Author's Note: I had an extra credit opportunity for my English IV AP class, and I chose to 'novelize' a part of the play Macbeth. I chose to novelize the climax, Act 3 scenes 1-3, and halfway through I realized how awesome this could turn out if I added in a twist. So those people that Macbeth hired to murder Banquo...Yeah, they were assassins. He just doesn't know it. So, that's my fun little twist in order to get a few extra points. I will admit, I had a mind blank when it came to naming my assassin's, so I took Malik and Kadar's name. In truth, this happened about a hundred years before Altaïr's time. Anyway, enough of my rambling explanation-enjoy? (:
"He has it all now," spoke Banquo, anxiously pacing within the palace in Forres. "The title of King, Cawdor, Glamis, all of it, just as the weird women promised it. Yet they also said that my heirs, not Macbeth's, would be the future kings of Scotland." A spark of hope flared in his otherwise anxious countenance, though his pacing did not halt. "Since what they said about Macbeth came true, won't my own prophecy be true as well?"
Banquo's pacing stopped instantly as a sound caught his ears, his gaze flying up. "But now, not another word," He murmured silently to himself as the trumpets called out, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth arriving along with Lennox, Ross, and various other persons.
"Here is our main man," Macbeth said, his mouth twisting into a smile as he looked upon Banquo. Despite this outward show, there were far more sinister thoughts swirling in this man's mind that one might have guessed.
"Our great feast would not be the same without you," Lady Macbeth remarked, a formality required only by the rules of proper etiquette.
"We are holding a supper tonight, good sir, and I wish you to come," Macbeth continued. Though the words were arranged as if Macbeth were making only a request, it was known that it was a command for Banquo to attend, not a mere request.
Banquo was not ignorant to such things. "Of course, your highness," He allowed with an inclination of his head, also required by the proper rules of courtship etiquette. "My duties are forever tied with you."
"Are you riding this afternoon?" Macbeth inquired. Though the question was entirely harmless on the surface, the King was silently calculating. This devious attitude was not transferred to his expression.
Banquo inclined his head once more. "Ay, my good lord."
"We were wanting to hear your advice in today's council, but this being the case, we will hear it tomorrow instead. Are you riding far?" Although there was indeed a council taking place that day, Macbeth's words of desiring to hear Banquo's advice was just a cover for his question. He was formulating a plan for Banquo's death in his mind, and was simply getting an idea of where Banquo would be and for how long.
"Far enough, my lord, to fill up the time before supper," Banquo answered. As clever as this man may be, he was not aware of any sinister change in Macbeth's demeanor. "If my horse fails me, the trip may take me into the night," He went on.
"Take care to not be late," Macbeth warned.
"I will not, my lord," Banquo promised.
"Also, we must later discuss those wretches that fled from the crimes they've committed." Macbeth was becoming good at twisting his expression into ones he desired. Now he showed contempt. "They refuse to admit to the crime they committed, and have fled to England and Ireland. But," he said, raising one hand as if to ward off the conversation, even though it was he who had brought it up in the first place.
"We shall speak of this tomorrow. Go now, to your horse. Adieu," the king said, the French rolling strangely off his Scottish tongue. He gestured toward front door of the palace. "Until you return tonight. Is Fleance traveling with you?" He tacked this question on at the last second; Banquo had already turned toward the stables after curtseying formally.
"Yes, my good lord," Banquo called over his shoulder. "And now we are called upon to take our leave," He continued, going about his way.
"I wish your horses well, quick and sure of foot, and also to you upon their backs. Farewell," He called out to Banquo, and then he turned to the persons who had been in company with him. He had not spoken to any of them once they'd encountered Banquo, but this was the way of the court. Persons were lucky to receive the attention of royalty, whether indirect or not.
"Let all you here do what they please until seven o'clock tonight. To make tonight grand, keep to yourselves until our feast. Until then, may God be with you!" His words were an obvious dismissal; he turned away, his attention no longer given to his court. All shuffled away, including his wife, to do what they pleased for a few hours. There was only one exception: the attendant that Macbeth pulled aside with his words. "You, sir, if I may have a word." Once again, no matter how this was phrased, it was always, always a command.
This was the time for Macbeth to carry out the first steps of his plan; he sent his attendant away to fetch men that were to see him. Now that he was alone, his expression fell to the one he had been keeping hidden. No one but a ghost would be able to see the cold calculations entering his eyes, his heavy brow coming down and marring any friendliness that may have been present before. This was not the same man as before; oh, no. The devil had had his way with this man.
"Banquo is the only man in this great, wide country that I seem to fear," Macbeth said, nearly spitting. He started pacing slowly, his hands together behind his back. "Once he was my friend, but no longer." How they had ever been friends for so longer, Macbeth couldn't understand. Not now, not in this situation.
"He is far too clever for his own good," Macbeth continued, musing aloud to no one but himself. "Once I may have admired this wisdom….But now it is only being turned against me. My own genius is being rebuked by his, the very same, as it has been said, Mark Antony's was by Caesar." His hands, still behind him, began to twist uneasily. "First he chid the weird sisters when they gave my prophecy, but then asked for his own." He snorted. "And they spoke of a fruitless crown for me and a long line of Banquo's sons." His teeth grit together. And he and Lady Macbeth had no son to speak of, while Banquo had his Fleance.
Perhaps I cleared the way for my old friend by killing King Duncan myself? Macbeth thought. By doing this, Banquo's sons would only have to overthrow Macbeth. Perhaps the plan would have worked if Macbeth wasn't retaliating in return….Just as he thought this, doors to the side of him were heard to open. Macbeth whipped around, barking, "Who goes there?" In all his musing, his true emotions had been brought to the surface, and he had not ample enough time to store them away again. It was all well, though, because these men were the very ones he wished to see.
"Go to the door, and stay until I tell you otherwise," Macbeth ordered his attendant, who followed the orders obediently. Macbeth then turned to the men who were to carry out his plan. "We spoke yesterday, did we not?"
"We did indeed, your highness," The man on the left affirmed.
"Well, then, have your considered my offer? Remember what I told you. This man has been the reason for the country's misfortunes, and therefore the reason for your own. This man, this 'Banquo.'" And there it was, the first time that Macbeth had ever announced aloud what he intended to do. These men that he had hired, they were murderers, poised to assassinate whoever they were bid to in exchange for their protection.
"We remember," The one on the left again confirmed, acting at the spokesperson for the two. Both were in strange attire, wearing white robes with hoods so as to hide most of their face from the everyday bystander. The voice of the speaker was twisted in a way, carrying an unfamiliar cadence to Scotland. It was obvious he was a foreigner. His tongue was more accustomed to fitting themselves around Arabic words, not Gaelic. Macbeth's gaze slid down to the man's hand; something about it looked strange, though it moved out of his sight before he could discern what it was.
"And now, the point of this meeting," Macbeth continued, eyes sliding back to the cloaked man's face. Or what he could see of it, anyway. "What have you decided? Are you going to take up my offer, and eliminate this man who is the source of so many issues?"
The second man, who had yet to speak, spoke now. "I shall take up your offer, your highness."
The first man's acceptance of the offer followed immediately. "And I also, your liege." There was a slight change in words here; this man had said 'your liege' rather than 'my liege'. In all reality, these men were not working for Macbeth whatever else the king might think. They were under the guise of working for this Scottish king; true, they would carry out his orders, but not because of what he told them. They were working for a much higher purpose, one secret to much of the population.
"Both of you, know that Banquo is your enemy." He hoped to stamp this across their minds so there was no miscommunication between them: Banquo was to be murdered.
"True, your lordship," both men answered together. Once more, Macbeth failed to notice their change in wording.
"And soon he will be mine, in this distant way. I would strike him down myself if not for friends that he and I both share. It is for this reason only that I require your assistance in this matter, masked away from the common eye."
Hidden to Macbeth due to the shadow of his hood, the second man's mouth curled into a minute smirk. The ideas that this King thought….If he had had any idea who these men truly were, perhaps he'd be more fearful. Regardless of this, this man knew his place. He was not to speak a word of it. "We shall, my lord, perform what you command us to." And if anybody could assassinate someone in a way that would be hidden from the mass population, it was these men here. They had sworn allegiance to a becoming faction headquartered in Syria, though their work was spread across Europe as well as the Middle East. They just were not very well known in Scotland yet. Otherwise Macbeth would have recognized them by their white robes, red sash around the waist, and the hood with an eagle-like point extending over their forehead.
"Your spirits shine through you," Macbeth remarked, a twisted smile lighting his haughty features. He was pleased; he was so close to getting what he wished for. "Within the next hour I will tell you where to plant yourselves for your mission, and give you the most perfect spy of today's time. Also, Banquo has a son by the name of Fleance. He must be murdered as well, to embrace his dark fate. Now, go. I'll be with you later."
The cloaked men turned away, leaving Macbeth alone once more. "It is final, then, Banquo's death. If his soul is going to heaven, well, he'll find out tonight."
Once the men were out of earshot (the men that Macbeth denoted as 'murderers'), they lowered their hoods and exchanged glances. One looked more ruffled than the other. "This was not part of the plan. The boy? This Fleance character? We were only told to silence Banquo. What are we to do?"
The first man was calm, and touched his companion's shoulder with a firm hand. "Exactly what we have been trained to do." The man's hand lowered to roughly grab his companion's left, raising it up to eye level. "You made this commitment just as I, remember?" What he was showing was the empty space where the ring finger was supposed to be, the skin there scorched and puckering. Both men only had four fingers upon their left hands. He released his friend's hand, though the second continued to stare at it as if he had forgotten what had happened.
"Remember the Creed. Have you forgotten, or must I remind you?" The man started at his friend with contempt as he began to recite the tenants. "Stay your blade from the flesh of an innocent. Fleance shall not die, whatever this Macbeth character may say. Hide in plain sight. We will practice this later, before we take care of Banquo. And third? Never compromise the Brotherhood." He took a slow step back, searching his companion's countenance. "Macbeth will know nothing of our intentions, for it will compromise what we're working for. We will make it look as if it were an accident that Fleance escaped. Macbeth can deal with the consequences afterward, and by that time will will be gone from here." He slowly raised his hood, looking to the tall front door of the castle.
"Remember who you are," He said darkly, making way again for the exit. His left hand was curled slightly, the absent finger reminding him of every reason that he was here.
Returning his composure, the second man followed his comrade. "How could I ever forget," He murmured to himself, irritated that he had to be reminded so forcefully of the Creed. He, too, lifted his hood, and slipped into an instinctual cat-like stance as he prowled toward the front door. "We are Hashshashins."
"Is Banquo gone from our court?" Lady Macbeth asked of her personal servant. She sat within her room in the palace, running a brush aimlessly through her hair.
"Indeed, madam, but he shall return again tonight."
She said nothing for a few moments, though she soon rose and turned to face him. "Go to the King and say to him that I wish to have a few words."
The servant said a few words of compliance, curtseyed formally, and hurriedly left the bedchamber.
Anxiety lined her expression, and she suddenly found that she was unable to stand still. "We've spent everything, and in return? We've received nothing. It is far better to be the murdered than the murdered who has to deal with the consequences…" It was obvious that the situation was taking its toll on her. No longer was this woman the self-assured, twisted creature she once was. Who would have expected it, Lady Macbeth, guilt-ridden by receiving precisely what she had yearned for?
When she heard the door creak open, she worked to erase her emotions as she faced her husband. "My Lord," she said, an affection creeping into her voice for the first time. "Why do you seclude yourself? Only your sad thoughts keep you company, though they should have died when you killed the man you're thinking of. You should think of it no longer, for you cannot fix it. What's done is done."
Despite her words, Lady Macbeth seemed oblivious to the irony of them. She was twisted with guilt and anxiety, so it should be she to take this advice! Not her husband! Little did she know, he was far off better than he once was, the worried person who was a sorry excuse for a man (in her eyes, anyway).
"We've only scorched the snake, not yet killed it," Macbeth said gravely, his jaw set. "She'll soon heal, and we will yet again be threatened by her poisonous daggers. But you need not fear for my anxiety; let the world fall apart and I will still eat my meals without fear and sleep soundlessly, without tossing and turning. King Duncan is dead. Nothing can disturb him in his sleep now. We have already done the worst by committing treason against him, what more can be done? Nothing more can touch him."
It seemed that he was entirely convinced by his words, and a major part of him indeed was. There was another part that seemed to need to hear it, though, aloud. Another part knew that his wife needed the words, too. He could since the underlying tension within her soul.
"Come, my Lord," Lady Macbeth said gently, the tremors gone from her voice but not within her being. She reached out to her husband. "Relax, my love. Look cheerful, bright and joyful for our guests later tonight." Though she had needed his comforting words, she was still trying to act as if she were in control of the situation.
"I will, dear, I hope you will as well," He said, briefly putting a hand on her cheek before turning away, looking absently to the window. "Give your special attention to Banquo tonight. Let him feel important by use of your eye and tongue, flatter him so he will not detect our true feelings." Why, exactly, he was saying this, he wasn't sure. Banquo would soon be lifeless, killed by the murderers he had hired, and there would be no need for Lady Macbeth to give him any kind of attention at all.
"Stop talking like this!" Lady Macbeth exclaimed, her voice shaking unintentionally. She swept forward, putting a hand on his shoulder. The gesture was meant to be forceful, commanding, but it came off in a desperate manner.
"You know very well that Banquo and Fleance still live. This puts vicious scorpions within my mind." His eyes became glossy as he again reassured himself; his hired henchmen would eliminate these poisonous beasts. Within a few hours' time…
"But they cannot live forever," she said reasonably.
These words brought a strange smile to his face, one that Lady Macbeth wasn't quite used to. "This is true, and comforting. They can be killed. By the time the sun sets, and dreadful deed will be committed." However strange the foreigners may speak or dress, he seemed certain that they would carry out the task.
Lady Macbeth's heart stuttered as she realized the meaning behind his words. "What do you plan to do?" There was an undertone to her lowered voice, one she wasn't even sure of. Fear? Further guilt? Excitement? Relief? It was all mixed together, in a strange concoction.
He waved her off with a hand, turning toward the door. "Do not ask further of it, my dearest, until the deed has been committed later tonight." He turned his face back toward the window, where the sun could be seen casting orange glares across the darkening sky. "Come quick, night," He spoke to it. "Let your darkness come and tear away Banquo's life, that which strikes fear in me!"
The King sighed, and tore his eyes away from the colors in the sky, setting them on the wondering expression of his wife. She was confused, no doubt wondering over his strange words, but she had yet to ask a question. Macbeth smirked, and offered an arm for her. "Come with me, my love, if you please. All shall be revealed in time, worry not." And without waiting for her to speak, he started forward, prompting her to follow.
Away from the palace, in a heavily wooded area, the Hashshashins were positioning and readying themselves. Their long cloaks and armor were adorned with assorted weaponry; curved swords, throwing knives, short blades, the like. Their most preferred and prized weapon was located on their left wrist. When the springs were activated, the sharp, lethal blade would quickly extend itself and retreat once more, making kills rather easy. This hidden blade was the reason for the removal of their left ring finger; it allowed the blade to operate while also ensuring that the men were honestly committed to their holy cause.
Another man soon came to join them, also dressed as they. By the way their bodies tensed, it was obvious that they had not expected another of their brothers.
"Who commanded you to join us?" The first assassin asked, forcing his body to relax when he recognized their logo, but his left hand instinctively curled on itself.
"As far as he is concerned, Macbeth has. But you and I know better, Malik." The third man answered.
Malik assumed that their leader wanted only to ensure that this task was taken care of. Exactly why three of them were assigned to do this, he wasn't sure. One was easily capable. Perhaps it was just set up this way so Macbeth wouldn't suspect that they were doing this for any other reason.
"Stand with us, then. Our subject should approach soon, for the sun has set. But know this; allow the son to flee."
The third assassin, named Tahir, gave a curt nod, and then tensed as he twisted around. "I hear horses," He hissed, and all three instantly took cover. In that instant, they were completely obscured from the human eye. This is where their training gave them the most aid: they were the masters of disguise.
From down the twisted pathway, Banquo's voice reached their ears. "Give us light, son."
"It is he, Banquo," Malik whispered.
"His horses are coming about," the second, Kadar, murmured softly.
"There! A light," said Tahir.
With one peek from the edges of their hoods, the three assassins had located their target. Fleance carried a torch, riding beside his father.
"It will rain tonight," Banquo said absently, casting an eye to the overcast sky above. He and his son were completely oblivious to the fate they were soon to endure.
The words, "Let it come down," reached Banquo's ears in the next moment, and glanced around with a start. Before he could register anything else, a sharp pain flashed through his throat. He could barely see his attacker; the assassin had sunk his hidden blade the soft hollow of Banquo's throat, ensuring an easy and quick kill. How exactly the assassin had maintained his balance upon the back of the horse, Banquo could not comprehend. Bright lights were flashing wildly across his vision.
Banquo was dead within a matter of seconds, though he tried to voice panicked words for his son's escape. It was in vain, though, for death consumed him all too quickly.
By the time Malik slid off the horse's back, letting Banquo's body fall also, wiped his favorite weapon clean, and allowed it to sink back into its place upon his wrist, Fleance had fled. A satisfaction curled in his belly. It had worked well; his comrades had hardly had to chase Fleance away, and the boy had no fight in him. It had been far, far too easy.
"And you had been worried, brother," Malik said, reverting back to his Arabic language. He laid a heavy hand on Kadar's shoulder, and then turned to Banquo's lifeless body. "Let us return with Banquo's body," He said, crouching to pick the body up and easily throw it over his shoulder.
Malik turned to eye his more timid comrade. "Yes. We will inform Macbeth that his second target has escaped; he can do what he will afterward. And we, we will return home."
That eased the mind of all of them, the thought of home. The dreary climate of this land was nothing compared to their bright Syrian sun. "Let's go, brothers," Malik grunted, moving down the path toward the castle.
"What of the horse?" He heard Kadar ask. He threw a glance over his shoulder. He shrugged the shoulder that was not weighted down by a dead body. "Take it, if you wish. We can steal two others before we leave to aid us in our travels."
Tahir grabbed the reigns of the animal, leading it gently forward. It was a surprise that it had not taken fright and fled. Even so, Malik was right. It would aid them to travel to a nearby port, where they could board a ship and never again have to deal with the trifle troubles of King Macbeth.