(Author's Note: Welcome, and thank you for visiting the Tomb Raider/Soul Reaver rewrite. This story has seen major renovations since it has last seen the light of day. Story edits have been done as have character personalities. The plot has been updated to include the events of LoK: Defiance and TR: Underworld. As such, be aware there are major spoilers throughout the story.
For those of you who read this story in its early state, I sincerely hope you enjoy it as much this time as it did the first time round. My writing has matured a lot and I have been wanting to make serious changes to the story.
For those of you new to the story, I wish you pleasure and truly hope you enjoy the reading.)
Hillary leaned back in his chair, put his feet up on the ottoman, and stretched his toes out languidly, enjoying the heat coming from the fireplace. It had been a long day. His lady and employer had just come back from the Arctic and they had finally finished remodeling the mansion after the explosion that ripped through it a few weeks prior. She had insisted the hall be redecorated and redesigned to match her new trophies: the recently reacquired pin her mother had possessed, and the long sword that activated the portals to Avalon. The beautiful jewelry piece was only three inches high, made of silver metal and green stones, and matched the same material that the sword was constructed of. The pin was the key to recreating the sword when it had been broken apart, and it had also been the loved gift to Amelia from Richard, Lara's mother and father. She had gone into the vault and had the three portraits that once had copies hanging in the main hall redone so she could set them back up again. Above the fireplace went the painting of Amelia and Richard together, small smiles on their faces, but love in their eyes as they gazed out from the captured moment in time. Two portraits went on either side of the stairs; to the left was a smaller painting of Amelia, her gaze off to the side, a relaxed, but expectant expression on her face. To the right was a man who stood leaning against a table dressed in white and armor, brown hair tied back, a haughty, yet attractive smile curling his thin lips. The painting had been her father's, though the subject of the portrait was unknown to her. It had obviously been done towards the medieval period, near the Renaissance, but Lara had never had the heart to take it down since Richard had seemed so fond of it.
Overall, the main hall looked very similar to how it once was before it met with its fiery death, save for the few traps and quick access to the crypt if necessary that had been added. The butler's feet and back ached from the labor and he was, overall, exhausted—satisfied with the end result—but exhausted.
Suddenly, the sound of a hammer being pulled back came from slightly to the right and behind his ear. He paused, then took a sip of his tea, unperturbed.
"I would highly not recommend that," the butler advised calmly. "Those who take up arms against the lady of the house often find themselves on the wrong end of a forty-five."
"That so?" a male voice growled. It held a British accent and was of a warm timbre—pleasant to listen to—but was not one that Hillary recognized. He idly wondered what could drive someone to be fool enough to assault this particular house.
"Listen," the man behind him continued, almost considerately, "I have nothing against you. Follow my orders and this will be over quickly—"
"With all due respect, sir," the butler interrupted gently, "but I'd best recommend you quietly leave the manor."
"And why would I even consider that?"
"Because there's a .45 caliber Desert Eagle pointed at your spinal column," an eloquent female purred gently, equal parts humor and challenge lacing her tone.
"At this distance, you'd loose part of your spine, some of your clavicle, your sternum, parts—if not all—of both your lungs and, likely as not, your heart," the woman went on conversationally. "And I'd end up with quite a bit of blood on my floor, walls and furniture, and it's a devil to get out. So how about you consider making it easier on yourself—and my cleaning bill—and put that gun of yours down and turn around slowly, hm?"
The intruder nodded, clicked the safety on, and dropped his weapon before shifting himself around. Standing behind him was an attractive woman, brunette hair braided back tightly out of her face, brown eyes glittering in a mixture of amusement and warning, suggesting his lungs might prefer him to follow the orders of the nice lady and her weapon. She was dressed in khaki shorts and a cyan lycra top, and held a nasty-looking firearm in her hand with practiced ease.
"Ah, Lady Lara Croft," Hillary greeted, smiling warmly.
"Are you all right, Hillary?" she inquired, concern showing in her eyes. He smiled at her.
"Of course, Lady Croft. I was just attempting to advise our visitor here to leave quietly. Unfortunately, he chose to not take my council."
"They never do," Lara chuckled.
"So, why were you even up, Lara?" Hillary asked as they both sat in the front room watching the local authorities drag the unconscious bodies of the group of men who had tried to rob the nigh-legendary Tomb Raider.
"I was doing some research in the library when I heard the commotion," his employer replied. "With Zip out of the house for a week, I have to go book-crawling myself."
"What were you researching?"
"I received a letter early today from Sir Jials McKintrey. Do you remember him?"
"Odd chap, if I recall correctly," Hillary mused to himself. "The occultist, right? I seem to remember he has duel citizenship between Britain and the United States."
"Mm-hm. That's why we rarely see him—he's only in our area half the time." She handed a parchment to her butler and friend. Hillary flipped open the letter and read through the surprisingly elegant scrawl while Lara closed her eyes and sipped her tea.
"To my adoring Tomb Raider…"
"Adoring?" Hillary chuckled. Lara smiled over her tea cup, but didn't say anything.
"Forgive my lapse in letters to you, but I had recently become quite preoccupied with a new find."
"He does know he could just pick up a phone or send you an email, doesn't he?" the butler inquired, quirking an eyebrow at his employer. Lara clicked her tongue once.
"Jials likes to be very… old fashioned at times. He swears to me that computers burn out at his touch."
"Much like someone else I know," Hillary murmured under his breath. Lara didn't deign to comment and just continued to drink her tea.
"I had thought of writing you of them, but you know how I can get focused and just so distracted by something…
"We had recently discovered a series of broken pillars in a dig in the pasturelands of Britain. There were remnants of nine in all and the largest pieces that had survived looked like pillar caps of varying colors, each with a unique symbol. We unearthed them, had them restored, and created a new set of stonework pillars to place them upon. We had them returned back to their site so we could recreate the original positioning, and well…"
"That's when things got complicated?" Hillary asked with a put-upon sigh, glancing up at his employer. She chuckled and nodded to the letter.
"That's when things got complicated. The recreation went well. Unfortunately, life seems to enjoy throwing curve-balls at me. Once we had put the caps onto the new pillars and set them back up in their places where we had unearthed them from, they… well…
"You are the only person who would believe me via the written word when I tell you that the pillars rooted themselves and then grew high into the sky. There's been quite a bit of hubbub about it on the local newscasts, but I know your tendency to watch television is nil. No one is sure what to make of them. I know pillars and stones aren't usually the artifacts you play with, Lara, but I was hoping you might make an exception for an old friend. I need some advice from you about these things. No tool we have taken to them since then has even so much as smudged the white rock, and there is a palpable aura of power from them.
"I'm rather at my wits end, Lara. Please."
Hillary didn't bother to read the "sincerely, Jials," and instead set it aside. He looked up at Lara with a slightly concerned expression.
"What do you plan to do, Lady?"
Lara set the tea cup down and entwined her fingers together, staring at the parchment in consideration.
"He sent that letter to me by first class mail."
"Is that unusual?"
A long silence fell between the two as they met each other's gaze, and then she said softly, "I will be leaving tomorrow morning."
"I'll get your bags packed bright and early," he replied.
There was a large building in the middle of pasturelands now. It hadn't been there the last time she had been through the area, nor had the large amount of tourists, authorities, and crews from the local news stations. Lara pulled the Ducati motorcycle to a stop and looked down at the large structure. It was white-washed, at least three stories high, wrapped around in a circle, and out of its center nine white pillars rose up into the sky. A helicopter roared through the air passed them, a cameraman hanging out the side, his camera aimed toward those nine anomalies. Lara sighed.
The Ducati's engine revved and the tires spun out as she streaked down the hill toward her answers, and probably more questions than she had started with.
"Lara!" Jials greeted joyfully, his hands outstretched to take hers. She took them with a smile and kissed his cheek.
"Hello, Jials. Been a long week? You look tired."
The occultist chuckled breathlessly. His crisp black hair was beginning to show touches of frost from stress, the crows feet on the corner of his eyes had deepened considerably as had the worry lines along the outside of his lips. His weight had also diminished significantly and he walked with a slight limp.
"Oh, my dear Tomb Raider, you have no idea. Come in, please, before the mob of journalists advance on you to start throwing theories of what's going on and why you're involved at you."
Lara shuddered slightly and followed her ally into the building.
"Why do you think I always avoid the press conferences dealing with my findings?" she retorted, fighting the smile that threatened to bloom across her lips.
"Why do you think I spend all my time in my lab or the field?" Jials replied, his limp breaking his even stride, but his voice held a touch of amusement.
Silence descended between them for a moment, and then he said over his shoulder softly, "I'm sorry to hear about Alister's death."
Lara's face tightened and her lips thinned, a scowl spreading across her features. She took a deep breath and then let it out, letting the tension flow out of her.
"He was avenged. The woman responsible for his death no longer walks this world."
Jials glanced back at her, wondering whether she would keep talking, but the expression on her face warned him she wasn't willing to tell him the whole story yet. He nodded more to himself then to her and continued through the halls of the building until he came to a sliding glass door that opened out to a courtyard. He opened it and bowed, gesturing for Lara to step passed him.
"My god..." she breathed her eyes wide, consumed by the image before her. Nine pillars of pristine white stone stretched up into the sky, their tops vanishing into the aquamarine above. About fifteen or twenty feet up each pillar had what looked like a cap to the top of a column with the exception that the pillars continued upwards after them. Each of the nine had a unique symbol on them, a series of quick brush strokes that made some sort of arcane character. They were otherworldly, unfamiliar, and exceptionally beautiful.
"I've never seen these symbols before." She tore her gaze away from the pillars and looked back at Jials. "Do you recognize them?"
"Been in my library for the last three days with no luck," he replied with a sigh. "I'll assume by your question that you don't, either."
"No, I can't say I do. They don't seem to be pictographs… Merely symbols, I should think."
"You didn't find anything in your research before you came down here, then?"
"I wish I had, Jials."
Lara fell silent and studied the pillars for a moment and Jials stood aside, letting her have her time. The white alabaster stone glittered in the daylight, the reflected sheen bouncing off the other nearby columns until they were almost glowing. Eight stood in a half circle, concave to where she was studying them from, and at their center and set slightly forward was the ninth. She crossed the few steps that separated her from the front pillar and reached forward to touch it gently. It was a hazard of the job; seeing the most remote locations, experiencing things that very few could ever dream of, and holding items of power that could rewrite the skein of history had programmed a sort of need to feel the strength and truth of an item in her. She was well wise enough to know when not to touch, but the simple act of using that one sensory apparatus could tell her a lot about an object.
"This isn't stone anymore," she breathed softly, the cool material under her hands. After a moment's hesitation, her eyebrows knit together and she added, "And there's power to it." There was a sort of aura that radiated from what she had thought to be stone, and it flowed over her hands like water, a gentle, comforting feeling, though it was an unusual sensation.
"Oh, they're stone," Jials corrected. "It's just their chemical compositions aren't anything we've ever seen before. Honestly, it looks more like the makeup you'd find in an asteroid. One from far, far away," he added.
"What are these?" Her fingers continued their path across the surface, a feeling of yearning and an indescribable sense of home-coming filling her. Those emotions warped into a great reluctance as she turned away back toward her companion.
"The only thing you might consider," he began, "is—"
A piercing, inhuman wail swallowed any other words he would have said. Both archeologists swung around to stare at the nine pillars which were almost vibrating with unearthly energy. A feminine scream underscored the earsplitting howl, loud and agonizing, and following it was the sickening sound of towers, or perhaps pillars, shattering.
In the assault to her senses, Lara found herself stumbling toward the front pillar, her hands finding the formerly soothing stone. Power coursed along its length, hungry, seeking, and at her contact, it leapt down across her skin, latching to her. It was almost like a pair of cold hands gripped her firmly about the wrist and tugged with supernatural strength. Two voices echoed in her ears as her world warped and twisted sickeningly around her; Jials' from the behind shouting her name in fear and shock, and a soft woman's voice from ahead pleading, "Please, help us, sister of my core."
Detonations of red and orange consumed her sight, but it wasn't any dizziness from the odd teleportation. Bitter smoke battered her sense of smell, almost killing the heady aroma of foliage. She stood in a large clearing staring in horror at an almost carbon copy of her world's pillars, save for they were in varying states of demolishment. Smoke filtered up from the base of several of the pillars, as if their demise had been minutes, maybe even seconds prior to her arrival. Flames still licked the evening air, their hunger not yet exhausted. Above her, angry clouds rumbled their aggression, threatening rain, and for just a second, she swore she saw a man with wings wheeling away. Then it was gone, leaving her standing alone in a courtyard with destroyed columns and no idea where, or perhaps when, she might be.