Eagles and Chickens
Aleca laughed, bright and happy. Baulk's laughter followed, deep and rich. Apprentice and teacher. Baulk, however, was not a master. Talented as he was, and brave. He had even already had his first kill. Almost everyone had except him and Aleca. The girl was too new to the order. He was youngest, and as he peaked around the corner to look at the burly man and lithe girl, he felt nothing but jealousy. He wished he wasn't awkward.
He looked down at his gray robes in thought. There was stitch lines when Annetta had fitted his robes, because his legs were too long and his arms too short. He felt his face with his hand, feeling the beginnings of stubble and the ridges of blemishes. And ugly duckling surround by swans... No... A chicken surrounded by Eagles. He was ugly, and didn't belong.
He sighed again, moving back and out of sight. Why did he even join this group? He turned, feeling he had to prove himself somehow. He ended colliding with the Master himself. He must have had more momentum then he expected. He was knocked back and over onto his rump, the Master stumbled, but caught himself. It seemed he was always falling while everyone else was flying.
"Mi dispiace, Maestro." He stared at the floor between his legs, hoping his cowl hid the reddening of his face.
A soft chuckle, deep, but lighter than Baulk's. He glanced up minutely, to find a calloused hand outstretched to help him to his feet. The Master himself... What a screw up he was, to actually make the Master look upon him. He lowered his head further.
Ezio made a scoffing noise, making the teenager look at him sharply. "Stop acting like a starving dog caught stealing. You've done nothing wrong."
He swallowed his shame, and took the offered hand. The Master practically lifted him off the ground by himself, and all that shame and self-loathing bubbled back up to the surface. He stood in still silence, waiting for the Master to move one, but he seemed disinclined. Aleca and Baulk laughed again, seeming muffled by the wall.
"Why are you hiding-" he cut himself off suddenly, the shadows making it impossible for the teen to read his face.
Suddenly, the older man lifted his head and tilted it in a way that made the light shine on his tan Tuscan face, revealing the half subdued grin. To have such an expression on him, directed at him, to have been caused by him made all the shame wash away as if it had never been present. He tried to not to grin in return.
Never mind, it was back. His face reddened. "N-no!"
Ezio laughed. "Come, I've been waiting to show you, but I think you're ready." The Master didn't give him time to answer, didn't even slow down. He just walked right out the door he had come in only minutes before. The teen followed obediently, hearing Aleca call his name as she peeked from around the corner. He hated his name, and cringed upon hearing it. It wasn't like any of the beautiful Latin names that surrounded him. Ezio, Annetta, Gustavo, Niccolo. Harry Henry! That was what his brother used to call him. It wasn't that creative, as he didn't have a hair on his body.
The drop into the Tiber was long, and filled with the threat of hitting the dock if you didn't push off far enough. Ezio walked out onto the gangplank, or rather the Eagle perch, balancing perfectly, as usual. Henry had heard of this. The Master tendency to pretend he could fly. The way he was standing, you would believe he could. There was no fear in his stance, to tension considering that if he slipped, he wouldn't ever fly again, even if he did live. That thought made him sad, and he thought about warning his Master to be careful.
"What do you see?"
What an odd question, as well as a bit prolific. "Roma." He answered, hoping it the right one. The Maestro nodded, pointing off into the distance.
"Yes, and who lives there?"
"The enemy of the Brotherhood."
"What is our Creed?"
"Nothing is true. Everything is permitted."
He took a step back, looking at Henry. "Step out onto the perch."
"What?" He spoke too quickly. The Master looked at him sharply, a gleam in his eyes. "Uh, are you sure?" He tried to cover himself up, but it was as if the sharp gaze of the older man cut right through him and bore his soul for all to see.
Ezio gave him a sharp look, a silent command. Henry didn't hesitate, even as the fear rose up in him as he moved out to balance on the eagle perch. He looked down as the street far below, feeling sick all of a sudden. He was afraid of heights, chickens couldn't fly after all.
"Close you eyes."
He wanted to object again, but knew better this time. Besides, he didn't think he could turn his head to look at his master without loosing his balance. He closed his eyes.
"What do you see?"
He opened his eyes to look down on Rome again. "Roma," he answered.
"Do not look. Feel. Close your eyes, and stretch your senses. When you do it, you'll understand."
He had to admire the Master's patience. He closed his eyes, concentrated. At first there was nothing. He couldn't hear anything up here except the wind, and the occasional sound from the street.
"The Creed." Ezio repeated.
"Nothing is true. Everything is permitted." The wind that caressed his face, lifted his robes, the smell of orange trees could be smelled across the river, their scent intoxicatedly sweet. Sounds drifted up to him, the sound of people in conversation, the sound of horses and their hooves clopping across the cobblestone. He could here the shores of the Tiber as it crashed up against the docks and walls. The sound of cannon fire could be heard in the far distance, and that was brought him back to earth. Standing up here, listening and feeling, he could see the sickness. He could feel the pain of the people far below him, as if he was the only one in the sky. "Nothing is true." He finally understood. Reality does not exist, limitation could be exceeded. "Everything is permitted." No limitations left a world of boundless opportunity. The illusions of control were suddenly washed away, the fear of consequences gone forever.
It was like this that he could actually feel his master moving behind him. Small calculated steps, heels first, then toes; the gentle swish of robes, and the crunch of dust beneath his boots. The way he favored his right side; he had never noticed it before, never thought to close his eyes and listen.
Because of this, he had some semblance warning before the Assassin pounced, but still lacked the skills to be able to avoid. The next thing he knew however, was that Ezio had slammed into him from behind and they were both plummeting toward the water below. He watched in a strange, passive state of calm, as the world slowed down around him. They both fell, Ezio let go, disciplining his body into a shape to lessen the impact with the water. He followed hastily, straightening out his legs, the water coming up to meet him. Closer and closer, then nothing.
Suffocating, thick as syrup. The wind was gone, the water was cold. Something grabbed his cowl and pulling him along, pulling him toward light. He thought for a moment that he was dead. That didn't seem to bother him, because he had tasted freedom, and that was all he needed. He closed his eyes, allowed himself to sink into the depths of cold darkness, ignoring the insistent tug.
Something hard and sharp suddenly jabbed itself into his ribcage. Knocking the little wisp of air out of him. He look up, or at least tried to, through the murky water, at the white blob above. He swore it was an angel, but something told him otherwise. He wanted him to follow, so he moved his arms and legs into motion, suddenly aware of the burning in his lungs. He fought for the surface, finally coming up sputtering and gasping, but so was the angel beside him.
Now he realized, with some embarrassment that his angel was one of Roma's most notorious demons. Ezio was scowling at him. "You did good on entry, but you need to start moving at soon as you hit the water. I've sprained my ankle a few times in Venice because I sank too low too fast and hit the bottom of the river."
Henry suddenly grinned. "We were flying, Master!"
Ezio's scowl suddenly washed away, replaced by a grin. "Yeah. That was what I said my first time."
They swam to the shore, people staring at them, but they didn't care. Henry look back up at the tower he had just jumped from. The overwhelming urge to do it again bubbled up so strong in him it surprised him. He sighed. "Who taught you, Master?"
The ghost of loss shadowed across his face. "My brother did, when I was sixteen."
A new found respect for his teacher rose in him. He had taught him something valuable, something that set him apart, he hoped. His admiration, the open awe for the older man was replaced by what he could only describe as loyalty. He was a chicken among eagles, but maybe he had yet to grow, yet to learn to fly.
Afterward: Another character introduction. Henry is the angsty teenager with a self-hate problem. This one seemed to move really fast, which is always my problem, but I can't find something to improve it yet.