I’m using Vaas Montenegro as the overarching force of Rook Island for the March Challenge.
Lara looked up from her studies. Rook Island. A hub of ancient activity, unexplored as of her time by any archaeologist yet.
She examined a map of the island, unpinning it to the wall so she could look at it a bit more closely. “Strange little island, just in the middle of the ocean,” she murmured, tracing the island’s shore lightly with her index fingernail.
Sam entered about then, ushering Lara from her seat. She didn’t have time to put the map back, so she carefully folded it mid-speedwalk next to Sam, vaguely hearing what her friend was saying as she tucked it in her back pocket.
“--really weird storm, luckily Rook Island’s really close and we can get there before waves get too high,” Sam finished just before they reached the cafeteria.
“But it’s still sunny,” Lara commented as they passed a porthole. She sat down, and just a moment afterwards Sam did the same.
“That’s why the storm is strange, Lara. Appeared out the blue,” the helmsman, Grim Grimaldi, rumbled.
“Fantastic! We can get footage of it, come on!” Dr. James Whitman exclaimed, always eager to continue that infernal television show of his.
“No, no, no,” Grim said, thwacking the doctor’s shins with his walking stick. “Stay in the cabin. It’ll get rough in a few minutes... these waters’re temperamental, I tell you. If you gotta get video, get it from a porthole.”
“Must I remind you that I’m the only one with a doctorate here?”
“I know you have a doctorate, but that don’t mean nothin’ about common sense... which I think’s becoming less common,” Grim said. “The porthole view will hold you until it passes.”
Dr. Whitman opened and closed his mouth a couple times. He also blinked in confusion. He’d just been rather blatantly beaten verbally by the good helmsman. He sniffed haughtily and ushered his camera crew behind him, going for the largest of the portholes towards the back of the ship.
Lara chuckled at the doctor’s reaction, pulling out her iPod to help her relax her nerves.
It’s just a storm, Lara. Nothing notable is going to happen, you’ll just rock around a little bit and that’s it.
About ten minutes later, she felt a powerful tug on the ship and only now did she notice the heaving, thunderous rain pelting her window.
It was very dark outside... the only light illuminating her cabin was a small fluorescent bulb above her. Its yellow, warm light comforted her only a bit as she took the earplugs out of her ears. She got up and peered out the door. Just as her head passed the threshold into the hallway, the ship lurched violently forwards, the back end raising.
The side of her head slammed into the door frame. She blinked and shook her head, feeling where it felt a bit warm where she’d hit the frame. Her head came away red.
She didn’t panic, though. She knew most head wounds bled a lot but many were minor. She could tell the ship was still angled because the glow that encompassed her room from the light bulb wasn’t completely bathing the room in gold as it usually did.
She got up, stuffing her iPod, earplugs and all, into her pocket. She leaned against the wall after a few steps, feeling her head again. It felt more sticky than slippery now, which she thought might be good; a sign of clotting, she reasoned.
She heard a crash, a splintering and breaking of glass behind her. She hardly had time to look before she was dragged forcefully along a wall by the water. She yelled out in pain as she bounced off door frames and doors.
She managed to grab one of the frames, stopping her angled descent. Otherwise, she’d probably have been dashed against the far wall, squashed by the weight of the water like a bug. She opened the porthole with difficulty and looked outside.
Her breath caught in her throat and she coughed from how cold the rain was for a few moments. She knew she had no time to waste, though, and so she pulled herself through the porthole and to the exterior of the ship.
She dared not think of the others-- she was more concerned with survival. Her breaths continued to catch, and she started to hyperventilate slightly. She steeled herself and leaned against the wall of the residential suites on the boat, walking slowly along the port side.
The further she walked, the more she noticed gravity was going towards the wall, and not the deck she was walking on. She began to crawl on the wall, hoping the storm didn’t have a sudden change of mind and flip her to the deck or even worse, into the water.
She heard shouts as she passed a porthole. She peered into it, and she saw Sam’s face, ghostly pale against the blue backdrop.
She’s drowning, Lara realized suddenly. Her eyes widened and she began to beat on the glass, throwing her weight into each blow. After six or seven strikes, it started to crack, and she gained new vigor, repeatedly smashing her hands, clenched into fists, into the glass. It broke suddenly and she fell through. She felt around for Sam, and felt something... she had her arm!
Lara looked for the porthole and locating it, began to swim. It was much harder than she thought it would be. She could only use one hand to paddle, and she had to take care not to kick Sam.
For a couple of seconds, she felt she wouldn’t make it with Sam... but her head broke the water, which was seeping out of the porthole as it had filled the small suite. She was able to crawl out, and running on adrenaline she pulled Sam out with her.
Lara laid Sam down on the relatively stable surface of the wall. She looked over her for a second, muttering, “Oh, shit...”
She began performing CPR on her, hoping to get the water out of her. Sam was still deathly pale, a gurgle coming from her throat every couple seconds.
Lara took this as a good sign as well, and she started the mouth to mouth procedure before being thrown against the rail by the sudden shift of weight on the ship.
Sam fell with her, getting bent by physics over the bar. Water poured for a second or two from her mouth and her eyes fluttered. Her lunch followed.
“Sam? Sam! Are you alright?” Lara supported her friend as she began to swoon.
“Oh, hi... Where are we?” Sam blinked drowsily.
“Still on the Endurance,” Lara said. “I think we should get off of it, though-- it seems kind of unstable.”
“Unstable... okay. Lead the way, miss adventurer.” Sam leaned heavily against the wall, dribbling water from her mouth every few moments as she followed Lara’s pace.
“The island’s right there...” Lara said upon reaching the front deck of the ship. There wasn’t a sign of any of the others, but... the life jackets-- the lifeboats!
“Sam! Check in that cupboard for the life jackets. I’ll see if the lifeboats are still here,” Lara commanded in a frenzied tone. She could hear groans of metal and the gurgle of water entering the ship, and she could see that they were sinking-- it was blatantly obvious.
“I have life jackets, Lara!” Sam shouted from across the deck. She strapped one on and turned to throw the other to Lara.
Before she could finish her rotation, the ship jerked violently towards Sam, knocking her against the wall hard. She didn’t get back up, and the ship’s position became fixed.
Lara was thrown as well, but she was thrown into a pile of canvas and rope. It hurt, but it didn’t knock her unconscious. She began to crawl towards Sam and the life jacket, hoping she didn’t slip on the wet wood.
She didn’t, but the ship shifted again, and Sam slid towards her. Lara caught her in surprise, and they tumbled off the side of the ship. “No!” Lara reached for the life jacket that was slipping past her and finally out of sight.
She had to make a decision then... go to save herself by swimming to the life jacket and possibly letting Sam get drowned by the waves, or try to swim to shore with Sam, which would risk her own life.
After but a moment, she began to paddle, tears of stress and pain running down her cheeks and mingling with the seawater until they were indistinguishable as she pushed Sam like a floatation device to shore.
Nearly fifteen minutes of intense swimming later, Lara’s legs were about to give up, and her arms felt as if they were going to fall off.
Then, she felt sand.
Sand! she began to mentally rejoice, pushing harder and with renewed energy as Sam rolled onto the sand.
She crawled next to Sam and leaned in close, putting her ear next to her mouth and nose to try to hear if she was breathing, but it was useless to try with the storm in the background.
Instead, Lara held a hand over her mouth to see if anything warm was coming out. It felt like she was breathing, but Lara couldn’t go any further... her adrenaline stores felt empty to her, and her energy was all but depleted.
She figured things couldn’t go too badly if she fell asleep...
“Hey! Hey, chica!” She felt a stinging slap on her face. She woke with a start, looking around in confusion. This wasn’t the beach.
“Jesus Chri-- Get up!” she heard an impatient voice and she turned to it. She backed away a bit, because this man just looked outright... insane.
He wore a red sleeveless shirt, but that wasn’t his notable feature-- he had a mohawk, some sort of tribal style thing from the Pacific Islands, which made sense to Lara, and then scars all over him, most blatantly on his head.
His head scar extended from the left side of his front temple to the middle of his eyebrow on that side. It was hideous to behold to Lara, perhaps merely because of how open to the elements, how bare, how naked it was.
“Who’s your friend? She didn’t wake up.” The man pointed with a pistol to Sam. He sounded indifferent, and only then did Lara notice the many men behind and around him.
“S-S-Sam,” Lara said, glancing to her friend.
“Great. Now, you’re going to go ahead and walk with us to our camp, it’s just that way, down the path.” He motioned towards the forest, to a faint trail made of dirt.
“Okay,” Lara said, glancing at the men around her as she made her way in a slow walk to the path.
Suddenly, she saw stars and then nothing; blackness consumed her vision.
When she awoke, she was next to Sam, chained to a post in a bamboo cage.
She felt something pulling her hair slightly, and she turned her head abruptly. She felt a pain in her upper back almost immediately, and she curled backwards with a yelp, her head leaning against the cage side.
Right above her, with his face facing hers less than a foot away, was the top half of the man’s face, the rest obscured by bamboo.
“Sometimes, I just kinda wonder what it’s like to ride on one of those fancy boats of yours,” he said. He began to speak again, before stopping abruptly. “Shit, I haven’t introduced myself. And I ain’t going to, now I think about it. You don’t need to know who I am to be my bitch.”
Lara frowned. “No.”
The man laughed, his smile remarkably asylum-worthy as he moved to Lara’s right.
“Why not? Ain’t I just a desirable mother*vulgarity*er?” He rattled the bars. “AIN’T I THE DEFINITION OF WANT, BITCH?” The whole cage shook as his arms rippled. She felt something snap that was around her wrist. She didn’t check, for fear of giving herself away-- she suspected it was handcuffs or something similar.
“Am I not?” he asked, tilting his head slightly to the side.
“No,” Lara said, brow furrowing slightly.
Why would you say that, Lara?! What kind of idiot tells her jailkeeper she doesn’t agree! Agreeing is how you get out of prison!
He smirked. “Sure I am. You just don’t know what want is. Not yet. Not until I put you in a little metal box for ten days. Then you’ll want a hella lotta things. It’ll be cramped, you might have trouble fitting those in.”
It was obvious what those he was referring to, and it took all of Lara’s self-control not to grab him by the collar and just... punch him.
What am I thinking? Lara blinked at her own thoughts. This was unlike her... but he was provoking her.
It’s rational... she justified her thoughts with that.
He didn’t stop staring at her, intent in his gaze. She could almost see what he was imagining in his eyes; fire from the nearby torches seemed to reflect off his pupils at a perfect angle for Lara to see.
“I’ll see ya a while before you go in the box. We’ll have some fun,” he smiled in a joyous fashion. Lara joined him out of some quisling instinct.
“That’s the spirit, bitch.”
He left, retreating through a series of wooden huts.
Lara pulled her hands to the front so she could examine them. Other than a couple scratches, they were fine. She quickly got up and into a crouch while the guard watching them wasn’t looking, waddling over to Sam.
“Psst, you okay Sam? Sam?”
She could no longer hear her breathing.
“Sam!” It took all Lara could not to break down and die on the spot. She shuffled back over to her spot as the guard turned, her head down. She began to formulate a plot to get her out of there...
First, she’d ask the guard for something in a low voice, like a water or something, but she’d say it so quietly that he’d have to get within arms reach to hear her. Then, she’d take his knife off him... no... his keys and knife off him, push him off, unlock the... no...
She decided on what seemed a sound tactic in her mind.
She’d usher the guard in close, then when he was close enough, she’d take his knife and beat him over the head with the pommel as hard as she could. Then, she’d take his keys and run.
“Hey,” she called to him in feign weakness. “Hey.”
“What is it?” he’d turn briskly around to face her, then as she motioned for him to come closer, was slammed into the pole. He felt something touch his belt, and then the pain of multiple hits to his head. He started to yell for help before being knocked unconscious.
Lara reached as far as she could and just got her hands around the key, cutting through the belt loop it was on with the knife since she couldn’t reach far enough to do it with her hands.
She quickly unlocked the cage, sparing a long look at Sam’s corpse as she left, entering the doorway. She felt in her back pocket for the map she’d had, but found it missing. He’d probably taken it while she was unconscious. While it wasn’t important at this point, she checked for her iPod. It was there, surprisingly, but no doubt it didn’t work.
Not that it was useful, but she found it reassuring to know.
She left the cabin she’d checked her pocket in and saw a person standing just outside an opened window. She hid behind a crate pile, glancing at a patch of cannabis plants as she picked up a sizable rock and hurled it at the garden of weed.
The guy glanced at it and walked over cautiously-- he knew what kind of animals were on this island, and he didn’t feel like meeting them.
Lara took this opportunity to hop through the window mostly silently. Suddenly she was confronted by a guard; he was armed, but facing a bit to the side. She jumped on him and they landed with a thud. She went into instinct and adrenaline mode, stabbing him multiple times in the neck and chest.
Then she sat there for a few minutes just staring at the corpse like it was going to get back up and attack her.
She didn’t want the tears of remorse to come, but they did and they ran freely. She was silent in her brooding for whom she’d killed, though, because dying wasn’t in her itinerary.
After about five minutes, she decided it was time for her to escape, and get that map back. She crawled beneath a hut’s wooden panel flooring, careful not to make a sound as dogs barked to her left. She began to wish she had Sam with her.
As she exited from under the boards, she noticed a large man skinning some sort of animal in front of her... she didn’t want to kill anyone else, so she just avoided him, stepping lightly along the path into the next hut.
There, she silently rejoiced. Her map was there!
She stuffed it quickly into her pocket opposite the iPod. She couldn’t see the man when she looked out, but he was there somewhere, she could feel it.
She crept out and over a couple of boxes. She looked to her left, where they had a row of tourists-- two were dead, and one was about to be because the man was pointing a gun at him.
There’s only one tourist left... He was being talked to by the crazy guy.
Lara forced herself to turn away, shaking her head as she climbed rather stealthily over the boxes. It was then that she noticed a TV that was on. She almost scrambled for cover before noticing the man in front of it was asleep.
“Oh...” she whispered in relief. She then took a look outside. There was only one obstacle left to get to the jungle, and to help, hopefully.
She had to go under a bridge going through the encampment of... pirates? Mercenaries? She didn’t know. But she had to get to the other side. So, she stayed very low and took advantage of the twilight light of dusk. Her grey tank top helped her to be concealed a bit, and her cargo pants weren’t a dead giveaway of her location, either.
She thought about what she was about to do, going over it in her mind... and then she began the walk. It was a bent-kneed, bow-legged walk, but it was indeed a walk. She just had to take care not to hit her head.
The end of the tunnel was near... yes!
The dirt in front of her nose exploded. She turned quickly to look at the man with the mohawk and the scar.
“Looks like you should start running, dusnit?” His speech seemed a bit slurred for some reason. She couldn’t figure out why.
She nodded, then took off like a shot.
“Chase her off a cliff or something,” Vaas commanded, taking another drag on his blunt, shipped in from Hoyt’s island, the South Island on the “Rook Islands”.
Can Lara survive Rook Island in all its perils? Will Vaas and his pirates succeed in killing her off?
You tell me! Vote, comment, rate, and find out!