Chapter 1: Lady Croft

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By Meldelen
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I will return and I will be millions.
HOWARD FAST, Spartacus

1. Lady Croft

The old lady slowly pulled back the curtain and inquisitively surveyed the outer landscape. Croft Manor was calm, silent and serene as usual, the ticking of the old clock being the only sound there.
She'd arrived in advance, as always. She wanted to be there when her granddaughter arrived, to greet her personally. No negligence on the part of Lady Croft - not with her.
That girl meant the world to her.
She winced at the distant roar of the engine. She frowned - of course, he brought her on the motorbike. On that huge, noisy, monstrous motorbike.
The horror.
She watched with a critical eye as the manor gates opened and the shiny Brough Superior SS100 made its entrance. An old glory, and Lady Croft would've been surprised if only she were interested in such things, how much that vehicle had endured and its merit in surviving through it all.
Same as its driver.
That man - Lady Croft refused to utter his name, although of course she knew it - parked the motorbike on the main road and turned off the engine. Almost as soon as the roar died out, her granddaughter's incessant chatter overcame the soft murmur of the garden.
The old lady didn't hear exactly what she was saying, nor did she care too much at the moment. She was rather worried about the girl traveling on that monster, behind that man, clinging to his waist.
How awful. There was plenty of traffic accidents nowadays, and even more when riding those devil machines - not to mention that the man had never used a helmet.
Although Lady Croft had to give him that, at least, the girl was wearing one. In fact, while she was still chattering like a parrot, he turned and patiently took the helmet off his daughter's head, revealing tangled hair.
The lady grunted in disapproval: her granddaughter looked like a basket of angry cats. No matter how much she tried to turn her into something good-looking when she was with her: as soon as she returned to that man – or to her mother, for what mattered - she got out of control again.
The girl, oblivious to her disastrous appearance, keep on chattering non-stop while the man rubbed her hair with one hand.
“Lovely.” Lady Croft grunted between teeth. “Tousle her hair a bit more, why not.”
Moments later, and still not silent, the girl adjusted a baggy backpack almost bigger than her, put her arms around the man's neck and kissed him - Good Lord, I hope he doesn't spread anything to her - on his half-shaved cheek – he doesn't even know how to shave properly, look at those side-whiskers – after which she jumped off the bike and planted on the ground with a movement not lacking a certain elegance.
The elegance of her mother, of course. She was a Croft.
Now that man was saying something in a low voice, miraculously silencing her. The girl listened carefully, then nodded. The man smiled - if that crooked grin could be called a smile - and patted her on the shoulder. The girl smiled too, said goodbye waving her hand, turned back and entered the manor.
Then the man looked up and looked directly at her.
Lady Croft startled and leaped back, releasing the curtain. What on earth...? She covered her mouth, embarrassed, and stood quietly behind the curtains until she heard the roar of the engine and the motorbike going away.
But she didn't have much time to worry about it, for she heard like a stampede climbing the stairs and a second after her granddaughter broke into the room, running toward her with open arms. “Grandma!” She shouted, pouncing on her.
The old lady staggered, stunned, but soon regained her balance. “Anna Croft! What manners are these? A lady does not behave like this!”
The girl smiled with that broad smile of hers and glanced at her with those immense eyes, blue as the sea. The eyes of that man. "I'll tell her as soon as I see one," she teased, and then winked, naughty.
Lady Angeline couldn't help but smile in spite of herself. She bent to kiss her granddaughter, brushed the hair off her forehead - and then she noticed the scar.

By Lara's own decision, Anna wasn't always with her. Many of the places she traveled to were too dangerous for a girl of her age, and besides, she couldn't follow her inside the tombs and temples, plagued with traps and obstacles – not yet, at least.
So when she couldn't stay with her mother, Anna used to be with one of the several, but select people that Lara fully trusted. The first was, of course, her father, but with Kurtis it was the same as with Lara; so when she couldn't stay with either of them, she spent her time with Marie Cornel, Selma and Zip, Jean Yves, Father Dunstan, Charles Kane, Radha and Sita Deli... and Lady Angeline Croft, her British grandmother.
Lady Croft didn't live in the manor in Surrey, but she moved there when she needed to look after Anna - and this happened only during the school year, which couldn't be missed. The old lady had taken her own daughter to several boarding schools while she and her husband – may he rest in peace – went on their social life and acts of charity.
That had been a terrible mistake. Lara was now a stranger to her - and Lord Croft had only worsened the situation when he disowned her.
Lady Angeline had lost her daughter, but she didn't intend to lose her granddaughter too.
So no boarding school for Anna, but she did come and go to an elite girl’s high school and Lady Croft remained always there, waiting for her for when she came back.
That was the time she lived in England. Then, depending on who took care of her, she spent whole seasons in Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, Ireland, India, or even on the road, on that man's motorbike. Anna was a bit like everyone's daughter.
Lady Croft was certain they would ruin the child with so much tumble around the world -  as Lara had been ruined. But the old lady didn't dare open her mouth about it. Her daughter had been clear: she would not interfere with her education. She would raise her in her own way. Otherwise... well, she hadn't uttered a threat, but Lady Angeline had understood perfectly.
Too late to settle her differences with Lara - but it wouldn't be the same with Anna.
No, Lady Croft had no intention of giving up her granddaughter.
Of course, as long as the girl stood with her, there was nothing wrong with instilling some manners in her... it was totally harmless, and Lady Croft knew it was one of the few things her daughter would agree with.
What she hadn't expected was that, after so many years, educating Anna in the manners of a British lady would be a hopeless task.
And all because of that man - and his filthy mouth. Lady Croft could only try to fix the mess, at most.

“What's this?” The old lady murmured, gently running her finger across the red scar on the girl's forehead. “What happened to you?”
Anna's smile faded. For a moment she seemed to be studying her grandmother closely - then she shrugged. “I fell from a tree, Grandma.”
Lady Angeline frowned. "I'm old, not stupid, darling. I know you're lying: you don't simply fall from trees - and I also watch TV. What's happening in Sri Lanka? You weren’t caught in that horrible war, right?”
The girl stared at the floor. “I...I actually fell from a tree - but nothing happened to us.” She looked up again. "Dad got us outta there. He saved us, y'know? And he fixed me and stitched the wound - it hurt like hell, but I didn't complain. And then he drove a huge helicopter. I also want to be a pilot like him - but Colonel Kendrick told me I need to eat well and grow up before that. He treats me like a baby, but I don't say anything because I feel very sorry – one of his legs was amputated...”
Lady Angeline sighed. What an imagination the girl had. Pilots and severed legs... what kind of nonsense where they putting in her head, both Lara and that... that...?
“... but soon he'll walk again, y'know? He's getting a mechanical leg. That's because he's now a war hero and they owe him that. Dad's also a war hero, but no one gives him anything because he's not lost his leg - and because he had to leave. There's nothing for him - but the colonel told me Dad's a war hero. He saved his life. In Afghanistan.”
"Anna Croft," sighed the old lady, "you're giving me a headache. A lady does not talk that much, without stop, as you do.”
“I'm not a lady.” The girl winked again. “But it's OK, Grandma.” Then she bowed – there was room for improvement in that reverence, truth be told - and trotted away, her hands still hooked on the bag's straps.  “I gotta show you my newest drawings, Grandma!” She sang. “I've improved a lot!”

And then, when she'd barely been in school for a month, the first incident happened.
Lady Angeline felt shocked when the headmistress summoned her urgently to deliberate "a serious matter related to Lady Anna", as she was called in there - a question of protocol extended to all students, since all were, without exception, daughters, granddaughters, sisters or nieces of lords and ladies.
The headmistress didn't want to anticipate details. "Come and see for yourself, my lady, I beseech you." The begging being a mere formal supplication, for her irritated and sharp voice left no doubt concerning who ruled there. Annoyed, angrily and with her heart in a fist, Lady Croft showed up at the school, an imposing building standing in the middle of manicured gardens, but not before promising herself in silence that such insolence would be paid back.
All yearning for reckoning vanished when she reached Direction. In the distance there was a child crying in dismay, whose sobs became more audible and annoying as the old lady approached. Lady Angeline immediately dismissed all the restlessness: it was not Anna. Her granddaughter wouldn't have cried like this, less in public. She was like her mother, and like herself - proud like a goddess.
The headmistress, a stern and sour nun who reminded Lady Croft of her own time as an inmate, stepped on her way with a rather relieved expression. She didn't look as insolent as previously. "Ah, Lady Croft! Thanks for coming!” She gestured toward the open door from which came the thunderous cry. "Come in, see for yourself."
Passing by her side without a second glance - if she thought she could make her run without consequences, she could be prepared - Lady Angeline entered the office and then froze on the spot, gaping in horror.
Sitting on a bench was Lady Rochford the daughter, the heiress of an old acquaintance of hers - Lady Rochford the mother - who was looking after Lady Rochford the granddaughter, same age as Anna, and who, by the way, was the one crying so loudly. Although not without reason: the girl had her head turned back, held by her mother, who was pressing a tissue over her nose. The little blood spots down her neck and wetting her neat blouse didn't leave much doubt about what had happened.
Barely three feet away from them, sitting on the other side of the bench, her eyes low and sulky, was a silent Anna, who, upon seeing someone enter, looked up and noticed her grandmother. Then she jumped, startled.
“Good Lord!” Cried Lady Angeline, forgetting her restrains. "What happened to you?"
Her granddaughter had a black, almost closed eye, scraps of blood around her nose and spatter on her blouse, though she seemed to have stopped bleeding. Her hair was messy, her clothes dirty, and even some buttons were broken. Looking at her legs, Lady Croft discovered that they were full of scratches and bruises. “What happened here?” The old lady turned to the headmistress, outraged. “I demand an explanation!”
Lady Rochford looked up and snorted. "Do you want an explanation, Lady Angeline?" She stopped pressing her daughter's nose and pointed at Anna with the bloody handkerchief. "Ask that demon your granddaughter! Let her tell you what she's done!”
Anna moved again on the bench and glared at Lady Rochford with a look of hate that froze the blood in her veins. “I did nothing!”  She exploded, furious. “It was she who...!”
A click cut her speech. The headmistress had dashed her pointer against the table. “Silence! And now, Anna, explain to your grandmother what you've done."
The girl half narrowed her eyes. “It's Lady Anna for you, sister.”
Lady Rochford gasped in surprise. Even her daughter had stopped crying and stared silently at the scene, with the cloth half-covering her face.
The headmistress' face darkened. "We'll discuss the matter of your behavior latter, Lady Anna," she said. "Now, please be so kind to explain to your grandmother what happened.”
But Anna buried her head in her chest and said nothing more. Suddenly she looked depressed.
"I will," Lady Rochford said. "Your granddaughter, Lady Croft, has punched my daughter in the face." She removed the bloody cloth from her daughter’s face again. "Look what she did! It's intolerable!”
Lady Angeline turned to her granddaughter. "Is that true, Anna? Have you hit the young Lady Rochford?”
The girl kept staring at the ground, but after a few seconds she nodded.
“Good!” The headmistress slapped, still with the pointer in hand. “She finally admits it!”
"However," Lady Croft wasn't about to surrender so easily, "I see my granddaughter is also quite battered. Who did that to you? Or are you going to tell me that you've fallen from a tree?”
"Several students had to hold her so she wouldn't keep hitting my poor girl," Lady Rochford said outraged.
Lady Croft raised her eyebrows. “Since when does "holding" someone leave you with a black eye?” She turned to the headmistress indignantly. "Young Lady Rochford may have bled a little from her nose, but my granddaughter's been beaten! I still demand an explanation!”
Then there was Anna's low, downcast voice. “Forget it, Grandma. Doesn't matter.”
But the old lady still stared furiously at the headmistress. The latter, at last, admitted: “Some students...obviously misguided, saw the chance to take revenge on previous affronts. Your granddaughter, I'm sorry to say, is not very popular among our students.”
“So, as it turns out, she's been held by several girls while beaten.” Lady Croft cast her look around the present, indignant. “And you ladies are making drama about a little bloody nose! Where are the girls who beat you? Why are they not here?”
Anna was staring at her grandmother.
“The fight was started by Lady Anna.” The headmistress hastened to clarify, despite she no longer seemed so exultant. “Consequently, we have summoned only the...”
Lady Angeline turned back, in a clear gesture of contempt, and faced her still stunned granddaughter. "Why did you start the fight, Anna?" She asked simply.
The girl hesitated for a moment, while a sudden silence weighed in the office. Finally, she admitted: “Clarice insulted my parents.”
“Lady Clarice.” The headmistress corrected, ironically, this time.
“Clarice's not a lady.” Anna gritted her teeth. "She said my mother's a whore so I don't even know who my father is."
There was a distressing silence. The headmistress covered her mouth, horrified. Lady Angeline had frozen. Lady Rochford was the first to react: “My Clarice does not use that language - and you'd do well, Lady Croft, in teaching manners to your granddaughter... although we shouldn't blame the girl, considering the people her mother frequents...”
"Lady Rochford." The old lady turned quickly to her. "I wouldn’t advise you to continue speaking of my daughter, for then that would coincide suspiciously with the accusations made on Lady Clarice." She looked around again with that contemptuous attitude. "I think there's no doubt here that my daughter has always been a lady, both in manners and in language."
"Of course, my lady.” The headmistress had flushed. "Nobody here meant to insult Lady Lara Croft..."
“Except Clarice.” Anna muttered under her breath, inaudibly.
“...for we all know she's a lady and what she's done a lot for this school. But the behavior of Lady Anna is intolerable and in an institution of prestige like ours we cannot...”
"Yes, of course," Lady Angeline sighed. “Can we end this unfortunate episode? I'll speak with my granddaughter, though I'm sure she won't again shame me with such behavior.” And when saying this she shot her a sideways glance. Anna winced. God, now she knew from whom Lara had inherited that way of glaring at people.
“Are you done?” Lady Rochford protested. "My daughter's punched in the nose and that's all?"
"Be content, my lady.” Replied Lady Croft sourly. “My granddaughter's been beaten and apparently no one has bothered to summon those responsible.” She added looking with contempt at the headmistress. “Not to mention that your daughter has insulted my daughter, and also my granddaughter, insinuating that she doesn't have a father.”
For the first time Clarice dared to open her mouth. “I never said that!” She jumped in her shrill voice. “Anna's made it up!”
“Liar!” Anna jumped from the bench, clenching her fists.
Clarice let out a shriek and winced. Lady Rochford embraced her. “This is outraging!” She looked accusingly at the headmistress. “I hope that appropriate measures are taken against this! I will not keep my daughter in a place where her integrity's at stake!”
Anna rolled her eyes, but that moved the headmistress to act against her. "Of course," the nun said. “Lady Anna Croft will be expelled for a month, during which we hope she'll reflect on what she's done and change her behavior from now on, after which she will be readmitted without problem. You can follow lessons and homework from home. I'm sorry, Lady Croft.”
But Lady Angeline didn't bother to answer. Taking Anna by the arm, she proceeded to leave the office, not without saying out loud: "I hope, Anna, that you remember well who beat you. Tomorrow I’ll return with a list of their names and demand the expulsion of them all - including Lady Clarice, of course." Before crossing the threshold, she looked over her shoulder at the three occupants of the office. "Be sure, ladies, that I'm going to transmit this unfortunate situation to my daughter. I doubt that Lady Lara Croft will not keep her daughter in a place where her honor is questioned by a weeping, spoiled brat.”
And she left with an elegant slam.

Anna remained cowering in the backseat of the Rolls Royce as they returned to Croft Manor. After a while she dared to smile. “Thank you, Grand...”
“You're welcome!” The old lady snapped irritably. The girl winced again. "You don't think I approve of your shameful attitude, do you?" Anna didn't answer. “Ah, just because I stood up for you before those...” Lady Angeline swallowed the word  “... means that I absolve you of what you've done. Well, no! Punching someone for an insult? What kind of manners are those? You shamed both me and your mother!”
And then something unusual happened - Anna's eyes filled with tears. At least, the one still open. “Please, Grandma... don't tell Mom. I'll behave from now on, I promise.”
Lady Angeline let out a long sigh. It was difficult to get angry with her granddaughter. "Why did you do that, Anna?"
"I told you, Grandma! That nasty brat said that Mom's a whor...!”
“Please!” The old lady interrupted, pressing the septum of her nose with two fingers. “Please, don' ever say that word again in my presence, Anna Croft, or you'll regret it, I promise.”
"It's the word she used." Anna gritted her teeth.  “And she wasn't the only one. They say I don't know who my father is because my mother goes to bed with any man she finds...”
So high school girls were into gossip now - but Lady Angeline wasn't fooled. Girls only repeated what they heard from their mothers and grandmothers. The British ladies.
Bunch of hags, Lady Angeline thought, outraged.

A huge bunch of hags, yes. Lady Croft could mention several of them, including, of course, Lady Rochford. The blindfold had fallen from her eyes not so long ago, during a tea party in Lady Kipling's manor, the kind of gathering that elderly ladies enjoyed.
Or at least she'd enjoyed it – until that day.
"Tell me, dear Angeline, how's your granddaughter?" The hostess innocently asked, unaware that she was going to unleash hell.
"Spending the summer with her mother, thank you for your concern, Jane," the aforementioned politely replied.
“Oh!” A newcomer to the circle jumped – Lady Rogers, toward who Angeline didn't feel much appreciation. “Where did she take the poor girl this time? Somalia? Zimbabwe?” And burst out laughing, implying the absurdity of the proposal.
Lady Angeline gifted her with her most hurtful sideways glance. Yes, she definitely didn't appreciate that new rich. “Sri Lanka.” She said, harsher than anticipated. “The Earl of Farrington commissioned my daughter to find an old piece of very valuable amber. The Teardrop of Brahma.”
“Ah, such a poetic name.” Lady Rochford sighed, distracted.
"Since when do you care about what your daughter's up to, dear Angeline?" Said Lady Rogers, slightly annoyed by Lady Croft's attitude. "I thought you weren't very enthusiastic about her lifestyle..."
"When my granddaughter's involved," said Lady Croft again, "I try to know what my daughter's up to.”
Lady Kipling cleared her throat. “Come on, come on ladies. Let us not ruin this pleasant conversation.” She turned kindly to Lady Angeline. “No one doubts that your daughter knows how to take care of herself, of course little Lady Anna will be safe...”
“Ha!” Cried Lady Rogers, and yes, this time she was exceeding her limits. Lady Kipling paled and Lady Croft stiffened in her chair.
"By the way," Lady Rochford said suddenly, "did you say the Earl of Farrington? The same one whose son was rejected by your daughter Lara so many years ago, right?” And she blinked innocently.
Lady Croft let out a long sigh. I thought I'd been invited to a tea party, not a deadly trap.
"No," she corrected. "Actually, it’s the current Earl of Farrington, and his wife, who have commissioned her to retrieve the amber stone."
"Your daughter's former fiancé has sent her on a mission, and she accepted. Well, well.” Lady Rogers was spinning her tea cup, a clearly rude gesture no old lady would've consciously done.  “This is getting really, really interesting.”
"What are you insinuating, Kelly?" Lady Kipling jumped, annoyed at the situation. "The Earl of Farrington's married with six children.”
“Yes, but one would expect him to have some sort of grudge...”
"My daughter canceled the engagement many years ago," Lady Croft snapped again. "That's in the past."
“But your daughter's still single.” Lady Rochford sighed. "Of course the splendid Earl of Farrington is already taken, she missed her chance, but there's no doubt that little Anna needs a father..."
That pair of hags had allied to ruin her afternoon - but Lady Croft would not have it for a second more. Sighing, the old lady set down the tea cup on the flowering saucer and turned to Lady Kipling, while saying and smiling with extreme sweetness, "Sorry, dear Jane, but I'm afraid this tea is making me ill. I'd better go home and get some rest.”
The hostess, pale as a dead body, could not answer, nor even call her butler to accompany her to the door. But Lady Croft didn't need to be told where the door was. She took her purse and her hat, and walked elegantly toward the door. Before leaving, however, she turned to the suddenly silent ladies, and commented: “By the way, my granddaughter has a father.” And she turned ostentatiously. “Actually, you should know, Kelly.”

Who could tell her she'd end standing up for that man. The world was indeed a strange place.
Lady Croft could no longer endure the double play of malicious conversation.
What if Lara had been right about the British ladies and lords – and about her parents themselves, all those years? What if...?
Bunch of hags, the old lady thought again as she looked at her troubled granddaughter.
Actually, Lady Angeline Croft didn't hate Kurtis Trent. She didn't hate him. How could she? He was her granddaughter's father, no matter how much that displeased her.
Simply, no matter how hard she tried, she couldn't get used to him.
The first time she'd seen him she'd felt disgusted. That scoundrel, vicious, rascal look... on one hand, not surprising her daughter had entangled with such an individual. Only God knew what kind of men she'd frequented.
The strange thing there is that Lara had had a child with him. Lady Angeline was sure it was accidental. Anna hadn't been a desired daughter, she could not picture Lara being a mother at all. She didn't understand why she'd decided to keep her - but she thanked her with all her soul. The old lady loved that granddaughter with all her strength. She'd loved her from the first moment she'd laid her eyes on her, when she'd held her in her arms. With that child, Lady Angeline could redeem herself from what was no longer possible between her and Lara.
She'd almost taken for granted that dealing with Lara would be her main concern, but it turned out that the father did care about the child... and he wasn't willing to get out of the way either. Lady Croft would've never expected that - he didn't look like a decent father anyway, so he probably stayed to raid Croft Manor.
Yes, sure - a stray bullet who intended to suck all her daughter's wealth. Good thing Lara hadn't even considered marrying him. Fortunately, that wealth was Lara's only – for she’d been deprived of the Croft's ancestral fortune years ago. Therefore, Lady Angeline was almost glad that Lord Henshingly - may he rest in peace - had disowned her.
Yet again, the old lady was astonished to see that man had not touched a single penny of Lara's fortune. He didn't even live in the manor all year, but used to be absent for long periods of time, though he always came back.
Lady Croft didn't get it. What was that man doing there? What did he want?
Not for a moment she considered that individual – that rogue-looking individual – always came back because he loved his daughter and her mother, whom he'd not married yet – and speaking of which, neither seemed to care about that at all.

“My poor boy.” Marie Cornel murmured, wrapping herself in the blanket as she rocked herself softly on the porch rocker.
Kurtis, sitting on the entrance steps, took the cigarette out of his mouth and turned to look at his mother. In recent years, Marie had aged considerably, as if the disappearance of the great shadow that had ruined her life, instead of alleviating her had collapsed on her. She'd been a tall, strong woman until her sixties, and in the last fourteen years she'd been shrinking and dwarfing, like a butterfly becoming a chrysalis. Her long, thick hair, black as a raven's wing and with barely two or three gray locks until that moment, had suddenly turned completely white.
Marie Cornel was fading away, but she'd never been as happy as in those last years. She'd never felt so at peace.
“My poor boy.” She murmured in her tired but calm voice. “So that's all?”
Kurtis looked her up and down and frowned. “Looks like you don't care either.”
“Lara. She wasn't impressed.”
“She's right.”
The ex-legionnaire snorted and put the cigarette between his teeth again. “After everything you've seen...”
“Precisely after everything I've seen.” The old woman smiled and wrapped herself a little more in the blanket. She had her eyes lost on the horizon. "Wife of a Lux Veritatis, mother of a Lux Veritatis and now, grandmother of a Lux Veritatis." She shook her head and laughed quietly. "Who would tell me.”
For a moment silence fell on the outside of the large cabin - only the crickets could be heard in the distance, and some mooing from the fenced-in cattle. The red sun was slowly falling, trimmed against the desert horizon.
“It shouldn’t have happened”. Kurtis murmured at last.
"But it happened," Marie replied in turn. "It's better that way. You could've had a son and then Marcus wouldn't have left him alone.”
“Marcus' dead - and if he'd survived, I would've let him approach my son as much as he would've approached Anna.” He dropped the cigarette to the floor and stepped on it abruptly as if to finish his words.
“He was a harmless old man.”
"He was one of the Elders, Mother - the Wise made flesh. His words were poison.”
“Nice post-mortem tribute to the one who sacrificed himself for Anna. Remember that she came back and... could be born, thanks to him.”
“The debt's paid. I owe him nothing. All my life taking his shit and the rest of the Order's. It was over.” Kurtis let out an exasperated sigh. "And now it all begins again.”
Marie raised an eyebrow. “You forgot a little detail - well, hundreds of little details.”
"Enlighten me." His son's tone was sarcastic.
“For starters, Anna's alive thanks to the Gift.”
“You think I don't know?” The ex-legionnaire turned his head sharply and glared at her. “Thank you, but Lara has already reminded me a hundred times. That son of a bitch almost blew my daughter's head off. Outwardly it looked like almost nothing, but she was bleeding inside – dying actually, and I left her lying in a filthy hospital room to go find Lara, whom, by the way,” he made a sharp gesture with his hand, “I barely managed to rescue.”
Marie shook her head slowly. “You've not changed at all. You still like to whip yourself.” She pulled her back from the rocking chair, moving forward a little. "The fact is you got them out of there, both of them. You on your own. And the Gift healed her, saved her. What do you complain about? Eckhardt's dead. Karel's dead. Giselle, Bathsheba, all those Cabal fuckers are dead. Both you and Lara have cleaned the world of that filth. Anna won't deal with what you and me have dealt with. She won't endure what we all have endured. You even locked the Vortex gates. You made a safer world for her. Anna's not another link in the chain - Anna's a new beginning.”
Kurtis didn't answer but kept silently staring at the horizon. “The new beginning of what?” He said after a while. “Why be Gifted in this new, safe world?” There was a certain irony in his voice. "She's a girl. It's wrong.”
“There have been Gifted women in the Order – they were rare, very rare, but...” She paused for a moment, frowning. "Does she know already? "
Kurtis shook his head slowly.
“What are you waiting for?”
“Lara has left it in my hands - ultimatum included.” He smiled at the memory of the harshness with which the British explorer had scolded him.
"Why didn't she tell her herself?"
“It has to be me - my daughter, my legacy.”
“What does she know about...all this? The Lux Veritatis, the Cabal, the Nephili...”
Kurtis sighed. “Almost all of it. Lara and I have few secrets with her. She just doesn't talk about it to anyone.”
“They would take her for crazy.” Marie sighed. “Well, this is not the first secret. She must know soon enough...and then you'll have to train her. Remember what happened to you. Don't let her find out the same way you did.”
Kurtis turned to look at her again and frowned. “You sound like Marcus, giving orders to everyone.”
“You do what you want, but Anna's my granddaughter.” She shivered and wrapped herself in the blanket even more. “By the way, when is she coming? I'd like to have her here again... for a few days...”
The ex-legionnaire was still staring at her. Marie shuddered. Konstantin. He looked at me like that too. As if he could see through her.
“Since when are you sick?” Kurtis said abruptly.
The Navajo woman opened her mouth to protest, but realized that it was ridiculous to try to deny it. It was terribly hot despite being autumn, and there she was, wrapped in a thick blanket that almost completely buried her.
She leaned back in the rocking chair and began to sway. Now that the topic of conversation was not that tense, she realized it was easy to admit it.
"I'm not sick." She sighed, and shrugged slightly. “I'm dying.”

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 FF.net, 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 :) 

Special thanks to Claire Sail for being my hardworking beta-reader.

Next chapter: fav.me/dawc1r7

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