A/N: "What is that?" I hear you cry. Why yes, it's an update for the thing you probably thought was abandoned and had probably stopped caring about. Not so!
Lara watched Roth unblinkingly. Harry had woken her just a couple of hours ago to take her turn watching her injured mentor. She suspected that the selfless wizard had let her have much more sleep than she was supposed to get, it was almost dawn already and she'd actually felt well rested after her sleep. However long it was.
Her eyes shifted to the subject of her thoughts. Sleeping quietly on a comfy mattress and covered in the same gaudy duvet he always seemed to produce he looked completely out of place.
Of course that was because he was. He was insane. And mad. And utterly bizarre. People like him shouldn't exist. They only existed in movies or stupid fairy tales; the wizard hero riding in to save the girl.
She had no doubt that he had saved her. Without Harry she very much doubted she would have survived the first 24 hours, let alone that gigantic fuck-up at the village. What had Whitman been thinking?
Whitman, she hadn't even thought about him. She didn't see his body when they went back to the village so she assumed he was still alive. It was a crime really, people like Whitman persist while the likes of Steph are killed like animals.
She was still trying to process the fact that she was a murderer. There was no getting around it, she couldn't shrug it off as nothing. There were four men fewer in the world today because she had decided that it should be so.
Where did she get the right to decide the fates of others? Should she have done something different? Perhaps some of them could have been talked down or even injured. That had to be better than dying, right? If only she'd been faster or smarter they wouldn't have had to die.
What was even more worrying was just how little guilt she really felt over killing them. She regretted becoming a murderer, but she did not regret their deaths. Harry had tried to talk her through the feelings the day before and perhaps he'd simply done too good a job. She accepted that they'd had to die. It was that simple, and it shouldn't be. No-one had the right to make that choice. Yet she knew that if attacked here and now she would not hesitate to kill anyone in defense of Roth and Harry. She would make that choice, right or not.
She clung to the knowledge that Harry knew what she'd done and didn't immediately condemn her. He'd even tried to comfort her, said he'd killed people as well. Her brow furrowed. She found it hard to imagine Harry killing anyone. In her mind she'd already created this impossible superhero image for him, someone who would always find a way to defeat the bad guy without having to kill him. The world wasn't a story though. Some people could not be reasoned with. Some could not be turned aside. Some had to die not because their death was a good thing, but because their lives were so much worse.
It was a burden. She had seen that in Harry's eyes when he had told her. The guilt and doubt would always be with her, but in the moment those were luxuries she could not afford. Here and now she would do everything in her power to ensure that she and her friends, and Whitman, made it off this godforsaken island alive. She was strong enough. She had to be.
She realised that she was now staring unseeingly at Harry's relaxed face as he breathed softly in his sleep. He looked so much younger when he was asleep. Awake, under his cheerful façade, he projected an aura of calm and control, even in the direst of situations. It was a little like the feeling she'd felt from her father, the sure knowledge that they would move mountains for her if necessary. All children felt like that with their parents though, quite why she felt so close to him after such a short time she had no idea. She supposed that hardship would inevitably force people together, the mutual reliance and trust necessary had no other outcome.
As she continued to watch him she heard a throaty chuckle. "Should I be jealous?" It was Roth's voice.
She turned immediately to her mentor. "Roth! You're awake! Thank God, how are you feeling?"
Immediately she began fussing about him as he pushed himself upright.
"Get away with you girl, I'm not an invalid! Just a bit of a scratch is all. Bloody wolves." He winced slightly as he tried to shift his badly injured leg.
"A scratch!" squeaked Lara indignantly before glancing at Harry and lowering her voice. "You're missing whole chunks of your legs. If it wasn't for Harry you'd have died!"
"Harry, eh? This is your friend then?" he asked with a somewhat dubious look at the ridiculous looking Harry. "Where did he find that blanket?"
"God alone knows," Lara sighed with a wry smile. "He keeps pulling it out every night. He seems to be attached to it."
Concern clouded her mentor's eyes. "Are you sure about him Lara?" he asked. "There are some bad types on this island."
"We've met them." Lara said firmly, she looked down, suddenly worried. "Roth. I. I killed some of them."
"That must have been hard." He reached over the grasp her shoulder.
Lara shook her head and let out a bitter laugh. "It's scary just how easy it was."
Roth grunted and went quiet for a while. Finally he said, "And what was Harry doing at the time?"
She looked at him, angry and hurt at his suggestion. "We protected each-other," she said firmly. "Without Harry I'd be dead and you'd be either dead or dying. Trust me, he's a friend."
They were both quiet for a minute as Roth contemplated her words. As he thought Lara looked back at Harry and wondered idly what he was dreaming about. He looked happy.
"Have you heard from Reyes and the others?" he finally asked.
She shook her head. "Not since we last talked. They were looking for Sam while we came to you with Whitman."
His eyes widened. "Sam's missing? We spoke just last night. She said she was safe and waiting for Reyes' group."
Lara nodded sadly. "She said she was with some man, Mathias. By the time we got there she was gone, she left some of her things. I'm worried Roth."
"As am I Lara, that girl's got a good head on her shoulders but she's never been into anything like this." He paused a moment before continuing. "We have to hope the others find her. We need to get an SOS out. I sent one from the ship before it went down, but the bloody wolves took the pack with our transmitter."
She looked away, understanding where this was going. He continued. "Look, Lara, we need that transmitter, we need to take it to the top of that tower to give us the best chance. And I'm not going to be climbing any time soon."
"You want me and Harry to do it?" she asked, already knowing the answer.
"It's our best shot at transmitting a strong signal in every direction," he said with confidence. "They're looking for us, we just need to tell them where."
"I wouldn't be so sure it's that simple." Her head whipped around to look at the now awake Harry. His expression was serious. "There's more going on here than a bad storm, we need to work out what that is before we go luring more people to this death-trap of an island."
He paused. "Hi, by the way. I'm Harry." He stood up and offered his hand to the still sitting Roth.
Roth didn't take it. "There's nothing more to it. We need to get off this rock as soon as possible. That means signalling for rescue."
Harry dropped his offered hand unshaken. "And I say there is. You honestly think weather is to blame for the ship graveyard on the coast?"
"Please," Lara's mentor scoffed. "What else could it be? Some kind of curse?" He laughed humourlessly and looked at Lara. "After everything your father went through, you can't believe this Lara?"
Lara was conflicted. On the one hand Roth was her mentor, her uncle in all but blood and one of the people she trusted most in the world. On the other was Harry, she had seen what he could do, the things he knew and knew he had good reason for his concern.
She also gathered that Harry did not want Roth to know about magic, she wasn't quite sure why he'd elect to keep it secret from Roth when he told Lara herself without any obvious reluctance. Ultimately, however, it was his secret to tell and Lara would not betray his trust, even to Roth.
She looked at Harry, willing him to understand. "We have to try Harry, surely? We can't just sit here and become like the others we've seen."
"I wasn't suggesting we do nothing." He sighed. "We need to get to the bottom of this before we start luring more poor souls to this god-forsaken place."
"Listen boy, I know Lara trusts you, but this is nonsense," Roth cut in forcefully. "We can't afford to waste time on fancies. There's nothing unnatural going on here."
Harry bristled visibly at that. He directed a fiery glare at Roth before waving his hands in annoyed dismissal and stalking off to the nearby cliff-top.
Lara shot Roth a look that was equal parts apologetic and remonstrative before quickly following Harry.
He had sat himself down on the cliff edge with his legs dangling precariously over the sheer drop. He swung them idly as he stared out over the vista, seemingly uncaring of the extreme drop into the valley below. Every now and then he'd pick up a small stone and toss it out into the clear mountain air. The view was breathtaking.
"Harry, I believe you. I do," Lara began, "but we can't convince Roth if you wont show him any proof."
The dark haired wizard just sighed sadly. "I know, it wasn't that. It was just something personal." He shifted uneasily. "I know I told you about my magic. Honestly, I'm not sure why but I trusted you. You trust Roth, I can see that. But I don't."
He looked back at her and motioned for her to sit. "There are wards, spells, on or around this island that I don't really understand. Some of the ones I can understand feel… heavy, like a lead weight around my neck. The magic is meant to keep us here Lara. No amount of calling for help will work if our rescuers are just as trapped as us once they get here."
He stared back out over the expansive vista. "I'm not completely stuck here Lara. I can still communicate with my friends in a limited way. But that won't help. Even if they did come then they'd be stuck here too." He lay back and stared at the sky, the clouds awash in orange, yellow and lilac as they turned overhead. "I'm not even as close to them as I was, and they don't deserve that. But if you send out that SOS the best thing that could happen is that no-one will hear it. If someone does hear it, if they try to help then the magic will strike them from the sky or sweep them from the sea."
"But how can I explain that without magic?" He fell silent.
"If magic is causing this then can you fix it?" she asked. She put aside the issue with his friends until later, there would be time.
"Probably." He paused. "Maybe. If I can't fix it I should be able to find a way around it. But I need to find the source."
"We," said Lara.
He finally looked at her again, his brows furrowing. "Pardon?"
"We need to find the source. You said 'I'," she said.
Harry sat up straight again and shook his head. "Lara, I doubt you can help. You have friends, work on saving them. I'll manage. I always do." He smiled what he probably thought was a relaxed grin. Lara just saw the loneliness buried beneath.
"Good try there. But I'm not falling for it," she said determinedly. "Whatever I do here is pointless if you can't um… dispel the curse?" She saw a slight glimmer of amusement at her choice of words. "Besides, you wouldn't have got this far without me to drag your sorry arse out of the fire when you get in over your head. Face it, we're a team."
He chuckled quietly at that, apparently accepting that she had at least been useful to have along. As he did she noticed that his already bright green eyes would twinkle ever so slightly when he was amused. All too quickly he sobered again.
"You'd have to go against your friends, against Roth. At least for a little while. I can't ask that of you." He quieted again. "Friends are important."
Lara straightened her shoulders and looked him square in the eye. "That's why we need to save them."
Harry sighed and ran his hand through his hair. "OK, OK. I'm not stupid enough to turn down help," he allowed. "But we still can't tell Roth about magic just so he'll stop arguing with us."
She couldn't help but frown. "I still don't see why we can't tell him about it?" she half asked. "You told me almost straight away."
"You pretty much worked out something was up as soon as you noticed how uninjured you were." He shrugged. "Also we were going to be exploring together and I'm completely pants without magic, if I was going to be any use you had to know. We're not going to be travelling with Roth, he can't come with us with that injury so there's no need for him to know beside his own stubbornness."
Lara wasn't quite sure she bought that explanation, but didn't want to push the issue as it obviously made Harry uncomfortable.
Harry continued, "Besides, if it turns out I can't trust him then I have to wipe his memory and that's something I avoid like the plague."
Now it made more sense, just how magic had been kept a secret. The thought that even her own memories could have been tampered with was severely disquieting. She could understand why Harry didn't like it. Memories were all that was left of her father, the thought that someone could simply make those go away was scary.
In Liberia native tribes held the belief that a man was not dead until he was forgotten, a sentiment that her father had taken to heart in his quest for notoriety. That Harry had the ability to remove that last anchor holding her father to the mortal plane was… no. Harry wouldn't do that.
"He wouldn't tell anyone," she said finally.
Harry turned and met her gaze, and she felt like she was under intense scrutiny as if her faith in Roth was being analysed at the microscopic level. Finally, he grunted.
"OK, I'll tell Roth. But no-one else."
She shifted uncomfortably. "What about Sam?"
The answer came much quicker this time, though it was much less satisfying. "We'll deal with that when we get there," he said. He stood up slowly, stretching his back as he did so.
"And thanks Lara. You're a sport." Then the serious air evaporated and a mischievous look entered his eyes. "Now, how much do you want to see your mentor gaping like a fish?"
She couldn't help the short surprised laugh that broke free at that mental image. "I'm not sure it's possible. I don't think his face can stretch that way."
Harry smiled at her confidently then walked back towards where Roth was doing a bad job of concealing his distrust.
"So Lara was kind enough to point out that trust is going to be rather important here," he said without preamble. "So I'm going to give you a little demonstration."
He deftly flicked his wand into his hand and wiggled it theatrically, a large haddock materialized out of thin air to land squarely on Roth's lap with a damp thwump.
"I'm a wizard. Magic is to blame for the storm. We need to deal with that first. Any questions?"
Lara could see that though he might protest Harry obviously enjoyed trying to find ludicrous ways of revealing magic whenever he had the opportunity. She couldn't help but laugh at the look on Roth's face has his jaw set and his eyes traversed from the fish to Harry and back again.
"Right," he said evenly.
That was it, that was the full extent of his reaction. Lara could see that he was going over everything that had happened with this new piece of information and trying to work out a new plan.
"Can you deal with the magic then?" he asked after a long pause.
Harry looked vaguely disappointed at the very understated reaction. Lara could have sworn he actually pouted for a moment, prompting a satisfied smile from her.
"Well I think the source is near the middle of the island," said Harry eventually. "Until I get a closer look I can't really say much more but I promised Lara I'd get her and her friends safely off this rock. I'll work something out."
"And what do we do while you run off to save the day?" asked Roth, frustrated with his injury.
"I'd suggest you meet up with the rest. Try and find Sam. Stay alive," said Harry. "You know, the usual."
"And I'm going with him," Lara interjected.
Roth looked only slightly surprised at her statement. "I always knew you were a Croft, Lara," he said with a proud smile. "You'll keep Merlin here on the straight and narrow." His experienced eyes spoke more to Lara. 'And keep an eye on him,' they said.
She nodded slightly at the older man. She might not agree with him that Harry was a potential threat but now wasn't the time to have that discussion.
Harry turned to Lara and said, "Now you and I will need to find a path into the island's interior."
"There's a lot of sheer cliffs up the path," Roth advised. "You could probably use this." He handed Lara a worn but still serviceable climbing axe. "I assume you have hokus pokus to get you up those cliffs?"
"Yeah," Harry said, "and I've never done any proper climbing before anyway so the axe wouldn't be that much use to me anyway."
Roth pointed to the other side of the valley where Lara could see a narrow cleft in the rocks. "I didn't get to look around much before those damn wolves turned me into their chew toy," he grumbled. "But there's a path there that goes further in, I didn't scout it out but it looks well trodden."
"Thanks," said Harry with a nod. "Is there anything else you need before we go?"
"I'll be fine lad," said Roth dismissively. "I'll find a branch to use as a walking stick to save my leg and be up and about in no time."
Almost before he'd finished speaking Harry's wand was out and a nearby twig became a set of crutches for the injured man. "No need," said Harry. "I'll manage that for you."
Lara smiled again as the medical crutches floated towards Roth and he shook his head in what she knew was probably frustration. Roth had never appreciated shortcuts and magic was certainly the biggest shortcut ever.
Nevertheless, he said nothing. He understood the danger of this place, pride had no place in a survival situation.
Harry walked off in the direction Roth had pointed while Lara hung back for a moment.
"He'll see us out of here Roth," she said firmly. "I know it."
Roth pushed himself slowly upright on the crutches as he tested them for strength, still not quite trusting Harry's magic. "I trust you Lara, you're a good judge of a man," he allowed. "Just don't let him rope you into something you can't handle."
Lara chuckled bitterly. "Look around us," she said with a shake of the head. "That's already happened."
"No, it hasn't." He fixed her with a proud stare.
She couldn't help but smile gratefully, his faith in her abilities seemed absolute and that was a hard-earned coin indeed. Before she turned to leave she enveloped her mentor in a hug.
"Watch it lass," he said and she could feel him smile. "Injured man here."
She pulled back. "See you soon, Roth."
"Get away with you, girl!" he said, a little embarrassed by the sentiment. "Harry'll be wondering where you've got to."
With that she turned and jogged after Harry. She soon caught up with him as he assessed a broad crevasse that separated them from the path Roth had pointed out.
"What do you think?" he called to her as she pulled up beside him.
The drop was a sheer one, as they all seemed to be on Yamatai. It was much too far to jump, the other side was at least ten meters distant. The only possibility was a torii, one of the many traditional Japanese gateways, that straddled the path on the far cliff.
"If we can get a rope over there and fastened to the gate we could crawl across?" she suggested after a moment.
Harry nodded his head. "Two ropes might be easier though, I'd rather not take my chances with the drop."
With that the first rope snaked across the opening from Harry's wand and was soon tied tightly around the torii. Lara watched, impressed as always to see magic make difficult tasks laughably simple. It took Harry just minutes to tie up two ropes spanning the gap and most of that time was spent attempting to knot the near end by hand.
"Couldn't you do that with magic too?" she'd asked as the knot came loose a third time and Harry swore quietly under his breath.
"Well, yeah. I could," he admitted without looking up at her. "But where's the fun in that?"
Lara stared at him for a long wasted moment. Harry didn't notice. "The fun," she said deliberately. "Is in not falling to our deaths."
"We wouldn't die," said Harry as he waved off her concerns absently. "It would just be an inconvenience."
Lara couldn't help but raise an eyebrow at that but before she could respond Harry gave up on his pathetic knot attempts.
"Ah, screw it!" he cried as he shot a spell at the rope which now stayed firmly fixed to the pole despite his shoddy work. "That'll do it."
"What did the spell do?" she asked dubiously. The rope still looked like it would come loose at any moment.
"Sticking spell," Harry explained. "That's not going anywhere, believe me."
Not quite ready to take his word for it Lara yanked hard on the rope and found that he was telling the truth. It was fixed fast.
In a moment Harry had the other rope fixed and Lara elected to go first. It was a simple crossing really, especially with the two ropes. It took her less than a minute to make the crossing and Harry followed soon after her. As Harry crossed a wind whipped up which caused him to wobble precariously over the chasm but he had a truly uncanny sense of balance and was able to dampen the motion out after just a few shaky seconds.
He leapt back to the earth beside Lara with a little theatrical flourish. Lara couldn't help but smile at his attitude, there was no doubt that his personality alone had made her time on the island more comfortable.
The path lead down a narrow ravine with sheer sides hung with all manner of mosses and vines. Lara paid special attention to the ground as there were a few footprints visible in the mud, she tried to make out any that might be Sam but they all looked like their shoes were extremely old and worn or they were walking barefoot.
The path led them downwards and eventually a cave mouth lay upon their path. Harry lit his wand.
"Stay close, it looks pretty dark in here," he said as he swept the thin beam of light around the cavern.
Lara couldn't stifle her gasp. "Incredible!" she said as she saw the ruins his light was illuminating. "These must pre-date the Kofun period."
She moved to one of the walls and traced her hand over the symbols. "A pilgrimage. But to where?"
"I imagine we'll soon find out," said Harry seriously. The lack of a joke pulled Lara from her wonder.
"What's wrong?" she asked in concern.
"I'm not sure," he said as he shook his head. He glanced around the dark cavern uneasily. "Let's just keep moving, yeah?"
Lara accepted the non-answer as as much information as he would be able to give. She just hoped it wasn't anything too serious.
Soon they exited the ruins and made their way further up the pilgrimage path. All along the path on each side were more statues to Himiko, each with lit candles arrayed around them. Eventually they rounded a bend in the path and Lara once again at the sight that met them. A perfectly preserved late Kofun period temple building. It was huge. And almost all the detailing seemed to be intact despite the constant battering it must have been subject to from the weather. The cliff above had been hewn into huge statues of the Sun Queen. Each one stared blankly down the pilgrimage path Harry and Lara had just walked.
It was nestled on the far side of another chasm but this one was spanned by a wide, strong-looking bridge. A strong wind whipped down the narrow cleft and Lara wondered at how the wood had stood up to that treatment for so many years.
Harry put out his hand to stop her from walking on.
"Stop," he said quietly. He nodded to an opening in the cliff above the temple where flickering human shaped shadows played against the cliff wall. "Look, there's people here."
Lara kept her voice low as she responded, "What do we do? Try and find another way?"
"I'm not sure there is one," he said as he shook his head. "I think this is like a garrison. Probably one of the only ways into the middle of the island."
"So what do we do then?" she asked. She thought he was probably right.
"Well, I can knock them out…" he trailed off. He clearly didn't think that was a workable solution.
"But?" she prompted after he was silent for a moment.
"But that would leave some very angry psychos behind us," he said with a dark look in his eyes. "Between us and your friends."
"They might not be the same group," Lara offered hopefully.
"True, but if we try and talk to them we've got no way of doing this stealthily." He looked at her sympathetically.
"We can't just attack them without knowing if they'll do the same to us," she argued. "That would make us no better than those men at the village."
Harry clenched his jaw but nodded firmly once. "OK. But I'm the only one who goes up to talk to them."
Lara opened her mouth to protest but he held up a hand to forestall her. "No, I can keep myself protected from gunfire. It's easier with just one."
An annoyed growl escaped her throat. "And what? I just watch?"
"You're the cavalry," Harry said with a cheeky grin. "If… When I make a stupid mistake you can ride in to pick up the pieces."
She gave him a skeptical look. "I'm not a child, Harry," she pointed out. "I'm also not stupid."
"All right, all right. But you have to admit it's logical not to put all our eggs in one basket," he said reasonably.
"I know," she said, her voice low. "But I still don't like it."
"Hey, relax," he said with a smile. "What could possibly go wrong?"
"If we get attacked by an army of zombies I'm blaming you," she said wryly. She paused. "Do zombies exist?"
"Yup." Harry rose back from where they'd been crouching and walked out towards the temple as he swished his wand over himself before concealing it in one of his many pockets. Lara had to content herself with watching from afar.
She could only hear Harry's part of the conversation as the wind whipped all other words away before they could reach her.
"Oi!" he called from the middle of the bridge. "Anyone home?"
"Hey, now, calm down," he said after a short pause. His hands were palm down trying to encourage whoever he was talking to to follow his suggestion.
A bang of a gunshot echoed throughout the valley and Lara saw a faint light shimmer into existence around Harry. He wasn't hurt by whatever had happened, from his stance Lara could tell he was unhappy about being fired upon.
"That wasn't very polite," he called up. His wand reappeared in his hand in a moment. "Bombarda!"
The front door of the temple was blasted into kindling by the spell. Gunfire erupted in a torrent as all of the men in the building sighted on Harry through the many windows and from the roof.
By this point Lara was beside herself. Harry was out there fighting and she was cowering behind a rock. She suddenly realised she still had her bow.
She immediately unslung it and nocked an arrow to the string. She sighted on one of the men standing on the roof, choosing one who wasn't shooting as he was the most suspicious. She slowed her breath as she'd been taught and released the arrow towards her target. It flew true even through the gusting wind of the cleft. It struck her target in the neck and he collapsed out of sight as he clutched helplessly at the arrow.
Moments later the entire roof exploded and six other attackers were killed outright or thrown out into the abyss by the fiery blast which brought down a part of the cliff-face. She was grateful when they all missed the bridge Harry was still standing on, it would surely have collapsed had the cliff fallen upon it.
Lara sighted on another of the attackers, this one firing concealed from a window on the second floor of the building when she suddenly felt the hairs on the back of her next stand on end. She threw herself to the ground without thinking, an action which saved her life as a katana cut through the space her neck had occupied mere moments earlier.
She rolled over on the ground and attempted to bring her bow to bear on the new attacker but what she saw made her numb fingers release the arrow to fly uselessly against the chasm walls.
Before her was a large group of ancient Japanese samurai dressed in the style of Sengoku period warriors. What really drew her eye was a huge man who looked like a cross between a giant, a sumo-wrestler and a tank. He was at least 9 feet tall and in his hands he held a mace larger than Lara herself.
She scrambled backwards towards the bridge as the warriors advanced on her. "Harry!" she cried in panic. "Help!"
She didn't know if he heard her but it didn't matter. The big one had caught up with her and had its huge mace held high, ready to strike. Lara breathed out and closed her eyes. How had it come to this?
A/N: As you can imagine with the number of fics I have running simultaneously it becomes hard to devote time to any specific one. However, it becomes very easy to devote time to writing in general. I'm always in the mood for something and this time it was this thing.
This took a while to happen as I couldn't decide what I wanted them to do next. On the one hand there was canon events and on the other there was divergence. Divergence was the obvious route to go down but it also took some level of thought and planning (curses). Anyway. Cheers everyone for the reviews. I know this is probably my least anticipated story but it still gets an amazing response.