Med Sea Expedition
My father died in a tragic accident while searching for Avalon, the mythical resting place of King Arthur. I never shared his belief that it had played any role in my mother's disappearance, but recent events make me suspect otherwise. Professor Eddington knew the coordinates Father intended to investigate next, but did not know how he had determined them or if he had confirmed the existence of a ruin in that location. That's up to me.
Niflheim - World of Mist. One of the nine worlds of Norse mythology, linked by Yggdrasil, the World Tree. While it seems clear that Niflheim is an underworld metaphor, original sources are contradictory as to whether it is distinct to Helheim, where those who did not die gloriously in battle go after death.
Kraken are monstrously large creatures in mythology. Thought to be based on sightings of giant quid, not to be confused with the sea serpents in Nordic tradition, though both were blamed for the disappearance of ships of all sizes. This beast clearly is a recent addition to this ruin and subsequently grew too large to leave again.
Thor is the god of thunder in Norse mythology and is most known for his mighty weapon, Mjolnir, variously described as a battle axe, a mace, or a war hammer, though most commonly as the latter. Among other powers, it could supposedly channel lightning against Thor's foes. Just as the legend of Excalibur was a myth built up around an ancient artifact of great power, the myth of Thor's hammer might be a distorted description of a real ancient weapon.
It was said that Thor could only wield Mjolnir by wearing a special pair of iron gauntlets. The gauntlet I discovered in Niflheim could very well be the source of this myth. Most of the gauntlet itself crumbled to the touch, but the carved knot of stone and metal in its center was undamaged by age. It extended metal tendrils and conformed to the dimensions of my hand perfectly. Clearly this is the ancient source of power of the artifact and the rest of the gauntlet was added separately later.
Amanda has never forgiven me for believing she was dead and leaving her buried in the Peruvian tomb of the last Queen of Tiwanaku. When I found out she had survived and later escaped, I wondered if I too could forgive myself. But our clash over the search of King Arthur's sword Excalibur dulled my guilt, and knowing now that Amanda played a role in what happened to my mother has squahed the feeling entirely. The only reason I let her live was to someday learn more of what she knows, but if her aim is to kill me outright, I might have to change that strategy.
Natla was the Immortal Queen of Atlantis, and more recently CEO of Natla Technologies. Somehow she lost her connection with the powerful artifacts of her reign millenia ago, and recently began devoting her knowledge and intellect toward recovering it all from ancient sites around the world. Her aim is to initiate what she calls The Seventh Age, of which I know nothing other than that it would be a very bad turn for humanity. I buried her on a remote island, but apparently Amanda has dug her out and is keeping her prisoner as her own personal Encyclopaedia Atlantica. I hope Amanda understands that she's sitting on a time bomb, and that everything Natla tells her is filtered by her own agenda.
I don't know the extent to which my father worked with Natla, or how much truth there is in what she said, but she acts only out of self-interest, so any help or information she provides is because she wants the same thing I want. I can therefore assume that whether my father explored this site or not, there's something here that will get me closer to Avalon.
Bhogavati is the capital of Patala, the seventh netherworld in Hindu tradition. It is populated by naga, which in the most notorious descriptions are large snake-people. The architectural style of this ruin has never been found this far to the southwest before and is older than any other site I'm familiar with, which changes our notions of how these Hindu traditions moved throughout Asia.
Naga are the snake people of Patala who, among other things, were keepers of amrita, an elixir that bestowed eternal life. The primeval reptiles around this ruin possibly inspired the myth of the naga, or just as likely contributed to existing Hindu tradition due to their unusual appearance.
Layers of History
The Hindu ruins are ancient, but the Niflheim is far older still - old enough to have been above sea level at the tail end of the last ice age. These ruins here are stylistically identical and of comparable age. The Hindu built on top of the far older ruins below, creating this stark contrast of architectural style and weathering.
Of all the gods in human mythology, Thor was among the strongest. The stories of his strenght stem from thruth, however, as the power of his gauntlet now reveals. The power in the gauntlet stone somehow activates specially prepared objects and renders them virtually weightless. Doubtless this would have appeared as extraordinary strenght to anyone unaware of the ancient artifact being employed.
Odin is the god of wisdom in Norse mythology, and father to Thor. In one account, he gained his wisdom by sacrificing his eye to the wellspring beneath the Yggdrasil, the World Tree. There he foresaw Ragnarök, the final battle that would destroy the world and the gods themselves, and also that even with his knowledge he would be unable to stop it.
Odin's Map Room
On the wall is written "My son, your treasures here and far are protected by the dead - this gauntlet's twin, Megingjord, and the mighty Mjolnir - to keep Jörmungandr subdued." Whether the historical Odin was the literal father of Thor is not certain, but the two figures were related in some manner. Thor's hammer, belt, and gauntlets were apparently hidden throughout the world to restrain the Midgard Serpent, Jörmungandr. What this means exactly, amd the nature of the Midgard Serpent, are unknown. Perhaps the reference on how the arifacts are "protected by the dead" is a clue.
Croft Family Crypt
In Bhogavati, father inscribed a message that read "Natla - I see your goal and am your puppet no longer." Whatever partnership they had dissolved because of what he found there, and it must have been of major significance because I have never known Father to desecrate a site like that. But he left me a clue that I believe tells me where he concealed the artifacts and information he recovered from Thailand.
Father believed that the myth of the Midgard Serpent reveals that Avalon hold's the answer to my mother's fate, but also a terrible weapon that Natla must never find. It is a testament to his determination that he kept such dangerous secrets intact here in the hope that I alone would find them in the event of his death. As much as I want to discover what happened to my mother in Nepal all those years ago, I may have to reconsider whether it's worth the risk of also unleashing this destructive force.
The term "thrall" referred to a kind of slave to the Norse. The god Thor traveled in the company of two thralls, Pjálfi's and Röskva, and also with him were two goats, Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjóstr, which pulled his chariot. Thses goats were special, in that Thor could cook and eat them each night, and restore them the next morning with a single touch as long as he had not damaged their skeletos. Father apparently was thinking of this when he named these animated tiger skeletons. By what means they are kept animate I don't know, but I think I have seen something of what Odin meant by the artifacts of Thor being protected by the dead.
Years ago when Amanda and I were excavating the tomb of the last Queen of Tiwanaku, at a dig site outside of Paraiso, Peru, we were attacked by and unknown force that manifested as a smoky energy being. Amanda found the stone that was its source and learned to use it. When she turned it against me in Bolivia, I defeated them and took the stone. It seems that Amanda's sole purpose for this attack on my home was to recover this Wraith Stone.
My previous encounter with Natla ended on a lost island containing a myriad of ancient devices, one of which was capable of creating an automaton of sorts that duplicated both my body and abilities, though it was skinless - having no need for any - and merely parroted my actions, a tactic which I used against it to destroy it. It seems that Amanda, with Natla's help, has created another doppelganger of me, this time with skin and a mind of its own. If it truly can do everything I can do and more, it will be more than my match should it ever be sent to kill me.
The location of Thor's belt in Central America was easiest to pinpoint precisely on Odin's map, and I need it before I can use Thor's hammer anyway, so it's convenient to recover it first while Zip works on refining the precise location of Thor's hammer. Zip doesn't understand how I can continue the search after Alister's murder, but I'm convinced this path also leads straight to those responsible. And if Thor's hammer can indeed kill even the gods, then perhaps I will have the power to end Natla's immortal reign permanently.
This area is the most rural and lawless region of Mexico, remote enough that some of its farmers do not even speak Spanish, but Mayan. Far enough away that heavily armed men have moved in to poach the protected black panthers, or more precisely, melanistic jaguars. The poachers have dug pit traps and must drive panthers here from throughout the surrounding area, unaware that the scattered ancient ruins here are only a hint of what lies beneath.
Mayan Ball Court
The rules to the game played on these ancient ball courts are lost to history, but it's believed that it was played frequently and sometimes for high stakes, as the losing team was sacrificed to the gods. It is of particular interest to me, as it was believed that the Mayan underworld of Xibalba was underneath a ball court.
The Maya had many calendars for various purposes. The solar calendar consisted of eighteen months of twenty days each, which left five extra days to fill out the 365-day tropical year. Names of these months varied greatly over time and distance, but the five extra days were known as the unnamed days. These days were feared because it was believed that the gates of the underworld would open during this time.
Xibalba - Place of Fear. It's unclear whether Xibalba was thought to be a supernatural afterlife or a city of people who worshipped death. Commonly believed to have been in Guatemala, it appears Xibalba is farther to the northwest than previously thought. If the pattern of Thor's artifacts giving rise to local underworld myths hold, then I might find things akin to the thrall tigers my father brought back from Bhogavati, Thailand.
Lords of Xibalba
The Lords of Xibalba reportedly enjoyed using manikins to humiliate visitors before sending them into deadly trap rooms. These themed tests supposedly were to test the worth of the visitor, but were really intended to kill them outright as entertainment.
Just like I saw in Thailand, this is another example of an old culture building over a more ancient one. This architecture the Maya built upon is the same style and age as what I found in Niflheim and also beneath Bhogavati, Thailand. Perhaps the Hindu put Shiva and Kali over the ruins there to seal them up, possibly to protect themselves from the lower ruins as they were infested with tiger thralls like Father brought home.
Norse myth holds that the world will end in the epic battle of Ragnarök, which will result in the death of the gods and monsters and the destruction of civilization. Figuring prominently in this eschatological myth is Jörmungandr, the Midgard Serpent, which is so large that it encircles the entire world on the bottom of the ocean. During Ragnarök, the Midgard Serpent rises up, causing floods and spewing its poison into the air. Thor will use the Mjolnir to kill Jörmungandr but will also die from the serpent's venom.
What happened to the tigers in Thailand happened here as well, to jaguars and ancient Mayan warriors. Anything falling into that toxic, glowing liquid dies, but continues to remain animate, with only one purpose: to kill trespassers and throw them into the pool, where they will join the guardian ranks. Later civilizations probably sealed them up not only to protect themselves from the thralls below, but to stop the curious from going down and adding to the ranks of the animated dead protecting the artifacts.
In Norse myth, eitr was an elixir that bestowed eternal life to the gods, but paradoxally it was a poison that came from serpents, like the Midgard Serpent. This is similar to the Hindu concept of amrita, or ambrosia to the Greeks. Only the Norse came closest to the literal truth; that the substance was indeed a poison, and in fact only gave the appearance of eternal life in the animation of corpses. At some point there must have been a similar pool of this substance in Bhogavati, Thailand to create the tiger thralls, and it either decayed in the past or my father dispersed it somehow.
The myth held that only with the additional strenght bestowed upon Thor by the enchanted belt, Megingjord, could he wield the weapon Mjolnir. Now I see that the belt - also ornately augmented by later users - is the source of power for the gauntlets. They channel the belt's power to those large special objects too large to move unless so equipped. Each of the two gauntlets I found must have contained a small amount of residual power in them that quickly drained without the belt to replenish them. I believe I have a good idea of how Thor's hammer might work when I find it.
Jan Mayen Expedition
Having found Thor's belt and gauntlets in part of the world less far from civilization, I feel confident that I will find Thor's hammer here undisturbed. Perhaps this site being so remote will also mean no undead guardians lurking within to complicate my search.
What isn't clear is whether these poor souls were Vikings who stumbled upon this place, fell victim to its eitr, and became these thralls, or whether these undead guardians are far more ancient warriors whose appearance later influenced the Nordic cultures that came after. Either way, they are capable of fighting fiercely and ceaselessly, and were perhaps the origin of the stories of berserker warriors.
Valhalla - Hall of the Slain. The Valkyries escorted the souls of warriors who died gloriously to this great hall of Odin. Each day they would slaughter each other in battle scrimmages to prepare for the final battle of Ragnarök, only to be restored and repeat the exercise again the next day. This site represents the clearest connection between the myth as we understand it and the reality of these animated corpses put here the protect the artifact the Norse came to call Mjolnir.
Valgrind - the Sacred Gate. Protecting Valhalla is a great gate of size and cunning such that few knew how it could be opened. Now I see that it's through both the application of understanding and the strenght of Thor bestowed by his artifacts.
Valkyries - meaning Choosers of the Slain - were the minor deities who chose which fallen warriors were worthy enough to be escorted to Valhalla. Often depicted as women with winged helms or as riding horses, a more literal truth comes from the fact that the Old Norse word for wolf translates as Valkyrie Horse. It is believed that valkyries and their mounts are metaphors for the ravens and wolves to descend upon the dead after a battle and choose among them.
While it's difficult to identify the corpse of a Yeti after it has lost its hair, that is clearly what these creatures once were. Whether they were capable of equipping themselves with armor in the distant past or were used as beats of burden or a warrior class, they would have been formidable creatures that could be the giants that populated all Norse mythology.
Mjolnir was the supremely powerful weapon used by Thor, mainly to fight giants, and then ultimately destroy the Midgard Serpent in the battle of Ragnarök. Only functional when one is equipped with the belt and gauntlets, these artifacts are far more ancient than the mythology that immortalized them and the men who subsequently hid them throughout the world. Norse myth focused solely on Mjolnir's destinied role in killing Jörmungandr, but it conveniently overlooked the fact that Mjolnir is also the only means by which the Midgard Serpent can be released in the first place.
Andaman Sea Expedition
Inscribed in stone around the doorway leading to Thor's hammer, Odin wrote: "Thor, greatest of my sons, and the greatest weapon on Earth, are at last reunited. Upon my return, through rituals old and the power of Mjolnir, together we will open the seals of Helheim and fulfill our destinies." I don't like the sound of old rituals, or if fulfilling destinies given how the ultimate destiny of the Norse is destruction at the battle of Ragnarök, but at least I have the power of Mjolnir and the means to extract the information I want from Natla.
Arctic Sea Expedition
The coordinates Natla gave me were in the Arctic Sea northeast of Greenland. I don't know how she intends to get to Helheim, but my plan is to blow a hole in the sea ice and dive straight down. If I don't finally get the answers I've been looking for, there will be hell to pay.
Helheim - World of Hel. Here the goddess Hel, depicted as a woman on one side and a corpse on the other, presided over all souls that did not got to Valhalla after death. Judging by the ruined road and drawbridge, this site must be even more ancient than Niflheim to have been above sea level at some point. The top is heavily encased in permanent sea ice, so there may have been another, dryer way to get inside from somewhere above had Natla given me more precise coordinates, but I think I'd rather go in through the front door.
Yggdrasil - The World Tree and binding element of all nine worlds of the Norse universe. Supposedly Helheim was situated under the roots of Yggdrasil. There is another myth that a great serpent, Níðhöggr, gnaws at the roots of Yggdrasil. Possibly this is another manifestation of the Midgard Serpent, which supports the theory that this site houses something monstrously world-threatening.
The Norns were female deities who governed the faith of men, and in various cultures, including Greek, were often represented as three women - young, middle-aged and old - who represented the past, present and future. Somewhat indistinguishable from valkyries, they also resided beneath the roots of Yggdrasil and wove the tapestry of existence leading all the way to the end of the world.
Jörmungandr is actually a metaphor describing the mid-oceanic ridges where all the continental plates of the world meet, thus "circling the earth on the sea floor." The northernmost of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge is the oldest and weakest geologic point on Earth, and the Ancients built a powerful poised to attack the planet's Achilles' heel, to trigger worldwide volcanic eruptions, which would "rise up and fill the air with poison." Ragnarök concludes with the world consumed with fire, caused by giants in the myth but by volcanic eruptions in reality. Why such device would be built might be forever beyond our ability to know.
In the end my father was right, and so was I. The thought of Mother suddenly appearing in that cold ruin at the top of the world is tragic beyond words. Whether she then fell into the eitr or was cast in by the thralls, I hope it came quickly. I wish that both Mother and Father had better fates than those I discovered, but at least I learned the thruth and can finally close this book and move on to another.
- ↑ Tomb Raider Underworld booklet, PC version, page 18