The Quest For Skirnir's Sword
The damp smell of a tomb she knows all too well floods her senses. Instinctively, she grabs her head and feels blood. Slowly she emerges from the dirty floor, and tries to figure out what happened. The question rages in her mind, but she can't remember. The ammunition was stripped from her pistols and her belongings stolen. She walks towards the ray of sunlight catching her eye and slowly approaches the vehicle waiting for her. She starts the engine, the machine's roar rips through the silence, and she drives away.
As she walks through the huge front door of her British mansion, she is greeted by the loneliness she has come to know over the last couple of months. But she doesn't care. She has been betrayed too many times by the people she allowed to get close to her, and has ought to never let it happen again. She has only herself now, and that's the way she prefers it. Silently she walks up the stairs towards her room. She cleans up her wounds and later lies on her bed, still eagerly searching her memory for answers. After a while, fatigue from her latest adventure overwhelms her, and she falls asleep.
She can see Winston's face, clearly, stricken with pain. His blood slowly seeping through the carpet, and through her heart. She can barely move. She feels extreme frustration and anger, but cannot express it. She is forced to watch the man closest to her heart suffer a painful, deliberate death. Then she hears the sinister laughter. Laughter coming from a man she now hates with every fibre of being inside of her. Her mind is raging, but her body is giving up, and slowly she slips into a pool of darkness...
Suddenly she is awake, now aware that it was just another nightmare. A recurring nightmare she's been having ever since the event that shook her to the core. Sweat still dripping from her body she gets up and starts preparing for the day ahead of her. She has no idea what time it is, but doesn't care anyway because she knows she won't be able to sleep again. She has to get moving, in an attempt to suppress her anger and hatred, even if only for a while.
She is almost certain that this ambush was linked to the attack, and death of her team several months earlier. She had found the artefact, but it was stolen from her and even only the thought of that infuriates her. She will find him, and she'll make him pay. What she had found in the Faroe Islands was linked to the Norse myth concerning Freyr, God of peace and closely linked to the sun, the giantess Gerd, and even more so the journey of his servant, Skirnir, and the magic sword that was entrusted to him by his master. Skirner was ordered to travel to the underworld to convince Freyr's love, Gerd, to marry him. She refused, and it wasn't until he threatened her with his magic sword that she agreed to meet Freyr in a grove of trees to become his bride. Skirnir's journey into the underworld is symbolic of the winter months is Norse lands, known for long periods of darkness. She had studied this myth thoroughly, after she learnt about a secret society, the Nordic Prism Descendants, or NPD, who believe that they are descendants of the sons of Freyr and Gerd, and that there is a passage that will lead them to immortality and supreme rule over the earth. They believe that mere mortal humans are not worthy of living on their ancestor's planet and will create a new, supreme being, blessed by the Gods to inhabit the earth. She strongly believes that she had found Skirnir's sword, the only key to the passage, and that it has now fallen into the wrong hands. She has no doubt that there is truth in this myth, after what she had seen in Greenland and Norway, she was not willing to give this society another chance to prove itself.
A knock at the door grabs her attention. She gets up from her desk and approaches her manor entrance. She opens the door, and is suddenly overwhelmed by a group of men. She fights back, and is managing quite well when she feels someone put a cloth over her face, and she loses consciousness.
Slowly she opens her eyes. It's cold. She sits up and observes her surroundings. She seems to be in a deserted warehouse. She has no idea what is going on, but she knows one thing for sure: she has to get out of here. The sound of a door opening startles her, and she gets up. In the dim light she can see a man approaching her. A big man, broad shoulders, dark hair and distinct facial features. Despite the fact that he looks tired and stressed, he seems young. He reaches out his hand towards Lara. "Greetings Lady Croft. I am Randulf. I apologize for bringing you here under these circumstances, but we've heard that you can get pretty stubborn, and dangerous, at times. His voice is deep and rough, but soothing. She rejects his gesture, and awkwardly he lowers his hand and looks at her. "Why did you bring me here?" She asks fiercely. "It will be explained to you Lady Croft, all I can tell you is that we direly need your help." She accepts his explanation, for now. A woman enters the room. She has short, reddish brown hair and a small frame. She has similar features to those of Randulf, and Lara wonders if they are related. She stands next to Randulf, her piercing green eyes examining Lara. He introduces her as Ari. They stand in silence, glaring at each other, until finally the rest of the party enters the room. There is Sveinn, a very young, handsome looking boy and Hakon, a blonde, seemingly mysterious man. Hakon seems to be in charge, and he orders Sveinn to debrief Lara. "Lady Croft, I implore you to keep what is going to be said here today between these four walls, for you own safety. We will protect you as far as we can, but only if you allow us to." There is silence, as if he wants his words to sink in properly. "Go on." "We believe you've found a valuable artefact when you were in the Faroe Islands. Do you know what you found, Miss Croft?" Lara glares at him, and replies: "Are you here to tell me what's going on, or to insult my intelligence? Sveinn smiles. "Fierce, aren't we?"
Lara doesn't look amused, and Sveinn continues. "We believe that the NPD were tracking you, and used you to get hold of the artefact. That is why we had to get you out of Britain." "Why? Why did you bring me here?" "We need your help to get it back, Lara." "It's Lady Croft to you." She replies bluntly. "I apologize. Lady Croft, if that artefact falls into the wrong hands, which sadly it already has, it could cause great damage. The NPD will stop at nothing to fulfill their so called 'destinies'. We must stop them. And we need your help to do so" She doesn't reply. "We'll give you some time to think about it." Hakon signals the others, and slowly they walk out and close the door.
Lara is slightly overwhelmed by this sudden wave of information, and she's having a hard time trying to think straight. How does she know she can trust these people? They haven't even introduced their organisation yet. For all she knows, they could be working with the NPD. But she doesn't have much of a choice at the moment. If she refuses, they might kill her. So she decides that she'll agree to their plans, for now.
Hakon enters the room. He has an intimidating presence, but he speaks gently: "Have you decided yet, Lady Croft?" There is momentary silence, then she replies: "I will help you, but only if you inform me of everything you know about the sword and the NPD." Hakon reveals a little smile, and reassures her that they will give her all the information they have. He leads her into the room were all the others disappeared to earlier, and she is surprised to see a room furnished with computers, equipment and weapons. "Welcome to our team, Lady Croft." Her new fellow team members welcome her to their headquarters and show her to her room. They had brought some of her clothes and her weapons with them from her manor. She changes and re enters the control room. Randulf explains that they have tracked the NPD and, most likely the sword, to an abandoned area in Estonia, and that they must have arrived there by daybreak. "Us?" Lara asks. "Yes, Ari will be accompanying you on your travels whilst working with us. "I prefer working alone." Lara states adamantly. "I understand Lady Croft, but we cannot allow you to take on the NPD without any form of protection. Ari is a trained agent of our organisation, and she will be there to protect you." "I don't need protection. I work alone. That's final." She hears Ari's intimidating voice from behind. "Lady Croft, you clearly don't understand this operation. This isn't one of your little artefact hunting expeditions, this is far more dangerous. You will be committing suicide if you go there alone." Lara doesn't appreciate being talked to like that, but she pains herself to admit that Ari has a point. She saw what the NPD is capable of doing, and she isn't planning on getting herself killed. She turns around and looks at Randulf, then at Ari, and then walks toward her room.
It's still dark. The whole team is standing on the warehouse roof, waiting for the helicopter to pick up Ari and Lara. There's an icy breeze blowing. The team stood in silence, until the noise from the blades ripping through the morning air broke it. Once the two women, and all their supplies and equipment were in, the helicopter started it's engines again, ready to take off. "Good luck" Yelled Randulf, his voice luckily harsh enough to reign over the engines noise. Lara smiles, waves at the team and the chopper takes off. There is so much noise inside that it would be impossible to have a conversation, but it doesn't phase Lara. She wouldn't know what to say to Ari, and she presumed that Ari didn't have anything to say to her either. In silence they waited to reach their destination.
After a couple of hours the pilot announce that they will be landing soon. Lara glances over at Ari, and notices a strange marking in her neck. It seems vaguely familiar, but her thoughts are interrupted by the helicopter touching down. Ari grabs her bags and hops out, and Lara soon follows. They are in Tallinn, the capital and largest city of Estonia, and are escorted to a mini van. The driver seems friendly, but speaks no English. Luckily Lara is able to communicate in Finnish, and they depart. With all their baggage, there's an extremely confined space for them to travel in, and sitting next to Ari, Lara attempts to start a conversation. "How long have you been with this..organisation?" Lara still doesn't know what they call themselves. "Long enough." A blunt reply. Lara decides it's best to leave it at that for now. She looks out the window. They have just driven past the Kuressaare castle , and their destination is even further along into the countryside. The scenery is breathtaking, and after a couple of minutes they arrive. An old, dilapidated country house awaits them, and soon they, and all their baggage, are standing in front of the house, while the van drives away in a cloud of dust. Ari digs out the keys from her luggage and unlocks the door. It screeches open to reveal a dusty, seemingly abandoned interior. They settle in, set out all their equipment and immediately report back to headquarters. They receive the most recent whereabouts of the NPD, useful maps and information about the building. Finally, Hakon wishes them luck and signs off. The plan is to infiltrate the NPD offices and ultimately to find Skirnir's sword. They'll slip past security when changing shifts, get the piece, and exit by deactivating a maintenance lift, then scaling the shaft to safety. Easier said than done, naturally. They both know it will certainly not be an easy task, but they do believe themselves capable. Both reside to their rooms early to prepare for the mission ahead of them.
Still in the early morning hours, Lara and Ari stand facing the majestic glass building, which seems to have some construction works on the one side of it. The guard finishes his last patrol for the night, then disappears into the darkness, heading towards the security building a couple of metres away, and signalling the ladies' cue. They slip past the gate and quickly into the main building. There's a deceiving sense of calmness inside. They move along the length of the ground floor, in darkness, towards the lift. The sword is in a vault located inside the managing directors' office. The lift chimes to indicate their arrival, and, with a feeling of suspense, the doors open. The floor is bathed in luminous white light, and looks somewhat similar to the interior of an average office building. But Lara knows that looks can be deceiving, especially in this case. She and Ari walk side to side and examine the titles on the office doors as they pass. Eventually, they find 'Dr. A. Hallvardr. MD.' There has been total silence throughout their infiltration, and no sign of anyone inside the building. They draw their weapons, and slowly open the door, waiting for a reaction. Nothing. They stay in position for a couple of seconds, and then Lara enters the office, followed by Ari. There is no one inside. A huge office window overlooks the construction they saw earlier. So far, so good, Lara thinks, flipping the light switch to reveal the position of the vault. She kneels in front of it, examining the lock. Ari pulls out a piece of equipment and fixes it to the mechanism, and within seconds the vault opens to reveal it's precious treasure. "Well that was easy enough" Lara states, and Ari's face reveals a little smile. Lara smiles back at her, and then they both turn to focus on the sword. A beautiful piece, embedded with emeralds and rubies arranged in various ancient designs, it's like nothing Lara has ever seen before. She takes the sword and places it carefully in her backpack. She turns around, and is shocked to see a man standing in front of her. Behind him, a group of armed men. Lara and Ari both stand speechless, still shocked by this unexpected ambush. The man looks prominent, an expensive business suit covers his well built body. He steps closer and speaks, his face almost touching Lara's "Are you trying to steal something from me, Miss Croft?" She recgocnizes his voice. She tries to step back, but realises that she is already standing against the vault. She glances over at Ari, and sees that several men are also pinning her to the wall, trying to disarm her. The women are outnumbered by far, and both reaching their wits end at trying to figure out a way to escape. Suddenly the man grabs her by the neck and holds her up against the wall, while another takes her weapons and her backpack. She feels his grip tighten around her throat, and the oxygen slowly escaping from her body. She tries to fight him, but he is immensely strong, and her strength is draining with every second that he is depriving her body of it's fuel. Then he releases her. She collapses to the ground, gasping for air. She gets up, and feels a huge blow to her head. She collapses again, pain is raiding her senses and she feels blood dripping from her face. She feels absolutely helpless, and for the first time in her life, she gets a feeling that she is going to die. She looks up at the man, and sees him staring intently down at her. She wonders if he would kill her. He starts kicking her, repeatedly, the pain and anger rages at her thoughts, but she knows if she even attempts to hurt him, his minions will not hesitate to execute her. She looks over at Ari again. They are hurting her too, and now her little body seems so fragile and vulnerable to Lara. Then, suddenly, with a huge amount of power Ari manages to shove the men off her, immediately triggering all attention, and gunfire , upon her. In a seemingly oblivious moment, Ari looked at Lara from across the room. She is saving Lara, and she is suffering in doing so. Lara struggles to get up and in the chaos manages to reach the door , when she is pulled backward off her feet and slid across the office floor. She hits the desk head first and feels gunshots puncturing her body. Then a set of hands grip her and throws her into the office window. The glass shatters, shards of it slicing through her. A feeling of fear overwhelms her. Then she hits the scaffolding. She tries to hold onto the pipe that supports the structure, but it comes down with her. Wood and steel pipes impact her already weakened body, she can feel her bones breaking inside. She knows that she is going to die. Then she sees something in the distance above her. Something with wings, coming straight at her. A beautiful being, coming to rescue her. She closes her eyes and reaches out her hand, and the being scoops her into it's arms and rescues her from a certain death. Lara thinks that she has died, and that this is all just an illusion. She feels extremely tired, weak, but safe in this creatures arms. They glide through the night air. Lara opens her eyes and looks up into it's face. Then she frowns. It's Ari.
Sunlight floods through the window, rays of it falling on Lara as she lays on the bed. Slowly, she opens her eyes. She still feels tired and weak, her body throbbing with pain. She seems to be back in the old country house. She is confused, and questions rage in her mind. She remembers falling, and then...Ari! She slowly gets up and stumbles further into the house to find her. She spots her sitting in the living room, watching television. Lara stands between Ari and the television, and glares at her. "Explain everything. Now" Lara's voice is intense, but strangely subtle. Ari returns Lara's intent stare for a moment, then reaches for the remote and turns off the TV. "Sit down, Lady Croft. It's quite a long story." Lara is almost amazed by Ari's willingness to explain, and was expecting more dire measures to get her to talk. She takes a seat, her muscles aching in the movement. Ari looks down at her hands, and starts to reveal her story.
"Before I was born, my mother worked for the NPD laboratories in Norway. She, along with a group of scientists, were working on a project involving genetic manipulation and testing. Apparently, they were ordered to create a substance which could enhance human senses, and even introduce alternate forms or powers. The product of their research was radioactive, and an accident lead to my mother's team to be exposed, and changed. But the effects of the substance was too strong. People started getting horribly sick and some even died. It would only work if it were concentrated. So they grew children from the remaining four scientists, and we were the product. Randulf, Hakon, Sveinn and I are all genetically manipulated. We have alternate forms, enhanced senses and certain powers that normal human beings don't have."
Lara is stunned. She looks at Ari in disbelief. "My name explains my alternate form. Ari means eagle in Nordic languages" Ari stands up, and suddenly her body begins to change. Beautiful, majestic wings spread from her back and reddish brown feathers cover certain parts of her body. Her eyes glow green, and claws extend from where her fingernails previously were. She looks at Lara, both standing in silence and glaring at each other. Then slowly, she begins to change back to her human form. Lara is overwhelmed, and for a second she finds herself doubting her sanity. "Why did you leave the NPD?" Lara asks, sounding calmer now. "They had their tests, their samples. There was no reason to keep us alive. We were like lab rats to them." There is momentary silence, then Lara sees Ari's eyes fill up with tears. "Our lives have no meaning. We cannot exist among ordinary people, we only have each other." Then she turns around and heads toward her room. In her stride she tells Lara that they will be leaving for HQ tomorrow morning. She disappears around a corner. Lara stares into the space where Ari stood moments earlier, and after a while steps out onto the patio and sits in an old wooden chair. She enjoys the scenery for one last time. Scenery of the place that almost took her life. And of the place that certainly changed it.
NOTICE: This story is a work of fiction. Lara Croft, her likeness,
and the Tomb Raider games are all copyright of EIDOS Interactive. There is no challenge to these copyrights intended by this story, as it is a
non-sanctioned, unofficial work of the author's own.
Entry for the 4th Village of Tokakeriby Tomb Raider Story Competition, 2009.