The rain seemed to wash away any colour of Masyaf and the clouds darkened the sky so much that one could think it was evening and not early in the morning.
Anyone with any sense avoided going outside and spent the night in the small houses in the village. They did not care what happened in the fortress as long as there was peace and they were safe.
From far away one could hear the sound of thunder and from time to time lightning illuminated the sky. Altair sat in the small room he lived in with his father and looked out the window.
There was something soothing and comforting about the rain. He didn't want to go to class. The other children mocked him, beat him and insulted his family, or what was left of them.
His mother, an English woman, had died in childbirth. There was only Altair and his father, Umar. It was obvious to the boy that one parent was not from here: blond hair, fair skin.
Many of the villagers also shunned Altair. They said he looked like one of the occupiers, like a crusader. Like an enemy.
And because children picked up on what adults said, they parroted it, and so Altair was constantly tortured from an early age, having to fight for everything,
having to endure things that a ten-year-old shouldn't have to endure. Altair would never admit it because he was expected to be strong... He cried a lot. He cried a lot.
But nobody would hold him and comfort him, nobody would tell him that everything was all right. His father was always away. Al-Mualim wanted it that way.
Altair was alone most of the time and when Umar came home late in the evening, sometimes only after days, he was exhausted, tired and had to write reports.
But that didn't mean that he didn't love his father. On the contrary. He didn't mind when he cried, he defended Altair, he took a lot for it himself. He was the rock of Altair.
Today, his father would return from a long trip, Altair was happy. He would feel a little better if he would cuddle up in bed with Umar in the evening, he would feel less lost in this world.
His father made the world a bit better. Altair took his stuffed rabbit and held it close. He'd probably get in trouble for not eating all that time. But ...he couldn't go in the dining room.
Not without his father. Altair got up carefully, the stuffed rabbit in his hand, and then walked down the stairs carefully. From outside, he heard voices, loud voices, shouting. His father.
Altair became frightened, as quickly as his legs carried him, he ran outside, out into the rain. And he froze. All the assassins were assembled, even Al-Mualim was there.
And there were other men, men who didn't belong here, holding Ahmed, Umar's friend.
"He told us everything, assassins! And now I want to know who is responsible for the murder of our leader! Now! Or else he dies!
", one of the men held a blade to Ahmed's neck, tears ran down his cheek. "Who is this Umar?!" Altair's eyes met his father's and the boy ran to him, almost slipping in the mud.
"Baba! What the... What's wrong, what..." Umar knelt down to Altair, his gaze was hurried and slightly panicky. "Listen, Altair... Something's happened and I want you to do as I say.
You're going back home right now and stay there, do you understand? Daddy's got a little something to settle...
" Altair shook his head, but then the Grand Master came up to them and put a hand on the boy's shoulder.
"I won't ask a third time, who is Umar?!" Altair's father looked at his son and then at Al-Mualim. "I will go, master. It's not Ahmed's fault, he was tortured...
" No, you won't! Ahmed betrayed us. It's all his fault!" Umar shook his head sadly and then came forward. Before that he embraced Altair. "Be strong, my little eagle.
Take good care of yourself... I love you... Altair was surprised his father was never so emotional.
He took another step forward, raised his hand and said: "I am Umar and I killed your leader! I admit it openly! But please let my friend go! I will take full responsibility!
" The man who held the blade to Ahmed's neck suddenly let go of him and looked hostilely at Umar. Another man drew his sword from its sheath.
"So it was you, huh? And you say you take full responsibility? So be it! Then you no longer have the right to live with this!" And then the unthinkable happened.
Before Al-Mualim could react, the man raised his sword and struck the head of Altair's father with it.
With a muffled sound the head fell to the ground and a few seconds later the lifeless body tilted to the side and then also landed in the mud.
The blood spread and reached the tips of Altair's shoes. The boy stood frozen, staring at the body. And then he screamed.
" He rushed to him, screaming as if on a spit, threw himself into the blood-soaked mud and carefully took Umar's head in both hands, the surroundings completely hidden. His father... dead...
killed before his eyes... He would never put Altair to bed again. Never read him another story. Never protect him again. He would never reprimand Altair for being out at night again.
He'd never be able to hold his son in his arms again. Never again... Altair was beside himself, covered in his father's blood, hot tears running down his cheek, his voice about to fail.
He pressed his head to himself, stroking his hair, not even noticing that two assassins were pulling him away, taking his head out of Altair's hands.
Altair didn't notice how they took him to the fortress, how he got new clothes, how he was put to bed. Eventually, he fell asleep from exhaustion.
The stuffed rabbit still lay next to Umar and the innocent button eyes stared into the grey sky, his ears soaked with blood.