Altair threw himself from the Acre rooftop, eyes ignoring the docks beneath him; and more importantly the water beneath them. He landed like a rock in the hay, leaping nimbly out to stare at the huge ship; and the pacing helmet of his latest target. The man was a trader, one of the black markets. He sold slaves throughout the Holy land, to Crusader and Saracen alike. He sold people of one side to the other, and visa versa and in so granting him purchase with both sides; all the while undermining them both.
The political matter didn't bother Altair; he was more concerned with the slaves. On top of that, five of them were his Brothers. Al Mualim had even sent Malik out on this endeavour to save his assassins; and their valuable knowledge. Malik was at the bureau with the Rafiq of the city devising plans to get the assassins home. Altair however was here; at the prison site.
They were going to leave at dawn the next day.
In the boat were his Brothers and he had to get them out alive; Al Mualim demanded it. But first, he was assigned to kill the trader, and the seven assassins with him would take out the guards. A younger Altair would have sneered at the assassins trailing at his feet, but nowadays the man was more docile. A long horse journey to Acre with an irritant Malik was enough, he didn't want to anger the man further.
The eagle was stupid, but not that stupid.
Altair loped towards the boat, towering above the others with engravings and fancy extra additions to flaunt his money. Altair felt the smirk slit his face. He was that arrogant once. Walking as if he owned the ground under his feet, talking as if he had all the answers. The boat was very pretty, but this hedonistic target would learn -just like Altair learned- that when you fall, you have to give it all back.
Altair slipped up the stone steps and along the wall cupping the right arm of Acre's bay. Along that arm was the bridge over to the boat, sprinkled with guard posts and an island sporting a huge tower on the other side. His target bobbed along, wandering over the wooden plank that bridged the gap between the boat and the tower, yelling at guards and guffawing deeply at his own jokes. He nearly sent one of the unlucky men into the water below when he clapped him on the back.
The trader was loaded. The guards he employed were templar lackeys, and the good kind that even Altair had a slight trouble with. He frowned. The assassins flooded past him to attack, and he sprinted along behind. The assassins hit the first guard patrol like ghosts, and the bodies that littered the wall were promptly tipped into the sea below. They hadn't even lost a single man. Altair silently praised their luck.
Silently, he motioned to one. A young man around twenty, and ordered to take out the left group of guards with two others. The right set was to be attacked by two more. The last two flanked Altair. The boat guards didn't know what hit them.
Altair jammed the hidden blade into the hollow of his target's throat; eyes ablaze. The man hit the dirt, Altair collected the feather and an assassin returned from below with the slaves. The assassins swamped him, and it didn't take a genius to realise they were trapped on a boat by a group of guards. Two of the assassins who attacked the left set of guards were dead, the last wounded badly. The assassins taking the right set of guards had been pushed back, forcing them to retreat onto the boat, a group of city guards flooding the wall where they had stood moments before.
They were closed in.
Altair hissed. He could get himself out, but only alone. Maybe one under his arm, but he couldn't save them all. With a kick one of the other assassins sent the bridge from the edge of the boat, and the guards laughed at the futility of the action; it only dragged it out. A few more were ripping apart a nearby set of crates to put across the gap.
Altair looked from one face to another, then at the fifteen slaves.
If he had the five captured assassins take three slaves each they may get out alive. The assassins would do their best, but his orders were to save the five brothers; the other slaves were irrelevant to the mission. It didn't change the collective resolve to save them, however. "Okay groups of three, people. You five lead the slaves back to the bureau, and my group stay with me. Watch out for guards and the like, and when the slaves get to the docks, leave them and return to the rafiq. The rest of us, we are going to hold the city guard's attention until they reach the docks. Then we are going to run for our lives."
The five assassins that he still had him nodded, and the slightly emaciated assassins that had been freed took the others from the boat. Altair turned on the gap, eyes analysing the two guards at the mouth and the twenty behind them. With an easy movement, he drew a dagger from either of his boots and threw them. His comrades copied. The guard's numbers halved, but it was still a horribly uneven battle. His men were only journeymen, barely out of their novice greys, tired and already battle worn, and had to traverse water under fire. The archers weren't helping, and Altair himself stretched himself thin trying to keep the ones he had alive.
Like an angry mother protecting her babies from wolves.
He snorted at the notion. The young man from before took out the archers, Altair thought his name was Saiim, and the job became slightly easier. They lost two more and the battle wore on. The guards lost three more. It became harder to keep the boat, and the shrill howl behind him told him it was time to leave. He grabbed the two assassins that had survived and threw them onto the dingy; they landed on their feet, but one fell under a slashed thigh. His friend picked him up and they hobbled away, Altair picking up the rear.
Absently, he flickered between their backs and the guards behind them. There were five now. He didn't care about them, they were dead weight, but what worried him was the group of soldiers running across the left wall and towards the gates of the docks. Those gates were the planned escape route. But the gates were already being covered by at least twenty guards. His novices were too young to be able to scale the walls, and they very well couldn't fight through the guards. Even if Altair distracted them enough, the novices wouldn't make it past the rest of the guards to the bureau. He noted the slaves slipping out, but he and his two assassins were lagging, and the soldiers were fresh on their feet.
They may not make it.
Altair's face contorted in a flicker of rage; an arrow caught the limping assassin in the back of the neck, killing him instantly. His friend, the twenty something lad that Altair now knew as Saiim, dropped the man like he would a viper. Altair shuddered past his vision, and Saiim was dragged from the prone form.
Eventually the boy learned to run fast, but since Altair ran off to the left – away from the gates - it was hard to keep up with the swerving assassin. He leapt over carts, through merchant stands and even through people; Saiim hot on his heels. The assassin, with an easy movement, took to the rooftops of fishermen's houses with the aid of several crates of merchandise. Saiim followed. Altair leapt up, hands latching onto a thin black pole that jutted out of one of the houses were a sign would have been. With a lithe twist he threw himself up and onto a beam above the gates. He launched himself over, landing like a cat on cobbled street stones on other side. The guards he had sailed over were oblivious. Saiim followed, without the showy twirls and twists, and landed heavily on Altair.
The guards that had been chasing the across the rooftops alerted the ones on the ground, and the hunt was on again.
The eagle grunted under the weight and with a heave sent the boy to the floor; before hopping to his feet and hauling him in his wake. He didn't realise the second blockade at the end of the street. Thankfully, the street was narrow and only two guards faced them. However, they were stood at the ready, and the assassins had no time to fight them. Altair growled and with an easy crack leapt through a nearby merchant stall, flowing into a roll to stand behind them. He had wrenched his short blade out while airborne, and brought it into one of the soldier's backs while Saiim took advantage and jammed his hidden blade into the other's gut. The two guards hit the floor and the assassins took off running.
Altair grunted angrily when the blur sailed over his head.
He snarled and flung Saiim under the hem of the net; the boy rolled to a stop, staring back at him like a fool. With a howl Altair sent the rabbit scampering, Saiim only sent a single glance back. The three guards who had nabbed themselves an eagle hauled him backwards to the docks, and the head of the guard stood at the stone lip overlooking the harbour's grey waters. His helmet screeched in protest as he removed it to look at Altair, eyes as grey as the clouds.
Altair looked back, brow set and mouth hard.
The guards had removed the net and replaced them with a man on each arm, their cold hands holding on like vices across the joints of Altair's limbs. They were big, brutish fellows, each with at least an entire armoury's worth of metal covering themselves. His knees were bent under him, but it didn't make him subservient. It made him fucking murderous.
"Throw him in the waters."
"Do I not get to know the name of my murderer before I die?"
The man laughed; "I know the power of names better then you think. I won't make the same mistake as your victims did, hypocrite."
Altair smirked and jammed a fist back into the crotch of the guard on his right, releasing the respective arm. With a lunge he had the head guard with a hand clamped around the collar of his jerkin, yanking him close enough to smell the wine on his breath. "And yet you still make the mistake thinking I'll die easy."
Altair snaked his other arm free; the one that was adorned with a hidden blade.
The head guard caught it;
"I never make mistakes," the man smiled, and with an easy jolt sent the dagger hidden in his sleeve under the buckle of Altair's belt of daggers, sending the leather case to the floor. He twisted the four fingered fist, sending Altair into a yowl of agony. The other weapons followed until he held nothing but the clothes on his back, arm still twisted. At least he didn't fall to his knees. With the same, swift movement the guard sent the dagger into Altair's lower back, making the assassin arch up and howl like a dog.
The man swept him around and shoved him with a single hand into the grey waters below.
Strangely, Adam heard the howls of a man far away on the left arm of the harbour. He paid it no heed, probably just another drunkard. He slammed his helmet back onto his head, and motioned to his guards. They swept away.
Malik screeched like an animal when he saw Altair fall into the harbour waters. Saiim had told him of what had happened and he had taken off like a bat out of hell. He had a vague idea of what would happen, and so he was at the right place at the right time to see Altair fall.
He sprinted down the wiry arms of wooden docks, eyes set on the place where he saw Altair bob then go under. Curse the hydrophobic fool, refusing lessons. Malik leaped with a mangled yelp into the waters, ignoring the shock his body felt at the cold. He thought singly of Altair floating to the harbour bed, bleeding out into the cold. It propelled him down, towards the gloomy grey in the black, and his hand traced a flail of fabric. With a swipe, he had the hem of the assassin cloak in his grip. With a yank, he had the assassin.
With a heave they were above water, and the assassin choked out half of the ocean from his lungs. Malik hissed at him for silence, and sat him on one of the stone lips that circled the hollow underneath the wooden pier of the harbour.
Malik hauled himself up onto the lip, and Altair slumped against him. The dagger in his back was thrown into the water bloodlessly; it had been caught by the leather purse under his clothes; something Malik said it was a silly idea for an assassin to hide his money. Who would steal from an assassin? Altair's rhythmic breathing made Malik's eyes heavy, but as the waters grew black and the sky grew navy, they knew they had to leave.
Malik and Altair stalked down the dark alleyways through the city, lit only by a scarce lamp and the moonshine filtering between the houses. Altair had tired in trying to talk to the Rafiq; the man was having none of his apologies.
"You shouldn't be sorry, it was a mistake you made trying to protect your student. A honourable one, if not stupid."
Altair didn't know what to say to that, "Thank you?"
"That was the closest thing to a compliment you've ever given me."
The rafiq laughed, "That makes me sound like a tyrant."
The assassin smiled, "your no tyrant Malik."
The rafiq turned to him, eyebrows raised and smile quirked. It was as if the two worked as a puppeteer and toy, mouth and brow. It gave him a strange look, since Altair was used to scorn rather than curiosity as of late, especially from Malik. "Oh, and what do you think I am then?"
The assassin paled. Absently, he realised they had slowed to a stop in an alleyway a few streets from the bureau. "Well, you're not all bad. You have got many redeeming qualities."
"… Your ability to make me look like an idiot, that's no easy feat. I am pretty amazing, you know." Altair smiled thinly at him. The rafiq laughed at him, eyes like coals in the night. He folded his arm across his chest and took a single step forwards. Altair copied.
"Anyone can do that Altair, all they need do is watch; you'll soon do something stupid."
"Ever think you might push me over the edge one day?"
"Oh yes, and what would you do if I did? Fight me? I always win, Altair. Ever think you've met someone superior to your grandeur, Eagle?"
Altair grinned. "May be."
Malik snorted, and then shrugged, eyes almost closed. His hand moved to fold itself behind his back, leaving them to be belly to belly now. Since the arm was out of the way, making them chest to chest, almost nose to nose, Malik was open. Altair breathed down lightly on the rafiq's face; he knew how much the little man liked simple things like that when they were young. He was rewarded, and Malik shivered against him, unwittingly pushing closer in the movement. Altair was about to lift a hand to caress Malik's face, but the man's eyes flicked open and his mouth widened into a smirk. He placed a small kiss on his nose and danced away down the alley.
Hand still clasped behind his back, he looked behind to Altair; the man had only moved enough to stare agape at him. His face looked as if he had kicked him in the balls. "Come on Master Assassin. We can't be as inconsiderate as to do such things as you have on your mind in public, can we?"
"One day I'm gonna find a girl version of you,and then you'll be history Mal."
"Like you could find a girl like me, Alty."
"Don't doubt the master little man, I'll find her and we will run for the hills, I'm telling you."
"If you could find someone like that you'd have gone already and stopped bothering me."
"Well, I've already found them. He's just a horrible tease t'is all."
"Pray for me Mal."
"Wait, did you just backhandedly call me a girl?"