The Journey, chapter 2
"One month my ass.." AltaïrIbn-La'Ahad, A member of the Assassin Order in Islam, cursed. It had been two months since Malik Al-Sayf left for duties in Jerusalem.. Since he last heard or saw him. Admittedly, Altaïr was getting a little nervous. And of course, that meant trouble for most of the doctors trying to help him, like Rafi. One night, Altaïr had caused such a fuss that he broke one of the chairs in frustration.
'Now now Altaïr, you must control yourself... I can understand your irritation, but please do not lash out at us...' Rafi said calmly that night. How could he stay calm?
Well, sometimes jobs would last longer than anticipated, given the information Malik found, or didn't find. But then again...
'I can't last like this... I can walk fine, and my horse should be able to carry me to Jerusalem to find Malik... But that stupid Master...'
'Altaïr, You must exorcise patients.. Besides, I have tasks for you only when you feel up to it. Or in this case, when Rafi decides you are ready.' Is what Al Mualim would say. He did when Altaïr last snapped anyway. The Arabic male crossed his arms as he sat in his bed, having been moved from 'Critical care' to 'Minor Injuries'. Which also meant he stay in a room with more than just himself. At least 10 other assassins, badly injured from the previous months fight, were almost ready to be released. Most were not as bad as the hazel eyed males were. But, he was still getting quite sick of their 'stories' of assassinations they had done, their first kills, their special talents.. Ugh.
'...Fools...' Altaïr huffed to himself, ' I can do more than you can... at least, when I am fully healed.' But even then, he would rather go find Malik then stick around showing off to the novices, even though he was still one himself.
Much later in the night, far after visitors had left, and fellow assassins fell asleep, Altaïr had gotten up. With intent to, obviously, escape this make-shift prison.
Quietly, with his natural given, and honed, stealth, he made it out of the large infirmary. Once he was out, he and his nightgown silently glided down the magnificent halls of the 'castle', or Assassin Headquarters. It really was a castle, complete with Dungeon and Safe Area. Unfortunately...
"Sneaking around are we, Altaïr?" Rafi said with a wide smirk, leaning against one of the pillars with what seemed like a torn paper in his hand.
"...I am tired of sitting in that room listening to true novice's brag about accomplishments. And I do not have the time to put them in their place." Altaïr barked softly, trying to keep his voice low as to not disturb others in rooms nearby.
"I can understand this... Well, it does seem that you are able to sneak around well enough..." Rafi said quietly, thinking to himself. Of course he was! He was able to walk a few weeks ago. Of course it still hurt but...
"...So, what be it then?" Altaïr murmured, crossing his arms.
"Well... You would probably still sneak out, even if I said no. But then you would probably be labeled traitor, and hunted. And you will not get very far in that…"He said with a slight laugh, Looking Altaïr over. The brown haired male grumbled. He really hadn't thought about it well, being in solely a night gown. No armor or weapons either. Nor shoes.
"Had not though it through have you?" Rafi chuckled, shaking his head, "Are you sure you have changed?" he raised an eyebrow, smirking. Altaïr huffed again, turning his gaze to the outside of the ornate gate of the garden.
"..." Rafi sighed, patting Altaïr's shoulder, " Alright... I will try to make some exceptions for you. But you would still have to do remedial work, like gathering information or helping around shops that need it... Meeting Malik could be… a one in one hundred chance, and even then, he might not even be in Jerusalem anymore."
"...He is there, I know it. And thank you, Rafi.." Altaïr smiled, slightly relieved. He might be able to see him in just a few days time.
"Ah, also. To quail your worries..." Rafi said in a reminded tone handing the barely clothed man a piece of parchment, slightly torn but folded. He took it with a curious look.
"It came from a pigeon, addressed to you only." He added as he turned to leave, "Now get back to bed."
Altaïr had not been this anxious or excited since he first got into the order, and he knew who this was from. He read it in the candle light of his own room, not wanting to return to that shared space.
Scribbled on the crinkled, faded yellow paper was a letter, in the very familiar scratch of Malik:
I hope you have finally started walking, you simpleton. I realize by the time you read this I will have been gone for much longer than anticipated. I am truly sorry.' The first part said, barely readable – but Altaïr was used to Malik's untidy childish scribble,
'Even Al Mualim did not anticipate what I have discovered – but it is very terrible. Luckily, they have not discovered me as of yet. I am afraid I can not disclose such information to you over an unprotected carrier pigeon, but be assured I am safe, and well hidden in Jerusalem.
Honestly, I quite miss teasing you, and even hearing your voice. Sadly, I will be stuck here until the leader of a branch of Templar's has been… Eliminated. Until this happens, Altaïr, please stay in Masyaf where you can recover. I realize you will still worry about me but, please, I will not have to worry if you are not here.
While you will not be able to send a pigeon back, be patient and I will send you another letter shortly..
Safety and Peace be with us both.'
At the very bottom of the letter was the assassins stamp, indicating it truly did come from Malik.. But he already knew it was him – no Templar would have known about his condition. They probably think he was dead.
Still, his heart couldn't help but leaping as he read it. At least he was safe, but how long had it been since he sent this? Was he still okay? Was he really still in Jerusalem now? And what about that terrible thing he had discovered?
"Honestly... and I cannot even send you one back?" he hissed, ripping part of the letter off, and burning the rest.
'…Honestly, I quite miss teasing you, and even hearing your voice …'
Altaïr kept reading that line, as it was almost like assurance. He knew, by this, that Malik really did care, and it felt nice... Although...
He, sorely, took his assassins robes off his bed, putting them on slowly as bending in funny angles still hurt. Like reaching his left arm back made the right side of his chest hurt. It was slow, and he was starting to wonder about visiting Malik. Perhaps Rafi he was right, and he should stay, to recover more fully. But he couldn't stop this nagging feeling Malik was in danger. He finished putting on his robes, saving the armor for when he was out of the village, so the clanking of metal wouldn't disturb anyone, and grabbed his newly repaired sword and stealth dagger. He made his way quietly down the halls of the order, passing the spot where he and Rafi had just discussed about things. Down the stairs, through more hallways, and out an open window through the castles watch tower he glided. The gates were solidly closed this time of night. Altaïr would have to pass through a hidden passage into the village to get past the guards.
He put his armor on, so he wouldn't have to carry it, and descended a ladder to a side part of the castle, which had a tiny ledge that curved around the wall, leading to the knee-high stone wall of the village. The passage hadn't been updated in a while – he'd have to make sure that was done.
Taking his first step against the fifteen inch wide ledge, he looked down, seeing water below him crash against spiked rocks and stones. There was wood down there... That must have been where they moved all the debris from the attack. A few slow paces later and he had begun to regret leaving. Not only had the water, rocks, and sharp jagged pieces of wood below him begin to make his nerves shift, the thin plank he was being supported on was creaking and cracking ominously.
Several more steps in, almost over half way to the other side, he heard the loudest crack from the rotting plank yet, and he froze. What had he been thinking? Sneaking out against orders, just to see Malik… Malik... Altaïr took a deep breath and looked towards the small stone wall, and then started his pace a bit faster. The faster he moved, the more the plank creaked, and eventually started bouncing. He knew he had to get off of it, now, so he took a leap of faith. Pushing off the edge, he reached towards the stone barrier and grabbed hold of it, groaning as his feet hit the side of the dirt wall beneath the stone, and painfully pulled himself up and over, laying on the ground as he held his back.
'argh...! This... I am so ashamed of my condition... ah...' he struggled to keep his voice contained as he stood, cracking his back and neck before trekking down the path into the village. He was amazed at how fast the people had recovered... for the most part. There were still a few knee high stone walls that hadn't been repaired, and a few buildings still needed to be finished. Curse those Templars, destroying his home and way of life... Hearing that he had the possibility to never fully recover from his injuries gave him all the strength to fight it, and prove them wrong. And going to visit Malik was the best way to start. But the journey to Jerusalem would not be easy.
As he approached the entrance to the village, he had to stop and dive into hay. The guards, they were heavily patrolling the gates. As much of a hero Altaïr had been considered, at least once, he was nothing but a novice again. They wouldn't so much as bat an eyelash at him the rank he was. And then a few stopped by the bench, near Altaïr.
"Eh? In Jerusalem?" one of the younger men said, sitting down on the bench.
"Yes, I heard after Malik lost his brother, and his arm, he was permanently stationed in Jerusalem, as an informant."
"That must be hard on him. Was it not because of Altaïr that he had been put in that position?"
"Heh. Yes it was. He had been very reckless, I had heard. Perhaps he shall have learned?"
"I doubt it, with as hard a head that he has. I heard he survived that fall from the tower..."
They had begun to walk away. Altaïr was furious, talking badly of another. Of Him... and Malik... was it true he had been permanently placed there..? Had he lied? Of course, rumor and gossip were never accurate... still; it might not have been coincidence, with him suddenly not returning.
Altaïr shook it off and slowly crept out of the hay, avoiding the attention of the guards as he snuck through to the side of a watch tower, and slid into the cave behind. It was cramped, but led all the way out to the other side of the large hill that guarded the small village.
As soon as he had, a thought occurred to him.
"..I'll need a horse. But they are after the gates...How do I gain one…" he mumbled to himself, slowly moving through the tunnel. His back, shoulders and legs started aching from the crouched position he was in, but he had to keep moving.
He brushed away cobwebs, kicked small rocks out of his way, and eventually saw a dim light at the end of the tunnel. He poked his head out, looking left and right for guards, before sliding out and down the small slope, rolling into the grass. He panted, clenching his fists. He had never been so easily worn out before! This was aggravating to no end. He gasped, rolling over to push himself upon his knees, and then slowly stand. He crept along the wall, until he could just barely see the stables that were kept outside the gates. With the guards along the top and bottom of the gate, patrolling, getting to them would be very difficult without being spotted.
'What do I do…! What should I do… Malik…!' Altaïr glared, placed his hood up, and then took another glance at the guards patrolling. 'I need a distraction…' he mused, looking around. And then he noticed a broken piece of wood stuck in the rock next to him. He pried it out, took aim, and threw it high over the wall. He caught himself from groaning out as his throw made his shoulder pop painfully. But his little trick seemed to work as he heard a loud crash from the other side of the gate. All the guards turned to see what it was, and he made his move. As much as it hurt, he sprinted across the open surface to the stables, and dived between the horses just as they were turning around. He doubted that his stunt would work again, but he made it. He found his horse, a beautiful brown stallion, and untied him, slowly setting the saddle and reigns on. The shadows were just dark and large enough where the guards didn't see anything, but sounds were not concealed by the dark of night. He led his horse out a ways, and with difficulty, heaved himself up and on.
'…Alright Malik, just you wait there, I'm coming.' Altaïr thought as he gently nudged the horse, who seemed a bit irritated at being woken up. He decided to be as slow and quiet as he could be, not letting the other horses make any abnormal sounds. Trudging slowly in the shadows was perfect for an assassin such as himself, and he slowly inched closer to the curve of the mountain, where the shadows grew lighter and narrower. He knew this was the moment to hurry, so he made his horse speed up into a gallop and quickly disappear on the mountain. He thought he heard the faint sound of the guards chattering, and decided that now was time for a full run. He urged the chocolate stallion to move faster, and so he did. Before long, Altaïr could barely make out the large gates to his village.
The cool air whipped at his face, while the majority of his muscles ached. It would take him at least two days to reach Jerusalem in his condition, and even with all the mountain range and ruins to hide in he would not be too protected from nature. Not only that, Templar's usually liked patrolling and searching the Ruins for hiding assassins and refugees from villages they've attacked. He would have to be very cautious on this journey, especially when nearing the boarder to Jerusalem…
Altaïr looked to the skies, as the moon was slowly falling back into the horizon, while the sun steadily rose. He thought it best to take a rest now, having traveled quite a ways without stopping, and he knew his horse needed a rest too. It had also been disturbed of its sleep.
After wandering a little ways, Altaïr came across a small stream, partially hidden by rock and brush, with trees surrounding the area. There was also a broken statue, which had been overrun with vines and was no longer identifiable.
He un-mounted his horse, and led it over to the stream, tying it to the tree nearby, and then slowly, and painfully, limped over to a secluded area with many bushes. At once, he fell to the soft green grass and fell asleep almost instantly.
'Altaïr, I do not wish for you to be here.' Malik said in a hoarse tone, very commanding as he turned his back to the man standing before him.
"Malik… I am sorry about your brother…" Altaïr frowned, taking a step forward, "I did not mean for this to happen…!"
'And I should care because? Your presence here deprives me of any such safety, or peace. Now leave!' he said coldly, placing dusty books on rotting shelves. The one thing stopping Altaïr from grabbing the man was a long counter with a map and feather on it.
"Malik-!No I cannot leave! Not after coming this far…Just for you- you cannot imagine how sorry I am!" Altaïr pleaded, lowering his head as he removed the blood soaked hood. Malik turned to him, glared, and slammed his hand on the counter. He was wearing his assassin robes… and they were blood soaked…!
'I do not care! You haven't grown up one bit! No matter how skilled of a fighter you are, you lack any means to strategize and think things through! I do not wish to see you again, you novice!'
Suddenly Altaïr was facing Malik… but his arm was missing!
'You're the one who caused this for being so rash… even my brother was lost to me, and now I am unable to fight well enough… I hate you!'
Altaïr awoke with a jolt, sweat pouring from his forehead as he panted. That dream… it scared him more than anything, even death, even being caught by Templar's. If Malik was really stationed in Jerusalem permanently as an informant, it truly was because he was stupid, and brash… Because he had unintentionally left Malik in those Ruins…
He stood, his body aching a little less, and looked to the skies. It was a warm day, and the sun was already high in the sky… He knew that he'd find Malik. He knew it…!
To be Continued…