AN: For mundane-bingo community of Dreamwidth. The prompt was "wind keeps messing up hijab".
Altair had long grown used to the clinks and rattle of bells that could be occasionally heard within the castle, so he did not noticed it at first until the almost-but-not-really-musical clamoring tumbled into his quarters and poked at his hip, gentle but insistent.
He quickly wrote the last of his thoughts in the journal he kept before looking down. His son stared back up at him, expression much too grave for a boy of four years. Even so, he was wearing his favorite hijab, colored bright pink and made from silk and copper beaded tassels that jingled with the slightest inclination—and for all the will in the world, nothing had stopped Altair from purchasing it just to see the child's face light up at the gift. Both he and Maria rarely needed to yield to their son's whims and tantrums, as they were rare to begin with, so it was easy to indulge the boy once in a while.
Their eyes met, and the wooden hidden blade stopped in mid-strike, carefully poised and steady despite the little hand that wielded it.
"Baba," said the boy, and flicked his wrist, causing the blunted blade to slide back into its sheath before he held out his arms, making grabby fists. The bangles and bracelets around his ankles and wrists chimed, adding to the plea.
Altair wasn't sure where the fondness for jewelry and all things expensive and pretty had come from, since it was a rather unfortunate penchant to have in an Assassin, but the boy was popular amongst the other masters and dais who travelled to far-off lands, returning with them little charms and trinkets to bestow on his son, claiming it to be some form of respect.
Altair didn't believe a word of it, but it was difficult to deny the gifts, however impractical they were. All the little golden anklets and silver bangles had given his son the affectionate nickname 'little prince' within the fortress, and he bore it with such gravity and dignity that Altair constantly worried the boy might believe himself to be of actual royal blood.
The wooden blade started to poke at his hip again.
Altair sighed, dropping his quill to pick up his son and set him on the table, mindful to keep the inkwell out of reach. The walls of Masyaf were not yet recovered from their last meeting, and nor was Altair ready to let his son handle ink again for a very long time.
"If you intend to kill, strike at the neck, not the hip," he said, taking the boy's hand and laying the small palm against his own throat. "Right here. Understand?"
The boy frowned. "I already know that," he said, quickly drawing his hand away. "But I do not want to kill you."
Unable to help himself, Altair smiled. "Only stab my hip, rendering me incapable of taking you climbing? That's very kind."
The devastation on his son's face lasted for only a few seconds before twisting into an attempted look of blankness. Altair frowned, wondering where and how the boy learned to school his expression, though it was an imperfect mask, with watery dark eyes and a quivering lip that threatened to turn downwards.
"I only jest," he said hastily. "I promised I would take you, didn't I?"
"Ready to go?"
Finally, the boy's face broke into a grin, sunny and bright and more fitting for his age.
"Yes!" he said, and in his enthusiasm, jostled the whole table as he hopped into Altair's outstretched arms.
The inkwell fell with a crack, but by then they had already climbed out the window, leaving the ink to pool on the ground.
The highest point of Masyaf was on top of the cliff, just a little above the fortress' billowing flags. Altair had climbed taller buildings, in Acre and Jerusalem, but he shared the boy's amazement at the tiny figures below.
"Look, baba, that's Sana."
"Don't point, keep your hands on my shoulders," Altair grunted, trying to find a steady purchase. The wind was strong today and he worried about the cold, wet nose that pressed at the back of his neck, sniffling. He took a quick glance down. "How can you tell? I can't."
"She's the only person who shines like gold. Doesn't she?"
"For you, she does," Altair said after a long pause.
"Is that bad?"
"Not at all," he replied, and made a mental note to tell Maria that this conversation would be up to her, when the time was right. "Here, son, look at that eagle's nest—yes, up there—how many eggs do you think there are? Let's find out."
They couldn't get close to the eagle's nest, not with the mother watching them with a malicious gleam in its eyes. That didn't stop them from guessing though.
"Four," his son said.
"Four? At most, an eagle will have three, I think."
There was a thoughtful moment of silence. "I do not think three is enough, and one would be lonely."
Altair felt his grip slip a little, thinking of the two cribs already in room he and Maria shared. "Are you lonely?"
He could hear the boy shake his head, the tassels of his hijab chiming like tiny bells, and the confusion in his voice. "No?"
"Oh. All right then," Altair said, relieved.
He let his son climb the last few steps on his own, though Altair made sure the leather harness and the cord that attached them together was tied properly. It was slow going for a distance Altair could have done with one hand-over-hand haul, but in the end his son had to stand on his shoulders to pull himself up.
The top of the cliff was hardly a plateau, and Altair had to let the boy son climb onto his lap so that they could both sit. It was only then that Altair noticed his son's hijab was wrapped backwards, leaving a tiny slit for the boy's eyes.
"Now how did that happen?" he asked, trying to untangle it.
"It was windy and my cheeks were cold! And I couldn't let go—ah!"
Altair had tugged the hijab free at the same time his son tried to pull it off himself. They both let go, thinking the other had it, but it was the wind that came to snatch the silk away, sending it flying through the air.
"Oh," the boy said, in a very small voice, and squirmed in Altair's lap, but it was very hard to storm away, angry, when there was nowhere else to go but down.
"Hey, hey, I'll get it back," Altair said, peering down; the hijab had gotten caught in the outgrowths of branches from the cliff, a bright spot of pink among the dead leaves. It would be a challenge to get it, but not impossible—he had collected feathers from harder to reach places, after all. "I'll go, but you have to stay here and not move. Understand?"
The boy's sullen look faded, somewhat. "Yes."
It was a bit like tying a horse to its post, and Altair felt terrible for it, but at least his son was secured with the leather cord wrapped twice around a rock that jutted out. Maria probably wouldn't approve, and Malik would most likely retell the tale every five years or something, just to torment him.
"Stay put," he called out, and hurried down.
The hijab was fluttering wildly in the wind and he hated the thought of it blowing away before he reached it. It really had little to do with losing it, as it was an expensive piece of silk at the highest quality, but the satisfaction of getting it back, with his son watching—
"Hey!" Altair shouted, catching his son's attention, and suddenly felt ridiculous when he wasn't quite sure what to say next. Certainly not 'hey, you're not watching me'.
"The eagle's nest has three eggs," the boy reported from his perch, looking in an entirely different direction.
"What?" the boy shouted back. "I can't hear you!"
Getting to the branches proved to be less difficult than actually reaching for the hijab. His fingers came close to brushing it, the very tip of his nail barely touching one of the tassels. Altair made a face, patting at his waist for a throwing knife. He pulled one out, carefully snagging part of the hijab and used a combination of the wind and momentum to bring it to his mouth so that he could hold it between his teeth.
The next time they went climbing, Altair was going to have the boy wear a proper tunic with a hood.
When he finally made it back to the top of the cliff, his son was all smiles and compliant once more, though he murmured something about supper and a growling stomach. Altair was beginning to feel hungry as well, but he was more content to gather his son in his arms and nuzzle the boy's cheek.
"Are we going down yet?"
Altair slumped back, awkwardly trying to fit with the contours of the rock. "Baba is tired, son. Wait a moment."
"I can climb down myself, if I am heavy."
"No," Altair said, miffed. "You are not heavy."
The statement seemed to offend the boy.
"I mean, you are growing, yes, but you are not heavy."
"Oh. That's alright then."
Altair grinned, and obligingly allowed his son to wrap and tie the hijab over his head.
"So that it won't fall again when we climb down," the boy explained, fumbling with the tassels.
"Don't worry. I won't let it fall again," Altair promised.
"However did you get him to part with that hijab?" Maria asked.
Malik looked up from his meal, adding, "And why are you wearing it?"
"I didn't," Altair said with quiet dignity. "He tied it on for me. And now I can't take it off. He is very good with knots."
"It's very dashing. The little prince chooses well."
"Our son's good taste is undeniable."
Altair shook his head, each movement punctuated by a whimsical jingling.
"I suppose so," he said, and let his fingers fall from the knot.