The gang are reunited and begin to piece together just what the heck is going on. Also, loud noises!
Part to Part Five: http://ravenya03.livejournal.com/24172.h
Scene: Jerusalem Street at Night
Harold/Ismail is leading Will, Djaq and Salak home, winding through the empty streets. Salak and Will walk in silence, casting suspicious glances at each other whilst Ismail and Djaq walk ahead, deep in conversation. The rest of Ismail’s men have melted into the shadows.
Ismail: It’s much better now. I don’t get as many headaches, and the black-outs have gone completely.
Djaq: I am glad to hear of it. Prince Malik, he is a gifted healer. He would treat his own soldiers in battle. I remember helping him perform surgery on a wounded man.
Ismail: I had no idea you were so close to the prince.
Djaq: I was not. I simply served under him, dressed in my brother’s armour. I wanted nothing more than to serve him and the Sultan all the days of my life.
Ismail nods in agreement, clearly in awe of the prince.
Ismail: We use the acupunctural helmet each morning to calm my nerves, and he fixes me tonics every night to help me sleep.
Djaq: And so you are cured?
Ismail’s little smile fades.
Ismail: Not quite. I still have nightmares sometimes.
Ismail: Of…those women.
He stops, his eyes closed, frowning as though in pain. Djaq gently reaches out and pulls at his collar, exposing the tattoos beneath. Will and Salak stop behind them and watch with interest.
Djaq: I remember seeing these in Sherwood, but I did not want to believe that they were true.
Will: I remember them too, but you never told us what they were.
Salak speaks up; apparently eager for a chance to speak on a subject Will knows nothing of.
Salak: Surely you’ve heard the story of the Old Man of the Mountain?
Will shakes his head, and Djaq silences Salak with a look.
Djaq: His real name is Rashid ad-Din Sinan and he’s the leader of the Hashshashins, an order of warriors who are hired to kill people in secret.
Salak: (too excited to keep quiet) They say that a Frankish leader once went to his stronghold to see how strong his defences were, and laughed to find that it was defended only by a handful of men. Then Rashid ordered one of his men to prove his loyalty by leaping from the parapets of the fortress.
Will: And he did?
Salak: Two of them did. The Crusaders never set foot there again.
Djaq: And these tattoos are their symbols. Unlike most of those that train to be Hashshashins, Ismail was not a willing recruit.
Ismail has gone pale, and raises one hand to his head.
Ismail: I don’t like to think about it. But I’ll never forget it. Those women…
He shudders, drops his head, and is still.
Will: This Rashid…he’s the same man that sent those women after Malik in Nottingham?
Djaq: They were certainly Hashshashin. Their fighting style is unmistakable. But Prince Malik believes it was his uncle who hired them. There is bad blood between them, but there is no way of knowing if that is true.
She suddenly looks thoughtful.
Djaq: Ismail, I know the memories are painful, but what do you remember about your time among the Hashshashin? It could be important; we all know so little about them.
Ismail shudders again, but takes a deep breath.
Ismail: I don’t remember much. Just…a dark room. And things that hurt me. They would give me something; force it into my mouth. Bitter stuff. And the women; I could smell them coming and going. I’ll never forget their scent, not as long as I live. And the men…
Djaq: (whispering) What men?
Ismail: Other Crusaders who had been separated from their units. I was left behind because of a fever. There was another one, little more than a boy. He told me he’d been separated from the others in battle. He didn’t last long in their hands. And then…the one-legged man. I don’t know what happened to him.
He’s breathing heavily and Djaq places a hand on his shoulder.
Djaq: Forgive me. I did not mean to upset you. It is over now.
Ismail shakes his head.
Ismail: I still see them sometimes…I can smell them…I must get back to my master…
He flees into the night, and Djaq looks after him regretfully. She steps closer to Will.
Djaq: You see? That is the kind of danger we are up against. People who can brainwash others into killing their own people. The Hashshashin are not to be underestimated. It was the grace of Allah that allowed Harold to triumph over those women in Nottingham.
Will unconsciously puts his arm around Djaq’s shoulder; a gesture that does not go unnoticed by Salak.
Djaq: We must be ver…vig…we have to be…?
Djaq: Yes, that is it.
The two smile at each other, and then break apart when they remember Salak is right there, watching them.
Scene: Bassam’s House; Night
Will is sitting on a divan, staring at a small crucifix in his hand. There is movement beside him and he looks up to see Djaq joining him.
Djaq: What is that?
Will: Robin gave this to me before we left.
(Yeah, I know it’s a strain on the memory, but Robin did give this to him way back in “Many Partings”).
Will: I think he wanted me to leave it here, in Jerusalem. He did some things he’s not proud of.
Djaq: I know. He told me.
The two sit in companionable silence for a while, and then Djaq rises, bidding Will goodnight. She drifts into the corridor and gets a fright when a shadow looms out in front of her. It’s Salak.
Djaq: (in Arabic) Cousin! You startled me.
Salak: Cousin? I’m not your cousin.
He takes a few steps closer.
Djaq: Yes, you are. You are my uncle’s son.
Salak: Until the day I became your betrothed.
He reaches out and gently takes her by the arms.
Salak: You’re back from the dead. And in all that time you were gone – I never wanted another wife.
Djaq: I’m not that woman anymore. You don’t know me anymore.
Salak: I know you. You’re still my Saffiyah.
Djaq turns her head away.
Djaq: I cannot go back.
Salak: Why not? There are only a few members of our family left. Your parents are gone, your brother is dead. Bassam loves you – more than his pigeons, more than me, his only son. You know it’s true. If you left again you would break his heart. He’s an old man. If you honoured our betrothal you would make him the happiest man on earth.
Djaq: And what of my happiness?
Salak: I cannot believe you are happy living in England, among their pigs and stench and filth. Away from your people, your country. How long has it been since you’ve tasted a ripe pomegranate? Or smelt the scent of saffron? I always promised you that I’d never prevent you from learning. Or from practicing medicine!
Djaq: (her voice dripping with sarcasm) How kind of you.
Djaq closes her eyes and looks away. Salak reaches out to touch her cheek.
Salak: Safiyah, I…I still…
She gently bats his hand away and he sighs angrily.
Salak: He can’t even read.
Djaq: It has nothing to do with him!
With a low hiss Djaq marches away down the corridor, Salak watching her go in frustration.
Scene: Jerusalem: Inn Exterior
From the doorway of a seedy looking inn stumble Carter, Allan and Luke, looking rather worse for wear. They’re tired and grubby, and Allan is stretching his stiff muscles.
Allan: That was the worst night’s sleep I’ve ever ‘ad.
Carter: My mattress was crawling with fleas. I’ve got more bites last night than in all my years in England.
Luke just yawns and rubs his eyes, then blinks and stares down at his hands.
Luke: Do you think I’m cured?
Carter: What’s that?
Luke: You said that people who make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem are cured. So…how do you know if you’re cured?
Carter just looks confused.
Carter: Are you sick?
Luke: No, I just…(he looks distraught)…how are you supposed to know when it works? When you’re forgiven? I thought I’d feel different.
Carter glances at Allan for clarification, who is looking at Luke as though he’s getting an inkling of what’s going on.
Allan: Look, maybe you should talk to Will and Djaq about this. I think they would know a lot more about how this whole forgiveness thing works.
Carter: He’s right. We should get going.
They head around the side of the inn to fetch the horses as around them the city slowly begins to wake.
Scene: Bassam’s House; Early Morning
Bassam is tending to his pigeon’s in their cages when he senses someone behind him, and turns to see Djaq, decked out completely in female garments, including earrings and veil. He nods serenely and turns back to the task at hands.
Bassam (in Arabic) You look lovely, my dear.
Djaq: Where are my clothes?
Bassam: You don’t mean the ones you’re wearing?
Djaq: You know exactly what I mean. I wake up this morning and my travelling clothes are gone. Instead I have Zahra and Juhanah standing over me with washcloths in their hands. I’ve been dunked, scrubbed, dried, perfumed, and dressed in this get-up. And I think my ears are going to fall off. (She shakes her head uncomfortably, making her earrings rattle). I take it this was your idea?
Bassam shrugs, hands still on his work.
Bassam: I merely suggested to the women that maybe your clothes needed a clean. And that whilst they were gone, you might enjoy some comforts of home.
Djaq: Has Salak spoken to you?
Bassam sighs, closes the door of the pigeon aviary and turns around.
Bassam: I have had words with my son. I’ve told him to leave you be. As far as I’m concerned, you are not obligated to acknowledge the betrothal.
Djaq looks mildly outraged at this.
Djaq: Well I should hope not!
Bassam holds up two placating hands.
Bassam: Please, Saffiyah.
Djaq relaxes and then steps forward to take Bassam’s hands in her own.
Djaq: I am sorry, uncle. I am being ungrateful. It is just…I have come here to do the will of Allah. All this… (she gestures to her outfit)…it is not me anymore.
Bassam: It could be you again. We both know that Zahra and Juhanah couldn’t have made you dress like that if you didn’t really want to.
She looks away, refusing to answer.
Djaq: We reached the prince last night. He is going to help us contact Melek Ric. I know that helping us comes at great personal risk to yourself.
Bassam simply shakes his head.
Djaq: The sooner we complete this mission, the sooner you and Salak will be out of danger.
Bassam: Nonsense. We are at war. There is no safety any more, not until the Franks leave.
Djaq’s eyes gleam.
Djaq: Exactly. That is what I came here to do. We will reach the Frankish king and show him the Pact. He will set sail for home. I will do this for you, uncle.
She looks down at their joined hands.
Djaq: I can see it all now, Bassam. The reason I’m here. When Djaq died it was for me to take his place and fight under Prince Malik. When I was separated from the rest of my garrison, it was for the Bedouin to make me their prisoner. And when I was taken to England, it was so I could meet a man called Robin Hood, who entrusted me with the one document on this earth that can save my people. Do not you see? In all the world, only I can accomplish this. Allah the Wise has placed this responsibility on my shoulders.
She looks up at him, a beautific smile on her face, basking in the certainty of her faith.
Bassam: (very softly) And then?
Djaq opens her mouth and hesitates, unable to formulate an answer. Just then, throughout the house there is a distinctive knock at the door: rhythmic, loud, and somewhat obnoxious. Djaq blinks.
Djaq: That’s Allan’s knock!
In a swirl of black veil and garments and a flash of the gold earrings in her lobes, she rushes away to the front door. As serene as ever, Bassam turns back to his birds, cooing to them softly.
Scene: Bassam’s Front Door
Will and Djaq practically collide at the door to Bassam’s house, but it is Djaq that opens it up to reveal Allan, Luke and a pale-looking Carter waiting on the front step. Allan looks about to make some smarmy comment when he catches sight of Djaq – and it takes a few seconds and a double-take before he realizes that it’s her. Suddenly self-conscious, Djaq glances at Will and ushers them all inside.
Djaq: Do not say anything. Just come in. We need to discuss things.
Scene: Bassam’s House: Bedroom
Luke and Allan are helping Carter lie down on a bed. He’s very pale and weak, and Djaq helps him take a few sips of a drink before he lies back on the pillows and falls asleep.
Djaq: It will help him sleep. Allah knows, he needs it. I did not think you would be joining us quite so soon.
Allan: Yeah well, he insisted.
Djaq checks over his wounded leg as Will watches, one arm over his brother’s shoulders. Djaq stands up straight and looks over the new arrivals with a smile.
Djaq: But it is good that you are here.
Luke: You look different.
Djaq still seems rather self-conscious in her new clothes and waves Luke’s comments away.
Djaq: Come, I shall show you the house. This is where I spent most of my childhood.
Scene: Bassam’s House: a brief montage of the richly furnished and decorated rooms.
Luke looks awestruck as they wander through the household, and though Allan does a better job of hiding his emotions, he still looks impressed. Will walks quietly by Djaq’s side. As they walk, servants of the household peek out from behind doorways and latticed screens in curiosity.
Djaq: You will have to excuse them. They have not seen a Frank before, and now the house is full of them.
Allan glances up and meets the eye of a young servant girl watching him from behind a doorframe. As they meet eyes she giggles a little and darts away; causing Allan to smile and stand up a little straighter.
Finally the four of them reach the aviary, where the pigeons are being particularly noisy after their morning feed.
Djaq: Here we can talk without anyone hearing us. (She glances at Will)
Will: Perhaps we should wait until Carter is awake before we tell them the plan.
Djaq: Yes…but I did not bring you here to tell you about that. (She rubs her hands nervously) I have a confession to make. As you might have noticed…
She gestures around her.
Allan: This place is loaded. Yeah, we noticed.
Djaq looks acutely uncomfortable.
Djaq: I wanted to wait until you were all here before telling you this…so that I would only have to say it once. As you know, my father Sirat was a physician. What you don’t know is that he was the physician to the Sultan. He was very fond of my father, and bestowed on him a large fortune. When he died, that fortune was passed to me. The truth is…I am an extremely wealthy woman.
Allan: So it’s kinda like how Marian was the daughter of the old Sheriff. You’re like Marian! Only…more.
Djaq: Allan, I am still the same person.
Allan: Yeah, but with loads of money!
Djaq: Hardly. There’s more to it than that, and it’s complicated. When I joined the army and was presumed dead, the money was held in trust by Bassam, according to my father’s wishes. The fortune is part of my dowry. I will only get it when I marry.
Three faces stare at her blankly. She clears her throat.
Djaq: What I am trying to tell you is that before I came to England, before I joined the Sultan’s army, before anything else happened to me in my life…I was betrothed.
The blankness continues.
Djaq: I was betrothed to Salak. Except…he’s not really my cousin. Bassam isn’t really my uncle. Heck, Sirat wasn’t my real father. But we grew up together, and it was always taken for granted that one day we would be married.
She’s rambling a bit in her nervousness, and shoots a pleading look at Will – one that doesn’t go unnoticed by Allan.
Djaq: I have no intention of marrying him now. I had no intention of marrying him then. I am only telling you because it is all that the servants are talking about. I wanted to tell you in case they somehow managed to communicate with you.
Luke: Why’d you never tell anyone?
Djaq: Because it seemed pointless up until now. I made the choice to become my brother, and in doing that I sacrificed Saffiya’s life. But now that I am back here it just feels…wrong to not tell you all.
She shoots another anxious glance at Will.
Allan: So, ‘ow much money are we talkin’ about ‘ere?
Djaq: It does not matter. When the time is right, I am going to ask Bassam to give it to the poor. I think Robin would approve of such measures.
She nods firmly at each of them, but it’s only Luke that gives her a smile. Will just seems uncomfortable, and Allan looks at her a little askew, as if he can’t believe that she’s giving up a fortune. Suddenly Luke’s stomach rumbles loudly and Djaq smiles, thankful that the tension is broken.
Djaq: Come, I will introduce you to the delights of Saracen food.
She takes Luke by the shoulder and escorts him from the aviary. He obediently goes with her, one hand on his stomach. As they turn to follow, Allan grabs Will’s arm to hold him back in the room.
Allan: Did you know about this?
Will: No. That is, she didn’t tell me, but I guessed. It’s the way Salak looks at her.
Allan: No, I mean the bit about the money. How much do you think they’ve got stashed in here?
Will pulls his arm away, looking mildly disgusted and Allan looks hurt.
Allan: What? It was just a question.
He drops his hand and the two stand in silence for a few moments.
Will: I’m sorry. It’s good to see you. I know Djaq was worried about you.
Allan brightens up a little.
Allan: Yeah? So…this Salak? Is ‘e gonna cause trouble?
Will: I’m not sure. Djaq seems to trust him.
Allan: Djaq trusts everyone. Well, not everyone. (Trying to crack a joke). She prob’ly shouldn’t ‘ave trusted me.
Will nods seriously, but seems receptive to conversation.
Will: We shouldn’t let our guard down around here. Djaq feels safe here and I don’t want to ruin it for her, but we’re still very much in the lion’s den. Salak isn’t pleased to have us here, and the servants are nervous.
Allan: They didn’t seem that nervous…
Will: The nervous ones keep out of sight. They’re the ones that make our beds and prepare our food. You never know what bite is going to be filled with poison.
Allan unconsciously raises his hand to his shirt pocket, and nods uncertainly.
Will: Come on, you must be hungry.
Scene: Bassam’s House; Dining Room
Salak is glowering from behind a latticed screen, and it is from his point of view that we see Djaq, Will, Allan, Luke and Carter sitting on the floor around a low table piled high with food. Allan is helping himself, and Luke is pouring a glass of water for Carter. Unable to understand much of what they’re saying, Salak strides off, bumping into his father carrying a bowl of nuts to the visitors. Behind him is a young serving girl with a large pitcher. Salak glares at him.
Salak: I see no expense is being spared for the infidels. How many more do you plan on inviting into our home?
Bassam: Quiet, son. They are guests and will be treated accordingly.
He continues on his way, unflappable. He joins the others in the dining room and sits with them mid-conversation, looking pained to see that Djaq has taken off her veil, but remaining silent on the matter.
Allan: Well, it sounds like everything’s goin’ remarkably well. That usually means that’s somethin’s just round the corner waitin’ to stomp on us.
He looks up and exchanges an interested look with the servant girl who places the pitcher on the table top. She lowers her eyes demurely and glides away again. Allan watches her go, momentarily distracted.
Djaq: It is just a matter of waiting for Ismail to return with news from the prince.
Will: A friend from Sherwood. He was captured by the Hashshashin and tortured into hating his own people. Robin and Much managed to bring him around to his true nature.
Allan: What? ‘Arold? E’s ‘ere?
Will: We met him last night. He calls himself Ismail now.
Carter: I’ve heard of the Hashshashin. The Crusaders were terrified of running into them.
Bassam: As well they should be. Tales of Rashid ad-Din Sinan are told to frighten children. Even the Sultan is wary of him.
Djaq frowns at this, but allows Bassam to carry on.
Bassam: His assassins are the most feared in the world. They are trained from birth to kill and they do so without hesitation.
Allan: Yeah, we met them first hand!
Will: If it wasn’t for Harold, we wouldn’t have made it out alive. They made the mistake of training him in their ways and he used that knowledge to kill the ones that had been sent to kill Prince Malik.
Now it is Bassam who frowns and looks at Djaq, having not heard this information before.
Allan: ‘Ow is ‘Arold anyway? Still getting pins stuck in ‘is ‘ead?
Djaq: He was telling us some of what he went through, and it sounds as though he wasn’t the only Frank to suffer in such a way. A young boy was with him, and a man with only one leg. Allah only knows how many others were taken. I wonder what became of them…
Allan blinks and cocks his head to the side.
Will: Perhaps they escaped, like Harold…I mean, Ismail.
Djaq: I hope so. In any case, we should remember that anyone might be our enemy. Saracen, Frank…it doesn’t matter what they -
Allan: (interrupting her) Wait, wait. Did you say a man with one leg?
Djaq: (slowly) Yes.
Allan: A man who was captured by the Saracens…who had only one leg?
Djaq: Yes. Why does it matter?
Allan leans back in his seat, looking half grim, half excited.
Allan: McClellan had one leg. The man with the pigeon. Lardner. He had only one leg.
For a moment there’s silence over the table as the others grasp the implications of this. Will and Djaq stare at each other, and then look at Allan.
Djaq: Are you saying that McClellan was working for the Hashshashins?
Allan: I don’t know what I’m saying. All I know is that you said a one-legged man was captured along with ‘Arold, and I’m tellin’ you that McClellan was a one-legged man.
Djaq: It could be a coincidence.
Will: With a pigeon from the Holy Land…a pigeon that was stolen from this very house.
Djaq: Robin never told us that he had only one leg.
Allan: Why would ‘e? The man died a few seconds after fallin’ out of that tree. Robin never spoke to ‘im.
Djaq: Did you see any tattoos on him? Strange markings on his chest?
Allan: Nope. Doesn’t mean they weren’t there though.
Will: Wait, this doesn’t make sense. The note we got from McClellan was signed by the King and was asking for more soldiers to be sent over to the Holy Land. Why on earth would Saracens, even the Hashshashin, want more Crusaders in their country?
Carter: (speaking up for the first time) Unless they were benefiting from this war somehow.
Allan: Sounds ‘bout right. If you kill people for a livin’, you’d want to keep a war goin’.
Bassam has gone pale, and his hands tremble a little. He reaches out and takes Djaq’s hand.
Bassam: (reverting to Arabic) Saffiyah my dove, do you believe that the Man in the Mountain is responsible for all this?
Djaq: I do not know, ammo.
Bassam: (in English, to everyone) Rashid ad-Din Sinan is the most dangerous man alive. He has even tried to kill the Sultan. You cannot hope to go up against him. You cannot even get near him. He will hear you coming. He probably already knows you are here. He might be listening to this very conversation!
He is breathing heavily, one hand to his heart, and Djaq helps him take a sip of water. She looks very concerned and is speaking to him softly, trying to reassure him. The young maid returns to the room and deposits another bowl of nuts. Will is chewing on his lip, thinking hard.
Will: Wait. Did you say that this Rashid once tried to kill Sultan Saladin?
Bassam: Not once. Twice! Everyone knows the story. Years ago the Sultan laid siege to the city of Masyaf, Rashid’s own stronghold. He was on the verge of taking it when some of his soldiers came across Rashid and his personal guard wandering in the mountains. They tried to attack, but were held back by some mystical power that none of them could explain.
Djaq: There has to be a rational explanation.
Bassam shakes his head.
Bassam: The Sultan suffered from terrible nightmares, and one morning he woke to find a tray of freshly made hotcakes beside his pillow, along with a poisoned dagger. The hotcakes were of a type that only the Hashshasins made, filled with hashish. The Sultan immediately lifted the siege and accepted the independence of all Rashid ad-Din Sinan’s lands and cities.
Will still has a glazed look on his face, as though he’s so deep in thought he’s not aware of his surroundings.
Will: But if Rashid and Saladin are enemies, then how is it that Saladin hired the Hashshashin to kill Prince Malik?
Allan: Unless… ‘e didn’t. Maybe it was this Radish person.
Djaq: Rashid. Then why would Malik think his uncle was responsible?
Allan: Maybe ‘cos that’s what Radish wanted ‘im to think.
Will: And remember – when Malik came to Nottingham he was on a peace mission. If we’re right about all this then Rashid is behind everything that’s been going on these past few years. He’s the reason the King doesn’t know about what’s happening in England. Why Lardner was stolen and the fake note that McClellan delivered to Robin asking for more reinforcements. Why Prince Malik was nearly assassinated. Maybe he’s the reason Roger of Stoke disappeared. (Allan and Djaq exchange an uneasy look at this – they’re the only ones who know what really happened) Maybe even… (he looks at Carter)…didn’t you say you were attacked on your way to warn the King? It’s like Rashid is deliberately trying to keep this war dragging on by keeping King Richard in the dark.
Allan: And he’s always two steps ahead.
Carter: Perhaps not. (he sits up straight with some effort) As I understand it this Rashid is an assassin, a hired killer – as I was. In which case, he’s not working for himself; he’s working for someone else.
Allan: Unless he wants to keep the war going for his own profit. It makes sense that an assassin would thrive in wartimes.
Carter: Then do we account for the fact he knew about Robin Hood?
Allan: ‘Ow do you figure that?
Carter: As I understand it, the letter that was found on McClellan was addressed to Robin. How would an assassin who lives on the other side of the world know that Robin of Locksley was the man to write to in order to gather more troops for Crusade? He wouldn’t. Unless someone told him.
Will: He’s working for someone who’s giving him names.
Everyone is silent, appalled at this deduction.
Djaq: This is deeper than we ever imagined.
Luke: (speaking for the first time, his voice little more than a squeak) What does Rashid look like?
Bassam: No one knows what Rashid looks like. He has doubles and disguises and bodyguards all about him. You’d never get near him.
From behind the latticed screen, Salak appears, listening intently.
Djaq: We should not even be here. We are putting you all in danger.
Carter, Allan and Will are alert and concerned, feeling the tension mount. When Djaq gets scared, it’s cause for alarm. Bassam grips her hand tightly.
Bassam: No, you should stay here. We are all safe here.
Djaq: There should be guards at all the windows. Every door should be locked…
Allan: ‘Ere, we don’t know if we’re right about all this.
Will: I agree. It’s just a theory. We should wait until Ismail returns with news from the Prince.
Bassam: Your friends are right. We are letting our fear cloud our reason. If Rashid is involved, then you are as safe here as you are anywhere else. As the Franks would say: it is in God’s hands.
Those gathered around the table fall into ominous silence. From behind the latticed screen, Salak slips away.
Scene: Bassam’s House: Central Room
The gang is sitting in a large and quiet room, where a fountain quietly trickles away in the corner. On the wall is conspicuously hung the cylinder that holds the fake Pact. They all look tired but relaxed: Will is playing with the walking stick that contains the Pact in its secret compartment, Carter is resting on a divan sharpening his sword with Djaq looking over his wound, and Luke is watching Allan fiddle with a large lute-like device.
Djaq glances up and gives him an indulgent smile.
Allan: What is this thing anyway?
Djaq: It is called an ‘ud’. I believe the Franks call it a lute, though yours is shaped a little differently. Some call it the amir al-tarab: the prince of enchantment.
Allan looks over it carefully, running his hands over the pear-shaped instrument, the inlaid decoration, the five strings…everyone looks at him expectantly, as though he’s building up to something. He twitches his fingers, gets a look of deep concentration on his face…and plays a note that makes everyone wince.
Allan: What? So I’m not a minstrel.
The others turn back to their own work.
Djaq: Just be careful how you play with it. It is very old.
Djaq leaves Carter to sit next to Will, who is whittling his walking stick a little out of boredom. Together they look up at the cylinder hanging on the wall.
Will: (quietly) What are we going to do with that?
Djaq: Keep it for now. Even here, it is best that people believe that it is the real Pact.
Restless and lazy, Djaq gets up again and wanders over to the cylinder and takes it off the wall. She opens it up and turns it upside down to tip out the fake Pact. Nothing happens. She gives it a shake and looks inside it.
Djaq: It’s gone!
Luke: What is?
Before another word is spoken, an arrow is shot through a window to land right in the middle of the floor. Impaled on its length is a small pouch that begins to full the room with thick white smoke. The gang look at it dumbly for a second or two before another dozen or so more arrows are shot into the room, many of them lit on fire and several with more pouches that increase the level of smoke in the room.
Instantly they all react: Carter throws himself off the divan with his sword and flips it over so he can take cover behind it. Will runs to Luke and tackles him to the ground while Allan leaps to his feet, ud still in hand, searching for an enemy to attack. The shutters in the window near Djaq are forced open and in jump a group of dark-clad men with shrouded faces. Djaq immediately thwacks one over the head with the empty cylinder and dives down to the ground, trying to hide under the rapidly growing smoke-screen. She just manages to out-manoeuver a man with an evil-looking curved sword and brandishes the cylinder like it’s a sword.
Will darts to her side, dragging Luke behind him and covers her back, using his staff much as Little John would to knock out their assailants. Quick-thinking Luke realizes that the pouches of chemicals smoking on the floor are designed to confuse the assassins’ targets, and so kicks one of them toward the window, hoping to either hit one of the men or get rid of it out the window. Will and Djaq are being back-to-back badasses with only a walking stick and a wooden cylinder as more masked men burst through the doorway. The two of them look like they’re about to be overcome by an assassin who looks twice the size of them, when suddenly he topples. Standing over him is Allan, holding the weapon he’s used to knock him out: the destroyed ud.
Will: That was handcrafted wood!
Djaq: It was over five hundred years old!
Allan deflates a little.
Allan: What? At least I didn’t smash up a brand new one.
The three of them duck as another figure lurches through the smoke.
Djaq: I must find my uncle!
Will: Luke, stay next to me.
Allan: Where’s Carter? ‘E can’t fight in this!
It’s chaos everywhere, especially when the smoke from the flaming arrows joins that of the pouches: the carpet on the floor has been set alight, and the rest of the room is swiftly catching fire. Coughing and spluttering, the four of them stumble out of the room.
Djaq: Where are our weapons?
Will: In our rooms!
He uses his staff to hit another assassin running after them, but smoke is billowing through the door, making it impossible to see. Will draws back, coughing.
Will: Carter’s still in there.
He makes to rush in, but Allan draws him back.
Allan: You can’t, mate.
Will: We need him! (he turns to Djaq) Get our weapons. My axe, his sword – they’re in our rooms.
She hesitates for just a moment, agony written on her face, and then darts away.
Luke: Who are they?
Will: It doesn’t matter. You have to get everyone out of the house. Look, the fire’s spreading!
He gives his brother a shove and Luke stumbles away from him, racing for the nearest doorway. Will turns back to the door, filled with smoke, and braces himself. Allan still has his arm.
Allan: You can’t go back in there.
Will: I have to!
Allan: I mean, not by yourself. Carter’s gonna need two to carry ‘im.
Will takes the briefest of all glances at Allan’s hopeful, despairing, determined face, and nods. Together they disappear into the smoke.
Scene: Bassam’s House: Hallway/Bedroom
Djaq hurtles up a flight of stairs, crying out for Salak or Bassam. She passes terrified servants on the way and yells after them in Arabic. Smoke and shadows dance threateningly on the walls as the beauty of Bassam’s house is overtaken by chaos. She bursts into the bedroom and grabs the weapons lying against the wall: Allan’s sword, Will’s axe, and the hatchet belonging to Luke, whisking it up with a wrist-flick that would make Will proud.
As she gets back to her feet she cries out as a figure looms over her – it reaches for her neck but she ducks her head and with a quick slash she cuts its throat with the hatchet. It falls to the ground and she leaps over it to make her escape – at the door she doubles back and yanks away the covering that mask the assailant’s face. A dead Englishman lies before her, and she tugs at his shirt to reveal the tell-tale markings of the Hashshashin underneath.
Djaq: (in a whisper) Hashshashin…
She flees from the room in terror.
Scene: Bassam’s House: Lower Floor
Luke is rushing through rooms and corridors yelling at the top of his lungs and shepherding anyone he comes across out the doors and windows. The servants seem confused at first, but his fear is catching and soon it is a race against the oncoming fire and smoke. Screaming fills the air as walls begin to collapse.
Luke: Bassam! Salak!
He trips over something and in horror realizes that it’s a body, lying face down in a pool of blood. Too terrified to investigate he bursts through into the kitchens, headlong into Bassam.
Luke: Sir! We have to get out of here! Hurry!
Bassam: No! I cannot leave the pigeons, I can’t!
With the strength of two men he pushes Luke aside and hurries down the adjoining corridor. With a cry of horror, Luke goes after him.
Scene: Bassam’s House: Corridor
Djaq leaps down the stairs, having collected her own scimitar on the way, and stops in front of the door to the central room. Black smoke pours from it and she covers her face, tears streaming from her eyes. Her cry turns into a hacking cough. The house rumbles around her but just before she’s about to retreat, two figures appear through the doorframe. Will and Allan rush through the door, coughing and spluttering. Will’s sleeve is on fire and as they burst through into the next room, carrying Djaq in their wake, he bats it out with one hand.
Will shakes his head.
Djaq gives a low cry of shock and grief, but Allan is shaking his head.
Allan: Not dead. Just gone. We couldn’t find ‘im.
The two of them collect their weapons from Djaq as they talk, trying to wipe the smoke and sweat from their faces.
Will: Where’s Luke?
Djaq: I don’t know!
Will: C’mon, we’ll find him and get out of here.
Djaq: But Bassam…
Will: Hopefully Luke’s already found him.
Djaq: But…he’ll be with the pigeons!
Bassam and Luke grapple through the smoke, coughing and spluttering. The pigeons in their cages are in a panic, their wings clattering against the bars of their cage. Luke is barely holding Bassam up as the old man rushes for a cord that hangs against the wall beside the cages in the wall. He collapses against it and pulls, opening all the cages at once. The pigeons at once take to the air, and Bassam’s tear-streaked face has a grotesque smile on it as he gestures them to be gone. Confused and frightened, they head for the opening in the room, disappearing into the night. Bassam is calling after them in Arabic when Luke is distracted by more dark figures approaching through the gloom. Completely weapon-less, Luke cries out just as Allan, Djaq and Will burst through the door. With sword, axe and scimitar they surround the youth and the old man, and a short but vicious fight breaks out. It’s three against one, so the assassin soon realizes that his best bet is to flee, and he disappears into the night, leaving the others gasping for breath.
Will grabs Luke’s collar and Djaq goes to Bassam, gently taking his arm. He is wheezing quite heavily, and murmuring something under his breath.
Djaq: What is it, ammo?
Bassam: Did they…fly? Are they…safe?
Djaq: Yes, they all flew away. They’re safe in the sky.
They begin to make for the door that leads to the courtyard at the back of the property, but Will looks around as Allan hurries to the door leading back into the house.
Will: Where are you going?
Allan: Gotta check everyone’s gotten out! I’ll just be a second!
He disappears through the door, and Will
Scene: Bassam’s House: Hallway
Allan holds up his arm to shield himself from the flames, trying to see through the heavy smoke. The house is almost totally engulfed in fire now. Allan calls out but gets no reply. About to retreat, he glimpses something moving across the room: the figure of what looks like a hooded and cloaked woman, escaping through a window. His eyes filling with tears thanks to the smoke, Allan has to turn away.
Scene: Jerusalem: Streets
Coughing and spluttering, the small group stumble out onto the streets, trying to get away from the burning building. There are spectators in the darkness around them, gaping up at the house from their own homes or from the street, but no sign of any of the masked assassins. Djaq and Will, helping Bassam and Luke, stumble into a dark alley. Will paces up and down before them, checking for any signs of being followed. Djaq sinks to her knees, cradling the weakened Bassam.
Luke: Where’s Allan?!
A moment later and Allan jogs around the corner. Will gives him a questioning look.
Allan: I think everyone got out alright.
Will: No, I meant…well, that’s good, but – are you alright?
Luke: Who were those people? What just happened?
At the end of the alley they can hear people running and screaming, but here in the alleyway, all is oddly quiet. Will and Allan look at each other, distress on each face.
Allan: They could have been anyone. Anyone who knew we were staying there.
Will: Who? Ismail? Prince Malik? What reason would they have to attack us?
Allan: Doesn’t have to be them. We’ve got a lot of enemies. The Hashshashin, the Black Knights, Saladin, Prince John…anyone working for any of that lot would like to see us dead.
Will: Don’t be ridiculous. No one knew we were there.
Allan: So how’d they find us?
Will: It had to have been someone close to us. Someone in the house.
Allan looks as though he’s going to lose his temper when Luke pipes up:
Luke: Did anyone see Salak?
Allan: Oh great, so ‘e’s missing too.
There is movement at the end of the alleyway and the boys step up against the wall out of side.
Allan: We’ve gotta get out of here. The house was attacked and someone was after us. If they realize we’re still alive they’ll keep on coming.
Bassam is coughing weakly, and the people in the street are growing in number. It doesn’t take much to realize that an assassin may well be among them.
Djaq: We need to get to a safer place, far away from here. My uncle needs help.
Will and Allan hoist Bassam up between them, struggling a little with his weight. Luke grabs Djaq’s arm and they follow close behind. With the glow of the fire still lighting up the sky behind them, they begin to move down the alleyway, with nothing but their clothes, their weapons and each other.
On to Part 7: http://ravenya03.livejournal.com/26474.h