Lara and Kurtis, dressed in tight black outfits, quietly formed their plan: it was vital to avoid any notice. During the day they had studied the castle’s security systems and found them lacking: the gates were protected by alarms, but not the windows. After all, who would be able to squeeze through such high and narrow windows?
Lara Croft could. She slipped quietly to the back of the castle at the foot of the cliff. Hidden among the bushes, she unhooked a grappling gun and shot a hook into the roof of the tower. The attached rope hung to the ground, where she then grabbed it and began to climb the length of the cliff to reach the base of the tower. When she reached it, she examined the windows nearest her and chose the wider one. She manoeuvred before it and tried to push it open. But the bars were shut tight. She’d have to break them.
She rocked back several times to build up speed before finally swinging towards the window full-force, legs straight out to kick it in. The aged wood yielded under her strength and she let go as it broke, falling into the room and thankfully landed on an 18th century overstuffed couch that cushioned her impact.
She got up, pulled in the rope and went downstairs. She took a few minutes to switch off the alarm – what high mountain technology - and opened the door for Kurtis. “Was all that noise you?” he asked, “What’d you break this time?”
Before Lara could reply, a figure emerged from the darkness and faced them. It was Professor Ivanoff, wielding a ridiculously puny Swiss army knife. “I knew it!” He shouted triumphantly. “Thieves and terrorists! You’re not stealing anything!”
Lara and Kurtis stared at him...and then Ivanoff realized the man had a gun holstered under his arm...not to mention Lara’s dual pistols that sat on her hips, the long knife strapped against her thigh, and the sub-machine gun slung over her shoulder. Doesn’t matter, the professor encouraged himself, I’ve got the element of surprise.
But something was wrong. They didn’t seem very surprised. In fact, Lara turned her attention back towards Kurtis and said: “Give me the torch. I’m going to study the tapestry and you explore the galleries beneath the courtyard...”
“Are you ignoring me?” The professor yelled angrily.
Lara looked back at him and smiled patiently: “Professor, stop waving that fruit peeler around before you hurt yourself.”
Those words, combined with Kurtis’ grin, were the last straw. Losing his temper, Ivanoff chaotically began lunging the knife: “Enough! Go back! Go back! I have a blade and I won’t hesitate to use it!”
“Wait a minute.” Kurtis said. “What did you say? A blade?” The man stood before Ivanoff and, deliberately clutching his belt in slow motion, took out a weird metal disk and held it before his eyes. As if by the devil’s work, five sharp blades opened with a snap, one of which stopped only a few inches from the professor’s nose. “See, these are blades.” Kurtis snapped.
Ivanoff dropped the knife, terrified.
“Enough.” Lara sighed, annoyed. “We’re wasting time. Get rid of him.”
The professor screamed in terror when Kurtis grabbed him by the collar and dragged him down the hall, toward an old wardrobe. He opened it and threw the little man inside, ignoring his whimpers.
“If I hear even the slightest noise coming from here,” Kurtis said, pointing at him with the Chirugai, “I’ll show you what can I do with this.” He slammed the door and turned the key, throwing it out the window afterwards.
When he returned to Lara, she was examining a map of the castle spread out on the floor by flashlight.
“He won’t be a problem, at least for now.” said Kurtis.
Lara smiled as she folded the map. “You’ve been too harsh with the poor thing.”
“Bah, that was nothing.”
They split up and went each their own way, disappearing into the darkness.
The courtyard was lit by dim moonlight. As Kurtis expected, the well located in the middle was sealed, but he had no problem breaking the lock with a shot and removing the wooden lid with a boost. He went into the hole and descended slowly into the darkness, clinging to the iron rings that served as the ladder inside the dry well.
At the bottom, he stepped onto slick, muddy ground. He turned on the flashlight and went on, half hunched over in the narrow tunnel. As he always did in passageways with multiple branches, Kurtis took the left path, since the Nephilim had used that criteria before and Count Drakul should be no exception.
The corridor ended abruptly in a rotted wooden door. With a single push it snapped off its hinges and fell to the ground.
He came into a torture chamber. The cell was tiny and filled with a horrible stench. There were several devices, most of them decayed by moisture; among them Kurtis recognized the rack, the spiked wheel, and the strappado. Why had Vlad Tepes, always so proud to display his sadism in public, rigged a hidden place for it?
Then, suddenly, Kurtis had a hunch. He looked around and felt as if the place wanted to speak to him, to uncover the terrible events that took place there. He sat on the muddy ground, adopted the lotus position and put his hands on his knees. He took a deep breath and bent his head.
What he was going to do was extremely dangerous and he knew it. His mind would wander and if he wasn’t careful, he could get lost and become an empty body, without will. But that was one of the many costs of being a Lux Veritatis. He’d spent enough time refusing to use it, but now that no longer made sense.
He closed his eyes and sent his mind far away from his body, propelling himself back in time centuries ago...
After a moment, Lara found herself before the grand tapestry. It was beautiful but depicted something awful, provoking revulsion in her. The Amazon with her clothes torn, had her face contorted in rage and impotence as the Nephilim, with the face of Vlad Tepes, clutched her by the hair. In a corner, the defeated Lux Veritatis was kneeling with his head bowed. However, he still appeared as a mysterious shining knight, as if defeated but not destroyed.
Over the heads of the characters was an hourglass and a scythe surrounded by a Latin phylactery. This amazed Lara, since she hadn’t expected to see the language of the Lux Veritatis used in a tapestry made for the Nephilim’s glorification:
OMNIA VULNERANT, ULTIMA NECAT
Lara knew about that: a famous old saying used among the Romans. Translated to her language it meant “All them wound, the last kills”, referring to the hours of a person’s life...so it was a very discouraging point of view.
That had little to do with the subject matter, but Lara was sure there was something more. She went towards the tapestry and patted the excellent velvet fabric. What if there was something inside the tapestry? She felt the edges. It was a big square piece with a noticeable thickness; perfect for hiding something within the wood structure.
Lara pulled out her knife, ready to make a lateral cut and look inside, but a familiar voice stopped her.
“Careful, Miss Croft,” said Gunderson, “that tapestry is over five hundred years old.”