Chapter 2: Truth and Reconciliation
The Schooner rose and fell on the waves that rippled across the great divide which separated England from the rest of mainland Europe. Alessia and Adrianna leant idly against the railing which ringed the deck, continuing their conversation that had been interrupted in the port. Velia, as she often did during any available time, prepared her weapons for the coming operation.
Fina walked across the deck of the Schooner to stand beside their temporary Captain. "Tell me, Captain, how did you end up working with us?"
Charon's gaze continued to linger on the sea in front of him. "I'm what you might call a freelancer, people who get them where they're they want to go. Simple really"
"Sounds rather mercenary to me" Fina said.
"Perhaps it is" Charon replied. "But the reality of life is as long as at least two people have coin or influence someone will always want to get somewhere without drawing someone else's attention"
"That sounds like a rather bleak outlook" Fina said.
"I consider myself something of a realist" Charon replied.
"Do you ever consider that there could be a way to make use of your skills to the benefit of humanity as a whole?" Fina asked.
"Look little lady" Charon replied with a weary sigh. "Philosophy is of interest only to those well off enough to not have to work for a living" Charon swiftly returned to the subject at hand. "We'll land at Dover and once we're there you-"
"Ship ahead!" Velia declared from her position at the bow of the ship. "They're flying the English flag"
The entire entourage abandoned their other duties to watch as a military Schooner rode the ways towards them beneath the English flag. The speed at which the small craft approached set the usually calm Charon ablaze.
"Christ, they're going to board us" Charon cursed. Without warning their Captain swiftly charged towards the middle of the deck, releasing a latch he pulled up the trap door which lead down to the hold. "Get under the deck"
Fina, Alessia and Velia followed his instructions and sequestered themselves beneath the deck. "Not you" Charon told Adrianna, stopping her with the press of his large hand on her shoulder before closing the hatch. Charon retrieved a discarded cloak and cast it over Adrianna's shoulders, the heavy material stinking of rotten sea life. "Keep the cloak on and don't say anything"
The English Schooner pulled alongside, the crew casting out hooked lines which swiftly bound the two ships together. Without delaying to receive an invitation a man a military uniform, an officer based on the audacious elaborateness of his attire, came aboard followed by three of his subordinates. The man cast a contemptuous eye across those before him.
"Am I to assume that you are the Captain of this vessel?" the English Captain asked.
"Aye, I am" Charon said, offering little beyond that which had been requested of him.
The Captains eyes traced disapprovingly across the ship in front of him, his gaze passing over Adrianna only to linger slightly longer than she had anticipated. Adrianna raised herself up on her feet, feeling herself being consumed beneath the sheer size and weight of the heavy cloak.
"Who is she?" the English Captain asked to neither of them in particular, simply expecting the answer.
"She's my daughter" Charon said. "Trying to teach her an honest trade like her father" Adrianna remained silent. "Captain, if I may ask, for the reason for-"
"We have received word of the presence of stowaways wanted by the crown" the Captain said. "Our patrols are searching every vessel we come across until they are found"
The Captain paced across the deck as he spoke, his stride bringing him perilously close to the hatch which concealed the prize he sought. Adrianna saw the glint of metal beneath the Captains jacket.
"What are you looking at girl?" the Captains words awoke Adrianna from her lingering thoughts. "Speak girl. Didn't your father teach you to show respect for authority?"
"She didn't mean nothin by it, Captain" Charon interjected in an attempt to diffuse the situation.
The Captain raised his hand high above the girl in preparation to strike. "Speak-"
Adrianna reacted on instinct, drawing her short blade from beneath her cloak she lashed out against the soldier. The weight of the cloak across her shoulders slowed her movement and brought her arm up as she fought to reassert control, turning what should have been a swift and decisive cut across his throat into a harsh gash across his cheek. The cut swiftly erupted in a flurry of blood, the wounded Captain stumbling back and clutching the fresh wound with his free hand in a desperate effort to stem the flow of blood.
The Captains escort were swift to react, drawing their weapons in preparation to deliver vengeance against the one who dared to resist their leader. With the soldier's attention focused on Adrianna the Assassins, having heard the commotion brewing on the deck, burst from the ships hold with a loud crash of wood striking wood.
Fina made the first kill. Focusing on the entourage, she cast a flurry of daggers towards her closest targets, the sharp tips of the weapons pierced the chest armour of the two closest English soldiers. Drawing her short blade from her back Fina lashed out to cut down the first soldier in her path, the decisive attack causing his body collapsing beneath his own weight and collapsing unceremoniously to the deck. The second soldier, still recoiling from the impact of the dagger, proved himself equally unable to save himself as Fina swiftly approached. Fina feinted with her short blade, coaxing the soldier into attempting to counter only for Fina to force her whole weight behind her shoulder and forced the soldier over the side of the deck.
Velia moved with deadly speed, unimpeded by the weight or constriction of armour. Velia ejected the dual hidden blades from her gauntlet, the freshly polished metal glinting in the midday sun. The hidden blades struck their targets, burying between the plates of the soldier's armour.
Alessia took the most direct approach to face down the final two soldiers of the Captains entourage. The first English soldier threw out a wild swing of his sword, Alessia deflected the blow with the curve of her bracer. Wielding her longsword in her other hand she slashed the soldier across his chest, the fine edge of the blade splitting the smooth leather of his armour. Utilising her forward momentum she lashed out to attack the second guard.
Having recovered his footing the English Captain drew his sword from its sheath, intent on striking down the one who had dared to defy his authority. The Captain swung with the blade of his sword, Adrianna deflected it and intended to retaliate with a slash across his front. Before the blow could connect the Captain struck out with his free hand, the blow met her unguarded midriff with the full force of the impact. The shock of the attack forced Adrianna to her knees as she clutched helplessly at her chest, whimpering weakly to stifle the crushing pain left in the wake of the attack.
As the Captain raised his sword for a final blow Charon emerged at his side, brandishing a discarded sword in an unsophisticated mimicry of true form. The Captain deflected the crude attack with a flourish of his weapon, a retaliatory flourish slashed Charon across his unprotected sword arm. Charon's sword clanked to the deck, the ferryman clutching his bloodied wound before falling to his knees on the deck.
With the English Captains back turned to her Adrianna saw her movement to strike. The reality of combat was that often fighters expended so much energy protecting their head and their chest they neglected to take into account the vulnerability of their armour around their inner thighs. The presence of several major blood vessels and the lack of significant armour made such a vulnerability one a fighter could ill afford to have exploited.
Adrianna saw her moment, drew her dagger and buried the blade into the Captain's inner thigh. The primal howl of anguish accompanied the eruption of blood as the weapon was yanked free only to be plunged back down in a frantic bloodlust. Being reduced to little more than butchered meat and torn muscle the man's leg could no longer support his weight, stumbling to the deck on his knees on the deck.
Adrianna scrambled back to her feet, holding the dagger in both shaking hands in anticipation of another attack. Instead she was faced with an enemy who was beaten, kneeling on shaking legs as he struggled to maintain consciousness.
"Little gutter ra-" the Captains final curse died upon his lips as he fell lifeless to the deck.
The fog of battle began to disperse, the adrenaline which had flooded their bodies began to sweep away to be replaced by the encroaching weight of fatigue. A conflict which had felt like hours in reality had lasted mere minutes, the perception of the world returning to its normal pace.
"What the hell happened?"
A voice returned Adrianna to the stark reality, feeling the warmth of the fresh blood which tainted her snow white robes drifting further away.
Charon fought to keep himself upright, clutching his wounded arm as he leant against the ships mast to steady himself. "The little bitch stabbed him" Charon pointed a blood soaked finger in accusation with his good arm, wincing with refreshed anguish at every movement.
The gaze of the three assassins turned to Adrianna, their unflinching vigil demanding an explaination.
"He was a Templar" Adrianna spoke in her own defence. Adrianna knelt down over the body of the fallen English Captain, still expecting the Captain to return to life. Drawing back the ruffle of his jacket Adrianna retrieved an ornate cross centred by a blood red jewel, the insignia of the Templar order. Velia accepted the offered trinket from her counterpart, holding it up to the light to test its authenticity.
"If the Templars are already aware of our presence it can only be because of that stunt at the docks" Velia said, turning to her companions. "This could compromise our entire operation"
"That 'stunt' was what allowed us to get out of the port in the first place" Alessia was first to interject in her friend's defence.
"We could have found another way" Velia persisted, having spent her life crafting a hunting style based around precision and subtlety only to see it go up in flames.
"And by the time we made it to England the Templars meeting would already be over" Alessia persisted. "It's not Adrianna's fault, she wouldn't do anything-"
"Do not allow your personal attachments to interfere with the assignment" Velia retorted.
"Do not speak to me of attachments" Alessia snapped. "We all have a personal stake in this assignment"
"Which is why we cannot afford to risk the assignment on someone who is a liability" Velia said.
Alessia refused to falter. "Adrianna is here under Master Auditoures instruction-"
"Do not use the Masters name as a shield" Variya pointed an accusing finger at Alessia. "Your history with her should not afford her any special privileges now"
"I am afraid I have to agree with Velia" Fina interjected. While her companions had been consumed debating amongst themselves Fina had taken it up on herself to treat their wounded ferryman. Having treated the wound with medicine she had bandaged it as best she could with the few supplies she had to hand. Fina raised herself to her feet and rose to join the ongoing discussion. "If her actions continue to work counter to the objective we can ill afford to have her"
"But she did the right thing, both here and at the docks" Alessia pleaded. "She has done nothing but risk her life to assist the mission"
"She was lucky both times" Velia said. "How can we be certain our luck will continue?"
In the wake of the unanticipated delay the Schooner was brought back to its original course, bound for the southern coast of England. To conceal the fate of the English patrol the ship was scuttled with all hands aboard. As far as the world at large would know it was an accident, a tragic loss of life with none to blame but the sea.
Fina took position at the tiller, guiding the ship beneath the watchful eye of their injured Captain. Velia resumed methodically cleaning and preparing their weapons for the coming task. Adrianna sought to keep herself busy, useful and distant from her high-strung companions and set about removing the lingering blood stains. It was vital that everything appeared normal by the time they reached the port, cleaning the deck seemed an appropriate task for a novice of the group.
Alessia appeared next to Adrianna, taking up another cloth she began cleaning a stain on the deck beside her. In their previous life the very thought that the future lady of the household would be on her knees scrubbing the floor would be utterly unthinkable. As the two friends continued to work side by side Adrianna was the first to fill the silence between them. "Velia hates me doesn't she?"
"A rather blunt question" Alessia replied, noticeably she did not deny it. "Velia is a complicated person. She is not the kind of person to rush into action, preferring to act with thought and precision. She takes time before she can trust another person"
"And what about Fina?" Adrianna asked.
"Fina is a wonderfully creative and loyal person" Alessia said. "Once you are accepted by her she will not hesitate to lay down her life for you. Betray her, and she will find no end of creative of ways to inflict pain"
"You seem to know them both quite well" Adrianna said.
"We've been working together continuously since I departed. You tend to form attachments with people you find in a similar situation as yourself" Alessia reached out to clasp Adrianna's forearm in her hand. "Just try to keep it together once we reach England"
Adrianna gave a low chuckle. "You sound like a mother scolding her daughter"
"Perhaps I do" Alessia replied. "But it's only because I don't want to see us return to the three-person team"