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October, 25 th 1776


Esteemed Sir,

Years have passed and I have had no news of how my brothers in the Americas are faring. Of course my loyalties lie with the Order, not its leaders nor members, yet I believe the news I have should be viewed by none other than Grandmaster Kenway or his successor, should he no longer hold the position.

I believe my mission to be nearing its end. Leads had taken me to Constantinople in 1766, and although I did not make it in time to stop the foolish Assassin who was in possession of the box at the time, the renewed use of the artefact had me discover vital information in the aftermath of the earthquake that reached the city. As opposed to our earlier beliefs the box and manuscript are not simply tools that lead to those unspeakable places. Glimpsed at with the proper knowledge and equipment, the manuscript holds a multitude of information itself, but the box is bound to lead to destruction if used unwisely. It is designed to protect the information it holds at all costs, which is what caused the disasters in the past. However, I believe to now be able to use the box and manuscript alike to unravel all their mysteries once both are in our possession.

Following the Assassin's traces led me all around the world, and then back to the French Colony of Saint-Domingue, not too far from our home port. Apparently they too sought to acquire more knowledge from the precursors by revisiting old sites. Luck was on my side this time however. The only Assassin who knew what I knew did not survive reactivating the site.

I not only got hold of the artefact, but upon closer inspection found that the site at Saint-Domingue is directly connected to a much larger room. The way had been blocked before the Assassin - most likely inadvertently - stumbled upon yet another safety measure. Much like the burning beams of light we encountered before, it cremated him on the spot when he couldn't move out of its way fast enough. My second sight let me avoid further traps until I found myself in a workshop of sorts. That might be the best I can describe it, given the restriction of words and the possibility of the letter being intercepted. More artefacts and information might be stored behind the halls we are acquainted with, if my speculations are correct. Those seem to be the actual sites, protected by the likes of the places we have set foot inside so far. Revisiting all the other precursor sites known to us would most likely provide the much needed confirmation.

Although the box was in my possession and I intended to return at once, fate once more seemed to have quite different plans.

I was captured and detained, the box taken from me upon my incarceration. How they overlooked the manuscript is beyond me, but it is still safe with me. Days passed, then weeks and months. No ship arrived to take us back to France. At that point I was almost sure we would all die and rot before we ever made it to France where we were to be convicted. It is no small wonder that I ended up in Europe once again. Only thanks to the influence our French brothers have gained was I not sentenced to death.

The names François and Julie de la Serre should have a familiar ring, if I am not mistaken. It is to them who I owe my life. Madame de la Serre assured me of their continued support of our cause, and it is with additional knowledge from the French Rite that I hope to locate the current possessor of the box before the change in weather will make safe passage to New York impossible for the remainder of the year. With the help of a man Madame de la Serre trusts, it should be no problem to make preparations and be ready to depart within hours of retrieving the artefact.

Yours respectfully,

Shay Patrick Cormac

Chapter Text

Paris, November 1776


The sun rose slowly over the foggy roofs of Paris, the cold and wet morning air covering the city in an otherworldly glow that the people in the streets down below would never see. Merchants and beggars started to fill the streets while the other half of Paris was still asleep. Shay knew by now that the man he sought to find could most probably afford a lie in, but he had to be on the lookout for anything unusual. Even if his leads had not taken him to the man yet, understanding this city and what was happening in it might be crucial to making a safe escape when the time came. And so he was up with the first of light, roaming the roofs of France's impressive capital, familiarizing himself with possible hideouts and the fastest ways in and out of almost any place his search could take him to. He had never been a man to sit and wait for information, he was much more the kind of man who would up and go find them himself, but things were different in France and he had to adapt or risk getting into trouble and losing the box again.

Although the time spent in prison had considerably weakened him, it was with ease that he now made his way around the city. Old friends of Grandmaster Kenway, the de la Serres, had taken him in, given him a place to stay and train, recover, and prepare for what surely lay ahead. Proper meals and sparring did wonders for his condition. But not his patience. By the time December came, Shay was back to his old self and although the weather was trying, he had his mind set on finding Charles Dorian as soon as the box was in his possession.

Charles Dorian, the name rang clear in his head - the man who was the next in line to keep the box safe and therefore Shay's prime target.

One of the Templar's contacts by the docks had overheard a number of dubious arrangements being made. Shay had spoken to the man and was sure it was about the box's arrival. However, the merchant ship that was to carry it would be heavily guarded by royal guards and a few of Dorian's men. On the outside it would seem like they were escorting valuable cargo that was to be presented at Versailles during a merchant meeting with the King. It was a clever move indeed. Charles Dorian had enough influence and money to afford such a gesture without it seeming out of the ordinary.

Shay mentally applauded them.

It might keep him from taking the box before it was handed to Dorian, but he couldn't be sure these would be their only safety measures. The box could be switched and he would get in trouble for nothing. It was safest to wait for a better opportunity that was sure to present itself sooner than later.

It made no difference to Shay who it was he had to get past to get the box. Just that as of now he hadn't found a way to get a closer look at the man, he had never even seen him at all. The Assassin remained a mystery. Apparently some of them were indeed able enough to hide in plain sight, although Shay was sure his Eagle Vision would have picked up on him, had he encountered him already. Whenever he caught wind of where the man was supposed to be and when, the plans had been changed again and someone else showed up in his stead. It was a wild goose chase at best.


 
Shay had just come back to the de la Serres’ townhouse to get started on his writing. The day had been uneventful and he thought he could get a few pages into his translation of the manuscript. His years of hunting Assassins and time spent travelling had given him insights into the language of the manuscript. Memories of his old acquaintance James Cook had spurred him on to try and take a different approach eventually. It had taken Shay a few years and a drunken escapade to realize the manuscript was useless to anyone who wasn't capable of using Eagle Vision, however, even then it was still protected by a complicated cipher. Or so he thought. Eventually it turned out not to be a complicated cipher as much as an extraordinarily old one that Cook had mentioned once. Of course, the other Captain's expertise lay with maps, but given that more than half the manuscript was written in pictures more than words, the system seemed applicable. And so Shay had given it a try. It still took time that he did not always have. The progress in turn was slow but steady.

He only just made it through the front doors before he noticed the house was busier than usual. The number of servants seemed to have doubled since he left for his daily rounds that morning. A couple of maids whirled past him in hasty steps when he turned his head towards the stairs and found Julie de la Serre smiling softly from a little way above. “Monsieur Cormac, it is good to see you,” she greeted him as she descended the last few steps. “And back in proper health too, if my eyes do not betray me.”

“Madame, it's all thanks to your generous help,” Shay agreed, taking the offered hand and softly touching her knuckles with his lips, “I was not aware you would travel to the city this week.”

“It was certainly not our plan to do so when we last spoke, but my husband has important business to attend in Paris. I am afraid he might be too busy to tend to all of his duties,” Julie explained in her usual calm yet decisive tone.
“So I take it you will fill in for him with the Order for the time being?” he inquired.

“I might. Now that we are here though, I will try to arrange a meeting with Grandmaster Beauparlant for you.”

“That is too kind of you, but I'm sure it would help my cause immensely to have his support.”

A few days later Shay accompanied Julie de la Serre. According to her words “The only thing the Grandmaster loves more than being wealthy is proving said fact.” And so it was no surprise when their carriage passed the vast expanse of Tuileries Gardens and a while later came to a halt in front of a mansion rather than a townhouse that most nobility seemed to prefer.

Julie had warned him of the man and his antics the evening before when she had announced their plans for the following day. “We should probably find you a more fitting attire.” she had added with a half-smile while her husband suppressed an eye-roll.

“He looks just fine, leave the man alone.”, François had scolded. “My dear, you haven't seen a fine young man in years,” and before Shay could point out that he was indeed older than Monsieur de la Serre, she added: “Uh-Uh-Uh, I won't take no for an answer.”
The men had sighed in unison and accepted her decision, unable to change her mind even if they tried.


 
As they exited the carriage, Shay offered his arm. Julie gladly took the offer. “Just keep that up and you will do fine,” she said, patting his arm.
“Your words sound reassuring, but I have never felt so out of place,” Shay admitted. “Things are much simpler in America. I would never have to wear... this... just to speak to the Grandmaster.”

He pulled at the sleeve of his dark red coat, the material heavy from the sheer number of layers and much more impractical than he was used to – clearly an attire not made to be worn on a day to day basis. And much less so by a man in his line of work.

“Haytham has always been a little different in the way he handled things. Maybe not so different from you, but very much so in contrast to us French Templars. Now stop fiddling,” she admonished.

Two servants opened the wide doors to let their guests into the vestibule where Beauparlant's steward greeted them formally before leading them through wide halls and corridors, up an arched staircase to a drawing room on the second floor. The entrance hall shone in bright whites and golds. Every step they took resounded with the white, unblemished marble floors while portraits in golden frames stared down at them as if judging. It took them longer than Shay had expected to reach the west wing. By the time they were led through heavy oak doors, waiting for the steward to fetch the Grandmaster, he was sure the long walk only served one purpose – to impress and intimidate visitors. It was a strategy Shay had noticed on his journeys during the past years, one that he was not very fond of himself. But he knew if he hoped to receive any support at all, he would have to play along, even if it meant reining his temper in for the time being.

Just moments later another set of doors opened and a rather short and stocky man entered the spacious room. Julie took a few steps toward him, “Bonjour, Monsieur Beauparlant . Comment allez-vous?” she greeted.

Madame de la Serre, bonjour, bonjour, bien, merci.” he answered matter-of-factly, taking the offered hand and softly kissing Julie's knuckles. His eyes were trained on Shay all the while. “Ah, ce est que lui?

Oui, je vous présente Shay Patrick Cormac - notre frère américain.” Julie introduced.

Shay waited patiently, but took it his turn to speak when both Julie and Beauparlant looked at him expectantly. “Bonjour, Monsieur Beauparlant .” he began, “It's an honour meeting you.”

In an instant Beauparlant's pleasant expression slipped from his face, replaced by one of curious disdain. “How uncouth, he speaks no French.”

Shay took a deep breath, remembering his vow to play along. It's for the greater good, he told himself.

“I'm afraid I was bought up as a simple man, in a seafarer's family...” he tried to explain that he understood French to a certain extent, but spoke only very little of it. But Beauparlant went on as if Shay hadn't spoken at all.

“Regardless. We hear he has been in Paris for a while. The way in which he arrived had Us worried. But We have had no word of his doings since.” He looked Shay up and down for a moment, then started to walk around him, seemingly trying to assess from all angles. “Seeing him here today tells Us his mission is giving him unexpected trouble.”

“Indeed, Sir,” Shay turned to follow Beauparlant's steps behind him, “My resources in France are rather limited, even more so after my imprisonment. I had hoped a few of your French brothers may be able to assist me.”

The Grandmaster stopped in his steps, pondering this for a moment.

“While We dislike the idea of Our men wasting their time on anything but Our plans for this country, We are inclined to consider it. Certainly, if it meant this preposterous meddling in Our business would come to an end. But first, he shall tell Us about this mission of his.”

Again, the American Templar had to bite his tongue and Julie patted his arm in reassurance.
Monsieur, I am sure you have heard of the Precursors, Those Who Came Before...”

Mon dieu!” Beauparlant barked. “Has he not realised Master Birch is dead? We no longer waste our time chasing ghosts and fairytales!”

“With all due respect, Sir. They did exist and their artefacts pose a real threat to the world. Master Kenway himself sent me to-”, Shay explained, still holding onto his calm.

“Kenway?!” Beauparlant raised his voice.

“Yes, Monsieur. It is his order and my highest priority to recover this very dangerous object, currently in the possession of the Assassins.”

“He may not be aware of this, but neither Master Kenway nor his men are welcome in France, let alone Paris, after what he has done. If that self-important Englishman hadn't killed Reginald Birch, the European Order would never have split up.”

“I mean no disrespect, but shouldn't you be grateful?” Shay took a step towards the Grandmaster and snapped, “After all, without his actions you wouldn't be Grandmaster today.”

“Enough! He will leave this city! Immédiatement!” Beauparlant yelled.

Julie winced.

“See to it!” he ordered, “I don't wish to hear another word of this! This madness has no place in France!”

 

Chapter Text

The next morning Shay was almost resigned to leaving France. If his French brothers were going to look for him he would have to disappear for a while, find another way back into the country if the Grandmaster had someone escort him to the border, as he expected. When he mentioned his temporary plan over breakfast, François chuckled. “No need to rush into things. Beauparlant, in some ways, is much like a dog. He barks, but he won't bite. Not if you don't do things right under his nose anyway.”

“We will simply have to be a little more careful.” Julie added. “Don't worry.”

Shay still felt rather uncomfortable with the situation, unsure whether it was truly safe for him to continue his investigations as before.

“Actually, I hoped you might be able to assist me with a little errand today. I don't think anyone would question my company.” François leaned back in his chair, sipping coffee. “Supplies have vanished from some of the poorer districts. Food, mainly. The people aren't too pleased, as you may imagine, blaming King Louis XVI. for the shortage. I'd like to find out who is responsible for this. We don't need revolting commoners in times like this. If the country is to be stable enough to face the future, we need the support of the populace” he explained calmly. “I believe you are more than familiar with where disputes between the people lead, over in the colonies. Although the situations can't quite be compared.”

Over the rim of his own cup Shay looked forth and back between François and Julie. “Of course. I'd gladly accompany you.” He knew Julie didn't exactly share her husband’s opinions in that regard, but with any luck Shay could get a look behind the scenes, discover a Templar plot or another and know which places and situations to avoid in the near future in order to remain unseen.



The market place near the riverside was busy when they arrived, although the morning crowd had dissipated already. Most common people, Shay had learnt weeks ago, preferred to do their shopping in the early hours of the morning before wealthier people or their servants had time and opportunity to snatch up more than their fair share of the already scarce goods. Wooden boards were laid out on the ground to let people tread more easily amongst the otherwise muddy rows of stands. It did little to keep them from almost slipping every other step, but at least they didn't sink ankle-deep into the mud.

De la Serre was sure they would be most successful if they kept to the poorer parts of the city. Him looking every bit a nobleman would surely cause talk, if not confrontation. After all, it was easier to have information come to them instead of chasing it. Shay could relate all too well, having been forced to acquire information the hard way all his life. And talk there was. The minute they had gotten near the market, de la Serre had asked Shay to stay a little ways behind, take to the roofs if he could do so unnoticed, and keep his eyes open for anyone who could mean harm or tried to leave the area all too fast.

And so Shay did. It was liberating to pretend he only had immediate orders to care about for a while. He found a spot on a wooden beam between two houses from where he had a clear view of the square below and let his senses take over.

None of the merchants stood out to him at first. Neither did the people.

Some of the guards seemed to sympathize with their cause, but they were few and in between.

Here and there commoners spoke in hushed voices when they noticed de la Serre.

It was only as he strained his eyes to read the movements of their lips that he heard it – a quiet whisper, almost distant but clearly originating from within his own head. In a few swift moves Shay had made for the roof of the building on his right, trying to follow the whisper. All fear of what the voices meant had left him long ago. Now they were a mere annoyance, a device to find his enemies at most.

But as sudden as they had appeared, they had gone.

The realization made Shay stop dead in his tracks. Had he imagined them after all? Had the Assassin just been passing by? It couldn't be. The timing was too perfect.

Shay made for the balcony of the next house and waited, looking over the crowd once again. And then he spotted them, their silhouettes blurred by smudges of red. Two men, dressed like farmers, but not quite fitting in, spoke to a merchant near the centre of the market. A bag of coins was dropped in the farmer's trembling hands, directions were given, and then the two men turned to leave.

Shay hurried back down to the streets, walking towards the men who were now just a few meters ahead of him. He pushed past the last group of chattering women the exact moment de la Serre stepped in front of him. He came to a sudden halt, trying not to lose sight of the men.

“I know them. They are our brothers.” de la Serre explained. “Teach them a lesson, but don't kill them. We might yet need them.”

“And their disappearance might not go unnoticed for long... As you wish. I'll find out what I can without harming them... too much.” At that the French Templar had to stifle a laugh. “Very well. I will have a chat with our merchant friend over there.”

Before de la Serre could take so much as a step in said direction, Shay grabbed for his arm and stopped him. With the most serious face François had yet seen on him, Shay whispered “Be careful though. I haven't spotted them yet, but I'm sure some of our Assassin friends are nearby.”

François nodded while holding Shay's gaze. “I see.”

Seconds later Shay hurried after the two Templar henchmen who had just disappeared around a corner and were momentarily out of sight.

It took him a moment to spot them on the much busier street they had entered. For a while he followed them amongst the throng of people. Occasionally he would stay behind, pretend to read a poster or fetch a newspaper, but he would always make sure they could see him if they turned around.

It was a dangerous game and he knew it, but he hoped that if he made them nervous and paranoid enough they would try to get away from the busier streets and try their luck in the small alleys Shay knew all too well by now. One wrong turn and they would find themselves facing a dead end where he could confront them.

Next time one of the men turned around Shay gave a curt nod. The man's eyes widened in shock, then he nudged his companion. When he, too, turned to see what had upset the other, Shay smiled pleasantly. The second man gulped visibly. And just as Shay had anticipated, they made for the next best alleyway When they turned to see if he was still behind them, he was long out of sight, following them on the rooftops.

The two Frenchmen were taking hasty step after hasty step, each and every one of them taking them closer to where Shay wanted them. They took a turn to their right. Shay's shadow hit the wall beside them and they almost fell over each other trying to get away faster. At the next fork in the road the Templar cut lose a crate that dangled in the air two storeys above the street. It hit the ground just in front of the panicked men and released a small amount of gas that would slow them down. The men fled in the opposite direction and Shay took to the streets once most of the gas had dispersed, following them at a leisurely pace. There was nowhere they could go from there. He knew and they would find out very soon.

It's a trap!” one of them cursed.
He's going to kill us!” the other almost whimpered. Dazed as they were from the gas they didn't notice Shay until he calmly stepped out of the shadows. “Fret not, I'm above killing my own brothers.” he smiled wickedly. “Oh wait, I'm Shay Patrick Cormac.”

If possible, the two men became even paler at the mention of his name. Apparently Shay's reputation indeed preceded him and for the first time it worked in his favour.

“But you're in luck. I didn't come to kill you. Merely to chat about what happened at the market earlier.”
“I don't know what you mean!” one of them huffed. He was a scrawny man, tall and surely nearing his fifties. The other was shorter by a few inches and even younger than Shay himself.

“Of course, you don't. But I'm sure our merchant friend does. Would you rather I 'end' things here and have a chat with him instead?”
“You can't do that.” the second man said in disbelief.

“I assure you, I can. My orders come from way above. And you're clearly not here on the Grandmaster's orders. He wouldn't allow you to start a riot amongst the commoners. What do you think he would say if he came to know of your little adventure?” Shay boldly pressed on. “Now, will you tell me what you were doing there? Besides the obvious?”

He slowly started to push his sleeves up when the gas took full effect and the scrawny man dropped to the ground, unconscious. “No, please, I can't tell you ” the younger man backed away until his back was pressed against the wall behind him. “ If I tell anyone, they will kill me for sure.

Shay raised an eyebrow and then the other man, too, slid to the ground, momentarily unconscious. Knowing he only had a few minutes at best, Shay tied the men up with rope he found nearby. Once each one of them was secured by hands and feet he bound their legs together, making it impossible for them to get up. Then he sat down on a crate and waited.



Before long Shay was back at the market place where he had left de la Serre to have a talk with the merchant. The moment he stepped out of an alley and onto the square though, a flash of red caught his eye. It was gone the moment people pushed past him. The quiet whisper stood out prominently against the busy talk of the people around him. He made his way over to the two men, keeping his eyes open and switching to Eagle Vision to be prepared should an Assassin strike.

“Monsieur Dupont and I had just begun to wonder if you had taken care of matters with the two gentlemen.” François greeted him. Absentmindedly Shay was wiping at his coat sleeves that had some splotches of crimson on them that hadn't been there when he had left de la Serre's side earlier.

“I have. They shouldn't bother him or his family again.” Shay said.
“Splendid. I only wondered if- Shay?”

The Assassin had unmistakably come closer now going by the volume of the whispers in Shay's head. Squinting his eyes in annoyed concentration he searched the now bigger crowd from where they stood. And that's when he saw them. Two scarlet red figures in the corner of his eye.

“Monsieur de la Serre, I believe our friends are here. These men” he gave the hint of a nod in their direction, “seem to be following you. I wasn't too sure earlier, but now I am. They might have heard everything.” Bowing slightly toward François he added in a whisper “Do you want me to take care of them as well?”

The merchant gulped. He didn't have to understand what the foreign man said to put two and two together. He had seen how Shay had tried to remove blood stains from his sleeve just minutes ago. François on the other hand took a quick look over his shoulder and smiled. “There will be no need for that. Monsieurs Dorian and Bellec won't cause us any problems.”

Being more confused than reassured Shay asked “How can you be so sure? They ARE Assassins.”

“Monsieur Dorian is a dear friend of mine. I happen to know his opinion on this matter and he very much agrees with me. If anything you would harm our cause if you harmed them.”

Shay wasn't happy with the explanation at all, for several reasons. But he figured that every once in a while the goals of Templars and Assassins did align in a way that would allow them to not be at each other's throats. Besides, the Templars would be the ones dealing with this situation. However, de la Serre having referred to one of them as Dorian twice now, Shay felt like he finally had a lead on the box. If Dorian was a friend of de la Serre though, he could no longer count on his support. From now on he would have to be careful what he told the other Templar.

Apparently a direct approach was out of question now, but at least he had a visual on the mysterious Assassin and would recognize him when a chance arose.

“I see. But may I be excused once they take their leave? I won't harm either of them, but they may be able to lead me to the man I seek.”

De la Serre could say nothing against that. After all Shay hadn't been too lucky finding Assassins in Paris, much less turning up much information relevant to his primary mission.

A while later Shay noticed one of the Assassins becoming more agitated by the second until his comrade pulled him away. Apparently that was Shay's cue. He excused himself and made to follow them at a safe distance. This time, he could not risk being detected.

The men seemed to argue in hushed voices. Their confident strides led them away from the busy streets and as soon as they were out of view they took to the roofs, Shay on their heels.
Remind me again why this is a good idea?! ” one of them hissed when they thought themselves out of anyone's earshot. Shay hid behind a row of chimneys and concentrated on catching every word. “ Trust me, Bellec,” Dorian started.

I do, I just don't-

And let me finish a sentence, if you will.” Dorian didn't seem fazed by his companion's rude antics. “You know as well as I do that our mission was to gather information. Find out what the Templars were planning and report back. No more than that.

Bellec huffed.

We did. And as it turns out these actions weren't sanctioned by the Grandmaster. So why not let the Templars figure this one out?

Because. They are Templars. And they cannot be trusted, pisspot.” Bellec pointed out.

Not more or less than any other man. But we have always been able to trust them to follow their Grandmaster's commands. And if some of them are not, well, why get our hands dirty and clean up their mess?” Dorian argued. “Besides, I know François and I know he agrees with us on this. He will do what it takes to assure the supplies reach the city from now on.

You can't know that!” Bellec bellowed.

Dorian looked over the city and took a deep breath. “Very well, I will talk to him. At the merchant meeting next month. It will have to wait until then.
At the merchant meeting. Of course. ” Bellec began, “ Have you completely lost your mind?!

He won't even be aware of what else is happening.” the other Assassin tried to set his comrade at ease.

It's too important. Don't even think about risking losing it because you are chatting with a 'friend'.” Bellec almost spat the last word. “It took months of preparation and we know that damn Templar brat is here somewhere just waiting for his chance to strike.

Dorian sighed. “You worry too much. We've been careful. Even if he figures out the time and place of the delivery, he won't even be able to get in there without a formal invitation.

A clear picture started to form in Shay's head. So Charles Dorian would get the box at the merchant meeting at Versailles. But de la Serre would be there as well and Shay could hardly ask him to find him a way to enter the palace grounds. No, he would have to find another way. And maybe that poster he had seen earlier while following the Templar henchmen would come in handy.

Not wanting to alert the Assassins to his presence he waited for the men to leave before he too was on his way, leaving Île de la Cité behind.

 

Chapter Text

Paris, December 1776


After that eventful day in November, Shay had a plan for the first time since he’d arrived in Paris. He had spent many days since then watching entrances to the palace and a few times sneaking into the grounds and narrowly avoiding being caught. The palace grounds were vast and Shay had a hard time mapping out all possible ways in and out. Even the guards' routes seemed to change. It was apparent that the king was surrounded by mistrusting Assassins and Templars who may each have given useful hints on how to keep danger out. Without drawing any attention to themselves, of course, but the very few openings Shay found spoke volumes of their influence.
When he was confident he knew what he could find out about Versailles he went back to Île de Cité. It was more of a gut feeling than any actual evidence that had him back in that part of the city.
Bellec and Dorian hadn't noticed him then. And Dorian had clearly mentioned that they were to report back with the information they had gathered. Since they hadn't parted ways, it was entirely possible that the Assassin hideout was somewhere around where he had last seen the two men. It was a stupid mistake not to think of this possibility then, but when it dawned on Shay, he was determined to get to the bottom of his speculations.

The streets weren't as crowded as he had expected and so he had to be careful to blend in. If this was indeed Assassin territory it might be a bad idea to take to the roofs. Instead Shay feigned interest in the random items merchants had to offer. That way he could take a look around without attracting too much attention.
Every once in a while he thought he saw unusual movement out of the corner of his eyes, but every time he turned around whoever it had been was long gone.
He moved on to the next store. This particular merchant seemed to specialize in carvings of all materials. There were brooches deserving to be called ostentatious, guns with ivory inlaid handles and little animals cut from amber. A tiny bear caught his eye, raising a smile from him before he could suppress it. The amber was a shade darker than the others and somehow it resembled the exact colour of his former first mate's hair when the sun was setting behind them. Maybe it was nostalgia, the memory of Gist's stories of hunting bears in the frontier so his men wouldn't starve, and maybe the hope of returning to America in a few weeks that made him purchase the little figurine. He put it in the same pocket of his coat that he kept the manuscript and translations in.

A little longer and Shay had walked once across the entirety of Île de Cité, without a proper hint of Assassin activity around him. Unlike in the market place before, there were no whispers or clear red shapes to be seen when he used his Eagle Vision every so often.
Just as he was about to call it a day though, he overheard a group of ladies, excitedly chattering about “ Monsieur Franklin ” and “ Does it not look just like his? Oh, I must have one!” When Shay turned around he found them gathering around the storefront of a hat shop that sold, to his astonishment, beaver-skin caps, the likes he had last seen in the Colonies.
It reminded him that Franklin had arrived in Paris a few days ago.
He had already spoken to Julie about the matter of finding him. She had assured him that a friend of hers would look into it.

Two days later a man by the name of Frederick Weatherall came to him with the information of where his old acquaintance Benjamin Franklin would take up residence once he arrived in Paris. A Monsieur de Chaumont, living in the village of Passy just outside of Paris, offered him lodging as his estate was more than big enough. He was a supporter of the American Revolution himself and felt it his duty to help in any way he could.


 
The day of the merchant meeting grew closer, and so was the day Shay was able to set his plan in motion. The very next morning he made a little trip to Passy. The village was peaceful, feeling much homier than the city of Paris. It reminded him of the outskirts of his own native city. Although the people here seemed to be wealthier by far than those he found in the villages surrounding New York.
The sun had reached its zenith by the time he found the estate. He asked a servant boy if he had seen Master Franklin and was informed that the man had left this morning and not returned yet. He had even missed luncheon.
That raised Shay's suspicions.
If they had expected him back by lunchtime, well. The man could simply be lost, but the Templar had long stopped believing in coincidences. He asked for directions and left in a hurry, hoping to find the man before someone else did.
At this point he wasn't even sure if the Templars or Assassins would make a move – probably the latter. With the box in their possession it was quite possible that they would pressure Franklin into telling them how he managed to draw the information from it before. After all, he and Hope were the only other people who had been there and knew about Franklin’s 'battery' or whatever he had called it. Without the manuscript there wasn't much the Assassins could do, but he would rather Franklin kept that secret anyway.

He ran across the roofs, keeping eyes and ears open for any hints of the man. Suddenly three man clad in much the same attire he had seen on colonial Assassin spies caught his attention. They were speaking in French, so fast that Shay barely understood a word. But he caught Franklin's name and something about catching him. That was really all the information Shay needed to know the Assassins would make a move and they would do it now.
He followed the men around corners until they reached a circular marketplace. Shay returned to street level, afraid that he would have to run around the place and lose precious time. That's when one of them caught wind of their pursuer. It cost him several moments that the Assassins used to split up.

Unable to follow all three of them he ran after the one closest to him. Just one alley further and he managed to tackle him, taking him down in the process. It was a swift kill that peasants wouldn't notice until he was long gone.

Another Assassin was turning left at the end of the street just as Shay looked up. A crowd formed where he threw coins behind him. There was no way the Templar could catch up if he tried to pass through the growing mob. Instead he quickly climbed the façade of the house to his left. The Assassin was still a red blur a little ahead. Not having to worry about people on the ground now, he caught up after three or four roofs.

The Assassin turned around to check if he had lost Shay. But he never saw him coming from above. Before the man even had time to wonder what was happening, the futile struggle for his life was over.

Shay found himself at a crossroads the exact moment the last Assassin ran out of another alley. For a quick moment their eyes met. The Assassin agent made a dash towards the opposite side of the small square, apparently thinking he could outrun the Templar. But he was mistaken, much like his comrades. He too met his demise in a matter of seconds.
The moment Shay drew back from the dead body a sudden yell of “Help! Somebody, help!” reached him.
Even after years the voice was hard to mistake; he had found Benjamin Franklin. And just in time. Grabbing the dead Assassin's guns he ran after Franklin and the four men following him.
They had the inventor cornered by the time Shay reached them. Franklin was cowering in the back of an alley, hardly daring to look up. Four shots rang through the streets before he looked around in astonishment.
The Templar approached him slowly. His steady steps echoed in the alley.

“Shay, is that you? How long has it been?” Franklin said when his eyes fell on the approaching Templar. He got up with some difficulty. “Thank you, my friend. But…what are you doing in Paris?”

“With all due respect, sir, this is no time to talk. You're still in danger.” Shay knew that to be true.
After what just happened it would be foolish to think the Assassins hadn't noticed what was going on. Worst case some of Beauparlant's men would show up as well. It would be best if Franklin remained unaware of the bigger picture.

Franklin still sounded shaken when he said “Yes, you are right. I should return to the estate for now.”

Although Shay wasn't sure how safe the man would be in Passy, at least he could ask de la Serre to have some men have an eye on him.
The way back took them the better part of two hours and a few times Shay ran ahead to eliminate Assassin agents waiting to make their move. The closer they got to the estate, the more there seemed to be, almost as though they knew their former plan had failed. He had only ever encountered such Assassin presence back home.
Especially after having had such difficulty finding any hints of them in Paris the past months, it was an almost startling increase in their activity.
At the moment he could easily handle them, but it was a clear sign they were prepared for something to happen in the next few days.
He took care of the last Assassins just outside the estate when Franklin caught up with him.

“How… How did you do that?” It took him a moment before he realized he didn't actually want to know how Shay had gotten rid of his attackers.
“Well, you have my thanks, Shay. Is there anything I can do for you? To repay you for this… er, kindness?”
Little had changed. Franklin was still the same always-busy, always-on-his-way-somewhere inventor Shay had first met just over 20 years ago.

“Actually there is.” Shay said calmly. Franklin’s interest was piqued anyway.

“Is that so?” he asked curiously.

“I need to meet a… business acquaintance. I heard he would be at the Château de Versailles, two days from now.” he explained.

“And they don't let just anyone inside the royal palace.” Franklin said reluctantly, but looked around, considering the threat Shay had gotten rid of for him. “Very well. I'll see what can be arranged.”



The plan was in motion. He had spent years waiting for this moment and months planning the fastest routes through Paris once he had the box back. The same evening Shay packed his few belongings so he would be able to leave as soon as he left the palace.
He met with Julie’s man again that night to confirm he had a horse ready, where he would wait for him and which ship would take Shay to England. Everything seemed to happen too fast now after all that waiting. It reminded him of his hectic life before this mission. The life he might finally return to in a few short weeks.

The Templar spent the next day saying his good-byes and testing the paths he was most likely to take. The de la Serres had returned to their estate outside Paris. They knew Shay was close to getting what he came to retrieve and that he would leave the day after. But for their own safety and the success of his plan, he hadn’t told them any more than rough outlines. Julie wished him luck and squeezed his hand a little tighter than necessary when they saw him off. Unlike her husband, she was aware of where Shay was going.

It was dark by the time Shay checked the last of the traps he had laid out. He was just hiding any traces of his being there when he heard steps behind him, steps that halted all of a sudden. Shay didn’t move, only listened. With any luck the twilight would give him enough shelter from curious eyes.

“Monsieur Cormac.” A heavy French voice drawled. “We were aware Americans do things a little differently, but to disobey a direct order…”
Beauparlant stepped out of the shadows.

“Sir, I can explain-” Shay started.

The Grandmaster clicked his tongue and took a lazy step closer. “And what exactly would He explain? Why He threatened my men? Why He was seen killing Assassins in the streets of this fine city? How He did all that when He was not supposed to be here any longer?”

Shay looked up at the sky, trying to keep his calm. “I am this close to taking back what belongs to us, to our Order! No way in hell am I leaving now!” he suppressed a growl. He had no time for this. Especially not today.

“Oh, but We think He will reconsider.” Beauparlant said, haughtily as ever, just before he drew his sword. “We understand He does not wish to get hurt? Or worse?”

Shay stared at him incredulously. If he wanted to stop Shay, why not send a few men? He could have dealt with them. But despite his dislike for the man, he didn’t want to fight the Grandmaster of all people. Maybe that was what he had counted on from the beginning.
“You don’t want to do this.” Shay warned him.

“Shall we see?” the Grandmaster tried to taunt him. He took a few quick steps and in one swift move gave his first blow.

Shay easily blocked it with his hidden blade without even having to draw his own sword.
He used the momentum to push the other man back. Beauparlant stumbled, taken by surprise by his fast reaction. He was clearly not used to fighting for more than show.

A second later the French Templar was attacking again. This time Shay drew his sword. That way he could keep the other man at arm’s length. He parried a few blows without making any attempts at starting an attack himself.

“Monsieur Beauparlant. Please, be reasonable. I don't want to hurt you.” Beauparlant only doubled his efforts until Shay had almost nowhere he could escape to in the narrow space of the alley. “But I will do whatever it takes. You can't stop me.”

“We will stop Him if it's the last thing We do.”
The Grandmaster used the limited space left for Shay and sent him crashing into a wall. Sword pressed against his throat he kept him in place.

“Then you leave me no choice.” Shay still despised killing people unnecessarily, but with Beauparlant being this irrational, there was no other way out. The man would do anything he could to stop Shay. And a single man would not stand between him and his goal of sixteen years.
His sword slipped out of his hand as he raised his arm. Shay gulped.
“Forgive me, Grandmaster.”
Beauparlant didn't have time for more than an eyebrow raised in mock interest before a hidden blade got buried in his throat.
There was a gurgling sound, blood spilling from his mouth and neck and then the blade pressed against Shay's throat clattered to the ground. The Grandmaster clutched the bleeding wound. His knees gave in and then all strength left him as he dropped at Shay's feet.
“I am sorry.” he said and stepped over the body. He would have minutes at most and Shay didn't need to witness that.

Death was always an ugly business, but even more so when it could have been avoided.



It was a bright day when Shay finished his preparations and stepped outside de la Serre's townhouse for the last time.
He met with Franklin in front of Versailles in the early afternoon. Just as the other man spoke with the guards Shay noticed a now familiar man out of the corner of his eye. Mr. Weatherall did as he had promised and waited amongst servants and merchants who had been denied access to the château. He had horses with him, packed to look like he was a merchant himself. That was all Shay got a glimpse of before he followed Franklin through the wrought-iron gates.

“Ah, Shay. You certainly look prepared to meet royalty! Perhaps King Louis himself will grant you an audience.” Franklin said in an attempt to lighten the mood that was sure to settle over him if he thought about Shay’s presence in Versailles in too much detail.

“I doubt even these breeches will get me into the King's chambers.” Shay said in the same, almost joking tone. “Besides, I'm only here to see a business acquaintance.” If he wasn’t concerned by the situation, it would surely calm Franklin down as well.
They talked about Franklin’s scientific demonstration a while longer while walking up to the castle. Shay knew talking about his inventions always distracted the other man. Although he kept up the easy small talk he used his Eagle Vision to scan the area for Charles Dorian or any other Assassins and Templars that might be present. After what had happened the day before he hoped they were too busy to concern themselves with him, but it could easily go the other way too if they figured out Shay had been involved in it. That was if Beauparlant’s body had been found yet.

He soon parted ways with Franklin, who went to prepare for his demonstration in another part of the palace. Guards blocked the doors and without a formal invitation he was unable to get past them at this point. But Shay was sure he had seen Charles Dorian enter just seconds ago. Looking on from a safe distance, the Templar tried to remember the layout of that particular wing and which way in would give him the least trouble.
Shay casually walked across the courtyard as though waiting for someone, all the while looking for less guarded entrances.
An open window on the second floor looked like the perfect opportunity. He made sure nobody was looking his way and quickly climbed the façade.
Once inside it was easy enough to blend in with groups of chattering nobility or slip past guards while they were distracted by court ladies or another guest arriving. Although he had never been inside the palace itself, Shay found his way rather quickly. Worn-out spots in the carpets told him enough to know where to anticipate patrolling guards and where it would be safe to hide. He worked his way down several corridors that way before an open window allowed him to descend to an inner courtyard he knew was close to where the merchants held their meeting.
For a moment Shay paused and listened for footsteps in case a guard had heard him drop to the ground. But all he heard was the quiet whisper of two children. They were too busy playing one game or another to notice him slipping by and into the hallway that lead to the council chamber.
It was harder to blend in with the politicians and merchant representatives who all seemed to know each other. Thus Shay made slow progress, but it gave him time to scan the grounds, look for Dorian and make sure no agents of either side were present. If François de la Serre saw him, his plan would be equally endangered as if Assassins were to notice Shay. But his Eagle Senses revealed neither friend nor foe.

He slowly made his way down the hall and was about to try and enter the chamber when the doors flew open and a few men clad in travelling cloaks exited, Charles Dorian in their midst. Shay turned around quickly, making sure neither of them saw his face.

There was his target. There was Charles Dorian.

The Assassin stowed something in a hidden pocket inside his coat and pet his chest to make sure it didn’t show from the outside. “Gentlemen, I will protect this artefact with my very life.” he said to his fellow Assassins. They left immediately after, leaving Dorian behind amidst the other councilmen.

This was his chance.
He only had to be careful around the guards. But if Dorian didn’t leave straight way, he had a good chance of using his hidden blade for a deadly strike before anyone took notice.
Once more Fortune was on his side.

Dorian stood rooted to the spot, looking around.
Arno, where have you gone?” he yelled, before he turned to the other men in the hallway. “My son, Arno… Perhaps you have seen him? Have you seen a little boy around? I'm looking for my son.
He was so concentrated on finding his son that he never saw Shay coming. The blade in his neck was the first hint he got and the last he needed to know things would not end well.

“You! You're the traitor,” he groaned quietly, unable to use his voice properly with the wound to his throat.

Shay guided him to a chair by a wall, pretending to help an acquaintance who felt faint. He leaned in and whispered “I'm just finishing old business.” while he took the box from Dorian’s pocket.

“Old...” Dorian gulped, his breath becoming weaker by the second. “Connor and his Assassins... The American Revolution undid your Templar business.”

If he thought his words would impress Shay he was wrong. If anything the snarl in his voice gave Shay yet another reason to return to the colonies as soon as he could. But this dying man would neither stop nor scare him. He knew the Assassins stood no chance. He had taken them down once and would do so again if that was what it took. And this Connor would not stand in his way.
Shay smiled mischievously and said “Then perhaps we shall start a revolution of our own.”
In a few seconds Dorian would be unable to tell anyone of that plan. But right now it meant Shay had won, won in every way imaginable.
He safely tucked the box away.
Dorian’s face faltered, he tried to get up and pull Shay back, reach out to anyone before the Templar had left the scene. But he was too weak already. Shay was well out of sight before anyone turned to look up from the dying man on the floor.

He left the palace without haste. Mr. Weatherall still waited by the gates. “I take it everything went well?”

Shay nodded as he took the reins. “All according to plan.”

“Madame de la Serre will be glad to hear that.” he said as he mounted the second horse.

A sudden yelp made them turn around. A man Shay recognized as Pierre Bellec, the Assassin he had seen with Charles Dorian when he accompanied Monsieur de la Serre to sort out Templar business at the market place, had grabbed the reins of a merchant’s horse and was struggling to free himself from the group of men trying to hold him back.

“I take it this is where our ways part?” Mr. Weatherall asked, half a smile on his face.

“I believe it is.” Shay agreed with a nod. “Thank you. For everything.”
A second later he spurred on his horse, leaving the other Templar to take care of the single Assassin.


Shay rode hard. By the time he made it to Rouen it was long since dark, the night growing colder the closer he got to the coast. He hoped cold nights like these meant clear sight on the channel. He didn’t want to think about the possibility of his ship to England being delayed.
For almost an hour he had been sure someone followed him, but it had been to dark to see out in the countryside. He had meant to stop and change into his leather coat to better protect him against the encroaching cold, but hadn't dared risking it.

The streets of Rouen were sparsely lit, but if someone indeed followed him, Shay was now able to spot them in time.
Everything was quiet when he reached the haven. The hooves of his horse were the only source of sound other than cargo being loaded and unloaded somewhere. His breath formed a thin fog. He set down his saddle bags when a harsh voice echoed across the pier.

“Shay Patrick Cormac. Once a traitor, always a traitor I see,” the Assassin said from the shadows.

“Who is there?” Shay drew his swords and turned towards the voice.

Bellec laughed coldly before he stepped into the sparse light of a single lantern. “You will remember in time.” He wasted no time attacking Shay, using his hidden blade to block Shay’s sword when he countered the first blow.

Shay hardly ever met anyone as skilled in fighting with a sword and hidden blade at the same time.
They exchanged blow for blow, neither of them losing ground to the other.
"How did you catch up?"
It didn't make sense. Shay was sure he had taken the fastest route and Weatherall was supposed to have stopped him before he even left Versailles.

"Did you think your little Templar friend could stop me? Me!" Bellec laughed. "After everything you've done, I can't let you get away."
Shay dodged a blow and threw the Assassin off centre. The moment Bellec stumbled, the pommel of Shay's sword hit him between the shoulder blades, sending him to the ground and making him cough.

"Your taunts are nothing but empty words, Assassin. They mean nothing to me." Shay raised his sword to deliver the final blow, but in the last moment Bellec managed to roll himself to the side and out of harm’s way.

"You shouldn't underestimate me, Templar."
The Assassin was back on his feet, doubling his efforts in an attempt to win the fight quickly.

A bell rang from a nearby church. Four times, then eight.
Shay's time was running out, he had to get to the ship fast.
In a moment of distraction Bellec's blade grazed his coat, slicing through the expensive but thin fabric. Sheets of paper fluttered from his pocket before he could grab his translations.
He countered the Assassin's next attack with one hand and threw a smoke bomb the moment Bellec had to take a step back. Shay took advantage of the situation. He collected the lose sheets.
When the smoke started to dissipate he threw one last punch, hitting a disoriented Bellec and effectively knocking him out.
Knowing the Assassin out cold on the ground Shay hurried to grab his saddle bags.
He reached the ship just as they hoisted their anchor and was soon on his way to England.

Once the weather allowed for it he would cross over to New York.
Sixteen years since he set off on this journey.
Sixteen years and it was finally done.

He was coming home.

Chapter Text

The Frontier, May 1777


Haytham dismounted his mare, led her to a small stable and rummaged through his saddlebags.
He didn't have to do this. It wasn't too pleasant a task and the frontiersman wasn't an active member of their Order anymore. Still, Haytham felt rather responsible; the man had been his chief Assassin hunter and part of his inner circle after all.
He finally found the good bottle of whiskey he had bought for this very occasion – just like all the others before this one – and turned to head over to the hunting cabin at the outskirts of the small village.

His sharp knock was answered by the barrel of a gun aimed at his face, peeking through the crack of the door.
Haytham exhaled sharply. “Really? Since when do murderers, thieves or Assassins knock, Master Gist?"
At his words the gun vanished from sight. The door was opened swiftly and a man with a big smile and an even bigger hat greeted Haytham.
“Master Kenway! Forgive my rudeness, sir; can't be too cautious nowadays, can I?” His gaze lingered on the bottle in his former Grandmaster's hand for a moment and he turned a bit more serious. “Do come in.”

As Haytham entered Christopher Gist's summer home and hung his hat and cape on the hooks beside the door, the thought that he'd been here too often during the last few years crossed his mind. Somehow all of this had become a kind of ritual to them.
“Who is it this time?” Gist asked while he looked through his cupboards in search of two glasses that were fancy and clean enough for the Grandmaster. With a sceptical frown he drew out two almost matching tea cups and regarded them with a high-pitched noise expressing his indecision. “Yes, you will do,” he told the cups reassuringly after some seconds of consideration.
Placing the makeshift whiskey glasses on a small table in front of Haytham, he met the Templar's gaze. “Well, Master Kenway, whom of our brothers do we owe the sad duty to honour them this time?”
Haytham poured the amber liquid into the cups, hesitant to tell the old soldier, his lips a thin line. He knew how close the two men had been.
Then Gist understood. “Aah.” He took his whiskey and concentrated on the little painted flowers on the glossy china. “I see,” he added after a while. “The funeral?”

“Was last week. The Order arranged everything, he was buried beside his parents in New York.” Haytham paused. “We tried to reach you, but you must've already been on your way to the Frontier.”

“Aye, that's correct, sir.” Gist licked his lips. “How did he …?”

“He wrote a letter some months ago, telling me that he had the box, and that he'd come home at last, as soon as winter was over and passage would be safe.” Haytham tapped his fingers against his cup, watching his former brother closely. “The British branch of the Order helped him organise everything and he was to arrive this very month. However … the ship he took from London will never arrive in Boston.”

“Pardon me, but is that for sure?”

“I'm afraid so. Two weeks ago a few fishermen found planks and crates among their catch. One of the planks had the ship's name on it. It was all over the newspapers.”

“No survivors, sir? Or … a body?”

“Neither. No trace of the artefact either.”

“An empty coffin, then. … So that Precursor box is at the bottom of the ocean? At least the Assassins can't ever misuse it again. I-” Gist broke off and cleared his throat. “I think he would have liked that, Master Kenway.” He nodded to himself. Then he raised his cup. His eyes were gleaming wetly but he smiled. “His mission was not in vain.”
Haytham kept his thoughts on that matter to himself and raised his cup, too.
“To Master Templar Captain Shay Patrick Cormac – the best of us all.” Gist solemnly said.
“The best of us all,” Haytham repeated.

They gulped down their whiskey and the Grandmaster politely ignored the tears silently but steadily streaming down his former chief Assassin hunter's cheeks and into his beard.

 

Chapter Text

It was dark, wet and cold all around him. Every breath felt like someone had ripped his chest open. His heart beat at a frantic pace against his ribcage.
He coughed.
A bad idea he realised as more pain ripped through him. The coughing didn't stop. If only he could roll over to make breathing a bit easier. But as it were he could not move a single muscle. It was as if he had lost control over all his limbs at once. He desperately tried to catch his breath, force his body to relax enough to stop inflicting more pain on itself. But the increasing sense of helplessness only made it worse.

When he no longer had the strength to breathe, and panic started to become acceptance, the coughing finally subsided and unconsciousness washed over him once again. He welcomed the warm embrace the darkness offered.

What felt like days later he awoke to the sound of crashing waves and yelling.
“Captain!! There's a man on the shore!” By now the pain he had felt before was hardly more than the soreness one felt after long travels on horseback. He felt weak and sick, but tried to stay conscious for long enough to be found. As soon as a hand felt for his pulse, his head lolled to one side and he felt his mind slip away, knowing he was as safe as he could be. Everything that happened from now on was out of his control.


 

He felt dizzy and a little sick. He wasn't even sure his feet were touching the ground, but they must or he wouldn't be standing upright as he looked around. The day was bright, almost unbearably so. The seagulls above were deafeningly loud. Their calls almost drowned out the sound of wind catching in white sails all along the harbour.

Yells carried over from the nearest dock. Wood hitting wood in an unforgiving crash. “What are you doing, boy?! Leave this to us!” a cranky sailor yelled. He turned towards the commotion and saw another sailor sending a pale young boy to wait with some other kids while the men tried to fix the broken crates.

Searing white pain hit him, making him flinch and squint. His ears rang, sending him to his knees.

When he opened his eyes again he was amongst the children he had just watched.
“Hey, a' you a'right?” The boy from before stood over him, offering a hand to help him up. “Come 'ere.” He easily pulled him up, then got down on one knee to look at him properly. The boy gently brushed specks of dirt from his clothes. “See? You're fine.”
“Thank you” he muttered. Usually nobody ever noticed his presence amongst the others.
“I'm Liam by the way. And you?” The boy now smiled brightly at him.

Just as he was going to answer a woman came running their way.
“Oh thank gods, there you are, Patrick!”


 

Connor changed from his captain’s clothes into his Assassin’s robes. He took the Templar ring from the desk in his cabin and looked at it musingly. Putting it into one of his pockets, he turned to go.
He couldn’t let Achilles know that the stranger they’d found was one of their enemies. Connor was sure that the old man would want him to kill the scarred Templar if he found out. Questioning him seemed a better idea to Connor. He had never seen this face on the cellar’s wall, so he wasn’t part of the Colonial Rite. This however meant that another of the Order’s branches had sent one of their men in this part of the world. Why? To help their brothers, maybe. But Connor didn’t want to guess, he wanted to know.
The unconscious man had been brought to the little guest house beside the manor, as Connor had ordered. He wasn’t much of a threat in his current state anyway.
Doctor White hurried inside. His gaze wandered from Connor to the wounded stranger, then back to his friend.
“Your man told me you have a castaway for me.”
Connor nodded. “Thank you for coming so quickly.”

Doctor White sat down by the bed and put his doctor’s bag beside him.
“Was he conscious when the sailor found him?”

“His eyes were open, but only for an instant.”

“I will see what I can do for him.”


 

He tossed and turned restlessly, breaking into a sweat as he succumbed to yet another nightmarish hallucination.

He was back at the port. The weather was changing. It was still bright but the sky was clouded, a cold wind picking up. At least everything was back to its regular size now, he noticed as he hid behind a row of crates. A few sailors were drinking over a game of dice nearby. Everything seemed quiet, though the air was tense.

He slipped out of hiding and made for an alley.

“Movement! Over there!”
“Catch that bloody thief!”

A group of guards had just come around a corner behind him. Seconds later he was taking off at a run. But the more corners he turned, the more guards were at his heels.
“Get him!!” the yells continued.

Shots rang through the streets behind him, one even managed to graze his cheek. For a second he pondered where to go at the next intersection. That's when he heard a call from his left.

“Psssht, over here!” When he turned to see who it was he found the boy from before, older now, taller and stronger as well. But still the same person nonetheless.

“Liam!” The older one pulled him into a small alley. “What are you doing back in New York?”

“Ten years later and I'm still saving your ass.” he answered. “Now hold onto this.”

He grabbed the rope the other had pointed at and stared at Liam, raising an eyebrow. The next moment Liam cut the rope and while a heavy crate crushed to the ground, he was catapulted up onto the rooftop. It didn't take Liam long to skilfully climb the wall himself and join him on the roof.

“That was incredible! Where did get that idea from?”

Liam gave him a sideways look. “I had a great Mentor. Someone who could teach you a thing or two as well.”

“Do you think so?” He wouldn't mind leaving the ships and the seas behind if it meant he could join Liam. He needed a friend. Why he felt that strong urge though, he couldn't quite put a finger on. He must have looked deep in thought while contemplating, because the next thing he knew, Liam was right in front of him.

“Are you hurt?” he asked with concern.

“No, I don't think so. It's just a graze.”

“We'll have a doctor have a look-” Liam started.

“That's really not necessary. I've been doing alright just like this. Don't worry about it.”

Liam heaved an exasperated sigh. “Some things never change, do they?”

“Absolutely not.”

“A'right then. Let's at least get this cleaned and then we'll talk.” The older boy stood up and offered his hand, just as he had when they first met.
He took it gladly.

When Liam pulled him up, his vision went blurry once more, his head feeling hotter than it should. He stumbled, but didn't fall. He groaned in pain – too bright, too hot, too cold, all at once. Feeling sick to his stomach he forced his eyes open once more.

“What was that?” Liam asked.
They were in a forest now - green all around them and no other sounds than the birds in the air and the wind catching in the trees. It was the most relieved he felt in a long time.

“Sorry, I felt a little dizzy.” he heard himself mumble an excuse.

“We should be heading back to the manor anyway.” Liam patted him on the back, almost making him stumble again.
They walked up a hill, to where he didn't know. “I shouldn't push you too hard this early on.”

“I don't mind if it means I'm making progress.” He beamed at his friend.

"You are.”

“But what I still don't understand is... how did you find these people?” he asked.

“I didn't.” Liam pushed a few branches aside so they could slip through the opening and onto a small path. “They found me when I was in trouble.”

“Hmm,” he hummed, “Just like you keep finding me when I'm in trouble.”

Liam laughed heartily.

“I can see how you fit in here,” he added.

Before them a huge manor came into sight. More men and women were bustling about the grounds, practicing sword fights if the clang of metal was anything to go by. On another path leading to the small settlement he could make out a few horses approaching. It was a lot to take in, making his mind reel once more.

“Don't say that like you don't belong here. This is your home now, too,” Liam said, giving him a fond smile before his face blurred and darkness crept into his field of vision. In a matter of seconds the warm rush of darkness took over once more. He felt his mind slip away and knew there was no point fighting it. Fighting meant more pain and he had had enough of that for now. Instead he relaxed, letting unconsciousness settle over him, almost welcoming it back.


 

When Connor went to check on the Templar’s state, he was surprised to meet his Mentor, coming out of the guest house. The old man came to a halt, resting on his cane.
“Bobby told me we have a guest.”

Connor massaged his left palm with his right thumb.
“One of my men found this castaway when we were getting supplies on Nova Scotia,” he said.

“So you thought it wise to bring a stranger into our headquarters.”
Achilles didn’t look particularly pleased. But then again, when did he ever.

“He needed help,” Connor began his well concocted explanation, his mouth getting dry. “He still does. This settlement proved a safe haven for all those people who are now our neighbours, who once were strangers, too, when I invited them to live here. Is trust in the good of humanity not part of what the Assassins believe in?”
His insides coiled up in protest. It wasn’t exactly a lie, but he hated to keep the whole truth from Achilles.
The old Assassin didn’t respond, he only kept looking at his protégé sternly.
Connor swallowed. “I wanted to see how the castaway is faring. Doctor White said that he has to come to in the next few days or there will be no chance for him.”

Achilles looked like he was about to say something, so Connor waited quietly.
“Let’s hope,” the old man said after a while, “That he gets well soon.”

Connor didn’t know why, but his Mentor sounded … insincere?
No, that couldn’t be. Achilles had no reason to wish the stranger ill. The nervousness from his own lying must be causing him to imagine things.

Connor went inside. He sat down on a chair beside the unconscious Templar.
As he got the ring out of his pocket and began playing with it, lost in thoughts, the man stirred and blinked his eyes open. He turned his head to take in his surroundings in confusion.
Connor sat very still when their eyes met.
“What is your name, Templar?”

The man blinked. “Temple … what?” he replied very slowly and coughed. Connor poured him a cup of water and put it into the man’s hands. He gulped it down greedily, splashing a bit over his shirt. He looked around once more, then settled his gaze on Connor. “I’m not sure, but I believe it’s Patrick.”

Connor frowned “You believe that is your name?”

The Templar nodded, then looked out of the window. “I think I was with a man named Liam … is he here?”

“You were found on a shore, half-drowned.” When Patrick turned his head around to face Connor once more, the Assassin asked wearily “Do you remember the ship you took?”

“I … I’m sorry, friend. I don’t really remember anything.” He paused. “I remember my aunt. I think she’s my aunt. And Liam. We were going somewhere … ”

This Patrick seemed sincere, but he was a Templar, he must be good at lying, Connor thought.
“You wore a ring,” he said and put the Templar ring stealthily back in his pocket, “When we found you. Does that mean anything to you?”

Patrick narrowed his eyes in concentration and looked his hands over for any traces or the spark of a memory. After a while, he shook his head tiredly. “Really? I don’t believe I did.” Then he closed his eyes and exhaled.

Maybe that Templar had really lost his memory.
“You are safe here, Patrick and you should rest now. I will call Doctor White, so he can examine you.”

Patrick had problems keeping his eyes open. “A doctor? I don’t know if I can pay you, …?”

“Call me Connor. And you should not worry about money, but about recovery.”

Patrick mumbled something that sounded like an expression of gratitude, then he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

The Homestead, June 1777


The days were getting warmer and longer now. With each day that the sun was out and Patrick was not, he grew more uncomfortable. The restlessness made him uneasy. But Doctor White had insisted he wait a little longer before he ventured outside again.
He couldn't see much from the windows, just another building and some trees. From the sounds all around he could guess the 'homestead', as Connor had so often called it, was a small settlement by the shore. On windier days the distant sound of waves was carried up the hill.
Most of the time though it was quieter than what he thought he was used to. It calmed him down, made it easier to accept the emptiness he felt where memories should be.
Sometimes he dreamed, of cities large enough that he would never meet the same person twice if he walked the same paths every day. Those dreams always left him feeling insignificant, small even and in a way upset. He much preferred the peacefulness of this place.
Doctor White had told him that those dreams might be memories, but he shouldn't try too hard just yet. If they upset him so, it might do more harm than good for him to remember bits and pieces without knowing the context.
“The mind is a funny thing, you see,” he would often tell Patrick. “You don't remember, but you dream of it. So the memories are still there. They might just be obscured, in a way. They will come back in time, when you are ready.”
Some days Patrick didn't know if he only said that to reassure him, but at least it gave him something to believe in.

As it were though, he wasn't so much bothered by the lack of memories as the lack of something to do with his time.
Connor had been reluctant at first, but had brought him a few books when he had spoken to him about it. Mainly, he said, because Patrick didn't recall if he could read or not. As it turned out, he could. But Connor's concerns didn't end there. Even if he never voiced them, his looks gave him away.
The books seemed familiar and yet new. Not the worst kind of feeling when you practically knew nothing about anything. At least they kept him busy for a while.
The real problem though was that he was done with the books now and was feeling rather well. He hadn't felt dizzy in a few days either and the headaches that used to plague him were gone.
On a whim, he grabbed the books and walked over to the mansion.

Now that he could see its actual size it seemed even bigger. And oddly familiar.
He knocked twice and waited.
When he heard no sounds from the inside he knocked again. “Hello?”
Still nothing.
Patrick pushed the door open, surprised at the sudden creaking noise with which it went. “Connor?”
Reluctantly he went inside and closed the door behind him as carefully as he had opened it.

It was brighter inside than he had expected, though only a single window and a few candles illuminated the hallway. But it was quiet. The thick walls drained out almost all sounds from outside. A floor board creaked under his weight as he went to check the rooms to his left and right.
They were sparsely furnished and didn't look very lived-in. But heavy curtains framed each window.
A large desk was placed in the first room, documents and books strewn across it that looked like this was where Connor was keeping account of the homestead's business.

On the opposite side of the hallway he found a dining room. Although its interior looked expensive and put together with great care, it also lacked the feeling of being used very often. A fire crackled in the fireplace, breaking the stifling weight of silence. Above the mantlepiece hung a painting of a black family that seemed oddly familiar.

He was about to step closer and get a better look at the picture when a sudden creaking noise and a dull thump made him turn around.

“You gave me a fright.” he said as he released a breath of air he hadn't noticed he'd been holding. Behind him stood Achilles. He had only met the man twice and, truth be told, he had been no less scary then than he was now. But Connor had reassured him that he was always like this around strangers. It probably had nothing to do with Patrick at all.

“What do you want?” the old man asked, glaring at him as if he wished he would just drop dead.

“I was looking for Connor. He lent me these.” Patrick gestured towards the books.

For a moment Achilles eyed him even more suspiciously.
“I see,” he said coldly. “Well, he isn't here.”

Patrick cringed. That much had been obvious.
“Could I leave them here for him?” he asked hopefully. Why did the old man have to be so difficult to talk to?

Achilles gestured towards a table with his cane and Patrick hurried to put them down before he did something else to upset him.
“If there is nothing else you wanted, leave,” the old man almost snarled and turned to go.

“Actually,” Patrick began, “Actually, there is something I meant to ask.”

For a second Achilles just stopped where he stood, his shoulders stiff. Patrick watched them move as the other man took a few measured breaths before turning to face him once more.
“What is it?”

Patrick was unsure whether he should really bring it up, but he had Achilles' attention now and was sure the old man would dislike him even more if he backed out now.
“It's just that, all this seems rather familiar.” He made a gesture to indicate he meant the entire homestead. “And you've lived here for longer than Connor. And, I don't know why, but sometimes it's almost like I have been here before?”
Achilles didn’t say anything, simply staring at him coolly. The silence began to stretch out uncomfortably between them, so Patrick continued.
“I dreamt of it once. But I wasn't alone. There was another man. A friend of mine. Liam. And I wondered if you happen to know him?”

Achilles' gaze sharpened for a few moments that seemed excruciatingly long to Patrick. Then he simply turned around again and, in the gruffest tone Patrick has ever heard anyone use, said “You are mistaken. There has been no Liam here. These manors look the same all across the colonies. Now leave.”



It was a few weeks before Connor returned. Meanwhile Doctor White had finally given in and officially allowed Patrick to leave the house. With nothing much to do or places to be, he spent most of his time getting to know the people who lived in the settlement.
Some of them were reluctant, like Catherine and Diana – the wives of the lumberjacks, but most of them welcomed him warmly. He had a feeling their reluctance mostly stemmed from the ill-disguised fascination that came from having a new resident.
Connor had mentioned that they were good people, but since he wasn't one to talk much or go into much detail, Patrick still hadn't expected them to be this friendly towards a stranger.
The word had soon spread that he didn't remember anything of his earlier life or what he had done for a living. So one after the other had offered to help him figure out where his strengths lay.

He was out hunting with Myriam, something he found he enjoyed and was actually good at, when he saw a ship approaching their dock.
Patrick dropped to the ground from where he had perched on a tree to look out for deer without being discovered by them immediately. It was a trick Myriam taught him, but to both their surprise walking amongst the tree branches had immediately felt like second nature to him. He lacked the strength to climb trees with ease. Then again for the first few days his muscles had ached just from getting up and walking around the house. So he was sure his abilities would improve eventually.
He made it down to the bay just as they made berth. The ship wasn't in its best condition and had clearly been in a battle or two if the smashed railings and splintered planks along its hull were anything to go by. He waited by the dock and was surprised when he found Connor and another, seemingly older, man leaving the ship.
“What happened to her?” he said in ways of greeting.

The man beside Connor nodded approvingly. “Little run in with the T- with the British,” he explained. “Good to see you up again, lad.”

Connor stiffly looked forth and back between his first mate and their newest member of the homestead. “Should you be up yet?” he asked eventually, sounding almost as if he wanted to scold him.

“Doctor White thinks it's a good idea that I help out around the homestead,” Patrick was quick to admit. It would have driven him mad anyway to just sit and wait.

“You still do not remember then?” Connor inquired, his voice much softer now.

Patrick shook his head. “Not really.”

“Let's just be grateful he's still alive, aye?” the man by Connor's side said.

“You are right.” For a moment Connor seemed to ponder what to do next.
“If you will excuse me. I need to talk to Achilles,” he said when both his first mate and Patrick kept looking at him. He pushed past them and began to walk up the path to the manor without further ado.

The older man harrumphed awkwardly. Neither of them knew what to talk about with Connor gone.
“The name's Faulkner by the way,” he said, offering his hand for a handshake. “And you're Patrick, right?”

“Yes” he said and shook his hand. Once more he felt a little embarrassed by the fact that he still couldn't remember anything more than his name.

Even with the introductions out of the way, the awkwardness remained. He had wanted to know what was going on by the dock, but now that he knew he would rather get back to hunting. Out in the forest he was mostly alone and could keep his mind sharp by listening for any sound in the shrubbery or looking for clues on the ground. It was better than stumbling through social interactions like he had done so many times in the past few days.

“I'll get started on sorting out the repairs.” Mr. Faulkner's voice pulled him back to the present.

“If I can help in any way-” Patrick offered quickly and almost out of habit.

The sailor laughed. “I'll keep that in mind. I'm sure we'll need every helping hand we can get.” He pointed behind him at the ship. “If we want to get her back to former glory, at least.”

 


 

The sun burned down on their backs as they transported loads of planks from the sawmill to the coast.

“At least it's downhill from here on,” Terry said, wiping sweat from his forehead in an exaggerated gesture.

Patrick looked back over his shoulder from where he was leading the horse by its reins just in time to see Godfrey clap his mate on the back. “Don't forget we still have to go back the same way.”
Terry groaned and cursed under his breath.

“This should be the last carriage for today.” Patrick offered helpfully.

“Good news at last.” the lumberjack said while he made sure they kept moving.

Down by the harbour men were busy fixing breaches in the Aquila's hull with the planks the lumberjacks had spent the last few days bringing down.
“Ah, Patrick,” Mr. Faulkner greeted them as they approached. “Knew I could trust you to find these two scoundrels!”

“What did y’say?” Godfrey huffed and was about to push up his sleeves even further, but Terry held him back.

“You go 'round picking fights left and right, no wonder we never make it anywhere.”

“Huh?!”

Mr. Faulkner laughed and pulled Patrick aside. “David said they could use an extra pair of hands if you're up for it,” he told him.

“Of course. After I've made sure those two,” he nodded in the direction of the homestead's two lumberjacks, “don't hurt each other trying to prove their point.”

The sailor nodded approvingly. “Do that. Then meet us on board.”



By the time they took a break the sun had long passed its zenith. Patrick was standing by the dock and fighting the urge to dive into the water when David's brother, Richard, the other gunnery officer of the Aquila, appeared behind him.
“You should take the rest of the day off. The help is much appreciated, but it has been a while and you won't be able to help anyone if you strain yourself too much.”

Patrick raised an eyebrow at the comment, but didn't say anything. It wasn't like he was that old. Neither had it been just yesterday that he started to walk around again. But he supposed there was no point in arguing. There never was when one of the other residents of the homestead told him to take a break. He had a suspicion that Doctor White or Connor had put them up to it.

Although it was a heart-warming notion, it tended to upset him when he was told to take a rest a few days in a row for no obvious reason at all. The need to be up and doing something – anything – was worse than his lack of memory. When he worked on something, at least he wouldn't think. And if he tired himself out enough, at least there wouldn't be bizarre dreams that made him question everything.

But as it was, there still were strange, unsettling dreams haunting him most nights. They didn't make sense, but he feared they were rooted in memories of his past life. More often than not they left him with a sense of foreboding that made him feel sick to his stomach.

Doctor White had told him to write down what he remembered of them, to keep a journal, so that maybe they would make sense at some point when he regained more of his memories. And so he did, but most pages turned out to be a strange mix of words in different languages, symbols and drawings. It was strange to look at, but when he woke up from another nightmare coherent words didn't feel right. Not like filling the pages in that way had. He didn't intend to show the journal to anyone anyway.

As he walked back to the Mile's End, a gloomy sort of mood settled over him. He couldn't shake the feeling that although everyone was friendly towards him, half the reason why he was sent away so often was that he was still an unwelcome outsider, a guest who had overstayed his welcome. It didn't help one bit that he often felt as though everyone was watching him behind his back, keeping track of where he went and what he did. And although he almost never caught anyone doing it, he was sure Connor was spying on him as well. Not constantly, but there was a distinct gut feeling that came with it.

If he knew how to stop these irrational feelings, he would. His anger was most likely unjustified. And wasn't it ungrateful of him? He was new to the community with no real idea how he could contribute to their lives.

Oliver and Corrine, the inn keepers, had let him a room upstairs. Only seldom were they in use anyway and they appreciated what little help he could offer by fixing anything that broke around the tavern or helping with their correspondence when Father Timothy could not be found. They seemed to appreciate it even if he just kept Corrine company while her husband was out and about. Patrick still wished he could do more to earn his keep, but at least they hardly ever tried to tell him his own limits.

He was still in a bad mood when he went inside and made for the stairs. Before he placed his foot on the first step, though, Corrine called him back.

“You don't happen to have seen my husband around?” she asked hopefully.

Patrick had been deep in thought and had not exactly been looking where he went, but he was certain he would have noticed Ollie. “I'm afraid not. Did he say where he was going?”

“He went to see if the convoy bringing more ale got lost,” Corrine said.

Patrick raised his eyebrows. “The one from Boston? Wasn't that due two days ago?”
She nodded.
“And he went all on his own?”
She nodded again, knowing very well the point he was trying to make.
“He should've just asked for help.” Patrick quietly whispered, more to himself than Corrine, but there was no way she didn't hear.
He could have helped. Connor was at the Homestead as well. There was no good reason for going all by himself.
But Ollie probably hadn't thought that far ahead in his enthusiasm to get things done.

He felt a new wave of anger rise inside him, but tried to fight it down. He would really have to learn to be more patient – with himself and others alike.
“That was reckless,” he finally said. “I'll go and find him before he gets lost himself.”

“No!” Corrine said, sounding more worried about this than her husband.

“Why not?”

With a few quick steps she was by his side, one hand on his arm as if to calm him down and keep him from leaving at the same time.
“You see, we don't want you to overexert yourself, so Connor asked us to-”

“To what?” he snapped and regretted it the moment Corrine flinched back.

“To keep an eye on you, make sure you are alright,” she finished quietly after a moment of silence.

He exhaled loudly. Of course. “We just worry about you,” Corrine tried to reassure him.

Patrick felt defeated by her kindness.
“I'm fine. I haven't felt better in weeks.”

For a second she looked as though she was going to protest. Instead she smiled and patted his cheek as though he were a young boy. “If you say so I won't try to convince you. Not like I stand much of a chance.”

He blinked in confusion and the anger dissipated once more.
“You really don't.” Patrick tried to smile. “I'll bring him back.”

He was almost back out of the door when Corrine yelled “Maybe Connor will come along too, if you ask him.” A hand, raised in a gesture that could mean anything, was the only answer she got though. He could do this. He didn't need anyone 'to keep an eye on him'. And he didn't need Connor's help.

Alright, maybe he did. But he wasn't in the mood for company as he walked up to the stables by the manor.

 

Chapter Text

Homestead, June 1777


Connor was brooding over maps and charts. Both spring and summer had brought a renewed movement of troops on either side. It was difficult to keep track of it without getting directly involved in each and every battle.
Staring at the maps, he hoped to figure out which ones would prove to be of interest for them. With all of the movements of the two armies, it was not entirely unthinkable that some of the new 'expeditions' followed a hidden Templar agenda.
Normally, he wouldn’t have the time to fret over such things, being busy with some emergency or duty that the Brotherhood demanded. But there had been almost no news from his recruits in Boston and New York lately, which had given him time to fight for the Assassin cause by sea rather than on land. Unfortunately on his last trip the Aquila had taken damage, giving him more than enough time to catch up with the happenings around the homestead and the ongoing war.

With a soft sigh he straightened his back and rolled his shoulders in an attempt to get rid of the stiffness building there. A movement outside caught his attention. He put away the quill, stood up and went to the window. Patrick was hurrying to the stables, a dark look on his face. Connor instantly strained his eyes. The world around him turned a bright grey, the sounds muted and Patrick's silhouette shone a bright … blue.
Connor exhaled, relieved, then closed his eyes for a short moment, turning the world back into its normal self.

When Patrick vanished out of sight, Connor threw a short glance at his maps, pondering for a second. Although still having the shade of an ally, Patrick's expression had stirred something inside Connor, making him feel uneasy about staying inside. He swiftly went outside to see what the amnesic Templar was up to.
Moments later he had caught up with Patrick by the stables. Still unseen, he crouched down in the high grass. Connor watched Patrick saddle one of the horses, then climb up onto its back. His face still showing grim determination, Patrick clicked his tongue and spurred his mare into a trot, quickly riding out of sight.
Connor whistled and the horse which usually accompanied him on his missions walked over and gently nudged its master's shoulder with its nose. He swung himself onto the animal's back, not wasting time with a saddle, then urged it southwards, following the former Templar's tracks.
Connor switched his vision occasionally, to not lose the gold-glowing trail guiding him to Patrick. Once or twice he was too fast, coming too close, but the man seemed in such a hurry he did not notice the Assassin following him.

On and on Patrick rode, past the settlers' houses and out of the Homestead. After several minutes Connor began wondering where they were headed. He wanted to trust Patrick, and his silhouette urged him to look past his former allegiances, but he could not help the unsettling feeling in the pit of his stomach. With every turn they passed without coming to a halt, the feeling grew. Was he heading for Lexington? Boston even? There was little else of interest within a day's riding distance.

Just as Connor began to wonder if he should catch up and ask the Templar, he saw Patrick's figure stop in the distance. He easily dismounted, greeting someone. Connor followed suit. He fastened his horse's halter to a low branch, then took to the trees himself. Carefully, he began to make his way over the trees, drawing nearer in hopes of catching what was being said.
Suspicions ran through his head.
Perhaps Patrick had regained his memory and was now meeting with another Templar? What little he knew would be enough to threaten the fledgling Brotherhood Connor had built in the recent years.
It was possible. But no, it could not be.
If he was meeting a Templar, then why did he still wear the calming blue of an ally? If he remembered now and had become a danger to them, surely he would have glowed red.

Right from the beginning, Patrick had seemed a good man … he could not have been completely different as a Templar. Maybe he had been tricked or forced into the Order. But if he was meeting with a brother of his...
Finally Connor was close enough to see and hear what was actually happening at this strange meeting point in the middle of nowhere.

 

Patrick felt a rush a relief when he found Ollie sitting on a tree trunk by the small road, his horse grazing nearby. Not too far from him a cart had slipped on the muddy ground and off the path. The back wheels were dangerously dangling off a cliff.
There was no way just one man could have heaved it back onto the road. Apparently Ollie had come to the same conclusion if the defeated slouch of his shoulders was anything to go by.
Patrick dismounted and led the horse closer until the other man looked up.

“Oh, Patrick? What are you doing out here? I thought you were busy elsewhere,” Ollie said, his half-hearted attempt at making light of the situation obvious.

“I was,” Patrick replied in the same way he had so many times. The “until they told me to take a break again” went unsaid.

Ollie understood it anyway. “I see.”

“Corrine wondered if I had seen you anywhere on my way back.” Patrick began in a softer tone. “I hadn't. So here I am.”

The other man laughed easily. “I expected nothing less from you. Now, shall we see if we can move this darn cart?”

Patrick went to examine the situation from up close. They were lucky, really, that the barrels were heavy enough and secured in the front, or the cart might have fallen off the cliff straight away. But even if they managed to pull it back on the road, they would not get far; the back axle looked broken and one of the wheels was more than a little loose.
Their only chance would be to find a way to keep the cart in place while they removed its cargo. But how they were to do that, he had yet to figure out.

He stepped back a bit and scratched his head. “I don't think we can, Ollie. It looks like it's a real mess.”
Just as he was about to say something else, he heard a rustling behind them. The two men turned around in time to see Connor approaching.

He clasped one hand with the other as he often would and asked “What happened here?”

Patrick breathed a sigh. He should have known at least Connor would notice him leaving the homestead. It could not just be coincidence that he showed up here shortly after he arrived. Instead of saying anything he stepped aside to reveal the wagon, letting Ollie do the talking.

For a moment Connor seemed to take in the situation while Ollie relayed the details to him, how he had ordered the goods a while ago and how he had gone to see if anything had happened when the delivery was a week late.

As Connor listened, Patrick took the chance to scrutinise the younger man. He had never wasted his time thinking about it before, but Connor tended to carry around an unusual amount of weaponry wherever he went. Unless he was spending time around the other inhabitants of the homestead. Maybe some of it could come in handy.

Connor caught him staring a moment later. “Is everything alright, Patrick?” he asked, squirming a little under the close attention.

“Rope darts,” Patrick answered in an unusually rough and somewhat distant tone before he snapped out of it and shook his head a few times. “I mean, if we had ropes and something to fasten them to the wheels without risking to break the spokes,” he explained in his usual, much softer voice. “We could lay the ropes through these forks in the branches. Here and over there,” he pointed upwards to indicate strong and sturdy looking branches above them. “You could make sure the cart stays in place or at least doesn't slip any further while I retrieve the cargo.”

“I don't think that's a good idea,” Ollie said, though he sounded unsure.

The look on Connor's face wasn't too happy either. But for other reasons than Patrick thought.
Unlike Patrick himself, he had noticed the change in attitude. He doubted any normal man would be familiar with rope darts, a Chinese weapon Achilles first introduced him to a few years ago. But the Templar he used to be certainly would. He wanted to trust the man, especially since he did so much to help wherever he could, but if he started to remember, things might become more complicated. And he could really do without this to add to his worries over the ongoing war and the Templar Order's involvement.
“It is our best option,” Connor agreed eventually and started to loosen the rope darts from his weapon belt.

The casualness with which Patrick laid them through the forks and securely fastened them to the wheels was fascinating to watch. Ollie was impressed and asked questions about the knots Patrick used so easily. Sailor's knots, they thought, but since his memories were still patchy at best, there was no way to know for sure. All Connor knew was that he probably could not have done it the same way or with as much ease.

And so Connor and Ollie ended up holding onto the ropes while Patrick climbed up on the wagon. It teetered dangerously over the edge. For a few seconds he stopped to see if it would move, but when the ropes held and the wood stopped creaking under his weight, he disappeared behind the cover and started to heave the first barrel from where it stood. He easily retrieved the second, third and fourth, but when he climbed on the cart again, the stone beneath gave in with a loud crash. The ledge broke off under the weight and the cart started to slide further off the ground, tilting a little more the farther it went.

“Get out of there!” Connor yelled from outside. On the muddy ground he had trouble not losing his footing altogether.
Ollie on the other hand was fighting a losing battle at this point.
“It won't hold much longer!” he added in a desperate tone. “Please?!”

“It's just one more, I can do it!” Patrick yelled over the sound of breaking wood and stone. He managed to use the barrel's weight to his advantage and emerged with it seconds later. No sooner had he set it down beside the cart when the last spoke broke and Ollie slipped and landed on his bottom.
Patrick jumped to get off the wagon as it slipped uncontrollably towards the ledge, but the momentum pulled him down with it.
It was only by chance that he managed to hold onto the cold and wet stone. Mercilessly the rough edges of it sliced through his skin, making blood run down his arm and stain his sleeve. The pain made it almost impossible to hold on.

“Patrick!” he heard someone yell distantly. He couldn't quite tell if it was Connor, Ollie or some voice in his head as a memory rushed to the surface. Cold, collapsing stone and ice. Terror and yells. Someone fighting in the distance. The rush of adrenaline from trying to escape unscathed.

He felt dizzy and disoriented when a warm hand grabbed his arm. When he looked up there was Connor, pulling him up and onto solid ground.

For a few moments they sat side by side, calming their breaths. Patrick cradled his injured hand close to his chest, still shaking a little.
“Thanks, I suppose,” Patrick said, still panting a little as he pushed his hair back from his face with his uninjured hand. Exhaustion threatened him, but he still managed to summon a smile for his saviour.

Connor stared at him reproachfully.
“That was stupid. You could have died,” he said calmly. Patrick could see a vein throbbing in his temple.

“Would have been worth it.” Patrick said, making light of the situation as he got up on his feet.

“Hardly. You would have given your life for a barrel of-”

“-Ale. The best ale on the frontier if we can believe the rumours. Not a bad trade, all in all.” He clapped Connor on the back, motioning for him to get up as well.

Connor quietly shook his head in disbelief. “If you have always been this reckless, it is a wonder you are still alive.”

“Well,” Patrick began more loudly than necessary, “with the cart gone, how are we going to get these back to the homestead?” he pointed over his shoulder at the barrels he had retrieved. His hair had fallen back down, once again covering the scar that ran across his forehead and cheek and stood as a quiet reminder of how he must have lead his former life.
When he looked at Ollie, the man still looked a little pale from the shock of what he had just seen happening.

“Perhaps,” Ollie had to clear his throat so that his voice was more than a whisper, “Perhaps we could bring a cart from the homestead.” A bit unsure, he looked towards Connor. “If that's alright, of course.”

“Of course it is,” the Native man said thoughtfully. “Take two of the horses back. Patrick and I will guard the barrels in the meantime.”

Ollie nodded and scurried off to fetch his and Patrick's horses.

 

Once Ollie was out of earshot, Patrick looked over at Connor, a frown tugging at his lips. “I could have gone,” he pointed out. He did not like the idea of sitting around and waiting for the other man to return.

“No.” Connor objected.

Patrick's jaw clenched with ill-concealed annoyance.

“We will need your strength when he returns,” the younger man said sternly, turning to face Patrick. His face was devoid of any judgement. For a moment they held each other's gaze, both waiting for any signs of an open challenge.

A strange whisper just at the edge of his hearing pulled Patrick back to reality. He shook his head and listened more intently. His eyes darted from tree to tree. “Did you hear that?”

Connor had heard nothing, but he had been focusing on the ex-Templar entirely. He activated his Eagle Vision and scanned the forest around them. It was void of any speck of colour. But then, out of the corner of the eye, he thought there was a hint of red. But when he turned, there was only the decidedly blue aura engulfing Patrick right next to him. It must have been some sort of illusion. He changed back to his normal vision. “No, nothing.”

For a moment Patrick's face was still scrunched up in concentration. “I could have sworn there was something.” Eventually he took a deep breath and forced himself to relax. He hadn't even noticed the change in his stance. Maybe, he thought, things like that were normal while he recovered. It would fit in nicely with his dreams after all.

“I can promise you, there is no-one else out here right now.” Connor's unwavering voice was soothing to his upset mind. His face was much softer now as he motioned Patrick over to the tree trunk Ollie had been sitting on earlier. There was no reason to keep standing around in the middle of the road where they would be sure to catch everyone's attention.

After a few moments he felt calmer again. The whispers had stopped. Wherever these bouts of disorientation came from, he would have to ask Dr. White about them sometime soon. But that would mean giving everyone even more reason to baby him. He swallowed and concentrated on the forest around them, the small sounds made by animals and the wind in the trees, but his thoughts soon started to wander again.
“Can I ask you something?” he asked eventually.
Connor gave a curt nod.
Patrick sat a little straighter before he asked “What happened to the Aquila? I mean,” he gestured distractedly, “obviously it's none of my business. I just wondered if you were... involved in something.”
The only hint that Connor was listening at all was the quiet flare of his nose.
Perhaps, Patrick thought, he had overstepped his boundaries by asking. Nevertheless he felt the answer was somehow important. Connor's silence supported his suspicion.
“Is that why you don't trust me? Did you find out anything about who I was?” he pushed on. The damage was done one way or another.

Connor did not look at him. “No,” he said, “but I have been gone for a while. Have you made any progress on your own?”

That was a transparent lie. He narrowed his eyes. Either Connor had found out something and wanted to test the waters or it was the lousiest attempt at avoiding the topic altogether he had ever seen. Patrick looked at him intently, trying to figure out which option was more likely.
“You realize I know you're trying to change the subject, don't you?” he finally asked.

Connor shifted, looking uncomfortable. “It is not something I should be talking about. That has nothing to do with trust.” he explained in a strained voice. Obviously he had hoped Patrick would just drop the matter.

Patrick almost refused to let the matter drop. Only the desire to not be thrown out restrained him.“I see.” he said, turning back towards the road. But he couldn't shake the feeling that there was more to it, that Connor wasn't entirely honest with him and that he should be aware of what was going on.
“While you were away, then,” he began again, “did you hear anything about the-”
He knew Connor did not have to hear the whole question to know what he was asking about yet again. The topic had come up a few times since he had woken up. Connor had promised to try and find some information when he visited Boston or New York – the sunken ship's most likely destinations.

“I am sorry.” Connor said.

Patrick was aware that he hated to disappoint anyone, be it the people of the homestead or strangers. Although he himself could probably no longer be considered a stranger. But neither were they friends. They had a certain understanding. And Patrick was quite happy with that most of the time. Only when he felt like Connor knew more than he was telling him did he begin to doubt. Was the younger man intending to give him the time he needed or rather keep him out of harm’s way? It was likely he would never know.

“From what we heard it must have been a regular merchant ship without any valuable cargo. I have no idea why someone would attack it.” Connor added. “If that is what happened at all. The seas in the North can be rough that early in the year.”

Patrick sunk back into thought, rubbing his chin. “So nobody would be looking for survivors,” he said, then added more to himself, “At least that means I won't be a danger to anyone around here.”

“Whether you would be a danger to anyone but yourself is up to you,” Connor pointed out.

Although Patrick knew he hinted at his recklessness, he still felt like it was only one half of what he meant to imply. Sooner or later almost every conversation with the younger man led there. It was like they were going round in circles. Some things remained unsaid, but the implications were palpable like a shallow current just beneath the surface.
He really wished he could trust Connor and be trusted in return. It would make life in the homestead much more pleasant without the feeling of being watched at all times. But perhaps they were too alike for that to easily happen. So long as neither of them was completely honest and open about what bothered them, the careful way of their interactions might never change.
But he had been honest, had he not? As far as he knew he had never given anyone in the homestead any reason to distrust him.
Perhaps Connor just needed something more, something that would convince him he deserved to be trusted.

They waited in silence, a soft wind rustled the leaves in the trees above.

Finally, Patrick got up again. He walked a few steps down the road as if to check if Ollie was on his way back already.
They both knew they would hear him before they could see him. He stood there, gazing down the path, and found his mind turning back towards the Connor problem. He knew that if Connor was really as much like him as he expected, the only way to gain his trust and get the awkwardness over with, was to trust him first. An open confrontation would lead nowhere, only widening the gulf between them.
He took a measured breath, looked at Connor, then turned around to properly face him again. There was no other way, he had to make the first move. And now was as good a time as any. At least he wouldn't have to run off on urgent business so long as they were out here.
“Doctor White makes me keep a journal,” he blurted out.

Connor knitted his brow, clearly confused at what to make of the sudden admission.

“Bits and pieces of memories keep coming back to me at night, but I don’t understand them. He thinks that if I write them down, maybe they will make sense one day.”

“What do you remember?” Connor asked. There was an odd undertone in his voice.

“Mostly places, voices, impressions. Sometimes objects or pictures. Other times it's just written words in a jumble of languages I don't understand.”

The younger man kept looking at him.

“I try to write it all down, but- like I said, it doesn't make sense.” He paused. “You probably think I'm crazy now.” He chuckled derisively. “Sometimes I feel like I'm losing my mind.”

“Give yourself some time,” Connor said gently.

“Doctor White said the same,” Patrick replied.

“Then perhaps there is some truth to it.” The remark stung slightly, but its honesty felt like a step forward.

Patrick found himself chuckling. “You're right. But I don't think I've ever been a very patient man.”

The comment elicited a weak smile from Connor. “It is hard to imagine you any other way,” he said, making the older man laugh.
The silence that followed felt much lighter than it had before.
“If writing does not help, you could always talk to Doctor White when these memories surface.” Connor offered, his voice quiet. “Or me, if you prefer.”

“Thank you.”

In the distance the distinct sound of a cart rolling over the dirt road approaching manifested itself. Moments later they saw Ollie lead the horses around the corner.

 


 

The Homestead, December 1777


Winter approached. The air was still and crisp. The first snow had completely surprised them when it covered the grounds entirely overnight, sending everyone rushing about to prepare for a long winter. More often than not Patrick saw Connor helping Myriam on her hunts. If the snow kept falling it would soon become too difficult to hunt enough for everyone; and so along with hunting they were kept busy with smoking and drying meat before the weather turned worse.

Preoccupied as Connor was, it fell to Patrick to help wherever else help was needed. After all these months the distrust and caution had finally worn off and nobody thought to send him away to rest anymore, much to his relief.

None of them spent more than a few minutes being idle. Most days they were busy from sunrise until past sunset, but Patrick suspected that helping the settlers was not the only reason Connor was seen out in the forest so much. There was a tension in the air that everyone could feel as they went about their business. Looking up at the manor, the feeling only intensified as it was noticed how rarely Connor seemed to return to the house.
The only signs that life continued inside the manor at all was the thin smoke rising from the chimneys and heated arguments that could be heard all the way over by the stables. Every day the volume seemed to increase just a little bit.

Patrick was on his way to meet Doctor White when the door to the manor flew open and Connor rushed outside towards his horse, a blue bundle tucked under his arm. He did not even try to hide his anger. Too concentrated on his task, he took no notice of Patrick stopping nearby, just out of sight.
A second later Achilles came stomping after him. Sensing that his presence would not be wanted right now Patrick stayed where he was, hoping that both of them would remain unaware of him.

“Don't do this, Connor!” the old man yelled.

“Then what would you propose we do? Sit and watch while the Templars take control? We are sworn to stop them. Or have you forgotten?” Connor had turned around to face him again. Burning fury was evident in his words.

“Assassins are meant to be quiet. Precise. We do not go announcing conspiracies from the rooftops to all who pass by,” Achilles protested, looking like he was trying to stay calm. Patrick got the impression that they had had this exact argument before.

“Who are you to lecture anyone? You locked yourself away in this crumbling heap and gave up on the Brotherhood entirely. Since the day I arrived, you've done nothing but discourage me. And on the rare occasion you've chosen to help, you've done so little, you may as well have done nothing at all!” Connor yelled, more insistently and turned to go once more.
The rage in his voice made Patrick very glad that it was not directed at him. It sounded like the words had been building up for a very long time. Although he could not tell what they were fighting about exactly, he figured it probably had to do with Connor's frequent disappearances over the summer.

Achilles grew angrier by the moment and made to follow him outside, his cane supporting his every step. “How dare you!”

Connor clearly would not take any more of his arguments. He knew he had won and was doing what was right, whatever Achilles said in protest. He turned towards him once more as he said angrily “Then tell me: On whose watch did the Brotherhood falter? Whose inaction allowed the Templar Order to grow so large that it now controls an entire nation?!”
He reached his horse and started to secure the blue bundle to the saddle.

Achilles had reached the foot of the steps now and was about to argue further, but then his eyes met Patrick's and he stopped. It took him a moment to collect himself.
Then he continued in a smaller but equally stern voice.
“If I sought to dissuade you, it was because you knew nothing! If I was reluctant to contribute, it was because you were naive. A thousand times you would have died and taken God knows how many with you.”
He looked at Connor again, choosing his words more carefully now. And with no little conviction he continued “Let me tell you something, Connor: Life is not a fairy tale and there are no happy endings.”

Regardless of what the old man had tried to convey, Connor was done packing. His face was still distorted in anger, well beyond the point of caring about anything Achilles, or anyone else for that matter, said.
“No. Not when men like you are left in charge.” he remarked coldly as he mounted the horse. It was the clearest dismissal Patrick had ever heard from his mouth.

Achilles could do little more than yell after him “In your haste to save the world, boy – take care you don't destroy it!” as he rode off.
He threw a cold look in Patrick's direction and hobbled back into the manor, leaving him to wonder what he had just walked in on.

 

Chapter Text

The Homestead, April 1778

 

The fog was dense and the small stripe Patrick could see of the sky had a cold, pale pink tint. The sun was nowhere to be seen yet. Going down to the harbour, he could still feel the winter’s sting in the air. The Aquila had returned yesterday, looking awfully damaged. It wasn't like she had ever come back without any bruises or battle scars, but this time the ship looked like it would take no more than another hit for her to sink.


He patted a sailor on the back who was sawing new planks. “Looks like there’s a lot of work to do,” Patrick said instead of a greeting.


The sailor laughed drily. “Ya don’t say.”


Patrick grinned apologetically. “I’d like to help. And I’m looking for the Captain.”


“Not sure if he’s still aboard.” The sailor scratched his stubbly chin. “Hmm. But if he is, you’ll find him below decks. Mr Faulkner should be there, too. Ask him what you can do.”


The sound of hammering, cursing and hummed shanties accompanied Patrick into the tortured ship’s belly. He found the first mate in the relative darkness of the gun deck.

Patrick eyed the large breach in the Aquila's hull, the repair of which Mr Faulkner seemed to be busily discussing with a crewman. One of the cannons was missing altogether. But seeing as there were only a few crewmen occupied below decks, working in a calm and orderly fashion, she must not have taken any serious damage below the waterline. Surely that was a relief for Connor and the whole crew; at least she wouldn’t sink. What Patrick had seen so far would take long enough to repair as it was. He drew a face, almost feeling the ship's pain himself. “Must've been quite a fight. Did the British do that to her?”

He couldn't remember anything about politics, but the people of the Homestead had done their best to explain the current situation to him during the last year and he had read some newspapers as well. Latest copies weren't easy to come by, but from time to time one of the tradesmen passing through lent him their issue. As far as he could tell, Connor was fighting alongside the Continental Army.


“You could say that, aye.” Mr Faulkner let out a sigh. “You mind giving us a hand, Patrick? Only half of our men are able to help us repairing her.” What had happened to the others was left to his imagination.


“Gladly,” Patrick agreed without a second thought. Before he could be sent to work though, he remembered the other reason he had come down to the docks. “Uhm, actually, I was looking for your Captain.”


“You just missed him. He rode off to Boston an hour ago to get new navigation charts. Either burnt or full of salt and splinters, all of them!”

 


 

The sun had risen and was slowly dispersing the fog when Patrick joined the crew on the main deck a while later. For a moment he stood, looking for familiar faces or an obvious opportunity to get right to work. Around him the other sailors were talking in loud voices. He sat down beside a man he had talked to a bit the last time, flashing him a smile before helping him lever out a blackened, splintered plank.

“Was it a close escape? The way she looks it's a miracle you didn't all drown.”


The man – his name was Jim, Patrick remembered – snorted. “We didn't escape. We won, mate.”

A big part of the plank unhinged with a loud crack.

“Listen, erm, Patrick? You got this for a moment? I need to take a piss since forever.”


Patrick nodded. “Leave it to me, Jim.”


Jim groaned as he got up from where he must have been crouching in the same position for far too long. A sailor working close-by laughed at him as he continued to crack his spine and grunt when another vertebra popped back where it belonged.

“I’m getting too old for this. Stop laughing, Henri,” he demanded.


“Yeah, Henri, it's not funny,” a broad shouldered man working a few meters away said, obviously in a foul mood. “She's all but splinters.”


The one named Henri shrugged. “Well, that's why we have to fix her, innit.”


“If it was because of a good old battle I wouldn't mind,” another sailor joined in the conversation, not sounding too happy either. “But since it's all our Captain's gentleman dad's fault...” He spat on the floor.


Patrick thought he didn't hear that right. “Connor's da?”


“Aye,” Jim said as he came back to work, wiping his hands on his trousers. “That bastard sailed the Aquila right into another ship, full sails set and all! Mental and self-righteous that one, nothing like our Captain.”

All men but Patrick murmured approvingly.


Looking at the state of the ship he was on, Patrick whistled softly to himself. After an incident like that it was a small wonder all her masts were still intact and the sails and rigging in as little a mess as they seemed. They would have to check them thoroughly anyway after they had made sure the ship was otherwise intact.


“But they’re all like that godless nobleman, ain't they.” Henri said. “Them Tem-”


They were interrupted by the sound of heavy boots stomping up the stairs from below decks. Mr Faulkner emerged, looking angrier than Patrick had ever seen the man.

“Didn't I tell you bastardly gullions never to talk about our missions?!” The sailors cringed. The first mate silently glared at his men for a few seconds, before he continued his reprimand. “Now get back to work and keep your mouths shut, or I'll have you all whipped!” he shouted, spraying droplets of spit at everyone too close in the process.


Quietly, everyone resumed their work. When Mr Faulkner, still bristling with anger, finally went below deck once more, Patrick thought about asking one of the men what all of this had been about, but the grim look on their faces made him decide to remain silent for the time being. Whatever it was, it had nothing to do with him anyway.

 


 

Boston, The Same Day

 

Connor rode over a small bridge, enjoying the sunlight on his skin. He took a moment to listen to the birds twittering in the trees and bushes around. The clip-clop sound his horse's hooves were making on the wooden planks and the gurgle of the stream beneath them only added to the tranquillity.

Connor threw a glance at the three men who idly sat at the edge of the bridge, fishing and basking in the warming rays of the spring sun as if there was no war going on around them. He wished he had some time off - off from everything, time to think, to consider before he had to make his next move. When had been the last time he hadn't been in haste?

What had Ellen once told him when she had caught him in hurry … “No rest for the wicked”?

Connor glanced back at the fishing men.

It was for the better. If the restlessness he felt from his work meant that people like them could live in safety and peace, it was worth it. Besides, he was used to it after all.

What he wasn't used to were the conflicted feelings he held for his father. Haytham Kenway was cold and brutal and yet everything he said seemed true. Washington and his men preached freedom, but only for a selected few. Was Connor backing the wrong group of  people? But the only alternative to Washington was Charles Lee.

A shallow, yet way too familiar panic bubbled up inside him and made him feel like he was suffocating. He gripped his reins tighter.

No. Lee could never be an ally.

Alas, he couldn't stop wondering, were most Templars like Lee, or more like his father? His thoughts wandered to Patrick. What kind of Templar had he been?


Spurring his horse, he pushed away any such thoughts. Now was not the time.


Boston was already wide awake by the time Connor passed the city gate.

The noise of the city quickly engulfed him as he rode down its streets. Pedestrians chattered, farmers and merchants advertised their goods in loud voices, children laughed and yelled as they chased each other across the streets. Although Connor much preferred the calm of the Frontier, he couldn't deny that this restlessness at least provided a welcome distraction from his stray thoughts.


He stopped outside of a little book store near the harbour. One of his recruits had recommended it to him a while ago.

The place was dark and dusty. The air glittered where the sun was strong enough to send pale golden rays of light through the dirty little windows. The door slammed shut and the bustling of the streets was reduced to a mere background noise. Connor sneezed. Instead of a greeting, the man behind the counter grumbled something that sounded like an insult. He was old, hunched and the few teeth still in his mouth matched the colour of pale ale.

The man initially regarded the tall Native asking for Henry Popple’s Twenty-Sheet Map of the British Empire in America or good navigation charts with suspicion. However, the little bag of coins he was presented with changed the old man's mind.
Connor was used to being treated this way by most colonists, but it still stung that only money got him some sort of respect in such instances.

Connor stifled a yawn while watching a hunched back vanish between high book shelves. He hadn't rested well and had been riding the whole morning. The first thing he was going to do when he returned home was getting a full night of sleep, Connor told himself. Then he remembered that he had promised his father to meet him in New York as soon as possible and he sighed silently.


Waiting, Connor found himself lost in thoughts once again.

He hadn't had time to talk to Patrick since he had arrived back in the Homestead yesterday, but Myriam had come down to the Aquila for a chat. She had told him, amongst other things, that Patrick still didn't show any signs of remembering anything about his previous life.

Maybe it was for the better if the scarred Templar never regained his memory. Of course his knowledge might be of use to the Brotherhood, but Connor had come to like the man. Patrick was a good man, like all the people of the Homestead. And he was a good addition to their community.

A good man …

He couldn't have been entirely different as a Templar, could he?

Connor frowned.

Though he didn't quite know what to think of his father – Haytham certainly wasn't a good man – the Grandmaster wasn't a monster either.
All his life as an Assassin, Connor had always known why he was fighting the Templars. To protect his people, first and foremost, but also because he knew that these men were evil. Every Templar he had killed had meant the world was a bit safer.

Now, he wasn't sure anymore.

What if more of them were men like Patrick, like his father? The Templars' ways may be wrong, but what if they did mean good, if they only wanted to create a better world for everyone?

If he could make his father see the world as he did, maybe Templars and Assassins could-


The hunched man returned from the back of the shop, cutting off Connor's train of thoughts.
Two dusty, neatly packed map collections were plunked down on the counter. “Navigation charts.”


“What do they show?”


“I don't know, I'm no cartographer. Want to buy them or not?”


Connor snatched the collections from the counter and unfolded the maps to study. Together they showed a great part of the north-eastern coastline with some of the bigger rivers. They weren't the quality of his old ones, but they didn't look wrong either.

“I will buy these.”


Outside the smallish store, Connor stuffed his new acquirements carefully into his saddlebag, and his money back in his pocket. His fingers brushed over Patrick’s Templar ring in the process. He had completely forgotten that he was still carrying it around in his robes. Having it in the same place as his coins seemed unwise, so Connor put the ring in another coat pocket - an otherwise empty and unused one.


Thinking of Patrick even so briefly brought on another worrying thought. He hadn’t received word from his recruits in a while. Trusting that everything was going well was one thing, however, with the fledgling ceasefire he and his father  had agreed upon, he could not risk being left in the dark should anything have occurred in his absence.

Deciding to pay them a quick visit to see how things were faring in the city, before heading to New York, Connor climbed the nearest façade.The tavern in which Duncan was to be found most of the time wasn't far. With the nonchalance of having navigated these paths for years he turned northwards.

Strolling leisurely above the busy streets, he became strangely aware of how familiar all of this had become. The big cities, the layout of Boston as well as New York, the people he now called his brothers. Much had changed in a few years' time.


When he opened the tavern's door a little while later, a chair just missed him by mere inches.

What was it with settlers and bar fights?

Connor looked around, trying to find one of his recruits inside the turmoil. It seemed the whole tavern was fighting, except for the inn-keeper, who cowered behind the bar. Connor leaned over and asked the man “Is Duncan Little involved in this fight?” But the words went unheard among all the noise. He sighed.

Why couldn't anything in his life be easy? Well, business as usual.

Connor strained his eyes and the world around turned quiet, shouting reduced to whispering, forms reduced to shadows. A bright blue silhouette flashed up inside the mob and Connor changed his vision back to normal. There he was. How unusual for Duncan to participate in a fight. Maybe it was Stephane?

Connor shoved cheering bystanders aside, until he could see exactly who was in the middle of this brawl.


“Father?” Connor shouted in disbelief. “What are you doing?”


Haytham dodged a fierce right hook, then glanced at his son, before hitting a man close to him in the side.

“Ah, Connor,” he greeted, slightly out of breath. “A little help here?”


Unbelievable!

Connor rolled his shoulders and with annoyance joined the fight to help his father.

 


 

When father and son exited the tavern, both were panting and covered in bruises.


Haytham touched his lower lip and drew a face when he saw the blood on the tips of his fingers.

“Wonderful,” he said under his breath. “I'm trying to help these stupid sheep build a nation and they want to beat me up for looking too English for their taste.”


Connor shook his head, slightly amused despite the situation. “The Templars do not only seem to have eyes and ears everywhere, but friends as well.”


Haytham straightened his clothes before he shot Connor an angry glare. “You have the audacity to mock me, Connor, right after having your damned fledgling Assassins steal my luggage?”


Connor stared. “Your luggage?” he asked in confusion.


The anger left Haytham's face and it was replaced by exhausted annoyance. “So you didn't know.” He exhaled audibly. “Well, I guess that makes things easier. Although it makes me wonder how you managed to lead these chaotic people until now. Or did you just give them a pair of hidden blades and let them loose? Hoped that would make them great Assassins in an instant?”


“What happened?”


“After you dropped me off yesterday, I rented a room at an inn and planned to ride for New York this morning after talking to my local contacts here. However,” he waved his arms, “when I returned to my room after breakfast, I found my luggage gone. I followed their clumsy tracks and it were Assassins, no doubt. A French, a priest, and a child with a musket.”


Stephane,Duncan and Clipper. Why would they do such a thing, Connor wondered. Then it hit him, he hadn't had the time to tell them about the truce he had made with the Templar Grandmaster. Still, it had been foolish, doing such a thing on their own.

“If their tracks are so clumsy, then why did you not already retrieve your belongings?”


Connor was surprised it was possible, yet an even more displeased look crossed Haytham's face. “Well, since we do have a truce, I was busy trying not to kill any of your men, only leaving me to defend myself chasing them while that sharp shooter of yours was constantly aiming for my head. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but that somehow kept me at a distance.”


“Thank you,” Connor said, awkwardly bringing his hands up to his chest to massage his left palm with his right thumb, “for not using lethal methods against my recruits.”


Haytham gave him a look Connor couldn’t quite interpret. Then he tilted his head in acknowledgement.

Looking back at the tavern, he hummed musingly. “I lost their tracks around here. Go back into that establishment and see if you can find anything. I don't think I'm still very welcome in there.”


“That is not necessary, father.” Haytham raised his brows and Connor continued “I have an idea where they might be. I will go to them and get your luggage back for you.”


“We will go there, together . I want to make sure you don't forget telling your men about our truce this time.”


“This is not a very wise idea. I cannot tell how they will react.”


“Now, that isn't my problem, is it.”


Connor glared, but his father didn’t look like he cared, only regarding his scowl with a stern frown.


“I cannot keep you from coming with me.” Connor finally said in defeat.


“So we agree. Excellent.” Haytham gave his son a curt smile. “Well, then. Where are they hiding?”


“I would rather not tell you, father. I expect them in one of our hideouts.”


“Oh, and I would rather not have to go on this little adventure in the first place, but thanks to your incompetence, I have to.”


Connor rolled his eyes.

He certainly hadn't missed his father's habit of insulting his competence when in stress. Once these lands were free, maybe they could talk about such things. He had liked the glimpse of a more relaxed Haytham he had gotten on their way back from Martinique. Getting to know more of that side of his father would be nice … that was if he ever let him.

But who knew if the both of them would still be alive when all of this was over, anyway. They may have killed each other when that time had come.

“Follow me.”

Chapter Text

Boston, April 1778

 

The bell of a nearby church rang twice, breaking the silence that engulfed the two men on Boston’s rooftops. The soft sound of their feet on the shingles accompanied them as they made their way across the city.

Connor was still reluctant to lead his father to their hideout, but there was no other way.


As they approached their destination, Connor slowed down and motioned for Haytham to come to a halt as well.
“We have to continue on the ground,” he said quietly.


Haytham knitted his brows, scanning the area. After a few seconds, he obviously noticed the soldiers on the rooftops around.
“Quite heavily guarded. Why would you choose such a territory for a safe house?”


Connor wondered if Haytham was criticising him again. Annoyance began to nag at him. “We stay out of sight, in the shadows. They have never noticed us. Your men, they noticed. The Templars didn’t live to tell anyone about our whereabouts.” He couldn’t help giving his father a challenging glance at the last sentence.


Haytham raised his brows in something akin to either surprise, offense or mild admiration; Connor always found it hard to tell.
“I see,” Haytham said.


Before Haytham could climb off the roof, Connor gestured for him to wait. He answered Haytham’s questioning look with a nod to the ground.
“There is a patrol.”


“So? It’s not as though this is a restricted area, we’re not doing anything suspicious.”


“They are searching for us.”


“For us?” Haytham crouched down at the edge of the roof, scrutinizing the soldiers below. After a moment, he sighed.

Two Hessians were showing pedestrians wanted posters which had faces resembling Connor’s and Haytham’s on them, while the rest of the search party kept a low profile.


“The people in the tavern must have called the soldiers after the fight you dragged me into.”


Haytham hummed, flicking his hidden blade out and in again. “Well, in this case, let’s be rid of them, shall we.”


“No,” Connor said emphatically, “we will wait for them to leave.”


Haytham turned his head to give his son a frown. “I’ve had enough of unnecessary delays, we will deal with them now.”

He stood up to launch himself on one of the soldiers below, but Connor gripped his upper arm and yanked him around. For a moment their eyes locked as they both realized what was going to happen. They overbalanced and there was nothing either of them could do to prevent falling on the roof with an undignified thud. Then they began to slither down.


A rush surged through Connor. Everything seemed to slow down.

The feeling wasn’t new. He had experienced the same in countless battles before. Usually it worked in his favour. The extra time enabled him to make the right decisions.

But this was different. He wasn’t alone in this, there was Haytham. His father had grabbed the first piece of fabric he could reach while Connor’s arm had circled around his waist, keeping him close, keeping him safe.

It was a most unusual reflex, at least with the other man on the receiving end.

Connor had not even noticed when he had grabbed the edge of a chimney with his other hand, but at last they stopped sliding off the roof.
Haytham wasn’t a man who needed protection. Connor knew this all too well, but he had reacted before he could think. Haytham’s breath tingled in Connor’s ear, accelerated and warm against his skin. He could feel the muscles shift beneath his grasp as Haytham recovered from the initial surprise.

Connor still found himself unable to move. In a way, he didn’t want to get up. Not yet. Not when everything felt oddly right. But the sliding had stopped. And time returned to its normal pace.

Connor blinked.


Haytham lifted himself off his son.
“Was that really necessary, Connor?!” he hissed from above.


“We will wait,” Connor repeated calmly, yet slightly out of breath. He sat up.

To his surprise, Haytham did as he had proposed.
Connor watched his father lean against another chimney with a sour look on his face as he straightened his clothes.

Connor’s heart was still thundering against his ribcage from the sudden excitement.

Their closeness should have been uncomfortable for him.
He wasn’t on intimate terms with Haytham after all. On the contrary, the man was his enemy and he wouldn’t even claim to like him.
Usually Connor despised physical contact or even close proximity with people who were neither close friends nor family.
Of course, Haytham was blood, but he couldn’t call him family. Not really. Could he?
And yet … the more he thought about it, the more he realised that his father’s closeness hadn’t felt uncomfortable for quite some time now.
Perhaps he had just gotten used to the other man's presence.
Yes, that had to be it.


The shadows had already grown longer when the patrol finally went on to another area.


“That was a waste of time,” Haytham complained as they climbed down the façade.


“Avoiding unnecessary death is never a waste.”

 


 

They had almost reached the docks.

Connor remembered how he had joined the Sons of Liberty a few years ago, at that very spot, in his first economic strike against Templar supremacy. Back then he had dumped tea into the harbour in his belief that he could win this battle without murder.
The cry of a seagull startled Connor out of his thoughts. He looked around. The safehouse was only one block away now.
Connor stopped and gave his father an uncertain look.


“Let me take an educated guess: you want to tell me to wait?” Haytham asked.


Connor entwined his fingers. “Not for long. I will talk to my recruits, then you can join. I do not wish for more fighting today.”


“The little fist fight tired you?”


“I fight when I must. I do not take pleasure in it.”


An odd look crossed Haytham’s face. Then, he sat down on a crate. “Make it quick, will you. I’ll follow in a few minutes.”


Connor inclined his head and headed to the warehouse they used as a hideout.

However, he was still within earshot, when a yell and the clang of metal against metal made him whirl around.

Stephane was circling Haytham, clutching his butcher knife. Haytham leisurely drew his sword.


“Stop!” Connor shouted. He ran back towards them.


Regardless , neither his friend nor his father paid attention to him. Stephane attacked Haytham again, who dodged his blow and slammed the pommel of his sword into the inexperienced Assassin’s face with a sickening crunching sound.


Connor arrived at the fight scene and gripped his father’s shoulder. “Stop!” he demanded once again.


In that moment Stephane, blinded by the blood and pain caused by his broken nose, started another attack.
Connor turned away in time so the butcher knife didn’t sink into his intestines, but grazed his coat instead. Something small hit the ground with a ping.
Haytham grabbed Stephane’s arm and yanked him to the ground, twisting it behind his back.


“Stop the fighting! Both of you!”


Haytham shoved Stephane away, releasing his arm.

Stephane blinked in slight disorientation, then looked up to his teacher. “Connor!” He struggled to his feet, then closed his eyes in pain and tentatively touched his nose. He sucked air through his teeth. “I saw him tailing you.”


“He did not tail me,” Connor said. “We-” He stopped, vexed by his father’s apparent disinterest in the whole situation. After sheathing his sword, Haytham crouched down a few feet away, completely ignoring the Assassins. Connor slightly shook his head. That man was impossible! He looked Stephane in the eye. “We have a truce, my father and I.”


Stephane seemed irritated by Haytham’s behaviour as well, but turned to face Connor again, blinking away blood and tears. “A truce? I didn’t even- I thought you didn’t know him in person.”


Haytham stood up and came back to his son’s side. “It looks like everyone in the Brotherhood knows about our blood relationship but not about our alliance.” He stated nonchalantly, yet his gaze was icy.


Connor glared. “You,” he said, “will wait here, father. I need to talk to my men in private. Stephane, let us go to Duncan and Clipper.”


“Oh,” Haytham said, “I will wait, Connor.”
Connor wondered why this sounded so much like a threat.

 


 

“Why did you do this?” Connor asked his recruits.


Duncan and Clipper sat on the wooden chest containing the Templar Grandmaster’s belongings. Stephane was pacing up and down behind them. All three of them appeared nervous, but Stephane was angry as well.

He came to a stop. “We could ask you the same!” he barked, his voice distorted by his now swollen but vetted injury.


Clipper gave his comrade a reproachful look. “Stephane!”


Duncan cleared his throat. “I would actually like to know that as well,” he said gently, “Why did you declare a truce with your father?”


Connor thought about his words for a moment. “The Templars do not aid the crown. Our interests are aligned … for now.”


The recruits exchanged surprised and wary looks.

“Aligned?” Duncan asked.


Connor nodded. “They want to free this nation from British rule as well.”


“And you think you can trust him?!”


“No.” His recruits gave him flabbergasted looks, so he hurried to continue “We cannot trust him, but our cooperation serves these lands and its people. That is why I believe the benefits are worth the risk. We can reach more fighting together than against each other.”


Duncan frowned thoughtfully. “And what does the Grandmaster hope to gain from this?”


“I hope he has the same reasons as I have.”


“What if he wants to swing you to their cause? You’re his son after all, I don’t believe he doesn’t care at all,” Clipper said.


Connor huffed in sad amusement. He didn’t think his father thought of any person beyond their utility.
“There is no need to worry. Even if this was his intention, I would never turn my back on my people, or on you.”


Duncan and Clipper seemed more at ease, only Stephane still looked agitated, shaking his finger at Connor. “He will stab you in the back, that is what men like him do,” he said.


Connor smiled softly at his friend’s worry.
“He could have killed me when we first met, and several times after that. Yet he chose not to. Whatever plans he has, taking my life does not appear to be a part of them.” He paused. Stephane didn’t look any happier, but Connor didn’t know what else to say.
“Now I would like to know why you stole my father’s belongings.”


Clipper quickly said “It was Duncan’s idea.”


Connor stared at the former priest in disbelief .


Duncan nodded guiltily. “It was. I saw him yesterday on my way to the tavern and immediately recognised him. He had someone carry that trunk after him.” He motioned to the wooden chest he and Clipper sat on. “I know, it was foolish. I followed him and saw that he left his luggage unattended. I thought that we might find useful information in there. He’s the Grandmaster after all.”

Clipper patted him on the back and Stephane murmured something unintelligible that sounded encouraging.

“So I called my comrades. Our initial plan was to break in, skim through his papers and copy any information that might appear useful.”


Connor crossed his arms. “His notes were coded,” he guessed.


Duncan nodded sheepishly. “Except for his journals. But there was too much to read, so we decided to take the trunk with us.”


Connor inclined his head. “I understand why you did this. But we have to return everything.”

 


 

His recruits hadn’t been too enthusiastic about this matter, but had finally given Connor the chest, just when the door of the warehouse opened and Haytham entered the hideout.
Stephane and Duncan began whispering, but fell silent as Connor threw them a stern look.


“I’ve waited long enough,” Haytham said as he approached the Assassins, “Now would you kindly return what is mine?”


Connor ignored the criticism and held out the trunk for his father to take. Haytham came to a stop a few feet in front of his son.
“Your luggage,” Connor said, his irritation grew. What was his problem?


“Yes, I can see that.” Haytham turned to go.


Connor exchanged confused looks with his recruits, then hurried to follow. “Do you expect me to carry this for you?!”


Haytham threw a glance over his shoulder that made Connor fall silent. “Well, yes. I do,” was his simple answer.


“You’re joking!” Clipper cried.


Haytham stopped in his tracks. Without turning around he said “Oh? Do you volunteer to carry them in your teacher’s stead?” his voice threatening.


Before Clipper could snap back at the Grandmaster, Duncan laid a soothing hand on his shoulder and Connor hastily said “We should go now, father. It is late.”


The low sun shone in Connor’s and Haytham’s faces when they left the hideout. Stephane said something rude in French, but fortunately this time Haytham didn’t seem to notice, or chose not to. They closed the door and left the recruits behind.


Something was off. Connor didn’t know what it was, but his father radiated a iciness surpassing even his usual cold demeanor. Though Connor felt annoyed at this apparent mood swing, he couldn’t help instinctively getting cautious. It was like meeting a dangerous animal in the woods. He wouldn’t be so foolish to provoke a wolf.
So he swallowed down the urge to start an argument and carried the chest after his father without so much as a complaint.

The last sunlight vanished as they went down street after street. Lamplighters passed them, busily illuminating the twilight with a soft, orange glow.
Connor watched the lamplight dance on his father’s swinging ponytail before him. Clearly, he was angry at Connor about something, yet he didn’t speak a word. What was he waiting for?

Haytham led him through a side-alley into a small inn. The stairs to his room ascended steeply and Connor pursed his lips. When he finally put down the chest at the end of Haytham’s bed, his father closed the door behind him.


“Is there something you wanted to tell me, perhaps?” Haytham asked icily.


The light from the fireplace danced across the Templar Grandmaster’s hardened features and for the first time in a long time, Connor was intimidated. He waited tensely, readying himself to get into a defensive position if needed.
Haytham got something out of his pocket, then threw it to his son. Connor jerked, but managed to catch it. Was it a coin?
Connor opened his hand.

It was Patrick’s Templar ring.

But how…
Of course! Stephane’s earlier attack must have damaged the pocket of his coat in which the ring had been in.
That must have been why his father had been crouching on the ground.


Haytham clasped his hands behind his back. “Did you know,” he asked with the same dangerous nonchalance as earlier, “that every Grandmaster has his own design for the rings he gives to his men?”

Connor stayed still.

“Hm, I suppose you didn’t. Well, this ring,” Haytham cocked his head and nodded in the direction of Connor’s hand, “Is one of the kind Grandmaster Birch handed down to his initiates, like mine. Charles wears the same type, who I am certain is still alive. However, there is another Templar who happens to wear such a ring.”

Connor’s head raced. Did his father know Patrick? Should he run or prepare to fight? Why was he so angry?

“I suppose your beloved Mentor was proud when you brought him Shay Cormac's head, wasn’t he.”

Whose head?

“Tell me, Connor, where is the box?”

Box?

“The box, child!” Haytham repeated.


“There was no box!”


Haytham stepped closer, planting himself threateningly in front of Connor. “Don’t you dare lie !” he hissed, “For what other reason would you have attacked his ship?”


Connor straightened his shoulders. “There was no ship when I found him, and I do not know what you are talking about, father!”


Haytham froze. “Found him?”

Connor bit his tongue.

“Is he still alive?” Haytham inquired.

Connor avoided to look into his father’s eyes, watching his shoes instead.

“Do you wish me to cut some answers out of you?”


Connor looked back up. He lifted his chin. “You can try.”


For a moment Haytham held his gaze. Then, he made a dismissive gesture and turned away.
“It seems,” he said, “I need to acquire my information right from the source, then.”
He reached for the door handle.


Right from the-
?
Connor gripped Haytham’s upper arm. “Where do you plan to go?!”
No, he couldn’t know where the Homestead was, he mustn’t !


Haytham glared over his shoulder instead of an answer, taking his hand from the door handle before yanking his arm free. He pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and an odd-looking sphere out of a pouch.


Connor frowned. “Father … is that a smoke bomb?”


Haytham put the handkerchief over his nose and mouth. “Hm? No, not exactly,” he said, muffled by the cloth. He threw the sphere on the ground. It burst immediately.


Connor jumped away. To his surprise, nothing unexpected happened, a fine dust cloud began to spread through the small room. It seemed like a normal smoke bomb.
He began coughing and suddenly Connor knew why on earth his father had his mouth and nose covered. This was no normal smoke. He tried to shield his respiratory system with his arm, but it was too late, he had already breathed in too much of the particles. He couldn’t stop coughing, and everything started spinning. His father guided him onto the bed.


Haytham’s muffled voice was the last thing he heard before his mind slipped into dark nothingness.

“This is far too important, Connor. I can’t let you ruin everything even more.”

Chapter Text

The Homestead, April 1778

 

The dreams came and went, much like the sudden visions that made Patrick pause and blink rapidly until he was once more sure of where he was. At times he feared he was going insane, but Dr. White had assured him that so long as he thought that, he was probably not. The doctor thought these spells might be bits and pieces of memories returning at long last.
Patrick was not so sure himself. What he saw, what he thought he saw, was too strange, too unlikely - glowing maps that showed parts of the world he had never seen charted, burning buildings groaning and collapsing around him, strange halls and caves and symbols. Most of the time he could not even make sense of the jumbled mess his mind presented him with.
He still tried to write everything down. His journal was filled to the brim with drawings and written words now. He had even gone so far as to rearrange the pages because they had felt out of order. It was a small wonder the thing remained in one piece. But he treated it like a treasure. If it ended up holding the key to his memories, he would take good care of this collection of loose pages.

The previous night he had been plagued by another bout of ‘sudden madness‘. That’s what he considered his dreams.
His head was still pounding when he stepped outside into the morning light. He hoped a walk would help clear his mind and set off towards the nearby forest.

The quiet and peacefulness of their little settlement offered a nice contrast to the turmoil inside of him. Patrick took a calming breath. If only Connor would return from Boston. He had offered to listen after all. And unlike Dr. White, he had taken him seriously, despite how difficult it was for Patrick to take his own dreams seriously.

The sound of a horse approaching rapidly brought him back to the moment.
It was rare that they had visitors, much less anyone with urgent business this early in the day.
Perhaps it was-

No. Not Connor. The man was older. One of the wealthier settlers passing through by the looks of it. He did not even slow down as he passed Patrick a little too close for comfort on the narrow path.
Cursing under his breath, Patrick looked after the newcomer.
The silhouette looked strangely familiar. But had the man come by before, he would surely remember. Apparently, his mind was not the least bit satisfied with having played tricks on him all night and intended to continue doing so by day.
Seconds later the rider disappeared around a corner, heading straight for the manor.
With him went the feeling that there was something Patrick should remember.
To say that he was a little uneasy after what had just transpired would have been an understatement.

With Connor still gone, Achilles would have to face the stranger by himself. And Patrick knew a little too well just how little patience the old man had left for sudden intruders.
Without much else to do that morning, Patrick headed for the manor.
His instinct told him he would be more useful there than elsewhere.


 

Connor spurred his horse until the trees blurred into green shadows flying by as he rode. His head was still spinning from whatever he had been exposed to, yet the anger and panic kept his senses sharp enough.
Trying to calm the beating of his heart, he told himself again and again that the Templar Grandmaster couldn’t be too far ahead of him; that he would catch up to him before he reached the Homestead.
When Connor had come to, the morning had only begun to dawn. His father must have travelled overnight and couldn’t have come far after leaving Boston’s street lights behind.
After every corner and every elevation he expected - hoped - to hear the sound of another steed, or even see the blue-and-golden cape and tricorn hat appear before him.
Closer and closer he got to the settlement. Still no sign of his father.
Connor’s heart raced, its beating muffled in his ear.

He reached the steep trail leading down to the Homestead.
No. That meant…
Maybe his father had gotten lost.
Yes. Yes, that had to be it.
But what if he was already there?
Connor dared not to think about this possibility.

The horse was shaking from exhaustion. Connor patted its neck, mumbling an apology, and dismounted. Continuing on foot was the fastest option and probably the kindest. He quickly scaled the nearest tree. From there it was easy enough to jump from branch to sturdy enough branch like he had done for the better part of his life. He knew his way among the trees surrounding the Homestead by heart. Soon enough, the manor was in his sight. Behind him, an ominous gust of wind rattled the branches.

His feet hit the ground, the wind carrying the muffled sounds of a heated argument from the manor to where he stood.
Patrick came jogging down the stairs from the main entrance when he saw him.
Connor’s heart missed a beat when he recognized the voices coming from inside. His thoughts felt like they were tripping over one another.
His father was here.
And Patrick… was he still ‘Patrick’?
Achilles! Was he alright?

“It seems like Achilles has some interesting friends,” Patrick said jokingly, wearing a deeply worried look on his face, barely hidden by his smile.

Connor released a breath he didn’t know he had been holding. It appeared the man was still ‘ Patrick’ .

“I wasn’t sure-”

“I will settle this,” Connor interrupted him.

The angry voices from inside the manor grew louder.

Patrick didn’t look convinced.
“I’ll gladly lend you a hand, Connor,” he said, “that talk going on in there sounds like a lot of trouble.”

“No. It is better if I do this on my own.”

Patrick nodded hesitantly, eyes fixed on Connor as though searching for clues that he should stick around. Connor had seen that look on his face before when intervening in arguments among his crew, or with drunk men that stopped at the inn for the night.

“Leave,” Connor continued, hoping to make it clear that he was more than fit to handle this, “I thank you, Patrick, but I will do this on my own.”

For a moment it almost looked like Patrick was not going to stand down. But then he blinked, the soft expression Connor had come to associate with the older man back on his face.

“Alright,” he said eventually.

Another shout from inside had them both turning their heads towards the door.

Patrick huffed. “Good luck.”


 

With Patrick out of Haytham’s proximity, Connor’s heart felt a little lighter. He watched Patrick’s back until he disappeared around the bend in the path towards the bridge.
Bracing for what was to come, Connor opened the manor’s front door and stepped inside. For a moment, he thought the argument over, before he heard his father’s voice break the short-lived silence. Connor closed the door.

“You should consider yourself fortunate - very fortunate - that I honour this truce! Or else-”

Achilles’ voice interrupted Haytham’s.
Or else? You’ve already had your chance.”

The voices came from the dining room. The image awaiting Connor in there was far more civil than he had feared: His mentor sat at the head of the table, his back to the kitchen, clasping his cane as if ready to strike every moment. A forgotten cup of tea stood steaming on the mantlepiece. Haytham was occupying the opposite side of the room, pacing up and down, his hands balled into fists. Both men were glaring daggers at each other.
Achilles noticed Connor first and fell silent.

Haytham hissed, “The next time I find myself in this situation, rest assured, I will not have some soft-hearted fool stop me from-”

“Enough!” Connor barked.

Haytham gave him a slightly startled look, which would have made Connor laugh had he not been so angry. His arrival, however, seemed to calm his father down slightly. Haytham exhaled through his nose and uncurled his fists, stretching his fingers.

“Ah, Connor,” Haytham said, tone annoyingly conversational, “you’re well-rested I presume?”

Connor’s face twisted in anger. He took a few steps towards his father until mere inches remained between them.

“You have no right to be here!” Connor snarled.

How dare he.
How dare he march in here like he owned the place.
How dare he threaten Achilles!

His father had the audacity to give him a reproachful frown.
“I have every right to be here when it’s about one of my men.”

Connor’s thoughts stuttered to a halt.
“Your…..?”
His men’? As in ‘part of the Colonial Rite’?
He turned to Achilles. For a moment he could do little more than stare at his mentor.
Finally, he found his voice again.
“Did you know who he was?”

“You have to understand-,” Achilles began.

“Of course he knew! Shay used to be like you, son, one of his pupils. That was until your mentor wanted him dead for discovering a mind of his own, of course.”

This wasn’t possible.
There had to be an explanation.

Haytham opened his mouth to continue, but Connor interrupted him, “I will tell you about your man, father-”

“You have no idea what you’re doing,” Achilles said disapprovingly.

Connor ignored him. “But I have to talk to Achilles first.”

“I am tired of waiting, you will tell me now!”

“Wait for me in the library. It is the room above this one. I promise to answer all of your questions.”

Haytham narrowed his eyes into slits, mulling over the offer. He didn’t appear to be happy about it but finally gave his son a curt nod and Achilles a disdainful look before leaving the room.

The stairs creaked as he left. Connor walked over to Achilles and pulled out one of the chairs closest to his mentor, turning it around so he could straddle it.

Achilles sighed. He looked old and tired, more so than he usually did, Connor thought. Minutes passed without either of them speaking a word. Connor had hoped Achilles would start his explanation without further prompting. He shook his head.

“You knew who Patrick was. You knew he was a Templar,” Connor began quietly, “How could you put the people of the Homestead in such danger? Why did you not tell me?”

Achilles raised his hand and Connor fell silent.
“First of all, I’d like to say, yes, I knew this man. And I also knew that you were hiding his Templar ring from me.”

Connor crossed his arms in front of his chest. He jutted out his bottom lip and avoided Achilles' reproachful gaze.

“You forgot it in the cellar after training one day.”

Silence.

“Who was he… before he became ‘Patrick’?” Connor asked.

Achilles sighed again, this time more deeply.
“Shay Patrick Cormac was once an Assassin. He betrayed the Brotherhood, his friends and me. He became a Templar, hunting down his brothers and sisters, destroying everything we had built.”

Connor frowned.
“‘The Purge’ that you told me about? I thought my father-”

“Your father orchestrated everything. Shay… Shay was his bloodhound.”

Connor couldn’t believe this. The Patrick he knew was gentle and caring. But then again, he was a different man now… he had to be.
“Why did you not tell me about him sooner? And why is there no portrait of him in the cellar?”

Achilles hesitated.
“You reminded me a lot of this young man I once used to train.”

Connor stared. For a moment he thought he had misunderstood.
“Achilles! How can you say such a thing?”

“It is the truth. Your minds are of a similar nature. I was hesitant to tell you because I feared that history would repeat itself if you knew of his mistakes.”

The words hurt and Connor did not know how he deserved them.
“I have never given you reason to doubt my loyalty!”

“Unforeseen things have happened before.”

“I cannot approve of you keeping matters of such importance secret. I know that the Templars long for a world I oppose and I know that their methods are wrong. Mistakes of the past have nothing to do with who I am or what I think is right.”

“I hope you continue to think so.”

Connor absentmindedly ran his thumb over the back of the chair.
“What about the portrait?” he asked quietly.

Achilles leaned back in his chair.
“Shay vanished about 18 years ago. I thought him dead, up until you brought him here.”

Outside, the church bell rang eleven.

“We can still kill him before your father learns the truth.”

“No.” Connor rose from his seat. He felt utterly exhausted. “Patrick should not suffer for another man’s sins. He is not ‘Shay’.”
He fell silent, awkwardly standing there.

Achilles leaned on his cane, standing up as well. He hobbled over to his now cold cup of tea.
“You should go to your father now. He is not a man to be kept waiting.”


 

He would rather not have this conversation, Conor thought as he climbed the stairs. Patrick was no Templar, no Assassin, and he wished everyone would just stop trying to drag the man back into all of this. He led a peaceful life. What right did anyone have to destroy what he had now?
Connor opened the door to the library. He didn’t see his father, but the rustling sounds of someone aimlessly skimming through books coming from behind the shelf gave him an idea of where he was. Connor closed the door and Haytham peered around the corner of the shelf. He looked awfully tense.
Connor suddenly understood. If this were about one of his recruits, he would be worried too. Maybe even as angry as his father.

“Glad you could make it,” Haytham greeted drily.

“As though you left me a choice.”

“Well, then, where is he?”

Connor gave his answer some thought.
“It is… complicated,” he finally said.

Haytham frowned. “How so?”

“He is no longer the man you knew,” Connor began but paused.
He thought he had heard something and cast the door a glance. No-one entered.

“Would you terribly mind being a bit more specific, Connor?”

His irritated voice made Connor concentrate on Haytham once more.
“When we found him, he was unconscious,” he explained.
How should he put it?
“When he came to, he had no recollection of the life he had led.”

Haytham’s eyes widened in surprise before his face dropped into an angry frown.
He cursed under his breath, “So he’s useless to me!”

Useless…?
Anger welled up inside of Connor.
Useless?! I thought he was ‘one of your men’?! That was your whole reasoning behind coming here and breaking our truce!”

Haytham completely ignored his son. He began pacing around, seemingly lost in his own grim thoughts.
“You said there was no box. What about a book?” Haytham turned to look at Connor again, his eyes gleaming with something hard to place. “Did he have a book with him?” he repeated.

Connor didn’t know what to make of all this. His father clearly didn’t care about Patrick, and it made his guts twist in rage. Why was he so interested in such unimportant details?
“I only found his ring,” he said, pulling the ring out of his pocket, glad he hadn’t left it in the inn’s room back in Boston.

But Haytham ignored him again, resuming to pace about. He raised his hand in a dismissive gesture.
“Put it away. It’s useless to me now.”

Useless, again.
This really was everything his father was interested in, how much use someone or something was to him. Achilles had always been right.
Connor’s heart clenched, but he tried to concentrate on his anger instead.
“How can you say something like that?! Was he no part of your Order?”

Haytham came to a halt.
“He had a mission. A mission many of his brethren gave their lives for!” He gesticulated angrily. “And now it has failed!”

Cold and calculating. Only interested in ‘the greater good’. Connor’s jaw tensed, shaking his head, then opened his arms in a gesture of incomprehension.
“What should he have done, then?” he raised his voice, “Died like them? Would you be happy then?!”

Haytham gave Connor a look like he was about to yell back at him, but then he said with a calm coldness that sent a shiver down Connor’s spine “Perhaps he should have.”

Connor gave his father an appalled look. He opened his mouth, then closed it again, lost for words.

“It makes no difference after all,” Haytham continued, now sounding far more resigned than angry.
After a moment of uneasy silence, he shook his head.
“I spoke in rage,” he admitted. He cleared his throat. “I would like to see Shay, if possible.”

Connor could still hear his pulse thrum in his ears. Anger, confusion, and exhaustion briefly battled for dominance.
Eventually, exhaustion won and settled over him. He nodded weakly.
“You may. But his name is Patrick now.”

Chapter Text

The Homestead, April 1778

Although the early morning incident had gone unnoticed by most homesteaders, Patrick was worried. Or rather, he was steadily growing more unsettled since he had woken from his fitful sleep that morning. The walk around the woods had helped, but whatever positive effect it had had on his mind had worn off rather soon. The mystery guest’s arrival had not helped matters. Neither had Connor’s words.

His headache had become worse, his heart was beating at an unsteady pace. The visions had not stopped assaulting him at random moments and made it progressively more difficult to go about his day. By the time everyone else was up, he had already spent more time writing and sketching than doing anything useful. His hand hurt from trying to note down everything he could.
A warm, hearty smell sneaking up from the kitchen downstairs was what finally broke the spell.

Patrick set the quill aside and stretched.
Rays of sunshine danced across his face. Birds were singing in the trees outside. Distantly, waves crashed against the shore. And in this perfectly quiet moment he knew, he was done.
Whatever his mind had been trying to tell him, he had it all on paper now.
His hand wandered fondly over the pages.

Now if only he knew what exactly any of this meant. Would it take him another year to figure that out? Would it ever make sense? And if it did, was it something he even wanted to remember? Everything he seemed to remember so far was stranger than anything his imagination could have come up with. Besides, he was quite happy with the life he lived now. Whatever had come before was in the past. Perhaps it should stay there.

With a groan, Patrick got up. He walked about the room once, twice, then picked up the journal and stowed it away in the pocket inside his coat. The journal had long since become a part of him, whether it held the key to his memories or not.
He put on his coat and headed out the door. Perhaps Connor had taken care of whatever had brought their visitor to the homestead and could spare a minute or two.


 

When he reached the manor, the only noises he heard at all were footsteps echoing from somewhere upstairs. He half suspected Connor to be poring over correspondence or maps as he was wont to, but as he approached the library he heard muffled words through the door.
“When we found him, he was unconscious,” Connor said.

Were they talking about him? Who else could Connor possibly refer to? It would be too big a coincidence had another man been washed up under the same circumstances.
But why?
Why were they talking about him? A sense of dread overcame him momentarily. What interest could the stranger possibly have in him?
“So he’s useless to me,” the man said.

Patrick no longer knew what to make of this. Had he known the stranger? Apparently he had. He must have, if Connor’s upset retort was anything to go by.
“Useless? I thought he was ‘one of your men’! That was your whole reasoning behind coming here and breaking our truce!”

He had come here because of Patrick?
And now he was-
“Useless,” Patrick whispered under his breath. A sudden pain behind his eyes made him stumble where he stood, the nearby wall a welcome support.

The stranger’s next words sent him reeling even further.
“You said there was no box. What about a book? Did he have a book with him?”
Patrick clutched his head as unbidden memories resurfaced. The screaming in his head easily drowned out whatever Connor said.

>>The future of the whole continent, maybe the whole world, is tied up in that manuscript.<<

>>I will not let you destroy everything we have built!<<

>>Assassins! Stop him!<<

Patrick braced for impact where he stood in the empty hallway, pressing further against the wall.
The sound of shattering glass rang through his head, as clear as if it were raining down all around him.
“No. Not again,” he begged quietly, fighting the urge to flee.

Connor’s angry voice broke through the panicked haze in his mind.
“What should he have done then? Died like them? Would you be happy then?!”
“Perhaps he should have,” the stranger said in a tone so cold and icy Patrick felt the words like a stab in his chest.

Patrick’s breathing came faster as nausea washed over him. He felt almost sick with the need to leave, to put as much distance between himself, this man who would rather see him dead and the place he had called home for the past year.
Patrick felt for the journal in his pocket. It was still there. It was still safe.
He had to leave.
Now.

His stomach in cramps and nerves fluttering, he stumbled forwards, downstairs, outside.
If he made it to the next town over, he could get a horse, cover his tracks - he could disappear for good.

That was his plan as he stumbled away from the manor.
The booming thunder of ghost mortars loud inside his head. He knew nothing was going to happen, saw no mud flying nor smoke rising, no buildings taking damage. But every time he blinked, the world seemed a little more out of focus, a little darker, a little different.
He stumbled on, led by echoes of his past.

>>Haven’t I taught you anything<<
A woman’s voice mocked him, taking his breath away.
Patrick ducked, hid in the high grass and low bushes.
He almost expected the wall or rock next to him to give in to centuries of erosion and come crashing down on him.
Why, he could not tell, but it was safer if he just kept going, going, going, went as far away as he could.

In his panic, Patrick lost track of time and place. The next thing he knew, he had left the last buildings of the settlement behind and ran through the forest, away from the road but near enough not to lose his way.

Chapter Text

New York, June 1778

The busy streets of New York were a welcome change to the reclusive quiet that the Homestead had offered.
Although Patrick had come to love his temporary home, the anonymity of the city gave him a sense of safety he hadn’t realized he had missed. Every street felt like he had walked it a thousand times before. The sounds and smells were familiar in a way he could not simply imagine.  
He knew the city. It was the only thing he knew for certain.

He knew the city and he knew the sea, he realized, as he stared at the ships docked near Old Slip Market. Down the street soldiers passed by. A group of boys promptly ran off to avoid being chastised, having been begging for whatever the market goers could spare. Patrick quickly averted his eyes. Scenes like this would play out every other day around the market.

The pungent smell of fish drying in the sun pulled him back to the bustle around him. Barrels were stacked high against a wall of crates. Beer, rum, and whiskey, he supposed, ready to be delivered to the inns before the night. Perhaps dried meat to be used as rations on board of the ships.
But that was not what caught his eye. Neither were the carts full of vegetables and flowers.

One small stall was selling miscellaneous items. Most of them had been pulled from wrecked ships or washed up on shores. Some were damaged, but not beyond repair. The prices were low and the quality good enough for business to flourish.
Among the numerous tools and buckles laid a small figurine of a bear carved from amber. It gleamed dully in the afternoon sun. And although its once smooth surface was covered in scratches, Patrick couldn’t look away. His gaze lingered.

What was it about this little trinket that had him return day after day just to get a look at it from amidst the other market goers

He had little time to wonder about it before he was pushed from behind. Another push, then he was shoved aside. A burly man grabbed the merchant from across the table.

“I thought I’d made myself clear last time! We don’t tolerate no thieves ‘round ‘ere!” he yelled. The man in his grasp almost seemed to shrink where he stood.

“But Sir, I-”
Before he could even finish his sentence, the attacker shoved him back harshly, sending him stumbling. His goods followed him to the ground a moment after. “I’ve done nothing wrong, I swear.”

“Leave the man alone!” Patrick had seen enough. Distantly he heard someone call for the guards, but his focus was solely on the rogue who now turned towards him.

“Keep your nose outta my business, Paddy. Your folks ain’t known for stickin’ together. Why start now?”

“It is my business if you think you can treat a man like this,” Patrick said, carefully circling to stand between the bully and the merchant.

“An’ who’s to tell me you’re not one of them Irish toyles yourself?” the man asked with a rude gesture towards both of them. Then his eyes wandered back to the merchant on the ground. “Say, who is this friend of yours? Called him ‘cuz you were afraid?”

The mocking tone was all the confirmation Patrick needed to know this man would not leave before it came to blows. Before the scared merchant could find his wits and reply, the other man continued with a grin, “Well, guess that means I’ll just have to give you,” he turned towards Patrick once more, straightening to his full height, “a reason to fear me, too.”
The punch followed immediately, missing Patrick by mere inches.

Hitting the air threw the man off balance. Not much, but enough for a small push to send him stumbling. Perhaps, had Patrick thought this far ahead, he might have suppressed the urge and simply stepped aside. But he hadn’t and the simple push had clearly angered the brute even more.

With renewed passion he lunged at Patrick, grabbing for his lapels.
In a swift motion Patrick stepped even closer. Bringing them almost chest to chest with each other opened a straight line to his opponent’s throat. Everything in Patrick screamed to follow his instincts, to reach up between the bulky arms, flick his wrist and- and what?
Kill him.

A small part of himself screamed in horror as he realized he had expected to carry a weapon and be willing to use it so easily.
Instead of following this first impulse, he crossed his fingers behind the man’s neck and pulled him down. Perhaps the man was stronger than Patrick, but there was little he could have done against the force of his entire body weight forcing him to the ground.

“You bastard,” the man growled from where he was kneeling.
Patrick stumbled away, shocked by his own actions. How had he done this without even thinking about it? He stared at his hands. What kind of person was he if he could do something like this? If he was able to kill a man as if by habit?

A moment later the man got up. He was clearly not done yet and came straight for Patrick again. This time however the man was stopped by bayonets being pointed at his chest.
Patrick hadn’t even noticed what had been going on around them.

“Cease!” a stern voice ordered.
In a moment they were surrounded by soldiers.
Patrick raised his hands in what he hoped would be a pacifying gesture.

“Are you alright, Sir?” one of them asked. When Patrick nodded the soldiers zeroed in on his attacker.
“Really, Walker? Again?”

The man grumbled, but to little effect.

“You can’t keep doing this, mate.”

A huff, then Walker stopped struggling.

Instead he stared at Patrick, still fuming silently as he was lead away.

Once they were out of sight Patrick turned to the merchant. “Are you hurt ?”

“I’m fine.” The merchant brushed dirt from his clothes. “For now anyway. Thank you.”

“Does that man bother you often?” Patrick could not help but wonder as he helped pick up the goods from where they were strewn about.

“Every now and then. He’s taken it into his head that I steal these goods before selling them on.” The merchant gestured vaguely at the table. “These are only things my brothers bring back from their travels. They are in good condition, but I have no use for them.”

“I see,” Patrick said and placed a saw back where it belonged. “And the soldiers do nothing? They seemed to know him.”

“That they do. Used to be one of their own,” the merchant explained, “Maybe now that he’s attacked a civilian they’ll keep a closer eye on him.”

“Let us hope they do.” It would not do that some ruffian continued to harass merchants and market goers alike.

“Thank you again for your help.”

“It’s nothing. Anyone would have done it.”

But they didn’t , the merchant’s face said even as he silently eyed Patrick.
“Come, let me thank you properly,”

“Oh no, no, I can’t accept-” Patrick was quick to decline.

“Then at least take this,” the merchant held out the small amber bear to him, “I know you’ve had your eye on it for days.”

Patrick flushed guiltily. He hadn’t meant to be so obvious about it, not when he couldn’t even explain to himself why that tiny trinket kept him under its spell.
“I- I don’t know what to say,” he muttered as he accepted the small figurine. The amber felt warm in his hands as though it had soaked up the sun’s warmth for days to share its light with him.

“Ah, it’s the least I can offer. Had Walker gotten his hands on me, he might’ve just put me out of business for a good while.”

“Thank you, I-”

“Patrick? Patrick, is that you?” a female voice called out.

“Mother!” a much younger voice chimed in even before Patrick had properly turned around.

An elderly woman was heading his way on unsteady feet, her daughter holding onto her arm, the other hand clutching an ornate cane.

Patrick tilted his head.
Should he know them? Did they know him from before?

“Oh Patrick! You are back! After all these years. Where have you been?” the old lady continued as though she didn’t even notice the confused look Patrick was giving her.

“I’m so sorry,” her daughter said, then turned to her mother, “Mother, you know your nephew is dead. Please, this is embarrassing.”

“Don’t be silly, Carrie, he’s standing right there!”
As the old lady became more agitated, her accent manifested more obviously with every word. She didn’t sound at all unlike Patrick or the merchant nearby.

“Ma’am? How do you know my name?” Patrick asked eventually, his curiosity winning out.

“This is all a big misunderstanding, please excuse us,” the younger woman, Carrie, said as she tried to usher her mother away again.

“Oh, but didn’t you hear him?” the old lady protested once more, doggedly not moving from where she stood, looking up at Patrick expectantly. “You are my Patrick, aren’t you?”

Patrick swallowed. The way she said his name indeed felt oddly familiar. His heart began beating faster as a quick wave of panic washed over him.
He’d never had to deal with anyone he used to know. What should he do?
Eventually he admitted, “That is my name, but I’m afraid I don’t recognize you.”

She gently swatted at his calf with her cane. “Still as subtle as always, aren’t you?” She smiled up at him as though there was not a single doubt in her mind that he was her nephew. “The years have treated you better than your old Aunty Aoife. But give it another 20 years and you will see where it leaves you.”

Patrick couldn’t help but smile back. The old lady’s chuckle was so soft and honest, he found himself wishing they were his family even as his heart tried to beat its way out of his chest.

“Aunty Aoife, hm?” he said, hoping it would trigger the flash of memory he had feared for months now. Did she look anything like the woman he remembered only vaguely after all the years? Even her name on his tongue sounded like he had said it a thousand times before. And yet, it failed to connect to anything more tangible in his mind.

“You must come with us for tea, Patrick,” Aoife insisted. Carrie sighed but stopped tugging at her mother’s sleeve.
“It gets so lonely with just the two of us around.” Aoife looked at her daughter. “A man in the house for even just a little bit would be a nice change.”

“It’s already late today. Perhaps another day?” Patrick needed time to sort out how these new feelings connected to his memories. Could this be his aunt? What were the odds of walking into them at the market?

“Oh, but the day is still so long,” Aoife pleaded.

“Mother, he is right. Let us go home.” Carrie looked increasingly uncomfortable with the situation.

“The sun won’t even set for another hour!”

While his mind still reeled, Patrick found himself smiling at the forth and back between mother and daughter. The old lady surely was a lot to handle, stubborn as she was.
He couldn't help but wonder if Connor had to go to similar lengths to get Achilles to agree to anything. Although Aoife seemed far friendlier than the old man.
Before the mood could turn sour, he concentrated on the situation at hand again.
Maybe his pondering could wait a little longer. At night he would still have enough time to think.

“How about I just walk you home today?” It was a small peace offering, but he hoped Aoife would take him up on it so Carrie wouldn’t have to beg any longer.


The walk to the small house on the outskirts of Manhattan was longer than Patrick had anticipated. It was only partly owed to the fact that Aunty Aoife - she had insisted he call her that - needed to sit down and rest every once in a while. The sun was moving closer and closer to the horizon now, slowly plunging the world around them in a warm, golden light.

With much convincing Carrie ushered her mother inside to sit in her comfortable chair instead of showing Patrick around.
“Rest. The day has been adventurous enough,” she said.

Her mother was about to jump up again and make tea, but exhaustion kept her in place.
“I suppose I am more tired than I thought,” she told Patrick with a gentle smile.

He sat with her a while longer, listening to her stories and answering what he could about himself. Patrick kept his answers vague. Nevertheless she clung to every word, happily taking in his tales about the people he had met.
Eventually she dozed off while Carrie saw to a small dinner.
Only when he deemed it safe enough he left the room quietly and went to find Carrie.

“You live farther from the city than I expected,” Patrick said from where he stood in the door to the kitchen.

“I’m surprised every time that mother still wants to walk that far into the city,” Carrie agreed, “She says the market holds dear memories of when she first met my father. So she wants to visit often, lest she forget.”
Carrie washed and dried her hands, a soup quietly cooking on the hearth.
“Will you have supper with us?”

Patrick declined, knowing he would still have to walk back before nightfall. One incident with the patrols was enough for one day and he would rather not arouse any suspicions by getting lost on his way to the city.

Carrie let them out through a door Patrick hadn’t noticed at first. It opened into the garden that laid before them. Someone had planted cabbages and vegetables, an apple tree grew just outside the kitchen window. A small, old shed held tools to tend to the patches. Two wobbly poles held up a washing line.

“Where is your father?” Patrick asked. He had wondered ever since Aunty Aoife had mentioned him. Now he couldn’t help but notice how much the lack of a husband showed. From the shed to the house everything in the garden could have used some new paint, a few boards should have been replaced - things Patrick had helped out with around the homestead.

“The war has taken him away from home.” Carrie’s voice was soft as she remembered. “He writes whenever he can, but the letters have become rare.”

“I see.”
The battles had seemed so far away until then, Connor’s comings and goings the only trace of the ongoing fight. And yet, there were families and livelihoods at stake around him, whether he noticed or not.

They looked out at the garden and the fields beyond as they silently laid before them, drenched in oranges and reds. For a moment Patrick could have sworn he saw the blood of the fallen, heard their anguished screams among the soft rustle of the wind in the corn.

It was Carrie who spoke first, breaking the silence that so easily had managed to send his mind wandering into unpleasant territory.
“You are very kind to play along with my mother’s wishful thinking. It means a lot to her.”

And to me, Patrick wanted to say but didn’t.
“I cannot rightly say if it is only wishful thinking.”

Carrie perked up at that, her attention focused on Patrick.

“An accident took most of my memories. But New York feels familiar and so does your mother’s voice,” he explained reluctantly, “Perhaps I am who she says. Perhaps I am not.”
He couldn’t stand to look at Carrie. She might just as well have been his cousin for all he knew.
Eventually, he added, “I cannot tell which would be more painful for her in the long run.” Not with the things I’ve learned about myself today.

“He is dead, you know, my cousin,” Carrie whispered, not looking at him either. “He has been gone for so long that I’ve never met him before his death.”

Patrick nodded solemnly.
Most likely his memories were only playing tricks on him. There were so few of them, how should he know which ones to trust? Most of them were still so otherworldly he couldn’t quite tell what they were about. Perhaps it had only been the surprise of someone thinking that they knew him that had thrown him off like this. Nevertheless his heart ached.

Carrie seemed all too aware of his secret doubts when she asked, “Are we going to see you again?”
She sounded almost hopeful, reluctant though she had been to show it until then.

“I’m not… a good man.”
Patrick felt guilty for having to squash her hopes. But he couldn’t and wouldn’t endanger these ladies who had shown him nothing but kindness.
For now, he was still too afraid of discovering who he had been and what it would mean for those close to him.
“I hardly know who I am. But what little I have pieced together…” He trailed off. The implications stung even as he made them.

“That only means you can be anything you want. Anyone!” Carrie insisted.
She only became more passionate as she added, “That is the freedom my father fights for, the reason my parents and grandparents came here.”
She clutched Patrick’s hand, looking up at him pleadingly.
“Do come by.”

 

Chapter Text

Homestead, June 1778

 

Connor put his quill aside with a groan. A cool evening breeze was blowing in through the open window; it did almost nothing to make the blazing heat of summer more bearable, but the soothing reminder of breathable air felt good in his lungs and on his damp skin.
His letters weren't finished. Two half-blank sheets of paper lay on his desk. Many more, covered in crossed out writing, cluttered the floor. 

The soft tapping sound of Achilles’ cane made Connor turn around. The old man stood in the doorway, looking at him expectantly.
“Any news?” 

Connor shook his head.
“There is nothing. Not of the war, or the Templars, or Patrick.”

After a meaningful silence Achilles asked, “And your father?”

Connor let his gaze drop to the discarded letters.
“We have not communicated lately.”
He hadn’t told his mentor much about the argument he’d had with his father after Patrick had disappeared. 

Achilles remained quiet, but Connor could still feel his judgement on being kept in the dark.

“I decided that we should work independently of each other for now. He respects this,” Connor explained curtly.
He looked up. Realizing how harsh his tone had been, he continued with a softer voice, almost apologetically, “Is there something you wanted to talk to me about?”

“I’ve got a mission for you. A French brother of ours is on his way to the Americas. He goes by the name of Pierre Bellec. Pick him up in Boston, he should arrive the coming week.”

“Does he want to help us in the war?”

“He comes for Shay."

Shay.
The sound of this name let a jolt run through Connor’s body.
“For what reason?”

Achilles was looking at his pupil as though he could see right through him. Then he let out a sound somewhere between a sigh and a soft groan.
“Shay killed one of Pierre’s men in France and stole something very dangerous.”

Connor frowned. This ‘Shay’ was completely different from Patrick.
“What did he steal?”

“If it wasn’t with Shay when you found him it’s of no importance to you.” Achilles waved his hand dismissively as if to motion for Connor to let this topic slide.

Connor noted this with a frown but ignored it otherwise.
“Am I to tell Pierre Bellec about Patrick?”

“Yes, Pierre is one of us.” Achilles shot Connor a stern gaze. “This should concern you above Shay’s well-being.”

“I have no business with this Shay. It is Patrick who I am concerned about.”

Achilles' frown deepened and he leaned forward on his crane.
“Even if he does not remember, this man is still a traitor. You have no idea how dangerous Shay is,” he said. His voice tightened with anger. “He is the reason Pierre fled to France and the reason for the Colonial Brotherhood’s rapid decline.”

Connor had been shifting in his seat under Achilles' gaze, but froze now at what he was saying.
“I thought everyone but you and Mr Faulkner died.”

With a sigh, Achilles nodded weakly and walked over to a chair to sit down.
“Most of us were murdered, yes. Some lay down their blade.”
He leaned back in his chair and his gaze wandered to the open window, seemingly lost in his memories.
“A few Assassins made sail for the old continent before it was too late. Pierre was the only one from the French colonies to make it out alive of this bloodbath. His brothers were all killed during their attempts to flee.”

Connor stayed silent. It had never occurred to him that there were survivors of his father's bloody reign. Somehow, it made everything more… real.
In that moment, he felt glad they had parted ways.

“Pierre expects your help, Connor,” Achilles interrupted his brooding, “I did nothing to discourage him in his belief that you would do whatever you could.”

“This is not for you to decide.”

“Pierre is your brother.”

Connor exhaled through his nose and shook his head.
“If he asked for my help, I will support him,” he finally said, “as thoroughly as my conscience allows me to.”

Achilles nodded slowly. He went to leave, but hesitated.
“He might try to pursue not only Shay, but a box as well... ”

“A box?”

“Tell him it’s lost beyond human reach.”

“Is that what Shay stole in France?" 

A vigorous knock on the door interrupted whatever Achilles was about to answer. They exchanged curious looks.
When Connor opened the door, a very agitated looking Benjamin Tallmadge all but stumbled into him. Tallmadge quickly caught himself, however, and took a swift step back.

Connor hadn’t seen Major Tallmadge since they had worked together to prevent the assassination of Washington in New York. The man looked older than the last time, dark rings under his eyes, but the uniform of an officer of the Continental Army he now wore gave him an authoritative aura.

Tallmadge straightened his frock.
“General Lee is up to something!” he said in lieu of a greeting.

 


 

The Aquila was made ready without delay.
While Connor changed into his captain’s uniform, Mr. Faulkner and Major Tallmadge discussed the course. Adjusting his frilly cuffs, Connor joined them around the big oak desk in his cabin.

“The vast majority of the British vessels are headed for the continent. They are at war with France now, since the French signed a Treaty of Alliance with our congress earlier this year. Britain worries more about the defence of their own soil - at least at the moment. I don’t think you will get into trouble on your journey south to Monmouth, as long as you keep to the coast.”

Mr. Faulkner hummed in acknowledgment.

Connor leaned forward to get a better look at the charts.
“What about New York City?”

Tallmadge nodded.
“There are still ships guarding the harbour, so try to keep a distance. They are not to be treated lightly.”

Connor looked up, watching Tallmadge with a stern gaze.
“About Lee…,” he said. 

“Yes, of course. As I said, the British are marching from Philadelphia to New York. Washington will interfere with their march around the city of Monmouth. Of course the Commander called for his most trusted men for this endeavour. Unfortunately, General Lee is one of them…”

“He cannot be trusted.”

Tallmadge agreed and added, “Besides him openly speaking against the Commander’s plans and ill of his character, a friend of mine uncovered worrying information about the General when he was in New York.”

Connor scoffed. “I gave you and Washington enough warnings in the past.”

Tallmadge inclined his head in slight embarrassment.
“Connor,” he began appeasingly, “Charles Lee is a general of the Continental Army. I can’t go to the Commander and tell him that one of his most successful officers is not to be trusted because he is a member of the Order of the Knight Templars. He is in enough danger without knowing about that war.”

Connor shook his head in silence. So Major Tallmadge was with Achilles on this topic.

Tallmadge continued, “In any case, the intelligence I received says that the General is planning on betraying us in the coming battle to discredit the Commander and his leadership on the battlefield.”

“So you want me to dispose of Lee?” Connor asked bluntly.

Tallmadge hesitated.
“Only if there is no other way. It’s preferable you gather proof of his betrayal, so we can put him on proper trial. “
He collected his hat from the table and fussed with it before putting it on.
He curtly bowed to Mr. Faulkner and Connor. “I have to get back to my regiment. Good luck, gentlemen!”

Connor inclined his head.
“Good luck to you as well.” He turned to face his first mate. “Weigh anchor and set sail when Major Tallmadge has left. I will join you at the helm later.”

The door opened and closed with a creaking sound, and then Connor was alone.

He stared at the maps without really seeing them.
Maybe, finally, he would be able to end Lee. Killing this monster would at least ease one of his worries. Would his village be safe then?
One portrait would still remain on the cellar wall, however …

 


 

The battlefield was a haze of dust and heat. The chirping of the crickets chimed with the wailing of the soldiers and gunshots.

Connor walked up to the nearest officer.
“Where is Charles Lee?”

The officer turned away from what he had been doing and looked him up and down.
“Name and rank!” 

Boom! A canon near them was fired.

“Major Tallmadge sends me.” Connor produced a letter from his pocket and handed it over.

The officer snatched it from him. He squinted his eyes, reading, when the canon’s dust cloud was blown their way. The smell of gunpowder engulfed them.
“Hmm, hm. I see.” He gave back the letter, slightly less irritated. “General Lee’s force should be positioned further east, close to the Redcoats’ main army,” he explained, gesturing vaguely to the position he described.

Connor nodded his thanks and went on.

The closer he got to the designated position, the more he noticed soldiers of the continental army who fell back headlessly, in groups of threes and fours.
Closer than he had anticipated, he reached a group of still fighting troops. On a hill, he spotted the Lieutenant General Marquis de Lafayette.

“We must hold this position for as long as it takes!” the Marquis was holding his ground and giving a speech to the assembled men, “If the enemy is allowed to push through, we will lose that precious little ground we’ve gained. The sacrifices your brothers have made today must not have been in vain! Now go! Bring the fight to our enemy! Make them rue the day they marched upon us!”
He ended and the soldiers rushed off to fight. Connor walked up to Lafayette. Lafayette gave him a little smile.
“Connor, my friend! You have arrived just in time to bear witness to our glorious victory!”

“Charles Lee is supposed to be here.”

“That bâtard !” Lafayette cursed, “He shows up in the middle of our preparations and just takes charge. Screams at everyone to advance and then rides away. I am left to pick up the pieces-” He was interrupted by the sight of British soldiers approaching. “Where did they come from?” Turning at his men he yelled, “Send word that we are falling back. Everyone to me! Now! Now!”

“I will hold the area while you bring them to safety.”

Lafayette nodded thankfully. “I grant you my finest soldiers to serve as your personal guard. There is nothing they will not do to ensure you are victorious.” He gave Connor a pat on the shoulder before retreating. “ Bonne chance, mon ami .” 

Connor and the remaining soldiers brought a cannon into position on top of a nearby hill.
The British were steadily marching closer, in groups of twelve. Connor yelled commands, but for every British troop falling one of his men was shot down.

One of his soldiers waved to get Connor’s attention.
“We are low on ammunition, sir - and the enemy advances.”

This was as much headstart as they could gain for Lafayette and his troops.
“Then we need to pull back,” Connor yelled, “rejoin the others and cover their escape.”

The soldiers obeyed and one said, “If we tarry we’ll die. Best we go!”
Another chimed in, “We’ve done all we can. We must retreat!”

At least it seemed that the greater part of the colonial soldiers had been able to retreat unscathed, thanks to their efforts.

When Lafayette and the main part of the Continental Army came in sight, Connor was drenched in blood, sweat and gunpowder.

Lafayette turned away from Washington, with whom he was conversing.
“Well done, my friend! You have saved many lives today.”

Washington turned, too, surprised.
“Connor?” 

“Charles Lee has betrayed you,” Connor said, “He forced retreat in the midst of battle, hoping the loss would take the lives of your men and see you relieved of command.”

“What?!”

How could Washington be this surprised?!
“I am sure he will spin a tale, saying he was outnumbered, or I was somehow to blame.” Connor’s voice became rough with hate. “All lies. I will say it one last time: that man is your enemy and he will not stop until you are dead or dishonoured.”

Lafayette hummed thoughtfully.
“Connor’s tale rings true,” he addressed Washington, “Lee was acting most odd upon the battlefield.”

Washington looked down. With a hesitant, sad nod, he said, “I will investigate these allegations at once.”

Connor let out an impatient huff.
“The time for that is long past.”

“This must be done properly,” Washington said decisively. He put his hand on Connor’s shoulder and squeezed lightly, adding  “Else we’re no better than those we oppose. Never mind the political ramifications of such an act.”

Connor shook his head.
“Should you choose to spare Lee’s life then I will take it myself,” he promised in a low voice.

The other two were silent at his words, uneasy looks on their faces. Connor grunted in frustration and turned away.
“I will go now,” he said, “This was the last time I warned you of this man.”
Another wild-goose chase.

Chapter Text

New York, July 1778

Dark shadows loomed over them. In the trees, the clouds, around every corner and among the people who stopped to stare. 
Patrick glanced up from the funeral procession.
Even on the rooftops. They watched and waited, following him like a quiet whisper.

What he wouldn’t have given to join them.
He remembered having done so in his younger years after Liam had shown him how to get up there. He remembered feeling truly free with the birds above, the wind in his face and so much closer to the sun. He had felt light then, on top of the world.

With every step on the ground, he wished he could feel like that again. Free, careless, without a worry in the world. And with a friend by his side.
Was walking across the rooftops of New York all it would take to remind him?
He hadn’t dared to put this theory to the test yet. Perhaps it would be another instance of his body moving of its own accord, frightening as it had been to discover that it had done so during the altercation at the market a little while ago. Somehow he doubted he still had the strength and agility needed to climb up the walls of a house though. And maybe that was for the best.

The shadow above moved and disappeared, leaving Patrick with the situation at hand. 
His gaze settled back on Carrie, dressed all in black, walking beside him with her head held high in a gesture that he knew took more strength than she had to spare.
Patrick hoped he had at least helped Auntie Aoife make some kind of beautiful memories before she had passed away. And with some luck and time, maybe he could help Carrie be happy again.

When he had accompanied the Van de Boogs home merely a month ago, he had not expected to return, much less to stand by Carrie’s side at Auntie Aoife’s funeral. 
So much had happened in those short few weeks. Every day he had spent with them, he’d remembered more and more of his childhood in New York. 
The time he didn’t spend helping out at Cruger’s Wharf to earn enough money for food and lodging or with his newfound family went into rediscovering the city he’d apparently grown up in. A lot had changed since, a lot more hadn’t. In any case, Auntie Aoife had delighted in his discoveries. 
Rationally, he knew they weren't his family. Nevertheless, they had started to feel as close to a family as he would ever have.

Patrick toyed with the amber bear in his pocket as the procession entered the church grounds down at John Street.

He held Carrie’s trembling hand throughout the ceremony until the coffin was lowered into the ground next to her brother, his wife and their son.

“Shay Patrick Cormac” the inscription on the newest tombstone read - the man he could have been.

Carrie only left his side when friends of her mother came forth to offer their condolences. Patrick stayed behind and watched quietly.

Until then, he almost could have fooled himself. But the truth stared him in the face now. 
He had no place here, didn’t belong with the people who had so readily accepted him into their fold.

Shay Patrick Cormac . If only.
He gulped.
Soon enough he would be forgotten, unlike the real Patrick.

A small cross above the inscription caught his eye. He squinted, crouching down to touch it reverently. 
Where had he seen this before?

A quick succession of pictures flickered before his eyes - red crosses adorning silver sword hilts, embroidered on dark leather coats and spread across vast sails billowing in the wind. Memories. 
When his vision cleared, a shadow that had not previously been there had fallen on the grave. Patrick looked up.

A man older than himself with his greyish-blonde hair held in a loose ribbon stood beside him at the grave. There was a warmth about the man’s face as he looked at the tombstone that had Patrick enchanted.

“Hello,” Patrick offered quietly as he stood up. The man blinked and looked at him as though he had barely noticed Patrick before. His eyes widened as he stepped backwards, looking from Patrick to the people further down in the graveyard and back.

“We just finished,” Patrick said, nodding at the grave, “I don’t think they’ll mind if you…”
His tone was soft, deliberately placating, and yet the man stared at him as though he had seen a ghost.
“Am I disturbing you? I can lea-”

“No. No, it’s fine,” the man finally said. He took a deep breath and turned back towards the grave. Silence fell around them.

“Did you know him?”
Patrick knew it was neither the time nor place for small talk. But somehow he felt connected to this Shay Patrick whose place he had taken in Auntie Aoife’s heart. And with Carrie being all alone now, he would do everything to be the best cousin she could hope for.

“Yes,” the man said after a moment, “He was a good friend of mine. I never knew his family though.”

Patrick swallowed. His family .
“I haven’t known them for long, but they are decent people. Generous and with a good heart.”

The man smiled, his whole face softening at once.
“Just like him then.”
His voice was rough, but the fondness with which he whispered the words spoke volumes about his friend.

Patrick studied the man’s face. The sun caught in his hair much like it had in the amber and the effect was almost the same. Patrick couldn’t look away. The colour must have been the same as the bear’s in the past. The thought made Patrick smile right back at the older man. He was a little taller as well, and his stubbly beard stood in stark contrast to his fine clothing. He painted an odd picture.
“May I ask your name?”

The question caught Patrick off-guard.
At least the man didn’t seem to mind his presence.
“Patrick…”
Both of them looked at the gravestone in front of them.
“Like him, I know. I was just thinking that.” Patrick huffed. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to bring back bad memories, Mister-”

When Patrick looked up, the other man was staring at him, much like he had before.
“Oh, where are my manners? Gist. Christopher Gist.”

“Mister Gist,” Patrick repeated, “Do you come here often?”

For a moment Mister Gist considered.
“Not often anymore. Most of my business takes me elsewhere.”

Patrick nodded once. Of course, if the man traveled a lot, that explained the facial hair despite the fancy clothing.

“I came to New York to look for an old friend. I've been told he is in trouble. While I'm here I thought I might stop by and pay my respects,” Mister Gist explained.

“Patrick?” Carrie’s voice was soft as she asked for his attention. Their guests had dispersed and Carrie waited for him to go home.

“Coming,” Patrick assured her, then turned back to Mister Gist, gesturing apologetically. “Well, I wish you the best of luck in finding your friend.”

“He would insist he makes his own luck.” Mister Gist’s eyes crinkled at the words. Patrick nodded. “Perhaps I’ll see you around.”

“Perhaps you will.”
A small smile lit up the man’s face once more. Patrick found it hard to resist smiling back as he joined Carrie.



Later that month

 

Carrie was waiting by the market where he had first met her. She was crouching down, petting a dog that happily wagged its tail. The dog barked once as he approached, but did not otherwise stop appreciating the attention.

She looked up at him. Her face showed more hints of worry than when he had first met her. But she still had the same gentle spark in her eyes.

“There you are. I hoped your work would be done soon so we could head home together,” she beamed.

“Carrie. What are you doing here?”

“You know the Abbotts from down the road?”

Patrick nodded. Of course he knew them. All their neighbours had been very kind and supportive after Aoife had passed and helped them settle into their new routine. The Abbotts especially. It was them he owed their horse to, that allowed him to keep his job at the harbour. Even though they hadn’t been too happy when they found out that Carrie had lent a hand with building the small stable.

“They brought me along in their carriage so I could sell some apples from the yard.”

Patrick wanted to be outraged. Not because the Abbotts had aided them once again when he already felt deeply indebted to them, but because selling goods should not have been one of Carrie’s tasks. She helped out so readily and probably had for years. Nevertheless, it felt wrong to burden her with such duties, necessary as they were.

“I got a shilling for them,” Carrie kept talking.

When Patrick didn’t answer immediately, she got up from where she had been petting the dog.

“Is that not good?”

Patrick shook himself. “No. I mean yes. It’s fantastic. You’ve done well, selling them for that much.” It was almost as much as he earned in a day at the docks. Carrie beamed at the praise and began to tell him about how she had come to strike such a lucky deal in meticulous detail.

Together they headed to the stables where he had left his horse to rest for the day. While he saddled up, Carrie fell quiet.

“Is everything alright?” Patrick asked as he adjusted the stirrups to allow Carrie to sit more safely.

He tilted his head, looking at her with the softest smile he could muster when she didn’t reply immediately.

“Teach me how to ride,” she blurted out, “I want to ride like you.”

“You know it would be unbecoming,” Patrick protested. He knew their neighbours had an eye on him and what he allowed Carrie to do. Not that he had a say in most of it. She was just as stubborn as her mother had been when she wanted something.

“Patrick, please,” she pleaded.

He paused, concentrating on securing the saddlebags for the moment. “I can’t, Carrie. What would the people say if they saw you riding astride? You’re a young lady and I’m responsible for you.”

“There is nothing shameful about it,” a new voice chimed up from the other side of the horse.

Patrick looked up. “Mister Gist!”

The man approached and tipped the hat that had joined his ensemble since the last time Patrick had seen him. He looked more comfortable now, hair and beard properly tended to and in less formal clothing.

“Patrick,” he offered in greeting, “And this young lady is?”

“My cousin, Carrie.”

Mister Gist smiled and slightly bowed his head to her.

“Please excuse the interruption. I just walked by here and thought I knew the voice.”

“Are you a friend of his?” Carrie asked, scrutinizing the man.

“An acquaintance,” Patrick wanted to amend, but Mister Gist was faster.

“So to speak.”

“Then I am happy to make your acquaintance,” she said politely. A moment later, her eyes darted back to Patrick. “You heard your friend. There is nothing shameful about it.”

Patrick rolled his eyes and sighed. “I’m only concerned about you.”

“You know, I taught my daughters to ride astride so they could be a little more independent if need be,” Mister Gist said.

“That’s exactly what I worry about,” Patrick said quietly.

“Then maybe Mister Gist can teach me. I’ve cared for myself and Mum for so long. Don’t you think I can be trusted not to make it public knowledge?” Carrie was entirely too clever. She knew she had found an ally and if she just kept insisting-

“If your cousin allows it, that is.” The smile in Mister Gist’s voice was impossible to miss even as he tried to remain polite. What had Patrick ever done to deserve knowing not one, but two people this mischievous?