“Desmond Miles in the flesh. Or is it Altaïr? Ezio? Connor? Haytham?”
He spat out blood and half of a tooth in response to the question before answering, “You know what we are, Lawrence, who we are. Don’t pretend otherwise, it just makes you look like a fool.”
The two men who were holding his arms tightened their hold and he lifted his head in time to see a knee coming at his chest. He tried to curl away from it to soften the blow but they had such a grip and had beaten him to near exhaustion. Lawrence’s knee made a harsh cracking sound as it hit his chest and he screamed through bared teeth as he felt ribs crack.
They’re going to kill us.
We are not what is most important here, reminded Haytham.
I don’t want to die. Me, Desmond. I don’t want to die.
You cannot let panic take you, walad! snapped Altaïr. Focus! This is a thing greater than all of us!
YOU’RE ALREADY DEAD. WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO FEAR FROM DEATH?
Desmond! hissed Ezio.
Boy , Haytham said, his voice low and rough in that way they all somehow managed despite having no actual modulation, dying does not erase the fear of death. Do you truly think we do not fear for yours?
He sucked in a heavy, ragged breath as a fist slammed ruthlessly into his side.
Because if I die, you die , he said bitterly.
No , replied Connor, his voice strong and sure. We care about your health. Your sanity.
It was why we held off as long as we did , murmured Altaïr. It is how you survived the Bleeding Effect and did not go mad.
He choked on a laugh, blood filling his mouth, and gasped aloud, “Not certain I’m…not crazy.”
“He talking to himself?” asked one of the men holding him up.
“To his dead ancestors, I imagine,” replied Lawrence. He then dragged their head up by the hair and he winced as the growls of the others echoed through his skull. “You can’t stop me from wiping out what’s left of the Templars. Once I do this, we’ll be free.”
Haytham surged to the forefront and managed to curl their lip into a sneer, a cut blazing pain and bleeding freely. “There is no freedom in destruction, boy, nor in free range murder,” he snarled, his clipped English tone giving him away. “Believe me, I learned that lesson the hardest way possible.”
Lawrence just laughed. “You, a Templar , think to lecture me ? About murder? ” The man leaned down to get into their face, practically spitting as he said, “I know plenty about murder , Templar. I watched my family be coldly murdered by your kind.”
“ My kind ,” snarled Haytham, “have been dead for over a century. Those you have fought for your meager little lifetime amongst the Assassin’s are but shadows of something greater.”
“ Greater?! ” exploded Lawrence, grabbing them by the neck of their t-shirt since their jacket had been torn off in the fighting.
Templar , growled Altaïr warningly and Haytham ‘waved’ him down.
I know what I’m doing. Boys such as this are always chomping at the bit and eager to prove themselves the better man. Take down his enemy and he is suddenly lesser too.
Why? asked Connor with the mental equivalent of a frown.
Haytham ‘smiled’ and replied, Because if you had to do much to defeat your enemy and suddenly he is lesser…why did it take you so long to defeat him? Is it perhaps because you were lesser as well?
There was a moment of silence in their head then Ezio laughed, saying, Bravo, Master Haytham.
“Greater,” repeated Haytham, turning their mouth up into a mocking smile. “Did they not, after all, continue to be plagued by your Assassins for years without being able to put them down? I demolished the American Assassins in my day and it was little more than familial providence that saved them from utter destruction.”
Father , murmured Connor lowly as Haytham plowed onward.
“You tell me that your Abstergo with all of its money and power and technology couldn’t do the very same thing that I did with swords and flintlocks ?” He curled their mouth into a smirk, ignoring the pain from their lip. “I’m truly sorry, son, but that’s some bullshit as you would say in this age.”
Lawrence’s face went white and red with rage and he grabbed their face, pressing his thumbs hard into the cheekbones as he wrenched their head upwards. Now he did spray spittle everywhere as he snarled, “You think this is gonna stop me, Kenway? You think you can make me doubt my course?”
Haytham started to answer then gave way as Ezio asked silently permission to take over. They surged across, exchanging places, and the Italian Master managed a chuckle as he replied, “One can rarely if ever change the course of fools and madmen.”
“Ah. One of the Masters speaks, I see!”
He bristled slightly because there was an insult there, an insult to all of them. Even Haytham was the Templar variant of a Master Assassin and Connor likely could have been named one himself (though he wouldn’t have accepted it).
Lawrence smiled cruelty and purred, “You would know a thing about fools and madmen, wouldn’t you, Ezio Auditore. Were you not one yourself, chasing the shadows shown to you by the Apple and other Pieces of Eden to find out answers only to be left with only the name Desmond ? Was that not the quest of a madman?”
Ezio pursed their lips before he answered darkly, “There is no madness in seeking answers. It is only when you refuse to acknowledge the truth that you find that you descend into madness. I gave up my search, ragazzo , when I found no other leads to follow.”
“And I’m following mine ,” Lawrence snarled before he flung their head backwards as he stepped away. He let out a low noise of pain because he couldn’t rock back with the force of the push thanks to the men holding them captive and hung in their arms for a moment. Then he straightened back up as Altaïr surged to the forefront, full of rage and anger.
“Do you know where madness leads, child?” he hissed, his accent a shadow of what it would have been in his life. “I have stepped on that path, crossed it many times in my life. It cost me…”
He trailed off abruptly because Maria’s loss still hurt, even with how long he had lived after and knowing that she was dust centuries ago. Shaking his head, he finished, “There is nothing gained from following the path you are on. Only sorrow and blood.”
Lawrence swung back around, his face purpling now as he descended further into rage. “ They began it! ” he shouted. “Templars and their ilk started this bloody war centuries ago and all I’m going to do is finish it .”
“They are finished, boy,” Haytham murmured, taking control for a moment. “We saw to it ourselves that they fell from power after the defeat of Juno.”
He is losing it , murmured Connor.
How much longer do we have to hold? asked Desmond.
Altaïr ‘frowned’ and replied, It should not be for much longer if the team Shaun spoke of was not far behind us.
So we can only hope .
With a dark chuckle and the mental equivalent of a hand on the shoulder, Ezio murmured, Hope was all we ever had, child.
“And what about the rest?” snarled Lawrence. “What about the ones who those left will train to rise up again?” He pointed at them as he hissed, “You saw the very same with your poor decision to spare the old Assassin, Haytham. If you had slain him, would you have lost everything? Would your American Order have fallen so far because of the actions of a half-breed? ”
“Fuck you!” he spat, angry for the sake of his ancestors before Haytham pushed forward, cold rage radiating through the whole of them and consuming everything.
“You will never speak of my son like that again,” he said coldly. There was no growl in his voice, no clear sign of his rage, just ice and steel. “As for your answer, perhaps I would never have lost the Order. Perhaps I would have succeeded. Would it have been better? That I cannot know.”
He paused before finishing, “There are things more important than allegiance and seeing a thing through, however. Would that I had not been so stubborn while living to see that.”
“You would do well to listen to him,” murmured Connor, gently taking over from his father. “This will only lead to more death. How can you not see that?”
Lawrence was breathing hard now, his chest heaving and his eyes wild. He stared at them for a long moment before he snarled, “I will stop the dying. No more Assassins dead, no more children robbed of their parents. No more.”
Then he pulled a pistol from somewhere on his body, pointing it at them with a crazed smile.
“And since there’s technically one here,” he purred, “you get to go first .”
“ No! ” he screamed and it felt like it echoed in five voices, in five different ghosts of accents that rolled over each other in wild cacophony.
As soon as the shot fire and he felt its impact, the bullet tearing into his gut and boring though with the force that propelled it from the gun barrel, he heard shouting. The two men holding him abruptly let go, scrambling back for their own weapons, and he fell, utterly unable to hold himself up. As his skull bounced against the floor, he just barely registered the site of armed Assassins entering the Observatory, easily identifiable by the subtle emblems worked into their tactical gear and the familiar peaked hoods they wore.
Desmond , cried out Altaïr, his voice strained and echoey. Hold on!
It repeated through their skull, a constant sounding echo as they spiraled downward into pain and darkness.
The last thing he recalled hearing besides their voices was Shaun’s screaming his name.