The Turkish Archaeologist
Turkey. The land caught between East and West. Its most beautiful city had changed name three times: from Byzantium to Constantinople, back to Byzantium, and now Istanbul. There stood Lara, trying to be inconspicuous among the crowd, and failing. She drew attention even among Western people, and was drawing double that here.
Veiled women dressed all in black stared unmercifully at the shameless Western woman walking around with her long dark braid and her athletic body. Reproachable behaviour in the eyes of these honourable mothers and wives. “She might not have a man to command and protect her,” whispered one.
“Ah!” Sighed the other one. “Shame!”
Lara heard it and of course, also understood it. She turned towards them and flashed a carefree smile, all the while thinking: Old witches. The two ladies, scandalized by her attitude, spat on the ground in her way.
Truth be told, a part of the Turkish people had got tired of all the traditions. Some who crossed paths with the British explorer looked at her without judgement.
A certain example of this gradual liberation was the person with whom Lara was arranged to meet. She was Selma Al-Jazeera, an archaeologist like her, but she neither carried guns nor participated in crazy antics (in this matter, Lara was from a unique species). Like other archaeologists, she was a respectable member of National Geographic, who subsidized their excavations taking place in Cappadocia. She was also an expert in Jewish mythology and Satanic symbolism.
“The great Lara Croft.” Said the young archaeologist, shaking her hand, “It’s an honour to meet you.”
“My pleasure, Selma.” She smiled. “I’ll get to the point quickly: have you ever heard about the Cabal?”
She blinked, confused. “Of course. It’s the secret cosmology of Jewish religion.”
“I’m not talking about that Cabal. I’m talking about those who believed in the Nephilim’s return.”
Selma remained still before suddenly standing and, to Lara’s surprise, closing the doors and window shades.
“Excuse me, are we being spied on?”
“Here, the Cabal is an open secret. Everybody knows about them, but nobody will talk. How do you know about them?”
Lara considered her answer for a while. Finally, she decided she must trust somebody if she wanted to progress in her quest. “Let me start at the beginning. Did you know Professor Werner Von Croy?”
“Yes, I worked with him a couple of years ago. He was another great figure of archaeology.” Said Selma. “He was murdered recently, according to some sources of mine.” Suddenly, she remembered who was suspected to be his murderer.
Lara raised a hand. “Before you say anything, let me tell you the truth. All this began when a terrified Werner called me from Paris, asking me to go to his apartment as soon as I could...”
An astonished Selma listened to the whole story, twisting her fingers from time to time. Lara noticed this and also that she seemed to recognize the names of the Cabal members she was talking about. When Lara finished, both remained silent.
“You don’t believe me, do you?” Tried Lara.
“Yes, I believe you.” Selma said, “Everything you said matches with what I’ve studied all these years...and with what happened here.” Then she lowered her voice. “A few months ago, my colleagues and I were working in my excavation at Cappadocia, when we found something under the sand. A Nephilim cemetery.”
Lara looked surprised.
“We didn’t know what to do. Those creatures there, locked in stone chambers… they were not human. All were dead though…save for one.”
“The Sleeper,” Lara said.
“Exactly. And just a week later, he appeared. Eckhardt.” She got up and started wandering around the room like a lost soul. “He arrived when I was out at a lecture. I knew nothing until it was too late. Most of my workers had been bribed...and with Eckhardt there was that ghastly Karel...he killed those who refused to deliver the Sleeper. One of them was my boyfriend.”
“I’m so sorry.” Lara said.
“They loaded the Sleeper’s stone chamber onto a truck and left. I hadn’t heard anything further on the matter until a couple of weeks ago, when he arrived here.”
“Who?” asked Lara.
Lara felt shocked, but decided to try to disprove her. “That’s impossible. Kurtis is dead. As I told you, the amount of blood I found on the floor… even the strongest man couldn’t survive after losing that much.”
“He didn’t come on his own.” Said Selma. “He was brought.”
Selma sat down again, this time next to her. “I don’t know. There were several people, most of them older. They seemed to be members of some cult.”
“The Lux Veritatis?” Said Lara. “Kurtis is supposed to be the last one.”
“Whoever they were, they saved his life! I was told to take care of him, that he’d been in the hospital long enough to ensure he was no longer at the edge of death, but after that, he was transferred here, to Turkey...to my house.”
“Why you?” Lara asked. “Who are you?”
“Me? Nobody. At first I was reluctant to accept him, but they insisted it was necessary, until the person who should come to look for him arrived.” Then the Turkish archaeologist looked at her uneasy. “They knew you were coming, Lara!”
“Nonsense.” She said, but everything made sense. Kurtis had been calling her to him... but why from so far away, why now in this bad situation? Lara stood up. “I need to see him immediately.”
“He’s not here,” sighed Selma. That was another surprise for her. Before she could open her mouth, the Turkish girl continued: “He was no longer in danger of dying, but still very weak. His wound was horrible…and it hadn’t healed completely. At night he suffered from fevers and delirium. In his pain, he was calling out for you…screaming your name.” Lara almost laughed at the dreamy expression on Selma’s face. “How romantic, don’t you think?” She sighed.
The British explorer arched an eyebrow in derision. “You’re mistaken, Selma, if you think there’s something between us.”
“Oh.” She said, looking disappointed. “So finally, he left yesterday. He wrote a note thanking me for my attentions, which I immediately destroyed. I have the impression both of you are in danger.”
You’re the one who’s in danger, thought Lara, then she said: “Very clever of you. Do you know where he went?”
“He wrote that you would know where to find him.” A smile crossed Selma’s face, “He really trusts you, despite being a mere stranger.”
“Circumstance of necessity,” she said. And then she had an idea. “Selma, you’re the director of the Cappadocia excavation, aren’t you? Please, let me enter it.”
“Of course.” Selma said. “You don’t even need a pass. It’s abandoned since National Geographic withdrew their subsidy from me. And all for the Cabal’s sake!”
Lara stood. There was no time to lose. Touching Selma’s shoulder, she said: “You must leave Turkey as soon as you can. The Cabal are after me, and so far they’ve killed nearly everyone who’s helped me.”
She nodded, frightened. “I understand, thank you. And you can be sure that I’ll support you if you run into further trouble because of Von Croy’s murder.”
Hours later, when Gunderson and his men broke into the apartment, Selma Al-Jazeera was thousands of miles away. Safe and sound.