Lord Henshingly Croft and his bemused wife stood side-by-side in the main hall of the Croft Mansion, facing a man in a white lab coat.
"Who are you? What did you just say?"
The man who had answered them had a very concerned look on his face, and he was shaking his hands silently to try and calm the angry man down.
"She emerged from the cave screaming for help. We're not sure what happened exactly, but Von Croy is missing." Said the man, waving his arms slowly in front of him, as though he was trying to "conduct" Lord Henshingly's feelings.
"Von Croy said it was all safe! He said he had enough experience to look after he and Lara in the field!" Said Lord Henshingly.
"Oh my baby, where is she!?" Said Lady Croft.
"Don't worry, she's absolutely fine, we're flying her over now, although of course she won't arrive until the early hours of the morning." Said the man.
"And you are...?" Asked Lady Croft.
The man suddenly changed his face to a smile, offering his hand to Mrs.Croft, which he withdrew as she continued to coldly look at him.
"Dr.Matthews, Von Croy hired me to help research the area near the Tonle Sap lake before he..."
"I...you said Von Croy was missing?" Interrupted Lady Croft.
Lord Croft put his arm around his wife, who was shivering.
"After Lara escaped, we went looking for him. When we got to the Iris Chamber, we could see that he must have triggered some kind of boobie trap when he tried to remove the Iris and therefore became entombed within a strange globe. After many hours of welding, drilling and shouting we managed to open the globe...but Von Croy and the Iris were gone!" Explained Dr.Matthews.
"What could have happened? Was he captured?" Asked Lord Croft.
Dr.Matthews shook his head:
"I often saw Von Croy with strange looking men. I mean, officially Von Croy was going on an independent expedition...but I think he paid people to help him, unofficial people. I think he was helped out of there by people that didn't belong..."
Although the doctor's ramblings made little sense to the Crofts, none of them realised how right he was.
Meanwhile, a small plane was taking off from a private airstrip in Angkor Wat, Cambodia. The thin windscreen wipers battling to clear the pouring rain. A young Lara of sixteen sat cross-legged, wearing her small shorts and t-shirt, fiddling with her new-found bag. She had a concerned look on her face, which was extremely unusual for her. She couldn't help but think that the whole thing was her fault. Maybe it was a bad idea for her to come to Cambodia in the first place? Maybe she could have saved Von Croy?
"But...no!" She said, trying to reassure herself.
The plane jerked forward, a man walked up past Lara's seat and crossed his arms. She hastily buckled her seat-belt and he left her on her own. Reaching for her other bag beneath her seat, she shuffled through to find a book to read. Instead she picked out the National Geographic magazine that had inspired her in the first place. Throwing it to the ground, Lara sat back, feeling annoyed at herself.
After only five minutes, Lara was immersed in "A Tale of Two Cities." Reading quietly to herself, there was a "bang" as the plane suddenly dropped about two metres, but was still going straight. Lara reached to her right to grab the book she had dropped, when suddenly there was a much louder "bang" and the plane began to dip downwards. Sitting up straight, Lara began to unbuckle her seat belt when the same man from before rushed in, carrying a parachute. He wobbled from side to side, finally reaching Lara he helped her stand up, balance, and put on the parachute.
"What's happening!?" Lara shouted to the man above the noise of the wind and rain hitting the plane like crazy.
The man shouted above the noise of the wind and rain, but Lara couldn't hear a word.
"...then pull on this..."
As he said that, the plane jerked violently to the right, Lara and the man fell to the floor and rolled to the wall away from Lara's seat. There was another explosion as the door of the plane next to Lara literally ripped open and she went flying out.
Lord Henshingly Croft and his wife sat in the drawing room, the radio was on, but the couple were not really listening to it. There was a slight drizzle outside, which ran down the sides of the intricately designed windows. They sat around a wooden table sipping liqueurs, the marble fireplace blazing in the corner. Mrs.Croft looked up from her drink to see her husband looking through the morning newspaper. He put it down when he noticed her looking at him and said:
"What is it?" He asked.
"I just...can't stop thinking about Lara. She's all on her own and..."
"She's fine. What I'm worried about is what people are going to say. I mean, what if something happens to Von Croy? What if he's actually died down there? We'll be the..."
"WHAT!?" Came Lady Croft's horrified response.
"Lara almost died and all you can think about is your reputation?" She wailed, banging the table as the tray wobbled and tipped over, knocking the drinks onto the floor.
"Contain yourself, woman!" Screeched Lord Croft.
Lady Croft looked deep into her husband's eyes, chewing her tongue she angrily got up and stormed out of the room.
Almost mutely screaming, Lara fell breathless to the floor of the Cambodian jungle, her green parachute flowing on top of her and then lifting up into the fierce wind. Tears were flowing from her eyes, she angrily sat up, the parachute was blowing back and she had to only pull slightly to let it go free into the wind. Rain was falling onto Lara, but all around her were huge trees that appeared to block a lot of it. Distressed, Lara looked up through a small clearing in the trees and saw smoke rising from somewhere that looked quite a distance away. Gasping, Lara struggled to stand:
"The plane!" She shrieked.
Luckily, Lara's new-found backpack was still tightly attached to her. She was about to take it off to look if there was anything at all useful left inside when she froze. Hearing a rustling in the trees behind her, she turned and gasped as five dark-skinned men wearing red suits advanced to her.
"Yes." Lara replied.
"Our tribe leader wants to see you."
Twenty minutes later, Lara found herself inside an underground cave complex. The men she was with took her through twisted, rocky corridors, until they advanced quickly down large stone steps into a large chamber. Lara's eyes were immediately attracted to a man who wore completely different clothes than his henchmen. A dark purple, loose shirt and a light brown sarong. He also wore black sandals and on his head was a sort of feathered hat, which looked like it was spray-painted gold.
"Who...?" She began.
The man with the golden head-dress looked to the other men and then nodded. They immediately left the room through a dark passageway on the right. Lara looked ahead and saw this man looking at her. The chamber she was in was surprisingly warm, and many lit torches surrounded the perimeter of it.
"Ms.Croft, my name is Sonheah."
"I..." She began, but she found herself interrupted.
"I apologize for my men, they can tend to do anything to get the job done. Also, the plane, I didn't mean to cause you any harm. But you have the Iris, no!?"
"This is all about the Iris?" Asked Lara.
All the men left and Lara found herself on her own with Sonheah.
"I am the leader of an ancient tribe, we must have the Iris, Ms.Croft, we must!" He said desperately.
"How do you know my name?" Asked Lara.
"You're the talk of the town! But not in a good way. You may have noticed that wretched man, Von Croy, keeping you away from the main areas. You are disturbing our ancient rituals, going for the Iris! We could not stop that man from going in, and to take a child!? It's blasphemy!"
"What's so special about the Iris?" Asked Lara, her legs ached, and Sonheah could see her shifting uncomfortably.
"Please," said Sonheah, "come with me, and we can sit."
He led her through the dark passageway to a room with many wooden chairs and a small tattered painting of a spear on the wall. Motioning the men in the room to leave with a swift movement of his hand, he offered a seat to Lara and then sat in front of her on another chair.
"The Iris," he continued, "is of great importance to our tribe. We keep it in the caves so that it can rest. You see, it contains the soul of our former King, and he must stay rested and protected. But he had a mechanism set up, in case his soul ever had to be evacuated."
Lara nodded, trying to keep up with Sonheah's confusing story.
"So...we must have it back. I do not mean to harm you, young lady, because it was Von Croy's plan to steal it in the first place. But if you could just give it back, we can arrange to take you back..."
"I don't have it." Said Lara, rather suddenly.
Sonheah stood up, pushing his chair back.
"You don't have it!? Then wherever is it!?" He screeched.
"Von Croy was locked inside the globe with it, then I escaped and came..."
"Von Croy!? He has the Iris!? Then we must retrieve it!" Interrupted Sonheah.
"I don't know how I can help." Lara said, helplessly.
Sonheah quickly turned his head to her, looked into her eyes and said:
"You must help us find him."
Back in Surrey, Lady Croft quickly descended the stairs in the main hall and made her way to the door. There were more "BANG BANG BANGS" as she opened it and saw Dr.Matthews standing there again.
"How is Lara?" She said immediately.
"If I may come in...?"
Five minutes later, Lady Croft sat weeping in the drawing room again, her furious husband stampeding around the room like a charging lion.
"How could you let this happen!? Captured by tribesman? Tribesman?" He shouted, pointing a quivering finger at the innocent face of the Doctor.
"I assure you, we have a full search party going through the jungle near the crash-site, we are pretty sure..."
"Pretty sure!? You're going to find my daughter and you're going to find her NOW!" Said Lord Croft, shaking his head as though he was a wild dog tearing at meat.
Back in Cambodia, Sonheah was explaining to Lara the stories and magical powers the Iris apparently possessed.
"Teleportation? But that's impossible!" Exclaimed Lara.
The two were walking up various brightly-torch-lit corridors, heading for the main entrance of the underground tribal caves.
"That's what everyone says. But I saw it myself! Our former King stood before us and disappeared into nowhere! Then we turn around and he's standing behind us, on top of a tower on the other side of the river! The Iris contains his powers, and I hate to think of what a ghastly man such as Von Croy would do with something like..."
Just then, as Sonheah was about to finish his story, there was a tremendous crash that came from in front of the two. Lara fell forwards with a gasp and Sonheah managed to keep his footing by holding onto a niche in the wall next to him. Helping Lara up, they could both hear long shouts coming from the direction of the entrance.
"What on Earth!?" Shouted Lara.
"It must be Werner's men!" Said Sonheah, worriedly.
"Trying to stop you taking the Iris back, no doubt?" Said Lara, turning her head to him.
"No doubt." Repeated Sonheah.
There was another crash, and Sonheah grabbed Lara before she could fall again.
"Follow me, we must hurry!" He said.
They swiftly made their way along the corridor, following various wooden arrows in the labyrinth. Finally, they reached a room, it had a symbol on it that looked like a flame, but Lara could not read the Khmer writing on it. Sonheah slowly opened the door, and they walked into an armoury.
This armoury was not very impressive. A few wooden shelves held some light weapons, such as pistols, bows and clubs. There were also wooden boxes messily scattered about, stacked on top of each other mainly at the far end of the room. Sonheah picked up a large bow, and then they left and headed back through the corridor. Ten minutes later, the two had made their way to what Sonheah said were the living quarters. Lara had not really thought about it before, but the tribal caves also housed many people, not just the guards Lara had seen so far. They stood in a gigantic room, that was multi-levelled. Lara counted about six floors. Sonheah pointed out a door on the highest floor, that was made of steel, rather than other wooden ones that were poorly placed into the stony walls of the cave.
"That is my house, my men will take you inside, and you will be safe with my family."
Lady Croft was still beside herself, she remained separated from her husband, and was back in the drawing room. Lord Croft was pacing through the main hall, and stopped every now and again as men in lab coats rushed in and out of the estate. Finally, Lord Croft saw Dr.Matthews enter the front door and turned around to face him.
"Well?" Asked Lord Croft.
"We're sorting it out, but we still don't have any news." Replied the Doctor.
"This won't do! That girl is going to ruin me!"
"That girl...is our daughter!"
Lord Croft turned to find his wife stumbling into the main hall, an empty glass in her hand.
"Look at the state of you!" Came Lord Croft's reply.
"You care...more about yourself... than what happens to Lara..." Mumbled Lady Croft.
"Leave..." Said Lord Croft, turning to Dr. Matthews.
Dr. Matthews nodded, then quickly left through the front door, pressing the panel to re-close it.
Lord Croft coolly walked over to his wife, who stood still, leaning against the wall in the doorway. He stood for a moment, then left, muttering:
"I hate you, I really do..."
Lara was sat in the front room of Sonheah's apartment. It did not look from the outside as though these living areas were at all big, but she found that it had many rooms leading back, deep into the wall of the underground cave. Lara could not say anything to the people she was with, although they would sometimes mutter the odd word in Khmer to each other. Sonheah had a wife, who wore clothes similar to her husband, although she wore a long orange dress with a loose white shirt on top. They had two children, girls, who looked about five. Lara sat awkwardly with them for quite some time, the noise outside made her anxious and she felt as though she should be doing something. Suddenly, the front door literally burst open and in marched three men wearing white suits. Lara immediately stood, the children screamed and ran to their mother and the tribal guard in the room with them withdrew a sword to attack. What happened next, happened extremely quickly. The men had their own swords drawn and all lunged at the guard, who was badly cut and only managed to slightly hurt one of the men. Lara lost her sense of reality and grabbed a nearby vase, throwing it at one of the guards as he was preparing to finish off the guard. Sonheah's wife took the children into a room at the back of the apartment, but Lara did not follow. She lunged onto one of the men, kicking and scratching as she was quickly thrown off. She gasped and rolled to the side as he stuck the sword into the floor, struggling to pull it back out. Another tribesman that had just entered the apartment had managed to subdue one of the guards by half-suffocating him. Lara quickly took his sword, swinging it around. It must have looked random to everyone else, but Lara sufficiently brought the other two men down with deep slashes to the chest. She groaned and fell to her knees, worn out and horrified at what she had been forced to do. The tribesman that had previously entered was tending to his fellow guard, and another two had entered to help defend their tribe leader's home. One went to the back to check on Sonheah's wife and children, and the other was silently inspecting Lara.
An hour later, Lara had been reunited with Sonheah, who took her into his broad arms crying with joy.
"Lara!" He exclaimed.
"I don't know how I can thank you enough!" He continued.
Although the tribesman had managed to deter Werner's men, and saved all of the people housed in the living quarters, it was obvious that Werner was far away now, and that he had escaped with the Iris. Sonheah was, however, not disappointed. He had arranged for Lara to be flown back to England immediately, and he had even given her a small token of his gratitude. She held in her hands a small sapphire statuette of a boar's tusk, "to show that she was a true Cambodian warrior." It was no larger than Lara's closed fist, but she still thought it was stunning.
"I really can't take this, Sonheah!" Lara said softly.
He let her out of his grasp and looked deep into her brown eyes.
"Lara," he began again:
"You rescued my family, and have put my mind at ease about the Iris."
"But Werner got away with the Iris!" She said, disappointed.
"But you, young adventurer, Lara Croft, will get it back for me."
Lara looked at him, puzzled.
"When you're older, just promise me one thing..."
"Yes?" Said Lara, curiously.
"Get the Iris back from that wicked man! Take and keep it, for I know our King would love his soul to be protected by such a fierce guardian as yourself." Said Sonheah, speaking differently from before, softer, and less harsh.
"I promise...you have my word!" She said, confidently.
Lara put the sapphire figure into her bag, and twenty minutes later, she was on her way back to England.
-Written by William Wilde, finished Thursday the 16th of October, 2003.