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Masyaf

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"An imposing castle of many turrets, surrounded by shimmering rivers, it presided over the bustling village below, the settlement a high point within the Orontes Valley. An oasis of peace. A paradise."
―Niccolò Polo describes Masyaf.[src]
Masyaf
AC1 Masyaf Fortress
Political information
Sovereign state

Independent city-state

Ruling body

Assassins (c.1176 – 1257)
Templars (c.1511)

Date abandoned

1257

Additional information
Flags

Twenty Assassin flags

Assassination targets

Masyaf was an isolated mountain municipality, located in the Orontes Valley in Western Syria.

It once served as a base of operations for the Assassin Order during the High Middle Ages, but fell into disrepair after the Mongol siege of 1257. By the early 16th century, it was, for a time, occupied by Byzantine Templars.

History

Saracen siege

Main article: Siege of Masyaf

In 1176, the fortress came under siege from Saladin, who hoped to prevent the Assassins from making a third, more successful attempt on his life. On the second night of the siege, Master Assassin Umar Ibn-La'Ahad infiltrated the Sultan's tent, and left a knife in Saladin's sleeping pallet. However, Saladin awoke and raised the alarm, and Umar was forced to kill a Saracen general during his escape.[1]

Heeding the warning, Saladin left Masyaf, his only condition being that he was brought the head of the one who had killed the nobleman. At first the Assassins refused, however, Saladin's advisor threatened the life of the Assassins' spy they had captured, Ahmad Sofian. Umar then volunteered to forfeit his life in exchange for Ahmad's and was executed by Shihab Al'din. Afterwards, the siege concluded and the Saracens left Masyaf.[1]

Skirmish with the Crusaders

Main article: Assault on Masyaf
Mentor's keeper 5

The Assassins fighting the Templars

In 1189, Masyaf was attacked by Templar Crusaders after one of their agents infiltrated the ranks of the Assassin Order; the fortress was captured by the Crusaders, after which the Mentor of the Levantine Assassins, Rashid ad-Din Sinan, was held hostage. As a result, a battle between the two forces raged on in the village, however, through the efforts of the young Assassin Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, the fortress was reclaimed and Al Mualim saved. With the fortress recaptured, the Assassins were able to drive the Templars from Masyaf.[2]

Templar siege

Main article: Defense of Masyaf
Siege of Masyaf Templars

Robert during the siege on Masyaf

In 1191, Al Mualim came into possession of an Apple of Eden, an object the Templars also sought. Therefore, the Templars, led at that point by Robert de Sable, attacked Masyaf in an attempt to regain the Apple.[3]

A battle in the village ensued, and the Assassins were able to fend off the Templars long enough for the citizens to escape. Once the villagers had successfully sought shelter in the Assassins' fortress, Al Mualim called the Assassins back. Robert soon arrived with a large force of Templars, demanding Al Mualim give him the Apple.[3]

However, the Assassins sprang a trap, utilizing several logs of timber to eradicate the Templar forces who had been at the fortress gate. With many of his troops killed, Robert retreated from Masyaf.[3]

Struggle for the Apple

Later that same year, in September of 1191, Al Mualim used the Apple to enslave the population of Masyaf; he was able to mesmerize the citizens so that they were under his command. However, Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad was able to thwart his former Mentor's plan, assassinating Al Mualim. With the death of the corrupted Mentor, the Assassins and the citizens of Masyaf returned to their original state of mind.[3]

Mentor's wake 5

Abbas Sofian arguing with Altaïr

Shortly following this however, many Assassins refused to accept Al Mualim's betrayal and rebelled against Altaïr. His fellow Assassin and long-time rival, Abbas Sofian, threw Altaïr from a cliff, and recovered the Apple in one of the fortress' towers. However, Abbas became overwhelmed by the power of the Apple, and surrendered to Altaïr.[1][3]

Later, sometime before 1227, Abbas staged a coup d'état and was able to take over the Order. Losing control of the Assassins in Syria, Altaïr fled the city, and entered a self-imposed exile.[1]

Decline of Masyaf

Altaïr: "You say these men are cruel. Has anyone raised his blade against an innocent?"
Assassin: "Alas, yes. Brutality seems to be their sole joy."
―Altaïr and an Assassin ally discussing Abbas' men.[src]

During Abbas' twenty year reign, Masyaf went through large amounts of change; the members of the Order no longer trained daily, and the overall discipline was lost within the Brotherhood. Taxes were collected from the people, but nothing was provided in return.[1]

Mentor's return 2

Altaïr and his supporters in Masyaf

However, two decades later in 1247, Altaïr returned to Masyaf with the intention of gathering allies and eliminating Abbas. He was able to recruit four Assassins who shared his dislike of Abbas, and had been standing guard at the city gate.[2]

Armed with his new allies, Altaïr moved through the city, eliminating the corrupt Assassin Captains and eventually reaching the fortress. There, Altaïr had a brief argument with Abbas over the Apple Altaïr had maintained, which resulted in Altaïr shooting Abbas with his newly constructed Hidden Gun. With the death of Abbas, Altaïr regained the title of Mentor of the Levantine Assassins.[2]

Visit from the Polo brothers

A decade later, in 1257, the fortress was visited by Niccolò and Maffeo Polo, who were guests of the Order, invited by Altaïr's eldest son, Darim. The two men had been chosen to spread the Creed of the Assassins in their homeland of Italy, where Altaïr had failed to do so. However, during the Polos' six month stay, Masyaf was once more besieged, this time by Mongolians seeking revenge for the Assassins' role in Genghis Khan's death.[1]

The torch 4

Altaïr escorting the Polo brothers out of Masyaf castle

Though limited in number after the disbandment of the Order, the remaining Assassins kept the Mongols at bay long enough for the Polo brothers to escape through an escort from Altaïr and Darim. Before the Polo brothers left, however, Altaïr bequeathed to Niccolò his personal journal, five keys imbued with a message, and many of his library books.[2]

Immediately following the siege, Altaïr ordered that the remainder of the Brotherhood should be spread throughout the world, effectively ending the reign of the Assassins in Masyaf. He bid farewell to his son Darim, and locked himself inside his library with the Apple, leaving the artifact for posterity, before perishing peacefully on a chair.[2]

Arrival of Ezio Auditore

"Masyaf has not been home to the Assassins for almost 300 years now. Can we still claim it for our own? Are we welcome there?"
―Ezio Auditore in a letter to his sister Claudia, 1511.[src]

More than two and a half centuries after the fortress was abandoned, a battalion of Byzantine Templars had taken control of Masyaf. The Byzantines patrolled throughout the city and fortress, while a worker attempted to break open the door to Altaïr's library. A Templar captain named Leandros oversaw the Byzantine forces, and ensured that the city remained in their control.[2]

In March of 1511, the Mentor of the Italian Assassins, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, traveled to the mountain castle in order to learn more about his Order's history, and to discover the contents of Altaïr's library. This quest came about after Ezio discovered a letter from his father concerning a library hidden beneath the Masyaf fortress containing invaluable wisdom.[2]

Upon arrival, however, Ezio was attacked by a large group of Byzantine forces, and was eventually captured upon becoming distracted by a vision of Altaïr. Ezio was then dragged to a beam on one of the fortress' towers, and Leandros placed and tightened a noose around the Assassin's neck. However, Ezio was able to overpower Leandros, and threw the noose over Leandros' neck, before jumping down from the beam, landing safely on a ledge jutting out from the fortress.[2]

A Journal 5

Ezio going through the Masyaf castle

Ezio then made his way around Masyaf, eventually learning of Niccolò Polo's journal, an object the Templars possessed. After leaving the fortress, Ezio tailed a Templar Captain through the village, eventually arriving at the city gates. There, Ezio spotted Leandros in his carriage, and began to pursue the Templar, ultimately being forced to cling to a rope hanging from Leandros' wagon.[2]

He managed to maintain his grip on the rope for a short while, before killing a Byzantine and taking a carriage of his own. Ezio then chased Leandros across the mountain paths, eventually arriving at a nearby village. However, one of Leandros' men threw a bomb under Ezio's carriage, sending him into the canyon below.[2]

It took Ezio a short while in the mountains to recover enough from his wounds,[1] before he began to stealthily assassinate Byzantine arquebusiers to make his way into the village. There, Leandros taunted Ezio, before ordering his men to kill the Assassin and retreating to a tower.[2]

The Wounded Eagle 12

Ezio assassinating Leandros

At this point, Byzantine guards attacked Ezio, but were bested by the Assassin. Upon slaying them, Ezio obtained some medicine, and used it to dull the pain of his severe wounds. Revitalized, Ezio then scaled his way up the tall tower Leandros had retreated to. Eventually reaching the tower's apex, Ezio confronted Leandros and stabbed the Templar with his Hidden Blade.[2]

In his final words, Leandros gave Ezio the journal of Niccolò Polo, but informed him that the Templars had already located one of the keys to Altaïr's library, and were closing in on the rest. Before perishing, Leandros also spoke cryptically of a "Grand Temple", passing away before he was able to tell Ezio more about the subject. Armed with Niccolò Polo's journal, and knowledge of the Masyaf Keys, Ezio departed from Masyaf.[2]

Access to Altaïr's library

Homecoming 1

Ezio and Sofia entering Masyaf castle

Later, in 1512, Ezio returned to Masyaf with love interest Sofia Sartor, and the five Masyaf Keys. Ezio and Sofia made their way through the village up to the fortress, and during this walk, Ezio explained his refined interpretation of the Creed to Sofia. The two eventually arrived at a small passageway leading to the library, and Sofia bade Ezio farewell, telling him that he "had better come out of there alive."[2]

After successfully opening the large door to the library, Ezio walked through a passageway into the library, but was shocked to find no books, only a decaying skeleton of the late Mentor, Altaïr. Ezio spotted one last Memory Seal clutched in Altaïr's hand, and took it off the late Mentor's body. Accessing the memory seal, Ezio witnessed as Altaïr bade farewell to his son Darim, and locked himself in the library with an Apple.[2]

Message 1

Ezio discovering Altaïr's Apple of Eden

Once he had activated the memory seal, Ezio found Altaïr's Apple of Eden, but decided to leave the artifact, claiming he had seen enough for one life. Ezio then called out to his descendant, Desmond Miles, of whom he had heard before, and allowed him to access his nexus of time. Before leaving, Ezio laid his equipment down in the library, symbolically ending his life as an Assassin.[2]

Layout

Sofia Sartor: "È così bello qui. (It is so beautiful here.) This is where your Order began?"
Ezio: "It began thousands of years ago, but here it was reborn."
―Ezio and Sofia regarding Masyaf.[src]
Ac-masyaf4

Concept art of the Masyaf city walls

Masyaf was constructed into a mountaintop nestled over the Orontes Valley, with a village at its base and a walled fortress at its peak. A palisade wall, and several Assassin guards that patrolled the interior and exterior of Masyaf protected the base. The sides of the site were protected by immensely high and sheer mountain walls, with a low lake below that could be seen from the entire left-hand side of the fortress and village.[3]

A second mountainous valley and river could be seen on the opposite side of the fortress, but not from the village. Over the second valley on the right-hand side of Masyaf lay a series of wooden beams with ropes overhanging them, criss-crossing until they reached the back of a high tower that appeared impossible to scale from the front.[3]

Village

The village was composed of several dozen small mud brick cottages at the far end of Masyaf's valley and several were built into the edge of the left-hand side canyon. The village market was designated at the lowest end of the valley, a location in which the populace could barter for belongings and food or simply converse each day. Another marketplace, smaller and less extensive, was located just below the fortress' long, winding entrance.[3]

Fortress

5445488769 3a4b522de4 b

The fortress in Masyaf

At the peak of the mountain lay the Assassin fortress. Within the high stone walls, Assassins practiced combat in the training ring, patrolled the walls and grounds, or educated themselves amongst the libraries of the Mentor.[3]

A beautiful garden, known as 'Paradise', was situated behind the intimidating tough face of the central stone rooms, in which women happily lay about in leisure, grass and thriving plants spread about the four-leveled space. In the center of the garden courtyard, situated in a fountain, was a statue of the First Civilization goddess Minerva.[4] Inside the fortress library, scholars browsed the shelves, constantly maneuvering among them.[3]

The fortress housed all Assassins that resided within Masyaf, as well as the Mentor's private chamber at the very top of the highest tower. Watchtowers surrounded the walls, each with expert archers that observed the nearby valleys and central village for approaching danger.[3]

Canyon walkway and trap tower

AC 10

Altaïr dropping wooden logs onto the Templars

On the southern side of Masyaf, an Assassin was able to leap into haystacks arranged along a wide stone platform that jutted out from the mountain wall. From these haystacks, several wooden beams criss-crossed the void over the river far below. Ropes were also strung over the wooden beams to aid with crossing the dangerous pathways.[3]

At the end of the twisting path over the valley floor, a lofty tower reached into the sky, perfectly blending with the stone mountain wall. An Assassin could have climbed this tower, eventually finding themselves in a room with a grated floor. Piles of logs were kept there in case of invasion, upon which an Assassin would activate the trap by slashing a latch with their blade, sending the logs tumbling down over the enemy forces.[3]

Trivia

  • Masyaf is the first location that is encountered during the game after Solomon's Temple, and is also the smallest location outside the Kingdom.
  • There are no harassers of any sort in Masyaf.
  • Outside of Masyaf, there is a small part of the Kingdom controlled by the Assassins, where an Assassin guard is marked as an enemy in Eagle Vision.
  • Although considered Altaïr's allies, guards in the city will fight back if provoked.
  • Despite the Creed's third tenet stating that an Assassin cannot, indirectly or otherwise, harm a fellow Assassin, Masyaf guards can be killed with no synchronization penalty, and no mention is made by any Assassin or citizen.
  • The gardens behind the fortress are a reference to the legend of the secret paradise behind the historical Assassins' headquarters. The garden paradise was supposedly an illusion created by Hassan-i Sabbāh, the historical Assassins' founder. He created these gardens in order to make his followers believe in his divine mission, and execute any given order without fear of death.
  • Even though weapons are not permitted inside the fortress (except the training area), guards can be pushed off the tower without a loss of synchronization.
  • Masyaf is the only Assassin headquarters in the series so far to contain guards.
  • The Assassins' main headquarters during the Crusades and until the strike of the Mongol Empire was the Alamut fortress in Iran, though there are references to another headquarters in Syria.
  • Masyaf in Arabic (مصيف) translates to "summer resort" or "summer residence."
  • During the first sequence of Assassin's Creed: Revelations, several objects inside the fortress are able to be interacted with, which will then show some of the deeds Altaïr performed.
  • In Revelations, the compass directions have been rotated approximately 90º, with the castle now in the East, rather than the North, as it was in Assassin's Creed.
  • Sometimes after practicing at the training ring, guards can be heard speaking as if Altaïr has provoked an enemy.

Gallery

References

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