Altair watched as the recruits ascended the ancient stone stairs and passed through the threshold of the castle front. The moment the last of them entered the two guards posted at the oak doors shut the doors with an eerie, unholy creaking screech. Altair's golden eyes stayed locked on the back of Desmond's head till the moment those doors shut cutting off his line of sight.
A sudden feeling of dread and unease gripped his heart. There was that dreadful understanding that Altair would never see the younger American again. And for some reason that frightened the tanned assassin more than anything in the world at that moment. He had come, in the last few days, to learn a lot about boy and felt an imbedded connection with the boy. Whether it was the identical features or the dark, family less past he didn't care. But both he and Ezio felt that connection deep within them. That overbearing need to care for and protect the lad. But now there was nothing either of them could do for him. They could only pray to whatever gods existed that Desmond would walk through those doors safe and sound. Beside him Ezio took a deep breath and sighed forcing his golden eyes off the door before turning to Altair.
"All that is left now is the waiting game, no?" Ezio tried to chuckle but it only came out as something more along the lines of a scoff. Altair only nodded not speaking as he unconsciously fingered the hilt of a throwing dagger he had hidden in the front pocket of his hoodie. His body needed something to keep his troubled mind off the dark thoughts plaguing him. These inspections could take hours at a time and knowing Al Mualim, he wasn't going to let even the slightest threat to the assassin order past his sights.
Many of the other assassins had taken up sitting on groups or alone in the courtyard or against the dust covered stone walls of the surrounding archaic walls. Altair glanced up at the glowing ball of pure light above their heads. They needed to get out of the sun while they waited. The heat and light would get to them in less than half an hour. The Syrian had seen firsthand the dangers of heatstroke. Ezio had it once when the Italian had first started working with Altair here in the Middle East. Taking Ezio's hand and the Syrian tugged him across the courtyard to a shaded part of the wall where the suns devilish beams couldn't reach them till late in the afternoon. The sudden movement also forced the Italian to tear his eyes away from the massive oak doors separating them from Desmond. But the moment they entered the sever degrees cooler area Ezio sighed in relief of being out of the heat.
Altair tugged the Italian to the wall and sat down, dragging his counterpart down with him. Ezio seemed to passively obey his silent orders as he rested his back against the wall and slid down till he was seated on the cobblestone ground next to his master assassin partner. Ezio let their clamps hands fall between them as if it were the only life line they had and if either released the other they would give into the panic and worry that settled into both their hearts. Ezio pulled up his knees and wrapped his free arm around his knees and rested his forehead on his knees. He listened to Altair's quiet almost nonexistent breathing beside him, the hushed whispers of conversation from the other assassins around them.
"Do you think Desmond will be alright?" Ezio whispered quietly to Altair. Beside him Altair rested his head back against the wall looking up at the bright blue canvas above them.
"I do not know." Altair said bluntly. Ezio gave a dry laugh. Why was he expecting Altair to lie to him just to make him feel just the slightest bit more relieved? But as always the Syrian answered honestly and truthfully.
"But I do know that Al Mualim will not kill him. Desmond has a much potential and can learn. So I highly doubt he will be killed." Altair continued. Ezio looked over at him almost shocked to hear the words be spoken from those tanned scared lips. His gold eyes searched those identical golden eyes peaking out under the white hooded cowl searching for the lie he thought he would see. But there was nothing there to hint at a lie so he looked away and back out onto the courtyard.
"Have you ever been to a recruiting like this before Altair?" the words left his mouth before he even had a change to stop them. Altair's hand flinched in his.
"Yes I have. Back when I first became a master assassin I brought a recruit to be judged by Al Mualim. A young boy. He went in. the judging when on for hours as I stood outside and watched those oak doors as I do now. But when all the recruits came back… the boy didn't. He was killed. Al Mualim saw him unfit. I…I was fiercely upset. I had led a boy, a mere teenager to death, like a pig to the slaughter. That is why I haven't done recruitment in years. It was not till Desmond that my thoughts changed." Altair answered uneasy with speaking his inner thoughts that he kept locked away.
"Does this have to do with that strange feeling you had back at Desmond's apartment?" Ezio asked looking back over at the tanned assassin. Altair nodded silently.
"I believe now I understand what you were talking about. I too feel something strange about Desmond a connection if you will. And now suddenly the thought of losing him scares me." Ezio admitted. Altair's hand unlaced from his and moved under Ezio's hood to the base of his neck. The rough calloused hand pressed against the warm skin of his neck Altair's thumb rubbing soothing circles on the side where his neck met his shoulder. Altair always did this when Ezio was tense or panicked. Why he didn't know. Ezio's mother, Maria, did this to him when he was but a child and feared the storms that would wrack the city of Florence. And the tanned assassin seemed to understand how the simple touch broke through the tension of his body and calmed him down. Letting out a breath Ezio closed his golden eyes and leaned in slightly to the affectionate touch allowing it to work the tension from his frame.
"I fear that also." The words were spoken from Altair's lips so low Ezio thought he had missed them but he knew he had heard them and for some reason the realization that Altair feared losing Desmond as much as he did brought great relief. A hush fell over the two of them as both their eyes found their ways back to the oak doors on the second landing. Ezio wondered what Desmond was feeling and seeing on the other side of those doors.
"So I see the 'son of none' has returned once again to humble us with his presence." A snide voice remarked as a dark shadow crossed the ground in front of the two sitting assassins. Suddenly the calming touch of Altair's hand was instantly gone from Ezio's neck, as if it were never there to begin with, leaving Ezio's mind to scramble to process the sudden loss and the sudden vacant body heat beside him. Ezio blinked up against the blinding light to see another assassin standing before them. The man before them wore the garbs of the guards. White hoodies with gray hoods and sleeves a pair of black jean and brown hiking boots. No back pack on his back. His hair was black and shaven close to his hair but his had a short black beard on his face and dark black eyes. His mouth was twisted into one of disgust that wasn't directed at Ezio but at the standing Altair beside him.
"Abbas…" Altair said simple his voice sharp and harsh as sandpaper. Ezio blinked at the sudden hostility between them that hung in the air. Abbas? That name was foreign to him. Apparently Altair knew him. Ezio moved his legs to sit cross legged on the ground regarding the event before him with interest.
"I notice you have brought a recruit this time." The newcomer said just as harshly. Altair only nodded not reply in words.
"One could not help but notice the similarities between you two and the boy. Care to explain?" Abbas demanded. Ezio frowned under his hood at the man and slowly got to his feet behind Altair.
"There is nothing to explain and it is none of your concern Abbas." Altair snapped his arms folded over his chest as he glared down the slightly smaller man.
"There are rumors that the boy is a foreigner from the U.S. guild that were killed years ago. One can only hope you aren't compromising the brotherhood like you did before by bringing that boy here." The male snipped. Ezio tensed at the accusation. The man was pushing the wrong buttons by bringing up Altair's past from when he first became a master assassin. Altair back then had been cocky and ignorant, not like the man he had become today. Then he had made a select few poor choices but had learned greatly from them. But when anyone brought them up and questioned Altair's loyalty to the brotherhood, it was only asking for a blade to your throat. Ezio's eyes snapped down to Altair's hands under his arms. Those hands that had only moments before had been calming Ezio was curled into fists of anger. His hands fisted so tight his knuckles had turned white from the force.
"The boy brings no threat to our brother hood Abbas and a do not plan on compromising the brotherhood by bringing him here." Altair's voice was like ice as he spoke. Ezio could only guess the dark look that flashed through those golden orbs. Abbas scoff.
"The others seem to think otherwise. They fear you will bring dishonor to us again and corrupt us further." Abbas continued.
"How have corrupted us?" Altair demanded angrily. His arms falling to his side his body tensing as he spoke.
"You bring foreigners into our brotherhood. The boy is not from here much like the Italian behind you." Abbas's black eyes flickered over Altair's shoulder to Ezio, who leveled the other assassin with a dark look that matched Altair's. Ezio stepped up beside Altair to face the man full on.
"I do not understand your sudden hostility towards us but I do not bring corruption to this brotherhood. I am as loyal as any other here." Ezio spoke loudly his voice full of volume.
"You do not belong here. You should be in Italy where you belong not fiddling with the affairs of our brotherhood here in the Masyaf. It is also said your family is tainted, your younger brother is next to useless always ill and disobeying orders, also your sister is said to work for a brothel and will willingly spread her legs for anyone…" Ezio saw red. He wasn't going to allow this… this Stronzetto (little shit) utter another word against not only his family but speak ill of his little siblings a moment longer. Ezio crouched low; Abbas smiled and crouched as well ready to take on the raging Italian. Ezio launched himself at the man only to have strong arms wrap around his waist holding him back and away from the pezzo di merda (piece of shit).
"Lasciami andare Altair! Io lo uccido! Ha conseguito il diritto di parlare male della mia famiglia, sorella o un fratello così! Io lo colpirò dove si trova! Rilasciare me! Io lo strangolo con le mie mani da sola!(Let me go Altair! I will kill him! He holds no right to speak ill of my family, sister or brother like that! I will smite him where he stands! Release me! I will strangle him with my bare hands alone!)" Ezio screamed at Atair in italian. He knew Altair understood Italian and understood his anger towards the newcomer. But Altair held fast to him, cageing him making it impossible for him to leave the strong arm around him. All the italian could do was glare daggers at the smiling man before him and squirm in the master assassin's grip.
"Ascoltate ora stronzo! Si può dire quello che volete su di me. Puoi maledire, si sparse la voce e anche contaminare il mio nome come un assassino. Ma non hai mai, mai, parlare male della mia famiglia o dei miei fratelli. Se ho mai sentito che hai fatto come hai ora mai più. Capire che non ci sarà nessun posto si può nascondere, nessun buco è possibile nascondere sotto dove non riesco a trovare! E la prossima volta non ci sarà nessuno a trattenermi! Nessuno a salvarti! Mi senti? (Hear me now asshole! You can say what you will about me. You can curse me, spread rumors and even tain my name as an assassin. But you never, EVER, speak ill of my family or my siblings. If i ever hear you have done like you have now ever again. Understand that there will be no place for you to hide, no hole you can hide under where i can not find you! And next time there will be no one to hold me back! No one to save you! Do you hear me?!)" Ezio snarled looking pointedly at Abbas whose face took on one of confusion and perhaps even a bubble of fear in those onyx colored obs as he took the full force of Ezio's promise even though he didnt understand a word of it. Ezio's outburst left his breathless and he gasped for air his face red with anger. The Italian seemed to have finished his tirade but Altair knew better than to release Ezio quiet yet less Ezio saw a moment to snap and attack Abbas for rear.
All around them the scene that they were causing wa drawing the attention of the other gathered assasssin. But Altair pointedly ignored them, already used to the unwanted attention he always got whether from Ezio or from something he had done himself. Ezio continued to squirm for several more minutes in an vain attempt to reach Abbas.
"Leave now Abbas. I will not hold him forever." Altair snapped at the man. Abbas seemed to finally get the hint and turned and marched off. Altair let out a frustraited sigh as the other walked of knowing this wasnt going to be the end of this. His thoughts ground to a hault when the large oak doors creaked again. Altair instantly let go of Ezio as the assassins around them jumped to their feet to face the large doors. Ezio spun around his previous anger and dark thoughts disapearing only to be replaced with unease and anxiety. All the assassins huddled together in a sea of white and watched the doors intently to see who would exit through the threshhold. There was movement in the yawning darkness behind the door. Several identically dressed figures immerged from the black. Many of them shielded their eyes from the sudden blinding light that assaulted their eyes.
1...2...3...4...5...6... where was Desmond? Terror gripped the two master assassins hearts.
"D-desmond..." Ezio whispered his voice barely audible. But then there wasnt more movement and another figure emerged from the darkness. And finally much to the relief of the two assasssins the figure of Desmond walked out of the castle, looking slightly pale and shooken up but otherwise unharmed. Ezio sagged in pure reliefe to see the younger walk out and into the light of the sun. Desmond locked eyes with the two of them and he seemed just as relieved to see them as well. The recruits, now novice, decended the stairs and returned to the assassins who brought them. Desmond walked quickly over to Ezio and Altair his hands gripped into fists at his side. Ezio moved forward meeting him and full on hugged him. Desmond didn't push him away. The American only rested his head on Ezio's shouler for a moment taking in the comfort the italain offered after the horror he had seen in the castle with the girl and the boy recruit. Ezio let him go and held him at arms length Altair came forward and looked him over for any unnoticed wound but upon seeing none he seemed to relax and a gentle smile played on his face under his mask. One that only Desmond and Ezio were allowed to see.
"Are you alright?" Altair asked his voice interwoven with worry and relief. Desmond nodded slowly looking at the ground.
"I guess. I just want to go back home right now and go to sleep and pretend this day didnt happen." Desmond said with a shutter. His hands unclenched from his sides. Ezio noticed his hands were bleeding slightly from the force of his nails that dug into his palms. Ezio was about to fluster over them like the mother hen he could sometimes be but the magestic return of Al Mualim to the landing brought his attention away from Desmond for only a moment as the assassins turned back to the mentor.
"Today we welcome these fine people into our have proven themselves worthy! Today they commit to uphold the pillars of our creed and fight for our creed. From this point forward the assassin who have brought these men and women will train and guide them in the ways of our brotherhood and show them how to protect the free will of men!" Al Mualim announced loudly his voice reverberating off the surrounding stone walls.
"Remember! Where other men blindy follow the truth, remember..." Al Mualim announced raising his hands skyward.
"Nothing is true!" the assassins, Altair and Ezio included spoke loudly back to the mentor. Desmond stod silently.
"Where othe men are limited by morality or law remember...!"
"Everything is permitted!" the assassins, this time with Desmond adding his voice to the chorus of voices, replied.
"We work in the dark to serve the light! We are assassins!" Al Mualim shouted loudly.
"We are assassins!" the crowd roared back. Al Mualim nodded proudly to them. But his dark eyes moved down to meet Desmond in the crowd. Desmond felt a shiver run up his spine and he looked away and at the ground suddenly finding it alot more interesting. Al Mualim moved away and retreated back inside the castle and the doors closed behind him. It wasnt untill those door closed once again did Desmond finally let out the breath he had apparently been holding since he intered that god forsaken death hole. He defenetly never doing this again. Around them the crowd of assassins began to disapate. A firm calloused hand descended on his shoulder. Desmond looked up to see the worried gaze of Altair looking back at him.
"Desmond come. Lets get you something to eat and drink then we will return to jerusalem." Altair promised. Desmond nodded and turned. Ezio placed a hand on his shoulder giving him some bit of support and with that the two assassins led him out and away from the courtyard and down the narrow pathway through the mountain and back to the military grade village. As they walked down the path they passed Abbas as he stood beside his charge, the man glared daggers at them and Desmond blinked in confusion. What had he done to him? But when he looked at Ezio for answers he only saw Ezio glaring just as if not more darkly at the man. Oh so Ezio must have done something then... none of them spoke a word till they were back in Altair and Ezio's hotel style room.
Ezio sat beside Desmond on the bed as Altair stole some bread and sandwhich meat from the tiny fridge and made enough sandwhiches for all of them. The tanned assassin offered Desond a sandwhich, which he hesitantly ecsepted along with a bottle of water. Ezio nibbled on one he was offered as Altair took his and sat across from them on the other bed.
"You know i understand why you didnt give me anything to eat before i went in there. If you had i probably would have thrown it up." Desmond admitted. Ezio frowned at those words.
"What happened?" Ezio voice his question. Desmond sighed and unscrewed the top of the water bottle and downed a few swallows of the liquid letting it run down his parched throat.
"They toated one kid off. He wasnt suited for anything. This other girl. The was fucked the moment she opened her mouth. She said she worked for a company called Abstergo. The moment she saud that Al Mualim stabbed her in the stomach. It was... it was just..." Desmond shuttered again looking down at his hands, which were still slightly bleeding from the finger nail sized cuts in his hands. Ezio apparently saw them too and made a mad dash for the first aide kit and quickly disinfected his hands along with bandaging them. Altair took in his words and nodded solemly.
"I am sorry you had to go through that." Altair muttered looking down at the carpeted floor. Desmond waved his appology off.
"If you think about it, it's only a precourser to what i am going to see and do when i become a full fledged assassin." Desmond said quietly. Altair hummed and Ezio fell silent.
"Did he recognise your name?" Ezio asked sitting back on the bed beside Desmond, rubbing his back with soothing circled. Desmond nodded.
"Yeah he did, or i think he did. He didnt voice it if he did. The only thing he commented on was the similarity i share with you two." Desmond replied.
"But there is one thing i dont understand..." Desmond pipped up. Altair raised an eyebrow and Ezio regarded him calmly.
"I'm sure he knew about how all my family died out there. Why didnt he kill me for being held by the Templars. Even if he didnt know i was held by the templars he would have know they would be looking for me or something right?" Desmond suddenly asked.
"I dont know what to tell your about that Desmond. All i suggest is you focus on the now and not the past. These next few months will not be easy. Your full training starts now and Ezio and I will not go easy on you." Altair said his voice firm and leaving no room for discussion. Desmond looked up at him and nodded with a slight smile. He was ready for this now.
"Well then, we better head out then if we want to get back to the bureau by tomorrow morning." Ezio announce. Demsond nodded and got off the bed finishing off his sandwich and downing the rest of the bottle of water. After collecting what little of their htings they needed, they left locking the oor behind them. Ezio tucked the keys in his pocket and they headed out back to the garage. Sure enough their gear lay where they had left them the night before. They mounted and took off out of the parking garage. After passing through the gate they blazed down the road.
Desmond felt great relief to leave Masyaf behind and head back to familiar territory. he also looked forward to learning under the tutalage of Ezio and Altair. He knew it wasnt going to be easy being their stuent seeing as they were master assassins and here he was an apprentince or novice. But he wasnt going to let tat stop him. There was nothing in his way at the moment to stop him from clibing through the ranks and becoming a full fledged assassin and to take on the templars responcible for the end of his family.