The Amazon’s Story
Ivanoff rose and led his “guests” to a slide projector. He switched it on and placed several transparencies on the panel. They showed a Latin text with shakey handwriting, small and difficult to read.
“Loanna knew how to speak, read, and write in Latin,” he began to explain. “A very educated woman, she was the daughter of a Croatian feudal lord, so she was raised in a convent. When she reached the age of sixteen she was meant to be married, but Loanna refused, and since she was her father’s favourite child, he allowed her to remain unwed. Here she tells how she learned to ride, fight, and handle all sorts of weapons. She was very skilled with the bow and the sword, similar to Joan of Arc.”
“That’s unusual.” Lara said, “It was more likely she would have returned to the convent, as happened to women who refused to get married.”
“Loanna was special. Unfortunately, I’ve not been able to find references to her in archives or other sources. She doesn’t exist in history, only in this manuscript.”
Lara examined the slides closely. Loanna’s handwriting was fine and elegant, but as she went on the inscription became deeper, as if the author was being forced.
Ivanoff went on: “Loanna tells with pride how the people loved her and wanted her to be her father’s successor in ruling the province. They called her the Amazon...I guess Vlad Tepes chose her for a reason. The Transylvanian prince met her during an expedition he made to the Croatian land. He tried to kidnap her but her father’s warriors protected her. So he put the castle under siege. His troops, composed of bloodthirsty Tartars, were far superior to those of Loanna’s father’s and for weeks they burned his fields and murdered all his peasants. Finally, the Impaler gave him an ultimatum: he must deliver his daughter, or he would devastate his land until not a single stone was unturned.”
“Nobody went to their aid?” Lara said.
“They feared the Impaler. That wretch delivered his daughter, but received punishment immediately and was impaled alongside all his men.”
“That motherfucker.” Kurtis muttered.
“Vlad took Loanna to Bran and made her his concubine,” continued Ivanoff. “He was eager to fulfil the prophecy, since the Nephilim were disappearing in the Shadows War against the Lux Veritatis. Then a member of this Order, dressed as a knight, was the only one able to face Drakul. But the Impaler defeated him, and after torturing him for days, finally killed him.” Ivanoff lifted the last transparency and showed how the manuscript was abruptly interrupted. “And this is all Loanna tells us, with admirable stoicism considering her victimhood. She didn’t write anymore, as you can see, and we are ignorant of whether she fulfilled what was expected of her.”
“What about the original one?” Lara said.
“I sent it to Bucharest.”
Ivanoff switched off the projector and gathered the transparencies. Lara turned towards Kurtis, but he was looking away, lost in thought.
“So this Karel believes that you’re the Amazon.” Ivanoff commented. “That means Vlad didn’t fulfil his awful intentions, despite apparently choosing the suitable woman. In fact, there haven’t been many women with those sort of heroic and indomitable traits.”
Lara kept staring at Kurtis, who seemed not to be there. Nevertheless, Ivanoff’s last sentence made her frown: “Miss Croft...I wouldn’t like to be in your shoes.”
Lara looked at him. “What about the tapestry?”
“Loanna was forced to weave it by that shitstain.” Kurtis said suddenly.
Ivanoff looked at the man, surprised. “Then...that’s a double humiliation, since Loanna hated all housewife work and she used to say she should have been born a man.”
“And what about the sentence Omnia vulnerant, ultima necat?” Lara said.
The professor shrugged: “Who knows? The scythe and the hourglass are symbols of the brevity of life and the imminent arrival of death. Maybe Drakul wanted to make a cruel joke, or maybe Loanna, feeling hopeless, unleashed her anger in this fatalistic phrase.”
Lara returned the transparencies to him and said: “We’re grateful to you. You’ve cooperated with us, but it’s better for you to disappear for a while, now that Karel may target you.”
Ivanoff shook his head. “But where would I go? This is my home. No, I’m staying.”
“It’s your choice. C’mon.” She said to Kurtis. “We’re done here.”
They went towards the door, but then Ivanoff said to Kurtis: “Umm...could you please show me more of your powers? That closet door explosion was amazing...I’d like to see something like that again…for example, make something fly or burst into pieces.”
Kurtis bellowed at him with a glance. “You think I’m a circus clown?”
The sun was rising when they returned to the hotel, so tired that they entered their respective rooms without exchanging a word. Almost ten hours later, Lara woke up. She had fallen asleep on the bed without even pulling back the sheets. A fresh breeze came through the window. She got up, entered the bathroom, and had a shower to wash away the rest of the blood and dirt. Wrapped in a towel, she stood in front of the mirror and examined her injured arm. It was discoloured a blueish purple, but neither broken nor dislocated. While rubbing ointment over the bruise, she recalled with displeasure their unsuccessful outcomes up to that moment.
Suddenly, the telephone rang. Lara picked it up and heard a familiar voice speaking in Greek: “How are you doing, Miss Croft?” It was the man who had called before in the boat, apologizing for Karolis’ attack.
“Who are you?” Lara shouted. “My personal doctor?”
“I’m sorry for my manners, Miss Croft. First of all, I’ll introduce myself: I’m Minos Axiotis, from Greece.”
“I’ve taken notice of your language.” Lara said sarcastically.
“I’m warning you. You’re in danger.”
“Seriously? I had no idea.”
Silence came from the other side of the line. “Miss, please don’t use sarcasm with me. Your situation is serious and you know it. He’s using you to get the information he needs. Indeed, he’s very well taken care of it. You’ve been able to take care of yourself until now, but I can tell you, a Nephilim is nothing like the kind of enemies you’ve faced before.”
“He’s watching you. Be careful and, above all, you must not separate from Mr. Trent’s side. He’s the only one who can protect you...and you’re the only one who can save him.”
Minos hung up, and a very upset Lara approached the window. Suddenly, she stiffened as she looked down at the street. There was somebody watching her. She recognized him immediately. His white skin, his blonde hair, his blue eyes. Clad in black, like Death. Cold and lethal. Joachim Karel.
He stared at her and smiled. It was an empty smile, without heat, without purpose, so cold she could feel it cut the air. Lara stared at him with rage. I don’t fear you, she thought in silence.
She closed the window, but then the Nephilim’s voice sounded in her mind, as if he had spoken aloud. You will.
She turned again towards the glass, but he’d disappeared. The street was empty, swept by the wind.