This was her fault. All of it was her fault.

The TV was on in the hotel room and she'd just seen the news. Leonardo's tomb had been broken into, the remains gone, and the journal was nowhere to be seen. Trinity had done it. They'd stolen her father's research and made the connection to Leonardo's grave.

She paced around the room like a brimming mug, overflowing with vexation.

Not accounting for Trinity being so quick on the draw was a mistake, another nail in the coffin in fact. Resources. Power. They had it all. Who were they to contest such an organization? Lara didn't care, she'd made it this far, and all that mattered at this point was making sure they didn't reach their goals - shepherding the world as Jacob had told her. Trinity would surely achieve that goal, complete dominion, if they got their hands on legendary artifacts and the like. Drake and her would have to stay a step ahead, right now they hadn't even left for France yet and there was no point anymore. If they kept allowing for setbacks like this they'll be playing right into their hands!

"Come on... just think, Lara." But she couldn't. There had to be a workaround. What had been overlooked?

Sitting at the edge of the bed, remote in hand, the TV shut off. Enough. She wanted to neglect their current mission to go after Trinity directly and take out their leaders. Cut off the head, and the whole beast comes down. She could keep plugging the holes all she wanted, but eventually the fight would have to be taken to the source. That would be a challenge as Trinity wasn't exactly an open book, lurking in the shadows, the darkest corners of the Earth like disgusting vermin. How does one wage war against a secret society? Nobody would believe her should she tell anyone, she was already a lunatic in the public's eye, and her reputation had been tarnished beyond repair - no doubt through the work of a furtive campaign by Trinity.

Lara chuffed. The apple didn't fall far from the tree.

It would have to wait. At the moment, it simply wasn't feasible. Right now, her biggest concern was not letting them get their hands on limitless knowledge. Was it her biggest concern?

As if holding an invisible book, Lara stared at her hands for what seemed like a long while. Blood stained the pages, blood only she could see, and it wasn't going to come out. Ever. It was her own story and yet the meaning behind it was like looking at smeared ink and blurred words. Some days, some nights, she wished she could burn the book, write anew, but such a feat was impossible in this life. No one... can walk out on their own story.

The other girl wouldn't be able to hold a candle to who she was now but the longer she walked this path the more she realized it was chipping that person away piece by piece. A necessary sacrifice, or at least, that's what she told herself to stay sane. A new lifestyle required change, but how much? What was once a callow, timorous gaze could now become cold and unfeeling as if tempered steel. Warmth and affection had been cast aside in favor of more useful traits but she clung to them anyway like a defiant child that didn't want to grow up, still clinging to the blanket, the last bastion of who she had been. Those two things were the one part she wouldn't let the world take. It was all she had left of her original self. Her blood was cold, much colder now, yet somehow still just as sweet.

Yamatai had been her teacher.

The first lesson was the harshest. She still remembered it, not as a memory, but as the blade which carved her essence. The marks it left were perennial, as if she was wood being forcibly whittled into the correct shape; you can never go back to what you once were. Did she want to? Would she trade them for a package of sunshine and flowers? In a way, Lara was better off now: she was stronger, tougher, but most of all, she had the will. And yet, she couldn't help but feel a wistful longing for a more normal life. Lara supposed if she did have one, she would wish she didn't. At least this way, a difference was being made.

Why did bother dawdling with the past? Or perhaps, it was the past that dawdled with her.

Even now, the blade still cut but she was less resistant to its honing strokes. Less resistant to change. It was the solution, not the one she deserved but the one she needed, simultaneously the source of her greatest ire and her greatest success. At her lowest point, it had become the only answer to the question of survival. The right answer. She couldn't hold on to who she was anymore. The dark clouds that scoured the sky were no different from her. Just let it go.

Lara never had to kill to survive. Within the comforts of modern life, the idea seemed beyond reach. It wasn't normal and in that world, how could it ever be? But in this one? In this one it was as normal as night and day. It just... happened. She knew now. Sometimes things just had to happen.

Her first kill was a deer trying to get by just as her. She was hungry and needed to eat. Nothing was going to keep her from starving if she didn't kill this animal. It was just the way the world was, the rules of this twisted game that she wished so much to bend and break, but to break them was to lose. To die. The choice was hers. Starvation's crushing grip was taking hold and it would be easier to just lie down and perish but something told her to just keep playing.

The game would not stop for you. Nothing would.

Watching the arrow pierce it's flesh, seeing it collapse to the ground, she could hear an apology escape her lips. Remorse was no longer an emotion which she had patience for but at the time it seemed right; they shared similar circumstances. Similar personalities. Both were always running from something and it was not her nature to take life, as was the deer's. But boundaries shift. The game changes.

Today's prey are tomorrow's predators.

The trial was the first of many and the island wasn't going to let her stop at deer. Her second kill was the worst of all. It was a man. Lara remembered the warped expression on his face when she shot him, his face mutilated and bloody, lying there in his final moments staring at her. She saw them - all the little... emotions going off at once as he laid there in his final moments. Death's symphony. It was a tune she would come to know well. Too well. Before his head went limp, as she looked into his eyes, there was the reflection of someone she didn't recognize. Although he was trying to kill her, the feeling of taking life was unnatural, painful, as if forcing oneself to breath underwater. You can only hold your breath for so long.

So much violence and death.

Killing. Killing is wrong. This isn't right.

But it feels right.

That's all this game was about. Trading. One life for another.

With time came acceptance. She didn't care anymore. Lara would survive, even if she must stand upon a pile of corpses. She couldn't remember how many men had fallen or how much blood had been spilled before she didn't have to think about pulling the trigger anymore. No. No, these weren't men. All she had ever killed were animals. Even so, perhaps it still bothered her, deep down, what was left of her old self didn't like it. She felt her lips. Her mouth would crease in the smallest of smiles every once in a while. It didn't just feel right. It felt like winning. She was merely karma's messenger, the emissary which brought forth what they all had coming. Nothing compared to the feeling of seeing them run from the carnage that littered her wake. As ruthless as it was, she now understood the rules which to play by; they were bittersweet, as if biting into an apple from the malign tree, the only tree. Eat or starve.

She was the one in control. The jury and the judge.

Lara didn't consider herself a murderer, she killed only with good reason, but it was hard not to feel like one time and time again. Shooting another human being could feel as easy as anything else did now, like crushing a grape beneath your foot. No remorse. No afterthought. Did that make her a monster? She would be to the girl. No, she wasn't a monster. Not yet at least. Monsters didn't have principles.

There's no mercy in survival. People live people die. That's all there is to it. As much as it hurt her to think that way, it seemed to be the apparent truth. The only truth.

Lara clenched her fist like she was holding onto something. What was left, she supposed. She'd been picking up the pieces of herself for so long that it had just become second nature. Every now and then, she'd miss a few, here and there, and keep on walking, not realizing just how much remained until it was too late to turn back.

Two fingers slipped under her shirt and ran gently over the mark on her side, running across and over its edges then back again; the body had memories, but they faded with time as this one had. It was little but a faint mark now but a reminder it still was. That was flesh and blood she felt. This was no dream. Far from it. However, not all scars healed; the ones you couldn't see were stubborn and unrelenting. The nightmares, they were phantoms, abducting her in sleep and whisking her away to where she never wished to return. Living it once was hell. Living it again was worse than hell.

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, until it doesn't. Beneath that stoic exterior, she was still the same scared, little girl shipwrecked on that island. Still vulnerable. Still... afraid.

Lara gasped and looked up. Someone was knocking at the door. Glancing over, the clock in the room had changed considerably and sunlight no longer peered through the drapes covering the hotel window. Lost in thought, again?

"Hey, it's just me." a male voice called.


Lara got up from the side of the bed, left her troubled mind behind, and quietly walked over to the door to see through the peekhole. "Nathan..." she whispered. Loosening up, Lara opened the door. Some company wouldn't hurt.

Subtle but steely, she had on her usual nuanced expression. Something stood out about it. Perhaps it was the air of mystery or the jaded eyes, maybe the out-of-place features, or how when she opened the door for him she seemed to be more occupied with something else, he wasn't sure. The meaning behind it bothered him to no end but whatever it was, it made him feel like she could use someone watching her back. Much like when Sully started looking out for him. "Hey. Did I wake you?"

"No, I was already awake." Lara stepped aside so he could go through. "Coming in?"

"Shouldn't we start with a drink first?" Drake chuckled, an amused grin flashing across his face as he entered.

Lara gave him a 'I can't believe you just said that' look and shook her head. "Just how have I put up with you?"

"I know, I know... I'm a lot of work. But I'm worth it!" Drake said.

She shut the door. "It's pretty late. Shouldn't you be sleeping?"

"I wish it was that easy."

"Try swapping out some of that coffee for tea, you'd have an easier time getting to bed." Lara insisted.

"Yeah, right." Drake said. "Samuel Adams would be turning in his grave if I did that."

Lara laughed at his remark. If anything, he had a way of lightening the mood. "So... I'm assuming you're not here just to crack jokes."

"Well..." Drake exhaled, more serious this time. "By the look on your face, I'm guessing you saw the news?"


"Looks like the journal's out of the question. Trinity - that's what these assholes call themselves, right? They're one step closer now that they have it." Drake sourly shook his head. "We gotta work faster. You got a plan?"

Like a cloud into darkness, Lara turned downcast. "No, I don't. I wasn't expecting this."

"Well..." Drake said with high spirits, "lucky for you... I did some research of my own before we teamed up. And uh... I came up with this." The treasure hunter produced several photographs of an antique compass with the lid open. It had no bearings, only the four cardinal directions, and a central shadow vane that allowed it to work as a sundial. . He handed them to Lara with an enigmatic smile on his face.

"It's... just Leonardo's compass." Lara said, unsure of the significance.

Drake was sure of himself. "Oh, really? Because that looks like our ace in the hole to me."

"It's broken. It doesn't point North." Lara said.

"Right, it only points in one direction. So, wherever it's pointing..." he said.

"...must be towards the city." Lara brightened up.


"We'd have to be standing in the right spot though, which could be anywhere." Lara informed him.

"Ah!" Nathan pointed his index finger. "That's the thing um... I have no idea... actually... where we're supposed to stand but I think the key to that is hidden on the compass itself. There's some inscriptions on it, we can start there."

"Okay. Sounds like a plan. Shall we?" Lara said.

"Let's." Nathan walked beside her so they could both examine the photographs. This close, her hair had an invigorating scent, like that of a freshly cut rose. He wanted to stand closer just so he could get more of it, even brush that one, perfect, ceaselessly bothering fringe of hair that hung over one eye. She was a dangerous kind of beautiful, intimidating, which made a man like himself all the more drawn. In the interest of professionalism, he stuck his hands in his pockets should they grow a mind of their own. Best keep his eyes on the pictures, but he could do nothing about the aromatics.

"Anything I should know about this thing?" Lara asked.

"Jesus..." he quietly breathed out. The smell. It was drawing his thoughts all to one place.

She raised an inquisitive eyebrow. "Jesus?"

"No, no, uh, see if you can figure out what that means. You see it? Right there." Trying not to be distracted by the heavenly scent, Drake pointed to one of the inscriptions that could be seen in the photos. This was his colleague, not a flower fresh from the field. Just think about the damn compass, he thought. He had a strong mental leash for this sort of thing but if he wasn't careful she was going to rip it in half and destroy his focus. Drake could already see it: femme fatales would be the end of him. Yes, he was sure of it. When was the last time he'd ever liked a normal woman? "Okay... uh, it looks like the words are encrypted in some way."

"Yes, but it doesn't look like a cipher. It's almost as if..." Lara let out a yawn, drowsy and blissful.

"Haha - that's cute." he said.

"What? My yawn?"

"Yeah, it's like a cat." Drake chuckled.

"That's what you're focusing on?" she snorted, amused and shaking her head.

Drake gestured to the photographs. "What? Just keep going." he insisted, like it was no big deal.

Lara turned her attention back to the photograph. "Like I was saying, it's almost as if the text is mirrored."

Drake nodded. "Sounds about right. Now that you mention it, Leonardo used to mirror his writing to hide his work from other people."

"Yes - I was thinking the same thing! Okay, so all we have to do then is put it in front of a mirror to make it readable." Lara said in sudden epiphany.

"There's one on the desk." Drake said. Lara placed the photograph in front of it and the reflection provided something new. The letters were in Latin and readable but they formed incoherent blobs, a jumbled mess of letters that neither of them had any idea as to the meaning behind. "And it's still gibberish. Of course he wouldn't make it that easy."

"A cipher." Lara said, looking at it.

"Yeah." Drake noticed something. "Hey, take a look at that - there's two dates in Roman numerals next to the inscription."



Lara did the math in her head. "1452 and... 1520. The first is Leonardo's date of birth... logically then, the second would be his date of death but it's a year after he died..." She lit up. "He wasn't buried at the Chapel! Trinity went to the wrong grave."

In realization, Drake gestured with his palm. "That means the journal's still up for grabs! We just need to find wherever he's really buried. This is good news."

"Yeah. For once." With relief, Lara thought back to what was on TV. After learning that Leonardo's remains were missing from the Chapel, she had assumed Trinity stole Leonardo's body in addition to the journal for whatever reason. However, the answer was clear. There was no body there to begin with and no journal.

Drake scratched his head. "Still, I'm not sure about that inscription. Maybe ah... Oh, it's so obvious." Nathan quickly grabbed a hotel notepad and pen from nearby and started writing. "Okay, Leonardo. Let's see what you're hiding."

Lara was eager to be in on his epiphany. "What? What is it?"

"We don't know where he died, but we do know where he was born - Anchiano. That must be the keyword for the cipher." Drake quickly scrawled the regular Latin alphabet onto the notepad and below it the cipher alphabet. He then wrote down the encrypted inscription and decoded it. It was now readable. "Voila!" Nathan chuckled, trading glances with Lara. "How you like that, huh?" He began studying the words with his trained eye. "Okay, let's see ah... it says: 'Where I end and where I begin are one-' "

"-in the same." they both finished, Lara whispering to herself.

"All right. That's pretty straightforward." Drake said. "He must be buried somewhere in his hometown but I think-"

"Wait a second..." Lara's eyes widened. "Origins. He's bringing us to his origins! Anchiano... is the point of origin! That's where we need to stand with the compass. It's simple geometry. All we need to do is take the compass to his grave and draw a line to wherever it's pointing. I guarantee you, the city will be somewhere along that line."

Drake stared at her, slack-jawed. What just happened? In all his adventures, usually it was him doing the heavy-lifting. Sure, he'd met smart people before, but never anyone with the level of intelligence Lara just exhibited. Should he feel aroused or intimidated? Hell, maybe both. By any standard, that was an impressive feat, the kind of which he had not seen often in the treasure hunting world. Drake believed himself a fortune hunter without peer, but if he wasn't careful, she could give him a real run for his money. Maybe that's just what he needed.

Lara wondered what was going on inside his head. "What?"

Drake smiled at her. "Nice."

"Oh. Thanks."

"Alright, another crumb on the trail. Let's try the next one." he said. They set down another photo in front of the mirror - this one with a shot of a second inscription that also used Latin characters. Drake deciphered the text, revealing an Italian name, but it wasn't Leonardo's. "Ah... 'Vincenzo da Chioza'. That's an alias! That has to be an alias."

"His grave's is going to be marked with that name." Lara said. "We're going to Italy then. Are you up for it?"

"Yeah, definitely. But first things first though, we need to get our hands on that compass. Without it, we're not finding Zerzura." Drake reminded her.

"Good idea. Right now, I'm willing to bet Trinity doesn't know about it."

"Better strike while the iron's hot then." Drake said.

"Okay, so, where is it?"

Nathan took a seat at the desk. "Uh, I don't know. Lemme see your laptop real quick. Some web surfing is in order."

Lara went to get her laptop from where it was on the bed. She didn't mind but it was rather inefficient for the two of them to be using it. "Don't you have your own computer or something? A phone even. It would really be helpful we weren't both using one computer."

Drake unsheathed the ancient piece of technology in his pocket before tucking it back in. "Flip phone."

Lara almost dropped her computer. "You're using a flip phone?!"

Drake shrugged, not seeing what the problem was. "What? It suits my needs."

"But you need to browse the internet...?" she said in the manner that made him sound the most stupid. "You really need to upgrade."

Drake laughed, swiveling in his chair to meet her. "Uh... excuse me, I'm not the one carrying around a bow."

Lara passed him the laptop. "It's a great weapon."

"Yeah. That's what the Indians thought too." He turned on the computer. After a few minutes of Drake surfing the web and more bickering about keeping up with the times, he found the information they needed. Drake stared at the computer screen. "Okay, apparently the compass is in the possession of uh... Sonny Wo. Does that ring a bell with you?"

"He's that crime boss, right?" Lara said.

Scrolling and clicking things, Nathan maneuvered the cursor from the touchpad. "Right, and he's got a nightclub in Hong Kong where he keeps all his items on display, including the compass. I'm guessing he's a private collector of some sort. Should be an easy lift."

"An easy lift? You're going to steal it?"

The treasure hunter remained particularly casual about the idea. "Uh, no actually. We're going to."

"You can't be serious." she said.

"What?" Drake laughed, "You act like you've never had to steal from a Chinese mob boss before. Don't you want the compass?"

"Yes, but I have enough trouble with Trinity as it is. I don't need triads coming after me too. And besides, how would we even go about it?" Lara asked.

"Y'know... I'm not just a fortune hunter." Drake grinned a mischievous grin, roguish and handsome. Surrounding him was an air tinged with the unmistakable aplomb of a man who had clearly done this sort of thing before.

"You're a criminal?" Lara said, full of astonishment.

"Well..." an offended Drake put a hand to his chest, "that's not the word I like to use. I prefer the term 'benevolent thief'."

"Wow... that makes it sound so much better." Lara said.

Nathan thought she was serious. "Really?"


"Oh... Okay, well, how about this? You can uh... you can be like my padawan or something."

She gandered at him. "Your padawan?"

Nathan lit up. "Yeah, I can show you the ropes! C'mon. Join the dark side. We're stealing from some nasty people anyway so it evens out."

What other options did they have? After thinking about it for a moment, Lara gave in. "All right... I guess we have no choice... But are you sure you know what you're doing?" Lara asked, worried and skeptical of his skill in the criminal arts.

Drake turned serious. "Trust me, this ain't my first rodeo. I promise you, we'll walk out of there with the compass and be laughing about this over a cup of tea or something."

"Okay..." she said , reluctantly. "Hong Kong it is then."