Hidden away in the Orontes Valley in what is now Syria, Masyaf was the headquarters of the Assassin Brotherhood in the Levant. Its proximity to Jerusalem, Acre and Damascus made it the natural center of Assassin influence in the region.
By the Third Crusade, Masyaf had become the political, cultural and geographical center of the Assassins. A training ground, an impenetrable fortress, a sanctuary, a vast library, and a base of operations for the Brotherhood - Masyaf was all of these things. Yet the public's perception of the citadel was far less complete, for in those days the citadel and its inhabitants were kept isolated from the larger populace.
Life within the walls of Masyaf was spartan and strict, consisting of many regimental rituals and challenges. And it was an exclusive group: Assassins - mostly men - were born into the Order, not recruited, and trained from an early age to obey their Mentor and adhere to the Creed.
In 1191, the Crusader commander Robert de Sable laid siege to the city and the castle. The Assassins withstood this assault, but briefly succumbed to another enemy later that same year when Grand Master Al Mualim betrayed the Brotherhood and briefly seized control of Masyaf using the powerful Apple of Eden artifact. His defeat at the hands of Altaïr Ibn La'Ahad marked a turning point in Assassin ideology.
In later years, the Assassins gradually abandoned many of the unnecessary rituals enforced by Al Mualim. Over time, Altaïr - now a Mentor himself - attempted to transform Masyaf into a place of learning and healing, opening the citadel's doors to recruits from around the world. And for a time, he succeeded exceptionally well...