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Chapter 14: Return
Every return is sad in some way. Lara was more than used to it. The only one jumping in excitement was Jean, since for the first time, he had access to Loanna’s underground tomb, now finally unwarded, with nothing blocking his way. Apparently, the function of that sacred sanctuary had definitely ended. No more messages. No more secrets. It was wide and ready for human plunder.
The French Egyptologist made the arrangements at full speed. In just a few hours he contacted the medievalists that would cooperate, gave away the dig’s rights to a specialist in Middle-Ages Egypt, and was reassured in contenting himself with the merits of the discovery. Not for a moment thought about Kurtis' opinion on it, nor did he bother to ask about the message that Loanna had delivered or why Anna and Lara seemed so downcast.
Not because he was a bad person, though. Simply, the man had many things in his head at that time, and he overflowed with enthusiasm.
Yes, the return to Cairo hotel was sad
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Chapter 13: Fate
It was like walking in a dream.
She could be fourteen years old and considered herself, in many aspects, already a woman, but truth be told, she was still a child. Children rarely doubt their parents, they trust them, believe in their words. She wasn’t different at all and the ties that bound her to Lara and Kurtis were even tighter, as she’d been instructed to trust, to obey, to act fast, both alone and as a team, because her safety depended on it when traveling with them around the world.
But to have before her eyes the realization of what they had told her was real, that it actually happened, even though she’d believed them blindly regardless of whether she saw it or not, was a rewarding, euphoric sensation.
There was Loanna's tomb, and it was just as they had described it. The circular, large chamber, with traces of soot and scorched stone where Karel's powers had impacted. The beautiful white sarcophagus in the centre, with the reclining lady, delicate, beautiful
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Chapter 12: Chosen
The flight to Egypt was sad, despite Jean Yves being excited about their arrival, an enthusiasm born of interest, of course, but honest, after all.
Usually Anna would annoy Lara on flights – which were rarely short-timed, in her case – with lots of mindless chattering, moving around in her seat, strolling along the corridor or bothering the cabin crew with insightful questions. Now, the girl sitting next to her remained silent and motionless, at times looking out the window, at times dozing slightly. She didn’t eat, she didn’t sleep, and she answered everything in monosyllables.
Lara had no intention of pressuring her to speak. Anyway, she already knew everything she needed to know. Anna was angry with her, angry at him and, being in her teens, she didn’t know how to manage that anger. For the first time, none of her requests and protests were answered – neither good nor bad. She just didn’t know how to react.
As for herself, Lara took advantag
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Chapter 11: Barbara
She should have died that day. Against all odds, she survived.
The bullet grazed the side of her skull and, in its trajectory, tore off her ear. It was impossible to reconstruct the torn cartilage, so the surgeon removed what remained of the auditory pavilion, while cursing in a muffled voice - for it was wrong for a doctor to think so - that it was a disgrace to disfigure such beauty.
He’d never had a patient of such beauty - and he’d never have it again.
She, of course, remained oblivious to all these matters. The pain was too intense to worry about anything else, and in any case, she’d never given any importance to her beauty - not even when it had really been something otherworldly.
After screaming for someone to quench her pain, she remained sedated for days in the intensive care unit. Finally, she could not stay there anymore and was moved to an upper floor. She was then informed that during the time she’d been sedated, her fiancé had been visiting he
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Every return is sad in some way. Lara was more than used to it. The only one jumping in excitement was Jean, since for the first time, he had access to Loanna’s underground tomb, now finally unwarded, with nothing blocking his way. Apparently, the function of that sacred sanctuary had definitely ended. No more messages. No more secrets. It was wide and ready for human plunder.
The French Egyptologist made the arrangements at full speed. In just a few hours he contacted the medievalists that would cooperate, gave away the dig’s rights to a specialist in Middle-Ages Egypt, and was reassured in contenting himself with the merits of the discovery. Not for a moment thought about Kurtis' opinion on it, nor did he bother to ask about the message that Loanna had delivered or why Anna and Lara seemed so downcast.
Not because he was a bad person, though. Simply, the man had many things in his head at that time, and he overflowed with enthusiasm.

Yes, the return to Cairo hotel was sad, but Lara was determined not to be mad at her daughter – for Anna refused to speak about what had happened beyond the forbidden threshold, or the delivered message. Apart from the intense pains of her first menstruation, she didn’t look hurt or suffer anything physical.
She’s shocked, thought Lara, looking at the girl lying on her side on the room’s couch, curled up, clutching her lower abdomen with a pained expression, whatever she found out. Well, she wouldn’t achieve anything by forcing her to talk. Lara wasn’t that kind of mother either.
In the end, no action for her that day, although of course, sweat and sand had also stuck to her body - that was Egypt, even in winter. So, without further delay, and without bothering Anna anymore, she began to undress.
“This gonna be always be like this?” The girl complained behind her back, with a trickle of voice.
Lara knew what she meant. “It will get easier.” She replied. “The first years are usually quite painful, but there are treatments. You don’t have to suffer. In time, you'll get used.”
“Bollocks.” Anna growled in response.
Naked, Lara approached the damask bathtub - which, being a luxury hotel, was in the room’s centre of the room - and began to fill it with hot water. Sitting on the edge, she proceeded to undo her braid. “You should bathe yourself too.” She suggested.
“While bleeding? Gross!”
“Hygiene is doubly important in that case.” The British explorer stepped inside the bathtub and, finding it to her liking, she submerged in the water, releasing a sigh of pleasure.
Anna was still curled up on the couch, but her mother noticed she was looking at her through the strands of hair partially covering her face. “Could you help me with my hair?” Lara said, lifting a strand of her long loose hair. She knew well that Anna never resisted it - she adored combing her.
The girl looked at her mother for a moment, then, sighing, got up and went to her. Lara suppressed a smile when seeing her slowly stumbling and with a disgusted look. Who could forget first blood’s discomforts? Truly, it was an annoyance.
Throwing her head back, Lara let Anna slowly untangle her hair while adding salts to the hot water. After a while, she murmured: “We’ve always trusted each other. Why don’t you trust me now?”
Anna took a long time to answer. “You haven’t told me why you fought with Dad, I don’t tell you what Lady Loanna told me.”
Lara raised an eyebrow. “Blackmail? You should know me better, darling. What happens between your father and me are adult issues. On the other hand, what Loanna has told you can affect us all.”
“Well, I'm bleeding like a pig, so I guess I'm already a woman. You can consider me an adult and trust me, then I'll trust you.”
The explorer laughed softly. “It takes more than a little blood to become a woman - but let's leave it. I promise to give you some explanation about your father and me, but I need you to trust me or I won’t be able to help you, Anna.”
“Nobody can help me.” The girl said for an answer.
For a moment, there was only the splash of water and the sounds of the comb scraping Lara's strands. “You sure?”
“Absolutely. Neither you, nor Dad, nor anyone. I'm fucked up, really fucked up.” Lara sat up suddenly and turned to stare at Anna. The girl lowered her lashes. “This, huh, sorry.”
“I'm sick of your soldier's language. With your father, talk like a scoundrel if you feel like it, but in my presence, you keep that mouth clean. This is also part of being considered an adult. Understood?”
“Yes Mom.”
“Alright.” Lara turned around and reclined on the edge of the bathtub. Waves of foamy water closed over her breasts.
Anna finished untangling a lock of hair, dropped it delicately over her shoulder, and picked up another. “Actually... I'm afraid you'll be mad.”
“Why would I?” Lara smiled. “I’m a big girl now. Hit me with the bad news.”
“Well they are... very bad.”
Lara sighed. She was a child. Such childish yet... she realized that Anna wouldn’t give in until she did it herself. To win, you must first lose. Fine, she thought. Let’s do this.
“Your father and me had a fight because of you, even though you’re not to blame.” She started. “Have no doubt about it. What happened in Sri Lanka was unexpected for everyone. Before that, we thought you were an ordinary child... well, as much as you can be in our… world.” She laughed again. “But suddenly, you’re a Lux Veritatis.”
If only that, Anna thought desperately. It's worse, much worse.
“It's been harsh for your father.” Lara acknowledged, and suddenly she felt terrible. “And I’ve not been helpful - rather I made it worse.”
“But why?”
“Because... because I don’t understand him, Anna. After so many years, I should understand him better and... in my case, I've always believed that we must adapt to changes. They don’t bother me, Anna. Yes, everything would’ve been easier if you were an ordinary child, but you aren’t and that’s all. I believe we must go on and that you must be trained to control your powers and know how to use them. Something that only he can do, and it’s a privilege that he can. However, he’s blocked, lamenting and insisting in protecting you from your fate.
“That's why you fought?”
“Basically.” Lara murmured in a dull voice.
Anna huffed. “Well, nonsense! Dad already promised to train me, he’s given me some advice, and as soon as we get rid of this murderer who bothers us, and Aunt Selma has presented her thesis, everything will be ready. You only must reconcile and that’s it!”
Wish it was that simple, Lara thought, dejected. “I promise I'll talk to him when we go back to Turkey. Actually, I had already decided so. Are you calmer now? Will you trust me?”
The comb stopped moving over her hair. The girl sighed. “Poor Dad. This is going to destroy him.”
“What, Anna?”
She pressed the comb between her fingers. “No... I don’t know if...”
Lara got up again, looked back at her daughter. Her face was wet, the drops of water forming pearls on her eyelids. Lara’s eyes, of a very common brown compared to the beauty of her father's eyes, and of her own, were nonetheless impressive to look at. They had a force that could move the world.
“Nothing you tell me is going to upset me, Anna Croft.” The tomb raider told her, and then she smiled. “Did you forget who I am? I’ve seen everything. I've heard everything. I’ve raised gods from their tombs and I’ve plunged them back into darkness. I’ve spoken with angels and fought demons - and I did it long before you existed. Try me.”

Anna stood up, the comb still clutched in her wet hands, and began to move around the tub. “Good and Evil are a cycle.” She murmured. Suddenly, she seemed changed. Not a child anymore, but not yet a woman, or at least a girl. “A cycle that turns, turns and repeats itself like a wheel. They are two opposing forces, Mom, and at the side of Good, the angels, the Lux Veritatis, father and grandfather Konstantin, their predecessors, and all those who supported them. On the other side, the Evil, the demons, the Nephili, Karel, Eckhardt, the Cabal and all those who supported them. Always in constant struggle, struggle that mankind has paid with victims.” Lara listened to her in silence, staring at her, although she knew those words well. She’d lived them herself, she’d taught them herself - but now she let her talk. “The problem, Mom, is that we don’t know on which part is... let's call it, God. I don’t understand this God. According to Loanna, He doesn’t care about Good or Evil. She told me that the essential was the balance between both. And from time to time, this balance is broken, and a great sacrifice is required to reset it. Then the cycle goes on, unless someone closes it. Mom, I... she told me I have to be that one!”
“How are you supposed to do it?” Her mother's voice was calm, her expression unalterable.
Anna hesitated, and suddenly, she eluded the question and continued speaking. “It happened once. Lady Loanna had to choose between Good and Evil to restore balance, but she didn’t choose, she took her own life so as not to make that choice, not to give the Nephilim a child.” She kept moving around the tub. She was moving again gracefully, as she used to walk, as if the blood no longer bothered her. “Then you came, Mom. You did choose... you chose Good. You chose Dad.” She stopped and began to wring her hands, comb included. “Problem is you chose wrong, Mom!”
She broke off, panting, but Lara smiled slightly and remained undaunted. “Of course I did not choose wrong.” The explorer said calmly. “There was only one acceptable choice: that of Good. I chose your father because it was the right thing to do.”
“You chose him because you loved him, Mom. Because you were in love.”
Lara smiled again, now slightly uncomfortable. “No. I chose him because it was fair. Because it was justice. Was I going to choose an evil, selfish murderer, and let die who had helped me? Who had fought by my side, who had sacrificed for me? Your father trusted me from the first, even though he didn’t know me at all. He believed in me, he put his life in my hands. Why would I betray him?”
“Because Karel offered you wisdom, immortality.”
The explorer's gaze darkened. “Karel was a liar. He would never have given me anything. He only promised to get me. He was an amoral, intelligent, but incredibly manipulative being. He would’ve used me and get rid of me. Besides, he murdered my mentor – and too many people in Paris and Prague. No, I would never have agreed. I felt tempted, it's true, but I won. I chose well, because it was justice.”
“And because you loved Dad.”
“Here we go again.” Lara sighed, and ran a wet hand across her face. “Fine. That too.”
“But it was a bad choice, Mom.”
The explorer raised her eyebrows, surprised. “Then tell me what the good choice would’ve been - that disgusting Karel killer? A hybrid monster of beautiful appearance and ill intentions, as Bathsheba was? Becoming myself a breeding mare for Evil?”
“Nothing, Mom. Nothing at all. Not Dad, not Karel. Neither Good, nor Evil.”
Lara narrowed her eyes. Anna stood for a while immobile, pressing the comb between her fingers. The spikes stuck in his flesh.
“Explain yourself.”
“The right choice was to make no choice, Mom. Dad and Karel must destroy each other. Die in combat, both at the same time. None should survive. This way the cycle would’ve been closed.”
For a few moments, Lara remained thoughtful. Then she reclined again on the edge of the tub. “I would never have chosen such a thing.” She said, still imperturbable. “I'm a woman of action, you know that. I couldn’t sit idly by watching your father die at the hands of that... that being. Even if Karel died too. I made the right choice, Anna, and I don’t regret it. Not for a moment.”
“But it was wrong, Mom.” Anna twisted the comb again between her fingers. “Thus, the cycle remained open. It tried to self-regulate again, when we were sacrificed in the Vortex. But Dad brought us back. He used the Sibilla’s prophecy to make a pact with... with the Devil himself, wow - and he brought us back. The cycle remained open. And now it's my turn.”
“Then what are you supposed to do?” Her mother wasn’t upset at all. How phlegmatic, how serene. How Anna now wanted a portion of that inner peace. She understood why her father collided with that unshakeable faith and, at the same time, seduced him completely. That understanding was totally new to her.
“To die, Mom.” She finally revealed. “I have to die. Basically, what didn’t happen with Dad. I must die in combat against... against a demon.”
Lara raised her eyebrows. “Did she tell you that?”
“Not only her, Mom... I... huh...” She hesitated. “I'm sorry, Mom, I've hidden something from you, but it wasn’t because I wanted to. Dad made me promise I wouldn’t tell you... but I must now.”
“When we were with the Lux Veritatis’ bones... I... I heard Grandpa’s voice. Grandpa Konstantin. He told me to... to beware the long night. To beware the prince of demons.” She straightened up. “And now Loanna has confirmed that I must die in combat against that... that prince, whoever! If not, the cycle will remain open. And my descendants will have to go through the same thing again. If I die, the cycle is closed, and mankind is free of this... this struggle of Good and Evil. If not... I pass the task to my descendants. Do you understand, Mom?” She brandished the comb. “I'm doomed! Not that I blame you for it, because you didn’t know it, but Loanna didn’t choose, you chose wrong, Dad saved us... three mistakes in a row! And now I must pay for it! I must pay for your mistakes, everyone's! What have you done to me!” And she let out a long sob, letting her head fall on her chest.
After a few seconds of silence, she heard her mother murmur: “My poor girl. So that is what torments you.”
She heard Lara coming out of the tub in a splash and wrap her body in a towel. Looking up, her mother was sitting on the edge of the tub, and she held out her wet arms. “Come here.”
Anna moved forward and took refuge in her arms. She smelled like rosehip. The girl buried her face in her mother’s long hair, not caring it was wet.
“Now I want you to listen to me.” Lara put a wet finger on her chin and lifted her face, so that she looked directly into her eyes. “Listen carefully, Anna Croft. You don’t have to pay for anything, or for anyone. You don’t have to repair others’ mistakes, others’ choices. You have been summoned to get a message. Well, message delivered, thank you. Now we’ll go back to Turkey and we’ll go on with our lives.”
The girl straightened up, indignant. “How can you be so calm? Don’t you care if I die?”
“You don’t have to die, Anna. Don’t make the same mistake your father did, confusing his fate with his duty. Nothing forces you to sacrifice yourself for mankind. You’re not a heroine. You’re just a child. Well, a lass already.” She conceded, smiling.
“But Mom, I inherited the Gift!” Anna protested. “Means I'm marked! That I have a fate to fulfil! I can’t run away from it!”
“You can’t, or you just don’t want? Excuse me, Anna, but I've never believed in fate. Everyone makes their own fate.”
“Mom, you've been as driven by fate as anyone else! You chose Dad, when you could’ve chosen Karel...”
“I chose him because it was the right thing to do- and because I loved him.”
“... then you got pregnant. You didn’t want to have children, Mom! Why did you get pregnant?”
“Because I was careless. Something that should not happen to you.”
“No, you got pregnant because I was meant to exist, since the very moment you chose Dad!”
“Then, if you didn’t want to have children, why did you give me birth, huh? Huh?”
A memory, a slight flashback. She’d almost aborted - but she would never tell her. At least, not while she was still a child who was no longer a child, a girl who wasn’t yet a woman.
“Because I loved you, Anna. And because you came from your father, whom I loved too.”
“Well, even in that you fulfilled your fate!”
“Nonsense again, Anna. I wasn’t controlled or led by rare or noble ideals. I did what I wanted. I chose what I wanted. I made my own luck, as always. I was free, honey, and you are too! You don’t have to do anything, even if the spirit of a dead maiden or the speaking skull of your grandfather told you. You’re free, for that I gave you birth, and having the Gift doesn’t change it!”
“Mom, Lady Loanna is the Amazon...”
“... and so am I.” Lara frowned. “Here I am. I regret nothing. Even knowing what you just told me, if I could repeat everything I did, I’d do it the same way again. I would choose your father. I’d give you birth. I would fight to bring you back. I don’t regret anything, Anna, I'm proud of every step I've taken, of every mistake made, of every victory achieved. And you must be too!”
The girl rested her head on her mother’s chest again, her cheek wet with water. Pensive. “What happens, then, if I ignore my fate? If I don’t choose to fight the... that demon, whatever it is?”
“Nothing, Anna. Absolutely nothing will happen, except that you will go on living, free, calm, without burdens, as I’ve always wanted you to live - as I wanted your father to live, although he refuses to give up that burden.”
“But he fought... Grandpa fought... how am I going to shame them?”
“It's not a shame to want to live. I told you: you don’t owe anything to anyone. Your grandfather lived his life, fought his battle, and died. Forget him! And your father, precisely, everything he’s done he did it out of love, not for his bloody Order, nor for a stupid fate.
“She said he fulfilled his destiny.”
Lara shrugged. “She can say what she wants. Your father’s alive, she’s dead. Now what I want is...” She hesitated a moment “I... I don’t want him to suffer. Knowing him, this burden will also be loaded on his back... and the weight might crush him.”
“Poor Dad. Want us not to tell him?”
Lara sighed. “I hate secrets. No, we can’t hide this from him. He wouldn’t forgive us. Also, I need him strong. He must train you, teach you to control your powers, in case that demon shows up. You must know how to defend yourself. The rest doesn’t matter.” She got up, throwing her wet hair to one side. “And now, miss, you take a bath. We’ll take care of everything, step by step.”
Anna, much calmer, began to take off her clothes. “Promise me one thing, Mom.”
“Tell me.”
“No more fights with Dad. Please.”
“I promise.”
“And when we go back to Turkey...”
“… I fix things with him.”
“Thank you.” Then the girl stopped, blushing.
“What’s it?” Lara asked.
“Could you leave... please?”
The British explorer raised her eyebrows for a moment. She’d just bathed in front of her daughter, but she turned around and left, hiding behind the folding screen to comb and get dressed.
Yes, she wasn’t a child anymore - but she wasn’t a woman either.

She noticed delicate but firm fingers gripping her face. She winced and opened her eyes but closed them again tightly. The lamp’s twinkling light blinded her. She moaned.
“Don’t worry.” A kind and warm voice said, a woman's voice. “I'm a doctor. I'm just checking on you.”
Barbara relaxed. So, Kurtis had called a female doctor. Once again, she was amazed at how clever that man of brutal appearance and behaviour could be. She could only tolerate being touched by a woman at that point. A man, not... a man, never.
“It's okay.” The doctor concluded, withdrawing her fingers. “Your fiancé told me you could leave hospital in Istanbul but looks like you suffered a slight relapse.”
The injured woman moved her lips slightly. She caught a faint scent of verbena perfume when the doctor leaned over her: “B... blood...”
“The slight ear bleeding has stopped.” She indicated. “It’s a small unimportant haemorrhage, a microperforation of the eardrum not detected in the hospital, probably they were more concerned about you other ear.” She felt her touching the bandages on the other side of her head. “Doesn’t seem to be a worsening here. If you want my modest opinion, you should enter the hospital again, until your total recovery.”
But Barbara didn’t respond. She was tired, very tired.
After a brief silence, the doctor, whom she’d not seen, got up from the bed and concluded as she walked away: “I’ll recommend to your fiancée the hospital’s admission again... it’s not advisable you remain here... see you soon...”
But she didn’t listen to her anymore. She’d sunk into a light stupor.

“Alors, brace yourself, chérie!” Jean concluded in a festive tone, his voice slightly distorted by the bad coverage. “Soon we’ll be making you competition in doctorate thesis on ancient Lux Veritatis’ strongholds!”
“Yeah, yeah, Jean...” Selma cut off, restless, pressing the phone hard against her ear and constantly moving around, trying to capture better coverage. “What about Lara and Anna? What has Loanna told them? Where are they? Marie wants to talk to Lara, actually...” The Turkish archaeologist glanced sideways at the old Navajo woman, who was gesticulating angrily at her. “Pass me with Lara at once!”
“Mais ce n'est pas possible!” Jean laughed. “Lara has already left! She’s not here!”
“How’s that? What are you talking about?”
“The girl and she are already on the way! They took a flight to Istanbul! Good luck with them, I couldn’t make them tell me a single thing about it!”
And he omitted to say that he’d not even asked in the first place either.

She woke up hours later, cradled by a soft murmur. She took a few moments to identify Kurtis’ voice, who spoke slowly, calmly and in a low voice over the phone, locked in the bathroom. At least, he had a pleasant voice.
She sat up, still slightly dizzy, and looked around. Photophobia had retreated, and she felt much better. A long object reclined on the chair next to the table caught her eye. It looked like a long piece of clothing inside a case.
The male voice died away, and then the door opened and Kurtis went into the room. Barbara got up, barely aware that she was doing it, the sheet almost to her chin, in a protective gesture.
“Gotta go back to the dig right now.” He announced without further ado. “Lara and my daughter are on the way. Can you stay alone?”
The woman blinked slowly and ran a hand over her eyes. “Yes, I'm much better.” She looked around. “And the doctor?”
“I sent her back. I'm sorry, but you can’t go back into a hospital. He’ll find you more easily there.” Without further ado, Kurtis grabbed a leather bag and headed for the door. He came out silently and without saying goodbye.
She waited until his footsteps were lost by the stone staircase. Then, she rose slowly, leaning hesitantly on the excavated walls, and approached the long bundle of cloth leaning on the chair.
It took longer than expected for the zipper to give way - her reflexes were worse than expected - but at last she managed to lower it and remove the fabrics that covered it.
It was a beautiful evening dress.

When he laid eyes on Anna, he felt something strange, a tear, a loss. Something had changed in his daughter, he was sure. What was it? Was she taller? Older? Slenderer? He felt her much more grown. He felt her differently. He felt her... changed.
She returned a calm glance in her blue eyes - how pretty her eyes were, how they adorned a woman's face - and she smiled slightly. “Mom,” she grabbed Lara's hand, “could we be alone? I want to talk to Dad on my own.”
Lara barely crossed a glance with her and nodded slightly. “I'll come when you call me.” And then he fixed his eyes on Kurtis. “I have to talk to you.”
He nodded. I also must talk to you.
When she left the barrack, Anna looked at her father for a moment, and suddenly she walked to the cot and sat on the bed, thinking. Yes, she was definitely changed. What had happened to her?
“Dad, I have many things to tell you and you won’t like most of them.” She started. “But I want you to listen to me until the end and don’t talk until I’m done. Deal?”
Without saying a word, Kurtis nodded again. He’d always been good at listening.
The child - no, a lass already; he realized suddenly - twisted her fingers slightly, took a deep breath, and started talking. She tried to tell him in the same order and with the same words she’d spoken to her mother, but the result was different because her father didn’t interrupt her at any time. He just stood there, sitting in front of her, elbows on knees, chin in hands, listening intently. If something impressed him, hurt him or disgusted him, he barely showed it, except in the casual contraction of his pupils.
Your father controls his emotions very well, Lara had told her once, he knows how to hide his feelings well. It’s what most seduced me about him, she admitted without embarrassment, from the first moment.
“Well, that's it.” Anna sighed, dropping her hands in her lap, when she finished talking.
Kurtis watched her in silence for a moment. Then he whispered softly: “Can I go out for a moment?”
“To scream?”
“To smoke.” Kurtis smiled, accentuating the wrinkles of age around his eyes. “You don’t know how I need a cigarette right now.”
Anna frowned. “You gotta stop filling your lungs with shit, Dad.”
He sighed and leaned back in the chair. Then he slowly rubbed his hands over his face.
“You mad at me?” She said with a trickle of voice.
Kurtis laughed again, though it was a bitter laugh. “No, of course not.”
“Then tell me something, please.”
He remained pensive for a few moments, staring at the void, then spoke: “She’s right.” He smiled. “As always.”
“Your mother.” The blue eyes raised towards her. “It’s her whom you must listen to, Anna. You don’t owe shit to anyone. You don’t have to do this.”
She watched him curiously. “I thought... this would sadden you a lot. Shock you.”
“I was expecting it.” Kurtis closed his eyes painfully. “I sensed it, I suspected it. Since Sri Lanka... I knew something like that could happen. But doesn’t matter.” He opened his eyes. “Listen to your mother and don’t let this torment you for a second more. Don’t be like me.”
“What if I wanted to?”
He blinked, surprised. “If you wanted, what?”
“Be like you.” Anna smiled slightly, and suddenly seemed much more adult. “What if I wanted to be like you, Dad? To use that Gift been granted to me? To protect people from demons? Wipe those awful beings out, who are only here to cause damage? Be like you, a heroine... a fighter. The Warrior and the Amazon’s worthy daughter.”
Kurtis laughed quietly, his shoulders barely shuddering. “I was never a hero. It’s time for you to know.” He looked at her frankly. “I hated what it was. I escaped as soon as I could. I've spent my life running away.”
“I know.” She shrugged. “Mom told me. But you are a hero, Dad. You’ve always fought for good. You protected the world from demons.”
Kurtis shook his head gently. If she knew... a soldier, a spy, a mercenary, a murderer. He’d done atrocious things with his powers and with his bare hands; and he’d never lost a single night's sleep for them. But I he couldn’t tell her that. No, to her, never. If there was any pool of purity, of innocence in his world, he would keep it there, in the same ethereal mesh that bound him to his daughter. The last haven of peace.
She was watching him curiously. Then, she added with conviction: “Make me what you were, Dad. Turn me into a powerful Lux Veritatis. Please.”
What I was... Kurtis snorted and laughed again.
“What are you laughing at?” She punched his knee. “I'm not a kid anymore, y’know? Now I’m a woman. I’ve matured. I’ve changed. Damn, I've even gotten my period.”
“A woman now, huh?” Kurtis reached out and gently brushed a strand of hair from his daughter's face. “Then that's what you’ll be. But in no way will I do with you what they did to me. A Fighter’s training is an abomination, a torture. I’d never do that to you.
“Okay, so let's go smooth.” Anna opened her hands. “Will I be equally powerful that way?”
“You already carry with you such power. It's just about channelling it. But if we must believe that delusional Marcus and all who were like him, you’ll be much stronger than I ever was.” Kurtis shook his head. “So, stop taking me as an example. You sure you want to do this?”
Anna shook her head furiously. “Yes. Yes. Yes! How many times should I say it? I do! Before that prince of demons comes and crushes me. By the way, who is it?”
Kurtis blinked slowly. “No idea.” Anna seemed disappointed. “Maybe just a figure of speech. You know what grandiloquent trash the prophecies are.”
“What if it's... it's... well... the Devil? The real shit. The boss.”
Kurtis raised his eyebrows. “I doubt it.” He made a gesture with his hand. “I knew him as the archangel Samael, how he really calls himself. And believe me, neither you nor I can anything against an archangel. Even Karel could have done anything. They are not human. Above them there’s only He whom they call the Authority.
“I was never told I had to beat him.” Anna clarified. “Only die in combat.”
The ex-Legionnaire sighed and stroked his hair again. “You're not gonna die like that, Anna. I won’t have it.”
“Maybe it's not up to you, Dad. Maybe you can’t do anything about it.” Seeing Kurtis’ look, Anna grabbed his wrists. “Oh Dad, I’m sorry, sorry. I'm not helping.”
He sighed deeply: “If I got it right, your opponent must also die. If he remains alive there’s no balance, because Evil would have overcome. Archangels are immortal. They can be created, they can be transformed, but they can’t be annihilated. No, Anna, it's not Samael. It’s someone you can fight as an equal. But,” He remarked again, “you don’t have to do this. Fuck the cycle and the damn prophecy. Fuck Loanna and all the demons in the world. I’ll train you, so you know how to fight, to defend yourself, but I haven’t raised you so that now you can serve as a bait as I served, as your grandfather served. No way.
Anna leaned toward him and insisted again: “What if I want?”
“That’s insane.”
“You're still treating me like a baby.”
“Not at all. I'm talking to you as from adult to adult.” He leaned forward and stared at her. “Pay attention to me. Listen to your mother. Don’t screw up your life. I had no choice, Anna. I was born fucked. But you are not me. You have a choice, Anna. Choose wisely. And now,” he said, letting out a deep sigh and leaning back, “call your mother. Gotta talk to her.”

She closed the door gently behind her and leaned against it. He still sat in the chair with a pensive expression, after Anna had left. Lara looked at him for a moment and finally said: “How are you?”
He looked up and stared at her intensely. It’s said blue eyes are cold, but, God, those were burning. They had always burned her. “First time you ask me that in months.” He murmured. “How do you think I am?”
Lara smiled slightly. “Knowing you... torn to pieces inside, barely whole on the outside.”
“You know me well.”
For a moment, silence thickened around them. Finally, Lara let out a sigh and began: “Kurtis...”
She didn’t have time to go on – and she didn’t see it coming at all. In just a moment, Kurtis got up from the chair and rushed at her – or so it seemed to her. Part of her reflexes, no matter how fast they were, simply didn’t activate when it was him. Love. Force of habit. Hard to explain. She, who could dodge everything, barely managed to flinch and stick the door before having him on her, breathing her breath, so close to her that the strands of his bangs caressed her forehead and his body scent - leather, sweat, metal, motor oil - flooded her again.
“What are you doing?” She gasped, throwing her head back, until hitting the wood of the door. She held up her arms and noticed that he was grabbing her by the wrists. “Let me go right now!” She struggled slightly, more as a warning than as a real opposition, but he merely buried his face in her neck. His beard of a few days pierced his cheek and neck.
“In pieces...” She heard him mutter on her shoulder. “Nothing breaks me apart, but you. Did you come to apologize at last? Why did you take so long?”
“Shut up and get off.” Lara hissed between teeth. “I don’t allow you to pin me against the wall.” Then he turned his face and looked for her mouth. “No!” She shouted, turning her face away from the lips that were already kissing her. “Not this way!”
“Enough of this torture, Lara.” His mouth stroked her neck. “I can’t take it anymore. Let's get rid of this madness.”
“Stop it.” Lara clenched her teeth and turned her face when he tried to kiss her again. “I don’t want it. Not this way. Get off! Get off or this time I'll be the one to push you!”
The hands on her wrists loosened and he slipped to his knees in front of her, hugging her waist, his forehead resting on her flat, hard belly. She breathed heavily and put her hand to her chest, surprised to notice the heart runaway. Her other hand sank into his hair. It was grayer than before. “Stand up.” She ordered him. He didn’t move. She stirred, but with him grabbing her around the waist, she could barely move. “Stand up, dammit! You know what I think of this kind of reconciliation...”
She heard him laugh quietly, his face resting on her belly. How many times had they already fought? How many times had they reconciled between the sheets, making love furiously, letting hormones solve what words could not? Lara already knew that it didn’t work. It didn’t work for her... as for him, well. He was still a man.
“I'm still a man, right?” She heard him murmur. Lara flinched. Looked like he’d read her mind. “But I’m not like others, Lara. With me it’s different.”
Lara dug her fingers into his scalp. “Stand up. I hate to see people on their knees. Get up!”
Finally, he got up and stood in front of her. He was noticeably taller, enough for Lara to raise her eyes, and she was already very tall. “Tell me this nightmare is over.” He said then, crossing her with that look again. “I need you to be the person you used to be. You trusted me when I was a stranger who’d robbed and then locked you up. Trust me for what I am now. I need you by my side and I’m tired of repeating it. You’re my partner. You're more than that.”
She blinked, looked away, and murmured: “It's over, yes. For Anna's sake, this madness is over.
“Just for Anna's sake?”
Lara closed her eyes painfully. She’d always been bad at apologizing. “No, silly. Of course not.”
She winced again when his hands caught her face and his lips brushed her mouth again. She pushed it away gently. “No, Kurtis. I already told you, not this way.”
“Alright.” He sighed and pulled away. “Come to me when you're ready. I’ll wait.”
I'm not going to blush, she thought, determined, and turned her back. “I promised Anna that there would be no more fights or arguments, and I’ll keep my word. As for the rest... give me time. I can’t turn everything around in a single moment.”
A single moment? She’d spent months to reach that point. But she knew her well - it was impossible to go against her. Not if he really wanted to recover her. “Anything else?” He whispered.
“I had a great speech prepared... but I forgot.” She confessed, shrugging.
“Cool. Time test you, m’lady.”
M’lady. Lara shuddered. She didn’t correct him, forbidding him to call her that. The loving nickname slid back on her like a fallen leaf, and she didn’t push it away. “Test me?”
“Yes.” He’d returned to sit quietly in his chair. Lara didn’t come closer. She stepped back and leaned back against the door. "As I told you, I need you to trust me again. I have a plan to hunt down Schäffer and... get him out of the way.”
“Didn’t expect less from you.” She tilted her head to the side. “You left for Istanbul before we could talk. What have you found?”
“The victim of the Grand Bazaar’s shooting, whom that fucker has been hunting down. It's Bathsheba.”
Lara's pupils dilated. “Bathsheba’s alive?” She asked, stupefied.
“Correct. Now she calls herself Barbara Standford and pretends to be an art dealer interested in antique objects.”
“Her old cover.” Lara murmured. “She was posing as such the first time I met her. But Schäffer was under her command. What happened?”
“Looks like this asshole fell for his mother, that batshit crazy Giselle. Schäffer blames Barbara for her death, and that's why he’s chasing her.”
“Foolish.” Lara narrowed her eyes. “Bathsheba can set fire to a human being like a living torch, with a single gesture of her fingers.”
“The Bathsheba you remember could.” Kurtis opened his palms. “Now, she’s just a mortal woman. Lilith punished her by sending her back, stripped of her Nephilim nature. She came out vulnerable and helpless where Schäffer was waiting for her. Upon learning of Giselle's fate, he beat and raped her. Finally, she managed to escape and has been fleeing from him since then.”
Lara listened to him holding her breath. Suddenly, she let out the air abruptly and folded her arms. “All that she told you?”
“So, you contacted her.”
“Of course. I'm posing as her fiancé.” Lara raised significantly an eyebrow. “I accompanied her until she left the hospital, I kept her in a motel in Istanbul for a while, and I brought her here, to Göreme, not even two days ago. She’s in one of the cave hotels, although not feeling quite well. Schäffer managed to shoot her on the skull’s side. She lost an ear and her face is partially paralyzed, as well as feeling constant dizziness.”
“So, she's your hostage.”
“Rather, our collaborator.”
“What are you talking about?”
“She agreed to be Schäffer’s bait. I'll take her to the presentation gala of Selma's thesis. He’ll come and, finally, I’ll catch that bastard.”
He heard Lara breathe deeply. She kept staring at him. “You're gonna put that... woman, in the same place where we’ll all be; your mother and daughter included, to attract that murderer in the middle of the crowd.”
“And she accepted out of the kindness of her heart. I don’t believe it. What does she gain with that?”
“Life. Believe me, more than enough for someone so helpless and desperate. The woman she’s now has little to do with the creature you and I met once.”
“She hurt... me… us…” Lara put her hands on her belly.
“I know what she did. But we need her, Lara.”
“And when this is over? What do we do with her?”
Kurtis inclined his head. “I don’t want to kill her. I don’t want you to kill her.”
“Now you’re merciful?”
He let out a big sigh and ran a hand over his face. “It's the least I owe her. If not for her, I wouldn’t have been able to hold Lilith until Samael arrived. She fought that thing as much as I did.”
“I imagine she's still as beautiful as ever. Or has mortality ruined that?”
“She still makes people stop and stare when going by.” Kurtis smiled slightly. “Even with a scarred face.”
“What about you? Do you stop and stare, too?
The ex-Legionnaire raised his eyes and looked at her with an infinite tenderness. Lara felt a shudder rise her back. “You jealous, m’lady?” He cocked his head. “I told you. Only you break me into pieces. If I have you I don’t want anyone else.”
He got up and went to her. Lara feared he’d try to kiss her again, for she didn’t think she could resist again - she just didn’t want to resist anymore. But he just took her gloved hands and kissed them delicately. Lara felt the blush rise her neck. You... scoundrel...
“I need your help.” He continued. “I can’t do this alone. The others have agreed to cooperate, and I also need Anna for this. But without you I won’t succeed. Tell me you’ll be with me. Tell me you’ll trust me, no matter what needs to be done.”
Lara watched him for a moment and, in the end, nodded. “I'll be with you.”
She closed her eyes when noticing his mouth again on her lips. Well, she could allow a kiss. She just hoped he wouldn’t keep going... because she knew well how they were going to end.
“Kurtis.” She whispered, their lips still in contact.
He pulled away. “True. A little more and I won’t able to stop myself.” He looked at her with a mocking smile. “Gotta go pick up Barbara and bring her here. A doctor has been seeing her, so hotel is no longer safe. She’ll have to stay here.”
“I’ll go with you.”
“We work together, remember?” She shrugged. “Don’t worry, I'll treat the heavenly lady well. Now, get that shiny bike of yours ready.”
He nodded and left quickly.
For a moment, alone in the barrack, Lara licked her lips slowly and then touched them. They burned so much that they almost hurt. She felt a fire bursting down her womb.
Dammit, why did she refuse? Bloody pride of hers.
No, sex as a reconciliation was a bad idea. She knew that well. She didn’t want this fracture to close like the others, among sweat, saliva and semen. This time, it had to mean something. This time, it had to be a definite change, for the better.
And she still had one last thing to ask him - but that should be left for later, when they had solved all that mess.
Her brain, always cold and calculating, was certain about that decision. Then, why was her body screaming like that?
Come to me when you're ready. I’ll wait.
How different he was from other men. He was right about that. There was no one like him - not that she’d ever known. All the men she’d been with before had been brutal, dominant or possessive, making her feel used or disgusted; or either too soft and romantic, boring her. Only he’d had that combination, that inner struggle between the lowest instincts, the most primal desire present in any man; and the love he felt for her, the need to cherish her, to take care of her, to protect her.
Love and lust, always at war with himself, always in battle inside of him.
She adored that contradiction.
Chapter 14: Return

After several years of absence, this year I've been surprisingly prolific in publishing new fanfics, and undoubtedly this is due to the immense love and support I've received from the AOD/Lartis fandom, particularly on Tumblr. To you (Mina, Vera, Yami, Lucie, Kim, Duygu, Anya, Fede... and the rest of my readers in, Wattpad, Inkitt, AO3 and DA, I don't forget you) I dedicate this new fanfic, sequel to The Awakening, but also sequel to all my previous works, to the point of making constant reference to them, even for the taste of the anecdote.

In The Legacy - excuse the clumsy title - I intend to explore human and family relationships concerning the TR universe characters who survived to my previous brutality. There will also be some action, although scarce: you know I love dialogues, feelings and the human psyche in all its beauty and complexity.

I hope this story lives up to your expectations and doesn't bore you too much. Excuse, also, if there are imperfections in the English translation, for I'm not an English native speaker. Thanks for bringing me back to the fanfic world :) (Smile) 

Previous chapter:

It was like walking in a dream.
She could be fourteen years old and considered herself, in many aspects, already a woman, but truth be told, she was still a child. Children rarely doubt their parents, they trust them, believe in their words. She wasn’t different at all and the ties that bound her to Lara and Kurtis were even tighter, as she’d been instructed to trust, to obey, to act fast, both alone and as a team, because her safety depended on it when traveling with them around the world.
But to have before her eyes the realization of what they had told her was real, that it actually happened, even though she’d believed them blindly regardless of whether she saw it or not, was a rewarding, euphoric sensation.
There was Loanna's tomb, and it was just as they had described it. The circular, large chamber, with traces of soot and scorched stone where Karel's powers had impacted. The beautiful white sarcophagus in the centre, with the reclining lady, delicate, beautiful.
“Omnia vulnerant, ultima necat.” She recited as she approached, even before she even read the inscription under the figure, since she knew it by heart. “All of them hurt, but the last one kill.”
And there, next to the inscribed plate, were still the remains of dried blood. Her father’s blood, who’d hit his head after the Nephilim crashed him into the sarcophagus. All that had happened long before she was born, long before she was conceived, or she was even a mere possibility. But there was, in short, the proof. Everything was true.
What now? She thought, looking at the beautiful sculpted face. Am I supposed to say something? She felt a bit silly standing there. Better to say some nonsense.
“Well, uhm, hi, Lady Loanna.” She murmured, and then she slapped her forehead. Lame, so lame...
Welcome, Anna Heissturm.
The girl winced and turned sharply. There was no one. Suddenly she felt her legs tremble. I'm not scared. I'm not scared.
Don’t be.
The voice was warm, soft, tender as a mother's - well, anyone’s mother but hers, of course. Still trembling, but caught with curiosity, Anna walked around the sarcophagus. I won’t hurt you, the voice insisted.
There was something sitting on the steps that gave access to the back of the sarcophagus. A fog, a disruption in the air, hard to say. It seemed like a woman. Long hair, long dress.
“A ghost!” Anna exclaimed involuntarily, gaping at the apparition.
The figure raised her face, and for a split second the girl thought she was going to see a skull, a zombie, a monster, anything really – but it was a young woman. Young, beautiful and sad, who smiled at her with a melancholy smile.
Greetings, daughter of my benefactor, daughter of the heiress of my legacy. She tilted her head again and Anna saw a long dagger in her lap. Thank you for coming.
Anna clicked her tongue and looked around, feeling very weird suddenly. There she was, talking to walking skeletons and ghosts of the past. She thought about asking her own questions, but the one being the first Amazon interrupted her. There will be time for that, little one - but now you must listen.
“I… I’m listening.” She stammered.
Do you remember your grandfather's message?
A cold sweat ran down her back. She stared, gasping, at Loanna’s ethereal silhouette.
“Huh, well, yes... the... grandpa's skull... it... spoke.” She shifted her weight to the other leg. “But Dad said not to tell anyone.”
It seemed to her that the lady smiled sweetly. And what did Konstantin Heissturm tell you, Daughter of Light? Repeat it.
The girl's face darkened. Suddenly, her legs weighed as if she’d run miles. She sat slowly on the stairs, in front of the apparition, although keeping the distances - just in case. “He told me to beware the long night.” She murmured, shuddering. “He told me to beware the prince of demons.”
You know what that means?
“How could I!” Anna looked at her dumbfounded. “Well, huh... I guess it means that... I’m in danger. You gonna explain to me?”
Beware of the long night. Beware of the prince of demons.
“Really?” Anna rolled her eyes.
Listen, little one. Now that you are here, I have very little time. What the warrior Heissturm, your grandfather, told you, is only part of what you should know, but it’s the most important part. I’ve been sent back to help you understand, but I don’t have all the answers, because the future isn’t written, and the result will depend only on the decisions you make and the actions you take.
“That's a contradiction.” Anna twisted her lower lip, thoughtful. “You warn me that I'm in danger, that Satan is chasing me or else, and then you tell me that I can change things. Either I can change them, or I can’t change them. Either I am predestined, or I am not.”
You’re predestined, but you weren’t until being conceived. Do you know how it happened?
Anna blushed involuntarily. “I know how kids are made.”
It seemed to her that Loanna was smiling again. What I mean is that you might not have existed. Do you know what happened here? The Seal’s story?
“Of course!” Was that ghost testing her? “I know everything, I'm not stupid! My father was the last Lux Veritatis and he faced Karel, who was the last Nephilim. They had to kill each other and disappear, to balance Good and Evil again.”
But there was someone appointed to intervene.
“My mother.” Anna nodded. “The Amazon.”
Good and Evil are self-regulating, Anna. It’s the only way in which the invisible forces of this world can work. You already know the story. The Lux Veritatis and the Nephili, the Children of Lilith, in continuous battle while She defied the King of Heaven. But that balance is readjusted from time to time. It happened once. I was the Amazon and Drakul had to father a child from me. If I had wanted him to confront the Lux Veritatis who chose to protect me, he wouldn’t have died tortured in his dungeons - but I didn’t choose the path of the True Option. I fled, abandoning him to his fate and, when the time came, I disposed of my life.
“I know. I’m sorry.” Anna murmured, feeling silly. What that mattered, at that point?
The centuries passed, and the equation was repeated. Your father became the new chosen one, and this time, in addition, the last Lux Veritatis. The same happened to Karel. They were meant to face each other, and the Nephilim, clairvoyant, saw in Lara Croft the new Amazon. But she was willing to follow the path of the True Option. She did want to decipher the mystery. She chose.
Anna smiled slightly and glanced sideways at Loanna. “Because she was in love with my father.” She giggled. “Although here between you and me, she took long to admit it.”
Again, it seemed to her that the misty lady was smiling. You think so? That it was for the sake of love?
“Of course!” Anna stood up, offended. “Had not been she in love with my father, why would she choose him?”
Out of love for justice?
This time it was Anna who laughed. “I can tell you don’t know my mother.” She moved her hand. “Karel offered her the supreme wisdom, immortality. My father had nothing...”
Except for love. Except for loyalty. Yes, Daughter of Light, love undoubtedly eased the choice. Love moves this world - but the story could have been different. She chose, and in doing so, you entered the plans of infinity. You were meant to exist from that moment, not before. Because, in choosing your father, your mother involuntarily unbalanced the balance. By making the Good triumph, she laid the foundations so that this choice, eventually, must be repeated once more.
Suddenly, Anna felt like a knot in her stomach.
“That... doesn’t sound good at all.”
No, little Anna. It’s not good news that I bring you today. You must prepare for it.
“But... if my mother had chosen Karel, the same thing would’ve happened!”
The same, yes. In the infinite plan, Good and Evil are irrelevant. The balance between them is what matters.
“Well, shit.”
The story would’ve been different - but there’s no point in speculating about it, since the Amazon chose the Good and you entered the plans of infinity. That's why the cycle continued.
“The only way to have closed that cycle, then, is that both my father and Karel would’ve died!”
Indeed. Your mother should’ve given up the choice and let both destroy each other.
“I’m not buying that this would’ve been the best ending!”
But it was, my little Anna. It was.
“You're saying that I should not have existed!”
It seemed to her that the ethereal ghost stared at her.
Hence the bad news, my little Anna.

With methodical calm, the assassin began to prepare his arsenal.
He’d almost had her. Almost. The bitch should’ve died that day - but he’d failed. Fucking bazaar and fucking people filling everything. The pressure led him to a mistake he didn’t use to make - a crucial mistake.
He would’ve loved that slut, that monster, to die in the operating room - but fate loved to make fun of him and his efforts. She’d survived - and when he decided to follow her trail again, she’d vanished.
Damn his fucking luck, really. It was his fault, of course – the godsdamned Trent.
“Shoulda killed you too.” He mumbled, as he finished assembling the last cables of the device, with a cigar between his teeth. “Why the hell I had to leave you alive. Fuck honour.”
It was almost ready. He cast a sidelong glance at one of the invitations he’d collected from the archaeology faculty two days ago. The announcement of the event in Göreme, in Cappadocia’s excavation. That Turkish brat, the archaeologist, was finally going to chant, to present her personal work where she aired what should’ve never been aired.
But what did he care now? All those who could’ve bothered, or be harmed by the verbiage of the Turkish, were dead. He’d only one thing left to do.
He was convinced that she would appear there. She wouldn’t resist. The event wasn’t going to be televised, thus she’d no choice but to attend. And apparently, despite the bullet, she was strong enough to leave the hospital and disappear.
Yes, without a doubt she would be there - but he wasn’t stupid enough to entrust the whole plan to a mere hunch. First, he would confirm her presence in the area. Then he could act freely.
And if the middle of the process that Turkish bitch and all her friends fell, the better.
Satisfied, he finished assembling the device and leaned back in the plastic chair, taking a long drag on the cigar. On television, a sensationalist news bulletin reported the disappearance of the victim of the Grand Bazaar after being discharged from the hospital.
The funniest thing of all - and it was hilarious! - was that Trent seemed to be protecting her now.
“I’ll be damned.” He laughed, and the laughter was interrupted by a cough. “That bitch captures you, delivers you to us, watches idly while we fuck you up big time, then kills your beloved British slut and the brat you made to her… and now you help and protect her from me.” He laughed again. “Holy shit, Trent. Either you’re fucking Jesus reborn, or the biggest asshole in this world.”

“The hell you mean!” The girl raised her hands, outraged. She seemed to have forgotten she was speaking to the spirit of a woman dead centuries ago. “How can you be like that?”
From the moment your mother chose your father, you were meant to be born. That's why you were born. You were necessary once the choice was made. But again, you entered the Evil’s plans. You were meant to be the dark sacrifice for...
“Yeah, yeah, I know.” Anna crossed her arms, sulking. “Lilith. The Vortex. The Scepter. I know well that story. But my father dispelled those plans! He saved us. He brought us back.”
Again, the love variable. Truly, love moves the world, isn’t it? Your mother didn’t have the courage to destroy you in her womb, as I did with the Nephilim’s bastard. For she loved your father, and she loved you too. Because your father loved your mother, and he loved you too, he again dispelled the plans of infinity. The cycle is still open.
“Dunno where’s this going.” Anna rubbed her eyes, tired. “Tell me at once what you want and leave me alone.”
I'm doing it. You must understand how the infinite plan works. Balance is the goal - and, the closing of the cycle. For centuries, mankind has been exposed to the game of Good and Evil. Battles between demons and angels, struggles between Lux Veritatis and Nephili. Thousands of innocents who have died because of this imbalance. The triumph of Good, or Evil, is irrelevant and temporary. Sooner or later the cycle restarts. You’ve been chosen, Anna, to close the cycle. You’ve been chosen... for good and bad.
“Be honest. You're telling me that I must do what my parents, what Karel, what nobody has had the courage to do before.”
A sacrifice of that category requires a great soul, a capacity well above good and evil, a love without limits. The warrior Heissturm, your grandfather, has acted out of love when warning you - but in the end, you won’t elude the long night. It’s your fate.
Anna remained silent for a moment, looking nowhere in particular. An immense cold seized her.
“You're telling me that I have to die.”
There’s only one way to close the cycle. The long night for you... and the eternal light for mankind. The end of the imbalance. I'm sorry, little one. You deserved better.

The trip from Istanbul to Göreme was too much for Barbara.
She’d tried to endure but could not. She was still too weak. Truth be told, the only thing that kept her on her feet was her pride, not completely broken despite the troubles she suffered. She refused to give an unfortunate show to Kurtis. Although, in the end, she couldn’t help it.
She noticed a slight buzzing in the ear halfway, clinging to the back of her companion, shaken by the wind while the motorcycle roared from Istanbul to Göreme, crossing half the country, and she didn’t complain. The buzz increased, her head began to ache, and the sensation persisted despite the stops to rest.
When they finally arrived at the hotel where she had to stay until the execution of the plan, her sight had become cloudy and she was barely aware of what was happening around her. Which was a shame, because this time Kurtis had had some consideration and the booked room was a charming cave of a hotel dug in Cappadocia’s ancient rocks.
She just followed him mechanically and obeyed him without further ado. She hoped she could lie down to rest as soon as he left her there - and then she would recover. She would feel better. She could even check the stitches of the surgical suture - maybe it was time to remove them.
“... Selma’s event is taking place in a week.” Kurtis was saying, closing the door behind him, dropping the luggage and checking the room with his usual speed. “Until then I recommend you rest. I must arrange the last details, then I will give you precise instructions...” He stopped abruptly. “Hey, what's wrong with you? Are you OK?”
Planted in the middle of the room, her right hand still holding the purse, the woman was pale as a corpse, her lips violaceous. The dark bags under her eyes stood out against her pallor.
“Bathsheba.” Kurtis frowned, involuntarily pronouncing her old name. “Your ear’s bleeding.”
She reached up and touched her ear, the healthy one. She noticed humidity - a trickle of blood ran down her neck. The buzzing intensified. Then she collapsed.
It was fortunate that he was so close. If she didn’t hit her head against the bedside table, which was as stone and as old as the walls around her, it was because Kurtis held her in time, before falling to the ground.

“I feel bad.” Anna murmured, getting up. Her legs were shaking. Her belly hurt. She stumbled forward, clinging to the edge of the sarcophagus. “I gotta go.”
Be brave, little Anna.
“Fuck that!” The girl turned abruptly and faced again the extinct Amazon. “I'm not your little one! How dare you call me here to tell me that I must die! Who do you think you are!”
I am God’s messenger...
“Then he's a stupid God!” She mumbled, furious, clenching her fists. “A stupid and cruel God! How do you dare! How dare you tell me that what my parents did was for nothing! My father fought, bled, suffered, died and came back for me! My mother chose him because she loved him! She died also for me! She could’ve chosen Karel, be the mother of the Nephili, become eternal and immortal like him...”
...and that would not have made a difference, Anna. The creature born of such a union, probably not very different from the pure Bathsheba, the Daughter of Lilith, would’ve had to die too, Anna. For the infinite plan, both Good and Evil are the same. Sooner or later, Karel's offspring would’ve had to face the same decision.
“Bullshit!” Anna shouted, clutching her belly. God, it hurts, she thought. “I can’t believe we're worthless! My father suffered... he died... he was tortured for months! Did you know?”
A Lux Veritatis rarely dies old, rarely dies in bed. Your father fulfilled his fate perfectly. He prided his ancestors.
“And yet you tell me he did wrong!”
He didn’t, simply because he couldn’t have done something else. He let himself be carried away by love. The one who loves sacrifices himself for the beloved, always. The one who loves protects the loved one, always.
“You contradict yourself! You’re crazy! Y’all crazy!” Anna grabbed her head. “First you say it could’ve been something else, now you say it couldn’t have happened otherwise! You’re nuts, you and all those up there!”
Your little brain can’t understand everything, but it’s normal. I regret having to be the one who told you this, because I believed in the Good while I lived, and for the Good I sacrificed myself. But the infinite plan doesn’t care about Good or Evil. If you preserve your life, the cycle will repeat itself in your offspring, and mankind will continue to suffer...
“... well then, fuck mankind.”
...and if you choose to assume your fate, then the cycle will close. Mankind will be free. Will you let others assume your mission? Why unnecessarily lengthen your life?
“Shut up! I'm leaving here right now.” She turned around. “I don’t want to hear this. Besides...” She hesitated. “I'm mortal, after all, right? One day I’ll die... what else matters if I do it sooner or later?”
I'm sorry, Anna, but a natural death doesn’t pay that price. Only a sacrifice. Remember, both your father and Karel should have destroyed each other to close the cycle. And for you to close it, you must die in combat...
“... against the prince of demons.” Anna finished for her.
And then, the Amazon disappeared. Her voice fainted.

“Aaaaand... done!” Zip said cheerfully, and leaned back in the chair. “Time to call Captain Kurt. Hermes, call Captain Kurt.”
Calling Captain Kurt, a mechanical voice answered, and then the program dialled a specific number. Marie looked up from the tapestry she was weaving despite her aching hands. “What the hell is that?”
“Hush, you confuse him. It’s a voice recognition messenger designed by me. Called him Hermes, as the Greek god...”
“...the god messenger. Yes, I know.” The Navajo woman mumbled and focused again on sewing.
There was a connection-establishing sound, and within a few seconds, Kurtis' voice. “Did you even consider that the line might be tapped?” The ex-legionnaire said, without bothering to say hello.
“Nobody taps my lines, boss.” Zip clarified, offended. “They are clean and safe! I've already checked.”
“Then you better make it count.”
“Everything’s ready for the big blow – and did you get the hot chick?”
“Barbara’s weak.” Kurtis answered quickly. “She fainted. I called a doctor to examine her in the room, since it’s not safe to take her to a hospital.”
“Let her die.” Marie murmured, without stopping weaving.
“Fuck dude, that’s bad. If the hot chick fails, the plan fails.”
But Kurtis wasn’t in the mood for small talk. “Call Selma. I need her help.”
“Let’s get the princess!” Zip yelled, but he’d barely turned his chair around when suddenly, the door opened, and the Turkish archaeologist stood inside the small studio full of screens. “I'm here, Kurtis!” She announced, wilfully.
“You were listening behind the door?” The hacker said, astonished.
“Selma,” Kurtis intervened, ignoring Zip, “I need you to get me an evening dress.”
“An evening dress? You gonna get sexy, Kurt?”
“Zip shut up.” Selma cut. “I guess you'll want it for Bathshe... for Barbara.”
“Exactly. Women handle these things better. Besides, I only know Lara's size.”
“Of course you know Lara’s size, you sly old bastard!”
“Zip, please.” Marie sighed, looking up. “Spare me your poor taste.”
“Don’t worry, Kurtis.” Selma promised. “I'll get you a beautiful dress for Bathshe... for Barbara. It must be the same size as I remember. I’ve an eye for that.”
“Actually, she lost a lot of weight. She’s very thin now.”
“You've looked and looked well on her, huh, Kurt, you bastard? OUCH!”
Selma had just slapped him. “You're a pig, Zip.” Turning back to the screen, the Turkish said: “Don’t worry, I'll take care of everything. She’ll have her dress. You make sure she recovers to play her role.”
For a moment, Kurtis remained silent. Then he spoke. “Do me another favor.”
“Anything you need.”
“Contact Lara in Egypt. Contact Jean Yves, if needed. But she must return as soon as possible - and she must bring Anna back. Understood? Whatever it takes to convince her.”
“I’ll convince her.” Marie promised solemnly. “She’ll listen to me.”

Suddenly, a vibration shocked the air. Lara stood up and faced the two skeletons, testing the guns, just in case - but it wasn’t necessary.
The knights, still with swords held high, trembled for a moment. And suddenly, they crumbled, like a house of cards that has been tapped. The bones were disassembled, the armour dismounted, the swords fell to the ground with a metallic rumble. Simply, without a word, without a movement, they collapsed. There was nothing left of them, but two piles of bones next to the remains of their armour.
“What the…” She moved forward and watched them for a moment. Then she kicked one of the skulls, which rolled without further ceremony.
Nothing, absolutely nothing.
And then she saw her. She was approaching her, staggering. Sobbing.
“Anna!” Lara shouted, and ran towards her, crossing the previously forbidden threshold without any problem. “What happened?”
She knelt before her daughter and grabbed her by the shoulders, but the girl was still crying, disoriented, disconsolate. Then Lara noticed that there was a faint trace of blood on the kid’s fingers.
“You're hurt?” She asked. “Who...?” She broke off to notice a dark spot between her legs, soaking the khaki fabric of her pants. “It's nothing, Anna. We talked about this before. What…?”
But she couldn’t go on because suddenly the girl threw her arms around her neck and continued crying against her chest, sobbing inconsolably. “Oh, Mom, I... I...” She stuttered, choking with tears. “I...!”
“Anna, calm down. You must calm down.” Lara tried to separate her gently to look at her face, but she held on harder.
“It’s a lie! Everything’s a lie! A damn, fucking lie!” The girl sobbed against her chest. “It has to be a lie!”
“What lie? Anna, please, talk to me. What did she said… that…that…”
The girl was still crying. Confused, lost, Lara just stroked her hair, waiting for her to calm down, while she felt the humidity of the first blood, the end of childhood.
Chapter 13: Fate

After several years of absence, this year I've been surprisingly prolific in publishing new fanfics, and undoubtedly this is due to the immense love and support I've received from the AOD/Lartis fandom, particularly on Tumblr. To you (Mina, Vera, Yami, Lucie, Kim, Duygu, Anya, Fede... and the rest of my readers in, Wattpad, Inkitt, AO3 and DA, I don't forget you) I dedicate this new fanfic, sequel to The Awakening, but also sequel to all my previous works, to the point of making constant reference to them, even for the taste of the anecdote.

In The Legacy - excuse the clumsy title - I intend to explore human and family relationships concerning the TR universe characters who survived to my previous brutality. There will also be some action, although scarce: you know I love dialogues, feelings and the human psyche in all its beauty and complexity.

I hope this story lives up to your expectations and doesn't bore you too much. Excuse, also, if there are imperfections in the English translation, for I'm not an English native speaker. Thanks for bringing me back to the fanfic world :) (Smile) 

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Santa Marta de Betania
Durante mucho tiempo, Santa Marta fue considerada hermana de Santa María Magdalena, titular de esta iglesia. Hoy se sabe que esta María hermana de Marta no es la Magdalena, sino otra, llamada de Betania, como ella.
Para saber más:…
Iglesia de Santa María Magdalena.
Roma, Italia.
The flight to Egypt was sad, despite Jean Yves being excited about their arrival, an enthusiasm born of interest, of course, but honest, after all.
Usually Anna would annoy Lara on flights – which were rarely short-timed, in her case – with lots of mindless chattering, moving around in her seat, strolling along the corridor or bothering the cabin crew with insightful questions. Now, the girl sitting next to her remained silent and motionless, at times looking out the window, at times dozing slightly. She didn’t eat, she didn’t sleep, and she answered everything in monosyllables.
Lara had no intention of pressuring her to speak. Anyway, she already knew everything she needed to know. Anna was angry with her, angry at him and, being in her teens, she didn’t know how to manage that anger. For the first time, none of her requests and protests were answered – neither good nor bad. She just didn’t know how to react.
As for herself, Lara took advantage of that sudden calm to reflect – and by the time the plane landed at the Cairo airport, she had made a decision.

Anna regained her vitality at Jean Yves’ sight, who, for a change, had gone to pick them up at the airport – something never seen before. He must be really impatient, Lara thought sarcastically as she looked at her daughter, suddenly merry and jumpy again, run to Uncle Jean and jump up to him like a frog, hook to his neck and stick a sloppy kiss on his cheek, which he tolerated without complaining. Look at her, Lara growled inwardly. The anger has passed.
“Dear Lara, you can’t know how much I appreciate that you changed your mind!” The Egyptologist smiled as he ran to embrace her effusively. Like old times, Lara just tolerated his embrace. “I didn’t know what to do to convince you to come here.” He peered over Lara's shoulder. “Where’s Kurtis?”
Still clutching his huge arm, Anna looked up at Jean. “Dad couldn’t come, he's on an important mission.” She stressed the last words raising her finger. “But he sent me on behalf of the Lux Veritatis’ order.”
Lara discreetly covered her mouth while Jean laughed openly. “Très bien! So, let's not waste time. We must find out what those illustrious knights want from you, n'est pas?”
But the British explorer raised a hand, stopping the Frenchman’s bubbling enthusiasm. “Halt. Those knights are dead. They have waited, surely, a long time to deliver such an important message.” She glanced sideways at the girl, who looked at her annoyed. “It won’t matter they wait a little longer. We rest tonight at the hotel, and tomorrow we leave for al-Fayoum, understood?” Resigned, Anna nodded and ran to pick up her luggage a moment later when Lara leaned towards Jean and whispered. “I need to talk to you.”

She entered the small motel room before Kurtis and didn’t blink when he closed the door behind them. The room was honestly horrendous and filthy, but he didn’t apologize or waste time looking for excuses – not that she was expecting them either.
“You'll stay here until I give you new instructions.” The former Legionnaire said, dropping a bag on the stinking bed. “I will come from time to time to see you, and I will bring you food, but you can’t leave here. Gotcha?”
Barbara nodded. She was standing in front of him, her hands crossed in her lap. She didn’t want to show how uncomfortable she felt alone with him in such a narrow room. His manly scent came in intense waves. Again, her delicate nose played tricks on her.
Of course, it wasn’t about him. Any other mortal – she hadn’t got used to being among them yet – made her feel equally uncomfortable.
“You won’t leave this room, you won’t answer the phone, you won’t open the door if it’s not me.” Kurtis continued, striding across the room, checking every corner, lifting carpets, pulling curtains. Barbara had to dodge him more than once. “You won’t go near the window, you won’t open it, you won’t pull back the curtains, you won’t play music or turn on the TV.”
“Am I allowed to shower?” She couldn’t contain herself, finally. “Or is smelling like this room part of the plan, too?”
The ex-legionary turned to her. He wasn’t smiling. “Was that sarcasm?” He asked. “Okay, disobey me. At your own risk. But when they find you dead I won’t approach to check if it's your body or not – watching it on TV will be enough.”
He rummaged in his jacket and pulled out a key chain, which he threw on the bedspread.
“Lock yourself when you leave. You have enough food for a week. Don’t eat indiscriminately, but don’t starve yourself either. I need you strong for what you gotta do.” He opened the zipper of the bag. “You’ve also stuff to treat your surgery wounds. Oh, and some light reading.” Now a smile appeared at the corner of his mouth. He lifted a thick wad of printed sheets. “That way you'll kill time instead of time killing you.”
“What is it?”
“A draft of Selma's thesis. I think it might be interesting.”
“Thanks for caring about my entertainment.” Again, the sarcasm. She was growing bold.
Kurtis cut her short. “I don’t give a damn about your entertainment”. The jacket was closed with a jerk. “I need you to read it and confirm the names and places of the Cabal fuckers who are still alive, or not, that can still be a problem, or that can move to a secondary place of interest. You have a pencil in the bag. Write down.”
“That's an order? This wasn’t part of the deal.”
“Everything I tell you to do is part of the deal. Period.” Turning around, Kurtis strode to the door, but before he opened it, Barbara stopped him. “Wait!”
“What happens if you don’t return after a week? Maybe it's you who ends up being a corpse on TV.”
He looked at her out of the corner of his eye and smiled with that crooked smile of his. “Then, do what you've been doing pretty good so far.” He said. “Run.”

That night, under the electric light of the Arabian lanterns Jean had decorating his terrace in Khan-el-Khalili, and after Anna fell exhausted on one of his couches in the warm attic, Lara informed Jean about the current status of Selma's thesis, what happened in Sri Lanka, Marie's illness, and the uncertainties of the future. She only avoided mentioning Kurtis, until, of course, the French Egyptologist ended up reading between the lines, for which he’d always had a talent.
“Not an appropriate time for fights.” He commented discreetly, sinking his nose into his glass of Moorish tea. “And there must have been such, since Kurtis is not here dealing with something that affects him as much as the girl.” Before Lara could protest, he raised his hand to silence her. “Don’t worry, chérie. I don’t intend to mess with your private life. You know how to handle this as well as him, I'm certain.”
“Rather, your main concern is to enter Loanna's tomb.” Lara hinted with a poisonous smile. “And finally own the exclusive publication and divulgation of the study.”
“Mais non!” Jean shrugged with pretended innocence. “I care about the kid as much as you. But I doubt we should be worried. Those Lux Veritatis won’t hurt her.”
“No, of course not.” Lara sighed. “Now she’s one of them. The earlier we solve this, the better.”
Jean leaned over the golden tray and picked up his umpteenth baklava.
“You should stop eating those.” The British explorer told him.
“Do I tell you how you should manage your... huh...” He hesitated, looking for the appropriate word. “... partner? Or your daughter? Non? Then let me handle my stomach.”

When he had something to do, living was much easier. He thought less and acted more.
After leaving Barbara in that smelly motel at Istanbul’s suburbs, secretly praying that Schäffer had decided to take a few days of truce after the Grand Bazaar’s fiasco, Kurtis drove back to Cappadocia. Sounded like no big deal, although it took endless hours of road in which he only stopped to rest an hour.
When finally he found himself again in Selma’s archaeological dig near Göreme, he hurt in everything that could hurt in a human body, or so it seemed. However, again, that pain was manageable and to some extent it tasted like glory.
It helped him stop thinking.
So, when Selma and Zip told him, worried, that Lara had flown to Egypt and she’d taken Anna with her, he didn’t even blink. He just stared at them and then summoned them all – Marie included – in the main barrack, where he cleared a large table and proceeded, without further ado, to update them on the current status of his plan, taking a huge map of the dig, turning it around and beginning to draw sketches and schemes without asking permission.
Not having Lara there, not even his own daughter, had a sad, though obvious perk: nobody interrupted him, nobody questioned him, nobody argued or challenged him. Selma, Zip and Marie just listened to him in silence, with surprised and astonished expressions, looking sideways at each other, but, still silent. Kurtis appreciated it. He hated to repeat himself or even explain himself too much. “Any questions?” He said when done.
The listeners looked at each other for a moment, then Selma timidly raised her hand: “May I ask anything?”
Kurtis raised an eyebrow in a sarcastic gesture. “If it has to do with the plan…”
The Turkish archaeologist took a deep breath. “I still can’t believe that Bathsheba’s alive...”
“... and that you didn’t kill her on the spot.” Marie growled between teeth. Like most of those present, she’d very good reasons to hate the ex-Nephilim.
“Dead, she’s of no use to me. Alive, she’ll be the perfect bait. I already told you she agreed to cooperate.” Kurtis looked around among those present. “I'll use my murderous instincts when I catch that bastard Schäffer. Until then, I'll have a cool head.”
“If you catch him.” Marie said, resentful. “This plan is madness. Terribly risky. Not only you risk our lives, but everyone who attends Selma's presentation. What happens if that psycho fires indiscriminately? How many people will be down?”
“That's not Schäffer’s style. It was not Gunderson's style either, nor any of the Cabal’s agents. You know that too well. Any other question?”
“Yes.” Marie charged again. “Why I haven’t been assigned a role in this plan? You leave me aside like old clothes. I'm sick, but not useless. I want to be there, and I want to help.”
“It's not just that you're sick.” Kurtis replied. “You really can’t do anything, except take care of Anna. If things get ugly... take her away from there – and warn the authorities.”
Zip tensed in the chair. “Holy shit.” He murmured. “Kurt trusting the cops. Well yes, shit must be fucked up to get to that place.”
“If we get to that,” Kurtis sighed, “cops or not won’t make a difference.” And then looked at Selma, who watched him in silence. “You’ll be on stage, in the middle of everything. Can I count on you? This may go very wrong. And you are there, in the centre of the hurricane.”
The Turkish looked at him seriously, and then nodded. “I've waited years for this moment. In one way or another, there are always evil people who stand in the way of destroying my dreams. It will not happen anymore. Count on me.”
“At whatever price?” Marie asked, perplexed. “You could die.”
“At whatever price. I was born for this.” Selma reclined on the chair and relaxed. “I have no further questions.”
“Me neither.” Zip said quickly. “If the princess agrees, I agree. As for the rest I’m your bitch, dude.”
“I’m not.” Marie went again. “Why Anna has to be in the middle? Send her back to England, as far as possible from here.”
Kurtis, still leaning on the table with the palms of his hands, lowered his head. For a moment he remained silent. Then, he muttered with difficulty. “I need her.”
“I need Anna. She must be there.”
Again, they looked at each other, stupefied. “I need the Gift.” Kurtis continued, speaking slowly. “Only she has it now. I can’t explain it here, and neither to you. It's something between her and me. It's something she must do for me, now that I no longer have that power.”
“She doesn’t control her Gift.” Marie protested. “She doesn’t even know how to use it, she hasn’t had time to learn yet and you didn’t start to train her. God, she’s just a kid! We still don’t know the extent of her qualities or the price she’ll have to pay for them. And you put her in the middle of this madness...” She stopped abruptly when noticing Kurtis' gaze on her. It was a difficult glance to hold. In her female intuition and old age, Marie understood that it was just as difficult, if not more, for him to make that decision. “I hope you know what you're doing.” She concluded. “If someone touches Anna, I...”
Kurtis clenched his teeth. “That's why I need Lara.” He clarified. “It’ll be up to her to escort and protect her.”
Once again, they were looking at each other, hesitantly.
“Lara’s not here.” Marie said, hating to be, again, the discordant voice. “Let’s trust that, when the time comes, she’ll cooperate with us.”
And she had the courtesy to say us, although Kurtis captured the real meaning of her phrase.
“She’ll cooperate.” He closed his eyes, exhausted. “She has to cooperate.”

The shotgun was laying on the table, cold, motionless and apparently harmless, hiding, for a change, its lethal capacity. The winter sun that filtered through the canvas of the Jeep shone brightly on its metal surface.
Anna reached out and gently stroked the weapon’s butt, clad in beautiful, polished and varnished dark wood.
“Stop it.” Lara growled, without turning around. “I'm watching you.”
The girl wondered if her mother had a bat’s hearing, since she didn’t seem to have grown eyes on the back of her neck. Still showing her back to her, Lara was adjusting the cartridge belts to her thighs - and yet, she’d seen her. She withdrew her hand.
“When will you teach me to shoot?”
“When you are of age.”
“When will I be of age?”
Lara finished adjusting the strap and, sighing, turned around. “We've talked about this before. When you became an adult, period.”
“That's far away!” The girl protested, frustrated.
“As it should be – and now move away. Next time you touch something from my arsenal, I’ll...”
“…you’ll pack me back to England, I know.” Anna jumped off the stool and pulled away, pouting with her lips.
“Be content with being the sudden centre of interest of knights killed centuries ago.” Lara sheathed the pistols in the holsters she’d just adjusted. “Believe me, you don’t need guns. You’ve pretty enough already.”
Anna rolled her eyes and pushed the canvas out of the entrance with a swipe to get out. While she finished adjusting her backpack, she thought about how technically useless all those preparatory were. The Lux Veritatis wouldn’t attack Anna, and in case the episode of Sri Lanka was repeated, there was little to nothing she could do to help her. Except hold her in her arms, as she’d already done.
The belt was adjusted with energy. In short, it was a habit. In the open field, without her equipment, she felt naked, whether she really needed it or not. Besides, it wasn’t that she relied exclusively on it. She knew how to improvise. She knew how to get out of trouble. She knew how to quickly recompose this equipment if she lost it. She hadn’t missed chances to put herself to the test.
But after Sri Lanka, she was overcome by uncertainty. Sri Lanka... she’d been about to die. And unlike Egypt itself, many years ago, this time not only her would have been affected.
She didn’t know what to expect from that bizarre meeting, nor how to be useful to Anna in such a situation.
She missed Kurtis – and she despised herself for that.

Sixteen years, and hardly a thing had changed in the oasis of Al-Fayoum. True, Jean had cleaned the area: now it wasn’t all just sand, palm trees and a few scattered shops. There were prefabricated concrete caissons, a parking area – which often ended up also buried by sand – and a fence around the entrance to the sanctuary that was Loanna von Skopf’s last resting place.
A part of Lara felt sorry for the Egyptologist, who had long wanted to enter that place and open their secrets to the world. In a way, it was like cutting off his wings.
Anna stood obediently waiting at the entrance to the tunnel, her eyes fixed on the Lux Veritatis symbol engraved on the arch's lintel. Suddenly she looked serious and thoughtful.
“Are you scared?” Lara said, finishing adjusting the gloves.
The girl snorted. “Meeeeee? Of course not!” She put her arms akimbo. “Are we going or not?”
“Let’s go.”

She was tenacious, sensible, obedient, and cooperative. Kurtis had to give her that.
After a week, he found her as he’d left her, only that the room was cleaner, tidier, smelled better – was the aroma that wafted in the air lavender? The food had been consumed for the most part, but not in its entirety, and she was almost done reading Selma's thesis.
He found Barbara away from the door and the window, which hadn’t been touched, not on the stained desk and the threadbare chair, but on the floor, behind the bed, her back against the wall, the folios arranged around her – and focused on writing something on the margins of what seemed to be the last sheets.
When he entered, the woman jumped and hurried to cover her shoulders with a shawl, since she was only wearing a nightgown. He could have knocked, she thought angrily. But then she dismissed the idea as stupid. By now, she should already know better.
Without further delay, Kurtis slammed the door, threw the bag aside and went to her in two strides. Barbara pressed her back against the wall, but he barely looked at her. He grabbed a bunch of pages and looked at her notes on the side-lines.
“Good girl.” He commented. She wasn’t sure if that was sarcasm. “Be a dear and gimme the short version.”
“It's an excellent work, but...”
“Don’t care about the thesis. I'm talking about Cabal members she mentions. If any of them, apart from Schäffer, can suppose a problem to us after this is published.”
Barbara sighed. “None. They are all dead.” She shrugged. “Good work, by the way.”
Kurtis looked at her out of the corner of his eye for a moment.
“Stop it.” She sighed again, tired. “We both have been doing our own research all these years, right? I used to look for the few Cabal members who escaped from the police, and you, to kill them.”
She saw the man standing up, walking to the crumpled desk chair, collapsing on top of it and continuing to leaf through the papers. “And despite that,” he murmured, “we never crossed paths.”
“I already told you, I learn fast.” Barbara shook her hair. The scent of lavender intensified. “I get why you’d take care of Hugh. After all, he was a spy. But what was Karl's fault? He was just a guard. Or the nurses...”
“Murderers.” Kurtis mumbled. “Torturers. Sadists. Disgusting assholes without morals or values.”
“They carried out orders.”
“And I protect my family.” The man smiled with that feral grimace. “Have we finished with this constructive speech?”
“Fine.” He got up and began to stretch his muscles. “Tonight, I sleep here,” he ignored the woman's displeased face, “and you can take the bed, I don’t want it. But I'm busted off the road and I need to rest. Now you pack your things and be ready to leave tomorrow morning.”
“Where are we going?”
“Cappadocia. Göreme, to be more precise.”
Barbara paled abruptly, and a nervous twitch appeared on the semi-paralyzed side of her face.
“Excuse me, I'm not asking for your opinion.” Kurtis laughed lightly.
“I don’t want…”
He raised an eyebrow. “Bad conscience? Too late for that.” He dropped the papers on the worn desk. “As you will understand, I can’t insert you in the plan without introducing you. Now they know you’re alive. They will cooperate.”
“Even Lara Croft?”
For a moment, he watched her silently, as he doubted. “No. She doesn’t know yet. She’s in Egypt, with my daughter.”
They measured themselves in silence for a moment. In the end, she confessed: “I don’t want to meet her.”
“Wise of you. Lara’s much less reasonable and compassionate than me. And her resentment can last a long time, I know well.” He let out a bitter laugh. “But you have no choice. You’ll have to cooperate. I hope she does too.”
“And if not? I just get a bullet in the head?”
“Probably.” He smiled again with that crooked grimace. “I forgave, and I’ve been trying to forget, what you did to her. But she never signed on for that. Anyway, you won’t meet until I’m sure she’s gonna cooperate. Until then you will stay in a hotel in Göreme, better than this one, likely,” he looked around, “so try to rest. What happens from now ain’t gonna be easy.”
Barbara rose heavily from the floor. Her movements, Kurtis noticed, were still clumsy and cautious. She’d gained some weight, but she was still weak. Maybe too much.
But he couldn’t afford to be concerned. In silence, he apologized – for he couldn’t afford to even apologize out loud either.
“One last detail.” He said behind her back, interrupting her when she was already in the bathroom. “The latter doesn’t apply to my daughter. I don’t want you near her.”
“We’ll necessarily have to coincide. She’s a child. Children are curious about...”
“You won’t approach her, you won’t talk to her, you won’t touch her. If she approaches you, you turn around and go away. Understood?”
Barbara sighed. “Yes. But I’m no longer a threat, as I told you. I’d never hurt a child...”
“Of course not. But it's her I'm protecting you from.”
The woman raised her eyebrows again. Kurtis laughed. “I can tell you don’t know shit about my daughter. Better that way.”

There they were, firm in the darkness. Still vigilant, still faithful. In their pathetic endurance and loyalty there was something sad, something infinitely bleak, but at the same time, dignified and majestic.
“Oh, whoa.” Anna gasped, with wide eyes. “Amazeballs.”
The two skeletons remained on either side of the gate giving access to the large circular chamber that was Loanna's tomb. Nothing had changed. No trap had been activated. Lara hadn’t need to fear for Anna's safety. Years ago, she’d entered with a Lux Veritatis who blocked them with his aura – and now she’d another at her side who, passively, unknowingly, was doing the same as her father years ago.
Fascinating, she thought. And frustrating at the same time. There was no challenge. No excitement. She sighed.
She noticed Anna grabbing her hand and twisting it, still gawking at the immobile skeletons. “Can we get closer now?”
Lara took a step forward, with the girl clutching her arm. “You’re scared.”
“I’m not!”
“You're tearing my arm.”
“’Coz you’re very slow!”
Slow, me? Lara was about to outburst when, suddenly, the skeletons moved.
In unison, gracefully, as shoal at sea, they stepped forward and unsheathed their swords. The screech of rusty metal ripped through the thick, silent air.
Anna screamed, more of excitement than of fear, but Lara had already pushed her back and placed herself in front of her, covering her, one hand on the gun, already with the safety catch removed – but her caution was unnecessary. Again, gracefully, with a solemn and majestic movement, the two skeletons made an arc in the air with their blades, knelt before them and plunged their swords into the ground, in front of them, taking the hilt with their skeletal hands and bowing their heads in respect, and rested their foreheads on the pommel of the sword.
“Holy shit!” Anna released. “This is fucking cool!”
And then they spoke. Lara already knew that multiple voice – so confusing, upsetting, that seemed to speak through a dream, a nebula, a curtain of water. Human voices, male voices, but distant, ethereal. Ancient.
Welcome, Anna Croft, daughter of Lara Croft, the Amazon, to whom the angels came; daughter of Kurtis Heissturm, the Warrior, the Son of Light, the one who returned from the Vortex, the chosen by the mother of all Nephili.
The girl's jaw dropped in a stunned expression. Then she tugged at her mother's sleeve. “That's me! You hear them? You hear them? They are talking to me!” She jumped nervously on her feet. “What a fucking blast!”
“Anna Croft,” Lara mumbled between teeth, “daughter of the Amazon and the Warrior, if you swear again like a bloody cutthroat I’m slapping you in a way you’ll fly before these piles of bones. Got it?”
Fear not, Amazon, chosen by the angels, whom we honour for your sacrifice. We shall not harm the Daughter of Light, the fruit of your womb, your gift to mankind, the one we were waiting for, the one that will close the cycle.
“What do you mean...?” Anna asked, but Lara interrupted her by raising her hand, and then she took a step forward. “What are you talking about?”
We will only deliver our message to the chosen...
“No.” Lara shook her head, gracefully swinging the braid at her back. “Since you honour my sacrifice and she’s my gift to mankind, or whatever, you will talk to me now, and answer my questions. Or else I'll take her from here and you can keep waiting for a few more years. What difference will it make to you, anyway?” The smiling skulls watched her in silence for a moment. Lara didn’t wait for an answer. “What does it mean to close the cycle? The cycle was closed. The Vortex’s gates closed behind Kurtis...” She glanced sideways at Anna, who was looking at her silently. “They closed behind us. What does this mean now?”
The cycle never closed. Had it been so, the chosen one wouldn’t have manifested the Gift. But she absolutely needs it. Although the Vortex’s gates were blocked, there are still demons loose in the world.
“Kurtis takes care of them. He’s always done it.” Lara took a deep breath and relaxed her shoulders. “And he always will.”
He no longer has the Gift. He can fight with his human strength, but it’s limited now. Impotent against the great demons. If he continues to face them, they will kill him. But that’s no longer relevant. He already played his part and fulfilled his mission.
Anna blinked suddenly and turned to them. “Hey!” She protested, frowning. “Bitch say what? That my father is not relevant?”
He was the protector of mankind, one more of our brethren, as we all were before him. But now you are the protectress. Now you assume his role.
“Enough.” Lara said, tensing. “Let me through. I must talk to Loanna.”
Lady Loanna won’t talk to you, Amazon, chosen by the angels. You can’t communicate with her. But the Daughter of Light can. We'll let her through.
“How dare you block my way?” The explorer closed her fists, tensing the muscles. “I can still kick your arses like in old times. You’re slow and clumsy. I will pass.”
Our humble bones are no more than, like ourselves, servants of the Light. Kick us, Amazon, we’ll consider it an honour – but you won’t pass. Lady Loanna’s message must be delivered only to your daughter, your sacrifice, your gift to mankind – or not delivered at all, and then, woe to her, to you and the Warrior. Woe to the whole of mankind. But what difference will it make to us, anyway?
Anna winced. Were those bags of bones challenging her mother?
For a moment, Lara glared at them in silence. Then she shook her head, turned to Anna and knelt to be at her height. “We don’t have time for this. You’re going to enter alone.” She indicated. “She won’t hurt you. Don’t be afraid.”
“I won’t.” Anna assured, although she’d begun to wring her fingers.
“Don’t touch or damage anything, either. When you have the message, come back. I’ll be waiting for you.”
The girl, suddenly serious, nodded. Then she took a deep breath and turned to the skeletons. These, as if driven by a spring, rose up, stepped aside, clearing the entrance, and stood facing each other, crossing their blades on high.
Then a memory came back to Lara. Fratribus collatis ianuae patent.
So many years ago, before Anna was born, before Kurtis meant something to her, despite he was already there, for her. Prague. The Vault of Trophies.
The brothers reunited see the gates thrown open.
The carved knights, crossing their blades on high. The same position. The same meaning.
The path was open.
Lara watched the thin silhouette of her daughter pass between the two skeletons. At one point, the girl couldn’t resist and put a finger between the ribs behind the broken breastplate of one of the knights, but he didn’t move an inch.
“Well, see you later, alligator!” She said cheerfully. “I'm coming right away!”
And she got lost in the tunnel.
Chapter 12: Chosen

After several years of absence, this year I've been surprisingly prolific in publishing new fanfics, and undoubtedly this is due to the immense love and support I've received from the AOD/Lartis fandom, particularly on Tumblr. To you (Mina, Vera, Yami, Lucie, Kim, Duygu, Anya, Fede... and the rest of my readers in, Wattpad, Inkitt, AO3 and DA, I don't forget you) I dedicate this new fanfic, sequel to The Awakening, but also sequel to all my previous works, to the point of making constant reference to them, even for the taste of the anecdote.

In The Legacy - excuse the clumsy title - I intend to explore human and family relationships concerning the TR universe characters who survived to my previous brutality. There will also be some action, although scarce: you know I love dialogues, feelings and the human psyche in all its beauty and complexity.

I hope this story lives up to your expectations and doesn't bore you too much. Excuse, also, if there are imperfections in the English translation, for I'm not an English native speaker. Thanks for bringing me back to the fanfic world :) (Smile) Thank you so much to Claire Sail for her fantastic work as my beta-reader! :D (Big Grin)

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Anna of Natzaret
Saint Anna, mother of the Blessed Virgin Martyr, patroness of old women, grandmothers, sterile women and teachers.
Duomo di San Lorenzo, Genova, Italia.


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Alexis-Croft Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2018  Student
Side Eyes Emoji   thank you for the watch :D
Meldelen Featured By Owner Dec 4, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
No worries! :D
JArchitect Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2018   Photographer
Gracias Meldelen, me gustan mucho tus fotografias y en especial compartimos el mismo interes: espacios y edificios sacros.  Saludos.
Meldelen Featured By Owner Aug 3, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
Un honor recibir un cumplido de ti, puesto que tus fotografías son excelentes. Yo no paso de ser amateur. Gracias.
RenderSas Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2018
Thank you for the watch :)
Meldelen Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
My pleasure. Love your renders :)
Rom1-123 Featured By Owner Jun 5, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thank you very much for the fav ! Feel free to click the watch button in my gallery to keep an eye on my next artworks to come.
Meldelen Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
I specially enjoyed your Lara and Kurtis artworks. Really hope you draw them more often! :)
Rom1-123 Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2018  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I noticed ! :D Thank you very much ! I love them too and I hope I'll find the time to draw them more often too. ;)
I hate my first Kurtis painting, though. ^^
Meldelen Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2018  Hobbyist Writer
You shouldn't. It's true I personally prefer those artworks who resemble him more as he looks in-game, but it's your style and I must say the background is amazing and the details of the collarbone and the chest hair are excellent. I have shared both artworks in Tumblr, crediting you, of course.
Go on with the amazing works. ;)
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