Jameel slipped by the roof guards unnoticed as they moved down the buildings to let up the men for the evening shift, moving into the more unsavior docks district. There were housed the thieves' and courtesans' guilds, but being such, it was rather unlikely that the Templars would even consider patrolling the area. Jameel began to relax, feeling himself safe as he topped the rise of a church's roof.
His hopes were dashed as a double-bladed axe nearly severed his head from his shoulders. He rolled away just in time, sliding down to the eaves of the roof. A few black hairs clung to the axe blade, which were brushed away by a gauntleted hand. The man was wearing the same kind of armor as the rhino-headed man, except this set was stylized with lions' heads fixed in eternal roars. A tremor ran up the Red Owl's spine. God in Heaven, not this maniac again.
The Lion turned to face him and growled a laugh behind his mask.
"So, we meet again, Red Owl. More's the pity I didn't have your head as my trophy the last time." Jameel tensed at the words. He had nearly been carved clean in half three nights after his arrival in Venice. After that narrow escape, he'd been hounded throughout the city.
How could I be so stupid as to forget... The thought went unfinished as he dodged backward, leaping over the axe and having to tuck his legs up beneath him to avoid them being cleaved away before he fled the area, just barely dodging another quick swing as it came from not behind but before him, the Lion having doubled around and hidden behind a wall of a building being referbished, standing upon one of the builders' scaffolds. Jameel doubled his stride as he raced across the rooftops, but no matter how hard he ran the Lion was nearly within a bound of clipping his heels with the toes of his boots. "Come back here and face your death, coward!"
Jameel dropped from the roofs and dashed along one of the buildings with the heaviest construction, knocking over crates, guards, and whatever else came to hand to try and stall the Templar chasing him. The obstacles were mere nusances to the Lion, who either jumped over them, rolled under them, or literally bashed straight through. Jameel took to the rooftops once more and felt the breeze clip by just inches from his spine as the axe came down toward his back.
Turning sharply to his left, the Red Owl threw himself out into the air before diving into one of the canals. The axe-swinging maniac paused atop the roof, looking down at the water, before laughing and walking away.
X x X
Lex looked out of the doors he and Desmond had taken shelter in for the hundredth time that second. Desmond had had it.
"What the hell are you looking for, pursuit?" he snapped, his voice echoing unnervingly as it shattered the quiet atmosphere inside the place. The Sparrow rounded a glare on him that made him take an involuntary step back.
"Who--" A ton of mental bricks cascaded onto the bartender. "You mean...?" A nod. The elder man sighed. "He'll be fine." Lex lifted his eyes and looked skyward. "What're you looking for now, a plane?"
"For it to start raining buffalo chicken wings. I could've sworn you said Jameel'll be fine."
X x X
Jameel resurfaced from the water after swimming a good way down the canal, disgruntled and pissed off. That was the third jump into the canal this week because of that maniac. He stood and began to walk toward where he'd last seen Lex go. Wandering around, looking for the others, wet and annoyed, he occassionally wrung out his robes as his thoughts revolved around the Templar. The axe was heavy, very sharp, and swung with deadly accuracy and speed. Such speed! Templars should not be that quick! It scared him, he realized, and grew angrier because of the realization.
He didn't have time for fear. Not now. He approached the chapel, spotting the two familiar faces from afar.
The two Assassins looked up at the Red Owl as he made his way to the chapel. During the wait, Desmond had managed to go and get them a few weapons: a rapier and dagger each. Now, however much prudence Jameel's dour features seemed to entail, neither could keep back the question, "Why are you wet and smelling like s**t?"
Desmond held open the door for Jameel as Lex moved back to allow Jameel inside.
"This is the third time I've had to take a dip into that canal no thanks to that lion-headed Templar!" The word was spat like a curse, literally so. A wad of spittle landed on the marble floor of the chapel. With a sneer, the Master Assassin added, "I will admit, he's good with an axe. He's going to be an exceptionally hard one to kill."
"Is there any way to get that reek off you?" Desmond wondered. Jameel shrugged. He'd failed to take note of the smell the canal put on him. He was almost used to the putresence of Europe and its cities with special sections of building for pedestrians to walk under so as not to be splattered so very much by chamber pots being emptied into the streets below, or in Venice's case into the canals to be swept out to sea. It did not stop disgusting him--he craved a bath so much his skin nearly crawled with the yearning; he had almost truly given his left testicle for access to a rich Venetian's mansion once just to verify if he had a room with a tub for bathing--but he could live with it for as long as need be. He wrung out more of his robes.
"Nice to see you again as well, Desmond." The Master Assassin turned and advanced deeper into the chapel, stopping long enough to draw the two to him in the shadow of the confessional. "At least Altair didn't have to do this... Lucky b*****d..."
"Didn't Damas have a canal?" Lex questioned.
"No one dumped their s**t into it," Jameel retorted sharply, uncaring at the fact he swore in a church, but drawing his lips into a line when he saw the younger man flinch. He put a hand on his shoulder.
"So, besides the crazy animal-themed Templars, anything else we should know about?"
"I have another ancestor in this time," Desmond put in. The two looked at him. "Audi...Audi something."
"The Das Auto people?"
"Auditore?" Jameel lifted a brow and cackled. "You're talking about Ezio Auditore? Ya Allah..." The man covered his eyes and shook his head for a moment before composing himself. "I've been observing the events happening in and around the city lately. Sometimes that womanizer gets involved." Jameel tested his hidden blade. Satisfied that it was in good condition after the dip in the canal, he wanted to make sure it wouldn't break. After sheathing it, he returned to wringing out his robes.
The two time travelers watched the blade flicker in and out, hardly flinching. After a moment, Desmond ventured, "Don't suppose you'll give us a place to hole up until we can rent a hotel room or whatever, will you, Jameel?" The Red Owl looked up at the barkeep slowly.
"What, Desmond, do you think I'd leave you at the mercy of an Italian haystack at a time like this? Not even your fine Arabic skills would woo one of them to you." A smirk curled his lip on one side. "I'm not so heartless as to not allow for the laws of hospitality, but I think you both should know I'm currently homeless."
Jameel shed his hood a moment in order to squeeze it dry as well. The foul smelling liquid had puddled by now into a vast puddle around his boots. Ick. They really need to clean those canals. It's a wonder anyone is alive in this city at all, much less the continent. Plagues springing up left and right... "I can only steal so much money and still allow others to live in their homes unmolsted. We no longer have Bureaus here to provide us with ensured safety. In this time, we have few allies and fewer safehouses. I won't impose upon them unless I must."
Desmond threw his arms up and shook his head. "All right. Well, can we go to wherever you've been staying then? I kind of want to get this trip over with as soon as possible."
Jameel eyed Desmond coldly before walking toward the door.
"Fine. I'll show you where I'm currently staying." He paused at the doorway and fixed the man with his familiar stare. "You won't like it." The three left the chapel, the two following the older immortal as he led them back toward the seedier part of town he'd headed for earlier that day.
After several twists and turns, they came to a small hovel built near one of the bridges that spanned the canals. It was a hastily constructed, sad little abode, listing drunkenly to one side of its own accord, more like an attempt to make a tent from sticks alone with cloth as an afterthought than anything stable. Jameel slipped inside. It was no bedouin tent, but it was built with what he had and could be easily taken apart and put up again. So what if it was a little lopsided? He was no Da Vinci.
The time travelers followed him into the structure and made themselve as at home as possible. Desmond sighed and gave a half-hearted glare at Lex before flopping down onto his back.
"Wake me up if anyone needs to die. Including him." Lex shifted his eyes toward the Owl as Desmond began to snore.
"So, how was your day besides all the attempted murder and mayhem?"
"Boring. Been sleeping most of the day." Jameel stood and moved out of the tent, poking his head back in. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get the canal stink out of my skin." With that, he disappeared.
X x X
Desmond awoke to the sound of a bell tolling the hour somewhere. He didn't bother to count the time. Jameel sat at the entrance to the tent, staring out through the flap. The barkeep crawled forward and crouched next to him.
"Go lay down, man." The next moment his hands were held up, the hidden blade pressing against his Adam's apple. Jameel's wide eyes blinked a few times before he relaxed, the blade retracting. After a minute, he looked at the floor and moved to the back of the poorly constructed home.
Settling with his back to Desmond, he put an arm around Lex, who'd fallen asleep several hours earlier.
"Yeesh," came from the bartender as he sighed, unclenching his jaw. If he wasn't getting tossed back in time, he was almost being stabbed by some annoying kid's boyfriend. My chances for survival in this crazy a** place are looking so much better now.
X x X
The silhouette of the lion-headed Templar revealed itself in the moonlight. The young Journeyman below jolted at the sight of it after having seen nothing for hours but the canal and the unchanging roofs since he relieved Desmond's shift. He wasn't the only one who received a scare. One of the night watchmen on the roof nearly jumped into the canal as the Lion came upon him to make sure he was awake.
Another man was not so lucky, as the Sparrow observed. He'd dozed off sometime around one in the morning. The Lion hefted the axe over his shoulder. Lex clamped both his hands over his mouth to keep from making a noise, breath quickening as the axe rose and fell several more times. Swallowing the vomit that had risen up into his mouth, he shuddered as three more silhouettes followed after the Lion.
Bows. Beaks. Feathers. Them.
Lex's eyes widened as he looked at the archers. Oh, hell no... A fourth archer had appeared. He was looking around, bow nocked but held loose in his grip. The white beak, starkly bright in the moonlight, turned toward the hovel. By that time, he'd drawn the string back to his ear, or where the ear might have been had it been visible.
The Journeyman's fingers trembled as he reached for the dagger at his belt. A hand clasped his suddenly, another covering his mouth to stifle the gasp that escaped it. Jameel held the Sparrow fast, his light breathing impossibly loud in his ear. After a few moments, the archer moved on. Jameel released him. Lex drew a long breath, shuddering.
Desmond sat up and looked between them. The night had become quiet. Everything was too quiet. The Eagle found himself wishing one of the guards would fart.
An abrupt clang and the leonine face on the helmet being shoved through the tent flap sundered the silence.
"Guardate cosa ho trovato! Vieni a giocare con il Leone Metal!"
The time travelers screamed in surprise, the Red Owl flinching back from the face, eyes wide.
The Assassins threw themselves back as the Lion rose up and threw the cloth of the tent off himself, sticks tumbling everywhichway. Jameel threw himself forward, attempting to sink his blade into the Templar's throat. Instead of defending as he'd expected, the Lion charged, ramming his paldron-covered shoulder into Jameel's chest. The Master Assassin gagged as he was knocked back, the wind taken out of him, grasping at the rail of the balcony so as not to fall into the canal beyond.
The two others lunged forward with their swords drawn. Desmond was forced to leap straight up as the axe came for his legs, only for it to change direction and sweep upward toward Lex's head. The Journeyman gagged as he was yanked backward by the hood. "Morire, Assassini!"
I understood that! Lex thought, just barely missing having his arm taken from his body as he was forced to hop over the rail and balance between the struts of the balustrade. The swings were an unpredictable mess, at once almost deadly accurate then the next sailing far wide. The Lion had missed Desmond completely on the backswing as he turned to strike at him. The Assassins scurried to the bridge.
Jameel drew his sword and swung at him. The Lion immediately charged forward and swung at him with the axe. Lex lunged for his back. The Templar turned again, planting his foot into the small Assassin's chest, sendng him tumbling into the water of the canal. Desmond rushed forward as he heard strings being pulled taut behind him, shouldering by the Templar and snagging Jameel by the belt. Time to go!
"Run!" Desmond yelled as Jameel struggled to get back the way they'd come. The Master Assassin staggered as he was pulled sharply from behind, turning and finding the soaked Journeyman there. The two hauled him up out of the canal he'd swum to and hurried along. The Assassins moved onto the roofs.
Lex slid along behind Desmond, almost falling when a couple of tiles shifted under his weight and shattered on the ground below in a terracotta shower. Staggering up, he was forced to leap away from the axe swinging toward his middle as the Lion landed on the roof.
"You hit like a girl!" The Lion stopped at the insult, staring at Jameel. Jameel fled as the Templar came after him. Jameel ran back toward the canal as if an entire pride of lions was after him. He skidded to a stop at the edge of the roof. "You look like a monkey's a**!" The Templar roared, the sound echoing out over the city through the mask, and charged down at him. Jameel tensed, waiting, then threw himself to the side. The Lion was forced to stagger and flail, halting his headlong charge just at the edge of the roof. With a great shove, Jameel sent him over the edge and into the canal below.
"Heh." He turned, prepared to return to the others, only to be faced with several arrows, white beaks glowing ethereally in the moonlight.
Jameel closed his eyes, preparing to risk the drop into the Metal Lion's possibly waiting claws.
Two tiles flew out of the darkness and cracked against skulls. One of the Crows fell to his knees, stunned, the other out cold, sliding backward off the roof. Jameel began to run as the Crows took a moment to look at time travelers. Pain lanced into his side, causing him to misstep, the roof leaving him. He grasped the edge of the roof as the two Assassins threw another pair of tiles. A lucky one struck the target in the throat. The other sailed wide.
Desmond and Lex vaulted over the roofs as two of the remaining archers chased after them, another two racing off to somewhere. Jameel watched them fly before dragging himself laboriously onto the roof. He froze as the last archer came into sight, holding a bomb in his grip. The bomb was thrown. The Master Assassin ducked his head, but only smoke poured out of the bomb. He covered his mouth quickly with his sleeve, coughing heavily.
Jameel sank down onto the roof, struggling to focus as a black shape moved toward him through the haze before his vision blackened completely.
Lex knelt down beside the injured man, having doubled back after separating from Desmond. Dragging him up, he looked at Jameel's injured side in the light. The arrow had pierced his leather armor easily as a keen blade; a black stream of blood was already staining his hand as he pressed his hand to his side.
Don't let the organs be punctured, don't let the organs be punctured, he prayed silently. Especially the spleen. The Sparrow barely spared Desmond his hearing as the man squished onto the roof.
"Anything I can do?" asked the Eagle.
"Don't touch Jameel's wound." He broke off the shaft where it stuck through the armor. Cutting away the section of the armor with the dagger, he made a thin incision on either side of the arrow shaft about a half inch. Breathing heavily, eyes hurting with the strain of focusing so heavily on one point, he pulled the arrow free and stuffed it into his belt. "Get the tent cloth and rip me a square." Taking the cloth from Desmond once he returned, he presed it to the wound hard as he was able. "We're gonna need disinfectant and bandages."
"Well, obviously," the other man hissed. "And where're we gonna get those, the ******** Wal-mart?"
"Desmond, get some strong wine, needle, and thread. Get them and get them fast, or I'll yank your sac off like a paper towel."
The Eagle set off as Lex began to carry Jameel down to the ruins of the tent.
Desmond hurried down the street, searching for a tavern.
"Ti sei perso?" The man spun at the voice. He stared at a small, tan young man and said, "What?"
"Are you lost?" He blinked, even more confused at the English with a Spanish accent.
"I need help. I need wine, needle, and thread!" The young man took down his pack from his back and handed over a flask, producing needle and thread from a pocket in his shirt.
"Here, take them. Go now!" Desmond frowned and hurried on back toward Lex. He grabbed a torch from one of the market stalls as he ran by. The two worked hurriedly to staunch the bleeding and bind the wound, knotting it as tightly as possible.
"We gotta move someplace else."
The two gathered the dismantled hovel and made it into rough stretcher. Lex took a glance at the sky. The moon was almost touching the horizon. Gathering up a pole in each hand, they hurried through the streets toward the docks. As they moved, Jameel began to twitch.
They set up the tent again in the back of the nearest alley and moved inside with the man. Jameel continued to twitch as they set up. When he was taken inside and set down, the Assassin immediately curled into a ball and began to sob brokenly, grasping at his head and burying his face into his arms in the same motion, screaming.
Memories he'd long since hoped to forget came to the surface like broken edges of a jagged mirror, piercing him, cutting his fingers as they fell into a patchwork mosaic of horrors.
Kadin's betrayal... Their home aflame... Their parents burning... Their souls denied rest...
His brother Assassins being crushed beneath the same man's weapon at the Battle of Hattin...
His near death experiences against Ravenwatch, so many over the years...
The killings...so many killings...so many men...the light fading from their eyes beneath his very hand, the hidden blade in their throats...
The man flailed suddenly as he felt himself lifted, arms snaking out automatically. He froze, blood turning to ice. Lex swallowed, the tip of the blade just touching the skin over his jugular. The steel slid back beneath the bracer as another sob wracked the taller man's frame. He clutched onto the other, rocking in his hold, head burrowed down into his chest, mumbling in a garbled mash of Arabic and Italian.
"Shh." Lex ran a hand through his hair. "Shh." He glanced over at Desmond. The man was steadfastly gazing out to sea. The Journeyman settled their heads together until the sobbing had ceased. Jameel breathed evenly, but for the shuddering that spasmed through each muscle as if a chill pervaded his body. Lex looked out toward the growing light spilling through the tent flap and sighed, shutting his eyes to catch a few minutes' rest. As dawn's first rays broke over the horizon properly, Jameel went slack, breathing the heavy breaths of deep sleep.
Desmond looked over briefly as he heard Lex topple to one side, soon enough returning his gaze to the bright orange and white sea.