Chapter 1: English Dream
Five weeks had passed since their return from the winter city of Moscow. The time had been well spent training and leading anti-Templar operations within the Italian capital and the surrounding countryside. Now Master Auditore was dispatching them on their next assignment.
An Assassin cell operating in London had received word of a Borgia weapons contract being arranged in the city. Rumours circulated that the Templars were to meet with the goal of arming all of Europe for full scale war. The Assassins goal was to identify and eliminate the leaders of the operation with the primary target being the contractor them self. So far the only clue to their identity was their alias, Lupo. Master Ezio had informed all of them that the coming assignment would be personal for each of them.
For Fina, this Templar ordered the attack on her family after her father refused to bend his knee to forge Templar steel.
Velia, the Borgia seek to use the resources gained from this deal to secure all of Italy in their name. The rights which granted your family their hunting grounds for generations will mean nothing in this new world order
Alessia, the trading company spearheading the contract is one owned by her father.
It was a long cart ride to the coastal French city of Calais. From there they would meet a contact who could secure their passage across the Channel.
Stepping off of the cart the Assassins found their senses immediately assaulted by the thick sea air combined with the stark smell of industry which surrendered the cities lively nature as a centre of commerce and trade. Walking through the city they became lost in a sea of faces, three nameless travellers going about their business. They had come to meet the contact, the person who had given their name as 'Charon'.
As they neared the dock the illusion that they may have been able to pass through France unfettered was broken. Plastered across the wall of the tavern were three wanted posters each offering 14,000 livres (50,000 f) for the lives of three dangerous Assassins who had infiltrated the city.
"Seems we've finally caught someone's attention" Alessia said.
"50,000f" Viola said. "Frankly I thought we'd be worth a lot more"
"Give it some time" Fina said. "Soon you shall have every Templar, Bounty Hunter and two bit city guard vying for your head in no time"
Velia replied. "Only after they'd claimed the three coppers for your worthless-"
Their banter was interrupted by a voice beside them. They turned to be greeted by a figure dressed in a dark brown cloak, their face concealed beneath a hood. "Path of light" the figure offered.
"Concealed by night" Alessia offered the counter phrase.
"I have a letter, from a friend" the messenger reached into their cloak and retrieved a sealed letter. Alessia accepted the letter, passing it between her hands as she scrutinised its authenticity. It appeared untampered, a letter bearing the seal of Master Auditore himself.
"Were you told of the letters contents?" Alessia questioned.
"Only that I was to deliver to Apprentice Saba in Calais" the messenger said. Alessia began to question why the letter had been addressed to solely her by name.
Alessia broke the seal of the letter, reading the encrypted text. Translated the letter read:
I hope your assignment is going well. The bearer of this letter is someone you may be familiar with. She has been sent with my blessing to assist you in your task.
Alessia glanced up from the letter. With the persons features concealed beneath the shadow of their hood Alessia had not realised until now that she did indeed recognise the messenger.
"Adrianna" Alessia said. "What are you doing here?"
As the young girl who had in her previous life once served her father as his daughters personal attendant looked up to meet her gaze Alessia could see the tears beginning to form in the corner of her eyes. "I'm sorry m'lady. Your mother is dead"
Such news would be difficult for anyone to accept at the best of times. To hear such news on the eve of an excursion into an enemy controlled city would be more than sufficient to see almost anybody cast into a void of ceaseless torment.
Despite her fractured relationship with her father Alessia had always embraced her mother with the same love and compassion she had doted upon her daughter since birth. Even after her self-imposed exile in which she relinquished all claims to her previous life her mother had always remained the single solitary tie Alessia had to who she once was. To hear of her death was to finally surrender to the knowledge the she would never again be able to return to the life she once knew.
Yet in the face of such adversity Alessia remained determined in her resolve to see the mission through to its conclusion. After the initial shock of the moment had subsided Fina and Velia had agreed to continue deeper into the city in search of their contact. This allowed Alessia and Adrianna some brief time alone to talk freely.
"How did you ever end up involved in all of this?" Alessia asked the first question. The two women strode through the city streets, to the casual observer little more than exotic travellers chatting idly while awaiting the ship to their next destination.
"Master Auditoure recruited me into the Order not long after you departed for your assignment in Moscow. After I completed my training Master Auditore dispatched me to deliver this letter with instructions to support the recipient. When I saw it was you, I just couldn't hold back the truth from you. We did not know if you were alive or dead"
Ever since her departure Alessia had made an effort to maintain ties with her mother through letters and packages delivered through intermediaries. She made sure to avoid any reference to where she was other than she was doing well and she had settled with new friends, assuring her mother that she had not fallen in with Thieves or Courtesans. She often received replies, letters sent through dead drops or contacts within the Order. But one day the letters simply ceased. Alessia had always thought her mother had simply given up on corresponding with a daughter who refused her pleas to return to her family.
"Your father was upset, distraught and torn apart over losing you" Adrianna said.
"Losing his dynasty you mean" even as a young girl Alessias father had treated her more as a prized legacy than a daughter.
"No, Little Fox" Adrianna insisted. "That was not what I saw. All I could see was genuine anguish, torment born of a man who had to suffer the loss of his daughter and his wife in a single life time" Alessia was surprised to hear her name spoken aloud by her companion, a secret pleasure usually reserved for only their most intimate of moments. "After you left your father began to turn his rage against the servants, with nowhere else to go we were forced to endure his wrath in muted silence. Shortly after you left we began to hear rumours you were alive and working in the city, you became something of a symbol amongst the servants as someone who had risked everything in pursuit of freedom"
"I'm not a symbol, I'm a fool" Alessia admitted with a downturned gaze. "The girl who left her pampered life and was almost killed for the privilege"
"You know where we sail, and of my father's involvement, and what is required of us if we meet him" Alessia asked.
"If it is necessary" Adrianna said.
Their walk brought them to the edge of the city docks. Intermixed among the crowds of traders, artisans, travellers and sailors, Alessia could discern the flaring red of Templar colours. It was no surprise that the Templars would dispatch agents against them, given the implied importance of the coming meeting and their growing notoriety since Moscow.
Among the ever shifting crowd remained a single constant, two figures dressed in familiar dark cloaks stood conversing with a large man. He was heavy set, curly brown hair which descended down his flushed cheeks to form a thick layer of stubble. He was dressed in the thick leather shirt and pants, a uniform marking him as a port worker. As they drew closer they began to overhear snippets of the ongoing conversation.
"They say they're looking for suspicious characters dressed in white hoods" while the conversation was conducted in fluent French the man's thick English accent betrayed his origins. "Now who fits that description?"
"It is called hiding in plain sight"
The unexpected voice infiltrating the conversation suddenly drew their attention away, turning to face their new arrivals.
"Crikey, there's more of you!" Charon gasped in mock surprise. "Charon, at your service"
Charon, ferryman of the damned to the underworld, rather appropriate pseudonym for their line of work.
"I would assume you have a way for us to get past them?" Alessia asked.
"Travel is restricted only to those with official business for the city" Charon said. "And as a reputable man of commerce-"
"I'd hardly call you respectable" Fina remarked.
"I'm also not the one they're looking for" Charon pointed a large finger towards the far end of the dock. "My Schooner is docked at the far pier, how you get aboard is your own business. I'm just the ferryman"
"You're a credit to your profession" Fina retorted. "And don't forget if we can't leave the port you won't be paid at all for your 'business"
"I'll take care of it" Adrianna interrupted the exchange, stepping forward to the head of the group. She turned back to face her team. "I will cause a distraction while you run for the ship" Before objections could be raised Adrianna slipped away into the crowd, blending seamlessly into the backdrop of varied movement and colour.
The peace and normality was swiftly shattered upon the young acolyte's sudden reappearance. Riding atop a galloping horse she tore through the packed city streets, forcing onlookers to disperse left and right to save their lives. The sudden commotion swiftly drew the attention of the Templar agents, their desire to pursue enflamed as the thick black cloak swiftly fell from the riders shoulders. The sight of the Assassins robes caused the soldiers to see white, forcing them to make fast pursuit of the fleeing suspect.
With their attentions diverted the group made their attempt and ran the full length of the crowded dock. Those not wary enough to move aside were savagely thrust aside by their advance. Reaching the docked schooner they charged up the gangplank and immediately prepared to bring the ship to sail. Lacking the time or patience necessary Velia chose to simply cut the mooring lines clear with the sharpened edge of her short blade. Alessia and Fina worked to unfurl the sails while Charon took his place at the helm and prepared to set sail.
"Where's Adrianna?" Alessia asked. Looking out over the deck she saw the chaos erupting across the port. Adrianna and her horse continued their rampage across the crowded dock.
As Adrianna approached an opening in the street a group of Templar guards emerged before her with swords drawn. Adrianna was quick to evade the enemy blockade, raising high in the saddle she leapt from her horse and landed atop a stack of crates. Utilising her momentum she clambered up onto the roof of the port building. Without the restraint of its rider the horse continued its charge forward unabated, smashing into the Templar soldiers in a flurry of men and steel.
"We need to wait for her" Alessia called out.
"No chance" Charon called back. "We've already cut our mooring lines and your friend has got half the city guards following her" Charon turned the wheel sharply, bringing the ship towards the opening of the harbour. "If we don't leave now they'll seal the port and have half the fleet blockading us at sea"
Adrianna continued to charge across the city rooftops, fighting to keep pace as her only lifeline slipped towards the open water. Adrianna reached the edge of the building, without hesitation she leapt from the precipice like a graceful eagle in flight. Extending her hidden blade from her wrist she threw out her right arm and cleanly cut the rope hanging idly from a nearby support, catching it in her hand she continued her descent. As the rope pulled taut it arrested her fall and curved her around in a graceful arc towards the ship. As she reached the top of the arc Adrianna relinquished her hold and once more surrendered to the influence of gravity, rolling with a dull thump onto the deck of the ship.
As the sails caught the wind the ship departed the harbour to cross the English Channel bound for the shores of England leaving chaos in their wake.