Loanna Von Skopf
Lara stood still for a moment, considering her odds. Then she quickly turned, drew her weapons and fired at close range. Gunderson threw himself down and five of his men dodged the gunfire, then pounced to catch her. Seeing herself cornered, she jumped over them, flipped in the air, landed at the other side and darted towards the door.
“Follow her!” Yelled Gunderson, then talking into the walkie-talkie: “You on the other side: the woman runs in your direction!”
Lara sprinted down the hall as bullets passed next to her, hitting furniture, vases and mirrors. When she reached the spiral stairs, she stopped, panting, and heard another group of mercenaries pounding downstairs quickly, nearing her. Trapped again, but yet not defeated.
She went back and grabbed her machine gun, faced the group that pursued her, and fired. This time two fell. Taking advantage of their confusion, she jumped over the bodies and disappeared through another corridor.
“Sir!” Shouted one of the mercenaries, grasping an injured leg. “This is madness! She’ll have us all killed!”
“Use the bloody gas grenades!” Gunderson ordered in reply.
Lara arrived, exhausted, in another room. She quickly closed the door, locked it and she broke the lock with a kick, leaving half a piece of the key still inside. “This will hold them for a while,” she gasped, and pulled out the map to locate herself.
She needed to return to the tapestry room. She wasn’t stupid and had noticed the mercenaries shot around her to avoid hitting her. They were just annoying her. Karel wants me alive.
Lara dismissed the thought and focused on the map. It would take a good bit of running around to return to the tapestry. And surely someone of them would be waiting for her.
Suddenly, she noticed she couldn’t breathe and started coughing. Looking around, she saw the green light of a gas grenade flashing, having been slipped under the door. Damn. And this wasn’t the Louvre; there was no gas masks waiting in a closet for her somewhere. She turned away from the gas plume and entered the next room. The damn castle was a maze of interconnected chambers.
“Not a maze,” she whispered as she went downstairs, “more like a trap!”
Kurtis’ mind drifted over time until he stopped and focused on a scene.
Prince Vlad Tepes was entering a luxurious room of the castle. In the corner a beautiful woman wove a tapestry with trembling fingers. The very same tapestry.
Kurtis recognized the woman; she was the one depicted as the Amazon and was visibly pregnant. Her face was contorted as she wept - not in sadness, but in rage, anger, and helplessness.
Drakul came next to her and stroked her silky blonde hair. She shuddered.
“Loanna...” he muttered, “my Amazon...”
She abruptly turned away, disgusted, and stabbed a long needle into his arm. He angrily slapped her, but Loanna stood with dignity and challenged him. “You’re a monster. You know what your own people call you? The Devil!”
The Impaler shrugged as he pulled the needle out. “And they’re right. They fear and revere me. You, however, dare to challenge me. After childbirth I’ll be done with you.”
“You won’t have your cursed offspring.” She swore. “I’ll kill myself before that happens.”
Drakul laughed. His henchmen watched over her day and night. It was impossible for her to escape from her doomed fate.
“Say what you want.” He said. “Just finish this tapestry.”
Lara had finally found her way back to the tapestry room...and what she saw left her breathless, and not because of the toxic gas. The beautiful piece burned with black smoke. “No!” She shouted and lunged at it.
Gunderson – that bastard! - had ordered to burn it. And without the tapestry there was no way to find the clue, the key leading to the True Option.
Flames were quickly devouring the tapestry. Lara knew there was no way to stop the damage, but still pulled a curtain and began to whip at the fire.
And then she saw it. Behind the burned fabric something appeared. It was a secret compartment made with fabric lining, also burned, and revealed a small drawer which was, however, empty. There was nothing inside.
The explorer was so surprised she didn’t hear anyone approaching until a pair of strong hands grabbed her from behind. She furiously struggled and tried to loose her guns, but then another pair of hands snatched them and ripped the machine gun from her shoulder.
Lara turned her hip and slammed a side kick to the stomach of a mercenary who had disarmed her. To his misfortune he fell squarely into the tapestry and began to burn with it.
Gunderson was holding her. The pressure on her arms increased until she began to notice tingling. She writhed like an eel, but her captor was far stronger and didn’t let up. “Hold still, you bitch,” he whispered in her ear. “You’re a hard nut to crack, huh? Now I’ll use you as bait to attract your friend.”
The scene changed suddenly, and Kurtis found himself in the torture chamber, but the devices were new and spotless. There was a prisoner hanging in strappado: The Lux Veritatis depicted on the tapestry.
Vlad Tepes, aka Drakul, was watching the scene as if enjoying a minstrel dance, cheerful and smiling at the suffering of his captive. “You’re certainly stubborn.” The Impaler said. “You know you’ve lost. Why do you insist on not telling me the True Option? Your Order is doomed.”
“Someone…” gasped the prisoner, “someone will fix our mistakes.”
Vlad laughed. Yes, there were still many of them, but he would ensure there would be no one left. Absolutely no one.
“Tell me again about the Option, or you’ll suffer.”
“I’ve suffered for a while.”
“Oh, you’ll suffer even more. I can extend your agony as long as I want, warrior monk.”
The tortured man looked up, and Kurtis had the impression he was looking straight at him. But that wasn’t possible. He wasn’t there...at least not in physical form.
“Amid a wide range of options,” recited the monk, like a learned lesson, “only one is true. Who knows it will be able to grant life or death to either of the two rivals - Lux Veritatis or Nephilim - without the other succumbing to death.” He looked away and stared at his torturer. “You, Nephilim…you used to know about it...but you corrupted yourselves and lost it. We…however, we’ve never known from the beginning.”
“Liar!” Vlad Drakul spat.
“Only angels know about it.” Replied the monk. “You’ll never know the truth, Drakul. If a Nephilim kills a Lux Veritatis, the Nephilim dies with him, and so backwards. We’re two sides of the same coin. And when there will be only one left on both sides...they will have to rely on each other.”
An angry Vlad went towards him. “Stop your gibberish. I win. I have the Amazon. Loanna is mine and she’ll give birth to my kin. The Prophecy has been fulfilled.”
The tortured prisoner smiled through his cracked lips. “Loanna...you’ve taken her, but she’s not the one who will defeat you. Another one will appear...another one you won’t beat...she will discover the True Option.... and destroy your kin.”
There was a blow, like a flash. Kurtis’ mind went back and returned to his body with such violence he couldn’t control it. The impact hit and knocked him to the ground. He breathed heavily several times, trying to calm his runaway heartbeat. Then he rose, caked in mud, and left that place with faltering steps.
An outside force had expelled him from the vision. Someone had prevented him going further in the revelation. He needed to talk to Lara, even if she refused to believe him. It was about time to confess the truth about himself...and about her.
Upon climbing up the pit, he heard gunshots, and saw poisonous gas clouds seeping through the castle. “Gunderson. That son of a bitch again.” He murmured. Everything was filled with toxic gas. He was forced to crouch along the floor where there was less gas and move slowly.
And then he heard Lara scream a piercing and prolonged cry of pain.