A/N: Well, I did say that I would come back to Assassin's Creed eventually, didn't I? Not a Subject Sixteen fic this time… actually it's not anyone we're familiar with. We're in the Crusader Era, but I shied away from using either Altaïr or Malik. I felt that for the story I was trying to get across would be muddled if I tried to tell it through them with their histories. So instead I'm using 'generic Assassin' to tell the tale. ^^
Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Assassins Creed games or related media, they belong to Ubisoft. I just play around with them. ;)
And Then You Jump
It was a strange time in the history of man when those who fought for freedom, for the sanctity of freewill and what it meant to be human, were obliged to hide in the shadows like villains.
Faruq, an Assassin of the ancient Order, slipped from a small alcove on the fringe of an open market to a narrow alleyway. The disordered mosaic of odor and noise that was the bazaar was quickly lost. Spices, sweat, dung, the vendors loudly hawking their wares, and the sometimes louder haggling were muted by the press of stone on either side of him, then reduced to a mere clinging musk on his robes and a quiet murmur at his back. The shadows of the alley eagerly welcomed him back, encircling him in incorporeal arms like a lover and secreting him from enemy gazes. Even after exposing his eyes to the glaring sun for hours, he walked with confidence in the gloom. Confidence, but not ego. He knew his way and trusted his abilities, but he knew that others could share these alleys with him.
So Faruq tread carefully, silently, using the skills gained from a lifetime's dedicated work. It was doubtful anyone even a pace away would hear his approach, and if they did it would sound as innocent as shifting pebbles, or wind stirring the dust. If he chose, Faruq could stand close enough to an alert man to breathe into his ear before slipping a knife into his heart.
Of course, if he so wished, he could do the exact same thing on a crowded street without a single soul taking it amiss. It was a measure of an Assassin's skill how well they could carry out a mission without notice, the more difficult the circumstances, the greater the Assassin's skill. Faruq was far from a poorly skilled Assassin. Still, it felt incongruous to kill in the open, amid the hustle of everyday life. Spilling blood before the common people of the holy land felt like a violation of the natural order.
He was an Assassin. He and his brothers and sisters of the Creed were all, at their core, killers. They were sworn to protect and safeguard the freedom of the people, but they did so with the lives of others, those who would be their masters. Freedom bought with death, the guardian's hands were washed in blood, their souls steeped in darkness.
However noble their cause, however pure their intent, this was where they belonged. Unseen, invisible, a mere whisper in the wind, a stray breath among the sands. Cloaked in the gloom that was more their kin than those they protected; secrets and deceptions their greatest allies. Perhaps it was not the way things should be, but it was the way they were. The people would never abide their Order, because of the methods they had to employ, the stigma they had gained. No, it was easier to follow the words of your leaders, your generals, your kings, doctors, and priests. Not all were corrupt, and not all carried the tainted strain of "Templar", but enough; enough to make a difference.
And the people? The people followed. The rules they abided by might not be fair, and the orders might be horrendous, but it was the word, and the word must be obeyed. The rules that governed their lives might be meant to keep them down, controlled, malleable, and they might have even recognized that, but they still followed. A pretty, palatable lie is so much easier to live with than the brutal truth. A truth that demands commitment of its knower rather than promises peace and mental indolence.
Sheep. All of them were sheep. Faruq found it amusing, and at the same time disgusting, that one religion's disciples actually referred to themselves as sheep, and to their god as their shepherd. When they spoke of evil in the world, of sin or demons or evil men, they were likened to wolves, preying on their god's people.
It puzzled Faruq why they would choose sheep and shepherds as an allegory to their faith. Stupid, witless creatures, and all but defenseless against the "wolves" that prowled all around them. They would rely on their shepherd to protect them, trust him to the point of stupidity. Follow him blindly, happy enough for the grass and water, never questioning where or why? To do so would be sin, blasphemy. How convenient.
Wolves weren't the only dangers. After all, a shepherd didn't keep his flock of sheep as pets, but for his own gain. He stripped them of their wool, sold their lambs for bread, and slaughtered the fattest of them for their meat. No one was your ally who did not demand a price, and to a sheep, that price was often all you had to give.
Let me keep my fangs, and choose my own path through life, Faruq thought savagely, flicking his left wrist and feeling the hidden blade extend, taking the place where his fourth finger had once been. I follow no one blindly, my eyes are open, my mind functions, my ears distinguish truth from falsehood. I will fight, discover my own way; not be led by gentle hands that reek of the blood and gore of those before me who were too trusting.
Someday, he believed there would come a day when the Order would no longer need to hide, when the shadows would no longer need be their home. There would be a time when they could emerge into the light without fear. That time would not be during Faruq's life, nor during the lives of his sons or daughters, but it would come. The Order would see to it, or be eradicated in the attempt.
Faruq paused, ran his fingers along the rough adobe wall beside him absently. It was rough, poorly made, and cool to the touch. Inside the alley, it would rarely, if ever feel the warm touch of sunlight.
He wanted to feel the sun. Shadow and secrecy may be his home, murder and deception his trade, but Faruq wanted to feel the sun on his skin, let it warm his flesh and seep into his bones, to carry the warmth back into the dark.
Turning to the day-starved wall, Faruq leapt up, caught the edge of a high window opening and began climbing.
Soon he left the alley and its clinging, premature night behind. The stone and mud beneath his fingers grew warm as he ascended, then hot, with the sun shining straight on his back warming his chilled muscles as much as the exertion. He knew if anyone happened to look to where he was climbing they would see his white robes reflecting the early evening light, but against the glare of a sun-bleached building it would be difficult to make him out. The likelihood of anyone happening to look up was rather remote, in any case.
It was a long climb he had picked. His handholds were hot enough now they burned. The pleasant warmth of sunlight was becoming an excruciating heat that was trapped and held in by his robes. Sweat trickled freely, stinging when it fell into his eyes and making his grip unsure. Outside the alley there was a breeze, which grew with each bit of height gained. Rather than cooling the Assassin it snatched at his clothing, attempting to pluck him away from the wall and fling him to earth, where his body would shatter like a clay jar. Some breezes threw grit into his eyes, blinding him.
Faruq was an Assassin. He could endure worse than a simple climb to a rooftop.
He ignored the pain in his hands, the discomfort of his limbs, gripped each handhold tighter, squinted his eyes against flying sand and continued his climb heavenward.
The journey to the top was a long and arduous one. So much the better; the hardships may be greater, but the reward, a view unhindered by confining walls or twisting streets, would likewise be greater. It was a risk, climbing to such heights with nothing to catch you if you slipped, but there was no other way to see with clarity.
The climb, Faruq thought, was rather like an analogy of the Assassins themselves. They pulled themselves up from the darkest recesses an inch at a time in hopes of reaching the light, of getting to the top. Not to rule, but just to see, to feel the freedom of it. It was dangerous; fatigue, blowing sands, or a simple misstep could have them lose their grasp and send them plummeting back into the shadows, never to rise again. But, oh! to reach the top! They would climb on.
As Faruq neared his goal, the handholds came fewer and farther between, small and smoothed by the wind to make precarious grips. Faruq's fingers trembled, but he could see the top, the final spire where he could perch in relative safety. Forcing his tired body to obey, Faruq tightened his grip and heaved his body up the last few feet to the peak of the tower.
Breathing deeply, Faruq looked around. As always, the hardship of the climb was nothing beside the majesty of what lay before him. The feeling of absolute freedom was a sweet and heady wine, intoxicating his senses and setting them spinning. Unlike wine, though, it was not accompanied by the muzzy sensation of drunkenness. His head felt clearer here, high above the world, than it ever did whilst he roamed the streets, mired in their machinations.
Far below him Jerusalem unrolled in all directions like the most beautifully detailed map ever drawn. The mosques, synagogues, churches, steeples and minarets all cut piercing silhouettes against a sky stained the color of rich wine; the subtle differences between the various districts; the tiny, barely perceptible figures that moved along the streets, each preoccupied with their own business. It was all his to drink in, to observe, study and know from his place high above it all. As the sun began its slow decent towards the horizon, the shadows within the city oozed out, as though they had always been there, lurking inside the walls and waiting to lay claim to all that they could clutch at with their fingers.
Outside the city walls night was also claiming the hills, though with less apparent malice. The hills were first bathed in the fire and honey shades of the setting sun before they grew dim. Shadows insinuated, they rolled gently outside the walls; they did not snatch and paw greedily for what was assuredly theirs', given time.
Faruq sighed. As the sun set and night settled its dusky shroud over the world, it became a place where every street was a part of an Assassin's territory. It was time to head down and let the night's work begin.
It didn't take long, even in the failing light to find an appropriate landing place. Turning carefully atop his perch and readying himself, Faruq thought that this fit his analogy as well. The Brotherhood would work and fight its way to the very top of a seemingly impossible task, against all adversity. And once there, what was it they did? They put their faith in their skills, in their Creed, and they willingly let go of all safety, all assurances, in the hope that they would survive.
The leap of faith.
You fought for justice, for peace, for truth and for freedom. But sometimes the most effective weapon was not a weapon at all, but to position yourself just so, to hold fast to your faith… And then you jump.
Faruq took a final breath, steadied his nerve, and leapt, plunging back into darkness.
A/N2: I like working with metaphors. :)
Faruq: Technically an OC, though I consider his use to be too brief to be much of one. He was just a convenient vehicle to tell a tale based around the Assassins of the time as a whole without being bogged down by the 'character baggage' of Malik or Altaïr. Call me lazy if you like, but I wanted the point of the story clear and found this to be a better way to do it.
Name Meaning: We all know that the name Altaïr means 'flying bird' or some variant. I wanted to make this guy's name meaningful as well, and after shuffling around names with various meanings (from 'young hawk' to 'clouds in the night sky') I settled on Faruq, which means 'One who distinguishes truth from falsehood'.
Thanks for reading, everyone. I'll see y'all again soon! :3