Cautiously he set foot on a wooden jetty, its black boards shiny with seawater, along which five small single-sail dhows were ranked, fishing boats from the smell of them, but sturdy, and two of them had all their gear stowed aboard, as far as Ezio could see. Then the hairs on the back of his neck prickled.
Too late. Before Ezio had time to turn, he was knocked flat on his face by the weight of the man who'd thrown himself on him. Big man, that much Ezio could sense. Very big. He was pinning Ezio down by the size of his body alone; it was like struggling under a massive, muscular eiderdown. Ezio wrenched his right hand free so that he could unleash his hidden blade, but his wrist was instantly grasped in a grip of iron. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that the hand that held his wrist was cuffed with a manacle from which two broken chain links dangled.
Gathering his strength, Ezio twisted violently and suddenly to his left, digging his elbow hard into a part of the eiderdown that he hoped was tender. He was fortunate. The man pinioning him grunted in pain and relaxed his hold a fraction. It was enough. Following through, Ezio heaved with his shoulder and managed to roll the body off his own. Like lightning he was up on one knee, his left hand on the man's throat, his right poised to strike.
Ezio's moment of triumph was short. The man knocked his right hand away, the iron manacle on his left hand, similarly adorned with a couple of chain links, struck Ezio's wrist painfully despite the protection of the hidden blade's harness. Ezio found his left wrist now caught in another vice-like grip, which slowly but inexorably forced his hold on the man's throat to weaken.
The man was unarmed but the iron manacles could do a lot of damage, used as weapons.They rolled over, each trying to get the better of the other, putting in blows where they could, but although his assailant was bulky, he was quick, and Ezio's blade never found a mark. At last they separated and stood, grunting, out of breath, hunched, facing each other. The man was unarmed but the iron manacles could do a lot of damage, used as weapons.
Then, from a short distance away, there was a flash of light from a lantern and a cry.
'The Watch!' said the man. 'Down!'
Instinctively, Ezio followed his lead as they dived into the nearest dhow, flattening themselves in its bottom. Ezio's mind was racing. In the flash of light from the lantern, he had seen the man's face and recognized him. How could it be?
But there was no time to worry about that now. They could hear the footfalls of the Watch scurrying towards the jetty.
'They saw us, may Allah blind them,' said the man.
'Better see to them. You ready?'
Astonished, Ezio nodded mutely in the dark.
'I'll finish you off once we've seen to them,' the man added.
'I wouldn't bet on it.'
There was no time for any more talk as the five men of the Watch were already upon them. Fortunately they hesitated before throwing themselves down into the dark well of the boat where Ezio and his unlikely ally now stood, and contented themselves with standing on the jetty, waving their weapons and yelling threats.
The big man regarded them. 'Easy meat,' he said. 'But we'd better take them now, before they attract too much attention.'
In reply, Ezio braced himself, crouched, and leapt up to the jetty, catching its edge and hauling himself up onto it in one – these days – not quite fluid movement. In the moment it took him to catch his breath, three of the Watch were upon him, bludgeoning him to the ground with heavy truncheons, while a fourth man approached, swirling a short but wicked-looking sword. He raised it for the coup-de-grâce, but in that instant he was lifted bodily by the scruff of the neck from behind, and hurled howling backwards and upwards, to land with a sickening crash a long way further down the jetty, where he lay moaning, several of his bones broken.
He cursed himself for not having strapped on his gun, but it was too late for that now.As Ezio's three other attackers were distracted, Ezio sprang to his feet and snapped out his hidden blade, slicing down two of them in two quick, efficient strokes. Meanwhile, the big man was struggling with the lamp holder, another giant, who had thrown his pole aside and drawn a massive Damascus, which he waved threateningly over the head of his opponent, who held him in a wrestler's body grip. Ezio could see that at any moment the thick blade would come down square into the broad back of the big man. He cursed himself for not having strapped on his gun, but it was too late for that now. He grabbed a fallen truncheon and, shoving the remaining watchman aside with his elbow, hurled it at the head of the lantern man.
His aim had – thank God! – been true. The truncheon struck the lantern man square between the eyes and he staggered back, falling to his knees. Then Ezio felt a sharp pain in his side. The surviving member of the Watch had drawn a dagger and stabbed him. He sank down, and, before his world went black, saw the big man running towards him…
Assassin's Creed: Revelations by Oliver Bowden is out now in Penguin Paperback and eBook, Amazon Kindle Edition and as an Apple iBook.