Crouched low in the grass, Lara did not stir until she heard the answering two-note whistle to signal that she could advance in safety.
She hefted her bag and darted towards the entrance, hidden under an overhang of great willow branches. Without pause she ran inside, past the guardians who quickly released the ropes. The branches sprang back, and everything fell into darkness.
Lara's eyes swiftly adjusted, making out the men double-checking their weapons - ballistae and crude slings, handfuls of hard-packed black powder and stinging leaves bound with thorny twine.
She picked her way sure-footed in the gloom, the trail sloping steeply downwards. The familiar smells reassured her - damp earth and human sweat, new summer straw and roasting meat.
She had returned to the Croft. She was home.
"Thought you'd gotten lost," Winston remarked, as she slung her latest kill down on the bench. He was ancient by human standards, but had once bee
Into the Labyrinth
Into The Labyrinth
Impatiently, sucking my bleeding knuckles, I tossed the broken handle aside and put my whole weight against the door. By degrees, fighting centuries of rust and woodworm, my efforts forced it back far enough to squeeze through and out of the freezing rain.
My teeth were chattering as I looked about, eyes adjusting for the atrocious gloom. What a dump! When Father Patrick had told me to meet him at the chapel, I'd imagined something grander than this. It was little more than a barn, with pews standing haphazardly between mould-streaked pillars. The rafters creaked to the storm's spiteful rhythm, and from everywhere came the steady drip-drip-drip as the roof leaked. Occasionally a lonely wind would blast through the arrow-slit windows, shrieking like a living thing.
I'd seen Celtic-style churches before, but nothing this neglected. Nobody had been here for years, I was sure. Here and there the walls were soiled with bird droppings, dried to a powdery whi
CuriosityThe story that you think you know began, as most stories do, in the darkness. The dark of starlit night, which is to say, not as dark as you might think.
This is the part of the story that was forgotten.
The stars gave just enough light to throw shadows through the branches of the Tree. Black-on-black, shadow-grey; shifting hues that glistened a little when they fell on the apples hanging expectantly from every branch. Glorious fruit that might, under the sun's caress, have shone rosy-cheeked. Under a cloudless night sky, their colour was bleached and blackened, made mysterious and, perhaps, even more of a temptation.
How long the Tree had stood there, only the Maker knew. He had planted it to be the centre of His Garden, the pillar that would support the dome of sky whether rain or sun, day or night. The strongest gale would not have stirred one leaf on that Tree, but no gales ever blew in the Garden. The Tree stood as though carve
Smiling to herself, Lara closed the door. Snowflakes whirled briefly before settling on the polished floor, melting to form glistening puddles.
Excitedly, she set the surprisingly lightweight package down on the coffee table and read the note. She could almost hear the professor's exasperated sigh as he scribbled:
"Lady Croft. Please find enclosed the latest batch of tablets, as requested. Rafiq guesses about 2500 BC, but he wasn't exactly sober when the results came back from the lab. Any clues would be appreciated. Your servant, Prof' Muhammad Junaid."
The familiar tingle of discovery fluttered somewhere in her stomach. Here, in a slightly grubby courier envelope, beside her half-finished beans on toast, sat an example of one of the world's oldest writing systems. Impatiently her fingers caressed the wad-like bulges, like a child investigating their Christmas presents.
Snow was falling thickly behind the frosted windows as Lara padded her way