Four days later, Lara, Selma and Zip were in Romania’s heart, before the imposing castle of Bran, permanent home of Professor Vladimir Ivanoff.
“So, this is really Count Dracula’s castle?” Zip asked, chewing gum, with the laptop under his arm.
“So say the legends.” Lara said smiling while guiding them through the corridors crowded with tourists. But when remembering the tapestry, the tortured prisoner, and the unfortunate fate of Loanna Von Skopf, her smile faded.
Ivanoff was waiting near his department. When the small man with cloves and glasses saw them, he came over and shook hands politely. “I’m delighted you’ve decided to come! You know, wandering all around isn’t my point...”
“Vlad, the castle’s beautiful.” Said Selma. “The damage Gunderson’s men did is not visible anymore.”
He frowned. “Undoubtedly, the Government has lavished their efforts and pleas to raise funds to rebuild this jewel. Which I can’t say about other government matters.”
He led them to his office and made them feel comfortable. In those years, the professor had gained great reputation for his studies on the Lux Veritatis and the Nephilim, closely linked to the history of his beloved monument.
“Well.” He coughed at the beginning. “We were in contact some weeks ago, when everything went to hell. I wonder about that connection failure...”
“Hey, four-eyes.” Zip interrupted, stopping chewing his gum. “There was no connection failure. My connections never fail. We just got in a little trouble, is all.”
Taking the word, Lara told him about Monteleone’s attack, the drive to save her life, her recovery, and finally, Bathsheba and her men’s arrival and the entire sad conclusion. Selma added to her account their stance in Tenebra. When they were done, Ivanoff remained thoughtful, and finally he said: “This looks very bad. If you want my humble opinion, you must face the fact that this beautiful woman is a Nephilim.”
“How can you be so sure?” Lara asked.
“Oh come on, darling. You know it even better than I. You’ve been in the presence of this creature. You’ve heard her...and you’ve also met Karel. Tell me, did you see any similarities between those two? Something in the way they speak...in the way they simply are?”
Lara remained silent for a moment. Zip and Selma looked at her, concerned.
“More than that...I see a very great number of similarities. But Vlad, it’s not possible. Karel was the last Nephilim after I destroyed the Sleeper - and he’s dead.”
“But...” Ivanoff leaned towards her. “What if he had a daughter?”
Lara’s mouth twitched with a sarcastic grin. “Should I remind you he wanted me to achieve that? To use me as child bearer of his offspring?”
A bubble burst in Zip’s face, covering him with pink sticky gum as he watched Lara, stunned.
“Well, yes...” Ivanoff admitted. “But...”
“Wait.” Lara said suddenly, squinting. “Now that you mention it...Bathsheba’s face...has something familiar to me.”
Everyone looked at her expectantly, while Zip tore the sticky gum from his face. They saw Lara quiver and then she exclaimed: “Kristina Boaz!”
“What?” Selma and Ivanoff said at the same time.
“Boaz! The Cabal scientist! The one punished by Eckhardt by being transformed into an abominable being, killed by Kurtis.”
“And who almost killed him.” Selma whispered grimly.
Lara had risen and was spinning around the room, as she often did when her mind was working at full speed. “Kristina’s face was burned...deformed by an accident, so I didn’t notice before. But Bathsheba’s face...is very similar to hers. The same black hair...the same green eyes...just she’s a thousand times more beautiful! It’s her she looks like! Or maybe...” She collapsed on the couch again, dazed, as she started to realize. “My God. Giselle.”
“Kristina’s sister! That blonde, crazy doctor who kept me sedated for days when I was the Cabal’s prisoner. I remember her feeling some sort of attraction for Karel...she practically had ‘I love him’ written on her forehead.”
“So there was some quality time spent between them and Miss Perfect was the result.” Zip crooned, making a new gum ball.
Lara laughed. “With Karel? C’mon! Karel was unable to love even his own shadow.”
“Don’t need to be in love to fuck…”
“I know - but it still doesn’t convince me. During that time, Karel was obsessed with me. I don’t think...” She paused again and frowned. “Unless Bathsheba’s a laboratory creation.”
“Lara!” Selma shook her head. “Humans can’t be created in a lab! Maybe that woman has an extraordinary beauty, but it’s still a woman!”
“Huh? What about Nikos Kavafis? The demon she threw to him was her pet? What about the stolen Periapt and Scepter? C’mon, Selma! She’s not just a woman!”
“A Nephilim.” Zip hissed, grinning evilly. “A Nephilim created with Boaz’s genetic material, mixed with the Fallen Angel’s seed.”
“Yuck, Zip, shut up!” The Turk shuddered.
For a few minutes, nobody said anything. Finally, Zip, bored, said: “Well, you can call me an ass, but all this chit-chat about that Sex Symbol’s origins is pointless. By the time we decide something poor Kurt will be roasted and nailed to a cross…”
“Don’t joke about that!” Lara exploded, turning towards him. The poor guy jumped back, terrified by her passionate fury.
Ivanoff coughed then: “Do you know anything of Mrs. Cornel?”
“Nothing.” Selma said. “But she’s the keeper of the third Shard.”
The professor scratched his head. “If only I had that mafioso’s valuable documents! They would help us greatly - tell us something about the Scepter and its purpose. We’d outline some of the plan achieved by the enemy!”
Lara stood up then. “Selma, Zip, you’ll stay here with Vlad. You’ve to check all files and entries we have...about everything. For this Vlad’s wisdom, Selma’s knowledge and wit, and Zip’s computing skills are necessary. I’ll contact you.”
“Where are you going?” They said.
“To find some help. We can’t do this alone. But I’ll tell you. I intend to find Marie...and maybe we’ll go get those documents.”
Maddalena shuddered, huddled in the ship’s hold while listening to the sailors’ snoring. After a while, she lit a lamp and picked up her bag.
It had been two days since she’d left Turkey. After driving towards the inhabited region, she questioned here and there about Bathsheba’s men.
The news had been spread fast - it turned out that two days before, an impressive ship with armed men had left the coast. Everybody talked about it quietly and in fear. That had upset the beautiful prostitute, because if they had gone, it meant they had already captured Kurtis...whom she wanted to find before anything else in the world.
Maddalena spent three days in the port, earning the passage money to go to Cyprus. It was rumoured the ship had taken that route - at least, it would be a beginning. At first she felt sick for having to bear with those heavy, hairy bodies, reeking of sweat and alcohol, which reminded her of her doomed childhood in Syracuse. But she was a red-haired white woman in a land where all women were brown skinned and had black hair. She triumphed as ever and not only did she make money for the fare, but also enough to stay for a while without having to repeat the disgusting experience.
Thus, the third day she could embark on a fishing ship which would stop at Cyprus. Of course, she had to promise an extra session to the captain, but fortunately he seemed cleaner than his men - and now, huddled in the darkness of the cellar, Maddalena went over Monteleone’s documents in silence, stroking with the other hand the dreamcatcher that hung from her neck.
“Look! An educated whore!” Mocked one of the sailors. “She even knows how to read!
“Outta here, asshole!” She snapped, pulling out a butcher knife she’d stolen in the port shipyards, which was really handy in warding off unwanted men.
The sailor left her alone and she returned to the study of the documents. Her heart was beating violently. The world disappeared around her, except for what that paper was saying...
In the year of grace 1490. The Great Goddess has awakened. We shudder to think of possible consequences. I know we are warriors and we swore to devote the Gift to fight against evil, and specially against the Nephili, but our heart aches to think what it would be to confront Her. For She, among all the creatures that spewed from the Vortex and that Heaven rejects, is the most terrible and darkest of them. She looks like a beautiful woman, but both her breath and her heart burn like fire. Her cursed children have awakened to take revenge on us. And our faith falters for this.
She, the impure Lilith, waving her Scepter, will bring us down at once. We are afraid. We can fight the devil, we can fight the very Nephili but how to deal with a goddess older than the world itself? Can we defeat Her, She who reads minds and hearts, whose arm is longer than the River of Fire, which can crush us with a powerful blow of her Scepter?
We are the servants of the Light of Truth. We must be strong. If we could wrest the Scepter...maybe we could drive Her away. But nobody will be able to approach Her.
When She arrives engulfed in flames, no one will be able to stand looking at Her. Even those who love Her.
“Hey, hottie!” Exclaimed a rude voice.
Maddalena looked up and shouted: “If you don’t go away now, I’ll caress your guts with this.” She brandished the knife. “Got it?”
In the year of grace 1497. The war drags on. She has returned to her dark abode, but has infused new energy into Her damn children. Nephili are now stronger than ever. And we are few and weak.
She withdrew voluntarily. She really didn’t want her white feet to step on this defiled land. The pure air chokes Her, because She breathes sulphur. She, Bulinka’s princess, devil’s queen, the impure Lilith. With Her withdrawal, we again have a chance.
We can’t believe, however, we had such unfortunate luck. Now I know that it complies with the legend: Lilith found the Periapt. She tore it out of the hands of Meteora’s holycommunity. It was Her sons who turned it over and She did the unthinkable: She broke it into four pieces. From each one of them She carved the Damned Scepter as Her weapon. With it She can rule all the demons of the earth and tear lives in one fell swoop. With the other three shards, oh God! She carved three daggers. And then She regenerated the Periapt to leave it intact.
My quill shakes when writing. It’s said the Great Goddess cast on these objects a terrible curse. She extended Her sharp fingers on them and cursed them. She made them unbreakable. And now even though we try, we can’t destroy the Periapt. Neither the Shards. They rebuilt themselves when broken in pieces. Lilith’s evil spirit forces them to stay together.
But that’s not all. The Shards are cursed...I can’t believe the Great Goddess has haunted them...to destroy Her own children! She said: “I give to the Three Periapt Shards thepower to doom my beloved children to the Not To Be, but only if they’re wielded by a Warrior of Light, a Lux Veritatis. I do this because my children are proud and didn’t want to listen to my advice. If they act wisely, they will live, but if pride corrupts them, they will die.
“It’s terrible.” Maddalena whispered to herself. “As if a mother crafts the weapon that would kill her son. Why would she do that? What did they do to displease her that much?”
But despite being full of rage, the Great Mother didn’t leave Her children alone. She gave them the Sacred Scepter...and it’s not in vain; it’s a terrible weapon, more powerful than the Shards themselves.
Lilith’s Scepter, the Fourth Periapt Shard, coated in silver to not reveal its real material! Whoever wields it can send legions and legions of demons to ravage the earth, or to throw them to the Vortex’s black abyss if its carrier ordered so! It’s a truly terrible and powerful weapon.
Now, our Order must find it. We have both the Periapt and the Shards, but without the Scepter, we’re still at a disadvantage. If we take it, we could rule the hellish creatures and send them back to the abyss from which they came. But it’s very complicated...
The manuscript stopped there. Sighing, the redhead woman turned the paper and left it in the folder. She couldn’t stop thinking about what she’d just read. At first, everything had seemed fanciful to her - but now it was as if something strange coursed through her gut. Only she’d known how eager the search of the Scepter was for Monteleone, far and wide around the world. He’d lived for the Scepter, for the Scepter he’d dreamed of. He’d had it at two inches from his nose and had lost it. She understood his rage and despair, until trying to kill Lara Croft.
Maddalena crossed herself with trembling fingers. Hell, demons, Warriors of the Light, dark goddesses...too complex for her devout mind. She, who’d spent so many nights turning the beads of her rosary to clean her impure soul, felt awe at the mention of those things. And if those documents were mentioned as valuable, it was because all they had written was true as life itself.
And now, that dark woman, Bathsheba, whose beauty and perversity itself reminded her of Lilith, had taken the Scepter. Maybe she aspired to command Hell’s legions over Earth? Why she would desire Kurtis’ death? What danger could lead to her that quiet and reserved man, but also lethal if he wanted to be?
While thinking about it, Maddalena saw the first sunbeams filtering through the frames of the ship. On deck, a sailor had just announced they’ve sighted Cyprus.
“My girl!” Giselle embraced Bathsheba, who’d dropped again her hood at the time her feet trod on the beach’s golden sand. As they descended, the mercenaries looked at the two women sideways, like two twins who spent time apart.
“I brought you a gift.” The Nephilim murmured, smiling.
“Him!” The scientist said shuddering.
Kurtis left the boat, escorted in handcuffs. He looked around the beach and the imposing fortress, then he looked at Giselle. He made a sour face when recognizing her, but it was her who came forward to him, as she said: “It’s been two years since you and your partner in crime plotted to almost bring us to our end. How different things are now, right? I’m no longer the fragile young woman you met then. Now I’m the Mistress...the leader of this community which is now strong. As you can see, some bad carved crystal isn’t enough to turn off the Cabal’s splendour.”
Bathsheba seemed uncomfortable with that speech, but Giselle, ignoring her, came to her and pulled the cloak from her shoulders. In doing so, her hair fell to her knees. In that moment it was as if a gust of perfume filled the air. Giselle smiled, knowing that at that time, all those men, having come from different corners of the globe and trained to kill, wanted her daughter to despair; but she also knew that if one of them laid a finger on her, they would fall ill, struck for his audacity.
“Look at her!” Giselle glared at Kurtis as she spoke. “Perhaps you’ve looked at her these past few days, enjoying her beauty. But she won’t be to you but your own death. You already know who she is, right? You thought you’d destroyed all the Nephili! Behold how easy it is for the Cabal to breathe life back into the Blessed. The High Breed reborn again and you’re looking at their new Mother. You see her well? You find any similarity with the being created by my sister Kristina, whom you killed?”
“Well,” Kurtis said mockingly, “I can see you love to display her like a puppet. You’ve outdone yourself, Dr. Barbie: from butcher to clown.”
There was a heavy silence, and among the mercenaries’ ranks a muffled laughter was heard. Schäffer moved forward, indignant, but Giselle came before him - she threw her hand back and slapped Kurtis. Not too hard, of course, because she’d small and delicate hands, but the diamond ring she carried in one of her fingers scratched his cheek, opening a gash from the temple to the corner of his lips, which began to bleed slightly. Bathsheba looked fascinated at the red liquid pouring slowly.
Giselle raised her hand again, but then her daughter came forward and stopped her. “Leave him.” Bathsheba whispered. “All he wants is to provoke you.”
The doctor went back, panting and flushed. “Get him out of my sight!” Then she ordered.
They hastened to please her. Slowly, the mercenaries left the beach and retreated to their resting places. After paying their respects to Giselle, Schäffer also withdrew. Mother and daughter were alone on the beach.
“I hate him!” Then gasped the scientist. “I hate him with all my strength! I’m going to wipe that smirk off his face. I’m going to have him on his knees before both of us! He’s mocked us long enough. Who does he think he is! We’ll see when our boys take care of him, if he remains so gutsy.”
Bathsheba said nothing. The breeze blowing on the beach ruffled her hair, wrapping her in a kind of black cloud. “And when you’ve destroyed him, what else, Mother? When you’ve crushed him and removed the last drop of his blood. When he’s dead...”
“Then will come time for our success. My experiments will turn out well. And you’ll be the origin of the new Breed...as high as it was before. You’re Karel’s daughter, never forget.”
And what will you do, Mother? Would you offer me to a hideous mortal? Would you mix me with him as my father wanted to do with that explorer? Will that unfortunate’s death return your inner peace? Will you stop suffering, mourning at night, onlybecause of having seen Kurtis Trent’s blood poured on the slabs of your fortress? Is that what you want? Is that what you’ve become?
“I must go.” The Nephilim whispered. “The journey has been long and I’m exhausted.” She turned and headed towards the fortress. When looking up, she saw a small face between the curtains of one of the rooms and said: “What shall we do with the girl from India?”
“For the moment we’ll keep her. She’ll serve to put pressure on Lara Croft. But when she ceases to be useful...”
Yes, Mother. You’ll kill her, as you do with everything that no longer serves you. Eckhardt disgusted you, but you’re now like him. But what do I care? They’re only mortals. The world is full of mortals, and they never end. I’m the only one that stands alone. I’m the only important one here.
“How cool was that badass comeback!” Sciarra mocked peering through the bars. “We’ll see if you’re still so cocky when they’re tearing your skin into strips.”
Kurtis didn’t answer but he would’ve willingly crushed his boot sole in the Italian’s gritty face. Instead, he forced himself to remain seated, because he knew if he got up, that coward would turn away from the bars and laugh at his frustration.
Let him talk, man. He’ll shut the fuck up eventually.
He was locked away many feet underground in the fortress dungeon. Despite being in the fucking XXI century, that crazy Giselle had those tunnels dug in rock and carved in cells. Now Kurtis was chained to a wall through which seawater streams oozed and those chains looked like they could have been taken from a torture museum - it was madness.
Down there was no sunlight. Everything was plunged into permanent darkness, except for the dim light of electrical lanterns, lit only when some of his captors came down. And the cells were empty, no one was there but him, or so he thought. Down the hall he noticed some clarity and the deafening roar of waves, so he guessed he was inside the cliff he’d seen before, on the beach.
While Sciarra was still insulting him, Kurtis made a mental recount of his wounds. It wasn’t much, except for the shot in the knee: the butchered arms, the blow on the head, a split lip and a scratched cheek. It wasn’t serious, considering he needed to be prepared for the worst.
“What the hell is wrong with you? Are you deaf? Come on, fight me like a man. You know what I mean? That English bitch had more balls than you. Sadly she was released by the boss’ command - otherwise I’d have taught her who really was the boss there. I already got her on her knees, ready to blow me, when...”
“Why don’t you shut up and go to hell?”
Sciarra turned his head in surprise. Kurtis wasn’t the one who’d replied. He also looked to the left, and to his surprise, a deformed shadow emerged from the darkness. In the cell next door, also in chains, was a bent old man, dressed only with shreds of cloth, and covered with pupae and dirt.
“Mamma mia!” The Italian mocked. “Look, asshole, you’ve got a cellmate! A disgusting old hunchback!”
“Get away, you piece of dross!” Said the old man, extending his arms. “Or I’ll spread my leprosy on you!”
It was enough to make Sciarra go back off with a jump, letting go of the bars. The old man, without thinking, bent, jingling his chains, and picked up a stone. Then he threw it while repeating: “I said get the hell outta here!”
The stone whizzed through the bars and struck the Italian on the nose. Screaming then, he went back upstairs, cursing loudly. There was a thud, like a door closing, and then there was silence.
“Steady aim, old man.” Kurtis said.
“Marcus. Call me Marcus, son.” The elder slumped in his corner and disappeared from his view, so dense was the darkness, although only a barred wall separated them. “That rascal was getting on my nerves.” He curled up and crossed his legs. “Huh, by the way, don’t worry.” He added. “I don’t have leprosy; those are the wounds made by these damn chains.”
“How long you’ve been here?”
Marcus closed his eyes. “I can’t remember...weeks, perhaps months. I don’t know. The fortress is recent. I was already their hostage when it was built. I was captured in Moscow, almost a year ago, I think. It’s hard to keep track below. In this eternal shadow...”
Kurtis could look at him better now - he was swaying back and forth while holding his weak stomach. “Then they moved me here and I was thrown in this filthy hole. I was the only occupant of this prison until now...and I’m so hungry...”
“Why do they keep you?”
“Reckoning. I’m valuable - the only one left of my kind. Ah, what a pain...they forgot about me. At first, I was tortured. I thought I’d die - but they got tired. There’s no fun in torturing an old man...he’s weak, he dies soon. They left me here. I’m fed about once a day. I asked them to kill me...but they don’t want to. I’ll die here of hunger, and rats will eat me - if I don’t drown at high tide first.”
“The tide comes up here?”
“Yes, boy. We’re on the cliff. When the tide rises, its hollow belly is filled. The dungeon’s flooded. She knows it - that mad blonde woman. She knows the tide rises and rises until it reaches my neck and I’ve to cling to the ceiling so the chains don’t drag me to the bottom and drown me...” He groaned and twitched.
Kurtis didn’t need to be a genius to notice that poor man wasn’t entirely sane.
“And you, boy? Why are you here?”
The Lux Veriatis smiled. “Reckoning.”
Marie wandered aimlessly along the road, stumbling over the stones as she wept, as all the helplessness of the world escaped through her eyes. For years she’d avoided crying, she’d bitten her lips. She’d had no right to mourn, to lament, for she should keep her son safe, and herself, and her husband, wherever he might be. Now she’d nothing left. Now she could weep.
The Navajo woman didn’t know how long she’d walked. Perhaps she’d spent many hours when her feet took her again to the camp near the necropolis. Only a few remnants of it were smouldering after the fire ordered by Monteleone. She didn’t even ask herself why, but walked hesitantly towards the entrance of the necropolis - not before taking a lighted torch she found in the sandy soil.
She crossed the tunnel lighting up with one shred of fire, and at her step she set fire to all the Nephili lying in their niches. That concavity of the stone kept them individually in a sort of oven where they burnt, easily consumed. She walked calmly, knowing she was destroying the last evidence of the existence of those creatures on Earth, and basking in it. The flames spread and made prey of the tunnels, but she left them behind and went ahead.
Marie wasn’t upset by the horror of the putrid pit and its stench. She crossed that monstrous chamber and when she felt the jaws opening under her feet, she just dropped the torch. The fire caught in the rotting flesh and insects and spread like fire. Then the Navajo woman reached out and continued to advance slowly, as the huge beast roared in pain.
When her steps led her to Tenebra, she felt seized by her beauty, but she also regretted having had to sacrifice her torch, because she’d have willingly burned that den of Evil too, if the rock could be burnt. But her eyes were now fixed no more in the city - she’d sighted the crucified ones.
Marie descended in silence, her heart in a fist and her soul tore apart. She walked, stopping at every foot of a cross; reading each of the executed ones’ names and trying to remember the faces of the deceased. But her friends were no more hanging there - only their dry remains.
With a glistening film of sweat on her skin, the Navajo woman reached the greatest cross of all. “Konstantin.” She murmured, reaching out, but her fingers didn’t get to touch the skeletal feet. They had nailed him very high, high up, so he could see the agony of others while suffering his own.
Marie slipped down on her knees with her face pressed to the dry wood. She buried her face into the ground. That dead man wasn’t Konstantin, the man she’d loved, the man she still loved, for he’d flown high, high up, higher than that cross. He wasn’t there. She shouldn’t mourn. He no longer was suffering, while her...
If she’d had the farsee Gift, as his husband and their son, she’d have seen him, firm and calm, the day he was crucified...
Hammer, nails screeching. Screams, sobs. Heartbreaking screams. Women crying, children wailing. The final sacrifice - the Order’s last day.
Eckhardt watched his work: one hundred twenty-two crosses nailed on the way up to the city of Eden. Flanked by his two closest partners - at his left, a cold and impassive Karel, at his right, Gertrude, who watched that with shining eyes.
Slowly, relentlessly, Gunderson’s men had been nailing them one after another, without pity for the woman, for the young child. One after another. The concert of screams and howls of pain froze blood in the veins.
Gunderson himself had earned the honour of escorting Konstantin Heissturm to his place of torment. He was about sixty years old, still strong; despite his grey hair he was terribly alike to his son, according to Gunderson. The Agency’s leader had not been told to abuse or beat him, nor to torture him - and it was something the bald thug appreciated. Although he was ashamed to admit it, there was something in that quiet leader who inspired him great respect.
“Father! Father!” A voice yelled. Konstantin turned. Two mercenaries ran to catch, among those waiting to be crucified, a young girl, barely sixteen, and dragged her to her cross. Her brother, seeing him, began to scream, but the guards held him. “Oh Father!” Screamed the girl. “Help me!”
Konstantin’s eyes clouded. Everyone called him “father” from the day the Council elected him as the new Grand Master. But that appointment had never been made. And now he couldn’t help her - he couldn’t even help himself.
She was nailed on the cross naked, and behind her so was her brother, and the rest of them. While watching that, he heard Eckhardt’s voice: “I hope, Heissturm, your satisfaction is complete. You see, I’ve not neglected any of your own. I don’t want you to feel alone when it came your turn.”
Gertrude then added: “They should be satisfied! They’re going to die the same way their God died.”
Karel smiled then. Konstantin crossed his glance with his. Sure, he knew it. The Lux Veritatis didn’t worship any God. It would have been foolish, huh, Konstantin? Only the founders of this city are gods!
When his turn came, the Lux Veritatis left them to nail him without fight. The nails through his wrists and ankles didn’t hurt him more than the defeat. From where he was, he could see the rest of his people. The first ones were already dead or unconscious. The rest lifted their desperate faces toward him.
What could he say? What could comfort them now?
Eckhardt, Gunderson and Gertrude withdrew, while the mercenaries stood on guard. Only Karel remained in place, silent. After a while, he moved to the foot of the cross.
“Have you come to see me die?” Konstantin said calmly.
Karel smiled again. “I’m immune to hatred and rancour. I don’t hate you because your misfortune is my fortune, and you’ll die while I live. So I don’t care about what happens to you and yours.”
Moans and sobs could be heard along the way. One of the men closest to Karel began to squirm and insult him, but he kept looking at Konstantin. “You must know you die because your son fled.” He continued. “He’s not like you. He’s a coward. When he learned whom Gunderson serves, he immediately disappeared.”
“I’d rather see him hiding in the skirts of a woman than serving the Cabal even for three seconds.”
Karel twisted his smile when hearing Konstantin’s answer. Nothing broke the unbreakable will of that man.
For hours, the Nephilim stood patiently at the foot of the cross, while the rest of the Lux Veritatis were slowly dying. As expected, Konstantin was the last one to die.
“Will you say something about your son now?” Karel asked when seeing him choking. “Where is he? It’s to him you sent the other two Shards?”
The dying man opened his eyes, puffed out his chest one last time and whispered: “He will return and be your death.”
Air escaped from his lips and slowly relaxed until being immobile. Karel looked at him in silence, and then walked away.
Flexible arms surrounded and separated her from the dirt on which she laid. How long had she been there at the foot of the great cross?
“Marie! For heaven’s sake, how could you think to come here? The manticores are on the loose!” It was Lara who spoke, taking her by the shoulders.
“How did you find me?” Marie stammered, wiping the mud from her knees.
“There’s a terrible fire on the outside! Everything is burning, the necropolis, the putrid pit! The authorities have warned us and I came right away in case you were around...”
Marie smiled. “It was me. The camp had already burned, but I’ve destroyed those nasty mummies, that hideous beast. They disappeared. Let the wind take their ashes.”
Lara looked at her in pity - the poor woman was alienated. “Come on.” She urged then. “We must find Kurtis. Where did they release you? What path did they take?”
The British explorer helped the Navajo woman get up and surrounded her shoulders as she took her away from the crosses.
Marie looked back one last time. Farewell, my love.