A Thousand Sordid Images
Summary: A gypsy girl of the desert finds herself plunged into the world of the assassins. In pursuing her destiny, she unveils dangerous secrets which force her to question her faith, her loyalty, and what it means to be a woman.
Pairings: Altair/OC, Malik/OC. M!OC/M!OC.
Warnings: Mentions of rape. There will be a slash male/male relationship between two original characters.
Disclaimer: I do not own Assassin's Creed or its characters, nor do I profit from this fanfic.
At that one moment she was reminded of a story Al Mualim had told her many years ago, when she was still a child and not yet a spy for the assassins. The story spoke of a woman whose two children were captured and sentenced to death for some crime or another, and she had to choose between which child to save. The other child would, of course, perish. But if she were to refuse a choice, both of them would die. Would that be fair, then?
"Your decisions will not be easy, our lives are not just. You will struggle dearly if you think too much, child."
And here, more than a decade later, here were her choices.
She touched the assassin's pendent and pressed the cold metal to her breast. A three-pointed design, she thought ruefully. There were three directions in which she could go from here.
Her horse was sleekly muscled and very well groomed. He could take her anywhere she so desired. Bright feather plumes licked her face as he shook his magnificent mane.
She could return to Jerusalem.
She could go to Masyaf.
Or she could run away to the desert and find the cluster of tents by its edge…
But what would greet her there?
In Jerusalem there waited an uncertain future with a one armed man.
In Masyaf she would find a dangerous present under the wing of a great eagle.
In the desert her past would chase after her, perhaps dead or perhaps still alive and mourning her absence.
In a distant memory, she remembered.
Bewilderment, confusion, terror. Despite it all, she was glad she had experienced it as a child, a child who was old enough to act but too young to grasp the morbid injustice of the ordeal. Hers was a story that was told in bits and pieces to those who asked, never whole- it was too much for her. It hurt to remember they were the same girl. Before that day, changes occurred in her life but they left her essence whole. But on that day, she traveled too far. Ripped out of time and space, she knelt before Al Mualim and began to pray. Faith was all she had left.
The old Grand Master had been wise to change her name. It was like starting fresh- Aasha, hope. An Eastern name; a word from her own desert tongue. She had cut herself from her past like dismissing a traitorous friend, rejecting all alternatives with vehemence. She tried to forget, knowing her life was bound to Al Mualim to do as he pleased.
But in a distant memory, sometimes even in her dreams, she saw a thousand sordid images.
It was not her mother's attentions or ayah's prodding, but rather the sound of men praising Allah that woke Rani. Confused and still drugged with sleep, her feet led her across her family's small tent where she stepped over her youngest brother who was playing with dirt on the floor, too young to understand the celebration. She lifted the flap of their tent and greeted the morning. Idly plucking the knots from her hair, she regarded the sun with sleep drugged eyes. It peeked out from quickly retreating storm clouds, rain still falling lightly. Her sister was still sleeping.
Her father, a lighthearted nomad by the name of Omar, was already loading up their cart with straw. It was rare that there be rain on the edge of the desert, so when it did rain, everyone jumped to their feet to praise Allah. Her ayah was leading Tamanna, their oldest female camel, to her place next to the tonga, where the rest of the camels were already rounded up and waiting. Tamanna was set to breed with Shaaim, the youngest and most virile camel this year. Rani's mother, Sharma, was already busy milking the goats, and her brothers stood by impatiently, waiting for mother to finish so they could play tricks on the poor creatures. It was time for the trip to their great watering hole. There, her father would let the camels drink and pray for a good litter. Their lives depended on it. The sky continued to weep slowly, and the young girl's chador robe felt chilly with dampness and the ever growing breeze. The air carried the fresh scent of a faraway paradise.
"Go inside and help your mother, Rani," her father said to her as he heaved yet another layer of hay into the tonga. "I will take your brother's company for today."
"But abbun," she protested, digging her toes into the warming sand with delight, "I'd love to see the watering hole this year…" She eyed the mentioned brother suspiciously, feeling rather betrayed. Omar looked back at his daughter steadily with what could only be described as profound sadness.
He did not reply, but Rani understood nonetheless. Her father was afraid for her.
Her mother and ayah were waiting for her first bleeding. Gone were the days when Rani was free to pull on her favorite tunic to climb the thorn bushes. Those memories were veiled now by the chador she donned every morning that stretched so long it was almost impossible to run without tangling her feet in its thick cloth and toppling over. The rich women in the cities had chadors made of the finest silk, thin as air. When Rani first saw them, she was six and absolutely terrified- the bright colors stung at her eyes, the strong fragrances made her head spin. Their gleaming skin smelt of the purest jasmine oil. Instead of envy, the desert dwellers, who could only afford to visit the city market something like once a year, eyed them with a steadiness that came with self assurance- pride of their husky voices and beautiful sapphire nights, pride in their families and loyalty to Allah, who delivered to them bountiful harvests each year.
Her father stole a look at her and managed a smile, even if impatient. He always seemed to know her thoughts. "Do not worry, Rani. If Tammana gives birth to a good litter this year, we will make more money in the markets. I promise to buy you a bead necklace!" He pressed a finger against her nose playfully, though Rani was not fazed. He always liked to say something to this effect whenever they fussed. Besides, she did not want another bead necklace. "Thank you, father," she said, knowing it would not matter, as he tended to forget these things the very next day.
She watched helplessly as her father led our total of five camels away from their camp and disappeared over the horizon, her brother Mudil trailing lazily after him with a stick in his hand. He didn't even hug her and say goodbye anymore. Mudhil used to play with Rani all the time as children, when they could both run about the sands wearing only the sky. But then one day their mother declared it a bad thing that they hug each other naked, and put clothes on them both. Then the children were abruptly ashamed of themselves, for then they knew that they were different from one another. That was years ago, and Mudhil still regarded Rani with distance. They were brother and sister and shared the same blood, but being man and woman separated them first and foremost.
The girl huffed and tidied her hair, pulling it back into a long thick braid, and woke her sister. Aside from the morning rain, the day began as usual. Little did Rani know that this would be the last day she'd spend with her mother and father.
Her sister was fourteen and lovely, her breasts having grown round and perky with the last harvest. Suddenly boys and marriage were all she could speak of, and Rani often touched herself at night and lamented how flat her chest was- she didn't understand why she was different. Engaged to their cousin Mohammed, Radha's eyes squeezed with contentment. He was a good man, and would make a fine husband.
Rani couldn't help but smile as Radha struggled to choose a pair of shoes. They only had two pairs each, both handmade and colored like mud. The rain finally stopped. The two girls were to collect water to take back to their camp at the edge of the desert, and they took one pot each and balanced them over their heads with practiced movements. They scarce said goodbye to their mother as they left, this outing was so routine.
Together they talked about Mohammed, how his jaw looked so strong and how he and Radha would raise many sons to work on their farm.
"If I ate plenty of lentils and butter," Radha was saying, "I would surely have fat and healthy sons that would look just like Mohammed."
"The wedding is still a whole season away," Rani laughed, "you'll have enough time to indulge yourself. You do know that father is buying saffron from the market?"
"Really?" She blinked twice, feigning surprise. "Saffron is expensive, why would he do that?"
"And turmeric too," Rani added with no small amount of poorly concealed disdain. Why should their father spend so much money on Radha's wedding? Didn't he remember that he had another daughter, too? She couldn't help but wonder what her future husband would be like. Mohammed was a very good man from what she'd heard; he prayed daily, was steadfast in his work, very diligent and warm towards his family... so what did that leave her? This year Rani would go with her father to the city to meet her distant cousins. Her future husband would be among them. She nibbled at her cheeks, recalling the stories of that girl who ran away on her wedding night. Some versions of the tale said she returned out of shame; others told of how they found her corpse many nights later, picked clean of flesh and only recognizable by her lovely gown and jewelry.
Radha grinned smugly, teasingly. A somewhat cold silence settled between them for a few moments. When their pots were at last full, the two turned to walk back, laughing and gossiping once again. The sound of camel bells rang out faintly across the undulating planes of sand, and Radha was the first to notice it. It could not be their father. And indeed, the fat men who rose above the dunes wore intricately embroidered caps, finely woven vests, and rings on each hand. When they laughed, their gold teeth glinted in the sun. Their saddles were inlaid with precious fabrics and weighted with heavy sacks. These men did not belong in the desert. Perhaps they were merchants. Frowning, Rani kept her head low, she and her sister keeping a wide berth around the men.
They were noticed regardless.
"Well then, what have we here?" One of the men called out, roughly tugging the camel's reins and digging his heels into its sides. The camel gave a low grunt and trotted towards the two. Radha's supple fingers clenched around the water jar. She stood defiantly, the bangles on her arms clinking while she balanced a jug of water and a basket of laundry over her head. Rani noticed how Radha's face was uncovered, and felt fear striking her chest. Her legs became like two sticks dropped on the ground.
The men came ever closer, smiling at them and whispering among themselves. "Whoever made the most gold last night gets the tall one," the first man said to his companion, who smirked. He had a handsome face, but the thought of him heaving and sweating over her sister made Rani's stomach churn. Radha was shaking with fear. "Come now, girls, don't be scared. What is your name?"
They did not speak and slowly began to back away, eyes averted. Perhaps they were being paid off by a rival tribe. Rani and Radha's family once belonged to a tribe before war and death separated them. Their names had a foreign flair as they migrated from the East many years ago to flee that great war of tribes. Rani was still a baby then, carried in her father's arms as the nomad family fled as fast as their feet could take them. It was best to remain as anonymous as possible.
This modest show only seemed to flare the passion in the two merchants, who laughed rowdily and continued to drive their camels towards them. All their lives they were taught to assess wares; and no possession was as fine as a beautiful woman.
"Come," Rani whispered hoarsely to her sister, "let's run."
The two girls made a quick decision, flinging their pots filled with water at the four men with all their might, dashing off as soon as the impact knocked two of them off their camels and soaked their clothes. Their feet were fast and well adapted to the sand, but their chadors tangled at their feet. With the men chasing after them, swearing and angry, they ran for their lives. Radha fell first, and they took her away screaming and crying. Rani yelled for her sister, turning back and latching herself onto one of the mens' arms, biting down on the muscled flesh as hard as she could. She was backhanded, his jeweled ring leaving a thin gash across her cheek. Radha cried then, because their lives were over. No one could save them now.
"Please, kill us," Radha began to beg, "just kill us!" she knew the look in their eyes, knew that rape was coming. She knew it was better to die than to be raped- all virgins went to heaven.
End of chapter 1.
I can't believe someone read all of this. Koodos! Please keep reading for important information. :)
Rani's story is not at all uncommon for women -particularly those of low social status- during this period. While reading this fic, I implore all readers to keep in mind the cultural paradigms of the era. Not all women eagerly rebelled to join armies and the such, as our westernized point of view would lead us to believe.
I love historical fiction, and am attempting to portray these people in this specific era as accurately as possible. This story is my own interpretation of women in the assassin's order. I must, however, confess that I have not completed all of the games and my knowledge of the fandom is limited to other fanfiction and my research. There will likely be some deviations from the canon storyline, but major events such as Solomon's Temple will still take place.
I welcome and encourage all criticism, questions, and input. Or just review to make me happy. :D Feedback is always a writer's best friend. Since my research is hasty, I would appreciate being made aware of any major inconsistencies that take away from the story in an obvious manner.