**See artist's comments in the description for spoiler warning.
Seref sat down heavily on the solid marble bench that marked the entryway to the Turkish cemetery. She rested her hands in her lap and let her eyes settle, unfocused, on the simple stone structure that served as the marker for the man she had loved and lost.
Our Guardian in times of War.
Our Teacher in times of Peace.
Beloved Always. Never Forgotten.
No name. No year. The Assassins couldn't risk Byzantine sympathizers vandalizing the grave. But it was as good an epitaph as any, for a man who gave everything he had to his Order. It was better than most Assassins received.
Baj sat on the rocks near his mother's feet. Of course, he had long since been old enough to understand the concept of death. To know that his father was never going to come home again, like he'd promised. Seref wasn't sure if it had completely sunk in yet, however. Perhaps it hadn't for her, either. All she felt was a constant dull ache in her chest. Even her tears had dried up two days ago.
He was gone. Yusuf Tazim was really gone.
The memory of her finding out was a searing pain in her heart. She'd eagerly opened the door to her apartment, only to find a tired and haggard-looking Casimiro. Her heart suddenly dropped like a stone, even before she asked. Her mouth couldn't form words. Her throat ignored her desperate attempts to make sounds. Her eyes wildly searched Casi's for something anything to let her know that everything was alright. But he could not provide her any comfort.
I'm sorry, Seref
" He whispered, his own eyes filled with pain. Seref let out a strangled whimper and leaned heavily against the wooden door frame. Numb, and only dimly aware of Casi's continued presence, she didn't even notice him gently pry her off the side of the apartment and lead her back inside. She felt nothing until he sat her down in her tiny living room, and grasped her hand in his.
The next half-hour was the most painful of her life, as he recounted what he could about Yusuf's death. He assured her that Yusuf had died honorably, protecting a Venetian woman named Sofia, who happened to mean very much to the Mentor of the Order, Ezio Auditore. That Prince Ahmet had been behind the attack, but had already been taken care of by his brother, Selim. Seref sat in silence, save for the strangled sobs that forced their way from her throat. She heard Casi's words, but comprehended little.
Yusuf was gone. He'd been murdered by the Byzantines. She hadn't even been able to assist in his burial, since time had been of the essence. Her heart felt as though it were being ripped violently apart.
.?" She croaked at last, hardly trusting herself to speak any further. Casi settled his pained eyes on hers, his hand at her arm.
"Here in Galata. Next to the tower, across from the Den." He drew a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"I can take you there."
She'd visited the quiet cemetery twice more in the following week. She'd linger for hours, sitting on the bench across from his grave and listening to the sounds of both wind and birds in the trees. This was the first time she'd brought Baj along with her, however. The boy hadn't spoken much since he'd found out about his father, and Seref figured it was up to her to see him through this.
But who was there to see her through such pain? The two had been scrapping by thanks to Yusuf's continual financial aid and protection. She knew only a few of the others, Casi and Nasim among them. The others Bajram, Rafat, Pembe were long gone.
She sighed, dropping her tired shoulders. A bemoaned whimpering drew her attention, and she discovered a worn-looking woman huddled near the corner of the cemetery, eyes on the same marker that Seref had been staring at seconds ago. Seref straightened, puzzled and momentarily displaced from her grief.
"Bayan? Can I help?..." The only response she received was another pained sigh, and a muffled sob. Seref shifted to rise to her feet, but a steady hand settled on her shoulder. Out the corner of her eye, she saw her son staring up at the darkened silhouette of a slightly hunched figure. She turned her head and gave a tiny smile.
"It's been a long time, Jin."
The Chinese Assassin bowed his head in respect. "It would appear as though I am not the only one who likes this spot." He said slowly, a calm smile forming on his own face. He shuffled further into view, and Seref remembered how painful it could be for him to move around. The incident that took place over ten years ago had taken its toll heavier then they'd initially realized. Jin would walk with a severe limp for the rest of his life.
He carefully sat down beside her, placing the cane he often used off to the side. He stretched out his back for a moment before letting out a tired breath and leaning back against the wrought iron fence surrounding the cemetery. His eyes fell on the grave, which lay just beyond that of Bajram, and he smiled sadly.
"Two old friends." He murmured affectionately. Seref smiled in return, but remembering the look of the haggard woman, she returned her eyes to the corner of the yard.
The mysterious woman was gone. Nothing but a few displaced leaves even marked that she was there. Seref furrowed her brow, puzzled.
"Where did she
"You mean Anayis?"
Seref caught her breath. She swiveled her head back around to face Jin, eyes sharp.
The ever-stoic Chinese nodded solemnly in return. A calm breeze ruffled his cloak and Seref's hair as he tilted his head back, face relaxing in the sun.
"I see her here from time to time. Everyone wants to pay their respects, Seref."
"But she was ousted from the Order years ago." Seref glared at where the mysterious girl had been sitting only moments before.
"Why would she return here?"
"Perhaps she misses Yusuf as well, Seref." Came the quiet response. Seref felt her newly flared temper begin to diminish.
you are probably right." She said at last, feeling somewhat conflicted. Anayis betrayed the Assassins, an act which resulted in Bajram's death, twelve years ago. While Saraf would forever support Yusuf's decision to ban her from the Order, perhaps a decade was enough time to forgive.
Seref sighed and joined Jin in leaning back against the warm, sun-soaked marble bench. She let her eyes wander over the scattered dried flowers dusting the grave, drift up the solid stone grave marker, travel over the low tree covered with colorful pink blossoms that rested at the head of the grave, and finally into the brilliantly blue Istanbul sky. Far away, a hawk emitted a fierce screech.
A fine tribute, to a fine Assassin.