The sun sat on high as the three assassins looked down upon the bandit camp, waiting to find the right time to strike. Connor wiped the sweat from his brow for what felt like the hundredth time in a few minutes. His body, although fit, was not well acclimated for the heat that the desert brought. Altair and Malik, on the other hand, sat there like it was a comfortable spring day at the Homestead. He so desperately wanted to remove the thick jacket at that time, but he knew that was also a bad idea. The sun would cook him in a matter of minutes.
"Here." Malik pushed a damp cloth into his face, and honestly, it was the most heavenly thing he had ever felt on his skin. "I do not need you wasting away out here. Do you not have deserts where you're from?"
That brought a small chuckle from his lips. "No. It is almost always wet. I will never take another winter day for granted after this. That and trees. How I miss the shade of the trees of the forest." He sighed forlornly at the thought of the high trees back in New England. The sway of the branches and rustling of the leaves in the breeze. The smell of the salt from the sea on said breeze. Just thinking about it make is stomach turn in knots, and his soul to yearn for the home that was so far away.
The older man nodded, as if understanding. "Then I am surprised you have lasted this long in the heat."
"Shush." Altair gave them a stern look, and refocused his golden eyes on the camp below.
Both men fell silent at the Grandmaster's request, and turned their attention back upon the men that they planned to destroy. The camp was not much. A few men at best, but the bandits were armed better than they were at that time. But Connor had a secret weapon that could fell any man before they could get close, but that was for emergencies, and frankly, he only had a few shots left in his pouch. Maybe enough for seven or eight men, then the flintlock pistol would be a glorified club.
"Have you come up with a plan yet, Altair?" Malik shifted a bit, repositioning himself on the small rock he was currently perched on.
Giving a small nod, he turned back to look at them once more. "Connor, can you fire an arrow from this far away?"
The Mohawk assassin judged the distance from their place in an outcropping of rocks, to the closest tent. "I believe so, but if the winds shifts in the slightest way, the arrow will not reach a target. Instead it will hit a tent, or the ground." And as with the ammo for his pistol, he was low on arrows as well. When he started out that morning to see his people's home, he was not prepared for a trip to the past.
The gears must have been working overtime in the Syrian's head, calculating the distance, and the wind shifts, because he finally nodded his head once more. "We need nothing more than a distraction. To put them on edge, and make them paranoid. Paranoid men tend to be less observant to their surroundings, and that will give us the edge we will need to wipe them out."
"Why not set one of the tents on fire. Distract them with that, giving us a chance to slip around them and into their camp from the other side?" Malik looked at both of them, but Connor shook his head no.
"I have never shot a flaming arrow before, and I have no way to light it right now." His flint rocks were in the saddlebag on his horse. "But I do have these." And he reached into the pouch on his right side, pulling out three smoke bombs.
Altair's eyes lit up like a child's who had just received a new toy. "I have all but forgotten about them." He reached forward and took them from Connor's outstretched hand. "These will work for the distraction. Now, to get close enough."
"If you wish to get closer, then take yourself to your feet and walk down there." Snorting, Malik moved back onto his rear. "You are not some helpless whelp. I have seen you take out more men that what we have seen by yourself."
"True." Altair nodded. "But least you forget that you were stitching my wounds closed after that. I wish to not have a repeat of that once more."
The other man waved him off. "Do as you wish. I will keep watch from here, and should any others show up, I will help however I can."
He still did not believe that he was more than what he thought he was, and Connor aimed to change that before this journey was done. The man was good with a blade, that he had seen firsthand, but lacked the confidence in his abilities. "Then you should hold onto this." Connor pulled out the flintlock, and pressed it into his hand.
"Do you think that wise?" Altair asked, a cock of the brow, questioning his friend's mind.
Connor merely nodded. "You had not a problem learning how to use it, so I believe he will not."
Altair grumbled something incoherently, then got to his feet. "I will meet you at the top of the trailhead. Show him quickly so he does not kill himself, or injure himself in any way." And with that, he walked off leaving Malik and Connor alone.
The Dai looked down at the pistol like it was a poisonous snake about to strike. "I have seen you fire this once. I believe you should hold onto it."
"You will be fine. All you must remember is, do not point it at yourself, and when shooting, look down the barrel. It will help you aim. Plus, it shoots a hair high, so aim lower than your intended target. But use this as a last resort. Fire it if you must call for us quickly, or you are in danger." Laying a hand on the other man's shoulder, he sighed. "I believe you would be fine if you come with us. You are good, but you lack faith in yourself." And with that, he took off to meet Altair at the trailhead.
Altair crept forward with the footsteps of a church mouse. His feet light, barely leaving an impression in the soft sand that surrounded the bandit camp. He spied Connor doing the same on the other side of the camp. He was always in awe at how such a large man could move in the way that he could. Where he had always been compared to the stealth of an eagle, attacking his prey from on high, Connor was more like a wolf from his country. More suitable for the dense forests that surrounded his home, but moved with a swiftness that betrayed his size.
A small flash of steel and a strangled cry was the only thing he heard as he fell his first victim, their blood washing over the blade that now jutted out of their neck. The reddish liquid quickly becoming a dark burgundy from mixing with the air outside the body. Sightless eyes stared off into the distance, no longer seeing anything.
Pulling the blade free, the man slumped to the ground, and as quickly as he could, Altair pulled him into the nearest tent, then kicked sand over the small droplets of blood that had escaped the confines of the guard's veins. It was as if he vanished. If only it was true. Altair took no pleasure in killing the man, but it was what had to be done to protect others from falling to same fate that was to have fallen them if they were not what they were.
Another man came near the tent, and with the speed and grace from years of honing his skills, he flicked out the deadly hidden blade. It entered the man's skull at the base, and he drove it upward, severing everything behind the neck, causing an instant kill. He felt no pain as he passed from this life to the next.
As he exited the tent, his keen eyes spied another guard drop and then be pulled back from view. Connor was dong nearly the same thing he was doing. Hiding the bodies as they evened up the odds that were stacked against them. They were outnumbered, but not out skilled.
Another man fell to his blade, but as he reached for his forth kill, a shout was heard through the camp. A body must have been found, because all at once swords were pulled and men began to rush around, trying to find the intruders that were slaughtering their men without them knowing.
Before he could react, someone grabbed the back of his collar, dragging him deeper into the tent. Spinning around, blade at ready, Connor stared at him with a bored expression on his tanned face. "I could have killed you, boy." Altair growled, his eyes mere slits.
"No you couldn't. We are too evenly matched." The Mohawk countered quietly, but spoke truthfully. "I have counted at least nine running around out there. One man rounded the last tent as I was dragging his comrade into it."
At least he now knew how they were spotted. "How many smoke bombs do you possess?"
After doing a quick inventory, Connor shook his head sadly. "Not many. Five at best. I could possibly make more, but I would have to find the things to do that in a town."
They were handy, that he could not deny, but if the recipe got out on how to make them now, the future could be easily altered. "We will come to that when it is time. As for now, let us take care of these men and be on our way. We still much ground to cover."
He nodded and held out two of the small bombs, which Altair took with a thanks. Then they exited the tent into the frenzy as the men that were looking for them. "Kill them!" One man shouted, his sword gleaming in the midday sun.
Throwing one of the bombs down, it impacted with the sand, but because of the softness of it, it was not hard enough to detonate the casing. So, thinking quickly, he drew his sword, and slammed the tip into the fragile casing, setting it off. Thick blackish smoke began to fill the area, causing the men to cough and gag as their lungs began to fill with the smoke. Giving him the advantage, Altair adjusted his vision to the Eagle Vision, the colors penetrating the dark wall, letting him see where his enemies were.
And that was when the slaughter began. His sword finding a new sheath in a few of their bodies. He could feel the bodies go slack on the eagle hilted sword, their flesh tearing more as they slid from the blade and onto the ground, their life spent in meager seconds.
Once the smoke cleared and the men lay dead or in one or two cases, dying, Altair spared a glance at Connor, who had knelt next to one man, driving his wickedly designed hidden blade into the man, ending the beating of his heart. "Is that the last of them?" He asked as the larger man got back to his feet.
"I believe so." He looked around the small camp. "A quick sweep will tell if we have done our jobs."
So they began to walk through the camp, checking the few tents that were left. It was no long before they met up once more. "It's been done." Altair brushed some of the dirt from him white robes and frowned when it left a light brown streak across the fabric. "Maybe I should have chosen to wear the black robes of the Grandmaster."
That got a laugh from the other assassin. "Are you so concerned about getting the white dirty? I remember when you would destroy a set of clothing within a day and how Ellen would nearly run you through when you asked to have them repaired or a new set commissioned."
It was his turn to chuckle. "I thought of many times learning to make them myself so I would not have to encounter her wrath. She was a force when she chose to be."
"That she can be." Connor began to walk towards where they had left Malik. "They asked about you when you left."
Altair's heart constricted painfully in his chest. "I miss them as well, but what has been done cannot be undid. My place is here and I wish it was not true, but that is how it must be."
Connor's head dipped in understanding. "Kara took it hardest. You were always there when she awoke. Then you were not. She waited on the couch for you for three days, thinking you had just gone to get her sweets as you would do. Haytham went to Boston to get them for her, and became her protector. She still asks about you even after six months."
Kara had become his daughter when he was there. Watching over her, and watching her grow. Cleaning her scrapes and drying her tears. It was the hardest to leave her, but he could not bring her back with him. It was not possible. "I wish I could have brought her with me, but you know that could not be. The life of an assassin can be a short one if we are not wise to the actions of those around us. I could not subject her to that no matter what my feelings hold. She is better off with you and your father. At least that way, if something was to happen, she would still be among people that she knew and trusted." And to say that out loud was one of the most painful things to even leave his lips.
Connor, who had always seemed so naive in the ways of the world sometimes, just shook his head. "Do you say those words to comfort yourself, or is that what you truly believe?" And without waiting for an answer, he walked on ahead, leaving Altair to trail behind, wallowing in his own sad thoughts of a child he longed to see once more.
The days passed swiftly as the three men rose along the mostly abandoned road, taking care to not encounter more bandits than they already had. Malik noticed a shift in Altair from the moment the two men had returned from the bandit camp. His eyes were more troubled, and his back had lost some of the rigidness that it had always had, denoting he was in deep thought. He had seen his friend like this once before, but that was when the master assassin had been asked to take up the mantle of Grandmaster of Masyaf. It had been a trying time for him to say the least. Much rode on the choice that he made, and what was to become of the order that looked to him in their time of need.
Malik tried to broach the subject with Connor when Altair had scouted ahead, trying to find out what was troubling him so, but the only words the other man would say on the topic was he had brought up a few people that he believed Altair would rather forget than live without. Could his friend had left behind a woman from his trip to the future? Or was it something else? He was not sure, but he aimed to find out before this journey had finished.
The final night spent outdoors was quiet. Altair stood far from them, his eyes never leaving the horizon, and Connor sat beside the fire, knife in hand, craving something from a small piece of wood that he had found. Neither one seemed to be in a talkative mood. Malik, who would normally welcome the silence to speech, ground his teeth in frustration at the lack of communication he had been receiving from either man. Finally, at wits end, he marched over to where Altair stood.
"What has taken your tongue?" He snapped, coming to stand next to the silent man.
"Deep in though is all." Altair waved him off, his eyes never leaving the place on the horizon.
"That much I can see. You have been like this since that day when you and Connor returned from the bandit camp. Since that day, you have kept to yourself, and only speaking if you have been spoken to, and that is even if you feel the need to answer. Connor, on his own, does not talk much, and if someone does not open their mouths soon, I will lose what little sanity I have left to boredom." Malik was about to choke the life from him, until he opened his mouth.
His head fell to his chest, and a breath escaped through his lips. "There was a few things I had not shared with you of my time in the future. When we had captured Haytham, and had to sail to Martha's Vineyard, the only way back was by horse. That was where we found Kara, and her family. They had been killed by some soldiers, but she lived. A child of no more than three years of age, and she had to watch her family be cut down for the amusement of a few men."
Malik could hear the rage in his friend's voice as he recounted the story of how they killed the men, then sorrow on how they buried the young family. Then how he took the child and became her guardian, and then after a few months, it felt as if the child was his own. He was the one that gave her a name, and saw to her needs, and for the first time in his life, he felt needed, and not used.
"It as something that I wasn't prepared for, Malik, but she was about the only thing that could have kept me there, forsaking everything that I knew that was to come to pass. I did not want to leave the child that had come to be like my own." Finally, he looked over at him, and Malik could see the conflict in the amber depths.
Laying a gentle hand on his shoulder, Malik searched for the right things to say. "Could you not just find a way to go bring her here? It seems to me that you care for the child as if you had given her life. I believe Connor would be fine with the idea."
"I don't even know how I came to the future!" He growled in frustration, then in a lower tone, he added. "What if I cannot find a way to get Connor home once more? He is from the future, and if he does not return, it will not mess up any timeline like it would have for me in not returning. Truly he had not been born yet."
That was true, and he knew it. If they could not get Connor back to his time, it would not be as dangerous as say, Altair getting stuck in the future. "Then, we will put our heads together, and figure out a way through this mess. There must be a way for everyone to come out ahead from this whole mess." And that was something he was praying for. For everything to turn out the way it was supposed to.
I don't know what happened! For the longest time, I couldn't come up with another chapter for this story, but now I think I'm back. Hope everyone liked it.