This takes place in the same headcanon as wordswithout's Battle of Eagles series and my other Assassin's Creed stories.


Sometimes he wakes up in the middle of the night and thinks he hears Kadar.

It's sound more often than sight, because Malik A'Sayf knows better than others that sight is the easiest sense to distort. Mapmakers distort it all the time, making buildings seem farther away than they actually are, minimizing the distance between streets. Malik is not a musician: he thinks that sound is unchangeable, to a point. Breaking bone always sounds the same. Sound, he thinks he can trust.

But he hears someone crying, and then childlike laughter, and then another cry of pain. He imagines Kadar might have made that last sound after he was bitten by the eyas.

Malik sleeps in a small room off of his shop. He used to sleep in the bureau with the other assassins but he doesn't like looking at the lattice and knowing how hard it is to climb it. So he picks the light blankets off of himself and dresses without thinking much about what tunic he's putting on. It could be backwards for all he knows, working as he is in the dark and with the clumsy but practiced movements of one hand. The noise is still going on, now laughter, now despair. Kadar must be out there. He'll be waiting at the door or crouching at the top of the bureau, sighing, "Brother, why won't you let me in?"

The hot, still air wakes Malik up gradually as he moves around the map shop, not caring what scrolls he brushes against. He beelines for the door as soon as he is out of the labyrinth of stacked maps.

He opens the door and looks out into the dark street, blinking. It's pitch black everywhere except the spattering of stars between the building tops. He thinks he can hear the wheels of a cart in the distance, too far away for a lantern to cast any light. Some poor merchant got caught out at night or wants to be preternaturally prompt with his deliveries, or maybe it's not as late as Malik thought and bakeries and pottery shops are already firing up their ovens and kilns.

Malik shakes his head. He can't hear the sounds any more.

He takes one step inside, planning to close the door, when he hears footsteps upstairs.

It could be any number of assassins or novices. Men and boys from other cities use Jerusalem as a stopping point all the time, and Malik knows he'll only ever see some of them once.

Nevertheless he's awake now and it feels like it's going to be a hot day, so he goes upstairs. He used to run his hand along the desk when he came up, because it was right there and at the right height, but now it's on the wrong side. He can see some people sleeping on the cushions scattered around the room, some curled in the corner like they're frightened that someone will stab them in the back, and others sprawled out like they've dealt with too much death to be afraid of it anymore.

He sees a silhouette in the far doorway and stops in his tracks. He realizes he should have brought a knife but thought he wouldn't need it for Kadar. The figure in the door is cowled but that's not unusual. That is not, by itself, frightening.

Malik tries. "Kadar?"

The voice is deep - deeper than Kadar's was, although Malik knew in those years that he still wasn't quite hearing Kadar as he actually was. Younger brother's voices never really change to the ears of their older brothers. To Malik, Kadar's adult voice always sounded slightly like an act he was putting on. Sound wasn't a trustworthy sense either.

The voice says, "No. Malik, are you getting senile in your old age?"

It takes a few words for Malik to register that it's Altair's voice, but when he does he is not sure how he could ever have made the mistake.

"I thought I saw something." Altair gestures toward the latticework that leads out of the bureau. "Up there. It was like someone was climbing toward the other side of the roof."

Malik's comfortable feeling that there's nothing supernatural going on at all disappears. "You are older than I, Altair."

"Irrelevant. I heard a sound."

"A sound frightened you?"

"I thought someone might be on the roof."

Malik gestures around at the sleeping figures, proof that men came and went here all the time.

"Nevertheless," Altair says. "We should look for intruders."

We're all intruders, Malik thinks. He is sure that Altair is trying to cover up whatever had really woken him up.

Malik says, "I will not climb to the roof again." The last time, he had managed it but had felt the sinews in his shoulder pull the next day.

"Then go out into the street." Altair gestures toward the door behind Malik, using the same tone he would as if it were an insult - go and be a beggar, he is really saying. But then he moves past Malik and down the stairs himself, white clothes flapping, and Malik wonders how Altair can so quickly turn something from an insult to a challenge that he would be proud to take. Malik follows him, wondering how he does it.

Altair moves far too fast through the map shop for Malik's liking, although he seems to know where he is going and doesn't run into anything. Malik wonders how he does that too. They both push out the door and stand in the dark, hot street, even the sound of the cart gone. Slight light from the top of the bureau casts pale orange light over everything. Altair must have lit a lantern, heedless of the sleepers or the fact that he would leave it burning a moment later. The assassins stand there, silent, Altair no longer going after his ghostly quarry.

Altair says, "You thought I was your brother."

Malik shakes his head. Altair looks at him and grins, or at least as close to a grin as he gets - closed-mouthed, the smile pulling at the scar across his lips. He says, "I thought it was him I heard out here."

Malik feels cold. He hadn't even thought why Altair was up. Maybe since Altair didn't conform to other rules of men he didn't conform to usual sleeping hours either. For a moment Malik wondered whether Altair had been waiting for him to wake up too, just assuming that the universe would do what he asked when Altair asked it to bring Malik to him.

He thinks about his own stumble through the dark looking for Kadar. Mapmakers learn that art must, while accurately portraying the world, also conform the world to the shape of paper. Paper, which is inside the world, nevertheless masters that world.

He thinks about the many things Kadar said about Malik and Altair over the years.

Malik said, "Maybe he was."