jackdaws_master: (Edward and the Piece of Eden)
[personal profile] jackdaws_master
The outer walls of the mansion of Governor Laureano de Torres y Ayala reared over the other buildings of the western end of Havana as if daring them to try something. Edward gave them a glance, briefly contemplating his chances of a successful climb without really intending to do so. It was habit, that was all; always have a way out of a place, aye? Especially one where the gates were guarded by men who gave the impression of being not only armed and uniformed, but alert.

Still, alertness would do them no good if they'd not seen Duncan Walpole's face, and if the Governor hadn't then Edward had very little reason to believe his serving-men would've, either. He straightened his shoulders and strolled up to the two guards at the main gate. “Buenos dias,” he said to the more senior-looking of the two. “Mister Duncan Walpole of England to see the Governor. I believe he is expecting me.”

The guard nodded. “Si, Senor Walpole. Please, enter,” he said, and gestured to the opening gates.

Edward dipped his head briefly in acknowledgment and continued on his way. The men fell to muttering to each other in Spanish as he passed. None of it made any sense to Edward, save once, when he thought for certes he must've heard the word asesino- but no one made a move to stop him or call him back. Coincidence, then. They couldn't have known what happened to the real Walpole.

Still, it was a timely reminder. Best he should carry himself careful, here.

The mansion's grounds were as expansive as its walls were impressive. Long before he could so much as approach the steps that led to the mansion's doors, Edward's path brought him to a terrace where two men stood in conversation. The taller of the two, a wide-shouldered man in a broad black hat and a shirt half open, nudged the shorter with his elbow. The shorter man stepped forward; Edward noted a wicked scar across most of his right cheek as he spoke. “Good morning, sir!” he said. “Would I be correct in thinking you are Duncan Walpole?”

Edward half-smiled “I am indeed.”

“I thought as much,” said the scarred man, and extended a hand for the shaking. “Woodes Rogers. A pleasure.”

“The same,” said Edward, but paused mid-shake. Rogers was eyeing him a little more closely than he strictly liked.

“I must say,” Rogers murmured, “my wife has a terrible eye for description.”

“I'm... sorry?” said Edward, carefully smoothing his expression before the sudden clamor in his guts could show on his face.

“My wife,” said Rogers, still eyeing him. “You met her some years ago at the Percys' masquerade ball.”

“Ah! Quite...”

“She called you 'devilishly handsome',” Rogers said slowly. Edward merely looked back at him; in the end, Rogers blinked first, letting out a short bark of a laugh. “Obviously a lie to stoke my jealousy. Julien! Our guest of honour, Mister Duncan Walpole.”

The behatted man sketched a bow of greeting. “Ah... Julien du Casse,” he said, his accent as French as his name. “I hope your conversion to our order is an honest one. I have no love for assassins, but even less for liars.”

Well, that explained the soldier's choice of words- as far as that went. Walpole's letter from Torres had mentioned nothing of assassins or orders. Best to step carefully, then. Edward chuckled briefly and said, “I have not come to disappoint.”

This had better be one Hell of a reward due Walpole, for him to navigate unknown waters like these.

Rogers had stepped aside to fiddle with something as du Casse spoke. At Edward's voice, he looked up. “Up for a bit of sport, Duncan? The old man isn't ready for us yet.” He gestured to a case laid out beside him; it held four pistols, fine examples of the gunsmith's art if ever Edward had seen them. At the far end of the terrace, it seemed Rogers, or possibly du Casse, had set up a number of wooden mannequins. Target shooting, then, and for an audience. It seemed churlish to turn down the opportunity, so Edward stepped to the case, examining each pistol in turn. As he tucked them into easily accessed spots in his- Walpole's- clothing, Rogers noted, “You've got my two best pairs of matched pistols, Duncan, so handle with care.”

“If I had eight, I'd treat each as my own son,” Edward said, and meant it. They really were fine weapons.

Woodes indicated the mannequins with what might have been a genuine smile. “Pull off a few shots, if you like. Get a feel for it.”

It was the tone of a man justifiably proud of his gear. Edward nodded and took aim; the mannequin spurted splinters and smoke. As he drew the next pistol and fired on another, du Casse absently noted, “I once fought beside a man who carried nine on his person. They were a boon in battle but hindered his ability to swim, sadly.”

“Quite,” said Edward, who was busy laying waste to the third and fourth mannequins before the inevitable tedious business of reloading.

Du Casse shook his head, watching. “I long for the day where one firearm carries four bullets, and not the opposite,” he said.

“I have a friend in England you may like to meet, Julien,” said Rogers. “James Puckle. He's working on something extraordinary.”

Du Casse laughed, saying something in French. Then he went silent, watching Edward fire again. As the pistols were lowered for the second time he said, “Duncan. Where are your wrist blades? I have never seen an assassin so ill equipped.”

“Ah-” Edward winced, remembering the thing he'd been unable to identify on Walpole's corpse. “Damaged, sadly. Beyond all repair.”

“Hm,” said du Casse, but apparently it was not a sound of disbelief; the Frenchman gestured to a nearby iron-bound chest. “Well, then. Have your choice.”

Cautiously, Edward opened the chest. Inside were no fewer than eight of the peculiar weapons the dead Walpole had worn. Edward whistled in surprise. “Where did you find all these?” he said.

“I did not find them. I took them. These are souvenirs,” said du Casse.

There was something Edward did not much like in the man's tone. He merely nodded, selecting a pair of the weapons and strapping them on. They seemed simple enough, now that he knew what they were meant to be. A little pressure in the right place would spring out a hidden blade near as long as his own hand. He could do real damage with that, if his target were unwary.

“Two blades, as is the custom, hm?” said du Casse.

“Custom, aye.”

Du Casse and Rogers began to walk towards th emansion. Edward moved to follow. “The assassins have trained you well, Duncan,” the Frenchman said. “You chose a perfect time to leave them behind.”

“At great risk, I imagine,” added Rogers. “Betraying the assassins is never good for one's health.”

“Well, neither is drinking liquor, but I am drawn to its dangers all the same,” said Edward easily. To the Frenchman he said, “And what is your business here, Sir? Are you an associate of the governor's? Or a pending acquaintance like myself?”

Du Casse shook his head. “Guns, blades, cannons, grenadoes... Anything that may kill a man, I am happy to provide,” he said.

“Ah, a smuggler of sorts,” said Edward. Du Casse nodded. “And how is your wife these days, captain Rogers? Is she, ah, here in Havana?”

A scowl twisted Rogers' face. “I trust she's well,” he said shortly. “But I wouldn't know. I have been in Madagascar some fourteen months, hunting pirates. It took some work to dislodge the criminals there, but we managed. In future, I hope to use these same tactics throughout the West Indies.”

Edward made a mental note of that for future recall. Aloud he said only, “And how did you deal with their kind?”

Again, that barking, humorless laugh. “Very simply. Most pirates are as ignorant as apes. I merely offered them a choice... Take a pardon and return to England penniless but free men, or be hanged by the neck until dead.”

“Ah. I imagine Nassau would be your next target?”

Woodes almost smiled. “Very astute, Duncan. Indeed.”

“Best of luck with that.”

As they reached a lesser terrace just outside the mansion, Edward's two companions began to stand a little straighter, almost without knowing it. “Grand Master Torres,” Rogers announced, “Mister Duncan Walpole has arrived.”

Laureano de Torres y Ayala was an older man- somewhere well past seventy, no doubt- with an aquiline profile and an air of dignity about him. His piercing blue eyes swept over Edward, and he said something in Spanish, then: “You were expected one week ago.”

“Apologies, governor.” Edward coughed lightly. “My ship was set upon by pirates. We were scuttled. I arrived only yesterday.”

Torres nodded. “Unfortunate,” he said, with the sound of one who knew only too well what it was to run afoul of pirates. “Forgive my caution, but were you able to salvage from these pirates the items you promised me?”

“Ah, yes Sir, I was.” Hastily, Edward patted his pockets, turning up the maps and the odd crystal cube he'd recovered first from Walpole's corpse, then from the Spanish fort. Torres held the cube up to the light, turning it this way and that. Then he tucked it into a pocket of his own and fingered the maps.

“Incredible,” he finally said. “The assassins have more resources than I had imagined but... not nearly enough to deter us. It is a pleasure to meet you at last, Duncan. You are most welcome.” He smiled, a warm and genuine expression, and gestured towards his home. “Come, gentlemen. We have much to discuss.”

First all of this talk of assassins, and now this 'Grand Master' business; Edward didn't know what to think. Well, no, that wasn't true entirely. He knew he was in over his head.

Well, no way through the maelstrom except to ride it out.

Inside the mansion's doors was a broad-windowed room with a great wooden table in the middle. Torres lay the maps down on the table, spreading one out for examination, and then looked up at his guests. “Convened at last,” he said. “And in such continental company... England, France, Spain... citizens of sad and corrupt empires. But you are Templars now. The secret and true legislators of the world.”

Wait, what?

“Please, hold out your hands,” Torres said. The other men did so immediately; Edward hurriedly followed suit, hoping against hope that this was only his way of handing out a reward. Alas, it was not to be.

“Mark and remember our purpose,” he said, and reached for Rogers' hand. As he slid what looked to be a broad gold ring onto the man's finger, Torres said, “To guide all wayward souls 'til they reach a quiet road.” He turned to du Casse. “To guide all wayward desire 'til impassioned hearts are cooled.” To Edward, then, and it was the work of a lifetime to keep his face impassive as Torres said, “To guide all wayward minds to safe and sober thought.”

Well, if nothing else edward would get a ring out of it. That was worth something.

(Not much, but something.)

Torres looked the three of them over and nodded in satisfaction. “By the Father of Understanding's Light, let our work now begin,” he said, and his tone grew more sober. “Decades ago, the Counsel entrusted me with the task of locating in these West Indies a forgotten place our precursors once called the Observatory. See here...”

He spread the maps out more fully and waved the men in closer. “Look upon these images and commit them to memory. They tell a very old and important story,” he said. “For two decades now I have endeavored to locate this Observatory... a place rumoured to contain a tool of incredible utility and power. It houses a kind of armillary sphere, if you like. A device that would grant us the power to locate and monitor EVERY man and woman on Earth, whatever their location. Only imagine what it would mean to have such a power. With this device, there would be no secrets among men. No lies. No trickery. Only justice. Pure justice. This is the Observatory's promise. And we must take it for our own.”

Torres sounded as if he believed it. More, he sounded as if he was the sort of man not much given to believing fairy tales. If there truly were such a device- and given the witchcraft Edward'd seen at Milliways, it was entirely possible such a thing might be- then... why, the reward for delivering it into the governor's hands ought to be rich indeed. This, then, was worth pursuing-

“Do we know its whereabouts?” Rogers said, interrupting Edward's speculation.

Torres shook his head. “We will soon. For in our custody is the one man who does. A man named Roberts, once called a Sage.”

Du Casse snorted, an ungentlemanly sound. “It has been forty-five years since anyone has seen a true Sage,” he said. “Can you be sure this one is authentic?”

“We are confident he is.”

“The Assassins will come for him,” Rogers pointed out.

“Indeed they will,” said Torres. “But... thanks to Duncan and the information he has delivered, the Assassins won't be a problem for much longer. All will be made clear tomorrow, gentlemen, when you meet the sage for yourselves. Until then...”

Torres stepped over to a great ornamental globe that sat in one corner of the room and undid a bronze catch at its equator. Opening it, he took out a bottle of some vintage Edward had never seen, and several fine glasses. “Let us drink. Let us find the Observatory together. For with its power, kings will fall, clergy will cower, and hearts and minds of the world will be ours.”

Truly, such a thing was worth a great reward. Edward had no doubt of that, nor of Torres' being willing to pay it to one of his fellow... templars. Whatever that meant, really. He smiled, murmured his assent, and raised the glass Torres gave him.

The men drained their glasses together. Then Torres turned to Edward and said, “Rest well, Duncan. Tomorrow the Treasure Fleet arrives, and with it your reward. After which, we will discuss further schemes.”

A reward part of a royal Treasure Fleet? That truly was worth all the trouble. Edward smiled and said, “I look forward to it.”

Torres nodded. “¡Excellente!” he said. “Meet me down at the docks, first thing tomorrow morning.”

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jackdaws_master: Blond scruffy guy in early 1700s clothes on a dock, looking up at something offscreen (Default)
Captain Edward Kenway

March 2014

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