A/N: This story takes place in the early 1490s, in the remains of the former Serbian empire, before the Turkish-Venetian conflicts. I will add this an epilogue when I can. It's supposed to be a three-shot, in my head, but as I said, I've no idea when I will update this. It contains a mild usage of foul language, but I tried to be evasive about it. Well, I hope you'll enjoy anyways. Thank you for reading in advance! c:
He cautiously stuck his head through the carriage window, observing the outskirts. Places and skylines he had never seen emerged before him, quickly escaping out of view and being replaced by another, just as intimidating. Great green plains seemed to ramble on an on endlessly for a period of time, finally turning into curvy hills and deadly still mountains as the carriage advanced.
He admitted that it was nothing like Konstantiniyye. It wasn't the same sky, the same sun nor dirt; but nevertheless, he reminded himself, he wasn't here to sightsee, but work.
Covering the window with the curtain, he sighed. He could soon hear the horse feet more clearly as they were not on the muddy road anymore, but on wood, then dried, sampled earth. Conversations, exclaims and whispers reached his ears as the carriage slowed, and the wheels ebbed into the dirt.
Needing no instruction, he eagerly pushed the door open, springing outside, the wind piercing his face and playing with his curly black hair. And before he could even feel his exposed skin shiver under the cold air, he noticed three men approach him, all of them in uniforms similar to his own.
"Hoshgeldin , arkadashim (Welcome, brother!)!" the tallest of the three greeted, moving to tap the newcomer's shoulder, easily towering him for a whole head.
"Hoshbulduk (Even better to find you), friends. I am Yusuf Tazim, and I come from Istanbul," nodding politely to his welcoming cometee, the man's bright blue orbs patiently studied his fellows.
"Ah, it is an honor to meet you. I am Serhat Aslan, the Master Assassin of Gradac," the tall man nodded as well, allowing a small smile to dance on his lips.
"What brings you to us, brother? Business, I should suppose."
Yusuf nodded at Serhat's remark.
"Evet (Yes). My Mentor sends me to examine the advance and influence of your Den. Is everything quite alright?" Yusuf fixed his spaulders as he asked. The latter's face slightly darkened, the shadow of his hood falling to his nose as he ordered his men away.
"Walk with me."
The Bursan followed the tall man. A few sharply smelling streets would pass before Serhat would speak.
"Though the Ottoman rule has been successfully established since 1459, the Templars, or the Byzantines if you'd rather, had managed to slip downward to the Greeks. From there, they send reinforcements to all parts of the Balkan."
He stopped to catch his breath for a moment, as Yusuf carefully took in each of his words.
"Through the years, we had managed to keep them away from these parts. Our brothers in Belgrade are doing their best to cut off the Greek suppliers."
"I see. So you say that the situation is in good shape for now?" he questioned with an encouraging smile.
"Evet, I judge so," Serhat answered merrily, but happiness soon faded as he heard an angry cry of a nearby merchant.
"Stop!" the man desperately pleaded as a few Ottoman soldiers took hold of his merchandise, eager to ruin it the best they could.
Yusuf instinctively stepped forward, only to be stopped by Serhat's now armed hand. Serhat approached the attackers with a silent step, blade at the ready. As soon as he reached one of them, he grabbed him by the shoulder, forcing him to turn around and face him.
"Enjoying destroying this man's life, huh?"
Serhat firmly pushed the guard, whose corpse lifelessly met the ground, his neck bleeding and eyes still widening in pure shock.
Alarmed, the rest of the guards quickly quitted their terrorizing actions and unsheathed their weapons.
"Filthy dog! Prepare to die!" one exclaimed as he hungrily swung his hammer at Serhat. Simply stepping away, with the hammer falling dangerously close to his arm, Serhat used his Hidden Blade to dispatch the attacker. Another quickly emerged, and met the same end as his other two fellows.
The fourth enemy however, used Serhat's momentarily lowered guard as an opportunity to strike. As soon as he noticed him, Serhat knew he hadn't time to dodge. He crudely shut his lips, preparing for impact.
But lucky for him, he wasn't alone. A tiny, life-saving fact that he'd briefly forgotten.
Yusuf smirked as he pulled his Hook Blade out of the fallen guard's neck.
"Careful, damızlık (stud)! We need you around in only one piece!" Yusuf barked as he merrily tapped Serhat's shoulder, evidently fixing the man's mood.
"Teşekkür ederim (Thank you), Yusuf. I owe you."
The merchant, however, did not appear as thankful as the two Assassins anticipated.
"Killers! Madmen! Get lost, lost I tell you!" the man's movement was manic, furious, as he attempted to find whatever tool to drive the two away. Finally, he had picked a rock, and eagerly threw it towards Serhat, who merely moved his head in order to dodge.
Yusuf was rather surprised. He wanted to reason with the merchant.
"Dalje od mene! Marš! (Away from me! Away!)" the latter exclaimed in obvious refusal, taking another rock and throwing it at the already retreating couple.
"What would be his deal?" Yusuf groaned as he irritably stared back towards the merchant.
Serhat had let out a deep sigh before replying.
"The part of the country we find ourselves in is, by far, the most rebellious I had ever seen. Each man harbors a deep hatred for the Ottomans, Assassins or simple soldiers alike, refusing to accept defeat from many years ago. You also won't find a single Muslim among them. A pack of quite stubborn madmen."
Yusuf couldn't help but notice a flick of dismay in Serhat's voice, as if he too hated the Serbs.
"And what of you, kardeshim (brother)?" Yusuf questioned. The latter's breath heavied for a moment, as he seeked a proper reply.
"As you saw not long ago, I try my best. And that's it."
Yusuf nodded, not wanting to dig further.
After a minute or so, Serhat pointed out that they had reached the Den.
Twisting the doorknob and throwing on a welcoming smile, Serhat pushed the door open, allowing Yusuf to enter as he muttered, "Make yourself at home, brother."
Yusuf spotted a clear difference from the usual Constantine interior, as he was welcomed by a tight, narrow corridor as he stepped into the confines of the building. He advanced forward, needing a few seconds to notice the dimly lit side room. He stepped right in it, earning some water in his eyes as the dry, asphyxiant air filled his lungs.
Yusuf trailed off to a corner, soon joined by Serhat, who clapped.
"Kiz! Gel buraya! (Girl! Come here!)" he exclaimed. As his voice slowly echoed through the corridor, Serhat sat on a colorful, tender rug, freeing himself of his strong armor. Yusuf coughed as he did the same.
A few running steps could be heard rush through the corridor, as a feminine voice shouted with a sloppy Turkish accent, "Geliyor, effendim! (I'm coming, sir!)"
The woman walked into the room, attracting Yusuf's curious glance straightaway. She wore a light, common dress, tinted bright red. As a worker, she had enrolled her sleeves backwards, her hands wet, but ready. Her long brunette hair she tied in a braid, as her pale-blue eyes shimmered with hospitality. Her figure was slightly broad in her lower back, her neck and arms long, and collarbone barely visible.
"Buyrum, effendi? (How can I help you, sirs?)" she intertwined her fingers as she awaited her order patiently.
"Bring us some food," Serhat demanded. Nodding, the woman left the room.
"Who is that?" Yusuf questioned, narrowing his navy orbs.
"Our servant. She prepares the meals, cleans our clothes, armor, the Den itself."
Upon noticing Yusuf's neglectful expression, Serhat quickly added, "She had asked for it herself. She was a hungry, wandering woman in search of food and shelter. I tried to shoo her off, but she kept clinging onto my feet, begging me to employ her. And so I did."
After Serhat had finished, Yusuf's eyes somewhat brightened.
"Interesting...What is her name?" puzzled, the Bursan asked away. Serhat's lips parted in an attempt to speak, but he quickly changed his mind, chuckling softly instead.
"I would lie to you, I do not know to properly pronounce it," the Assassin murmured apologetically, earning a smirk from Yusuf.
A few moments later, the servant came back, bearing a tray filled with goods, from meat to fruit. She leaned between the two men, placing the tray down on the floor. Yusuf caught a glimpse of her face; there were some light bruises under the deep locks of her dark hair, and a small cut almost completely hidden by her left ear.
"Afiyet olsun! (Enjoy your meal!)" she said with a smile, as Serhat steadily nodded.
"Sagolun (Thank you). You are dismissed."
The woman quickly retreated out of the room.
Yusuf grasped a juicy red apple as Serhat quickly munched on a piece of roasted meat, bringing the long, elastic smoking pipe to his lips, allowing it in. As he opened his mouth again, thick clouds of smoke broke outside.
Taking another big bite from his apple, Yusuf spoke with full mouth.
"Have you enough trained individuals within the Den?"
Serhat confirmed with a nod right away.
"Quite. We regularly send the recruits to different parts of the region, though there had not been as much activity. Many are currently busy aiding our brothers in Belgrade," another cloud of smoke came out of Serhat's mouth as he answered.
Proceeding to eat his apple, Yusuf tried to remember another of Ishak's requested questions, all which he had found boring back at the old man's office in Galata. Sometimes, even he himself would curse at his childishness.
Groaning inwardly, Yusuf relied on his instinct instead.
Hours swiftly slipped away, as the two men conversed on many topics regarding the Den's activities and members. In the end, Yusuf was glad to learn no threats were present at the given moment, therefore permitting him to soon return to his beloved Istanbul.
Without realizing how late in the evening it was, Yusuf bid Serhat a good night, climbing upstairs to his newly prepared personal quarters. He was thankful they had a window, for he found himself enjoying the shadows of the both distant and near hills carved for centuries into the dirt. He saw wheat full plains that stood still next to each other, sleepy green fields and cliffs in the distance. The city streets were empty, and nothing but the everlasting summer choir of the cicada could reach the Turk's ears.
Yawning, Yusuf carefreely lied away his weapons next to his armor, separating the Hook Blade from them however. Breathing evenly, he undressed, starting with his Assassin sash and white tunic. As soon as they were off, his scarred, muscular arms and chest were revealed. Yusuf found a bowl of water and a rug on the table next to the bed, and used them to clean the sweaty parts of his body, wondering if the same female servant from earlier had prepared that too.
Attempting to remove his headband, Yusuf was startled by a sudden knock on the door. His thoughts raced in a thousand directions as he walked over and pushed it open himself.
"İyi akşamlar, effendim (Good evening, sir). I-"
The female's voice died away into awkward silence as her gaze fell on Yusuf's naked chest, a sight she did not expect to witness. His expression seemingly indifferent, the Turk observed her cheeks flush red, as he set his arm against the door frame in a playful manner. His other hand he placed on his hip.
"Evet?" he asked, desperately trying to fake severity in his voice, whereas he wished to laugh.
Looking away, the servant brought a small basket of apples up to Yusuf's chin, her head held low as she spoke.
"Afedersiniz (Excuse me/Forgive me). I had brought you these in case you feel hunger during night."
The Turk chuckled sympathetically as he accepted the basket.
"How considerate. Thank you. I dare say, I receive the treatment of the Sultan himself here! This room is magnificent!" he took the moment to praise, using his free arm to indicate at his quarters.
"You carry out your duties with great responsibility. Aferin! (Bravo!)"
A modest smile formed off of the woman's lips as she clasped her hands together.
"You flatter me, beyefendi (good sir). I only do what I am paid for."
As an old habit of his, Yusuf tapped the girl's shoulder, muttering, "Good woman."
The female's brows raised as she watched the Turk grin in amusement. He fell silent for a moment, studying the small wooden basket he had been given, before remembering something.
"Forgive my manners, I am Yusuf Tazim."
"Evet, I am aware. Aslan-efendi had spoken of you earlier," the woman nodded patiently as she murmured.
"And, what is your name?" Yusuf asked tentatively, his blue orbs filling with curiosity. The girl took a moment to move a lock of hair from her forehead before she would reply.
"Jelica. My mother used to call me Jela."
Another smirk appeared on Yusuf's lips as he placed his hand on his bare chest, slightly bowing down as he barked, "Honored to meet you, truly."
She herself bowed in response, her cheeks flushing red again as she caught a glimpse of Yusuf's abs.
"Ah! Should you need anything, you can find me in the room across. Good night!"
The Turk snickered sympathetically again, as he observed his newly-formed acquaintance flee from him.
The rays of the morning sun gently kissed his face as he walked the muddy street, merging with the city folk. It was a simple, village-like city he had found himself in. Simple, but troubled nonetheless. More than once, he had felt loathing gazes burn the back of his head, smelled the foul odor of the rotting flesh adorn the air, witness a man defend his property in desperation from the claws of a lousy pack of guards, either surrendering to their aggression or dying by their hand on the spot.
Unless, of course, the great Yusuf Tazim would aid the poor native's side, fend off his devils, and then run like a dog with his tail between his legs, escaping the citizen's unappreciative pack of insults and thrown pebbles towards him. The Turk still couldn't reason with such behavior, and it posed a great nuisance to his consciousness.
Nevertheless, spotting a friendly face among the neglectful rabble of the common folk had ceased to make Yusuf grin allegedly again.
"Hey!" he exclaimed, waving slightly for the person to register him with less difficulty.
A smile appeared on her face as she waved back.
"Tazim-efendi! Günaydın! (Good morning!)"
Yusuf made his way through a small crowd, approaching the female, who had just filled up her bags with food and other goods.
"How are you this fine morning, er," he struggled for a moment, wanting to pronounce right, "Jela?"
She giggled meekly as she tried to lift one of her bags.
"Guzel (Nice), and more importantly, ready to work. I hope you are the same," Yusuf nodded at her remark. Without a word, the Turk stepped forward and lifted all three of her heavy bags, not even flinching under their weight.
"Oh! Beyefendi, you needn't-"
"Help is always welcome to a worker, isn't that so?"
Yusuf grinned as he gazed down at Jelica, watching her chuckle in response.
"Hmm, we could suppose so," she murmured, as they set off for the Den with a slow step.
"So, what do you think of the city from what you had seen by now?" she questioned, as Yusuf's head swam out of the bags he'd held firmly to reply.
"Eh, it is not the type I would be spending my time in. The behavior of the natives had been troubling me since I arrived, not to mention the ugly scenes I lived to witness by the hands of my fellow Ottomans. So much misery in one place...It breaks my heart," ending his sentence with a sigh, Yusuf's eyes narrowed, as they carried on.
"I understand you. But that had become a daily routine here. Most of the people had become immune, so much that they started ignoring a fellow's plea for help. They had become obsessed with despising the new rule that they think of it more often than of survival. Everyone has their own share of pain..."
Jelica paused, glaring at the ground, biting her lip on the inside, frowning caustically as Yusuf's brows knitted behind the bags.
"You too have felt pain?" Jelica nodded, hesitantly looking away for a moment, urging herself not to shed a single tear.
Yusuf hesitated for a moment as well, but nevertheless, it was an interesting woman he had conversed with, and the least he could do was soothe her.
"Tell me about it," he demanded, steadily cupping the bags from the bottom, pressing them against his chest so they stood more sternly.
A minute of heavy silence would pass until anyone would speak, as they tore their way into a less crowded street.
"Do you see that hill, over there?" Jelica began, pointing towards a small, yet incredibly green curve in the dirt, and since it was near, Yusuf could even spot a few houses scattered all over it, "That is where I was born."
The Turk nodded, obviously impressed by it. Jelica sighed as she continued.
"I lived there, along with my two older brothers, my mother and my father. I was the youngest in the family, and so they treated me as the most fragile. It was a simple, beautiful life of a young peasant girl that I used to lead," Jelica explained, a smile adorning her face as the wind brushed through her cinnamon hair, Yusuf's mind carefully processing each of her words.
"But then," shuddering unwillingly, the female grasped her mouth, as her features shook uncontrollably, "They came. They came and took it all...Away."
As she whimpered, Yusuf's gaze darkly fell onto the muddy street.
"Who came?" he questioned.
Jelica swallowed, trying to keep her sanity as she spoke on, her voice shaking.
"The Janissaries. We were a poor family, we had nothing to offer but our home, the earth we walk and the air we breathe to them in exchange of peace. But they didn't need them. Two took hold of my brothers, and as my father attempted to save his children, there was a...Gunshot. My father fell, and as he bled out right in front of my eyes, they went. Without uttering anything to us. I stood still, staring their way, even long after they'd disappeared into the distance with my two brothers...Two eagles..."
At this point, Jelica had openly started sobbing, louder and louder, tears now freely crashing down her cheeks.
Yusuf couldn't help himself anymore; he dropped the bags to the ground, placing his hands on Jelica's shoulders.
"Do not cry, it is not worth your tears," he murmured, but it seemed she had not even noticed his words, continuing to helplessly bicker as more tears raced down her rosy cheeks.
In another moment, the two were sharing an embrace. Or rather, Yusuf had embraced Jelica, who had settled at once, inquiringly observing the Turk from the side.
"As I said, it is not worth your tears."
He lightly patted her on the back as they parted. Cheered up and her cheeks rosy again, Jelica had wiped off the droplets of hot water from her eyes as the tips of her lips curved up into a smile.
"My thanks. And apologies as well. I...I cannot endure sometimes. Forgive me," Yusuf nodded, as he crouched to lift the bags he had dropped to free his hand earlier.
On the move again, Jelica and Yusuf conversed pleasantly as they neared the Den. Once finally there, they had witnessed Serhat discussing something with two other Assassins, his expression dull and movement anxious.
"...to plan further. I will meet you there at nightfall," Yusuf managed to catch his last words before the Assassins made themselves scarce.
"Is everything quite alright, kardeshim?" he inquired as he and Jelica approached Serhat, bags still stuffing his arms.
Serhat laughed, examining Yusuf from head to toe before he would reply.
"I'm afraid not. Come," he waved his hand at Yusuf, signaling him to enter the Den. Inside, he had placed the bags onto the floor, and parted from Jelica as she smiled at him, murmuring a facile 'thank you' as he entered the side room.
"What seems to be the problem?" a bit gloomier than a moment ago, Yusuf question, groaning inwardly as he pondered his return to Konstantiniyye might not occur as fast as he would like. He took a seat on the cushioned floor, eager to hear the Master Assassin out.
Serhat took off his hood, his stare lost for a few seconds, before he finally spoke.
"The Byzantines are making their move again, after years of peace. And one would think that we had banished them for good..." Serhat paused, groping the steaming hookah pipe into his hand. Yusuf nodded, gesturing him to continue.
"One of my students had spotted them conversing with the Janissaries earlier today. As he got closer to eavesdrop, he overheard an odious exchange of the upcoming conspiracy. Namely, the Templars managed to bribe the local Janissary captain, known as Demir, and intend to use his forces to stir a riot throughout the city and drive us out."
As Serhat silenced, Yusuf pondered for a moment; it could take weeks for the said riot to take outburst, if not months, but as much as he longed to cure the homesick feeling in his stomach, he couldn't help but feel guilty if he left his fellows in the middle of battle.
"I see," Yusuf announced after a pause, "And what do you propose we do?"
Serhat inhaled from the hookah, enjoying the delightful feeling of smoke plumping out of his mouth as he turned to face Yusuf with a thoughtful look.
"There is no need to involve yourself into this, kardeshim. You ought to go back to Istanbul, no? Do not worry your Mentor," he said, but Yusuf only chuckled in response, as he lifted a finger, entertained.
"Ah, but the old gerzek (fool) would be quite pleased to see me dedicate myself to work, other than lay about and anger him as I usually do. I will write him a letter, stating that I will be prolonging my stay until we have freed the city from the Templar jeopardy. You can count on me."
Yusuf patted Serhat's shoulder, as the latter eagerly nodded, a confident smirk broadening on his face.
"Many thanks, Yusuf. I am sure your presence here will aid us greatly."
"Eh, the pleasure is all mine!" the Bursan murmured wittily, falling onto a pillow as he rejoiced into a silent slumber.
It had been a few days now, and no signs of a potential outburst appeared, as such prompting the Assassins to stay on their guard.
Although he mostly spent time in the safe confines of the Den, Yusuf would discuss with the working Assassins on a daily basis, giving them ideas of where to search for Templar activity. Serhat remarked that he was quite satisfied with having such a fellow, often jokingly referring that he should move to this Den instead and never take his leave for Konstantiniyye.
Even though it made him laugh, Yusuf would consider the thought; there were many capable, friendly men and women, the Master was a good man at heart, and lastly...
"Günaydın, Tazim-efendi! How are you today?"
Each of his mornings begun with these two mesmerizing sentences, as Jelica smiled toward his rising figure as she placed breakfast on his table, a breathtaking smile adorning her face. He would mutter his gratitude, and she would venture straight out, preventing further conversation.
Yusuf couldn't help but chuckle sympathetically at that kind woman, so loving, yet still straying away from getting too close. He was aware of her pain, aware of the horrors she'd seen, and he was sure he was able understand. Nevertheless, Jelica was a discerning individual, who did not aspire for much, and did not let the deserved praise cloud her judgement.
They had known each other for only a mere week, but Yusuf felt close to her, though he remained unsure whether she could say the same.
And therefore, one day, he decided to break the tension.
"Excuse me," he remarked, as such making Jelica turn back from the door and face him, "Would you mind helping me with something?"
Phased for a moment, the maiden was quick to reply.
"Kesinlikle (Of course). What is it?" curiosity filled her navy eyes as she observed the Turk grin playfully.
"You will see. Hadi (Come on)."
As she inquisitively stared his way, Yusuf had put on his light headband, leading Jelica out of the Den. They walked the streets together, as the female wondered what business they had in the city. The Turk was wistfully silent, as he tried to remember a certain location.
He exclaimed merrily as he saw it in the distance. Without a warning, he took hold of Jelica's hand, and before she could protest, dragged her along with himself, as he ran towards the desired place. The surrounding citizens gave the two puzzling glances as they rushed through the crowded street.
"Ah, here we are!" he muttered as they approached the building. Jelica's eyes widened in surprise.
"A bakery...?" she exclaimed more than asked, as she watched Yusuf go on ahead and order up a plate of baklava. He made his way back to Jelica, already munching on one of the sweets.
"Help yourself!" he exclaimed with full mouth, offering the plate up to her. She needed a few moments to place her jaw back where it was supposed to be and calm her widening eyes.
Yusuf nodded a couple of times as he wavered the plate under her nose. Still somewhat struck, Jelica took a piece, but it remained between her fingers as she was afraid to take a bite. This made the Turk sigh.
"Ah, come now! I was in need of something sweet, and I wasn't capable of emptying the whole plate myself," he reasoned, wittily patting her shoulder with his free hand. Seeing as she still kept silent, anxiously impaling around, his features turned stern.
"You promised you would help me, hanım (miss). Are you implying that you are crushing your own promise?"
As Jelica observed Yusuf pout like a child as he ended his speech, she heplessly began laughing in response, almost dropping the baklava she'd been holding. Yusuf chuckled slightly as well.
"Alright, alright, you've proven your point, Tazim-efendi. But remember! It is only helping out!" she declared before she started eating herself, tittering through the nibbles as she swallowed, licking the remaining sugar from her fingers.
"Evet," the Bursan agreed, satisfied, "And please, do call me Yusuf."
Jelica nodded, and the two laughed away as they continued munching on the sweet delights.
The next day, however, did not appear as pleasant as its ancestry.
"Are you sure?" Yusuf questioned for the third time, as he drowsily followed Serhat stalk restlessly through his room. The man didn't even let him wake up properly, and he was quite troubled with the latest news regarding the Templar activity.
"Yes, of course I am! I had seen them myself! The orospu çocukları (sons of bitches) march through the city as if they own it, and terrorize whoever they come over! We must stop them," Serhat explained as he continued to circle around the room, his nails grinding his hips. Yusuf slightly yawned in response before he spoke.
"Evet, evet, but you might consider calming yourself first," he lifted the blanked off of himself and clumsily stood up, another long yawn escaping his lips.
Serhat groaned irritably in response, as he left Yusuf alone. The Bursan dressed up quickly, eager for a good fight. As he finished tying up his headband, Jelica walked in, a supportive smile dancing on her face. Yusuf smiled back as he put on his sash, his Kijil resting beside his thigh. A serene tranquility stretched through the air as the couple smiled in silence.
Once Yusuf was done, Jelica spoke.
"İyi şanslar (Good luck)...Yusuf."
He nodded, grinning widely as he added, "Eh, don't think you'll get rid of me that easily. I'll be right back."
The female giggled as she disappeared into the corridor, listening to the echoing of Yusuf's leaving footsteps.
As Yusuf exited the Den, Serhat was readily giving orders to a pair of his Apprentices.
"You will aid us and will not attack until instructed to. Understood?"
The two nodded in agreement as Yusuf strutted his way to them.
"Now, now, arkadashim, don't jitter the men just yet. We hadn't even started," he remarked in an attempt to sooth the troubled Master, ultimately failing as Serhat's expression remained dark.
"This is an important assignment, and I must ensure they are ready to undertake it," he hissed in response, as Yusuf sighed defeated.
"Fine. Let's go then."
"Pustite me, pustite me! Nisam kriv! (Let me go! Let me go! I am not guilty!)" the man desperately pleaded for help as he tried to break free out of the soldiers' grips, devastated as a Brute continued to harass his wife.
"Monsters!" she exclaimed, as a sick grin broadened on her captor's face. A large group of Templars approached the sight, each of them heavily-armed and ready for battle.
"Say, Adonis, how much longer do you think would be before the Assassins strike?" furrowing his brows, a small guard questioned his companion, slight nervousness coiling in the back of his voice. The addressed man frowned.
"Don't even mention them. I just hope we get out ali-"
Leaving the sentence unfinished, the Templar exclaimed in fear as he saw a cloud of smoke rise in front of him, pieces of shrapnel burying into his body as he fell, bloodied. The same would apply for a few others, but the most of the group remained untouched.
As the Telmplars ran around the open square, the citizens they had occupied long forgotten, Yusuf jumped from a near rooftop, murdering one startled soldier. Serhat followed right away, brutally killing another, as he yelled, "Kudret! Yavuz!"
The Apprentices jumped out, one out of a haystack cart, the other from a narrow blind street, as they wiped out Templar after Templar. Frightened, the citizens ran around in awe, quickly vanishing from the spot. Seeing that, some of the enemies managed to return to their senses, countering attacks as they came. Even so, the Assassins appeared more successful.
Both Yusuf and Serhat took lives with their Hidden Blades, unsheathing the swords once being approached by the leftovers of Brutes and ordinary soldiers. In the midst of battle, they had parted, dispatching as much as they could, while the Apprentices stood by and watched, waiting for any further orders.
Yusuf was an experienced warrior, which allowed him to predict most of the incoming blows and gave him the upper hand. After creating an all-out massacre of his enemies, the Bursan glanced over at Serhat, who had been just as effectual. They nodded at each other as the fight seemingly reached its end.
"It appears we've won! There was no reason for your restlessness, kardeshim," Yusuf declared, patting the other's back as he walked over to him.
"Evet, it would seem so. But the war is not over yet," said Serhat, letting a small smile curve up on his face as he watched the two Apprentices walk to them.
"You have fought well today, benim öğrenciler (my students)," the pair nodded at the praise, as Yusuf carelessly looked up towards the rooftop. And what he had seen there would remain carved for eternity.
The Marksman steadily aimed with his gun, Yusuf determined, at Serhat. And before the Bursan even managed to open his mouth, a gunshot pierced through the air, and as Yusuf uncontrollably spread his arms, Serhat fell straight into his embrace.
"Quick, take him out!" he manically ordered the Apprentices, who went to obey. As he placed the Master Assassin on the ground, he leaned over him, examining Serhat's wound. It was a clear shot through the chest, and the bullet had gotten wedged deep inside of the flesh.
Serhat coughed up some blood.
"The end...Is here..." he stuttered, as another fit of cough overtook him. Yusuf flinched, placing his hands on Serhat's shoulders.
"No, not yet, not yet. I'll take you to a Hekim (Healer/Doctor), I-"
Serhat weakly shook his head.
"Hayır (No)...It is...Too late for me...Please..."
He reached out his hand at Yusuf, bringing him closer to himself.
"My...Sister...She died by the hands of..." another cough blurted out, "Demir. I had hoped...To kill him myself...I've finally found an excuse for his death...But...I entrust you with it instead...Yusuf..."
Serhat's grip on Yusuf's collar tightened.
"Lütfen (Please)...Promise to me...Promise..."
But before Yusuf could reply, a dying breath left Serhat's lips as his hand fell back.
Lips quivering, Yusuf muttered, "Huzur içinde yatsın, arkadashim benim (Rest in peace, my friend)."
As he stood up, the two Apprentices had returned, mourning along with him in silence.
"Ogretmen (Mentor)..." one would finally stutter, as he leaned down and picked Serhat's still body up. Yusuf had become unnaturally stern, as he managed to chase words out of his throat.
"This is no time to stand around and whimper. Çabuk (Quick), let us retreat back to the Den."
Yusuf sat down in maddening silence, his head dwindling downward. Two days had passed since Serhat's death, and he could not leave himself be. The Assassins had automatically chosen him as their new Mentor, informing him of any progress regarding their missions, and he complied, wanting to avenge Serhat.
Jelica cautiously ventured in, bearing a tray of roasted meat. The Bursan looked away, the alluring scent of food not phasing him in the slightest. Placing the tray next to him, Jelica sighed, boldly looking him direct in the eye.
"Yusuf, if you wish to fight back the oppression, you must eat properly. Why vent out on food?"
Glancing at her for a sheer second, Yusuf averted his orbs, muttering, "I'm not hungry."
Jelica hardly managed to stop herself from groaning at an obvious lie.
"Ah, come, I know you are," she grabbed the tray and placed it under his nose, wavering it in a similar manner as he did a few days ago with the baklava. Managing to earn a small smile from him, as he attempted to hide it, Yusuf blessed her with a proper look this time, though managing to act serious.
"Evet. But I still cannot rest until I had grouted Serhat's final wish," he murmured, as Jelica curiously tilted her head.
"A final wish?" she asked, sitting beside the Bursan. He nodded.
"Did you know that this Demir, the Janissary, had murdered his sister?" Yusuf began, adding, "He wanted to put the man to rest himself, but now that he can't, he asked me to do it for him."
Jelica nodded in understanding, as her gaze fell down on the cushioned floor.
"I see. He had never spoken of it. But still, you mustn't allow that distress you this much! I am certain you will successfully take your revenge," she said, gesturing over at the food tray. Yusuf sighed.
"He died in my arms. How can I not distress myself?"
This didn't cease to confuse Jelica.
"Because you are Yusuf Tazim, the man who took me into his embrace, shared baklava with me and whom I saw naked."
The Turk gasped; startled by her words, his navy eyes widened as his jaw dropped. It was now Jelica's turn to smirk at him in amusement, as she observed him desperately strive for air. She had never been so open, so upright and, well...Amusing with him, up until now. It was the side she would keep concealed, a side she rarely showed anyone. And she thought Yusuf to be worthy enough to see it.
After almost a minute of silence, Yusuf smiled, almost laughed out as he looked at Jelica, overjoyed with her behavior. Unable to contain his rejoice, he grasped her into another hug, tenderly moving from them both from side to side. And this time, she hugged him back.
"That's better," she breathed into his ear. As they parted, Yusuf's majestic white grin was back.
"Sagolun, sevgilim (Thank you, darling)," he murmured crisply, finally grasping a piece of meat and bringing it up to his lips, as Jelica's cheeks became scarlet. She watched Yusuf eat, enchanted by every little move and twitch he made. And as he noticed her mesmerized stares, she averted her eyes, a small smile widening on her face.
As he finished eating, Yusuf jiggled his palms against one another in order to cleanse them. He was now focused onto Jelica. Wordlessly, he placed his hand on her cheek, meekly caressing it in a slow pace. Her eyes widened and she shivered in whole; his touch was magnificent. All she could do was stare. But in her eyes Yusuf saw a thousand unspoken words, a confession that would be hard for her to deliver with her tongue.
Jelica sat, still as a statue, as Yusuf moved his hand against her rosy cheek. She didn't dare move; she wished it to last forever.
As she began to lose herself in his sky-blue eyes, Yusuf came closer. Closer and closer, until their noses almost met. An uncertain breath left his lips as he hesitated, his eyelids suddenly dropping as his jaw falling. The same happened to Jelica, but before another wistful moment could emerge, they both advanced at the same time, their lips fusing together. Diligent and peaceful at first, the kiss soon became a real fight for dominance, as Yusuf leaned over Jelica, slowly urging her down onto the cushions.
Inhaling Yusuf's scent and feeling his tongue dance around her tavern, Jelica smiled through the kiss, burying her fingers into Yusuf's messy, coal hair. In return, supporting himself with his elbows, Yusuf positioned his hands on Jelica's cheeks.
They parted after what seemed like eternity, desperate for air. Jelica's hands fell back as a sign of fatigue, but nonetheless, she stood up. But before she could take a step, Yusuf grabbed her hand.
She shuddered as her fingers got intertwined with his, but she smuggled up some courage to mutter, "I have work to return to."
Nodding in understanding, Yusuf released her, smiling as he watched Jelica run out of the room. Her timidity still appeared to be present, he pondered.
"Ogretmen! Ogretmen!" the Assassin exclaimed as he burst into Yusuf's quarters.
"I am not your Mentor, arkadashim. What is it?" the Bursan raised his glance from the desk, furrowing his brows as the Assassin caught his breath.
"Yes. The Janissaries, joined by the Templars, have launched an all-out attack on the city! Our men are battling them as we speak. We shall arrive in the form of reinforcements," the man explained, urging Yusuf to his feet before his report was done.
"Peki (Alright). Is the Janissary Captain fighting as well?" he questioned as he tightened up his sash, walking out of the room along with the Assassin.
"I presume he is. He is a man that adores a good fight," the latter replied, as they advanced through the narrow corridor.
"As am I," Yusuf remarked, clenching his fists as the picture of Serhat's last breath lingered alive in his mind. But before he could reached the doorknob, a scream stopped him.
"Wait!" Jelica made her way to the two men, placing her hands on Yusuf's chest. His brows rose is anticipation.
"I...I've something to tell you..." she began, but Yusuf threw her off immediately. The Assassin opened the door.
"There is no time. I will be back," before Jelica could protest, he slightly pushed her away, running out and slamming the door into her face.
Yusuf ran to catch up with the Assassin.
"This way, Ogretmen," he said, as Yusuf groaned irritably toward how he had been entitled, though he did not want to bring it up, aware they were too busy for it now.
Before he knew it, they were in the midst of a raging battle. Knives, bullets and torn pieces of flesh flew through the air alike, as the citizens fled in panic. One too many corpses caught Yusuf's eye as he proceeded behind the Assassin, who fearlessly lead him forward. They climbed up onto a rooftop, continuing their journey by leaping from building to building, dispatching of a few Marksmen along the way.
"There, the heart of the fight," the Assassin announced, pointing towards the city church. Yusuf needn't have to be told twice. Without uttering anything, he ran, Hook Blade and Kijil at the ready. He jumped down into the street, quickly making his way through the panicking crowd, when he finally reached the church.
Slaughter, carnage, bloodbath - all words not good enough to describe the horrors he'd seen. As corpses crunched under his hurrying steps, he finally spotted one of his own, who had just given a final blow to a massive Brute. Before the man had even hit the ground, Yusuf was next to the Assassin.
"Ah, it's good that you have come!" the latter remarked as Yusuf nodded.
"How are we standing here?" the Bursan inquired, gazing around carefully as he awaited the requested answer.
"Good when it comes to numbers, but bad when it comes to the number of deads," the Assassin's words were clear, so Yusuf quickly pulled out a Smoke Bomb, steadily judging where is the best place for it to take impact. As he found a somewhat larger group of Janissaries, he threw, running after the flying shell himself.
As the bomb detonated, the now distracted warriors flailed their arms wildly, as the smoke filled their eyes, making them easy targets for the precise Assassins. Yusuf himself emerged into the thick lay of smoke, dispatching of any Janissary that came his way. Although still a great number had made it out of the deadly fog alive.
Yusuf ran out of the smoke, acknowledged by the remaining Assassins when they'd seen him. They regrouped behind him, eager to continue their struggle.
Opposite of them stood the Janissaries, mixed with a Templar here and there. At the very front was a tall, fearless man, whose mask had been half-broken and sword the bloodiest. As he raised his blade into the air, a victorious shout left his lips.
"Suikastçilar (Assassins!)!" he began, "You cannot win! Scream in pain and leave with your tails between your legs and never come back! This city is for the Templars to claim!"
Yusuf's eyes narrowed as he boldly spitted the Captain's way.
"Never," he exclaimed back, "Are you Demir, the Captain of the Janissaries?"
The other man laughed before he would reply.
"And who wants to know?" he mocked.
"Yusuf Tazim, the last man you will ever see in your life," the Bursan declared, gritting his teeth as he pointed his blade at the man's chest.
"Çok iyi. Çok (Very good. Very...)..." he hummed, repeating Yusuf's action as well. This was more than a confirmation to the Bursan. Lowering his Kijil, with the tip of his eye, he gazed back at his Assassins. Each stood his ground, whether crippled, whether in perfect health, and it seemed the fallen still winced in an effort to stand up and defend their ideals.
As Yusuf focused back on Demir, he spread his arms.
"Yok canım (Come now), Templar," he spoke, "Can't we settle this differently? Can't we avoid this unnecessary bloodshed and bless our men with salvation?"
To the intimidation of the fighters from both sides, Demir nodded.
"What do you propose?" the Janissary asked, crossing his hands as he strived to hear Yusuf out.
"How about you and I end this, hm? Just our skill and pure strength. If I win, you will banish the Templars out of these walls and forbid them to ever step inside again. And if you win," Yusuf paused as he pondered for a moment, but Demir was the one to complete his sentence.
"You köpekler (dogs) will all drop dead in front of me," the Janissary said with a satisfied grin, in a manner like he's demanding it right now. Yusuf nodded.
"Alright. Shall we begin?" the Bursan asked as he pulled out a knife, warily beginning to approach Demir, who had borrowed a knife from a nearest soldier, quickly stepping towards Yusuf, eager to slit his throat as fast as possible. Yusuf contemplated that he would use this to his advantage.
As the two got dangerously close, and Yusuf prepared for a strike, a scream echoed throughout the silent battlefield, paralyzing him at once.
He tilted his head to the side, witnessing Jelica rush towards him like she was soulless. But as he remembered Demir was there too, it was already too late.
Before Yusuf could even scream out the agony he felt, his body had already met the ground. Blood filled his eyes and nostrils as the dust mercilessly stung his left cheek, where the scar was.
Bewildered, Jelica rushed to his side, crouching and grasping his face as she leaned over him.
"Yusuf. Yusuf. O Bože! (Oh God!)" she hopelessly touched around his scar, flinching uncontrollably.
However, Demir was not too pleased to see her.
"Move away, kadın (woman)! We are in the middle of something!" he exclaimed impatiently, spinning his knife annoyed. This alerted the female, and as she hesitantly rose up from Yusuf's lying figure, her eyes became watery.
"Do you not remember me...?" Jelica asked, her orbs misty and voice secretive. Demir was amazed by the female's bravery, but nevertheless, he didn't let it distract him.
"What the hell are you blithering about?" the Janissary scolded more than asked, his blue eyes narrowing. Jelica smiled.
"Had they erased all you ever knew when they took you away? Had they made you forget me?" questions kept leaving her lips as she made a step towards him.
"I had never seen you before! Now go away, or I will cut you in half!" he threatened, aiming his blade at Jelica's slender neck. But this didn't cease to scare her off; she took another step, and another, when she finally stood and inch away from Demir.
"Remember..." her hand made its way over to his cheek, as she whispered, "Brother."
Demir's eyes widened as he watched Jelica's lips curve up into a kind smile.
"I-Impossible..." a gasp innocently fluttered out of his lips as his jaw dropped in surprise. Jelica nodded.
"Da! (Yes!)" she exclaimed happily, as she couldn't help but examine Demir's features. How much her brother had grown in time, it phased her.
Silence stretched about for a few minutes, as the small, yet meaningful Serbian word made Demir memorize his childhood, his parents, his brother, and finally, his cherished little sister.
"S-Sestro?! (S-Sister?!)" he finally managed to stutter out, taking Jelica into his embrace, to the surprise of both warring sides. The remains of his mask fell to the ground as he buried his nose into her braid, tightening his loving grip around her. Both brother and sister shed happy tears, refusing to ever part.
"What the hell is going on?" as Yusuf's question made its way to Jelica's ears, she trembled out of Demir's arms, quickly falling back to her knees. She grasped Yusuf's hand and brought it up to her lips.
"Forgive me, please," her voice shook, as the Bursan slowly sat up. His kissed hand he had used to fonder Jelica's cheek, throwing on a graceful smile.
"You need not apologize," he murmured, before inquiringly glancing at Demir, "And what of him? You know him?"
As her frown disappeared, Jelica smiled through her tears.
"Evet! He is one of my two brothers! Earlier, I had tried to ask of you not to kill him, but you did not offer me a chance," she explained, as Yusuf nodded, slightly embarrassed of his ignorance.
"I see. And what of the other one?"
Jelica looked up at Demir, who hopelessly shrugged in response.
"He died years ago, as he attempted to escape our training facility multiple times," the Janissary answered, spreading his arm to Yusuf, who gladly accepted it. He and Jelica helped the Bursan up.
And that was more than enough to make Demir's men shout in protest.
"What the hell? He is consorting with the enemy!"
However, Demir was prepared to counter this.
"Men, halt! This battle is over! I command a retreat at once!"
Without a further choice, the Janissaries turned to obey, but the Templar part of the army stayed rebellious.
"What is the meaning of this, Demir? Was the pay we had given you not enough?" a Brute questioned, his ax ready to be put to use as he and the rest of the Templars approached the three.
Demir shook his head.
"No, that's not it. I am abandoning my post for good," this made the retreating Janissaries stop and turn back to gaze at their Captain in confusion, as he added, "And my final request from my men is that they banish all of you out of these parts, forever!"
With that said, Demir, threw away his knife. In a few moments, the remaining Janissaries obeyed their Captain's order, murdering the Templars however they could.
Indulged with the sight at hand, Demir turned back towards Yusuf, Jelica, and the Assassins.
"Forgive my behavior from earlier, kardeshim," he patted Yusuf's back apologetically. The Bursan smiled.
"Think nothing of it. Would you like to join our cause?"
As Jelica enhanced the idea herself, a happy grin burst on her face, as such urging Demir to accept Yusuf's offer.
With a small smile forming on his lips, the former Janissary declared, "Yes."
No longer able to sustain her happiness, Jelica sprang up from the dirt, merrily screaming as she hugged Yusuf, making him step back. Although his new scar still stung him, the Bursan made a joyed grin, as he embraced Jelica back.
When she finally left him be, he turned back to the Assassins, clenching a fist and lifting it up into the air. All of them did the same.
Yusuf victoriously yelled out, "To victory! To life! To the Assassins!"
A loud, celebrating cry replied.
"Ah, do you really have to go?" Jelica asked, it seemed, for the umpteenth time, as Yusuf sighed.
"You could come with me," he proposed, hope adorning his navy orbs as he spoke. The carriage home was ready, his things were packed up; but the most difficult of all was yet to occur.
Now Jelica sighed.
"I would love to, but...It had been so long since I have seen my brother, and I would like to stay. Besides, my place is here, among my people, in my homeland. I cannot leave it right away," she reasoned, making Yusuf's eyes roll.
"Does that mean you will make me wait, güvercin benim (my dove)?" he questioned playfully, as he enclosed to Jelica's face, earning a giggle from her.
"Evet, my hero," she tittered through the sentence, "But don't worry, I will write to you."
Instead of replying in words, Yusuf planted a tender kiss on Jelica's lips.
"You better do," he winked, as he heard the coachman's impatient exclaims regarding him entering the carriage at once.
"Elveda (Farewell), my love," Yusuf said as he entered the carriage.
"Take care, aşkım (my love)," Jelica replied, sending Yusuf a kiss as he closed the door. Within a few moments, the wheels were spinning, and the carriage was on the move.
With a helpless breath fluttering out of his lips, the Bursan thought over everything that had happened to him on what was supposed to be a mission like any other. With a smile, he closed his eyes, feeling Jelica's scent in his nostrils and imagining her beautiful face. He was missing the Serbian maiden already.