Desmond stood on the roof of the tower. It was just past noon and the sun was burning hot as ever. A dry breeze tugged his loose threadbare robes and be turned his face to the scent of the desert outside the walls of the city.
Looking down to the cobblestones below he took an easy step towards the edge of the roof. This was it. No going back. He took a deep breath, standing there, eyes closed, and just felt the abyss that was just a step away.
He spread his arms and....
He startled, just barley managing to catch himself before he stumbled over the edge. Turning around he was faced with Altair and Ezio, pulling themselves onto the roof as well.
He flinched violently at the sight of them, huddling in on himself meekly. "What do you think you are doing?" Ezio demanded. Desmond looked down, shivering in fear.
"I am sorry to have been neglecting my duties sirs. And I promise you I never meant for Sir Malik to think me a brother. I know it is not a title I would ever be worthy of."
The two Master assigns flinched back as if struck. Desmond was clueless to the pain in their expressions as he looked instead at his feet. Not daring to meet their eyes.
"You are not in trouble Desmond, but we must ask that you step away from the edge." The Italian cajoled. Desmond looked up at the two with wide eyes, before realising he had just looked them in the eyes and averted his gaze violently. Somehow makeing himself seem even smaller.
Ezio and Altair felt their hearts clench, how had they not seen how hurt the boy was? How he suffered? Even with the orbs manipulations they should have realised something was wrong.
"I can't." The youngest said shaking, as the other two tensed. "I'm sorry but, but I just can't."
"Desmond..." Ezio said softly, worried,
The fledgling screamed, becoming hysterical, "You don't understand. I shouldn't be here! I shouldn't exist! I should have died in the grand temple! Now...now I am setting things right."
His voice faded to a whisper by the end, and he glanced over his shoulder, over the edge, to the ground hundreds of feet below.
The two elder assassins tensed. They knew there was nothing below to catch the youngest except the hard embrace of the cobblestones. He would not survive the impact.
Both of them lunged for him, he stepped over the edge, arms spread as if embracing the sky as he fell backwards. Someone cried out, though none of those watching were sure who.
They lunged to catch the falling fledgling. Ezio missed by mere centimeters, instead collapsing upon the stone, Altair had more luck. He grasped onto Desmond's bandaged arm, the same wrist Malik had grabbed earlier.
Desmond was jerked to a stop, Ezio grabbed Altair's waist to ensure he was not pulled over the edge as well, there was a pop, and the most blood curdling scream anyone had ever heard. It echoed through the castle and into the town below. Chilling those who heard it to the bone.
Desmond's shoulder had dislocated. The boy fell unconscious from the pain, and the two Master assassins were quick to drag him to safety.
He looked so gaunt laying there on the cot. The white sheets only seemed to make him look paler. His eyes were sunken in and surrounded by dark bags. Altair and Ezio sat at his bedside in stony stalwart silence.
His arm was unwrapped, it was the first time they had seen the limb uncovered. It looked awful, the flesh seemed to play at being healthy, but it was blackened unnaturally. The healers were baffled by it. It looked painful.
Other than the dislocated wrist and shoulder, they found Desmond also had ELEVEN bruised ribs, two broken ones he had set himself at least a month ago, one recently fractured rib, a twisted ankle, four broken fingers he had set himself two of which had been re broken, a fractured clavicle, a myriad of cuts and bruises, and a nasty head wound meaning he most probably also suffered a concussion. He was severely underweight, mildly dehydrated and was suffering acute and extreme exhaustion.
When they had first brought Desmond to the castles hospital chambers, the healers had been reluctant to even assess his injuries. From what they have found out, after the first few times he was turned away by the doctors he had given up on trying completely.
He had apparently been treating all his own injuries for the past six months, and the evidence clearly shows there have been a lot.
Altair vaguely remembers a complaint from the Master Healer about the whole thing, claiming Desmond was harassing the medical staff. He can faintly recall yelling at him for it, before punishing him with some inane but difficult chore.
Looking back on the whole thing he recalls in the most clarity, the fact that Desmond didn't even attempt to defend himself. At the time he had justified it as an admission of guilt. Now however he had the distinctly uncomfortable feeling it was more because Desmond knew that Altair wouldn't listen. That the mentor wouldn't care.
The thought made his heart twist in his chest, a novice should never think that their mentor wouldn't take care of them. A mentor's duty was to take care of and guide those that lived under his protection. Rashid had twisted the title to his own purposes, and now Altair himself had failed in his duties as a mentor in spectacular fashion.
He was little better than the very man who had used the Apple to enslave his own brothers, and Desmond had suffered for Altair's failures. It was like Kadar and Malik all over again.
They had uncovered a lot of things about Desmond in the day he had been unconscious.
Malik was on the warpath, terrorizing the entirety of Masyaf in his blind rage. The Dai was ruthless in compiling together every wrong Desmond suffered in his time with them. It was a shamefully long list, and the number of guilty parties far outweighed the number of innocent.
Desmond continued to lay there unresponsive, breathing labored and ragged. Altair and Ezio had not gotten any sleep that night. Instead finding themselves witness to Desmond having blatant and violent night terrors.
The fact that his screams were silent, even as he thrashed and cried and writhed, like a man possessed, made it all the more disturbing to watch the continuous agonized contortions of his body.
They had had to resort to holding him down, strapping him to the cot with leather belts, when he had begun clawing at himself. That was another thing they had noticed, the scars littering his body, his shoulder blades especially, scars and scabs that looked to have been consistently reopened as he clawed at his back in blind unconscious terror. Still more wounds to add to the growing list.
Malik entered the room, the medics and it a point to avoid him as he marched over to them. Face like thunder and eyes dark and dark and cutting as a desert sandstorm. The healers present made a point of staying at least five feet away from the Dai at all times. Understandable after the usually rational man broke the Master Healer's jaw.
Altair only regretted he had not gotten the chance himself, the way the man had tried to actually sabotage and neglect Desmond's healing. He obviously was not deserving of his title. Ezio had already insured that the man's replacement would not make the same mistakes.
It wasn't enough however to make up for the wrongs they had piled onto the broken winged fledgling though. They didn't think anything would be enough to make up for all that Desmond had suffered because of their weakness, because of their ignorance and negligence, and pure petty spite.
They were the ones who did not take proper precautions with the orb. They were the ones who had left themselves, their brothers, and every one else in Masyaf castle and the surrounding city unprotected to the dangers of the malevolence within the artefact.
They could only hope that there was something left of Desmond to heal.