Claudia, my dearest sister. I have been in Acre a week now, safe and in high spirits, but prepared for the worst.
The men and women who have fed and sheltered me here also give me warning that the road to Masyaf is overrun by mercenaries and bandits not native to this land. What this could mean, I dread to guess.
When I first set out from Roma ten months ago, I did so with a single purpose. To discover what our father did not. In a letter written the year before my birth he makes mention of a library hidden beneath the stones of Masyaf castle. A sanctum full of invaluable wisdom.
So what will I find when I arrive there? Who will greet me? A host of eager Templars, as I fear most strongly? Or nothing but the whistling of a cold and lonely wind?
Masyaf has not been home to the Assassins for almost three hundred years now. Can we still claim it for our own? Are we welcome there?
I am weary of this fight, Claudia. Not because I am tired, but because our struggle seems to move in one direction only. Towards chaos.
Today I have more questions than answers. This is why I have come so far. To find clarity. To find the wisdom left behind by the great Altaïr, so that I may better understand the purpose of our fight. And my place in it.
Should anything happen to me Claudia, should my skills fail me, or my ambition lead me astray, do not seek retribution or revenge in my memory, but fight to continue the search for truth, so that all may benefit.
My story is one of many thousands, and the world will not suffer if it ends too soon.
Dear Sister, Masyaf is overrun by a battery of Templars, and their motive is clear. They desire the secrets locked away in Altaïr's library – secrets they believe will lead them to something called the Grand Temple. Whether or not this is true, I do know the library is real. I have seen its door for myself. But none can enter. Not without five keys which were sent to Costantinopoli with Niccolò Polo almost 300 years ago.
Claudia, I must find these keys. The Templars have already located one beneath Topkapı Palace, and I do not know how difficult it will be to find the others. Only time, skill and a bit of luck will tell.
Claudia, Costantinopoli – called Istanbul by the Turks – has welcomed me as one of its own. The Assassins here, led by an affable fighter named Yusuf, take great pride in their city, a place as diverse and colorful as one could imagine.
But it is a troubled city too. A rebellious faction of Byzantine Templars still fights to retain influence, and their recent attacks have delayed my search for the Masyaf Keys. But this will not last. As soon as I am able, I will begin looking for Niccolò Polo's former trading post, in search of clues that will bring me nearer to the Masyaf keys.
The first key
Claudia, I am now in possession of one of the Masyaf keys. And better still, I have discovered a map – encoded with signs and symbols – which I believe will lead me to the remaining keys. Its full meaning is a mystery to me, but I am thankful to have a met a Venetian woman willing to help me decipher it.
I must not overstate my successes. The Templars still hold one key hostage, and if I am to recover it, I may need more help than the Assassins can provide. If I can make a friend in the Ottoman court, my access to the secrets of the city will improve greatly...
I have made the acquaintance of an Ottoman prince named Suleiman. He is a clever young man, with a fortitude uncommon for his age. On his suggestion, I shall be investigating some wayward Janissaries who may be in league with the Templars. With luck they shall lead me straight to the core of the Templar's leadership.
Meanwhile, the Venetian Sofia Sartor continues to help me find the hidden Masyaf keys. She is a diligent woman, full of passion and vigor, and I enjoy her company immensely. But I dare not tell her the purpose of my stay here, nor of my true vocation. Those who do not volunteer in our struggle, should not be forced to fight it...
The third key
Excellent news, Claudia. I now have a name: Manuel Palaiologos, nephew of the deposed Byzantine Emperor Constantine. I have few doubts that he is the man leading the Templars. My task now is to interrogate a traitorous Janissary named Tarik Barleti, and find the location of the Templar's army.
Until then, Sofia and I shall continue our search for the one key that remains hidden. With every passing moment, I know my chances grow slimmer, and yet I cannot help but linger some days to stay an extra hour with her, to hear her voice and watch her face animate with joy as she speaks of the things that move her - her books, her city, her memories. I cannot help but think what a shame it will be when I find the final key...
I have left Costantinopoli and set sail for the interior of Anatolia, to a region called Cappadocia where Manuel is training his soldiers. If I am lucky, I will not be alone, for there may be Ottoman spies in the area waiting to strike.
But as ever, I put stock only in myself, and hold the memory of dear Sofia close to my heart. Claudia, you would laugh to hear the racing thoughts of your brother now. I have come to admire Sofia with more affection than I thought possible. After the death of Cristina, something withered in me... But that feeling, that capacity for love, has returned. I adore Sofia, but dare not drag her into this life of mine... not without fear of hurting her, or driving her away.
Forgive the haste of my handwriting Claudia. Much has transpired, and little of it good. I am on a ship bound for Costantinopoli, in pursuit of a man whose treachery has eluded me until now. Prince Ahmet – Suleiman's uncle – is the man leading Templars here. He is the mastermind behind the Masyaf expedition, and he will stop at nothing to retrieve the keys, all of which are now in Assassin hands.
So what holds me back? Why do I not take the keys back to Masyaf myself and be done with these fools? Because I have been careless. Because the Templars know about Sofia, and they are looking for her. Oh Claudia, if anything should happen to her, I could not live with myself. I have dragged her into a war she knows nothing about, and it will be my burden to bear if she comes to any harm.
Return to Masyaf
I write these lines with a steady hand and light heart. We are in Acre now – Sofia and I – with the five Masyaf keys in our possession, and all the time in the world. Sofia is a seasoned traveler and a fine companion to have so far from home. Tomorrow we will make our way to Masyaf, and once there, into Altaïr's library to fulfill our father's forgotten dream.
Forgive the shortness of this letter dear sister, for it is late, and we are tired. Perhaps, with luck, the next words you will hear from me will be in person.
Con affetto (affectionately), Ezio.