you used to stumble on your feet as a child. clumsy, tripping over carpet from dragging the tips of your toes on the floor of versailles, you remember your father tugging you along by your hand as you and your short legs tried to keep up with him. you remember a tray of food passing by, held up out of reach by a servant who paid you no mind, a shiny red apple sparkling on the corner of the tray catching your eye. "arno."
brown eyes went from the apple on the large tray to your father, beckoning you over to a plush red armchair in the hallway, and you scrambled over to it, hoisting yourself up and taking a seat.
"can't i go with you, father?"
"courage, my boy. you wait just here. i will return when this hand,"
he pulls out his pocket watch and hands it to you, pointing at the hands of the clock. "reaches the top."
you frown. "but that's forever."
your father told you it wasn't too long, that when he'd get back, the two of you would go see the fireworks. you'd always loved fireworks.
now they just leave you with a bitter taste in your mouth.
your father stands, straightens himself and dusts himself off before turning to walk away. he stops in his tracks and turns around to face you and there's a playful smile on his face. "oh, and arno? no exploring."
(maybe if you'd listened, he'd still be alive.)
sliding down in the chair as he walked away, you looked down to the pocket watch left in your hands and let out a heavy sigh. the palais de versailles is a magnificent place, filled with glamorous architecture, vibrant golds and reds shimmering throughout the hallways, oil portraits of royalty hung over neatly carved walls--but it was a child's laugh that pulled you away from your innermost bored thoughts. fiery red hair and bright eager eyes peeked at you from behind a statue, and soon she was turning and leaving, skittering off as silently as she came, beckoning you to follow.
children are curious. you were curious. captivated.
her name was elise de la serre.
it was with elise that you committed your first real crime. stealing that shiny apple, after sneaking around the backs of the guards with stealth that a clumsy child like yourself couldn't have guessed you'd have. "did you see their faces when we stole those apples?" she grinned at you, holding your arm and tugging you around a corner. "what should we do now?" you smiled, adrenaline still holding steady even when elise reached forward and pressed a finger to your lips, shushing you quickly. the sound of people shouting was heard in the distance and guards were suddenly running past, your first gut instinct told you that they were coming for you because you'd stolen an apple. you were a thief, a criminal, you swallowed back the fear that welled up in your throat and you sucked in a breath, taking a step forward towards the guards passing you by. "it was my fault!" confessing immediately, "i'm the one who took the apple!"
they didn't even blink, the guards didn't even look down at you, they kept their gaze straight ahead as they ran down the hall with purpose. "lets see where they're going!" elise's voice chimed out, and she took hold of your hand once again. running through finely adorned rooms dripping in jewels, you came right back to where your father had left you, instantly on edge because of a strange commotion happening by the chair you'd only minutes before left. had it been only minutes? had it been longer? you didn't check the pocket watch.
pulling it out of your pocket, you went to look down at it when suddenly you saw a figure on the ground through the legs of the crowd of people. "father?" tentatively, you called out--and as you stepped closer, your tone became more frantic, "father?"
pushing through the crowd you were nearly shaking by the time you made it to the front, eyes falling to the man on the ground before you. you lost your voice. standing, stark still and your mouth went dry. time slows down in those moments, and it did figuratively and literally as the pocket watch you'd been clutching in your left hand fell to the floor, glass shattering beside your father's body.
frozen in place at 2:29pm, with 5 seconds to 2:30pm, you can never forget the exact moment you found your father dead.
(you should've stayed. oh god, you should've stayed.)
you are taken in by the de la serre family, growing up under their privileged roof as their ward, you have no title anymore, you are still the son of charles and marie dorian but they are names that are forgotten by others in the hectic world that is revolutionary france.
elise becomes you best friend and partner in crime, the two of you are inseparable, romance was inevitable between the two of you when you are younger, and you're both about eighteen years old when you've courted her and you are free to kiss her behind closed doors and not at all in the public eye. she is the daughter of monsieur de la serre, she shouldn't be seen kissing some boy with no name such as yourself.
it seems, however, that you were never destined to have it easy. you are nothing in the eyes of the world that surrounds you, it swallows you whole when the night of elise's soirée you witness her father's murder and are blamed for it. why would you ever kill the man who took you in? raised you as his ward? he treated you with kindness, he looked at you as though you were his own flesh and blood. why did no one believe that? you suppose you should've assumed that no one would believe a boy who's been surrounded by death ever since he was a child. everything you touch seems to end up ruined and destroyed, a relic of what it once was. you didn't mean to ruin the only family you had since your father's death. even if you didn't kill him, even if you were innocent, you harbored the guilt yourself and you break down on the inside knowing elise might think the liar's statements are true.
you are sent to prison and locked away.
sent, is a nice way of saying it. you are dragged into the cells of a tall tower, you are beaten and broken down, nothing left in your possession but that pocket watch, you are thrown into a cell with other men who eye you like you are fresh meat, like you are nothing and you suppose by now you are used to those sorts of looks. now? you truly are nothing. you are trembling as you lay on a mattress by the wall, you are weak and your body seems like dead weight and you don't know why it's so easy for you to lay here considering you don't feel safe. there's writing on the wall that makes you sick to your stomach, words that glow a strange blue and you drift off to sleep reading them over and over again, not understanding the meaning behind some of the symbols and words.
your life is over.
(or perhaps it had only just begun?)
at first you think pierre bellec is a crazy man, turned mad after being locked away in prison for far too long, and he's holding your pocket watch when you awake and he recognizes it, he says he knew your father and suddenly he's acting like your friend and you are loathe to trust him. but what else do you have? you're locked away, you figure you might as well attempt to get along with your cell mates and he knows exactly what markings you see on the wall mean, he says you have the fittings to be an assassin, that you're just like your father, that you could be great and you wonder if it's the boredom or heartbreak that lets you believe in him.
you know elise won't want to see you now that you've been accused of killing her father, but could she truly believe you are capable of such a thing? you've never killed before, and it's not until a riot is happening outside the prison, the french revolution is bursting at the seams all around you and bellec has been training you inside your prison cell for a while by then. he says this rebellion, this revolution is your opportunity, and when a cannonball fires through the prison, causing panic all around you, bellec leads as you fight your way out to the top of the prison, all the way up to the roof, being chased by guards and cutting through them with stolen weapons was a rush but you knew you were heading in the wrong direction. bellec tells you your choices today will change your future, should you follow him.
you make it to the roof, you were cornered and bellec smirked at you, seemingly all-knowing (which always got on your nerves), and he jumps. dives right off the top of the prison towards the river below and your breath stops for a moment as you try to scramble to decide what to do. do you follow? or risk being caught by the guards and executed? spinning on your heels, you looked back to the guards who were running your way and swallowing thickly, sucking in a deep breath, you turned back to the river and like an eagle, you jumped off the edge and dove towards the water below you.
and in that moment, you'd made the decision.
following in your father's footsteps, befriending his dear trusted companion, you took one step closer to becoming an assassin.
you emerge from the water a new man, with new purpose, but also you are tied by the history you hold dear. you are free now, and there is the overwhelmingly itching anticipation to see elise. it's because of bellec that you have learned that her father was a templar, and you needed more than anything to let your best friend and former lover know that you were innocent in the crimes claimed against you. you'd never kill monsieur de la serre, you weren't like that--and when you find her, she admits right upfront that she, too, is a templar.
she's dismissive of you in a way that feels more painful than any sort of physical harm. disappointment in her eyes, she looks at you like the two of you were never anything but acquaintances all your life. that all seems unimportant in comparison to what she tells you next, pulling out a letter you'd received on the day of her father's death, a letter handed to you with the instructions of getting it to monsieur de la serre immediately. you hadn't done it, you were so preoccupied by getting into this soiree, that you'd slid the closed envelope under his office door and left.
the very letter had information about a possible assassination plot against him. it was your fault that he'd died, it was your fault he'd been unprepared and unaware that his life was in danger.
"i had nothing to do with the death of your father!"
"but you did."
there is a sadness in her eyes as she watched you look over the letter with confusion. "elise, how could i have known?"
she wants nothing to do with you, and you leave elise there feeling nothing but guilt and disgust at yourself, and it's that very need to make things better that leads you to follow bellec's suggestion and find him and the assassin council. they give you rules, they want to help you have solidity in your life and you are put under the watchful eyes of bellec and made his apprentice for a while. it's during this time that you find out elise's life is in danger, and despite the fact that she is a templar and therefore on the opposing side, you want to protect her. isn't that what being an assassin is all about? you are serious, you take your position as assassin seriously and once you are no longer a trainee you continue to do so. perhaps at times you are too serious, but you've lost so many people in your life and you're still so young, if being an assassin can help save those closest to you, that's all that matters.
when you go through your tests to be inducted into the assassin's council, you are put under bellec's close watch. he's still your mentor, and you're still an apprentice, wide eyed and ready to go after those who harmed your loved ones. being an assassin is not about revenge, arno. he's right. you know he's right, and yet you still let those thoughts of revenge consume you, you think about killing your father and elise's father's killers nearly every day. maybe if you got revenge, you'd get your friend back. you were idealistic and naive at the time.
(you should've never let yourself be so fueled by revenge.)
your life flashes by you so quickly nowadays. elise being a templar, elise being hunted herself by those who had murdered her father, how could you have not helped? how could you go on living knowing you didn't try your best to save her? you hadn't been able to save her father, or your father, and surely elise could handle herself, but you'd already felt so lost and alone in the world and there was no way you could let yourself sit idly by. someone wanted her dead.
and she was the only thing left in your life that made you feel human.
she was the only person who reminded you that you were once a troublemaker, you were once light hearted and gambled with street thugs only to cheat them, she was a piece of yourself before everything went to hell.
you did everything you could to protect her. she knew you cared for her more than anything else in the world, she knew that she meant everything to you. if only she saw the look of betrayal on your face when you found that bellec, your very own mentor, was the man who wanted elise to be dead. "you're a traitor, arno! she's a templar, she deserves to die!"
if only elise had seen the look on your face as you fought him to the death, you let him show you what a traitor you really were, you pierced him through the heart with your blade and you all but sobbed over his limp body as you realized that nothing you touched, nothing you loved would ever be yours for long. no one was safe. and elise? you'd helped her this time, you'd killed your own mentor in order to protect her, you were subsequently thrust from the assassin's order, stripped of your title as assassin, all for elise.
and it hadn't even paid off.
germain was the man responsible, you'd found that much. he's a tyrant, trying to get on board of the french revolution in order to take over france for himself, in order to destroy those you loved and you did everything by elise's side in order to find him and end him. not only for yourself, not only for her, but for all of france, for all of those who couldn't fight for themselves.
you had it all planned out. everything, down to the slightest action, and you were going to end germain's legacy and cruelty for good.
(you knew that if the time came, you would sacrifice yourself for elise.)
the two of you fought germain, you had the upper hand, two skilled fighters going against one man, one man corrupted by violence and power lust--using whatever power he'd harnessed in the piece of eden he'd found, a magical item you'd never even laid eyes on before, a pillar came down and pinned you to the ground, elise was free and after using the magic, germain was weak--"wait for me! elise! please!" you pleaded, your voice breaking in fear, everything was spinning, your mind was going blank except for the ringing in your ears, and with a kiss on your forehead, elise was gone, running off after germain as you struggled to pull yourself free from the wreakage.
you heard nothing else then. the ringing hadn't stopped, but it almost swallowed you whole, left you weak as you crawled out from under the pillar and limped forward to see the rubble around you, the dust of clay and rock and germain and elise's bodies laid out before you. elise wasn't moving.
"elise, elise, elise please--!" rushing over to her with a waver in your movements, you dropped to her body and took her face in your hands and begged her to wake up, please, pleaseplease, not you too oh god not you too-- and there was no light in her eyes. no stagger of breath, no rise and fall of her chest, she was heavy in your arms.
and you heard germain choke in the background and you wiped away the tears that formed in your eyes and had run down your cheek and you turned to look at the man who'd destroyed your entire life laying there, gasping for air. trying to reach for you, and the thought that you would leave him there to suffer passed through your mind. you wanted to make him suffer and yet, against your own mind's aggression, you stood, defeat so evident in your posture as you went to his side and knelt to get close to him. he opened his mouth to speak, as though he were going to say one last final thing, something to upset you further, and without hesitation, slowly, you guided your hidden blade right through his neck.
you'd lost everything.
it should've been you that perished.
you wouldn't know until you carried elise's body out of the temple and brought her home, safe and sound to prepare for a funeral, that she'd never expected to make it out of the temple alive.
as i write this you are asleep. if the light wakes you, i'll have some explaining to do, but at this moment you are sleeping peacefully. tomorrow is the day, it seems—the culmination of five long years, our moment of revenge. so why can i not quiet this part of me which fears that, at the tipping point, you will flinch?
is it that i fear you loved my father less than i? or do i doubt your resolve to strike the killing blow? i do not think so. rather i fear that you have lost so much already that you cannot bear to lose more. i think that you would let germain rule france if you thought it would save me.
have you ever known me to need saving? have you ever had cause to think that i would accept it if it were offered? my fate is my own. my choice is my own.
if somehow we both return from this, i will burn this letter. if you are reading it now, then i made my choice there in the temple. know that i made it gladly, and do not take the burden of it onto yourself. be at peace, my love, and walk what path you will.
all my love,