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Made with Adobe Illustrator for fun cause I love Skies of Arcadia.

Also working on creating the flag part.
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this game was the begining of the end of my life its seriously a wonderful game to pick up if your a avid rpg fan it has a fun intresting storyline unique storyline the only thing that disapointed me was that it didnt get a sequel were it completly leves you off wnting more -_- its a must have for all thos old school Dreamcast players and dont feel bad if you dont have a DC because theres also a revamped on for the Game Cube with extra content and all that good stuff

you might have a real hard time trying to get ahold of a copy for either system because they been sadly discontinued and are very hard to get or even used happy huntings

Please let me know if have any new games that you like i would love to have some discussions with you people
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Anyway, this is a poster design that I made for my 2-D Design II class. Nothing special about the assignment, it just had to be something that we were interested in and had to follow basic color & design principles. So, of course, I used my obsession of the moment: Skies of Arcadia!! Because Air Pirates are awesome <3 Anyway, I tried to do something simple, since I only had a week to do it. I wanted to use diagonal lines to convey a sense of action, and I love the complimentary colors blue and orange - and blue is very appropriate for the Blue Rogues XD That's about all I have to say.

Oh! And this is a digital version of my project that I did in Adobe Illustrator CS3. I printed this out and transferred it onto 18x24" bristol board so that I could paint it, as I was required to.

(The original image is MUCH MUCH bigger - it is exactly 18x24", actually :D)
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All the way from Pirate's Isle, under the domain of the Silver Moon, it's the Blue Rogues!

A T-shirt design inspired by the game Skies of Arcadia, an RPG on Dreamcast, with a re-release called Skies of Arcadia: Legends on Gamecube. One of my favourite games ever, I cannot recommend it highly enough!

:bulletred: Available as a T-shirt and Sticker on RedBubble
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So today I started making some fake Magic cards... tried to make it playable and whatnot.

Magic (C) Wizards of the Coast, Soltis is from Skies of Arcadia, the best JRPG ever made, which is (C) Sega.
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You can now buy this print as a laptop, ipad or iphone skin here! :)…

EDIT : thank you everyone who fav'ed and commented on this pic! i'm totally blown away by the response here. i never expected so many people would like this pic so much! so... a big thank you to all of you! :heart:

she's not dead, just fainted.

oh, and also, pose ref from :

AND.... here's the original sketch of the couple from 2008

(omg so long ago) which i had said i would repaint, but i didn't lol.


iconlilachiccups: wrote a pretty long story based on this :)…

:iconalexiathehedgehog123: wrote a short story based on this pic : alexiathehedgehog123.deviantar…

:iconramenowl: wrote a poem based on…
:) and also a story! :

:iconthe-blue-wolf: wrote a poem based on this picture : :)

:iconal130: wrote a series of poems inspired by this image :

:iconxxdark-maidenxx: wrote a poem based on this pic :

:icongreedybee: 's take on it :…

:iconkkunkitty: wrote a short piece for it here :…

:iconwritingbycandlelight: wrote a story based on this image :writingbycandlelight.deviantar…

:iconshearwaterhydrangea: wrote a poem inspired by this pic : shearwaterhydrangea.deviantart…

omg! Someone tattooed this on their leg!…
Thank you! :D I'm honored! It was done by Sarah Miller, looks great!

large wallpaper version here :…
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Myar and Kamoril once again.

Here's the folder with my other art about them: [link]

I believe that they listening to Galneryus's song - "Destiny"
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My OC's Kamoril and Myar again :3
See other pics with them here: [link]
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I published this like exemple of my cloloured sketches ^^'

This is my OC's Myar and Kamoril, you can see them also here:
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Last time I post here only sketches :(
It's cos I draw near two full-colour ladies per day, but I can't show them, they are secret :3

So here you can see my favorite OC's Kamoril and Myar again.

and folder with all art about them here: [link]
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Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: sexual themes)
comments later :)
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Commission for :icongreenboy07:

The Harems Include:

Jinx - G.I. Joe: Sigma 6
Suki - Avatar: the Last Airbender
Angel - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Back To the Sewers
Magma - X-Men: Evolution
Liz Allen - Spectacular Spider-Man
Kiva - Megas XLR
Supergirl - Superman/Batman: Apocalypse
Viper - Jackie Chan Adventures
Teela - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (2002)
Gwen Tennyson - Ben 10: Ultimate Alien
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:bulletblue:COMMISSION:bulletblue: for :iconkyirastarborne:*

Itachi is sure NOT an easy target for stabbing, here he caught in mid air his not-so-secretly beloved Himitsu (oc*) and showed her some... affection!

:icondonotuseplz::iconmyartplz: :iconreadcplz1::iconreadcplz2::iconreadcplz3:
If you want to use my drawings you have to ask me first via note to set where else will them be posted and make sure proper credit is given.

thanks for faving! :+fav:
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This was an image I have had in my head for a long time. I've tried drawing it on several occasions, but it never came out quite right. The difficulty was pulling off the pose and prospective. The sketch for this particular piece was the first I was finally half-way satisfied with, and chose to finish.

I employed a few new tricks when coloring this. A triadic color scheme - green, purple, and orange - was used for the bed sheets, curtains, and fur. The pattern on the sheets and pillow cases were designed to enforce the prospective. And the lighting was something I experimented extensively on. In the end, I put a lot of effort into this art. Hopefully, it was worth it, if only for the learning experience. You can hit the download for a larger version, if you'd like.
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Chapter 6
Road to Baghdad  Summer 1188 CE

The crossing looked busy, milling men, braying asses and neighing horses producing an almost unbearable din that surely could be heard for miles in any direction. Only the noise of the river could possibly cover it but not by much. Even quarter of a mile away as they were, Altair and Adah heard shouting as the cargo was prepared for transport across the river. In the same direction they were going.

The day had begun badly and was now getting worse. It had rained, soaking their clothes, bedrolls and food packs given by the Assassins at the post. They had spent a day – wasted a day, in Altair’s opinion – drying out what had gotten wet. That had been yesterday. But the mud created by the heavy downpour of the day before had still not quite dried. And now this caravan – what was a large caravan doing here at the smugglers’ crossing? – was churning up the ground into a puddle of mud. Altair spat to the side.

“How could we not see or hear them coming here?” he wondered aloud, eyes scanning the long line of horses and asses that the handlers were trying to force onto the ferry that could only carry two horses abreast and two men. “And why would they cross here? Look at how much they carry.”

He pointed to bales of what looked like cloth – silk or muslin tightly rolled for the journey – slung across the wagons pulled by horses. The river was not too deep here but how were they going to get the wagons to the other side? He saw the caravan guards going up and down the long winding line of the caravan, taking orders as to the dispositions on this bank and the other. Looking across, Altair saw some of them already over there, guarding the so far little pile of transported goods. He growled in frustration.

“This crossing is not the only one I think in this vicinity,” Adah spoke from beside him, the first words this day. Neither had felt the need for talking after the rains and today promised more delays. In fact, Altair reflected as his eyes roved the line of the ever moving caravan, they’d not spoken since the morning after. Somehow the need to talk seemed to go away once they were back on the road and busy with its routines of setting up camp and the thoughts each carried on their soul. And neither to his surprise did he find himself uncomfortable with the silence. It was as if being back on the road had erased the events of the night and the emotional consequences. They were nothing more than traveling companions. Nothing more…

His senses jarred as his eyes found something even more out of place than the long winding caravan that should not be here and had most likely made a road for many others to follow them here. How many more smugglers would come here and deposit tolls with the Assassins for safe passage was now in doubt. This particular caravan had not paid the tolls, he was sure. He’d have seen a large caravan – how had his Brothers missed it? Who led these men?

All these questions were swept aside as a figure on a mount caught his gaze at the same time as Adah pointed him out. “Look, is that not a Latin?” she asked in the low voice she’d adopted. It was more male and went along with the disguises of the mercenaries they’d taken on since leaving the Assassin fort. Few would dare question two armed men.

Altair’s eyes never left the Crusader as a chill made its way down his spine. The man rode with a purpose and ease of long practice. His clothing, what Altair could make out at this distance, was black – adorned with a white cross on the breast. Altair sucked in air through dry still lips. A Hospitaller. In the Calipha’s lands. That he was alone spoke volumes of his daring, although Altair could tell no weaponry on him beyond the standard longsword in a saddle sheath. The man carried a satchel across his shoulders. A messenger. Or spy. His pace was measured, an unhurried trot that ate up the distance effectively nonetheless. As the two of them watched in silence he rode up to a man at the head of the ferry and a few words passed between them. Then the messenger splashed his way into the river to the waiting ferry that was still only half loaded. Despite the angry gesturing of the men on the ferry he dismounted on it, making his horse swim as the ferry cast off and began across to the other side.

Altair and Adah exchanged looks. A very important messenger, Altair thought, to warrant the taking over of the ferry at his behest. But how did he know of this crossing? And why was he riding the same road as them? Altair shifted uneasily in the saddle.

“That was either a very insolent man or an urgent message,” Adah commented echoing his own thought. “Perhaps we should try to find another ford.”

Altair shook his head. “Any other fords could be days away. And in any case I don’t know of them. They could be more crowded than this.” He leaned onto his saddle looking over at his companion. Her face was half covered with a head scarf to hide the lower part of her face, to pass her off as a youth. The cloth muffled her voice enough so that when she spoke she’d not be taken for a woman. The spies that he knew were on the road somewhere from here all the way to Baghdad would not fail to recognize her if she spoke too much or drew too much attention. The closer they got to their destination the more likely that they’d be spotted and recognized. At least she would be if allowed to be openfaced. Himself he’d be safer – he did not wear his robes and not many would know his face in any case, beyond the Lady Zubaydah and the palace servants. But the less risk he took the better.

“Let’s mingle with the mercenaries,” he decided at last. “Two more in this crowd won’t be noticed.”

She did not object and followed him silently. She had let him take the lead so far. And that unnerved him. He was used to objections and obstinacy from her. Unless this was one more mysterious aspect of her personality, part of that courtly mask she enveloped herself in so easily. If she kept on like this working with her in close proximity would be hard, notwithstanding his own fleshly urges that he had learned to keep tightly bound. God, why this woman!

The next day he still kept thinking about that Hospitaller. They’d not seen anymore of his tracks after the river. He must have taken a different route after all. Or perhaps he was simply passing from some other land back to the Crusader enclaves. Whatever it was, troubled the Assassin’s mind. It nagged at him, even though it probably had no bearing on his mission whatsoever.

The eagle’s lone high cry interrupted his thought, making him look up into a sky so blue that no paint could ever rival it. The bird flew low, so low he could see the feathers of the spread wings as it planed on the air currents of the hilly valley they were riding through. The eagle gave one more cry, calming Altair somehow, disrupting the rapid jumbled thoughts, enabling him to order them somehow. In moments like these, as he communicated with that spiritual presence within  himself, he could relax, forget whatever nagged him for a short while. He’d not meditated for some time now. Tonight, he promised, he’d do so.

Then the eagle veered off to their right and he heard a harsh caw of a raven. At the same time Adah motioned with her hand and called his attention to a flock of ravens circling and fluttering over a hill. He saw some vultures too but the black cloud against the clear blue already told the sad story. A group of bodies lay there, human or animal he did not know but felt uneasy all the same.

They rode off the path and up the hill. The ravens ignored them, too busy and sated to pay much mind to two humans. He heard Adah gasp as his own anxiety turned to ice. The side of the hill all the way down was strewn with bodies. Bodies in the bloodied white of the Templars. At least a score of them, hacked and stabbed viciously. The smell of the blood and putrid flesh was almost overpowering. But that was not why Altair turned away. The men were Templars. Dead to a man. Something inside him closed up. None of his business. He thought he should salute whoever had killed them. Less vermin in the world.

“Let’s get on. There is nothing here.”

He felt her stare at him in astonishment. And ignored her.

“These men are dead, Dai Altair. Yet there are no signs of their enemies among them. Does it not make you curious what happened here?”

“No,” he bit off the word, flicking his reins. Even though, if he were truthful with himself, he did wonder why it was only the Templars here. They were ferocious fighters. Surely they did not just lay down their arms and surrender?

Her cold imperial tone stopped him cold. Not so much with the words as with the implications.

“Dai, you swore to protect me and help me in whatever I ask of you. You will not go until I give you leave.”

His teeth ground together as anger flared through his body. How dared she talk like that, so fearlessly? He could kill her in a blink of an eye.

“You will disregard the fact that they are your enemies. They are dead men, Dai. Whatever harm they might have done to you or did not do you will not just walk away. Only a monster would do so. A beast.”

There. She’d said the one word he’d tried so hard not let enter his mind for the past year. The possibility he’d denied as nightmares almost drove him mad. His hand strayed towards his left wrist to rub – an old habit he’d had tried to break himself of. He was still amazed that the Brothers restored function to his broken wrist at all. Roderick had made a clean break – easier to set than a crooked one. He closed those memories off. He’d moved on with his life. An Assassin had no time to brood, not when his Master wanted his skills and mind at his disposal.
And now the Lady Adah had decided to remind him of her station. As if he’d ever forgotten it. He treated her courteously as her rank demanded but he was no serving man to obey her whim.

“One draught of wine does not a drunken man make,” he said softly looking at the ravens and not the bodies strewn all about in various postures that confirmed his guess as to a battle here. “A collar around a man’s neck does not a slave make.”

At this he gazed into her eyes as the raven’s harsh calls grated on his ears. She did not back down from him, her golden eyes flashing at his insolence. Then she turned and rode down to inspect the field of battle with these words over her shoulder, “I expect to see you here and not move beyond my eyesight, Dai. Should whoever killed these men return, you are to assist me in driving them off.”

Altair took a breath to retort, to tell her exactly how they stood but she would not listen. Despite his irrational wish to just go on and leave her to catch up with him if she could he stayed there and even after a while could not stay put anymore. Curiosity, ever his bane, drove him to dismount and walk the edges of the charnel house field. He’d smelled places like this before many a time so he did not hold his nose as he saw her sometimes doing out of the corner of his eye. She looked at him from time to time too, to make sure he was not about to wander off on his own.

The more he looked the more questions and suspicions he had. She’d been right after all – not one of the bodies was not a Templar one. Did they fight one another? Absurd even by their strange Christian standards. And poisoning so many men seemed unlikely. He rather thought that the ambushers had picked their dead up after the fight. To bury? Perhaps, he allowed, squatting by a body of a fully armed knight who lay under his equally dead horse. Clouds of flies swarmed the field, their buzzing a drone overlaid by the ravens’ calls. His helmet had been cut open and the face beneath mangled beyond all recognition. Blood did not seep from his many wounds that spoke to a brutality Altair could not place. Even what they’d done to him paled in comparison. Most of the damage to the body seemed to have occurred after he’d fallen down: the strokes were too deep and regular to be a battle wound. He went over to another body, then another. All spoke of hacking horror after they’d fallen down. And given the fact that these Templars had strayed to Abbasid lands, Altair did not think other Latins could have done this. Any sizable troop of foreigners would be seen and reported immediately to Al Nasir. Then again perhaps a small troop had managed to elude the Calipha’s guard along the border and come this deep into his lands unnoticed. Perhaps these men were the renegades and the others had just been catching them up. That could explain no dead enemies among the carnage: whoever had done this wanted the act kept secret so as not to upset any civilians who might be about and so incite another riot for the beleaguered Calipha. Who’d be so soliticious though?

Altair thought it more likely that the Calipha’s men had caught up with the renegade knights and slaughtered them. But then, why take the dead if justice was the idea? Unless they had not wanted to attract anymore attention to the dead Templars than necessary. He sat back on his heels as yet another possibility struck him: what if the Hospitallers were involved somehow? That messenger…
Like a hound on a scent Altair began to examine every inch of the battle ground for signs. The tale was a hard one: the muddy ground had dried since the battle. He guessed it’d taken place in the rain. Three days ago then. Some bodies were decomposing already and the waste of the loosed bowels was as thick as mud. He had to step carefully.

As he went about his search he went deeper and deeper into a detached part of himself where memory and thought became one. He could almost see the battle as it played out, the desperate fight, the cries of the horses and the wounded men. But he felt no pity for these. Their kind had come so close to breaking him. In Malik’s eyes they’d succeeded. But Altair did not think so. And with this mission he’d prove Malik wrong. Moreover, the Master trusted him with this mission. The Master read him the best of any man.

Something caught his eye: a gaggle of ravens on a body. It was hard to see for all the squabbling black birds with beady eyes that seemed to know him, to look so deep into him that he felt disconcerted. He braved the birds anyway, walking with a steady step, staring right back at them, daring them to screech at him.

Arrogantly, the birds ignored him, pecking at the flesh, red gobbets of which he saw disappear down their gullets. He did not feel nauseated. He felt nothing at all.
He stepped over a fly ridden horse, stiff in death, speckled with blood, its rider’s body mangled beyond belief. Such savagery he’d not ever seen in a large battle. Half his arm had been hacked off to lie beside him at a grotesque angle. His head had been sheared in two with an axe giving him a strange stare, glassy and lopsided.

But the body that interested him as it did the birds was that of a young knight, no doubt only inducted into the Order. Altair could tell by his pale fresh cheeks. He’d not lived long to fight for his religion and glory – a cynical thought but one the Assassin did not stop. The monsters were made young. This one had been transfixed with several arrows before scimitars had done their grisly work. The arrow feathers were stiff, harsh like those of the ravens feeding on his chest and legs. His eyes were long gone: that being the first thing that the ravens took.
But even this body was not what had attracted him here. He knelt on the closer side of the body and dug under the stiff back of the once white coat now saturated with dried blood. The metallic tang was as sharp as ever – somehow reminding him of his ordeal at Kerak. God, would his life be forever defined by that dark place, the den of the beast? He shook off the foreboding and dug deeper. Then he had it: a steel belt buckle, engraved with the Hospitaller insignia. He studied it: chance or purpose? Had the messenger been carrying orders for the ambush? Or was he just a scout. He revised his opinion of the time of the battle. If it had happened after the messenger’s message then only a day had passed. But how to reconcile the churned mud? He rubbed at the stained buckle, musing.

“Altair! Come here!”

His head snapped up at her voice. He’d forgotten her completely in his search. What could she have found? He thought as he straightened, putting the buckle into his pouch for later thought. Stepping over bodies he made his way to the farther side of the killing field to where she knelt supporting a body in her arms.
As he came up to her, she said without looking up, “This one is alive.”

She felt him start beside her, his presence almost overwhelming in its intensity. But she also sensed the cold fury that the very sight of the Templars, dead or alive, brought out in him. He’d promised to tell her. She would hold him to it, if not today, then soon. The reasons for her own curiosity did not disturb her thoughts. She wanted to know him but the why of it was rapidly disappearing.

“Then why have you not killed him?”

His voice was like stones falling into a deep dark well: no mercy, no inflection of humanity at all. Monstrously bereft of even a shred of feeling. Boldly she looked up at his black eyes in a face so stony for a moment she doubted if he even breathed.

“He has information that we could use to find out what happened here. I don’t speak his language. But perhaps you do. I want to know what happened here. Until I do we do not move from here. Not a step. We will camp here.”

She put all the mastery of a lady of the court accustomed to obedience from her inferiors that she could, past the sudden tightening of her throat at the look in his eyes. It was said that the eyes held the secrets of even the most closed of men. You only had to know where to look. In her training with the Lady Balsam and later the Calipha’s wife, Adah had learned the subtle ways of reading muscle twitches but even more often the eyes, however inexpressive they might be. Some men only believed they were in control: slips happened all too often.

Adah read rage, obstinacy and finally resignation in his gaze and rigid posture. She tasted a small triumph as he knelt by the dying man whose breath was a faltering wheeze. His ribcage had been smashed in, ribs poking out of his surcoat. How he’d survived this long she had no idea but her help would be of no use. His eyes were feverish but aware nonetheless of what went on around him. She read contempt for who they were writ large in his eyes. He knew they were not Latins, could tell by their speech that they were infidels he’d come so far to fight. And to die by their hand too.

She watched as the Assassin placed a hand to the man’s throat as if about to strangle him and defy her. He had never even looked at her as he examined the man. She did not object to that. He had surrendered once. He would do so again.

The sneer on the man’s face was easy to read as his eyes met the Assassin’s. Altair let no change of expression settle on his own features as he drew one of his throwing knives and examined its sharp edge where the man could see it. The Templar was nothing but a piece of meat, anyway. Carrion. The ravens only waited for him to die. Soon he’d be.

“Speak, Templar,” Altair intoned coldly, as if the very act of speaking to such a creature disgusted him. As in truth it did. “And I might find it in myself to ease your passing.”

The man breathed more, moving his lips, his voice barely a whisper.

“Go rot…. I know you….. Assassin… Murderer…. My Brothers…”

Altair’s lip curled despite his control. Stubborn to the last, the Templars. They feared him still which was good. He wanted them to tremble as he’d done alone locked in that dank cell, hungry and dry and sick with it all. He wanted to spit and hack the man to pieces, all his pent up rage and frustration released finally. But Adah was watching him sharply, a commanding presence beside him. He knew she doubted him, sure that he would be rash – endanger the mission. Perhaps, he reflected, it’d been a mistake to allow her to see him kill the Templars. But he had sworn. He’d hold to his oath, no matter what. The vermin had to die.

“Your fate, Templar, is all the same to me. You’ll be dead anyway.” He kept his voice dead, dull. “I have sworn to kill every single one of you. But someone got you ahead of me. I want to know who. And I want to know why you were in the Abbasid lands.”

To a dying man, threats made little sense. He had nothing to lose, to hope for and so had nothing to hide. But Latins were obstreperous, fanatically defending their religion as one of peace while killing and raping as much as they could. Even in death they never gave up on that trait, that strongheadedness that lent their cause such sway that from Europe came men to defend what was only a memory, a dim history that many of them did not even understand. As Altair killed more and more of these Knights, he thought he was coming to understand them better, their reasons, in despite of himself. His ever eager mind was soaking up knowledge like a sponge, whatever his finer morality might think of such a seeming betrayal.

The dying man’s eyes held his for a moment before he puckered his lips as if trying to kiss the Assassin. It took Altair a moment to realize the man was only trying to spit at him. In defiance. Disinterestedly, Altair sheathed the knife and got to his feet.

“Let’s get out of here,” he addressed Adah, scanning the surrounding hills for any signs of the Calipha’s men or any men at all come to investigate what the ravens were at. “Let him be eaten alive by the birds. You should have known better than to waste my time on this.”

Adah stared at him with a fury that equaled his own. She hated being balked and overridden. It was time to show her that the coils she’d woven about him with her female magic were not as tight as she’d like to believe. It was time to remind her of what he really was: an Assassin. Time to resurrect the fear she’d thought she’d put aside.

From below him came a sound: like dry leaves rustling. At the same time his thoughts prickled uneasily. The nagging sense that something was not as it should be. A cloudless day with a shadow hanging over it. The more he spied the hills the more disquieted he became. There were eyes watching, whether friendly or not he could not tell. But better if the two of them were not here when the owners of those sharp eyes got here.

“I…saw you,” the Templar whistled through his broken lungs. “At Kerak.”

Sharply Altair looked down at him, then knelt again and brought his face closer to that of the almost dead man. Unbelievably the man was trying to smile, in scorn. Their stares met, the feverish grey of the Templar Knight and the bottomless flat black of the Assassin.

“Broken… Beat….” The Templar took breath, a rattle in his parched torn throat. “Alone. Like me.”

A sadness seemed to settle on the Templar as the Assassin’s heart thundered. The words sank into his mind like daggers. To hear this proud knight comparing his ordeal with this charnel field made Altair cold all over. Adah was giving him a long understanding look but he ignored it. Pity he did not need. He did not want her to understand his secrets.

“Who did this, Templar?” he asked quietly.

The man blinked several times, gathering breath to speak. Then his hand settled on Altair’s with a firm grip for one so weakened. Altair stiffened, as if uncleanliness had touched him.

“Hospitallers,” the dying man croaked his eyes never leaving the Assassin’s.

“Hospitallers?” Altair whispered incredulously, his own tone close to that of the man who was breathing his last. He could hardly believe it. He did not know what to think.

“How did they come to be here? How did you?” Adah’s voice, soft, kind.

The Templar’s eyes widened at her voice: he’d not expected a woman to be here. But he answered her, infidel or not, where he’d bluster at Altair.

“We were to escort a caravan to Baghdad.” He gapsed. Altair knew these were his last breaths. The man’s lips were turning blue already. His face was pale under all the blood. Altair’s unease grew as his gaze took in the silent hills. Too silent, except for this one where the ravens cawed their triumph. Or was he getting jumpy? Was it because of finding Templars where he’d least expected them?

“They ambushed us here…. we never saw the caravan.”

“Was the caravan to cross the Euphrates at a small ford?” The question spilled of it’s own accord from his lips.

The Templar shook his head. He did not know. Altair did not think they’d get anymore out of him. The man was almost dead anyway. Altair reached for his knife once more, motioning Adah to walk away to the horses. She gave him a hard look but he had no time to explain. With every minute his anxiety grew. Something was amiss here, more than just Latins settling their disputes on the Calipha’s land.
Altair made the work quick, eyes never leaving the Templar’s gaze. He stabbed once, in the throat. A wet gurgle, a spasm of the body as he twisted the knife and a last rattling breath. The Templar lay still, the last of his party, his gaze glassy, his face still. But Altair was disconcerted to find an expression of gratitude in the Templar’s eyes as he watched him die. It shook his perceptions of the Templar Order to the core. Gratitude was a human emotion, not that of a beast.

He had no time to reflect on that, however, as Adah called to him in alarm.

“Altair, quick! They’re coming!”
things heating up again and new mysteries to solve
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Chapter 5
Small Assassin fort  Summer 1188 CE

The woman stretched lazily in the small confines of a chamber of a hill watch post. The blanket fell off her as she did so, baring a muscular slimness not many had seen and lived to tell the tale. A smile graced her face as she settled back into the cushions, pulling the blanket to her chest and running her hands across her breasts. As he had done the night before.

Then only did she notice his absence as the early sunlight filtered in through the now clean glass after yesterday’s storm. He no longer slept beside her. His place was cold but his scent – that male sweaty aroma – still lingered. She rather thought he’d gone out for a walk or a run: she had given him enough to think about last night. Her triumph was far from complete – she had deliberately sought to remind him of that scene in Baghdad all those years ago – but he was already hers. He simply tried to deny it still.

She sat wrapped in the blanket that she knew he’d put around her. Considerate – unlike her other lovers whose only connection to her had been lust. Such she’d not expected from an Assassin who by all accounts she’d been able to gather at Masyaf was the most unemotional and forceful of them all. The Master of the Assassins trusted him most of all his men. Such favour did not come lightly. Altair must have done important work – and done it well. That degree of trust spoke of the emotional and rational underpinnings of who he was. More than a murderer. More than a man.

Wrapping the blanket tightly, inhaling his scent on it she set out to look for him. They had a lot to talk about. Baghdad was only a week away.

She noticed another door in the chamber: there had to be another part to these apartments. After all, Altair was a man of note. Sure enough she found him there when she opened the door softly. He was asleep. At the table. Head on the arms. Still half bare to her eye.

Adah bit her lip, watching him, standing in the doorway. She did not want to wake him. Walked a few steps closer, shutting the door quietly and studied his face. He looked younger when his black gaze that made him so serious was not directed at one. Yet the things he had done marked him. His hands, splayed on the papers, some covered in ink, others blank, spoke to his trade. Their touch on her skin had been soft but could as easily have been harsh.

Her gaze found the clotted blood on his back and she felt her cheeks redden slightly. Such passion she’d not known in years. At the court one guarded their bodies as much as their tongues. She looked at her hand a moment and noticed the bits of skin under the nails. She would have to be more careful – such abandon was dangerous and could only mean trouble.

Adah knew she should go and get ready for the next stage of the journey. But she did not want to seem ungrateful for his favour last night. He had even folded her clothes at her side: the kind of neatness he no doubt practiced to conceal his tracks from those who’d bring him to justice. She drove that thought away as mean. Dai Altair had simply done her another favour, had shown her that he too was a human being but different from other men.

Looking around for a reason to be here, Adah’s gaze settled on the papers on the table. The ones that had writing on them. A curiosity seized her – what would he write? And to who? About the mission? His observations? Carefully plucking a paper from under his left hand, trying not to touch him at all – she knew too well what would happen if she did – she scanned the half finished missive quickly. She felt a chill in her spine. The salutation was to al Mualim. But no secrets were revealed to her there. Just a routine letter telling the Master that they’d soon be there. She felt a surge of disappointment. She should have talked to the Assassin after they’d finished. She had felt too relaxed for talk though. She’d been tired from riding and the act of love. She had wanted rest.

No doubt he had wanted to spend the restless hours doing something. If anything the Assassins were men of action. Their thinking was done elsewhere, at other times. So he had written. Gently she stroked his neck and upper back, taking care not to disturb the blood on it. Strange that he’d left her to her sleep and not come back when he felt tired. Respecting her – he had shown her nothing but that since she’d met him. She had gathered that he did not take much note of women. For him they were a passing fancy: there if needed but not missed if absent. He had treated her the same. He had not flattered her or fawned or even looked at her as a man would, as she was used to. She had felt taken aback at first at such behaviour. And that only added to his challenging nature. She found that she wanted to know how he thought and why. She wanted to know his mind and heart.

Altair had heard her enter. He’d been only dozing but had pretended sleep.  He let her read the letter he’d written and stroke his back, trying with all his might to maintain the appearance of natural sleep. But when her fingers found that spot at the base of his neck he thought he’d be undone. Had almost been undone. She had seemed to be making sure he was asleep before pulling the letter he’d half finished from under his hand. For a moment, just to get her hands off him, he had wanted to straighten and “awake”. On the other hand, he enjoyed her touch – some deep part of him had hungered for it and had him keep still.

However, after she’d put the letter down, he could maintain the pretense no longer. There were things to do. A river to cross. He could not waste time on games of love, no matter how pleasing that would be. He stirred awake and turned to see her swathed in the blanket he’d laid over her. The smile she gave him was uncertain, the temptress gone in the morning light. He liked her like this, hair tousled and blanket slipped from one shoulder. His hands itched to caress that sculpted flesh but he resisted: last night did not give him the right to touch her so yet. Not in his eyes anyway.

“Thank you,” she spoke softly, plucking at the blanket. “For the cover.”

He looked at his hands in his lap and nodded, not trusting his voice. Silence fell as each waited for the other to speak. There were no words in his mind to say. The events of last night had only been too clear: her claim on him had a reason and she’d staked it. In no uncertain terms. His body at the least belonged to her, he admitted, even if his mind and heart did not.

“So what do we do now, Altair?”

The way she’d said his name… Giving it so much significance and being brave in even saying it. Until now she’d not pronounced it once. Perhaps she thought the events of last night permitted her to. He knew he would not stop her. He had no reason to: they were too close now. Looking at the crossed fingers in his lap he answered her calmly as if simply discussing a day’s trip to town, “There is a ford two days’ journey from here.” He smiled a little ironic twist to his mouth. “Not usually used by noble ladies such as you. But serviceable.”

She did not react to the barb he’d put in his words to tell her that he still was his own man. He wanted their respective positions clearly understood. He was no slave, she was no mistress, not of his at any rate. Him she would not command. In any way. He had his own pride and was not averse to showing it when necessary, even if it was to a woman.

She moved a little to stand before him and he heard her hitch up the blanket to cover her shoulder. He saw the folds move at her feet, revealing them for a second.

“I think that we can be honest with one another now.” Some of that courtly tone had come back – a lady’s tone of command. The steel in her, he admired that. Not many women he’d known had such a thing. That steel core drew him to her all the more. Intrigued him. “I have passed smugglers’ fords and camps before. No need to be gentle with me. Even if I am of the court – that does not mean I am fragile.”
He was certain she’d tell him what she really was. He’d noted the little pause before her last words. He dared to raise his head to see her cheeks flushed a little – anger? Indignation? Possibly, he allowed. He’d insulted her pride and reminded himself that she’d come alone to Masyaf. Do not make an enemy of her, fool, he cautioned himself. For good or ill you work together.

“I do not question your courage – my lady.” Now it was his turn to pause. His tongue would not move to say her name in her presence. Briefly he wondered why. Then saw her slightly amused look: the courtly mask slipped on her face without her even knowing it. “I advise caution. You do not want to be found out – I do not believe too many know of your absence. Your enemies might, however. So would those of the Caliph since they inevitably have spies in the palace.” He watched her reaction. She showed none, just simply gazed at him, fingers holding the blanket tight to her. Yet he thought he’d read a certain chagrin in her, a minute tightening of the eyes. The Lady Adah was probably wondering why he was not kissing her or showing any sign of the effects of last night. He smirked to himself. The dear lady did not know him as well as she thought. The Assassin was master of his feelings even if his body went its own path.

“So you suggest we could have our path riddled with those pathetic men who’d dare attack such a warrior as yourself. After the Templars I thought nothing could frighten you.”

The lady could jab back it seemed. Her scorn was evident in her slightly curled lip as she spoke. He actually could not keep a small smile from his face as he inclined his head in acknowledgment of the blow. He sighed as he stood up to look her in the eyes, unflinching.

“One day, perhaps, I will tell you of the link between the Knights and myself.” He paused, saw the mask drop from her face after a guarded moment where she gauged his trustworthiness. “That is a long tale. Uneasy. And I do not speak of myself often.”

Her eyebrow climbed into her hairline in wry amusement. God, the woman switched back and forth between courtly coquettishness and womanly grace as easily as a snap of the Hidden Blade into place and back. But she forbore any further comment, instead approaching him and reaching to touch his face with an edge of the blanket. He would have pulled away but she said softly, “You have an ink stain on your cheek.” The quiet low quality of her voice startled him so that Altair could find no words to object and so submitted to her ministrations, all the while keeping his mind firmly on the road ahead and not on last night’s enjoyable memories. That was over and done with. Whatever happened between them next would involve the mission, nothing more. So he swore to himself, but deep down a voice whispered the lie to his shallow discipline. Some subconscious part of him knew better, was aware of the attraction he felt the smallest hint of her smell, so much woman than he’d ever dealt with before. He feared to drown in her liquid brown gaze. He feared what would happen before they got to the city.

After she’d left to get dressed and ready to leave, the Assassin stared long at the door she’d shut on her way out. Her ghost lingered in the room, her touch… He stepped to the basin set on a small table and splashed water briskly onto his face, rubbing till his skin was red and raw, ignoring the welts on his back that had started to bleed slightly from the sudden movements. Disregarding the sting he pulled on his robes, feeling them stick to the cuts. She’d marked him alright. The annoyance he felt at that, at himself and her too, cut through the haze of his feelings. Focus on the road ahead, damn you. There’ll be plenty of time to deal with this later. Moreover, the road ahead will not be easy. The Knights would be the least of your problems. There are bands of mercenaries that the Calipha has hired to keep the order in his rapidly disintegrating lands. She is a distraction, true. But are you not the Master Assassin? Why is it you allow this woman to turn your head so? She is, at the bottom of her being, a woman like any other. And you’ve been with women before. You know their tricks, even if the Companions use them more subtly than her. She is nothing new, just simply more overt about subverting your reason. Gather yourself together, man! You are no callow youth to be turned by a pretty ankle! You are a man, a man grown!

Altair’s fist made dull knocks on the stone wall, slow and painless. That was exactly the problem, he thought. He was a man. With a man’s need. And Adah satisfied that need in ways he’d not thought possible. In a crucial moment that could prove dangerous – this weakness could lead to their deaths. The task would remain incomplete. He felt all the weight of the responsibilities laid on him heavy on his shoulders. The feel of that weight sobered him, washed him in ice-cold stream of harsh clarity. His plan started to form as he ran a finger up and down the short blade to see for any nicks and flicked the knives in and out of their sheathes at the wooden table, cleared of papers.

First, the crossing.

Then, the city.
i can't say anything about this chapter at all. just thought i'd give a try to writing the morning after kind of thing. as for what lies ahead.... i have no idea
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Mature Content Filter is On
(Contains: sexual themes)
Chapter 4
A small Assassin stop point Summer 1188 CE

The stiff wind that blew in from the west fluttered the man’s clothes as he watched the sunset from the tower of the little fortress, a little watch post along the less known route to the crossing of the Euphrates that the smugglers used or merchants who did not want to declare their goods at customs or pay a bridge toll.
The wind cut at his face, making his black eyes water. His focused gaze was broken and he looked down at the small yard below, elevated high over the plain which was empty of all but grass. Little travel – not many passed this way for obvious reasons of keeping the authorities in the dark as to any paths that might be made. He’d seen a few men and mules but not a major caravan.

What he’d heard had been worse. He’d stopped a few of those travelers, his white robes enough to at least make them fear him. They knew Assassins hid here in these hills – usually they were left alone but if they asked for shelter on a stormy night hospitality was given, freely. In exchange though the Assassins gathered news and sent it on to Masyaf. That is what Altair had done the night before. He’d shared one merchant’s fire and had asked the man what went on in the big cities of the world. The merchant, sipping a hot brew, had been happy to talk. He’d been on the road long and his mule was the only company: a disagreeable one too as the animal did not talk much. The man himself had done all the talking for the three of them.

It appeared that the blackmail campaign was causing unrest in the country. Riots were sporadic and of little force but multiplying. Their cumulative effect could not be understated. The Abbasid Calipha was doing the usual: sending armed troops to deal with the renegades. Altair knew such tactics were hopeless, the refuge of the weak or the stupid. But then, the Lady Zubaydah was no fool – however, being a woman she had little in the way of a say in politics. And the Calipha’s sons… Always scheming and intriguing to get the father’s favour. Altair had not liked the lot of them on his previous visit and was not surprised to learn that none were to be found by their father’s side in this crisis.

Salahadin was still dealing with the Crusaders who threatened his borders but still kept an eye on the dying Abbasid Caliphate, now nothing more than a plaything of the Turks in Persia despite all its former splendour. Al Nasir, the Caliph, was doing all he could to hold on to his conquests but this was proving to be impossible with the subtle campaign of terror in the city and on the borders. Altair wondered if the Turks were playing games yet again, trying to do away with the Caliphate altogether as was their eventual goal, without actually sullying their hands with such hallowed blood as that of an Abbasid Caliph. The merchant had not known much about that. His information while fresher than some of the tavern gossip Altair and his companion had picked up on the way was still only hearsay and guesswork.

Altair had thanked him for his hospitality and pretended to sleep, only to slip away in the night to Adah. He’d hidden her behind a hill – if the merchant had seen him with a woman Altair would have had to kill him. The Lady Adah was simply too beautiful to be seen by such a man as the merchant without a few sharp tinged thoughts crossing his mind...

He sighed, rubbing his hand on the stone, feeling the grit under his palm. She was still angry at him, although she did not show it by any obvious sign. She still talked to him – a pretended normality but stiffly formal all the same. It should not have rubbed him the wrong way – he of all men should not care for a woman’s feelings – but strangely he did. That attraction, began with that one fatal kiss in his chamber, had not died with the passing days. He finally looked it in the face, turning away from the biting wind. That fire in him, ignited by his admiration for her, only burned hotter, slower, smoldering like live coal in his chest. Such was the reason for his long silences on the road: habit and discomfort with the new feelings inside. The only person who could have explained this to him was long years away.

She had not asked him why he’d come after the Templars. She had simply kept shut on that subject. The only thing they discussed was the mission nowadays. They were polite but distant – his conduct, his dark fears of a night, standing between them. He had not explained his behaviour to her: his thoughts were his alone, not for others’ perusal. If he made himself cold, she’d leave aside seducing him. He’d concluded that all her innocent questions about life at Masyaf were attempts at worming her way into his soul. He would have none of that. There was no woman in the world capable of holding his heart – that belonged to the Assassins. Always had. Always would.

The last of the sun’s rays hit the tops of the watch post’s roofs, a farewell for another night. Clouds came, thick and rolling. He’d smelled a storm brewing for days. Tonight it’d break. Well, the lands and grasses needed water: they’d passed parched fields not far from here. He’d better turn in. His body needed rest even if his mind did not. His arm was one big bruise from the mace that Templar had hit him with. He still could not use it fully. He had not let the Lady Adah look after it, not that she had offered by word or gesture but her looks had been unmistakable: her fingers were itching to touch him again. Lust, sheer animal lust, Altair was sure animated her behaviour. That flirty lady of the court was all there again to cover up his presumed offence of her dignity and station. Women were such weak creatures, subject to all these emotions, even ones as absolutely self-possessed as the Lady Adah and the Lady Zubaydah. Let a man loose in their company and suddenly they wanted to touch and to rule him.

“Not with me, my dear lady,” he said to himself as he walked down the winding stairs to the main building where the guestrooms were and one had been set aside for the lady and one for him. “I won’t be a slave to your whim.”

Adah heard him pass by the door, without stopping. She knew his thread, light and assured for a man of his size. And his seeming discomfiture in her presence since that night a week ago when he’d annihilated those knights. The cold blooded way – one she’d thought she’d know by now and understand – in which he had simply walked into the camp and destroyed it still shocked her. What mental demands such deeds made on him – probably none by now. He was as efficient a killer as he was a spy. Such was the nature of an Assassin. She understood now that it’d take her years to plumb his depths and even begin to comprehend what an Assassin really was.

She admitted to herself that she still feared the man. One look of those black eyes had frozen her words of objection to his inexplicable conduct. She had not experienced fear for a long time, not since she’d killed her master. To have a man make her quake, even slightly, was an alien feeling, one she’d thought long lost. But the Dai Altair’s very presence, so cold, calculating and distracting, had rendered her speechless.

The Lady Adah paced around the small cramped room. The Assassins surely did not entertain guests of high status here: the room was too bare for that. A cot against the wall, a small window, a low table on which she’d eaten earlier. She had not been very hungry from a sleepless night and the worry over the news from Baghdad that the Assassin had given her. But her body had craved food as soon as she’d smelled the kitchens. So she had eaten, drank and mused long.
She was not surprised by the Calipha’s sons’s absence. She’d rarely seen them at court anyway cloistered as she often was in the women’s quarters as the law prescribed. But she had her secret exits, did the Lady Zubaydah and her confidantes knew them and used them whenever the Lady asked for anything, be it news or trinkets from the bazaar. The Calipha’s sons were a contentious lot, paying lip service to their father’s authority all the while doing as they pleased, levying taxes in his despite and wrangling among each other. Their mothers could not keep them in line, separated by long distances as they were. inside the harem itself intrigues never ended. Factions existed and the maids too were taking sides. The war in the women’s quarters was subtle, with veiled threats, literally and figuratively, flying from the youngest wife to the oldest. Add an Assassin to that mix – it was like Greek fire that never burned out.

Not many dared to defame the Lady Zubaydah’s honour. She was the chief wife after all, if not older than most of them, at least more authoritative by reason of her station. But the longer the spies and the slanderers continued their campaigns against the Calipha, the longer she could not find those responsible, the worse the gossip became. Dark stories in the corners of the palace from her past. In the cloying perfumed atmosphere of the women’s palace it was surprising anyone could still breathe for all the animosity that permeated the place. That is why she’d volunteered to go. She had been choking to death on all the secrets and fears of every moment encountering a dagger in her back. She had wanted to get away.
That need to breathe free air, however, was not the only reason for her asking the assignment. Absently she picked up one of her knives and ran a finger along the edge, not really seeing the subtle play of the dying daylight on the smooth surface. That reason she thought the Lady had guessed. Lady Zubaydah’s eyes were sharp and so was her tongue, not to mention her mind. Then she wondered idly if the Lady had consented to her departure for her own reasons. The Lady Balsam had seemed to think so and had warned her to be careful of her words, especially near Assassins. No one knew but what they’d report to al Mualim.
With that her mind returned to the Assassin in his chamber. She thought she should talk to him. Try and possibly crack that exterior once more. Since they were going to work together she wanted to at least have him talking to her. Perhaps it was time to beguile him some more, despite his guard. Letting a man sit too long simmering was a bad idea. He could begin to think she’d only been playing for a short while. She had better disabuse him of that notion. He was a challenge: a seemingly impenetrable man. He would be interesting to bend to her will. The other Assassins and novices here – she’d recognized them by their blue and grey robes – listened and carried out the Assassin’s bidding instantly. It appeared that Dai Altair commanded respect, reinforcing his high rank. That only added to the challenge of breaking his mind. Proving to herself that she was not afraid of the tall comely Assassin.

Smiling and humming to herself Adah began her preparations for the night.

Altair sprawled on the carpets and cushions on the floor, reading a book. The oil lamps had been filled for the night and spare oil left at his request. The Brothers here obeyed him silently with respect as behooved his rank. He had asked not to be disturbed and expected as much.

He stared at the page, not really reading the words. His head felt thick from so much riding and food afterwards. The cooks here had not stinted as usual. He’d not let himself eat much but it was enough to fill him and make him sleepy.
He rubbed his face, blinking several times to keep himself awake. Outside the storm raged which only added to the feeling of comfort and drowsiness. Thunder and lashing rain struck his window, making the room feel close. The oil lamps with low light only added to the effect. He knew he should rest, sleep even. There was still the crossing and that was not easy. The Euphrates was wide and swift. He should think on a plan for that but could not.

He was about to shut the book when the oil lamps near the door flickered. Alatair thought it simply a gust of air: some one opening a window and not shutting it in time. All the same he tensed. A moment later he was aware of a presence – and with it a scent of jasmine. His heart beat against his rib cage hard. Adah. He could not see her in the near dark of the door but used his other senses to seek her out there. Dimly he heard her soft steps and the swish of the robe she wore. He saw the darker shade move into the light of the lamps. She was veiled: enough so that he could not make out her face. Her soft slippers made the barest of sounds on the stone and carpet. She carried a bowl in her hands.

Suddenly he was not in the small chamber anymore. He saw lights all around a big chamber, filled with noise of people eating, clinking glasses, chattering servants. Big hall open to the hot night of Baghdad, carpets and cushions on the floor and low divans for the guests to seat at. He saw the Calipha and his wife the Lady Zubaydah at the head of the line of tables. He was some way down, inconspicuous and seemingly unimportant. Just the way the Assassin wanted to be – unobserved by all but seeing everything that went on. Silent but listening to the conversations all around. He had not worn his Assassin robes that night: that’d stand out too much. He wore the clothes cut similar to the others: rich, tasteful but unadorned with much jewelry or thread of gold and silver.

He saw that scene so vividly, that banquet that the Lady Zubaydah had invited him to on his second night in Baghdad. He had asked for his unassuming place. He could better spy the Viziers of the Diwan and try to see who planned treachery. And then she’d come to him as she did now, bearing a bowl of water from the high table. Many had been amazed at such a favour and gazed on him in wonder. Altair had not let on that he was flattered as he’d taken the drink proffered while she waited, eyes on him. He’d not taken eyes off her veil as he’d drank and returned the bowl with thanks. Their fingers had touched briefly then on the decorated coloured surface of the bowl. Something had passed between them, in that half hidden look. Some sort of spark, of attraction. But he’d forgotten her as soon as she’d returned to the high table. Until she’d come to Masyaf to disturb his rest. Until tonight.

Hiding his discomfort at the memory evoked by her presence Altair watched her approach, book on the side cushion forgotten. Gracefully – like a cypress, he thought, despite his wish to control his run amok mind – she approached him and knelt, still holding the simply clay bowl – no decoration here, the Brothers were modest – with the scented water in it. A passing look showed some petals in the water – jasmine… Where had she gotten petals in this place?

Neither said a word as she offered him the drink as she’d done on that long ago night. Just as he had then he accepted the offer and, watching her veil over the rim of the bowl, drank the flowing cooling water while the storm tore at the hills and grasses and the fortress outside. He sat the bowl on the floor and glanced back at the woman before him. Her perfume was enveloping him, reminding him of what she’d done at Masyaf. She was here to continue her work. He had sworn not to be put under her spell. This silence was a part of it. He’d shatter it. He’d always been rebellious.

“It was you, then, at the court that night,” he said softly, making her start slightly. She’d not expected him to speak. Good. Throw her off a little. Unbalanced opponents were easier to defeat. Her beads clinked: she’d done her hair tonight. It was no longer a single braid but several with ribbons and beads woven in to make the hair sparkle. The veil too, half transparent allowing her to see him but not him her face, was adorned with thread of gold. Every fold of the robe was perfect, falling about her in graceful folds and just brushing his pant leg.
“I remember you now.” He looked at where her gold flecked brown gaze would be. “The jasmine aroma…”

He thought he saw her smile beneath the covering but she did not answer. The longer the stillness lasted the more he relaxed. His body was betraying him once again, responding to her unspoken attractions even as his heart and mind attempted to head off what he feared was coming. Altair kept his emotions tightly in check. To see her here after the way she’d treated him on the road from that Templar camp was something of a surprise. He’d hurt her dignity – necessarily yes, she had to be shown her place – but to have her come with a peace offering – which he’d accepted without a second thought, foolish as that’d been he concluded, too late now – that was somehow unnerving: he’d not expected that at all. He was just as nonplussed as her. Such a situation bred dangers.

“To what do I owe the honour of your presence in these humble chambers, my lady?”

Time to remind her of her rank – to perhaps make her see that she should not be here with an Assassin for company. If so he was disappointed. She remained silent and instead reached out to touch his bare chest, fingers sliding down the skin to the muscled abdomen. Altair kept as still as he could: the madness was on again. That touch his body again answered to, wanted to last. Lust, that is exactly what this was: simple unmitigated lust. She was destroying his sanity deliberately! Damn the woman!

And then her face came closer as she leaned forward and with one hand still on his chest – surely aware of every heart beat! She had to be – and lifted the veil with the other. His indrawn breath was sharp. She was even more beautiful now than in the daylight at Masyaf, softened by the oil lamps. Thinner too from all the traveling they’d done on the hidden ways, always alert for spies and thieves and Templars. His finger, of its own accord, traced a hollow in her cheek he’d not seen earlier. Then his hand curved around her chin, the smooth skin on his callused palm a soothing balm. His mind was blank, empty of all coherent thought as she closed her eyes – those glorious raptor’s eyes – and kissed his palm.

His other hand was a fist that she unclenched – he offered no resistance whatever. Her sweet breath was on his face as she kissed his mouth and he let her do so, making no attempt to avert the inevitable when her hands stroked his shoulders and arm while with the other he gathered her to him in surrender to his body’s demands. His kisses covered her face, neck and hands as she clung to him and the jasmine scent mingled memory with desire he could no longer stop.
His whole being roared for a woman, for a partner that was his equal. He’d not taken a woman to his bed for a long time. He had not wanted to – but this was passion as she pressed him down to the cushions and sat on top of him. He watched enthralled as she thoughtfully set her hands to undo her hair pulling the robe tight against her breasts. Befuddled he realized she was naked underneath – as no proper Muslim woman should be. Just what was this woman who’d just set out to conquer his body?

Then she let her hands down, slid them over her breasts to the ties of the robe. Altair could do little. Nor did he want to. Such femininity was rare – so unabashed, so bold, so enticing. She pulled at her lip with her teeth watching him intently as he reached up to the robe and undid it. With a shrug she let it fall, eyes half closed as she let her head fall back.

No longer even thinking about his actions or the consequences, Altair passed his hand from her bare thighs where he’d removed the robe and kneaded the flesh across her flat belly, pressing hard and feeling the muscle underneath the soft skin, raising on his elbow to put the arm around her waist and pull her down to him, to sink into her with a sigh of surrender.

His hands were gentle on her as were his lips. She moaned and strained against him in the oldest dance in the world. Her fingers entwined in his hair when his mouth settled on her breast to tease her skin. He played with her gentling her hardness – she had gone stiff in his arms at first. Mostly from lack of experience – she’d not slept with a man for a long time. Adah had feared she would not be able to go through with this. His caresses, light and gentle, soothed her fears. She’d rediscovered her old skill, learned under Lady Balsam’s skillful tuition.

His weight atop her was comfortable, somehow making him less mysterious and more corporeal – more a human being with a man’s need than a cold unapproachable statue. And her too, she realized as she kissed his face and neck, pulling at the full lower lip, hands on the sweaty skin of his back. She’d been too long alone, locked away in her own private thoughts and troubles, closed in. Here, now, tonight, she let herself open. To a degree. She’d let him take what he would and take from him what he’d be willing to give. But no more.

She relaxed then under his soft hand and let her mind go where it would as his hands unbound her braids and he buried his face in that rich brown hair with a groan of pleasure. Adah smiled at him, lips nipping his ear as his arm embraced her. This time, this moment felt good and right. She was content for the first time in many a month: here she could shrug off her troubles for a time and give herself up to the simple moves of physical love.

She felt no pain as that love was consummated and that rhythm which she had learned to fear for so long, that ultimate union of the flesh she’d avoided for the dark memories it called up, turned out to be much sweeter with a lover as skillful as the Assassin was proving himself to be. There were few places one could learn such crafts – where had he gone to partake of that ancient teaching? What had he done to the ones who’d taught him?

Those questions and all cares were swept away as her body took over all control and she sank into him just as he had into her, fully and completely. That was ecstasy.

Altair lay beside her, unable to sleep, her head pillowed in the crook of his arm. His mind was a roiling chaos of emotion and thought. Part of him was sated, that most elemental part that every man tried to tame and control. He felt rested, somehow more clearheaded: the madness had resolved itself in the simple act of sex. No, not so simple, he thought. Complex, unknowable, enigmatic. One could be taught but until that right woman came along all was wrong. He’d needed a match – someone to challenge him. His hand was still in her hair as he listened to her sleep. Of all the women SHE was his match, the Lady Adah.

Briefly he closed his eyes, grimacing. Impossible. Completely utterly insane – but there it was. An arrogant, equal to him in guile and martial skill – albeit not many knew of it – she too knew the arts of love at least as well as he did. And used them with much more bold subtlety than he’d done. But then, she was a woman. The whole female race had made an art of confounding men for generations. He had been arrogant to assume that he was impervious to their blandishments. Lady Adah had proved to him tonight that he was as vulnerable as any man to a woman’s whim. His basic instincts had betrayed him – as he’d known and guarded against. But that tide of memory, yes… All it’d taken was that one specific image from the past to erase any coherent thought from his mind. Allah, so easy it’d been!

Altair looked out the window where the thunder still boomed occasionally. As he did, his lips brushed her hair, sending all his senses reeling. By all the – he had to reassert control! What was done was done. He could not go back. He would have to live with it. The thunder reflected the vortex inside him. His spirit, that ever present bird essence, seemed content – the non human deep side that partly defined him as an Assassin. The Eagle had shown what it was capable of, the heights of passion and exaltation he’d achieved tonight were evidence of the power of the Eagle. But him, Altair the man, the simple human being – ah, but not mere human he, no! – he found, the more he thought, that perhaps he too was content, a need sated that he tended to ignore most of the time. That was the thing though was it not? The timing of it – that is what bothered him. To find love now in the midst of a mission – even if it was only lust of love, not any exalted emotion – that seemed out of place.

Not that he felt guilty. He was no Christian to wallow in self-recrimination on carnal pleasures taken and given. She had enjoyed it at least as much as he did. Her moans and cries as she’d reached her climax had told him as much. She’d left evidence of that on his back: deep bloody gouges. Just let anyone of his Brothers see those and they’d be ribbing him to death. Somehow that thought did not bother him but rather was an annoyance he could deal with.

Disengaging his arm from her Altair set up, hands dangling off knees. He needed to be doing something. He could not just lie here. His perpetual restlessness – the need to be moving, doing, acting – asserted itself after the drowsy gratification of the last two hours. He reached for his pants and boots, pulling them on as quietly as he could, then stood looking down at the naked Adah, only her hair for covering. Her clothes lay in an untidy pile which he straightened for some reason that even he could not name. Still in that bemused state of mind that her moonlit nakedness brought to him Altair went to grab a blanket from the cot in the next room and spread it over her, tucking it in carefully. He did not even try to avoid the few times his fingers brushed her breast or hip. He had given in to the temptation without a second thought he might as well do it utterly. For a few moments he just looked at her sleep, so at peace as he’d not seen her in days. He did not think he’d be able to stay tranquil himself. She’d changed him, in so many ways that he still did not know where to pick up the thread of his life. Even if nothing came of this – which he intended it should not be allowed to go further – the two of them had shared something tonight. A sort of release – of all the fears, doubts, angers and sorrows they’d carried around with them. And they’d probably do it again he knew. She was at least as skillful as the maidens in the Garden at Masyaf if not more so. She was exquisite, foreign, strange and lovely.

Altair stood up. He had better leave now, before he embraced her again. Or even looked at her. There were some letters he had to write – to Masyaf and the Rafiq in Baghdad. The mission did not wait. Neither did the passing hours of the night. He might as well put them to good use since he could not possibly sleep.

As he went out, Altair shut the door quietly behind him. The last thing he heard was Adah shifting on the carpets and cushions. He leaned against the door, the well used wood coloured with his blood, jaw muscles locked. He prayed for peace as he’d never done before, the words of the Creed and the tenets repeated in a meditative formula, mindless, familiar. Yes, he craved familiarity now: something he could hold on to. Yet in his mind’s treacherous eye – or his heart’s rather, he thought – he heard and saw only her. The inestimable woman who had overturned his life and reason with the simplest of things: a kiss. That was all it’d been. A simple contact of the flesh and Altair the Assassin had been shattered into a million pieces.

He staggered to the table, bare chest gleaming with sweat in the dim dying oil lamp light and leaned on its sturdy wood. His eyes missed the papers and ink and quills scattered on the surface. He did not know what he was looking for, what place of rest there could be for him now.

His question disclosed all his uncertainty.

“Who are you, Adah, that you can do this to me?”

And the night marched on, inexorable, changing ever into a new day.
well here tis: the first night they spend together. i don't know if i did it justice: probably not since i am too worried about my cat to spend too much of my time on smut but i'll leave that to your imagination as to what they did (or did not do :giggle:)

But at least this hurdle is overcome. i just hope it ain't TOO mushy and romantic. That would be an unmitigated disaster.
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Chapter 3
On the road to Baghdad Summer 1188 CE

Having seen everything he needed to see, Altair crawled back from the edge of the cliff and, once sure no one would see him, stood up and headed back down the slope, loosening the sabre in its sheath. Twenty Templars, he counted mentally, picking his way carefully down to the horses and the little camp they’d made in the hollow under the cliff. Twenty very careless Templars. Their camp had no organization whatsoever. Easy prey for him: apparently they’d forgotten that he was the Shadow of Death hanging over them, the white-clad ghost that could blend in with any Templar troop. And take many of them down before they even knew he was there.

Adah had waited with the horses, her brow set in a frown. They’d argued about the wisdom of chasing twenty well armed Knights of the Church all the afternoon but his mind had been set the moment he’d seen the homestead and the look on her face that she’d tried hard to hide. For what they’d done to the family and the house and the barn – and not for the first time – the Templars had to pay.

Eventually their arguments had dissolved into silence. Altair was by nature a silent traveler. Having a woman along, albeit one that did not talk either, had unnerved him. He had become even more silent – not because he felt uncomfortable around nobility but simply because… well, she was a WOMAN! He’d never really learned how to talk, let alone behave around one that stayed so close to him all the time. She was no relative of his. A total stranger. Somehow he knew that trying to seduce her in turn would not be a right idea. Altair sighed sharply into the half-night air. Never mind the Lady Adah for now. He had work to do.

As soon as she’d seen him she’d started checking her weapons, not even concealing her actions from him. He resisted the urge to roll his eyes: she was not coming with him. He would not risk her life on this. The Templars were his fight, not hers. He would have no argument. He laid a firm hand on hers as she was about to take her short sabre out. He did not say a thing as he looked at her eyes, except, “I need someone to stay with the horses. I don’t need them running off. Or would you prefer to walk to Baghdad?” He was pretty sure he’d hidden his eagerness as he added in low warning tones, “My lady.”

She said not a word, did not drop her eyes but simply took her hand out from under his and turned her back on him. Altair resisted the strong urge to grab her and beat some sense into her. He had never laid a hand on a woman in that fashion, for one thing, and for another, she’d defend herself. And well too.

A horn sounded from the other side of the cliff. Night watch relief. He’d studied his prey’s habits, as usual. He knew all the curfews, all the men’s faces. He’d been observing them for almost two weeks now as they’d followed the trail the arrogant knights had left behind, confident that no one would dare attack them. Altair planned to use that against them. The surprise was on his side.

Altair’s mind was already working on a plan as he headed back up, having taken his throwing knives from the saddle and his short blade. They made him look too dangerous on this journey. Too easy to identify to any Templar or their hireling. Adah had mentioned that going after these ones would only excite them all the more and they had more than enough trouble getting to Baghdad as all the amirs in the cities under the Abbasid domination salivated at any news from the capital. He had to admit she was right. But the burned bodies of the family and the animals, the senseless wanton destruction, and most of all that look on her face of hidden horror and a wish for revenge drove him to this. His own memories too: restless, in the night they’d still torment him with clang of doors and ghostly clink of chains. Perhaps it was as Malik had said, that he’d lost himself, lost the Creed in that long captivity. Be it as it may, his vow was made. And he would carry it out.

Adah ate a cold meal of meat and dry waybread, staring speculatively into the dark after the Assassin. Here was the most irritating man she’d ever met. She had no idea how to deal with him. It almost seemed to her as if he thought he were traveling alone, as he usually must have done. Or was in the company of a Brother, on whom he could rely to stay behind while he went to satisfy some mad vendetta of his.

She drummed her fingers impatiently on her thigh, watching the stars wheel overhead and the fat moon, white and ponderous in the sky. This vengeance was a waste of time. The Calipha could be dead by now. Every day she dreaded hearing the news in some inn or run down tavern where rude men, Muslim and Crusader alike, mingled and in drink spat nonsense. And every hour that kept her from her Lady Zubaida and Lady Balsam, both of whom were like mothers to her.
She should leave. Now. Go her own way. Find some other Assassin on the way. Or a man who could pretend to be one. After all, the Brotherhood had a fearsome reputation. Any man would jump at the chance to impersonate one. All he’d need would be a white robe. The Hidden Blade would be a problem but it was not as if whoever she’d find would need a real one. That was the least of her worries. She just needed someone convincing enough.

Looking about, she heard the distant sounds of fighting. Despite herself she held her breath. He was alone. Against twenty as he’d told her clinically a few days ago as they’d lain in the grass not a few feet from the sentry whose back was to them and who knew nothing of their presence. She’d expected him to feel them there, to at least be aware of eyes on his back. But nothing happened. They’d crawled away from the camp having seen everything there was to see.

A horn blew again – somehow a hurried desperate call – that was cut off in mid-sound. The suddenness of the absence of that call convinced her that Altair had something to do with it. How could a man move quietly in an armed camp? No wonder the Assassins were feared so much in so many places, even the Turks did not cross them, if they had men like this at their disposal. Why did not Sinan try and grab more power? He could rule a kingdom with men like these at his command. But she’d taken his measure at Masyaf. The memory of that conversation still chilled her. The way he’d looked at her – not as a man does who appreciates a woman – but an assessing look: enemy or friend? Or even a spy maybe?

She sighed sharply, rubbing her arms. It was not cold yet in these foot hills but unless Altair planned on going around the mountains – which she did not think likely, stubborn man bent on staying hidden as he was – she thought she’d better get used to the less than cool air of this country.

Adah stood up to walk about, her legs feeling cramped from sitting on the thin blanket for so long. What was she doing here? Sitting like a lame duck, waiting for him? Was she a slave of his? No. She had as much right to be there as he did. Exhaling sharply she stared up the cliff where he’d been to earlier. She’d seen the camp too: the only discipline she’d seen were the sentries. The tents had been scattered every which way around a big one, for the commander no doubt. And all the loot that they had taken. Not many animals, those they had in plenty at their fortresses, but more movable goods like metal pots and tools. Why would they take such practically worthless things?

Adah was sure Altair had not given thought to that. He’d only seen the red of blood: like a hound on a scent. To him such questions were pointless. He was a tool pointed in a certain direction. He had no need to think. Al Mualim did all his thinking for him. Yet he was far from stupid. Although tonight she doubted it as she did his sanity. This venture was insane. Yet at Masyaf she’d been told and seen for herself that he was skilled with every weapon there was. She’d even seen some evidence of that on their way as he’d taken out the other Templars they’d come across, usually in groups.

As the sounds of the fighting got louder, Adah began to crawl. She took no care for her clothes now. They were non descript enough: she even covered her face to keep the fact she was a woman away from public eye. She lay low over the lip of the cliff and watched a scene of carnage.

Perhaps five or so men were dead already and some few more lay with gaping wounds as far as she could make out in the glaring light of the fires. Many barrels and equipment lay scattered about, forgotten in the panic that the Templars had woken to. They’d barely had time to arm: many were dead on their pallets, wine skins by their sides leaking liquid. A drunk soldier in her opinion was a dead one.
A sudden feeling of panic gripped her too. If she left, Altair would catch her. And maybe kill her as he did these men. Her eyes sought him as her fingers dug into the dry earth of the cliff, the small stones pressing into her skin painfully. That sensation somehow calmed her. Pain was a human feeling, not that of a panicky bird seeing its eggs being taken away by a child for play.

There. Right there in that knot of knights. She squinted a bit – too far on the other side of the camp. She’d have to get closer. Keeping that constantly flowing mass of men in sights she crawled along the edge of the cliff to a lower point. Dropping down quietly she began picking her way through the piles of loot and dead men, smelling the voided bowels and hearing their moans of help. Ignoring those piteous cries for help she threaded a path around burning tents and smoldering wood piles and panicky horses and cattle, hands to knives at her belt.

Altair kicked the knight nearest him solidly in the chest and followed up with a slash of the short blade across the neck under the helmet. Blood flew to spatter the few men nearest to the dead man who toppled twisting on the ground. Several swords flashed but none found their mark as Altair ducked behind another knight to stab his Hidden Blade into the man’s back and push him at the middle of the circle. Then he lightly ran behind a tent where he picked up a burning branch and hit with it the first man around the tent right to the head smashing him into the tent. Then he threw the branch at the stunned man whose surcoat went from white to glowing orange as the flames spread. Altair watched with savage satisfaction. What had been done to the farms and villages they’d passed was now coming home to roost.

The others would die too. Their commander was dead already, among the first ones Altair had dispatched with the Hidden Blade. The man had babbled his surprise to his grave. Coldly the Assassin had continued to kill the Templars, deaf to their screaming as some begged for mercy. He had none in his heart or mind. Not for needless slaughter of innocents they’d perpetrated. Simply because they could.

Altair’s fist met naked flesh as he ripped a helmet off knocking the Templar off his feet, then sitting on him to stab the back of his neck in a bloody fountain that hit his face with warmth. As he stood he looked like an angel of hell to the Templars that fanned out in front of the line of fires he stood behind, maces and swords gleaming in the flames.

“It is you, you devil,” one of them rasped, the first words since the commander had recognized him for the evil spirit that had hounded the Templars for almost a year now. “Nowhere to –“

Altair did not let him finish his words but flung a knife at him from the shoulder with lightning quick speed, his eyes resting on the others meantime. The Templar who’d spoken fell on to his back and did not move: the knife had caught his mouth as he’d raised his visor.

Through it all Altair had not said a word. He’d been like a soundless spectre of the Crusaders’ nightmares come to life. Some had ran once he’d been noticed. It had never been his plan to kill them all from the shadows. Terror was his goal. Killing them was a means to that terror. He’d make the Templars all the more afraid by destroying twenty of them single handed. Twenty less to threaten the Brotherhood. Twenty less to torture innocents.

He heard the neighing of horses from behind him and realized that fires made him stand out. And that there were too few men before him to account for all he’d laid low. Ten at most were dead. That left ten more to face. Yet here stood only four, not counting the dead man. Five then closed in from behind. On horseback: the horses were not in a panic anymore. The remaining Templars had gotten some at least under control.

“You don’t have anywhere to run to now, do you, Assassin?” The Templar’s voice was dull inside his helmet as all four moved closer to the line of fires as the hoof beats became stronger. They planned on riding him down. Fools. Crashing him between the ones on foot and the horses would not work. He was too nimble. The first horse – one of the knights would always charge first, that much Altair had counted on. It made the Templars predictable, terrible but predictable. – the first horse ran at him, guided by its rider but he threw himself aside just in time to avoid its plunging hooves. As he hit the ground and rolled the second horse was already there, all of them eager to trample him. without even thinking about what he was doing, Altair launched himself at the rider and holding onto him sat on the horse’s croup. The man was so startled he froze – and that was his mistake, the last one he’d make in life as Altair slit him from ear to ear and pushed him off the horse.

He bent low to avoid a swipe of a knight’s sword that would have rendered him headless and then reached over to push the Blade into the exposed armpit of the knight who’d wanted to take another slash at him. The knight’s foot caught in the stirrup as he slid off the horse who ran in fear at this sudden burden. Altair grabbed the reins and wrapped them around the pommel of the saddle to keep his hands free, guiding the horse with his knees, confidently – something the horse responded to.

He had to duck again, this time a burning branch that a Templar had picked up from a comrade in imitation of his own usage earlier. As he straightened his sabre sang from its sheath a challenging call to battle. He would not leave till all were dead.

The blades rang as they met with force. Then flicked once more and blood bloomed on the Templar’s arm: a shallow cut that hurt him nothing. Altair went past him, feeling a Templar on foot about to cut his leg in half, then whirled around, knife already leaving his hand to sink into the man’s chest.

Next moment his horse reared as yet another of the foot bound Templars attempted to cut its belly. The beast was nervous already. Sneaking up on it was a bad idea. The knight paid for it with a split forehead as the horse turned and bit him, missing a good bite only because the distance was so close that its teeth could not sink in properly. With a cry the man staggered back into the horse of his companion who unceremoniously kicked him aside, bleeding, as he tried to get at the Assassin who was trying to fend off another mounted attack from a mace.
The mace slid off his sabre and hit his shoulder, numbing it. Altair quickly switched hands and flicked the sabre in a feint at the Templar’s throat. A mace swing too a while to recover from: much like an axe the weapon depended on strength to batter an opponent down. Instead the wielder ate the Assassin steel that emerged half a foot from his back. He went stiff as a wooden board and fell forward onto the Assassin whose sabre and arm were thus trapped, unable to fend off the sword from behind. In a split second Altair made his decision. He went down with the dead man on the other horse as the sword missed him by inches. He was twisted into an untenable position. He could not defend himself when the knight grabbed his shoulder harness and dragged him back over the saddle to expose his throat, dagger in hand.

Altair had let go of his sabre and staring at the man’s slits in the helmet, through which he thought he could make out the eyes he let the momentum carry his left arm up, Blade out, and watched it enter under the man’s helmet. That sinuous move had been the last thing the Templar had waited for. He have a surprised grunt, letting go of the Assassin, his body limp. Before his weight could break Altair’s spine, the younger man pushed up and away.

There were cries of chagrin from the foot bound Templars who attempted to catch some horses to even the battle up. Altair did not even let them run to the beasts as he ferociously cut them down, using the horse, trained as it was in war, as a weapon. The Templars had no choice but to run. Or at least try to move away from the savage horse and its rider. But Altair was past all mercy. Instinct and memory were his law, vengeance his reason. He rode far into the night, chasing each knight and falling on them like the Eagle he was, cold, ruthless, inflexible in will and purpose. The Templars’ dying cries slid into the wails of the night wolves and jackals, becoming one. And then all was still once more.

The night was far gone. And all lay quiet. Except an odd jackal bark now and then. The skies as ever were silent and watchful with a myriad of eyes. An odd nocturnal bird of prey would cry its loneliness to the uncaring world and fall away. A field mouse or a bigger rodent would squeak as their lives ended. Even the Templar camp lay still, a few coals still glowing like earthly stars reflecting the heaven above. All was dead here as up there with the cold uncaring moon.

Adah sat stiffly by the sleeping Assassin, on sentry duty since he’d dropped off to sleep as soon as he’d let her know by look of his black eyes that he was displeased with her being where she was not wanted. That look more than any words he might’ve said told her that he thought of her as any other man would: a delicacy to be protected. She gripped the stone she sat on hard. As if she needed protection. He KNEW she’d come to Masyaf alone, what she had to go through to get there, a lone woman on the road. Yet maybe it was his way of showing contempt. Perhaps despite his behaviour at the fortress he did not respect her. Not that she cared. He was like any other man: she’d already made inroads to bringing him under her power. Maybe she could play along with his notion, apologise to him perhaps with a proper show of contrition. Beguile him still further. Confuse him. The Lady Balsam had told her that men were to be wielded like the swords they liked so much themselves. That a woman could take pleasure even as she conquered. Even as she used the man she wanted to do as she willed. In this case, the Assassin’s help was needed in a matter of state. If he proved unwilling on his own, she could always unleash her crafts on him. Had already done so.
Her eyes left the surrounding dark countryside and found his sleeping form, wrapped in a blanket. Yes, the next time they stopped at an inn or hostel, she’d sound him out. A slow smile stretched her lips as she stretched herself and got up to walk to where she’d see his face. Or as much of it as the hood would let her. He’d not bothered to change before he’d gone to sleep. He still smelled of blood and vomit as she squatted by him, careful not to disturb even the smallest stone. He slept deeply, content after a killing battlefield. Sometimes she wondered how he did it, with all those souls on his conscience. No nightmares to plague him? No madness to haunt him. Albeit now, for two weeks, he’d been different. Withdrawn. Taciturn. Forgetful of her presence except when she’d reminded him of it.

“That’s how you kill is it not?” she whispered, eyes on his killer’s hands folded atop the blanket. The only concession he’d made to sleep had been taking off his Hidden Blade. Cutting more of his fingers off was not on his agenda. But what was his plan if any on reaching Baghdad? He’d not said a word to her about that. Had kept any thoughts to himself. Almost as if she did not figure in his calculations.

She’d make him see reason then. Or unreason. She would have giggled but contented herself with a little smirk. To prove to herself that she was not afraid she reached out and touched his cheek, softly but boldly, no coquettish maiden she although at need she could play the part if needed. Her fingers, of their own accord, strayed to his lips and the hint of the hair over the upper lip. In a man as hard as the Assassin was his lips were the softest part – some would have been amazed to find he had any gentleness to him at all. And she still had to see its presence. At times she could almost see him drop that hard mask he wore so often. So close to maybe showing a human side of himself as he’d done in the Garden at Masyaf that night. But even then it had been guarded. Always he was on his guard around strangers. She suddenly found a wish as she pushed the hood off his hair and let her fingers fell the somewhat rough texture of the short cropped head. She wanted a friend. Someone to understand her but not to rule her as the Lady Balsam did at times or the Lady Zubaidah. Just someone she could talk to.

Altair stirred under her hand. She snatched her hand back as if scalded, afraid he’d wake up. He did not. To her relief. But now her eyes were snagged by the scar – even though she could not see it properly, she felt its shape with her finger, heart beating rapidly. She had to take herself in hand. Allah she had to or she’d be worse than useless. He was not special. Just a killer. A killer she needed to do a task. That is all. ALL.

She walked her rounds for the rest of the night, not waking him. Not even looking at him. but aware of his presence all the same. That last was unavoidable. Let him sleep, she thought. Let him kill as he would. I just want to be home again. In Baghdad. To walk its familiar streets. Smell its stench and lose myself in the deeps of the city.
ah, got some inspiration going to try and see where the love life goes... smut ahead for sure. next chapter maybe but in this one the feelings front definitely takes a heating due to Altair's penchant for sticking every Templar he comes across. we all know why that happens.
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Masyaf, Summer 1188 CE

The comb went through the dark brown hair, along the shimmering shine the tresses had in the midday light. The hair was smooth and long, a little curled from the braid it was worn in often. There was a measured pace to the movement of the comb through the woman’s hair. The quiet almost sibilant hiss of the hair parting as the comb’s teeth untangled its length. The arm wielding the comb was strong and muscled using the instruments of war and womanly arts with equal ease. The face in the polished bronze mirror before her was distorted but she did not need to see herself to know that she’d been changed.

Change was her very nature, she knew. She had started out as a slave, sold as a child to a man who set her to wait on his wife. She had grown up there under his wife’s kindly guidance. She had been more like a daughter than a servant. She never remembered her parents – all she knew was that her name was her grandmother’s and she’d never met the woman – or the reason she’d been sold. She had never cared. That man and his wife had been all the family she’d needed. Until the wife died. That day had marked the end of her childhood and the beginning of her true troubles.

The old master was crushed at his wife’s death so he had gotten rid of all her possessions, including the slave girl who’d waited on his beloved wife in her last moments before she’d gone to Allah’s mercy. That day when he’d taken her to the slave market with some others of his household that he no longer needed she had understood what she was. A slave – a thing – a chattel to be sold to the highest bidder. It turned out to be dour man with a streak of cruelty in him. Her face had attracted him – she’d only recently started her monthly courses. She had feared him. His harsh face betrayed his intention. She could not say anything in refusal – her benefactor was entitled to recompense for keeping her all these years. She had walked home in the company of the other slaves who were equally afraid of this man. She never learned his name – and did not want to.

That night he had raped her. And for the first time in her life she had been dominated and knew the perfidy of men. He had not been gentle and her tears had only infuriated him. She learned not to cry or let any emotion show on her face: any time she did he would abuse her. She never spoke to him and let him take her as he would. One of the older servants made her the herbal potion to ensure that she would not carry a child. The old woman feared her master but her compassion overcame that fear. The other servants did not bother her: they avoided her as if she were branded. She realized later on that indeed she was branded. His scent was all over her clothes – that he gave her. She wore them with revulsion which she did not let show.

One night she had run away. It had happened by chance: her brutish owner had fallen asleep atop her after yet another violation – she had long ago stopped even thinking about it as such but now in retrospect that is what his actions were – she had carefully slid out from under him. He had been drunk, contrary to the law of the Quran. But then he was always drunk: he was a member of the qadi’s judges meting out punishment for moral perversion, all the while practicing it. He had a knife with him that night and had forgotten to leave it behind as was his custom when he came for her. She had tried to kill him once but failed. Not this time. With one slash she had spilled his blood. Before his body was cold she was dressed and out into the night she fled. She had left everything behind. She had had nothing when she’d come to him and so she left.

She sat staring out the open window at the Gardens below in the grip of memories. She wondered idly why they were assaulting her now. Absently she began to rebraid her hair. She was to meet al Mualim later today. She had to look her best. Lady Balsam had taught her well in that regard. She smiled at her remembrance of that warm rich laugh of her benefactress who was more of a mother than she’d known in many a year. Adah had come to her by chance after many months of wandering and learning different skills. She had learned the arts of combat, trading her body for it if necessary. Holding a blade in her hand gave her a confidence and a sense of control she’d not felt as a slave. She had reveled in the feel of the steel on her bare skin. She trained ceaselessly. Her teachers learned soon how well she knew her lessons. Some she’d had to kill to prove that she would not be taken. Taking lives came easy to her now. After killing the master who had ruined her body and mind she felt no regret over spilling out another life. She knew men: she knew their weakness and petty cruelty. She avoided men – unless they had something like combat skills to impart her. She did not hate men. She simply used them.

The Lady Balsam had taught her the arts of seduction – a different kind of combat where mind and body fused in a different way. The Lady had seen to the core of her in one glance at their first meeting in the bazaar where Adah had come to try and steal some food. She’d not eaten in days. Her daggers were sharp like her hunger. She’d fended off attacks last night and had gashes on her arms to prove it. She had noted the rich lady but ignored her otherwise. She had no business with such. Her demands were much more immediate. The woman had approached her as she had stared at succulent peach tarts on a baker’s stall, her mouth watering. She had little money. And such food was expensive.

“If you come with me you can have that and more,” a rich vibrant voice said quietly beside her. She had whirled about, hand to knife, to stare at that same lady that she’d ignored earlier. The woman’s face was ravagingly beautiful – the most perfectly shaped lips and kohled eyes she’d seen. She wore a veil that concealed most of her face but not the smile she bore as she looked at the bedraggled girl before her. Adah had flushed in embarrassment and lowered her eyes to the ground. She wanted to disappear and did not understand why. The woman’s interest in her was self evident but her motives obscure.

“I am in need of a serving girl,” the woman went on. “I could look at the slave market but I would rather have someone of their own free will.”

Adah had stood stunned. Why would a woman of stature want…?

“I am sure there are better women suited to the tasks you would set,” she had retorted. After a pause she had added, “My lady.” There was no need to be rude. The woman had not insulted her in any way. The rich lady had only smiled, a mysterious strangely compelling smile that made Adah smile in return despite herself.

She had gone with her in the end. Her curiosity had impelled her. The Lady Balsam – the very name conveyed a relief of troubles – led her to a house secluded behind tall walls with no windows on the outside world. But inside… Adah had never seen such opulence. Her breath had been snatched from her. She had realized she’d been gawking when the Lady embraced her with no trace of self consciousness and pointed her to the baths. The attendants and the baths themselves – marble! She’d marveled, marble! – were spotless and amazingly beautiful. Adah had felt at peace for the first time in many a year as she had sank down into the scented water to let her body rest.

The Lady Balsam had assessed her new servant in one glance and decided that she had talents of use to the court of the Lady Zubaydah whose confidante she was. For that reason she instituted a regimen of training together with other duties that the “Lady Adah” would need to live and serve at the Calipha’s court. Adah had not understood at first why she was taught how to seduce and worm her way into a man’s heart and then lay him open but eventually she was grateful. Her own aversion to men and their company had led her into being rather blunt with them or violent if they became too importunate. Now she learned the ancient arts of the Indian women: how to bend a man to her will, to leave him a groveling servant to her need, to coldly manipulate his affections. Yes, such arts suited her beautifully. They complemented her combat skills in which she continued to excel.
She was here at Masyaf now only because the Lady Balsam had taken an interest in her. She had met the Dai Altair only because the Lady Zubaydah had liked the new young fresh face at her court gatherings. She ran her hands across the necklaces she wore, a sly smile on her face. She had him, she knew. Men were so simple. A lush body drove all thoughts out of their minds. And this Dai Altair had a mind, unlike many a man she’d known. He would make a dangerous enemy if pushed or manipulated. He was quick. She had been aware of his scrutiny of her every movement, of her tone. He had read her. She found that somewhat disconcerting. No man had been able to measure her and know her that easily. But then, she reflected, he was an Assassin. The powers of observation and analysis were second nature to him.

She turned in her chair to regard him as he stood, all tall grace, in the doorway to her chambers. He had closed the door behind him – a gesture towards her privacy. Or theirs, maybe. A lone man in a woman’s chambers – a strange reversal of a few days before, she could not help but think. She let nothing show in her face – she’d not even heard him enter so engrossed in her memories had she been. His own face was equally impassive. He exercised iron control over his feelings.

Once sure that he had her attention he bowed with a fluid grace as a servant would to a great lady of a mighty house. From him it did not smack of flattery – but respect. She inclined her head to him, waiting. She knew why he came.

“Al Mualim sends for you, my lady,” he said quietly, no inflection in his words to indicate his thoughts. His deep black eyes bared her soul to him. She wished she could read him as easily. But no. Strangely, she found that he remained a mystery. She had set her claws in him – she had seen the effect her kiss had had on him – but he had shaken off the effect seemingly. Intriguing. More than. The tall Assassin interested her in more ways than she found comfortable. She took refuge in the formality of the situation.

“Then I will come as he bids.”

Her own voice was equally bland. Courtesies came easy to her. She had lived at the Baghdad court for some years now. There courtesies covered lies and duplicity as easily as they sounded sincere. Among these Brothers, these men who spilled blood at the old man’s bidding, courtesy was truth. They meant what they said, nothing hidden, nothing underhanded. These mysterious men who terrified even the Calipha in Baghdad lived simple lives. Al Mualim commanded and they obeyed. Once the bloody mission was over they rested, to be ready for the next mission to come. She found that they treated her as they would each other, with a camaraderie that did not exist in the intrigue-infested court of a dying dynasty. She had come here with assumptions which she’d quickly had to revise. After meeting the Assassin now filling her doorway, waiting patiently for her to finish her preparations, she had been even more shaken. The Assassins concealed many things in their very simplicity. They had let her go wherever she would – al Mualim’s orders, no doubt. They had been open with her, lulling her into a sense of security that she knew was dangerous. Once she’d started asking probing questions though inevitably they’d closed up like a pearl shell. She knew nothing of those men whose fingers were missing. Or where the forges were to produce all the weaponry she saw about, well cared for. She had tried spying on al Mualim himself but could never see him. The man almost seemed like a ghost – she had felt him watching her but could never find him. Now he called her to him. She had prepared as if for battle, for such this meeting would be. He had no cause to let his best man become embroiled in the Calipha’s business. There was no reason for the Assassins to interfere. Dai Altair had said as much.

She stood to face Altair once she felt she was ready to face the mighty old man who ruled here. She had had no chance to assess him so she would tread carefully. She met Altair gaze to gaze, unflinching. The fate of many rode on her shoulders. Lady Zubaydah counted on her. She would not fail.
“Let us go, then.”

The sun was setting, throwing golden rays across the fragrant flowers and the green trees of the quiet Garden of the Assassin fortress of Masyaf. The Garden was like a jewel hidden away behind a rough exterior: a heart of beauty under a pall of ugliness. The men who lived here were murderers in the eyes of many, highborn and commoner alike, who feared their seemingly magical powers to appear out of the shadows and kill at will and run from retribution with impunity. To see such beauty, to see the Assassins’ eyes soften and their weary bodies rest as they lounged about on the couches or simply sat in meditation on the grass was disconcerting to someone who did not know the truth of these men, of the cause and the Creed they served with their very lives. Someone like the Lady Adah, walking at his side, her face in repose, could not possibly understand all the implications of the Creed and the tenets that accompanied it.

Altair was acutely aware of the woman at his side as he led her towards the parapet of the lowest terrace of the Garden. She showed not the least sign of weariness after the grueling meeting that al Mualim had put her through. Altair had been present but said not a word. He had been a mute spectator to a mental game of chess where move and counter move had flowed seamlessly almost as if orchestrated. Al Mualim had, of course, known of her mission before she had ever seen him. The Rafiq from Baghdad had kept him appraised of all that went on at the Calipha’s court – no doubt about that. But the old man had not chosen to disclose his mind to Altair or anyone else. The Master was a keeper of the Brotherhood’s secrets. He only told what it was meet for his Assassins to know in order to complete the missions he set them. For the rest each Assassin was expected to demonstrate his own skills and abilities. Every mission was a test and a lesson. Every mission sharpened an Assassin’s mastery of the more subtle part of his work: the ferreting out of the information necessary to his task was his most important duty. Without information, one could not kill the target.

The Lady Adah must have realized that al Mualim was not one to be trifled with, even with his warning to her. Her eyes had never flinched from the Master’s face. She had remained unbowed under his intense scrutiny, thus rising in Altair’s estimation. Not many dared look at al Mualim as boldly as she had done that day. He had sensed her fear though. She had been pale and withdrawn as they’d left the study the Master of the Assassins called home. She had won. Together they would leave for Baghdad in two days’ time.

They stood in silence near the precipice. The river flowed beneath them, its roar muted by the distance. Altair let his eyes follow it until it met the fiery horizon. The river was like a new mission – its course stretched before him as it twisted and turned to reach the sea that was its final destination. Or perhaps it joined another river and then continued on. A mission too could take an unexpected twist, a new element would enter like a stone dropped into a still pond. He smiled slightly, hands resting on the warm stone of the parapet. He was already focusing. It was unconscious – the process was as natural as breathing. He would be on the road again. He had had more than enough rest from his last mission to the lands of the Franks. His wounds had healed. His mind too. For the most part. The woman at his side threatened that peace of mind. But maybe the challenge of matching his wits against hers would prove a nice distraction when the mission threatened to become tedious.

He foresaw months of work involved. He would need to spy the situation out. He would not barge in. He would tread softly. That was often the slow plodding part that made him howl in frustration. Dead ends were inevitable. But he still did not like them.

“This place is beautiful. One could forget one’s troubles here.”

No trace of the court lady remained. Again she let him see her as a woman, instead of the creature of intrigue, that mask that she wore when confronted with new strange things. A defensive mechanism, Altair reflected. One that covered up some deep feelings and experiences he could not even begin to guess at.

“That is the Garden’s purpose, my lady,” he replied softly. “It exists to reflect that peace we seek.”

He turned to find her eyes on him. There was no calculation in her golden-flecked orbs. The mask of pretense was gone. For whatever reason. He chose not to inquire. She would tell him in her own time. Or not at all. He had never forced a woman, nor would he the one he admired. He would get to know her better as they worked together to solve the deadly peril that hung over the Calipha. He had time. An Assassin’s virtue was patience in the face of adversity. The moment to strike could not be premature – or the mission failed. An Assassin had to gauge that moment correctly from all the information he’d gathered painstakingly and the situation at hand once he determined to strike.

“You showed bravery today, my lady,” he said gravely, meeting her eyes. “Women avoid him like the plague.”

“Necessity drove me,” her reply was swift. “No one ever defies her.”

He knew that to be true. He had often been obliged to follow necessity’s commands despite his best judgment. This was a hard woman before him. He wondered what she’d gone through to come to this point. Then sternly stopped himself. Her personal life was none of his business. Why in Allah’s name was he so interested in her? Lust could not be the only answer. The almost magnetic pull of her eyes held more than just the promise of carnal pleasure. Such thoughts were unworthy of her, of him. He had spent the last few days trying to sort out the turmoil she’d caused in his soul with one brief kiss. You have a mission ahead of you. He willed control to return. He needed to act, to move, to DO something to distract him from the thoughts of the woman beside him.

“Come.” He held his hand out to her – a part of him asked why when he wanted to avoid her did he touch her? He ignored that and knew he would regret it later. “I want to show you something you’ve not seen yet.”

Her answering smile warmed him. It was nothing but a slight curve of her lips but said volumes about her. Underneath the hardness that she showed to all, she did have feelings. She was human after all. Her almost inhuman fortitude in the face of al Mualim’s direct and indirect questions had stunned him to the core. He was sure that there were few women – aside from her and the Lady Zubaydah – who would even enter the mighty old man’s presence.

He led her towards the furthest corner of the Garden, the one place he cherished above all others, the one place he came to where he could soothe his troubles for a time. No one knew he came here, not even the women who attended the Garden constantly, watering the plants and growing them. A small pond was there, fed by an underground brook. The water was always cold. The pond was a smooth round shape – an almost perfect circle. On three sides the bushes and the trees concealed this spot with thick foliage: a wall of green that gave a sense of tranquility to this spot. It was a sanctuary of sorts. Altair often prayed here – if he ever bothered to remember what a proper Muslim should do. He would look at the mountains that he could see from here and listen for the cry of the eagles that flew over the fortress and the mountain ranges that nestled it.

The Lady Adah stood in silence, contemplating this grassy spot where flowers were few. Slowly she walked to the pond and knelt there to dip her hands into the water and let it move over them. She stared into the pond, silent, her braid hanging down her back to her hips. She stayed motionless for so long she might have been a statue – like one of those he had found in his travels that inhabited the ruins left by an empire long since gone to dust.

“You surprise me,” she said without moving, without so much as turning her head. He had watched the snowy mountain peaks across the river and their lower siblings covered in trees that marched all the way to the river’s gorge. “When I came here, I only saw you as cold blooded killers of the legends.” He smiled wryly to himself, still contemplating that speck in the ray of the sun that was a hawk or another predator of wing. “I see now I was wrong.” He felt her come up behind him and tensed involuntarily. Danger. He could smell it. Even here, in this safe haven, she brought danger with her. The whiff of decadence so strong on her jasmine perfume he could almost take in his hand. And his body was betraying him. It felt something. Something so elemental that he could not fail but to notice it. The animal instincts he’d thought long buried were awakening. The very thought of the Lady Adah was enough to stir in him thoughts that he’d long since laid aside. The iron discipline he’d instilled in himself was softly being erased by the subtle scent of the woman’s body.

His focus broken, he turned to her. She still wore the finery she’d put on to face al Mualim. At the court, he knew, one’s dress was as much armour as a mail shirt on a battle field. And none better than a woman knew how to dress to win, to entice, to capture. She had not caught him yet – and would not, he swore to himself. He would help her as much as he could but his soul would remain his own, even if his body were to be given away.

“What do you see now, lady?” They were standing close, much closer than propriety demanded. He knew he should step back – his every rational impulse screamed at him to do so. But the Eagle was strangely abstracted. The Spirit seemed almost willing to let this stranger, this woman who’d erupted into his life, get into his mind. The Eagle was bound. There was almost a compulsion to give in to her. A fundamental inhuman compulsion. He was at war with himself. Every man was, really, he reflected as she came even closer, her face inches from his. That proximity did not help matters much. She was still bent on seducing him. That knowledge put his back up. Assassins did not submit to anyone, man or woman. He had to remind her of that.

“You see someone you think you can manipulate.” His tone was soft but firm. He had never felt a need to shout at anyone, least of all a woman. “Al Mualim saw right through you, my lady. You did well in telling him the truth of the matter.” His eyes bore into hers as she faced him as unflinchingly as she had his Master. “Do not seek to beguile me. I mastered that craft long since.”

Again he saw that uncertainty creep into her face. She played a dangerous game and when she felt an obstacle or an attack she played weak. But this was no pretense. She did not understand him – that thought hit him with a force of a plummeting raptor about to hit his prey. Except on a most fundamental level: she had simplified men to a most basic fact, that of sexual attraction. Whenever a man showed that he saw through her guise, she would retreat into uncertainty or the courtly Lady Adah. He had never perceived things so clearly about anyone, let alone a woman, before. He carefully filed that perception away for future use.
She swallowed, hand twisting her braid nervously, still defiantly staring him eye to eye. She licked her lips – o those kissable lips! He crushed the desire sternly underfoot. As was no doubt her habit she took refuge in action. Her lips brushed his gently. His heart thundered as the Eagle soared, soaking up that brief touch. He himself remained unmoved: he stood as a wall. Her arts had worked on him once but not again.

He took her by the shoulders, feeling the muscle through layers of clothing, and held her at a distance.

“Be honest, my lady,” he asked. “Why did the Lady Zubaydah send YOU? She has many a beauty in her service.”

A silence fell. She did not break his touch, unwelcome as it must be from a strange man. But many had touched her before – he had no doubt about it. One did not survive the Baghdadi court chaste. The realities of the situation asserted themselves quickly there, and one had to stay afloat or death would be swift.
At last she spoke, eyes smoldering slightly in rising anger. He had read her all too easily, he surmised. He’d seen past her pretenses. She was not used to that from men, he did not think. She’d have to adapt, to come up with a new approach.

“I am here because I volunteered.”

Her voice steadied. Anger gave her strength. It burned away unnecessary thought – he knew it better than most. Anger had come between him and Malik, the one friend he’d had in all his years at Masyaf.

“Indeed, a lot of women much more comely than I am would have been glad of the opportunity to come here.” The coquettish look came into her eyes again, overlaid with anger still. Allah, but this was a very complicated woman! She could reverse in mid-stride and gather her self-possession about her. “The Lady has complete confidence in my abilities. I have helped her in her searches for the ones responsible in the attempts on the Calipha’s life.”

That was as much as she would tell him, he knew. She did not trust him. And that was just as well. He did not trust himself either around her. He would have to be very, very careful in his dealings with her. One misstep on either part and the consequences would be dire. And not just for them.

He nodded his acceptance of her words. For now at any rate, it was enough.
“I do not want to ruin the beauty of this place by wrangling,” she went on smoothly. Then she sighed, shoulders drooping slightly under his hands. He let his hands fall. He had gotten what he wanted.

A weariness settled on her as she looked past him at the mountains. The verbal sparring with al Mualim must have tired her more than she’d cared to voice. And she was letting him see it. Her defenses too must be crumbling. It was better that she’d rest.

“Let us go back inside,” he moved past her to go back inside the fortress. The sun coloured the sky a dark pink, almost red, stain. A cold wind had started up, cutting through the clothing to the skin. “We have preparations to make.”

For a long time she did not move. He waited patiently, watching her still form, all carnal thoughts stilled for the moment. She was simply a woman enjoying a scene unlike any she’d seen before. He let her do so.

At last she turned and approached him. Her soft-shod feet made no sound on the grass. She regarded him long as the wind moved her silken robes, making them whisper.

“Thank you for showing me this. This quiet corner makes me believe that humanity can be found in most unexpected of places.”

Gently Altair took her hand in his – Lady Adah did not protest this gesture as was her right – and led her to the fortress as an eagle’s cry resounded a final farewell to the day and welcomed the night with its promise of respite from the daily tasks of the human race.
whew! gods, did this ever take a long time eh?
I had to SQUEEZE this out of Altair drop by drop.

I still insist that I can't write smut for all of me. Love is so... *flaps hands*

I guess I want to get this just right.
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commission for :iconwoozy1:
Here we can see Zevran Arainai from DAO and Woozy's OC Alys :>
sorry for thouse whom i need to answer on notes, I'll do it as soon as I'd got little more time ^^
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Mature Content Filter is On. The Artist has chosen to restrict viewing to deviants 18 and older.
(Contains: nudity)
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Lovely moment, huh?;)

Uh...I don't like the background. Actually, I have this thing with backgrounds. I never get them the way I want. heh
Constructive criticism required. Please. :blushes:



graphite HB, 2B, 4B;
white canson A4.

**some points had been fixed. Thanks!**
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I drew it after a CK - ad ^^
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:-) part two
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have you ever fallen in love with someone you shouldn't have fallen in love with?
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Photo by Hellen...
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Photo by Hellen Photographer...
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fuck u.
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Mature Content Filter is On. The Artist has chosen to restrict viewing to deviants 18 and older.
(Contains: nudity and sexual themes) took forever! And I kind of maybe gave up a little on the blue one
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This painting illustrates "Golden Feather in Bloody Hand", a story written by Elyra-Coacalina with her own OC Elyra and split-heart 's OC Vorago
Commission for :iconelyra-coacalina:

Thank you!
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Looks like this one hit the interwebs recently. This is the cover I did for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS: GRIMM UNIVERSE #2 from Zenescope Entertainment. Hope ya dig it! These two were a lot of fun to paint.
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Two violent warriors in their spare time. Fighting boredom with love.

Lia [link] and Zrasiramasas [link]

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AGOT Illustration. Painter IX
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I think my best work so far :)
Hope you guys like it....
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I've done this one for Umaykut Online Trailer. Umaykut Online which is an browser-based mmo game produced by Ceidot Game Studios.

You can watch this trailer at
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this is my second entry for fotolia contest!
remeber!i cat,one clock,one fruit!
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ďCurious... Are you familiar with this one... lonely... lovely little tale; spoken of by the locales here with whispers of an age most romantic?Ē

ďIf you mean that Iím aware of the history of this room; itís telling of forbidden love, broken oaths and tragic decisions, then yes.Ē

ď... does this mean youíre not fond of role-playing? And to think I was about to ask if youíd like me to be your Lady of Roses ...Ē

-- Shae and Klaus

In an age when the lusts of power and glory in the northern realms of Elshanae, (also known simply as the northlands to those who have dwelled there), were sated and withdrawn for more peaceful endeavours within their reach, many romantic tales bloomed on the lips of bards who lived when they unfolded. But of all these tales there was one so great that it became almost a myth: the passion between a nobleman and a mysterious woman kissed by fire. The fabled love story of Naithen, Lord of Elsest, and Kalyna, the Lady of Roses.

Nevertheless, according to a series of old building letters, it is believed that before Naithen took Kalyna as his second wife, she was given a bedchamber in Elsestís main keep that once served as the personal living quarters for one of Raleigh King Rurik the Makerís closest retainers. The room was not extravagant back then, but its closeness to where Rurik and his family once slept centuries ago offered certain comforts that were not properly visited upon in that age till Naithen had the room refurnished for Kalynaís wellbeing.

Among these, none spoke greater kindness than a bath Naithen had masons build with the aid of a personal friend of his, who was a practitioner of moonstone magic. To the untrained eye the bath was built with stone collected from a riverside quarry, but beneath the bath itself rested a chamber for triggered, uncut red moonstones, placed beneath smoothed stone tiles that eased the strength of their naturally generated heat. The tiles absorbed it enough within themselves that the bath's water stayed at a comfortable, fixed temperature, which was something of a heavenly luxury for those who called Elsest Fortress home during long winters. A luxury few among even nobles understood.

Kalyna was blessed with her loverís ingenuity, yet it can be said Naithen was no fool and knew he created their newfound favourite place of romance. There were few nights after it where they cared for the support of a good bed and, by the time the two married, Naithen ignored his original quarters in favour for the one he furnished for his beloved Kalyna. Ironic, given his former place of rest was King Rurikís own and was fit for the concern of travelling royalty.

By the time Naithen and Kalynaís love became a topic for bards, centuries later, few people ever called the Lady of Rosesí bedroom their own. Even those who inherited Naithenís title as Elsestís ruling lord over the years hardly ever used it for personal use, (though that is possibly debateable...), leaving the room to the interests of dust and, on very rare occasions, a place for esteemed guests loyal to House Raleigh's lords and their once powerful sovereignty.

That was how Klaus came to call the room his own when he travelled to Raleigh lands in search of answers few were willing to tell. In some ways it can be said the room was given to him as a good-humoured jest by his good friend, Rhys Raleigh, who alike many other minds among the young would-be king's fellow northmen there believed all Klaus really needed was a womanís passion to settle his mood over things and remove his depressing outlook on life.

What none knew at the time, however, was how one woman may have seemingly read their minds and knew the history behind Elsest Fortress nearly as well as the stone of the forthright had.


Yeah, yeah. Iím sure itís not the kind of lore some people wanted to read... so okay! Iím teasing! ... that and itís hard to write about this pair's intimacy without giving spoilers away...

Looking on the bright side, though, I will draw a couple art for Naithen and Kalyna next month. Theyíre new, but... well, maybe Iíll hint at something else theyíre related to lore wise...

So... yes! Finally a proper couple art for Shae and Klaus. (I swear, I should have done this long ago...) The question, though, is this reality for them? Or little more than a dream?

Artwork // Shaelyn, Klaus, Lore, Etc - © Kristopher P. Love
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"Terrific... One moment you're dreaming of the Rains, and the next the heavens open up to scare reality back into you..."

"Saul... you may want to take a look at this."

"I'm sure that, whatever it is, your lovely lips can describe for me, Zuri."

"Well... remember what that 'Takan priest said about the Valuan ship patrolling this area?"


"It is here."

"Ah, right. About time it showed up."

"Only problem is the priest was wrong about some... minor details about it. He said it was a Phantom."

"Only it's a Gunboat?"

"... how did you know that without even looking?"

"Simple. That bloody thing is noisy. Takes a decent engine to keep one of those in the skies without dropping."

"But this changes everything."

"This changes nothing."


"We came here to commandeer a vessel. Personally, I like the idea of owning a gunboat. More stern."

"You are not asleep anymore, Son of Elias. This is not a fish you can even think about catching."

"Watch me."

"You are delusional."

"Which is why you love me, right?"

*sigh* "I know Blue Rogues are meant to take on armed ships bigger than their own, but this is ridiculous..."

"Hmm... speaking of: a lifeboat against a gunboat. Ha, at least we'll have the element of surprise."

"Let us just hope they die laughing before we come into firing range of their canons..."

"That's the spirit!"

-- Saul & Zuri

Avast~! Ye scallywags 'ave stumbled upon a new treasure of me doing! And were I be a Black Pirate, I'd 'ave ye walk the plank in fear of stealin' it! But I be a good man, a sober man, and one with a perchance for keeping ya alive to appreciate life and talk better than any emo-centric 'inja ever could... Ye do not see 'em 'aving a day dedicated to one's delicacies of a most pleasin' language, arrh?

Well, alright. It is that silly annual day where people talk like pirates, so I just couldn't ignore an excuse to draw something piratey. =P

Originally I was going to draw an illustration of Vincent from Skies of Arcadia, but it ended up a terrible failure to what I had in mind. So I scrapped it and started anew with something landscapey...

Anyhoo, rejoice SoA fans. (If you're still watching me...) Hopefully some more game related art is on the horizon. =D

Artwork / Saul & Zuri - © Kristopher P. Love // Skies of Arcadia - © SEGA Overworks
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"For a while, I pondered on whether I would wear these... even thought about burying them with my parents, to honour them."

"What made you change your mind?"

"Well, neither of them were all that attached to their possessions, save for my father's blade and the pendant he crafted for my mother when he sought to marry her."

"And not their marriage rings? Seems a bit silly they would care not for them in the same way."

"Because they loved life. I know, when I was old enough to know that the scent of a woman aroused my spirit, my mother believed she and my father would not live to see the day when I'd find my bride. She knew their fates before they were even written, and asked of me to outlive them with the blessings of these rings to acknowledge our bond. That we would wear them, she made me promise before she left this world, knowing that a part of her would still find her unmet daughter."

"She... do you think she would have approved of me? I mean... what with my life with Imrek and the courts and..."

"True love forgives all sins, Kaly. And my mother... she would have embraced you no matter what."

-- Evaryr & Kalysia

Considered fine relics belonging to the beginning history of House Kaethyr, these two rings were crafted centuries before Evaryr was even born into the family, and were fashioned during the time of Phoenix King Ruhaeral the Artisan's reign. It was in that age when a humble artisan from a poor province was smitten with the beauty of one of Ruhaeral's daughters, and focused much of his time trying to impress the great king with his wares over time while their maker and the princess remained chaste to each other till their bond was given her father's blessing and allowed them to wed.

Yet Ruhaeral was a difficult nelan to please. Decades passed as the humble artisan tried to forge new and exciting things to win his king's blessing, yet not even the greatest blade forged in all of Ailyrenai raised an eyebrow. It eventually lead to the humble artisan losing all hope and sadly abandoned his quest to marry his love, who was devastated when he no longer concerned himself with seeking audiences with her or her father. He returned back to his life in a remote village, returning to it to continue his trade as a weaponsmith and somehow forget what inspired his every breath...

The princess would not accept such a fate between them, though, and pleaded with her father to seek him out and bring him back to their court one last time, in the hope he would finally forge something worthy of the great king's attention. Ruhaeral ignored her plea, yet as he and his personal entourage were travelling through the realm a year thereafter, they passed by a merchant who was preparing to make his journey beyond the Tear and sell his collected wares to the nelri colonies of the west and any human who could afford his prices. It was at that moment Ruhaeral saw in the merchant's possession two rings, simple yet beautiful in their craftsmanship. He knew the merchant was not responsible for their creation, so he enquired as to who he bought them from and felt his world grow quiet when he learnt who it was. He knew at that moment he lived wrong by his daughter and sought to make amends, convincing the merchant to guide his next steps to slay his guilt.

And so it was that Ruhaeral travelled to a little village of a province he hardly knew and met with Kaethyr, the humble artisan who long ago sought to win his attention. He soon learnt that the rings the merchant had were meant for his daughter, and that Kaethyr, lost in spirit, sold them for little more than the silver they were made of to remove them from his sight in hope to forget his failings.

Ruhaeral had other plans by then, and so it was that with his blessing, House Kaethyr was born.


It's been so long since I've drawn an item illustration... so here we are! Hope you like. =)

Artwork // Evaryr // Kalysia // Nelri // Lore, etc - © Kristopher P. Love
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"Sometimes it takes a matter of faith to find salvation for one's soul, yes. Yet the path for it will test you, no doubt. Such is life, some might say. Some will even mock you, calling it a foolish journey. They will say it is wiser to remain where there are fewer risks to the flesh, content to live life according to their worldly beliefs. Yet to them I ask who is the wisest? He who searches for everlasting peace before the creator of their very existence, or he who sits on a throne of man, corrupted by sin and surrounded by tabards glorifying only imperfection and one's pride to resist anything divine? No, I know my path of faith will by arduous, perhaps even treacherous, but I will find the end I seek and know no regret."
-- Anonymous

Well, since this was a spur of the moment kind of creation without my usual lore writing involved, (save for the quote!), take its meaning however you wish. Enjoy. =)

Artwork - © Kristopher P. Love
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