poorly concealed grin lighten his face.
"Ah, Altair, welcome! Back so soon!" I scanned the man up and down. Energetic, he enjoyed his job. Older, perhaps five-and-thirty years, a retired assassin, and a potter. "And this lovely lady must be the one you spoke of meeting," I nodded to him silently. He smiled at me and turned back to Altair. With a start I realized that I had not known his name before now. The fact that the black-cloaked man had been so careless with Altair's name interested me. I focused back on the conversation, taking a quiet note to ask Altair about his name secrecy later.
"What was it that she wanted, Altair? I kiss from a novice?" The man continued, holding back laughter. If I concentrated, I thought I might be able to hear Altair grinding his teeth.
"I am no novice, Rafiq. Still your tongue before I cut it out." Altair growled threateningly to the Rafiq. This did little to stop the barely-contained chuckles, which seemed to make Altair more irritated by every passing second.
"Very . . ." More laughter. "Very well. But in all seriousness, what was her proposal?"
The space of a second passed. The one second of still air, with the slightest hesitation on Altair's part, in which my fate would be decided. Time caught up with me.
"She wishes to join the Brotherhood," Altair stated. Silence. No laughter at Altair's expense punctured the air, the soft sound of a brush being dipped in ink had subsided, and even the cooing of messenger pigeons stopped. All was still in the world. It seemed to me as though time itself had come to a halt, was holding it's breath to see the Rafiq's decision. The man's face was stony and my hope began to shrivel away, like a flower with no sunlight. I could see thoughts racing through his head, weighing options, reading possible outcomes. After several seconds, something seemed to settle in his eyes.
"You say she can fight?" The Rafiq asked quietly. A petal of my inner flower rose to life. Altair confirmed with a nod.
"Yes. Better than some novices at Masyaf. Though she already knows far too much about us; perhaps the wise decision would be to kill her."
I was shocked to the bone. This was a reaction I had anticipated, but to have one's death blatantly stated as such . . . there were many things I have endured, but I had thought I had found an ally in Altair, but evidently I was mistaken. Though my flower did not yet wither, the ground around it hardened.
"Fine," I snapped, my temper rising suddenly. "I do not care. Simply decide what to do and be done." Twisting on my heel, I marched out into the lighter room and promptly lay on the pillows, and waited.