Into The Eitr

by

Tisa Rahman






Amelia skid across the ground as she landed on it, earning many scrapes on her arms and legs as she did so. The sword fell with clang somewhere to her right. Pure disorientation kept her where she was on the ground, breathing hard. Somewhere in the distance she heard that same voice she had heard through the light scream 'NO' but at the same time she heard another, younger, more familiar voice scream 'MOTHER!'

She immediately sprang to her feet. "LARA!" she cried, running towards the light where she heard the voice. Had her daughter been taken into that thing? But almost as soon as she had started moving, the light from the odd circular structure had faded, the whole thing rotating and sinking back into the ground. The green glow from the surrounding obelisks also faded till they looked like normal, albeit strangely patterned, rocks. Amelia just stood there, breathing and staring hard in numb shock.

Lara was gone.

It only took a moment for her to realise she wasn't where she had been just a few moments earlier. Apparently, it wasn't her daughter that was taken from her, but vice versa. Amelia blinked and slowly looked up above her. There was nothing but a rocky ceiling extremely high above her, waterfalls finding their way through it by large holes. She then slowly turned herself around completely, panning her view to the scene behind her, and gasped.

It was an enormous cavern of some sort, apparently underground, with huge rocky structures as tall as skyscrapers, the rough stone having symbols carved into them that were similar to the ones on the obelisks. The only source of light seemed to be coming from some sort of bluish glow, both from below, and from the liquid that fell from above. Curious, Amelia walked to the edge of the stony platform, and looked down.

Water. Except, it wasn't really water. Amelia bent down to study it carefully. It was a good three metres below her, fluorescent and... alive somehow. Streaks of light flowed within the very substance of it, unruly and flowing not with the water per se, but rather independent from it. Every now and then, something akin to heat waves were let off from the liquid in various places. There was also... a noise coming from it. It sounded like harsh whispering, as if the water was not only alive, but there was also something living inside it. Amelia stood up and retreated a few steps from the edge of the platform, afraid. She didn't know how but she strongly felt as though this thing was something she was supposed to stay clear from.

In fact she felt as though no human being should be in this place at all.

It was, after all, devoid of life. A cave or cavern this size should be home to a few thousand bats at least but no, there was nothing here.

She turned back to the stone dais and her thoughts immediately returned to Lara. Amelia had no idea what had just happened, but the one thing she did know was that her nine-year old daughter was now completely and utterly alone in an abandoned temple in the middle of the Himalayas. Lara meant the world to her, and Amelia chastised herself for letting that precious girl out of her sight. If she hadn't, none of this would have happened, but now... the thought of that child wandering around in the cold with no help for miles around was too much for her to bear. She had to find a way back to her.

Amelia spotted the strange sword some distance away, and picked it up. The metal was surprisingly light and cold to the touch. She examined the protruding rock in the middle of the circle of obelisks. It had a rather large slot in it as if it were meant for the sword. She took the sword in both hands and slid it into place.

The markings on the ground and obelisks around her immediately glowed red, but other than that, nothing happened. She waited a moment, just in case, then firmly took a hold of the hilt and pulled the sword out of its stony sheath again, hoping this action would trigger something like it had when she did it the first time. It was to no avail: the markings faded back to normal and the large ring-shaped stone in the ground remained in the ground, unmoving. Not for the first time, Amelia wished Richard was here next to her. He would undoubtedly have known what to do. Strange and ancient artefacts and mechanisms were, after all, his area of expertise.

A few more attempts at the dais and she gave up, dropping the sword to the floor exasperatedly with a clang. She was wasting time. She had to get back to Lara. She could not leave her there. How would Lara find her way out of that place? How would Lara survive? A thought struck her. Perhaps there was another way out?

She turned away from the dais and started walking towards the centre of the huge cave, towards where all the peculiar water was apparently flowing. The bridge she was walking on was banked on either side by two of those tall stone structures, and it wasn't until she passed between them could she honestly appreciate the magnitude of this place. It truly was enormous. And, what's more, all the stone structures seemed to be part of some bigger mechanism of some sort. Tonnes of precisely carved rock were somehow stacked into leaning pillars, four of them, towards the centre as if they were meant to slide into something. What that something was, she would probably never know. The so-called water flowed over whatever edge was there and disappeared into a never-ending darkness. Perhaps the centre of the Earth, Amelia mused.

She looked around, searching for a way, any way, out of this place. Somewhere on the other side of the cavern she could spot a passage or a tunnel of some sort. She immediately began her trek towards it but stopped after a few steps, staring at the water. It was bubbling, and the harsh whispers were getting louder. All of a sudden, something jumped out of the fluid with a deafening roar and landed in front of her.

Amelia screamed in horror at the hideous thing, falling back as she did, the sickening smell of decomposition reaching her nostrils. The creature before her had a bald inhuman face with glowing blue eyes, no nose, and sharp fang-like teeth. Its greyish muscles and black bulging veins were grotesquely prominent through its rotting leathery skin, which appeared to have fallen off in some places, and chains hung from the metal around its wrists, ankles, neck and torso, which seemed to be acting as some form of armour. For a fleeting moment, Amelia remembered the drawing Lara had shown her in the plane, and didn't know what to think.

With another roar the yeti-like creature raised its fists as if to smash her but Amelia managed to scramble away from it in time, getting to her feet and starting to run in the opposite direction, kicking off her heels as she did so to escape the monstrosity faster. She stopped running as, with another splash and roar, two more creatures jumped out a few metres ahead of her.

"Good Lord!" she cried. These two creatures were not nearly as big as the one behind her, in fact they were just over half its size, but they were still just as frightening. These things once had clothes on them, most of which was ripped and burnt useless to reveal dark rotting flesh. They also had armour on, donning helmets on their heads with horns attached and parts of their very bones were visible where the flesh was not. Amelia realised with horror that these creatures had once been human.

Now with no where left to run but back to the dais, Amelia sprinted back across the bridge, terror coursing through her veins as she heard the growls and roars closing in behind her. She frantically picked up the only object she could use to defend her, swinging the sword around to face the monsters. As she swung, the sword glowed a bright green and something the same colour shot out of it with a resounding 'KSSSH', taking out a chunk from one of the obelisks as it did so.

Amelia took only a split second to marvel at the weapon in her hands, before she started swinging and hacking it at the general direction of the creatures before her. One blow from the green stuff and the humanoid creatures were pulverised into disembodied body parts. In any other situation Amelia would have been severely sick at the sight, but this was not like any other situation. She started swinging the sword at the direction of the big creature but all it seemed to do was slow it down until, finally, it also exploded like the others.

She wasted no time and ran across the bridge again, sword in hand, until she found herself on the main stony path. All around her, creatures like the ones she had encountered started jumping out of the blue substance she was now certain was not water. But she kept on running to what she hoped to God was a means of escape, continuously hacking and swinging at whatever stood in her way.

She had to get out of here and find Lara.

Finally reaching the mouth of the corridor, she was met with more of those monsters from inside. She immediately disposed of them. Turning the corner, she found more humanoid creatures coming at her. One blow at each of them and they were no more but while she was doing this, Amelia failed to notice one coming up behind her until it quite suddenly grabbed her and lifted her above its head. She shrieked, thrashing in its rotting hands as she flailed the sword blindly at it. It apparently struck true as with an angered roar, the hairless yeti threw her to the floor. Amelia ached where she hit the ground but her fear greatly overcame any pain she felt right now, so she was briskly on her feet again. The monstrosity was far too close to her and she backed up slowly to distance herself from it as she simultaneously hacked at it again and again. Even as it finally disintegrated into a mess of blue, Amelia found herself tripping over a disembodied arm she hadn't seen. She fell backwards, dropping the sword on the ground as she did so, never seeing the deep ditch directly behind her until it was far too late.

She fell with a splash into the very substance that had made these creatures and immediately started screaming. The pool itself was shallow and she fell on her side, but that didn't stop it from burning, and oh GOD how it burned. She could feel it eating away her flesh, exposing her muscles and insides and whatever else that should never have been in contact with the outside air.

Somehow, she managed to clamber out of the ditch away from the searing substance and then she collapsed on the ground right there, writhing and screaming from the unbearable pain, clutching at her face and her chest. Her face hurt, her chest hurt, her arms and legs hurt, her whole body just hurt - she felt as though she was being eaten alive, and she already knew she would never see through her left eye again. Some part of her mind registered that more of the creatures were coming, but strangely, they did nothing when they saw her. Their purposes fulfilled, they simply shuffled past her back to wherever they came from. Amelia, still too wrapped up in her own pain could only lie there and scream and cry.

After what seemed like an eternity, she finally got to her feet, and then the true horror of what that scorching liquid did to her truly hit...

In the first few days, she had tried to escape, she really had tried. She painfully made her way through every inch of the dreaded place she had come to call Hell, but found no way out. She even tried the dais again and it almost worked, with the stone ring rising out of the ground, but it did nothing else and so, she lost all hope.

Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, months to years. And slowly, very slowly, Amelia began to change. The first thing she noticed was that she didn't feel any pain, even though her flesh was still being slowly eaten away by the acidic substance, like a spreading disease. The pain was what kept her awake at the beginning but later, she found there was no need to sleep at all. She didn't need to eat anymore, as she seemed to survive fine without food. She found she couldn't talk one day as her throat and vocal cords became affected. In fact, the only thing that could come out of her throat was a sort of low guttural noise, similar to the growling sound the creatures that attacked her made. She had become completely blind in her left eye, but her vision in her right had already started to become blurry. She found herself thinking less and less of Lara, Richard and herself: whether Lara was alive or not; whether Richard had found her before it was too late; whether she'll ever forgive herself for abandoning her own daughter, and so on. Soon, as her mind became affected too, she found herself not really thinking much at all.

The strange waters didn't frighten or disgust her anymore but were now somehow captivating to her. The harsh undecipherable whispers that emanated from its surface gradually became understandable and she found herself listening to them, long after her ears became affected and she became partially deaf. There came a day when she was walking past one of the luminescent waterfalls and she found herself mesmerised by its ethereal colours. And so she stood in front of it, staring into its depths, not thinking anything, just listening to the whispers and continuing to stand there and stare blankly day after day, waiting for something, anything to happen.

Then one day, something did.

"Mother?"

The sound was garbled as it reached her ears and for a moment she was sure she heard nothing.

"Mother, it's me! It's Lara!"

She turned her head at the sound and caught sight of the figure in the corner of her eye. One word came to her poisoned mind: Intruder.

She turned around completely and started dragging her feet towards this intruder, that was still just a blur in her vision.

"No..." Lara recoiled immediately and stared at the creature in shock as it came ever closer, "no no no..." She shook her head and took a few more steps back, taking in every inch of the thrall's appearance from its nauseatingly disfigured face to the exposed decaying flesh of its beating heart. Lara aimed her gun directly at its head.

Intruder. There would not be any intruders. Amelia would make sure of that.

"My mother is dead. My mother is dead. My mother died a long time ago." Lara desperately tried to convince herself, looking away. She faced the creature. "You're not my mother."

As Amelia lunged towards the intruder, it almost came into focus and slowly, very slowly, a hazy familiarity began to stir in the deepest recesses of her decaying mind, the tiny part of her mind that was still Lady Amelia Croft.

Lara, grimacing, shut her eyes and shot at the thrall again and again, only opening her eyes to take aim. She couldn't bear to watch herself shoot the thing that was once her mother, tears forming in her eyes each time she pulled the trigger.

Amelia was pushed back by every bullet, the cyan fluid that had replaced her blood flying with each shot. It didn't hurt of course and she bothered less about what the intruder was doing and wondered more about what it was that seemed so familiar.

Then, as she finally fell over the edge towards the fatal blue substance, it finally clicked.

Lara.

She was alive.

Amelia's gruesome face had a small smile on it, right before she plunged into the Eitr.


THE END



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.