[Mock-Fiction] V - Fures Misericordiam

Note: Please read the Formal Notice movella. It should be on the list on the right hand side.

Aye. Tis me again.

Cover by Secrets Unfold

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47. 45 – Middle-Man

Dante walked the halls of the Masyaf Fortress, his entire being buzzing with potential murder at the things that Mariqah had bawled up the walls in accusation of Richard. He wondered how much time he would have to wait, to see Richard in the claws of a higher predator.

Killing a man for treason was one thing. But tipping off an enemy, and hiding behind that scene was a whole different thing altogether.

Dante sighed deeply, and almost jumped as a hand grasped his shoulder.

 

“Master Dante?” said a man with light brown eyes and blonde hair, in a hushed tone. Dante thought he recognised the man, but the livery he wore – the armour of Masyaf guards – didn’t suit him.

“Do I know you?” replied Dante, maintaining the low tone.

“Yes, but perhaps not by name,” said the man, “The Rogue sends her greetings, and a letter for you,” he handed Dante a sealed envelope.

 

Soldier!”

 

Dante tucked the envelope in his back pocket and the man stood to attention, as Richard stomped his way to them.

“What are you doing in the halls?” he said, “You should be outside! Watching the enemy!”

“Yessir!” said the man.

“What’s your name?”

“Matthew, sir!”

“Matthew, is it?” Richard scrutinised his face, “Hmm, get back on duty! Now!”

Matthew walked off in a monotonous fashion.

 

“I’d prefer if you didn’t distract my guards, Dante,” said Richard.

“Of course, il Mentore,” muttered Dante.

“Forgive my… behaviour,” said Richard wearily, “That Rogue has really put me in the pinch.”
She hasn’t quite got there yet, thought Dante ruefully, “I understand, perhaps you should rest.”
“That… that sounds refreshing. However, I believe I would be ill-at-ease. Her presence… it…”
“Frightens you?”

“No!” said Richard, “No, no. It just… it bothers me. Pesters me, even.”

Denial, “Well, if you say so. I shall be in my office. Working something out for you.”
“Fortune favour us, eh?”

 

Richard walked away, and Dante made his way to his office. He found Matthew sitting in his seat behind the desk, waiting for him.

“That’s my seat,” said Dante, shutting the door behind him, “And how did you know this was my office?”
“It’s got the number 2-4-6-0-1 written on the door and a your name under it. Rogue said that that’s what I could expect to be on the door of your office.”
“You don’t seem to have taken long to find it.”

“She mentioned – it could be on the second level of the fortress, to the left wing,” said Matthew, “said that the higher members of the Order tended to have nicer places and nicer things.”
Dante frowned, “It appears she remembers the halls of Masyaf well and understands the idea – All are equal but some are more equal than others. As Richard thoroughly tries to present.”

“I can’t believe he couldn’t tell me apart from his men! Rogue knows all hers.”

“Well, he’s Richard,” Dante took out the envelope from his pocket and opened it, “Let’s see what our Mariqah has to say.”

 

Dante read through the letter, “My son has a neck injury? Sustained in a battle he was not meant to participate in?” he looked up, a little horrified, “Is he alright?”

“He’s healin’ alright, sir,” said Matthew, “He’ll be in tip-top shape in a few months time. But he’s getting some discredit for it, as you might understand.”

“Yes… I suppose some chastisement is expected. I’m just glad that he’s okay.”
“There should be more to that letter.”

Dante read on, “She wants free all the prisoners?”

“That sounds like her.”
“But… that’s a suicide mission. Richard has doubled the watch on the prisons.”

“She’s asked me to request a detailed map of Masyaf’s stronghold – in the case of any changes to its structure recently – and for you to provide a… distraction.”

 

“Distraction?” Dante thought on the idea, “I suppose I could do something to pull the focus away from the cells,” he took down a map from one of his walls, “Masyaf hasn’t been changed dramatically over the last year, but just to refresh her memory,” he handed the map to Matthew, “you should take this to her. I’ll cause a distraction.”

“I’m going to need a few more uniforms too, for the lads and for her… do they have female guards about?”

“Not many. And I’m afraid that Richard may be… well-acquainted with them all.”
Matthew made a sour face, “I’m sure she can work around that. Somehow.”

“I suppose she could guise herself as one of the captains. They wear grilled helmets.”

“That’s a nice touch. So – about a dozen normal guard outfits, and a captain outfit with a helmet. Shouldn’t be too hard to come by.”
“How are you going to assume these clothes, Matthew?”
“The way I assumed mine, sir,” said Matthew, getting up to leave, “losses in war are to be expected.”

 

* * * * *

 

Mariqah looked over the map that Dante had given Matthew after he’d returned. He sat in a corner of her tent, sitting happily by, drinking some sherbet. He had assumed the clothes that he was assigned and they were being washed, dried and ironed.

“There’s a passage near the rear,” Mariqah mumbled to herself, “We could use it. It’s discreet and small. But…” she looked up as Edward entered the tent, “it’s too far from the prisons. Matthew, did Dante say exactly what distraction he’ll be cookin’ up?”

“No, mad’m,” said Matthew.

“You could easily climb the structure,” said Edward.

 

“No. This is not a war, Edward. This is a prison break. I don’t want casualties in this. And for all his wrongs, Richard knows how t’defend the stronghold well. We’ll be picked off by marksmen before we reach the top. That back passage is our only way in. We’ll just have to hope that Dante’s distraction is elaborate enough.”

“We could create our own distraction, mad’m,” said Matthew.

“Go on.”

“We could use the guns to damage one side of the fortress. And we wouldn’t have to get too close.”

“Mm…” Mariqah frowned, “I wanted to avoid damagin’ the fortress… but I suppose two distractions are better than one. Be a dear: Get Khadir for me, and then check if the suits are ready.”

 

“So, why the change of heart?” asked Edward, as Matthew walked out, “I thought you didn’t care about the prisoners.”

“I do care. I’ve always cared,” she replied, looking at him.

“But you said–”
“I lied.”

He paused, “This mission… Can I come?”

“You…? Why? There’s a high likeliness that some will die because of this. I can’t let that happen to you.”

“It won’t. I’ll take care.”

“I don’t want to risk it.”

“I don’t want to miss out. Mari, you know you can trust me.”

“…Can I?”

“Aye. After everything we’ve been through. It has to show something.”

Mariqah paused, staring at Edward, and getting a strange memory of Altair from him. The old man had been wounded, severely, back when he’d fought beside her. But then again, Edward wasn’t an old man and he’d proven himself to an extent, “Alright. But you’re gonna have to listen when I tell ye to do things, aye? And get a grip on better mettle, newer weapons o’ murder. If this were war, I’d’ve played fair, but…” she paused and looked at the map.

“Do I have to wear that silly costume?”

“Aye.”

Edward scowled, “And what weapons are these, that you speak of?”

“I’ll let you have a go with them, before we set out, eh?”

 

“You called for me?” Khadir entered the tent, looking grim as ever.

“Did Matthew tell ye everythin’ I’m thinkin’?” she asked.

“You’re a lunatic.”

Mariqah sighed, “I’m goin’ t’take that as a yes.”

“Mariqah, you can’t go into Masyaf and do that!”

“I can and I will. And, if you care so much, you’ll help. Take the guns to the far side and damage Masyaf’s walls. Stay out of range.”

Khadir folded his arms, “I’m not going to do that.”

“Excuse me?”

“Mariqah, it seems you’ve ignored everything my father ever taught you!”

Mariqah looked away.

 

“Everything! Do you remember the first thing there is to being a mercenary?” Khadir went to the table and looked into her face, “We hold loyalty only to wealth, and nothing else. No friendships, no allies, no rivals, no enemies. You’ve broken all of these. You joined a bloody cult, for God’s sake! This building…” he pointed in the general direction of Masyaf, “this building cost so many lives and resources, and you just gave it away! To the duckin’ prick who sits in there now! And now you’re going to go out of your way to save the lives of his fellow fanatics–”

“Yes, Khadir. Yes, I am. They did nothing wrong!”

That should be none of your business!” Khadir barked, “You’ve been hurt because of these people, damn it! And here you go, saving they’re arses again – trying to be the hero you haven’t the sanity for! Let it go!”

“I can’t, Khadir!” said Mariqah, “I can’t. I wasn’t supposed to befriend them, aye. But I have. It cannot be changed on a whim. I have a level of loyalty to them. I have my debts to pay. And I will.”

 

Oh, damn you!” Khadir caught himself, “Damn you, Mariqah! Ever since I met you, I’ve made it a point to look out for you! To protect you! To keep you from harm! And damn it, you’ve never listened to me! You went out of your way, making sacrifices for these people! Big, big sacrifices! And you owe them something? What? What! Tell me!” he paused to look away, his voice softening, “You never once listened to me. I’ve seen these people torture you, in your head. I’ve seen what they’ve done to you… but you kept going on with them. Then you left… then you left and I didn’t know what to do… You come back, and near two months,” he held up two shaky fingers, “near two months, and you’re at it again… You’re out to harm yourself, for them. To kill yourself, for them… I will not have a hand in that.”

Mariqah caught Khadir’s arm as he turned away. She said softly, “Why didn’t you tell me you were mad at me?”

Khadir didn’t reply.

Mariqah looked at the map, “If you don’t want to help… that’s fine,” she murmured, “I still can’t let the prisoners hang, but I understand. I’m sorry, Khadir, for everything.”

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