She shrugged. “Probably,” she said.
I looked across to where Holden lay, sweat glistening on his torso, “When the fever has broken, we’ll leave.”
“To go where?”
8 OCTOBER 1757
Though it was cold, the sun was shining this morning, a day best described as “sun-dappled,” with bright light pouring through the canopy of trees to paint the forest floor a patchwork of gold.
We rode in a column of three, me in the lead. Behind me was Jenny, who had long since discarded her servant-girl clothes and wore a robe that hung down the flank of her steed. A large, dark hood was pulled up over her head, and her face seemed to loom from within it as though she were staring from the inside of a cave: serious, intense and framed by grey-flecked hair that fell across her shoulders.
Behind Jenny came Holden, who, like me, wore a buttoned-up frock coat, scarf and cocked hat, only he sagged forward a little in his saddle, his complexion pale, sallow and . . . haunted.
He had said little since recovering from his fever. There had been moments—tiny glimpses of the old Holden: a fleeting smile, a flash of his London wisdom—but they were fleeting, and he would soon return to being closed off. During our passage across the Mediterranean he had kept himself to himself, sitting alone, brooding. In France we had donned disguises, bought horses and begun the trek to the chateau, and he had ridden in silence. He looked pale and, having seen him walk, I thought he was still in pain. Even in the saddle I’d occasionally see him wincing, especially over uneven ground. I could hardly bear to think of the hurt he was enduring—physical and mental.
An hour away from the chateau, we stopped and I strapped my sword to my waist, primed a pistol and put it into my belt. Holden did the same, and I asked him, “Are you sure you’re all right to fight, Holden?”
He shot me a reproachful look, and I noticed the bags and dark rings beneath his eyes. “Begging your pardon, sir, but it’s my cock and balls they took off me, not my gumption.”
“I’m sorry, Holden, I didn’t mean to suggest anything. I’ve had my answer and that’s good enough for me.”
“Do you think there will be fighting, sir?” he said, and again I saw him wince as he reached to bring his sword close at hand.
“I don’t know, Holden, I really don’t.”
As we came close to the chateau I saw the first of the patrols. The guard stood in front of my horse and regarded me from beneath the wide brim of his hat: the same man, I realized, who had been here the last time I visited nearly four years ago.
“That you, Master Kenway?” he said.
“Indeed it is, and I have two companions,” I replied.
I watched him very carefully as his stare went from me to Jenny then to Holden and, though he tried to hide it, his eyes told me all I needed to know.
He went to put his fingers to his mouth, but I had leapt from my horse, grabbed his head and ejected my blade through his eye and into his brain and sliced open his throat before he could make another sound.
I knelt with one hand on the sentry’s chest as the blood oozed fast and thickly from the wide-open gash at his throat, like a second, grinning mouth, and looked back over my shoulder to where Jenny regarded me with a frown and Holden sat upright in his saddle, his sword drawn.
“Do you mind telling us what that was all about?” asked Jenny.
“He was about to whistle,” I replied, scanning the forest around us. “He didn’t whistle last time.”
“So? Perhaps they changed the entry procedure.”
I shook my head. “No. They know we’re coming. They’re expecting us. The whistle would have warned the others. We wouldn’t have made it across the lawn before they cut us down.”
“How do you know?” she said.
“I don’t know,” I snapped. Beneath my hand the guard’s chest rose and fell one last time. I looked down to see his eyes swivel and his body give one last spasm before he died. “I suspect,” I continued, wiping my bloody hands on the ground and standing up. “I’ve spent years suspecting, ignoring the obvious. The book you saw in the carriage that night—Reginald has it with him. He’ll have it in that house if I’m not very much mistaken. It was he who organized the raid on our house. He who is responsible for Father’s death.”
“Oh, you know that now, do you?” she sneered.
“I’d refused to believe it before. But now, yes, I know. Things have begun to make sense to me. Like, one afternoon, when I was a child, I met Reginald by the plate room. I’d wager he was looking for the book then. The reason he was close to the family, Jenny—the reason he asked for your hand in marriage—was because he wanted the book.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” she said. “I tried warning you on the night that he was the traitor.”
“I know,” I said, then thought for a moment. “Did Father know he was a Templar?”
“Not at first, but I found out, and I told Father.”
“That’s when they argued,” I said, understanding now.
“Did they argue?”
“I heard them one day. And, afterwards, Father employed the guards—Assassins, no doubt. Reginald told me he was warning Father . . .”
“More lies, Haytham . . .”
I looked up at her, trembling slightly. Yes. More lies. Everything I knew—my entire childhood, all of it built on a foundation of them.
“He was using Digweed,” I said. “It was Digweed who told him where the book was stored . . .”
I winced at a sudden memory.
“What is it?” she said.
“The day at the plate room, Reginald was asking me where my sword was kept. I told him a secret hiding place.”
“Was it in the billiards room?”
“They went straight there, didn’t they?” she said.
I nodded. “They knew it wasn’t in the plate room, because Digweed told them it had been moved, which is why they went straight to the games room.”
“But they weren’t Templars?” she said.
“I beg your pardon.”
“In Syria, you told me the men who attacked us weren’t Templars,” she said with a mocking tone. “They couldn’t be your beloved Templars.”
I shook my head. “No, they weren’t. I told you, I’ve encountered them since, and they were Braddock’s men. Reginald must have planned to school me in the Order . . .” I thought again, and something occurred to me: “. . . because of the family inheritance, probably. Using Templar men would have been too much of a risk. I might have found out. I might have arrived here sooner. I almost got to Digweed. I almost had them in the Black Forest but then . . .” I remembered back to the cabin in the Black Forest. “Reginald killed Digweed. That’s why they were one step ahead of us—and they still are.” I pointed in the direction of the chateau.