Oklahoma Raiding

June 01, 2018:

Lara and Robert travel to Oklahoma to find a piece of the puzzle that they seek to stop a dark power.

Oklahoma USA

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

The Witchita Mountains, Oklahoma. The sun sits just over the edge of the horizon going low half illuminating a sprawl of mobile homes, sheds and shacks that consist of a the Red Turtle trailer park. This homestead sits on the edge of Keewazi tribal lands straddling it and non reservation territory giving it some diversity of people not just limited to the local Natives.

Once upon a time being this close to the Witchita Mountain range slopes of this area was unheard of for non-Natives unless law breaking and unscruplous miners, gold diggers and frontiersmen. Many old claimed mines and opened holes in to the slopes remain unexplored, waiting for permission to be rediscovered. This is why Lara Croft and Robet Berresford are here this night.

It was a short flight by private plane, an airstrip outside of Dogtown forty three miles south-east. The only business around this area a diner, corner store, gas station and a single cell jailhouse. The hotel consists of a rented out set of trailers in the Red Turtle park.
Here and there children barefoot, limited clothes race around with plastic nerf guns, sticks and balls playing with one another and the local dog packs that are owned by not just one family but the community. Not an unusual thing really…

The rental car drawn to a stop and Ripclaw steps out, squinting one red eye off towards the trailer park, his hair tied up in to a topknot, a long sleeved shirt worn thats got a wide open v-neck, arms covered with some chest exposure to deal with the heat even at these hours. Tattered jeans with holes in the knees and slices across the thighs with a pair of sandles. At least hes comfortable, especially considering the rental car's AC didn't work and the station was stuck on a country channel.

Lara spent most of the trip reading about the area, as she'd never considered Oklahoma as a place she'd ever visit… not a lot of ancient relics there that would draw an archaeologist of her nature toward that particular United State.

Once they arrive via the rental car, Lara looks up from the map she's holding of the vicinity and she looks around the trailer park and all the activity bustling around it. "It looks quaint." The British woman says, glancing over to Robert to stare at him through her dark sunglasses.

Her hair is tied back into the usual ponytail that she wears it in, she's got a dark grey tanktop on and a pair of dark green slim-fit pants that are lined along her thighs with pockets, tucked into a pair of boots.

Lara exits the car after its parked and she starts to fold the map up while reaching a hand up to lift her sunglasses and rest them atop her forehead… her eyes scan the life about the park, then she turns to look back out at the road and the horizon beyond. "Fascinating." Lara mutters, thoughts of American history just rolling through her mind all randomly at the moment.

"Quaint?" Robert says, "Not the word I'd use." A half-grin accompanies his voice.

"We're expected though, no point in lingering." He remarks while walking down a dirt pathway towards the trailer park itself.

A warparty of youths races up to the two of them flanked by dogs of various sizes, shapes and colors. "Wow, shes pretty." The closest dirty child says, a girl from the hair tie and voice. The rest cluster close.
"Why are you here?" Asks a heavy set boy with a bowl cut.

"Shoo little humans." Her companion says in his usual deep tone. Though there is a genuine softness in his delivery.

"You're on our rez, eyy." The tallest of the children says, "You fuck off."

An intake of breath from several of the children and they look at the tall one, "Thomas…. " The initial girl says with a squeak.

Lara is turning to catch up with the lumbering big Robert as he makes his way toward that dirty pathway. She gives him a slight smirk at his reply to her but otherwise doesn't return a comment. As she's plodding her way down the dirt pathway and looking up to see the kids and dogs rushing them, Lara grins more openly at them. She takes her sunglasses off and hooks the right limb of them onto the hem of her tanktop against the center of her chest and then looks to the little girl that complimented.

"Why thank you." Lara says in that noticeably foreign accented English that is probably quite rare to hear around these parts. A hand is fished around in the front side pocket of her trousers and she fishes out a small gold coin from a far away land. She extends it to the little girl.

"Here." She tells the girl. "Don't lose this.. and when you grow bored of it, give it to your parents." Its an ancient roman coin, worth a lot of money.

Lara then looks toward Robert when the other kid curses at him and she just keeps grinning. "They don't respect your authority, it would seem." She teases lightly.

"For me?" The girl says with a large grin.
"Don't." The boy with the long hair says then reaches out to slap it from Lara's hand before she can give it to the girl, "Don't you pay attention at school Marza? Don't take gifts from white people."
Robert hisses, "You… " He remarks then gives Lara an apologetic shrug, "Heathens, it is expected."

"Thomas Runningcrane. Be polite to our guests. Get, all of you, get!" A woman in a white gown with parted and tied hair shuffles forward, aged with wrinkled skin, aquiline features and a hawkish nose. Average height, brown eyes and white hair near as much as the gown shes worn thats sinched at the waist, on her feet are a pair of sneakers otherwise she looks like she could be cut out of an old Western movie.
The boy Thomas gives the aged woman a glare then races off, the other children following but not before that girl takes up her coin again, gives Lara another beaming smile of gapped white teeth where a baby tooth had fallen out recently and is gone with the horde.

"Pahate's student?" The woman questions while staring Ripclaw over then shes looking Lara up and down. "You, you seem familiar as well. Come with me." She turns and motions for them to follow her through the debris cluttered trail of dust, lawnchairs and old car parts towards a trailer lined with flower beds and standing posts for vines to climb. A cheerful looking little home, in pale blues, one that speaks of someone who has a rather green thumb and also apparenlty likes her garden gnomes for Lara they appear to have red conical hats and suits with beards. Jolly with mean eyes and crooked smiles. To look around the yard they are eveywhere, lurking like tiny sentinels.

"Don't mind the nunnupi, they only look fierce." Their guide forewarns with a warm smile.

Robert is glaring at the small creatures, he perhaps sees something entirely different.

Lara furrows her brow when she sees the little mean boy knock the coin down onto the soft grass and her eyes go over to his little angry kidface. She doesn't really fight it though, just stands there and considers crouching to pick the coin up, but then there's the elder's voice and thats where Lara's attention now averts to.

A smile is shown to the woman when her eyes are clearly giving her the once-over, she's a Stranger here so thats appropriate after all. When the woman claims to feel familiarity toward Lara, the Brit just dips her chin in a nod. "I'm Lara. I'm sorry if we're pestering, we're just on very important business…" That excuses sometimes works… sometimes.

When the girl snatches the coin up and the children run off, Lara waves to the little girl before she turns to follow Robert. The gaggle of garden gnomes? They get some curious stares, but Lara certainly doesn't think that they're anything more than what they appear to be. "Classic Americana." Croft says quietly with a grin.

Yaya around here, you can too." She smiles pleasantly and motions inside the 'quaint' camper. She then steps in herself leaving the door open for them.

Ripclaw gives Lara a sidelong look, "Usually the nunnupi are kind. But like all old races it is best to give them their distance and respect."
Whispers? Yes, if Lara listens though the mouths of the gnomes do not move. There is hushed voices in a language that is not decipherable.

"Her name is Elk Step, she is an elder and a shaman. We can talk to her to get in to the mountain range." He waits for Lara to enter the cozy trinket laden and warm little mobile, the old lady apparently really likes rabbits as she has hundreds of figurines, quilted blankets, dreamcatchers, a single flatscreen in the corner that is showing a weather channel and nothing else outstanding, save perhaps an ancient drum on the small round booth table. Expert eyes like Lara's can pick it out as the only likely object worth a damn in here.

"Thank you, Yaya." Lara responds to the woman then and when they're offered passage to enter the mobile home she steps up and inside of it. But the voices of the gnomes, or the whispers of what 'feels like' ghosts on the wind, does indeed draw the Raider's eyes back out over her left shoulder toward the statues all around the trailer outside… odd, certainly, but not enough to really do much more than send a shiver down her spine.

Once inside, Lara moves to occupy whatever space seems most appropriate while her eyes scan around her new surroundings. LIving like this is entirely foreign to the British woman, but there's something charming about it that she really admires and all the homey trinkets help give it a sense of comfort.

The drum does draw to Lara though and she makes herself toward it to stare down at it for a moment before she lowers her body down to rest on the edge of a seat beside the table its resting on top of and thats when she looks back over to Robert and then to their host.

"It is a very hot day out today." Lara comments after noticing the weather on the television. "How do you manage to stay cool around here?" She asks, hoping to come off as pleasant more than anything.

The drum itself looks to be woven, each strip its laced through covered in intricate carvings. Ripclaw stands just behind Lara his size making the comfort and cozy of the small mobile home suddenly that much less. He is actually ducking with his head to the left, not because he doesn't have height clearance in here but because the drawers that hang out are dangerously close to knocking a person in the skull.

"Lovely home, Yaya." Robert compliments.

"For here? not hot at all hun." The old woman chuckles, "This is a nice day for us Keewazi."
"I know why you are both here, I have seen the black thing that sits where the sun rises. You wish to fight it and you need somethiing that rests in the old mines? Sacred land up there."

"Yes, the black thing… it's corrupted the Spirits around it." A look at Lara then back towards Elk Step, "Its not just that we seek to fight it, it might be beyond us but it has in it's possession something we require."

The old woman nods. "It is dark, do you wish to go spelunking in the darkness or wait until the morning?"
"We have lights and operate fine in shadow." Robert says, "But whatever you advise."

The woman makes a sound and stares at Lara. Dark almond eyes locked on her features, "However you are comfortable, dear?" She asks the woman. That studious stare holding.

Lara's eyes do roam over the drum a bit more while the two of them speak, but she listens to their words and looks toward Yaya when she hears and feels the woman speaking toward her.

A sudden small smile springs across Lara's face, she leans forward a little with her bare shoulders slumped a bit, her hands pressed palm-together between her knees and her elbows resting atop the middle of her thighs. "I've… experience in dark places. I've seen my fair share of them, lets say. Once we're inside the caverns, I don't anticipate seeing anything I haven't already seen before."

Lara doesn't WANT those words to sound arrogate and the tone of her voice shows she has trouble even expressing herself if it sounds like she's being smug or over-confident. "Lets just say that I'm antsy to get some serious results against what it is that we're facing. That… darkness near the sunrise."

Her eyes glance over to Robert and her dark eyebrows raise up a bit before she draws in a breath between her lips and looks back to Yaya. "We'll be fine, I'm sure of it." Lara finishes with a sweet small smile.

The woman makes a noise from inside her throat and leans back against her built in kitchen counter, her hands rising up and folding together. "Mm, you are indeed familiar with the dark places. I see it around you." Those same knuckly, wrinkled hands rise up and wave at the air like shes tracing Lara's outline.
"A part of you was left behind the last time you ventured through the realms. The both of you are missing parts. Fragmented in shadow. I worry less for you Ghost Warrior, this is your lot but you, Miss Croft. My poor dear. Reckless, reckless foolish child." She hisses at Ripclaw. A proper chiding and that maternal disapproval is evident, heavy and worn. Yaya wields it well.

Ignoring both Ripclaw and Lara she turns away from them and rummages through a cabinet.

Robert puts his head down but doesn't say anything, more staring at the carpets they stand on.

"One condition is required before I allow you to be guided to the old mines with my blessings." She shuffles the short distance to Lara and extends her hand out opening it to reveal a stone cut bunny rabbit, a glossy white stone, simple leather thong and beadwork around it, a tiny feather hanging off one side. "Take this. Not for you, this is not a gift, this is for my own conscience."

Lara gently nods to the woman's words. "You're right." She softly says about being fragmented while in that Dark Place. "It was… an experience not soon forgotten." She certainly tries to phrase it as best as she can, but positivity is always the best route to take, yes? "I'd say that I have nightmares ever since, but I had them already prior to even going 'to' that place…" Which was true, sadly so, she'd had them since har parents had died… everything since then has just made them worse. But she copes. Somehow. Her therapist certainly had ideas on how she copes, and they weren't good ones either.

When the woman approaches with the sculpted bunny, Lara looks away from Robert after giving him a stare. She shows him a small smile because she doesn't blame him for anything, she blames the Curator if anyone. Or herself, she'd chosen to get involved in this.

Her hand reaches out to accept the bauble in the palm of her left hand, giving it a few seconds of staring before she looks up to the woman. "I'll return it once we're finished." She says in a quiet voice. "And all the help we can get is appreciated."

"We all experience the Night Lands differently. Your encounter with the Impa Chito… the soul-eaters has left marks on you. When they find a victim their evil pulls from their realm to ours, it creeps inside. Deep in."

Yaya keeps her hand open even as Lara withdraws the object.

Robert gives the Brit a nudge with his elbow, "It is yours to keep but you have to give her something in return."
Hearing the big mutant say this the old woman smiles larger. But politeness says she doesn't say these things herself.

He turns and opens the mobile homes door to step out, "Thank you." He says to Elk Step before joining the gnomes in the lawn.

Lara looks Yaya right in the eyes while she speaks about the 'Dark Lands' and it just… is unsettling, to say the least, but if at all possible she plans to try to reclaim the piece of herself that was lost inside that place. She hasn't mentioned that to anyone, but its certainly on her to-do list for all of this.

"Oh, yes of course." Lara says as she hears the words about exchanging personal possessions. She'd given that coin to the girl and it was the last thing she had on her person at the moment so she's looking down at herself in a bit of a stooper, when she notices her sunglasses tucked into the hem of her low-scooped tanktop. Lara reaches up and plucks them up in her free hand and offers them.

"I bought these at a boutique in Manhattan…" She tells Yaya. "I'm not sure if chic aviators are you're style… but I hope its a sufficient trade?" Lara's already rising up to her feet though and angling to move and follow after Robert outside once again.

The smile on the old woman couldn't grow any larger as she accepts the shades and puts them on, a joyous chortle escapes her. Both hands still up peering through the lenses then turning around to find a mirror, "Very, Lara."
"You and the Ghost Warrior can go to the north side of the camp and wait, your guide will be there soon." She turns away from the explorer to chuckle at the mirror and her new glasses.

Robert waits outside arms folded over his chest outside the short fence that guards the elderly womans forest of flowers and vegetables. On the trashcan just outside it a garden gnome sits atop it, still in a lifeless frozen pose but its moved from somewhere in the yard and is facing outwards.

Lara is quite happy to see that Yaya enjoys the glasses, they weren't overly expensive but they weren't overly cheap either. Once back outside, Lara's eyes are down on the bunny trinket in her hand but she's soon to tuck that way into a side pocket on her upper thigh before she's picking up her pace to catch up with Robert.

"She seemed lovely." Lara spoke softly to the large man on her left, looking over and up at him. "At least it'll be dark soon, so I won't be blinded by the Oklahoma sun." She adds with a slight grin.

But the garden gnome in a spot that she definitely knew there hadn't been one at before draws her attention and again she gets that strange chill down the back of her spine. "Not that I dislike yard decorations…" Lara starts as they walk. "But I certainly do prefer the kind that stay where they are after I've placed them." Not that she's ever placed a yard decoration in her entire life. The only yard she's ever had was her parent's home back in Surrey.4

She eyes the gnome as they pass it, her hazel stare a bit more narrowed then usual… suspicious of the squad little fellow.

"They always are." Robert says though he doesn't sound like he believes that. "That is a plus, yeah." He grins at her.
"It's good you dislike them, these ones are exiles from their people. They find the old woman charming too. A good thing probably, that particular tribe of nunus are meat eaters and they dislike white people. They apparently rather like the taste of the British."
Though the gnome doesn't appear to move as Lara passes by it is grinning, they all are. Their beady eyes like dolls follow…

The north side of the camp, the little girl from earlier and that boy Thomas stand there. A scruffy grey-brown dog that looks part coyote sits between them. Thomas kneels down and speaks in to the mutt's ear then stands up.
"Neske will take you to the mines."
The little girl springs forward and hands a daylily flower to Lara. "Here!"

Robert shakes his head and walks past the throng, striding towards the mountain range in the distance. Different in reality than seen on TV or from a distance… it feels more 'real' this side of the reservation.

Lara is stilling eying the gnome as apparently they're all eying her back, at least until Robert says what he says and then her stare goes back over and up to his face. "You know." She starts. "IF you were any other person, and I were embarked on any other… journey… I'd think you were simply trying to toy with me. Make me uncomfortable and instilled with childlike fright… But since you are you and we are doing what… ware doing, I sadly believe you."

The feeling of a hundred gnomey eyes on her aside, Lara progresses past them all and out to where the children and the coyote-dog are again. She smiles at the dog when Thomas announces he'll be helping them, she'd come to like dogs a lot more in the past year since being gifted a puppy by her friend back home, well, back in Manhattan.

When the little girl rushes to her to give her the flower, Lara kneels down to accept it and she grins to the child. "Thank you." She tells her, giving the child a hug before standing up again and looking over to Robert, then to the direction they're to head.

"Beautifyl landscape, really." Lara softly says.

Robert gives another of those side grins, "Famous last words?"

The gushing girl takes her brothers hand and pets Neske between the ears, "Becareful! Don't follow the glowy lights!" she waves vigorously as Thomas hauls her back to Red Turtle park.

"It is, yes." He says walking beside her, that coyote-dog races past them to snart sniffing around it's tail wagging before it runs ahead, circles back and repeats that. It is very much leading them. Both Lara and Robert are skilled trackers, they recognize this sort of behaviour, it is scouting a safe path. Odd to consider what could be so dangerous in the shrublands and light forests below the mountain foot.

"You meet a lot of tribal people overseas in your travels around the world?" Robert asks while they walk, his red eyes always moving, following the dog and hopping over the landscape.

Lara had that warning floating around inside her head for several minutes after they set out on their trek toward the caverns. 'Don't follow the glowy lights.' It was certainly an ominous thing to have told to you before you're headed to a dark and potentially hazardous location.

But keeping up with the anxious dog, the landscape and walking with Robert was enough to take her mind in other directions as well. She looks over at him after he asks the question and she nods her head softly once, adjusting the backpack on her shoulders that she'd gotten out of their vehicle prior to leaving.

"It depends on the location, but generally yes, I have to rely on many of the indigenous people to help me get to the places that I'm seeking. Some are kind, some are quiet and nervous around a person like me, others are… well, really its just like anywhere else. Its the same as even say, Manhattan. You meet all kinds of people around the world, but their temperaments generally all fall into that same range that I'm sure you'd expect."

Lara looks ahead toward their guide and she cannot help but grin at him. "He's a smart one." She quietly adds about the canine.

"He has some wit to him, yeah."
"Hrm, I suspect so, a part of me is envious. Most of my trips to other countries was for Cyberdata." Robert says, slowing enough to hop then climb over a rocky outcropping and several boulders. He doesn't offer her a hand to help her up, he knows what shes capable of. This is her element as well.
Neske is up ahead of them, his tail not wagging now, its hanging low, hackles tuffed up.
"You feel that?" He asks Lara, curious at the range of her 'empathic' side, the more supernatural-instinctual. The mutant lowers to a crouch, almost animal like himself as his head tips up and he inhales.
Huh? (Type "help" for help.)

Lara doesn't have to put quite the effort into getting over the terrain as Robert, becaus she simply scouts out a different route that lets her just scale up the ledge without having to climb… some nimble footplacements and she's bounding up it instead and joining him at his side again as he speaks and asks her about what she feels.

Lara pauses when he crouches and her hands go down to her waist, she lets her eyes scan around with the setting sun on her backside. "Nothing, really." Lara tells him, her spiritual connection to empathy and the like, is simply just not there. "It feels… calm, to me." She replies, releasing a heavy and sharp exhale before turning to look back toward their animale guide.

"What do you feel?" Lara then asks, letting her eyes lower down to Robert crouched to her left front side.

"That is exactly it." Robert says, "We just crossed some threshold. No wild life." He turns his back to her facing the way they just came, his claws extending, shining in the moonlight to scrape over the rocks, marking a symbol in to it with an obnoxious screech. Exo-metal making sandstone look like butter.
"Usually when the animals talk, they talk. This is absolute quiet."

"When she said we fragmented ourselves, we brought the dark with us. We did. The 'outside shadow' they are a thing where believed in, shadow beings. We're close."

Neske turns around and whines low, walking over to lick at Lara's knuckles and palm. Reassurance for her or itself, hard to tell.

"You lead us far enough pup, you can wait out here for us. This is our path, not yours." Ripclaw kneels and smooths the coyote-dogs hackles down with his palms while he too looks at Lara from that lowered angle. "Hopefully the old woman's charm holds some actual medicine to it."

Lara was kind of getting to that place of realization about what he was saying right as he started to say int. She spins in a full circle to look around them, back from where they'd come and then back ahead in the direction they'd been going.

"Thats unsettling." Croft says then before she feels the coyote-dog's lick to the back of her hand down beside her thigh. She raises the hand up to place it on the right side of the dog's face near to its ear and she gently pats his fuzzy face in mutual reassurance. She looks down to the dog when Robert finishes with his marking and crouches beside him.

"Close is good though." Lara tells the man, and perhaps the dog also. "It means we're almost ready to get what we need and get out. If our presence alone can draw in any measure of 'that place' then we mustn't linger, we should move on and finish this."

Lara offers a smile down to the dog, gives him face another soft stroke and then draws her hand back. She sucks in a deep breath and nods once. "There." Lara points. "The ridge there… there's an opening." She points to a dark slice between the rocks, large enough for a person to slip their form through.

"Thats the plan." Robert remarks with a confident smile, giving the dog one more pat before he turns and starts to walk further up the mountain side towards that ridge, from where they are it looks an easy ascent but turns in to a scrambling, scaling and treacherous balance straddle. A point in there Ripclaw is reaching back for her climbing spikes to drive them in where he gouges holes with his talons.
That dark opening between staring at them. Pitch black. Devoid of any light and the echoing coming from inside of it makes the wind sound as though its… wailing.

"I cannot see." He remarks, which, by now Lara has learned the man has a low-light vision, much like animals. "You're up and… from the sound we're going down. Heh."

Lara had come prepared for the small climb to get up to the slice in the ridge. She handed Robert some gear and used some of her own, the climb was a elementary scale at best and they were at the top within moments.

Lara removed the bulky backpack from her shoulders and broke it down into smaller sections then picked one of those up and put it back on… a much smaller pack now on her back while she fishes around for something inside the remaining pieces that she planned to leave here at the mouth of the cavern.

When she stands up she has a bundle of light LED lightsticks, which are all attached to her belt, though she offers one over to Robert while her own is flipped on casting a bright green glow across her body. "Here." She quielty says before turning to move further into the cavern's mouth.

Lara lifts her hand up with the LED light held just slightly out. "Downward, huh?" She asks him, hearing the wailing in the cavern. "Well, down is always easier than up…" She dryly admits.

"Most the time." Robert says, that spark of humor back even if it is forced. A half-grin showing white teeth then its gone, the glow stick grabbed up. "Thanks." She can see he is squinting around it, intentionally cupping over a portion of it so the light casts away from him.

"Rock paper scissors? Automatically assuming I always go scissors will be an instant loss."

The shaft is a straight drop with bowed out ledgework, she will find there is some old structure built in to this, mining shafts at an angle, they didn't support properly but managed to maintain a sinkhole. As they descend some forty feet or so down they find themselves on a ledge, one that opens in to a wide cavern littered old world prospectors gear, smashed lantern, bones, boot pieces, a busted rifle. It is musty, the walls are high enough they can stand upright and there is passage ways that lead in all directions, that eerie silence also prevails, the wind not carrying through down here like it does above, which at least does say there is an exit somewhere.

Likely if one tests they'll find its to the east.

"Lets begin searching… " He mumbles, there is a 'crunch' sound and hes picking his foot up, kicking off what might be a hard hat or a skull…
"This is the stuff you do for a living?"

Lara smirks at the man's words, but she fully intends on descending first before him. "Oh no…" She says with a slight shake of her head side to side as she's preparing her climbing gear to descend, crouching to dangle a rope. "I'd always say that you're a Rock man before ever thinking you'd be Scissors." She looks up at him and gives him a grin in the eerie glow of her green light and his orange. "I'm more about Scissors myself." She holds her grin for a second before looking back down at him. She doesn't realize that that somehow may come off as flirting, she's pretty oblivious about flirting. Bad at it even.

The descent is simple enough, but Lara does comment on the mining. "This likely means that this entire complex of caves is unstable. We need to be extra careful where we walk and what precisely we interact with…" She hated mines, they were truly dangerous places. Natural caverns were far more comfortable to be in.

Once they were down to where the bits of left over human life were found, Lara's scanning about and walking ahead of him with a slight crouch to her posture, holding her green light in her right hand. "Not exactly." Lara replies to him. "Though, its essentially along these lines."

She steps back to see that he'd put his foot through a helmet and she smiles faintly. "Try not to step on anything valuable." She teases him before she turns her face toward that breeze moving through the tunnels, the winds causing the loose hairs framing her face to flutter in their flow…

Robert gives Lara a mildly confused look at her comment, not because of it's content but the fact he has only ever caught a flirtatious vibe from the British woman a handful of times. A chuckle releases after that brief pause, "You uh… I think you just stumped me if that was your aim."
"Scissors… "
Eyes gleam and he looks after her, she gets first descent, also the first jab in after his clumsy crush of that unfortunate whatever it is. "Yeah, my bad. Not exactly? Its not digging through rocks, dirt and crawling through claustrophobia inspiring caves all the time for you?"

The big man rails quietly after her, the tunnels are crude, dug in haste and as she has confirmed, this entire place is hanging together by a thread. "Gold, such a stupid damn thing to risk a life for." He remarks behind her, hand rising up above them to touch a beam thats lacing over head, there is a sound, a clatterbang from the direction they are headed. Just out of the orange and green offered lighting.

Lara softly laughs at his words. "No…" She says about her job. "I mean its not supposed to be. Archaeology is generally a very safe and boring career choice, if you're not fascinated by the facts of human history and prehistory. Most of which are all easily obtained from above-ground dig sites. Rarely does it actually involve…" She speaks as she walks. "Delving into dark wailing caverns. At least for the average Archaeologist, anyway." With a light sigh she shakes her head. "I, on the other hand, have had a bit more experience in places like this than others in my field, which is why I tend to get these kinds of jobs a bit more. Well, that and…" She glances back at him. "SHIELD, calls on me to find some of the more absurdly well hidden artifacts in this world."

"But that doesn't even tap the surface of my own personal goals or desires on what I'm looking for myself." Which hasn't had as much attention as she wishes she were able to give to it. "Life always pulls you in directions you hadn't expected though…"

"And in my travels around the globe, few things are more consistent than humanity's obsession with Gold."

Right after saying that, Lara hears the clattering sound and she falls a bit more silent then, lowering her light down to her hip. "Lots of strange noises in places like this as well, strange to our ears at least."

"You've taken the more extraordinary path of your work. Like Indiana Jones." Ripclaw says, "That just means the usual wasn't up to your potential, not challenging enough… fate, karma, the spirits or just dumb bad luck decided you need more thrown at you."
"Do you think of this as a job? What we are doing now… the Curator, the Artifacts… the Bearers?" He slows at the sound, craning his head to the side as if he could hear better, "Too many echoes, everything smells just the same, its making me anxious down here. It is like sensory deprivation."

At the bend the slope drops to a final mining chamber, no carts in here, just bones and a makeshift campsite, there is a pit in the very back. It drops down to soft, moist black soil, unlike the rest of the dirty brown or red around it… though, in the darkness, its all rather… well, dark.

"A bad feel here. Very bad." He murmurs, actually bumping in to Lara from behind as he looks around them, his bicep shoved up against her shoulder. "It's messing with me. This… closure… I'm doing my best to hold it together." Feral, a sort of irritation or budding anxious 'mad' is rising in the man. Like a trapped animal.

Lara can hear his questions and she considers them for a moment. "Really, this path chose me more than I chose it." She firstly replies to him. "I was prepared to be just a 'normal' archaeologist when my life lead me in a way that put me… in this sort of scenario and at the time, all I wanted was to get out of it… to get back to my comfort zone. But that was the trick…" She glances back at him. "Changing your comfort zone." She looks ahead again and starts forward once more. "After my first 'outing' was finished, I found myself craving it. Maybe not the death and destruction of it, but the -need- for travel and to physically push myself, while also mentally challenging as well."

Lara feels the man bump up against her and she glances back at him, she can sense his discomfort in his voice and his body language. "You're a creature of the the great outdoors, not cramped caverns." She raises her free hand up to his arm and places it there to comfort him… soooort've like the coyote-dog she'd done the same to outside. "You'll be fine, just breath. Deeply. In and out. It will alter your body's chemistry and keep your calmer."

Lara looks forward again and starts to move ahead, crouching down and then lying backward against the rocky wall to slip through a crevice.

"I… I can see that." Robert manages, voice strained as he is trying to maintain composure. His claws have actually extended, lengthened out enough they reflect his nerves. "You are a thrill seeker then, I called it. Life on the edge is… life." He mumbles.
"Breathing in here is hard too… I've been in places like this, dark caves, I hate it but there is something fucked here." He grits his teeth, the sharp canines pronounced.
He follows her instruction though, breathing, slow long inhales and focusing on it.

The crevice she squeezes through is a hard fit, around the waist and torso especially, Robert stops onthe other side, staring through it at her. "I can't make that." He declares, some dismay and irritation mingled together. "I'll remain here. Take a quick look around in there… "

Lara now finds herself in a BLACK soiled room, no carved out rock, no structure signs, perfectly rounded. The floor is soft, the dirt moist, the smell rich, like raw Earth, one would imagine Gaia herself smells of his scent.
Though Ripclaw is only the length of that crevice squeeze from hell, jagged rocks and all, no more than a dozen feet away she cannot see him, she cannot even see the way she came in she just knows it is behind her.

Lara doesn't fully understand Robert's discomfort because to her this entire cavern series feels mostly like any other she's been in… better than some even. "Thrill Seeker makes it all sound so… vain though." She mutters before she's halfway through that crevice that he cannot fit through. She looks back at him from it and its a bit of an odd site, it looks like the woman is literally being sandwiched between two boulders, but somehow still alive.

"All right." She softly says to him. "I'll be right back." And within moments, the green-hued woman is through to the other side and there's only faint flashes of her light through the crevice.

On the other side: Lara looks about with her light held up and out over her head, trying to use it to cut the blackness. She turns then and sets her green light against the crevice's entryway before she reaches to her belt and pulls another light up and out, and within a second a sudden blue light flares to light almost as bright as a lightsaber.

Lara turns again toward the chamber she's in and she starts forward, one step after another while looking right to left. "If only I knew precisely what we were looking for…" She mutters to herself.

"I'll be waiting right here." He says, pushing his face in enough as if to make sure she can hear him and see him. Ripclaw then pulls back out to crouch down in that annexed cavern.

Once fully inside the circular room she learns it is not large at all, a perfect sphere. That glowing stick set against the wall blinks out with a grinding sound, rocks shuddering. She can hear Ripclaw shouting her name, then pitch blackness, the blue light in her hand all she has but amazingly, it is dimmed, dulled down and the walls, the dirt, the soil, it folds, collapses and begins to bury here. Swallowing her in an earthy tomb, strangely comfortable with the softness of the dirt until she realizes, she can see through it, like its water, then it is pulling back to reveal a small chamber, lit only by that unnaturally dimmed light she has that was once bright.

She can see around her, shadows on the 'walls' they don't get closer.

Lara finds herself staring at a man, aged, bald on the top of his head, wispy white hair and blue eyes, darker skinned by clearly not a native american, not one of the Keewazi locals or even one o fthe former roaming plains tribes of this region. He rolls bone white blind eyes towards her, a knotted old hand reaching out, his ribs show, each one visible but each one also attached to the wall by roots, roots that are not just growing outwards but they grow through the man, his legs are part of the earth, around him are floating bones, his dignity a thing of the past, the decrepit old form flails around, weakly, "Who is there?" Perfect English. A Southern American accent even… "Come closer… who is… you are alive, I can feel your heat." HIs hands go flat as if she was a fire. Palm out at her. "So warm… so alive… so bright… "

Lara certainly doesn't like the fact that her green light just went out nor the fact that Robert's voice seemed to fade from her hearing… nor the fact that the room seems to be filling up with a smokey dirt that is surrounding and embracing her on all sides… but there's also very little the woman can do to stop it, it all happens so fast that she's suddenly swept up in it and left to just spin in a frantic circle until she comes back around and… that old man is there before her.

The Raider's dim light is brought down to her left side and extended out from her hip there. She sees him and hears him, she stares at him and listens. When he reaches out she recoils a little out of an inherent distrust for the strange spirit of a man.

"I am alive." Lara responds to him. "Or so I hope." Her British voice flows with the same heat and livelihood that fuels her spirit. "I'm an explorer. My name is Lara Croft… I've come here in search of an artifact that may aide us in a fight against a growing darkness in the living world."

Lara's head tilts very slightly as she stares at the man. "Do you know of any such thing that I might find here?" She asks him.

"The living darkness." The man almost sounds like he corrects her, his head turning side to side, his beard long, down to his collarbone. "How do I know this is not another trick of the Shadows?"
"Lara Croft. Croft, Lara." He mumbles. "Liar. Crap. Liar. More of you to test me. It is mine to protect, I failed as the One, I will not fail this as well. I accept my damnation to this black pit of diseased fucking Earth." His hands turn in and cup to his chest, "I BANISH YOU FILTHY SPIRIT!" The ground trembles under her feet, the walls rumble and dirt falls, suddenly roots fire up out of the earth like spikes, a wall of them stabbing at her, coiling and ripping. There is very little room to evade in here but she can at least save her vitals if shes quick enough.
Despite attacking her with the 'vines and dirt' he doesnt lift from his position on the floor and half in the wall. Stuck as he is there… without exits stuck as she may be as well.

Lara's head straightens again when she hears him say this and she can tell he's not in a great place after hearing her explanation. "Wait." Lara tries to interject but at his attacking motions its quite clear that there's no interjecting that will stop him, that she's aware of at least.

So she does start to move and flee for her own safe, she darts past the spikes cracking into the room's floor as the fire spouts up like geysers around her. Lara moves forward TOWARd the old man then and she seems determined to reach him now!

Her hand goes down to her thigh pocket and she pulls out the trinket that the woman at the mobile park had given her, she clutches it tightly in her fingers and sweaty/dirty palm as she waits for the fire spouts to subside and then lunges over them!

Once across, Lara's shoulder slams first into a rocky spike then she spins around it and reaches out for the old man to hold the 'Bunny' up at him. She doesn't say anything, she just holds it up so that he might see it.

The man's face is a grimace of fear and rage, the closer Lara gets the more she can make that out frothy mouthed even she can smell his fetid breath with her nearness, those vines curl in like they want to stab through her, fanning out like webbing to encase her when she then thrusts that bunny up towards his face. He sniffs. Blinks his blind eyes then his hands rise up to touch Lara's wrists, "Warm… warm skin." Fumbling they climb higher to the rabbit, close over it and he touches the stone. "This is hers, beautiful, young girl. The big smile. She loved these… this is one I made." He touches it, fingers working, sliding over it.

"You are not one of them… then, then it is time for me. I can finally do what I have to." His head lowers, tears stream down his cheeks and he pushes Lara's hand back, the rabbit relic still in them.
"Thank you, girl and I am very sorry this falls on you now but… fate… she is a cruel bitch."

"Now stay back… " He reaches his hands to his ribcage and starts to pull back those roots that are attached to his ribcage, skin peels outwards in spaghetti like threads, he starts to scream bloody murder, the first one drawn out, pulled away, she can see inside of his chest cavity, the lunges, the bones that have been fused with stone, dirt and vine.
"OH FUCK IT HURTSSssss!" He screams again, louder as he pulls another one outwards, blood and black ichor pouring out, starting to trickle out of his lips as well, his teeth yellowish or missing are now glossy with saliva and vitae.
"Reach… reach in and take it. Quick, quickly… please God… hurry."

Take what? There, nestled near his heart, fused with is a large golden disc.
lungs* )

Lara doesn't seem to mind the spirit-man reaching to touch her arm and react to the warmth of the life within her, if thats what it takes to get to the bottom of this mysterious tomb then she's completely fine with it. She watches him touch the carved bunny bauble and she nods her head gently toward his words of recognizing it. Yaya had been right, this was a needed element to prove she was… not of the Dark world.

When he tells her to step back, the bunny is lowered to her side in her hand again and she lets her eyes shoot right to left before she stares at him while he… tears into himself. Its a gruesome sight to be sure, but she's used to quite a bit of gruesome sights in her life up to this point. Lara just breaths sharply and shakes her head at the display.

When he shouts for her to take it she isn't sure WHAT to take, but if he's hidden something inside himself she'll have to just jam her hands in and find it irregardless of sight or not!

Lara rushes toward him to try to get the task done to give him release so that he can stop doing this, she rushes at him and right as her hands are going inside she sees that glint of gold and it directs her grasps. Her eyes dart up to his, then down to her hands and then back up to his face. "I'm sorry!" Lara says to him as she moves to tear the heart and the gold disc from his chest cavity!

The man's head bobs forward and back with the struggle, the pain, his hands streaked in blood try to help Lara, pulling, wrenching and soon ripping that gold large coin free, his heart gushes with gore and he whimpers, tears and blood forming a single liquid. His hand rises up, blood smears down her cheek in a touch, his other hand clutching her wrist, "Its done… its over, don't… don't give it to him. The Chink, hes a fuck, hes an evil fuck…. " The man's mouth forms a rictus of final pain then quirks down, his head sags forward, his arms falling to the ground and he begins to fold, the wall releasing him.

That Coin in Lara's hand now the spherical cave around her remains black, no walls. She is… trapped with this corpse and beyond the soil something churns, moves in darkness.

The rabbit, it falls free. No. It lifts up and hops down, glowing white it bounces several times until its standing at one side of the cave, hops there several times then falls flat. Lies on it's side and it's glow gone.

Lara pulls and pulls until it comes free, with a gushing of the gore that would make almost anyone's stomach turn at the sight (not to mention the smells) but Lara's been through this, she's been through worse than this… She looks up at him as he touches her face and wrist and watches him as he fades and… is gone.

She gasps then and stumbles backward, holding the disc with both of her hands. The Bunny hops free of her as she sees it go and she's moving to watch it but the presence of something else in the chamber draws her attention away from it, she scans around for this 'other' presence, while breathing heavily with her heart racing fast inside of her chest. She turns then… to look back toward the Bunny just as it hops and drops.

Lara rushes toward it, one foot fall after the other, she stumbles in the dark and the broken floor but remains upright, she moves toward the rabbit statue to snatch it back up in her hand and then she spins around to plant her back up against the wall with her eyes wide!

There where Lara plants her back she finds the wall soft, folding around her shoulder and letting her through thoug it requires she pushes. Uses force to shove through the compacted black soil. Soil full or jagged rocks, sharp vines, bones…

While facing that opposing wall the dirt starts to pit inwards above the deadman's corpse, teeth first, claws, beady eyes, a tongue, long and lashing coils down and wraps around the deceased figure's neck, snaps it, pulls and sucks in to that open maw, ripping spine and head upwards in one 'slurp' to then begin chewing it, it snuffles at the air, its head aiming at Lara Croft.
Long sinewy arms with talons reach out towards her, grasping, raking, it's teeth peel back like its grinning as it tries to remove itself from the dirt, to join her in that small room.

The small bunny pendant is inert now, a stone piece in her hand…
There is a laugh from the shadows, an eerily familiar one. Her own? An echo, a mirrored laugh. Sharp, twisted. This place should become familiar again, shes not just on Earth, shes part way 'between' realms, shes halfway in to the Night Lands again…

There is a muffled noise, faint, far away, coming from behind her. Someone is shouting her name but it sounds so distant…

Thats the way that she'd come in… the crevice that Robert was on the other side of. It'd caved-in somehow with, filth and bone? She wasn't sure!

The bunny statue was stuffed back into the pocket on her thigh and Lara pulled at the foul dirty inside the crevice as she fought to get herself through it, but it was a tough battle and whatever was behind her was 'close' she could feel it.

Lara turns to look back and see in the darkness some kind of hands or claws reaching for her, so she twirls her hand around to slap them away and then, was that her laughing? Lara glanced back into the darkness again and peered her eyes into it to try to see where that laugh had come from… but she couldn't, couldn't see it.

The voice screaming in the crevice, that had to be Robert, it pulled her attention back and she started to dig and push again, but the golden disc was going first. She was shoving it through ahead of her so that if she weren't able to make it, Robert might retrieve it from her hand!

Terror does amazing things for a person, fuels them on, pushes them on and gives them near superhuman strength even, Lara finds herself in one of those times, the sand breaking away, her arm thrusting through and a portion of her upperbody, she can feel that thing near, that eater of corpses, the laughing things behind it. The warped and malformed mirror image that she left behind.

There is no air when she puts her head in, she finds she is in a caved in tomb, there is a 'demon' behind her and shes doing her damnedest to save the object they came in for.

Robert is frantically digging on his side, tearing at stone and dirt, those claws practically made for this. His savage cries of 'LARA!' mingled with growling, cursing and roars that are more beast than man. "KEEP DIGGING!"

Lara is stuck between worlds, in a way… the Dark World is pouring into that tomb, like with the death of the man she pulled the golden disc from was the only barrier keeping it at-bay. But now it was pouring outward and she was halfway to Robert and halfway… not.

Lara's legs kick at whatever is thrashing at her thighs, but ultimately she's looking for rock to plant her feet and help push her out of the crevice, she can hear the taunting words inside her mind but there's no response worth shouting at them.

She struggles ravenously until she can find enough strength to pull herself completely through and back to Robert's side of the crevice!

The British explorer lands on the ground near to Robert's feet, she's breathing heavily, loud gasps of inhaled and exhaled air, she's writhing around out of a frantic fright from the fierce adrenaline! She sits up and the legs of her trousers have large tears down their sides, but her skin is only moderately damage…

Robert is standing there before Lara once she actually out. Grabbing her up off the ground in a strong embrace then releasing her, held out at arms length. It is his turn to calm her down, "You are safe now. You are here." The orange light of his glow stick still strong, it is as though she was gone only seconds. "Like you told me, breath… breath." He hugs her once more then lets go, his hand traveling down to grab the coin that was in clutched at. The coin, it is in her hand and beginning to fuse with it. "What the hell is that… " He questions, his claws dipping in to it, tugging at it, which pulls at her skin. Not realizing initially its attached, fortunately its more like someone just touched a frozen piece of metal. A layer of skin removes with it.
He winces at the noise, "Lets get out of here… lets get you away from here."

It feels like the calm after the storm, things have become safe. They for once are ahead.

There is a noise faint, a laughter, a ripple - shuffle of sand, the very earth, that black crevice reveals an arm, a long thin fingered sinewy thing that grips out, far too large to be human, shadowy fleshed not just dark, its grasp finds Lara Croft's hair, her pony tail and the back of her neck then 'jerks' with a swift unnatural quickness, so fast it tears her off her feet and shes back in the black soil wall, that 'portal' between worlds, the half place, more hands grasp out, wrap over her limbs, wrist and even one clamps over her mouth.

It feels slow how she is drawn in, pulled away from him but its not, its just that moment in time where everything pauses and his alarmed distressed red eyes lock on her own. He cannot hear his voice this time, he doesn't even think it comes before she disappears entirely, pulled 'through', reclaimed by the Night Lands.
He swears he can hear laughter… Lara's laughter.

END

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