“I almost stumbled back there. Need to improve.”
“You’ll get plenty of practice.”
“Look out, here come more of them!”
They were at the intersection of four streets, empty now that the fighting had caused the ordinary citizens to flee inside the buildings and shut the doors behind them. But they were cornered—large units of Byzantines were thundering toward them from each quarter.
“What now?” said Ezio, drawing his sword and releasing his left-hand hidden-blade.
“Put those away, Mentor. When he tires of running, an Assassin around here takes to the air.”
Ezio quickly followed Yusuf as he scaled the nearest wall, using his hook to aid him, with increasing skill. Once on the rooftops again, Ezio noticed that, in this area, many were topped with stout vertical wooden posts, from which tarred ropes, stretched taut, led upward and downward to other posts on other rooftops, connected by a series of pulleys and blocks and tackle. Such a post stood on their roof, next to where they were standing.
“We introduced this system to transport goods about, from warehouse to warehouse, from warehouse to shop,” explained Yusuf. “You can find it in various districts all over the city. It’s a lot quicker than using the streets, which are too narrow and usually crowded. And it’s a lot quicker for us, too.”
Ezio looked down below, to where the Byzantines were trying to break into the building which they were standing on. Too heavily armored to climb, they’d decided to come at them from the interior.
“We’d better hurry.”
“You use your hookblade for this, too,” said Yusuf. “Just hook it to a rope, hang on tight, and let go—of course, it only works downhill!”
“I’m beginning to see why you developed this weapon—it’s perfect for Constantinople.”
“You can say that again.” Yusuf cast a glance down to the street below in his turn. “But you’re right—we must make haste.” Briefly, he scanned the surrounding rooftops. About three hundred feet away, on the roof of a building downhill from where they were, he spotted a Byzantine scout, his back to them, keeping a lookout over the city, which spread itself below him.
“See that guy?” Yusuf said.
“And there’s another, just over there, to the left—on a connecting roof.”
“We’re going to take them out.” Yusuf extended his hookblade and notched it over the rope. He raised a warning hand as Ezio was about to do the same. “Do not follow me immediately. Allow me to show you.”
“I am glad to learn the customs of the country.”
“We call this a zipline. Watch!”
Yusuf waited until the second scout was looking in another direction, then let the rope take his weight. It strained slightly, but held. Then he swung his body clear, and in a moment he was sailing silently down the rope toward the unsuspecting first scout. At the last moment, he unhooked his blade and dropped the last few feet onto his target, swinging the blade round to slice into the man’s side. He caught the scout’s falling body and lowered it gently to the ground before stepping quickly behind the cover of a small outbuilding on the roof. From there, he let out a strangled cry.
This alerted the second scout, who turned quickly to look in the direction from which the sound had come.
“Help, comrade! Assassins!” Yusuf called, using Greek, in an anguished voice.
“Stand fast! I’m coming!” the second scout called back, racing across the roof to the aid of his fellow.
At that moment, Yusuf beckoned to Ezio, who rocketed down the rope in his turn, in time to drop fatally onto the second scout, by that time kneeling next to the body of his fallen companion.
Yusuf joined him by the two bodies. “You didn’t even break a sweat,” Yusuf said, chuckling. Then he immediately became serious, and continued, “I can see you can look after yourself, so I think it’s time we split up. I’d better head to the Bazaar and see what’s happening at our Den there. You go on to Galata, to help them there.”
“Tell me the way.”
Yusuf pointed across the rooftops. “You see the tower?”
“The Den’s right by it. I can’t be in two places at once, but now you’re here, I don’t have to be. Thank Allah you came, Mentor. Without your help . . .”
“You’ve done all right so far.”
Yusuf took his hand. “Haydi rastgele—Ezio. Good luck!”
“Good luck to you, too.”
Yusuf turned south while Ezio ran over the russet-colored tiles of the rooftops until he found another rope system. Sailing quickly and unopposed from holding post to holding post, and traveling a lot faster than he would have done on foot, he quickly made his way downward toward the tower’s base, and his next battle.
Ezio arrived during a lull in the fighting and managed to slip into the Den without being seen. There, he was greeted by Dogan, one of the Assassin lieutenants he had briefly met earlier.
“Mentor, it is an honor. Is Yusuf not with you?”
“No—they’ve mounted another attack—on our Den by the Grand Bazaar. He’s on his way there now.” Ezio paused. “What is the situation here?”
Dogan wiped his brow. “We’ve beaten back the vanguard, but they’re just fallen back to wait for reinforcements.”
“Are your men ready for them?”
Dogan gave Ezio a wry smile, encouraged by the Mentor’s enthusiasm and confidence. “Now you’re here, they are!”
“Where’s the next attack likely to come from?”
“The north side. They think that’s the weakest.”
“Then we’d better make sure it’s the strongest!”
Dogan redeployed his Assassins according to Ezio’s instructions, and by the time the Templars launched their counterattack, they were ready for them. The fight was as fierce as it was short, leaving fifteen Templar mercenaries dead in the square near the tower where the Den was located. The Assassin troop counted two men and one woman wounded, but no fatalities. It had been a rout of the Templars.
“They will not be back soon,” Dogan told Ezio when it was all over.
“Let’s hope so. From my experience of the Templars, they do not like to be bested.”
“Well, if they try it again around here, they’ll have to learn to live with it.”