Read an Excerpt
She awoke to a dull throbbing at the base of her skull. She tried to touch it gingerly with her fingers, but found that she couldn’t move her left hand.
What’s happened? she wondered hazily. And then: Why can’t I breathe?
Her mouth was filled with dust, and some instinct made her turn her head slightly before she inhaled through her nostrils.
Where am I?
Then, very slowly, it came back to her. She almost wished it hadn’t. She was buried in the rubble of a tomb beneath the Temple of Horus in the Egyptian town of Edfu. Something was pinning her left arm to the ground, something bigger than a rock, smaller than a boulder.
Were her legs pinned too? She didn’t know. She couldn’t feel them.
She tried to open her eyes to see if there was any light in the tomb. Her left eye opened. It was pitch black. Her right was stuck shut; a tear had mixed with the dust to form a layer of mud that glued her eyelashes together.
All right. Don’t panic. Can I move my right arm?
She tried. It worked.
Okay, I can’t free the left arm. Is it broken? Do the fingers work?
The fingers moved.
What am I doing here?
Slowly it came back to her. Set, the evil Egyptian god she had inadvertently set free, the battle, and finally his capture. And then, in her moment of triumph, the collapse of the temple.
How about the rest of me? Can I roll over, sit up, move one way or another?
She tensed, ready to try, and the pain in her skull became so great that she passed out again.
She dreamed that she was stuck to a gigantic spider web. The more she tried to pull free, the more she was held motionless.
“Is someone there?”
Oh my God, she thought, still in her dream, the spider is talking to me!
She squirmed, trying to free herself, but she couldn’t move her left arm or her legs.
“If you’re there, call out!”
Call out and let the spider know where I am? How foolish does it think I am?
“Hang on! I’m almost there!”
It’s almost here! I’ve got to get loose!
She twisted desperately, but the web held her tight.
She heard noises, rocks scraping against rocks, and the air was filled with clouds of dust again. Then a beam of light fell upon her.
Her skull began throbbing once more. The fingers of her right hand gathered up a handful of dust.
This isn’t an ant or a fly you’re coming after, spider. This is Lara Croft, and I don’t plan to die without a fight!
She forced her left eye open, and saw a hand reaching for her. It was puzzling. She could have sworn spiders didn’t have hands.
It had to be a trick, a way to get her to trust it. She waited until the spider’s hand was inches away, then threw the dust where she knew its eyes would be.
“Damn it!” snapped the spider in perfect English. “What did you do that for?”
She tried to rasp out the words, “Get away from me or I’ll kill you!” but her mouth was still filled with dust, and she could only cough weakly.
Two hands began moving the rubble off her.
That’s very strange behavior for a spider.
Suddenly the spider’s face was very near her own. It looked exactly like a human being, a rather handsome one at that.
“You’re safe now,” it said as it began lifting her up.
She was trying to remember whether spiders could lie when she passed out again.
PART I EGYPT
This time she was able to open both eyes, and was almost blinded by the brilliant whiteness of her surroundings. She wondered if her left arm was working yet. She was able to move it slightly, but it felt strange. She looked at it and saw a pair of tubes going into it. That meant something, but she couldn’t quite think of what.
Her head still hurt, and her eyes had trouble staying focused. She tried to wiggle her toes. It felt like they were moving. She looked to make sure, and found that she couldn’t see them.
“My feet!” she rasped. “Where are my feet?”
She heard a deep masculine chuckle, and then a hand pulled away what she only then recognized as a bedsheet, revealing her bare feet.
“They were hiding from you,” said an amused voice with a cultivated British accent.
She stared at the owner of the voice. It was the same face she’d seen in the tomb. He was a tall man, a bit on the lean side, tanned from long exposure to the sun. His hair had probably been sandy at one point, but it had been bleached almost white by the sun. She’d been right, back in the tomb: he was handsome, though at the moment he needed a shave and a change of clothes.
“Welcome back to the world. I thought we were going to lose you for a while there. It was quite a trip; I drove you all the way here from Edfu.”
“Where is here?”
“You’re in the Cairo Hospital.”
She stared at him without speaking.
“Where are my manners?” he said. “Allow me to introduce myself. I am Kevin Mason.” He paused. “And you are . . . ?”
“Lara Croft,” repeated Mason. “I’ve heard of you.”
She continued staring at him, trying to get her brain to function. “Kevin Mason,” she repeated.
She frowned. “You can’t be Kevin Mason, the archaeologist. I know him.”
“I’m his son—Kevin Mason Junior.” He smiled. “Just Kevin to my friends.”
“I’ve read all your father’s books,” said Lara. “He’s one of my heroes.”
“He’s one of mine, too,” said Mason. “That’s why I followed in his footsteps. I’m an archaeologist, too.”
She tried to clear the cobwebs from her mind. “You saved my life.”
“Just a stroke of luck. I heard—well, felt is probably the proper word—I felt the tomb collapse. And I had to assume that if it hadn’t collapsed in over two thousand years, there had to be a reason, so I had my men help me open it up.” He stared at her. “You were in a bad way. I don’t think you could have survived another hour trapped in there. I carried you to my car and drove to the Edfu infirmary, but they were having one of their periodic power outages, so I brought you here, to Cairo. You’ve been in the hospital for almost five hours now.”
“And when can I get out of here?” asked Lara.
Mason shrugged. “You’ve been banged up pretty thoroughly, and you’ve suffered a severe concussion, but they don’t think anything’s broken. Probably a day or two of bed rest and you’ll be as good as new—though they need to make sure you haven’t done any lasting damage to your lungs by breathing in all that dust.” He smiled.
“Can you find me a mirror?”
“Trust me,” said Mason. “You don’t want to look at yourself. Not right now.”
“Please,” she insisted.