Chapter 1: Prologue
It all began in a blur of motions. A fine combination of red and black swirling around in what looked like an aesthetically pleasing dance, moving in sync to the clinking of a blade meeting another and causing havoc in a dim lit Victorian office in the middle of the night. And yet his mission was quite rudimentary, Jacob recalled, while crouched on a wooden plank, gazing thoughtfully at the smoke emanating from the engine-room ventilators of the boats sailing on the Thames. He just had to retrieve some documents for Karl Marx that proved the workers were underpaid and that child labour was happening in a cotton factory in Southwark. Those documents were located in an office in a Templar stronghold along the quays in the Westminster district. Jacob, as a trained Assassin, had of course not encountered any problem while eliminating every one of the Blighters and Templars in the building but it started to get tough when he sneaked into the office where the documents allegedly were. And the reason for this was that she was there.
The young Assassin was staring at the smoke which, while rising, obstructed the air and blocked him from the sight of the Big Ben, right across the river. The Assassin sighed and looked down at his hand gripping a silver pendant before closing it on the necklace again. That strange feeling of emptiness that took hold of him whenever he was thinking of her occurred again and he frowned.
Evie was right, he thought, I was so stupid to believe in her, to think I could change her for the better. Actually, he realized, she was the one who changed me. He scoffed, grasping how melodramatic he had become, like one of those Shakespearian characters she adored so much - a melancholic smile appearing on his face against his will.
Shaking his head, he decided to think of something else - to distract himself. Tomorrow, he was going to liberate London from the hold of the Templars, to free the people from their hard labor, to stop the children from working and the poor from the exploitative workhouses - he was going to assassinate Crawford Starrick. That was the right thing to do. Then, why was he feeling so conflicted in doing so? His mind knew that was the right thing to do, but his heart…. His heart felt different and was elsewhere.
(Six months earlier)
Westminster, 14 January 1868, London
My dearest Pearl,
It is with great sadness that I have heard about
some of your buses being set on fire once again
yesterday morning - as though your employees
being abducted was not enough. I am writing in
the hope that it will not cause any more turmoil
between Father and you since you both are so dear
to me. I wish you will find it in your heart to
apologize Father for this rivalry in the omnibuses
business. Yet as you may know, he has nothing to do
with these attacks and asked me to tell you he
was leading investigation among the Milner
Company to know who were responsible for these
revolting acts. He sends you his deepest regards and
feels deeply sorry about this competition as you must know.
The sound of a muffled cry followed by the thumping of a body hitting the floor, that is enough to cause Helaya to raise her head from her piece of paper and lean her head towards the origin of the noise. She puts down her goose feather on her desk and stores in haste her letter in a drawer that she locks up right after before putting the key in the interior pocket of her leather coat. Swiftly, she closes the distance to the door of her office, listening. She does not hear a sound, which immediately alerts her and all of her senses come back to life. She realizes she does not have the time to ring the alarm to alert nearby Templars and will have to deal with the problem by herself. Not that she is not used to it, after all, she was taught by one of the best. She instinctively hides behind the closed door just a moment before this one opens silently.
A hooded figure then sneaks its way into the office, but before it can make another step, the red-haired woman nimbly jumps on its back and tries to strangle him by squeezing his neck. The following moment happens in a blur. The young woman finds herself being ejected from the hooded figure violently after this one tries to knock her down by slamming her into the wall. She stumbles backwards to regain her defensive position but her opponent is much quicker than she expected and punches her in the stomach while she throws one of her hidden knives at him. She finds herself gasping in pain and frowning at the same time as the figure avoids the knife by a few inches, the blade hitting a lit candle that falls on the ground.
She quickly assesses her opponent - by the broad shoulders, built and strong jaw with stubble, the woman realizes the hooded figure is a man, probably in his twenties and that she has no chances of survival in a close hand-to-hand combat. All of her hours spent practicing rush back to her mind and she realizes she needs to get away from him to get some leverage, but she finds herself being pushed back against her desk while the hooded figure faces her, a shining blade across from her neck, ready to strike. An Assassin, the woman realizes, eyeing the blade activated from the gauntlet, while feeling a sense of desperation and alert creeping through her. In a futile attempt to break free, the red-haired tries to dodge left but the hooded Assassin seems to have anticipated this move and restrains her by putting one of his gloved hands on her neck while the other is still handling the blade. This sudden motion sends a shiver down her spine and she finds herself gasping once again as they both lock eyes for the first time.
Time stands still in the flickering light of the fallen candle. Not of a word is uttered at loud but a million are exchanged as they gaze into each other eyes during god knows how long. She tries to see his face but feels disappointed as most of his face is hidden from the shadow created by the hood, except for two bright hazel eyes that gaze intensely into hers, observing her as she does for him. She feels like he is trying to apprehend her, to determine if she is a threat that should be dealt with or if she has any ounce of humanity that should make him spare her, that he is reading her soul. Under his scrutiny, a strange feeling takes over her and she feels her heartbeat accelerating as the Assassin’s eyes fall eventually on her lips. She unconsciously licks them and instinctively they both bend towards each other.
Yet the red-haired woman awakens from her trance state before it is too late and pushes him away easily since he is distracted, causing him to stumble. She uses that time to jump over the desk to retrieve her Model 3 Revolver from beneath it that she immediately loads and points towards him. She regains her composure and adopts a determined and blank of all emotions face.
The Assassin then freezes, surprised by her speed and without thinking but a time later, he mimics her. But none of them shoots, they just keep staring at each other, waiting for the other to begin the fight, both adopting defensive attitudes.
A moment later, surprise seizes the woman as the Assassin sighs and lowers his gun before putting it back into his hostler, still immobile. This makes her waver and think. She feels lost concerning the behavior of the man. What is he doing ? Is it a trap? She decides to forget about it, to shut down her feelings and to only think of her survival. She proceeds to retreat slowly towards the window behind her, her gun still pointed at him. Another thrill shakes her spine and she feels her breath becoming ragged, as she looks into his eyes which follow her movement and discovers he seems as lost as she is. Listening to the rational part of her brain, she lowers her gun fast and turning her back to the man, jams the window open and is about to climb through it in a flash before she hears his voice for the first time.
“Wait,” he calls her out in a masculine and suave voice. This causes her to tense and freeze, her back still towards him and her hand on the window door. She realizes she feels at loss on how to react around him and decides she should shut up her brain part that manages her feelings or he would be able to take control over her eventually. Yet she cranes her neck to indicate she is listening and eyes him from the corner of her vision. The Assassin steps towards her, causing her to jump on the window’s edge in an instant. Her heart is hammering in her chest.
“ Please” he whispers, one of his hands held towards her, as though wanting her to come to him. This is so surreal, am I dreaming ? She stops an instant and turns around, still on the window’s edge as he takes out his hood slowly, revealing his face. He is trying to gain your trust, stay vigilant, Helaya inner voice keeps singing yet she feels drawn to his face. He looks genuine and young, in his twenties and wears the marks of a brash youth through two scars, one on his brow, the other on his strong jaw. His lips are full, his chestnut hair disheveled and his hazel eyes pleading. Slowly and never taking his eyes off her, he puts down his M1877 Thunderer on the desk before putting his hands up in an appeasing way “I do not intend to hurt you”, he pleads in a subtle Welsh accent.
She scoffs, amused “What was the purpose of your visit then, may I ask?”
“ I have changed my mind, he admits. So have you it seems” he glances at her lowered gun.
Helaya realizes she forgot about it and quickly points it at him again, grinning viciously .
“Do not be so quick to judge me, Assassin. You do not know me.”
“Not yet, but I am planning on changing that,” he says wittingly with a lopsided grin.
She scoffs again, averting her eyes as she senses a blush creeping on her cheeks which makes the Assassin grin even more. What is happening? I am not in my right mind. Have I been poisoned? The young female wonders before proceeding to quickly assess all the food and drink she has had in the last twenty four hours which is, she recalls from her mentor lecture, the maximum necessary time for a poison to react in her body.
Yet she is stopped as a Templar cries from the corridor right before hurrying into the office. “Miss!” Jacob turns around, ready to fight but observes with shock a blade that comes flying right next to him to end in the neck of the Templar before he even can end his sentence. He ends up falling on the floor, gurgling and holding his neck. Jacob then turns his head away from the gruesome scene, once again amazed by her speed and ready for another witty remark about her defending him but discovers she is gone.
He then dashes to the window, using his eagle vision but cannot see her. She knows how to stay out of track, he notes, amazed by her skills and speed. Realization creeps up through him and he feels shocked as he realizes she killed the Templar instead of him while she had the chance. He thinks for a moment this could have been a mistake and that she missed but realizes she is too good to have missed and why would she have fled then?
Jacob frowns, retrieving his gun from the desk and begins looking for the documents he was here for, yet realizes nothing is here. He sighs once again, frustrated, before a spark catches his eyes. Kneeling beside the desk, he discovers a silver pendant on the floor. A thrill of excitement runs through him: She must have lost it while we fought, he thinks, smirking and putting it in his pocket before tapping on it twice. The familiar taste of challenge tickles his belly and he finds himself smiling. “Until we meet again”, he mumbles before jumping out of the window and into the crowded streets of London.
Hope you liked it! Once again, I repeat, I am not a native speaker so, sorry for the mistakes! Do not hesitate to report them to me! Any constructive remark/ review would be appreciated! :D