“Yup. Seein’ it happen more and more. Natives pushed out by traders and ranchers lookin’ to expand. Government says they don’t take land that’s already owned, but, uh . . . Here you can see otherwise.”
“How could this happen?” I asked, turning around slowly, seeing only emptiness where once I had seen the familiar faces of my people—the people I had grown up with.
“We’re on our own now,” he continued. “No jolly old English parts and labour. Which means we gotta go at it ourselves. Gotta pay for it too. Sellin’ land is quick and easy. And not quite so nasty as taxes. And since some say taxes is what started the whole war, ain’t no rush to bring ’em back.” He gave a full, throaty laugh. “Clever men, these new leaders of ours. They know not to push it just yet. Too soon. Too . . . British.” He stared into his fire. “But it will come. Always does.”
I thanked him and left him, to go to the longhouse, thinking, as I walked: I have failed. My people were gone—chased away by those I thought would protect them.
As I walked, the amulet around my neck glowed, and I took it from around my neck, held it in my palm and studied it. Perhaps there was one last thing I could do, and that was to save this place from them all, patriots and Templars alike.
In a clearing in the forest I crouched and regarded what I held in my hands: my mother’s necklace in one, my father’s amulet in the other.
To myself I said, “Mother. Father. I am sorry. I have failed you both. I made a promise to protect our people, Mother. I thought if I could stop the Templars, if I could keep the revolution free from their influence, then those I supported would do what was right. They did, I suppose, do what was right—what was right for them. As for you, Father, I thought I might unite us, that we would forget the past and forge a better future. In time, I believed you could be made to see the world as I do—to understand. But it was just a dream. This, too, I should have known. Were we not meant to live in peace, then? Is that it? Are we born to argue? To fight? So many voices—each demanding something else.
“It has been hard at times, but never harder than today. To see all I worked for perverted, discarded, forgotten. You would say I have described the whole of history, Father. Are you smiling, then? Hoping I might speak the words you longed to hear? To validate you? To say that all along you were right? I will not. Even now, faced as I am with the truth of your cold words, I refuse. Because I believe things can still change.
“I may never succeed. The Assassins may struggle another thousand years in vain. But we will not stop.”
I began to dig.
“Compromise. That’s what everyone has insisted on. And so I have learnt it. But differently than most, I think. I realize now that it will take time, that the road ahead is long and shrouded in darkness. It is a road that will not always take me where I wish to go—and I doubt I will live to see it end. But I will travel down it nonetheless.”
I dug and dug until the hole was deep enough, deeper than that which was needed to bury a body, enough for me to climb into.
“For at my side walks hope. In the face of all that insists I turn back, I carry on: this, this is my compromise.”
I dropped the amulet into the hole and then, as the sun began to go down, I shovelled dirt on top of it until it was hidden and then I turned and left.
Full of hope for the future, I returned to my people, to the Assassins.
It was time for new blood.