These men I'm sent to kill are wicked. They profit from the war. And so I am sent to stop them, and ensure that peace returns. But then why do the Merchant King's words dig so deeply? Is it wrong for me to see a bit of truth in them? I should return to Al Mualim, that he may help me make sense of this and crush these seeds of doubt.
Altaïr entered the Merchant King's Palace and waited. Abu'l Nuqoud soon emerged from his quarters to address the crowd from a balcony.
- Abu'l: Welcome, welcome! Thank you all, for joining me this evening. Please, eat, drink, enjoy all the pleasures I have to offer! Take your time, I will wait.
The fountain began to fill with wine, and several people moved in to fill their cups.
- Abu'l: I trust everything is to your satisfaction?
- Civilians: Most excellent, most excellent, thank you.
- Abu'l: Good, good. It pleases me to see you all so happy. For these are dark days, my friends, and we must enjoy this bounty, while we still can. War threatens to consume us all. Salāḥ ad-Dīn bravely fights for what he believes in, and you are always there to support him without question. It is your generosity, that allows this campaign to continue. So, I propose a toast then! To you, my dear friends. You have brought us to where we are today. May you be given everything you deserve.
Loud cheering was heard from the crowd.
- Abu'l: Such kindness! I didn't think it in you! You, who have been so quick to judge me! And so cruel.
The crowd seemed shocked at the Merchant King's accusations.
- Abu'l: Oh, do not feign ignorance! Do you take me for a fool? That I have not heard the words whispered behind my back? Well, I have, and I fear I can never forget. But this is not why I called you here tonight, no. I wish to speak more of this war, and your part in it. You give up your coin, quick as can be, knowing all too well it buys the deaths of thousands. You don't even know why we fight. "The Sanctity of the Holy Land" you'll say. Or "The Evil Inclination of our enemies." But these are lies you tell yourselves!
- Abu'l: No. All this suffering is borne of fear and hate! It bothers you that they are different, just as it bothers you that I am different!
Abu'l drank the rest of his wine before continuing.
- Abu'l: Compassion, mercy, tolerance. These words mean nothing to any of you! Mean nothing to those infidel invaders, who ravage our land in search of gold and glory! And so, I say enough! I've pledged myself to another cause. One that will bring about a new world in which all people might live, side by side, in peace. A pity none of you will live to see it.
A man in the crowd hunched over, coughing violently, and eventually collapsed and died, affected by the poisoned wine. Several more people followed, while the rest ran in terror as archers took aim at the crowd.
- Abu'l: Kill anyone who tries to escape!
Altaïr managed to climb the palace walls and escape the courtyard. He navigated the building and eventually assassinated the Merchant King.
- Altaïr: Be at peace now. Their words can no longer do harm.
- Abu'l: Why have you done this?
- Altaïr: You stole money from those you claim to lead. Sent it away for some unknown purpose. I want to know where it's gone and why.
- Abu'l: Look at me! My very nature is an affront to the people I ruled. And these noble robes did little more than to muffle their shouts of hate.
- Altaïr: So this is about vengeance then.
- Abu'l: No, not vengeance, but my conscience. How could I finance a war in service to the same God that calls me an abomination?
- Altaïr: If you do not serve Salāḥ ad-Dīn's cause then whose?
- Abu'l: In time you'll come to know them. I think perhaps, you already do.
- Altaïr: Then why hide? And why these dark deeds?
- Abu'l: Is it so different than your own work? You take the lives of men and women, strong in the conviction that their deaths will improve the lots of those left behind. A minor evil, for a greater good? We are the same.
- Altaïr: No, we are nothing alike.
- Abu'l: Ah, but I see it in your eyes. You doubt. You cannot stop us. We will have our new world.
Altaïr escaped Abu'l palace and returned to the Bureau afterwards.
- Rafiq: Word has reached me of your success, Altaïr.
- Altaïr: Abu'l Nuqoud's reign of terror is at an end.
- Rafiq: I'm glad to hear it.
- Altaïr: He killed them. The men and women at his party. It was poison, a coward's tool. Blamed them for the war. Said he wished to end it.
- Rafiq: Strange. But then again the Merchant King was known to be a bit... different. Perhaps this was simply a symptom of his madness.
- Altaïr: Perhaps.
- Rafiq: You sound unconvinced. Speak with Al Mualim then. He may offer a better explanation.
- Altaïr: Yes, we'll see what he has to say...
Altaïr left the Bureau and returned to Masyaf. He found his Master near a bookshelf in the study.
- Al Mualim: Come, Altaïr. Speak with me a moment.
- Altaïr: As you wish.
- Al Mualim: Word has reached me of your success. You've my gratitude, and that of the realm. Freeing these cities from their corrupt leaders will no doubt promote the cause of peace.
- Altaïr: Can you really be so sure?
- Al Mualim: The means by which men rule are reflected in their people. As you cleanse the cities of corruption, you heal the hearts and minds of those who live within.
- Altaïr: Our enemies would disagree.
- Al Mualim: What do you mean?
- Altaïr: Each man I've slain has confessed strange words to me. They are without regret. Even in death they seem confident of their success. Though they do not admit it directly, there is a tie that binds them. I'm sure of it.
- Al Mualim: There is a difference, Altaïr, between what we are told to be true, and what we see to be true. Most men do not bother to make the distinction. It is simpler that way. But as an Assassin, it is your nature to notice, to question.
- Altaïr: Then what is it that connects these men?
- Al Mualim: Ah, but as an Assassin, it is also your duty to still these thoughts, and trust in your Master. For there can be no true peace without order. And order requires authority.
- Altaïr: You speak in circles, Master! You commend me for being aware, then ask me not to be. Which is it?
- Al Mualim: The question will be answered when you no longer need to ask it.
- Altaïr: I assume you called me here for more than just a lecture.
Al Mualim chuckled.
- Al Mualim: Very well. A rank and weapon are again restored to you. Two more leaders remain. Go and see to it that their rule is ended.
Altaïr assassinated Abu'l Nuqoud, and returned to Masyaf for further instructions.