I'm hoping to, after I finish this and polish it, post this in chapters over the course of a few weeks. You can also find it on my DeviantArt here, and on my theoretical personal site, whenever I get around to making that.
Hope you enjoy! Title is a WIP, by the way. It's mostly just a placeholder while I think of a better one. Also, fair warning, contains language ("s-word," 3 times). Actually two languages, if Latin counts. Anyway, without further ado:
A cacophony of noise that filled the entire British airport: small suitcase wheels rolling against the tile floor, myriad conversations of passengers waiting for their flight, and various flight and luggage announcements called out over speakers. It would’ve been frustrating to someone who couldn’t easily lose themselves in thought or someone who tensely awaited their flight.
One such person was the tall American with dark, short-cropped hair who was seated at one of the many tables, his feet propped up on a nearby empty chair. Wearing a casual attire of blue jeans and a white shirt with the sleeves pushed up to his elbows, the man sat with one hand holding a book and the other resting on the table, fingers drumming impatiently. His expression told he wasn’t terribly interested in whatever he was reading, and with growing impatience he glanced at the watch on the thick leather cuff about his left wrist.
Nathan Drake raised his light green eyes as another man neared his unoccupied little black metal table. The man was intimidating, to say the least: he was taller than Drake by a few inches, mostly bald, and his rough face was marked by scars on his cleft chin and slashed across one of his dark eyebrows. His shirt and black leather jacket did little to show his muscular physique, which slightly less picturesque than that of his friend. Still, Drake knew this guy was more than a challenge at an arm wrestle.
“Well, look who’s loungin’ around in the airport,” remarked Charlie Cutter as he approached. “Good to see ya, Nate.”
“Hey, Charlie,” said Drake, removing his hand from the table and looking curiously up at the Scotsman, whose slate blue eyes seemed to regard him with a look of accomplishment. It worried him. A look like that couldn’t possibly be good.
Cutter promptly pulled up a chair to take a seat opposite Drake at his table. “What’re ya readin’?”
“Nothing important,” he replied casually, setting it in his lap. “How’s it going?”
“Fine.” He paused, leaning back in his chair. “I had to ask Sully where you were, but he didn’t say what you were doin’ in grand ol’ England.”
Drake shrugged. “Nothing worthwhile.”
Cutter arched a brow. “Oh?”
“Yeah. I just finished being jerked around by some wannabe antiquities dealer. He hired me to get him this artifact from some black market guy who wanted too much money for it.”
“So you were the cheaper one o’ the lot,” remarked Cutter with a grin.
“Yeah, funny, huh? The whole thing sounded phony to me, and turns out it was. That ‘artifact’ was probably about as old as this table.” He gestured at it for emphasis.
“Uh-huh. Well then, why don’t you stop wastin’ your time?”
Nathan paused, his smile fading slightly. “Uh oh. You’ve been looking for me.”
“Yeah. Look, it’s nothin’ dangerous…”
Drake gave a dry laugh. “My ass, it’s not dangerous.”
“Well what’re you gonna do, go home an’ settle down? Just hear me out.”
“I’ll miss my flight,” Drake retorted, still amused.
“Aw, bullshit,” Cutter replied dismissively. “‘Sides,” he added, giving a wry smile as he raised a small, brown paper bag that Drake hadn’t even noticed, “I’ll give you this nice, warm donut. It’s fresh – I just bought it. All you gotta do is listen.”
Drake frowned, crossing his arms. “Seriously? You’re tempting me into danger with a donut?”
“Well, there’s also gold an’ all that lost history – not to mention a big sum o’ cash – but it’s chocolate with sprinkles, mate!” Cutter said, dropping the bag onto the table.
For a moment longer, Drake kept frowning, until at length he sighed and snatched the bag off the table. “Fine, I’m listening.”
Cutter grinned. “I knew you wanted to. So, there’s this private collector…”
“Oh boy,” Drake murmured.
The Scotsman waved dismissively. “He’s filthy rich, alright? His name’s Croft.”
Cutter arched a brow. “What now?”
“Nothing, nothing. Go on.”
“He’d explain it better than me. I have a meetin’ with him in a few hours if you’re interested. He’s looking for some kinda… moonstone.”
“Well, that shouldn’t be too hard. I think I saw one in a store window a few minutes ago. Does he want it in a ring or a necklace?”
“Come off it, Nate,” said Cutter, though he laughed. “Whoever this bloke is, he knows what he’s doing. Now, come on,” he stood and gestured for Drake to follow, “you should talk to him yourself. See just how easy this is.”
Drake sighed, grudgingly arising and falling in behind his friend. “Hope I don’t regret this.”
Cutter smiled back at him. “Since when have you ever regretted workin’ with me?”
For a moment, Drake was about to retort, but he restrained himself. He knew he and Cutter could probably go back and forth for the rest of the trip, however long it was. And, after all, he still had a donut to eat.
Drake figured this meeting would take place in one of two locations: some backwater tavern somewhere, full of shady thugs and an even shadier contact, or in a ridiculously luxurious mansion of someone with way too much time and money on his hands. As they drove across the English countryside and out to a remarkably secluded – relatively speaking, at least – manor, Drake knew it was going to be the latter.
Security guys ushered them through an iron bar gate, like the ones that lead into the houses of the richest character in a movie, and another flunky took Cutter’s car to a garage. While Cutter handed him the keys, Drake stretched and glanced around at the landscape.
The sky was overcast and grey, threatening to pour down a fresh spring rain, which Drake felt in the air as oppressively sticky humidity. Surrounding the stone manor were numerous trimmed bushes, and a stone path led up a small set of stairs to the great, wooden doors. Everything looked almost medieval, and Drake took a moment to admire the stonework.
Cutter tapped him on the shoulder and nodded for him to follow, pulling Drake from his thoughts. He led the way into the manor, which was just as ostentatious as Drake had expected. Soft carpets, chandeliers, large and warmly lit rooms full of furniture with velvety cushions all dyed deep red. The color scheme was largely burgundy, gold, and beige, providing a regal yet comfortable atmosphere.
They soon entered into a large, rounded study. The walls were covered in immaculately organized bookshelves, and a few precious objects in glass cases stood in the corners of the room. Large windows at the opposite side from the door they entered lit the entire study, spilling the hazy afternoon glow upon a wiry man sitting at a large, mahogany desk. He was surrounded by papers and charts, as well as a few small wooden boxes. Despite being at home, he was still dressed in a waistcoat.
The moment they stopped before the desk, the man rose with a smile and removed his thin, black-rimmed glasses, setting them aside. He self-consciously smoothed his dark hair, which was already combed to perfection and laying flat against his head.
“Cutter,” said the man, sounding just as English as Drake had expected, “it’s good to see you again. Is this the man you spoke of?”
“Yeah,” answered Cutter, shooting Nathan a glance as if telling him to put on his game face.
“Nathan Drake,” he said, stepping forward to shake Croft’s hand. It was soft, though his grip was pretty firm. Still, this guy definitely didn’t go finding antiquities himself.
“It’s a pleasure, Mister Drake. Please, sit,” he motioned both of them into a pair of chairs resting before his desk. The moment they seated themselves, Croft returned to his own little throne. “Has Cutter told you about the job?”
“Not much,” replied Drake, pointedly giving Cutter a brief look that made the Scotsman offer a slight shrug. “What exactly are you looking for?”
Croft smiled and reached to a small, wooden box on his desk, which he then gently pushed it toward Drake. He leaned back in his chair without a word, waiting as Drake took the case and opened it.
Inside rested an entirely clear, twinkling stone that caught the light of the chandelier overhead in all its rough-hewn edges. It lay surrounded by black velvet, and Drake glanced up at Croft, silently asking permission to handle it. Croft merely nodded and gestured welcomingly toward the box.
Carefully, Nathan lifted the stone and held it to the light overhead. As he suspected, it was entirely clear – but to his surprise, it almost seemed to faintly glow the moment he held it up toward the light. It was so bright, in fact, that he quickly lowered it again, his gaze locking onto Croft in curiosity.
“Quite a marvel, isn’t it?” he asked, still smiling.
“Is this a sunstone?” said Nathan in an ever so slightly awed way, looking at the rock and its glimmering, jagged edges. Some were so sharp he had to handle it with extra caution.
“Yes, it is,” replied Croft, seeming pleasantly surprised by his knowledge.
Cutter glanced between them, but he remained silent. Drake was too preoccupied with the sunstone to pay him much attention, but their employer apparently noticed.
“But it isn’t a sunstone in a traditional sense,” Croft clarified. “This is what some people call a medieval sunstone, a device various sailors, prominently including Vikings, supposedly used to locate the sun on an overcast day. They would hold it up to the sky and it would enhance the light, allowing them to find the sun and, thus, their way. This particular specimen came directly from a shipwreck off the coast of Iceland.”
“I see,” said Drake, returning it to the case.
“I have reason to believe this sunstone is but part of a much larger stone that was destroyed sometime in the thirteenth century, and its pieces were distributed across Iceland and, eventually, the known world of the Vikings. Given that this stone is clearly destroyed, that’s not what concerns me.”
Croft leaned forward upon his desk, looking between Drake and Cutter. “There is another stone – a moonstone, if you will, somewhere still in Iceland. I’ve narrowed down its location to a very specific castle on the northern coast…” he reached to his desk again, drawing out a photograph and handing it to Drake.
Drake took it and examined it briefly. It was a picture of an enormous castle, mostly ruined, resting precariously on the jagged coast of Iceland. Cutter edged over to peer at the photo with him, and Drake heard him mutter something under his breath about the scenery.
“I have reason to believe the artifact I’m seeking lies within those ruins. It’s hidden, of course, but I can provide you with writings that should aid you against any obstacles.”
“Sounds like a clean job,” said Nathan, returning the picture to him.
Yet again Croft smiled in his unnerving, crafty way – as if everything was going according to plan, Drake thought. “Excellent. I’ll gather what you need, pay for a flight, and you can set to work right away.”
With that, Croft turned his attention to a pre-arranged, neat pile of papers on his desk, fingering through them again and examining each one carefully. While he did, Cutter leaned closer to Drake.
“Told ya it’s an easy job,” he said.
Drake shrugged. At this point, he couldn’t really disagree. They didn’t even have to break into any buildings – at least, not any that were occupied.
Croft turned abruptly about, offering a handful of stacked papers to them, which Drake took with a nod. “Take these, too,” he said, handing Cutter a pair of tickets.
“You already booked the flight,” Cutter observed, half amused.
“I took the liberty of doing so this morning, after we first talked. And even if your friend didn’t want in on the deal, one ticket is no great loss. Now,” he sat down again, “your flight leaves in the morning. I wish you both the best of luck, and I’ll have your payment ready when you return the stone to me. There are more details about what you’re looking for in those papers.”
The moment they were in the car and driving back to Cutter’s place, Drake was already poring over the papers Croft had given them.
“I don’t trust that guy,” he thought aloud.
Cutter glanced at him. “Why not? He seemed alright to me. He’s certainly payin’ us enough for a little shit job.”
“Yeah, I don’t know, he’s just… suspicious. He’s kind of creepy. I mean, did you see him smiling like some evil mastermind?”
“Is it because he’s British?” Cutter suddenly asked.
Drake was taken aback. “What? Oh, come on, don’t tell me he didn’t strike you as weird…”
“It’s because he’s British,” Cutter repeated, shaking his head.
“Give me a break! I trust plenty of Brits – I put up with you, don’t I?”
Cutter frowned a bit more genuinely. “I’m Scottish.”
“Yeah, but you’re from Great Britain, so you’re British,” Drake muttered under his breath before adding, “Cut me some slack. I mean, there’s you, there’s Chloe…”
“Whatever. Flynn isn’t. Flynn’s a little thick, but…”
Drake drifted off, his attention returning to the papers in his lap. They were largely just pictures of the castle from various different angles, as well as some interior shots, but most of those were very dark or very washed-out, nothing really useful. There were several maps pointing the way to the castle – some old and some modern, directing them from the airport. He also found some kind of ancient woodcut of a bunch of Vikings standing around a huge stone, which seemed to be glowing.
On the bottom of the stack, however, he found something that interested him the most. It was a picture of an ancient text. MAGNUM SAXUM SOLIS IN INTIMA URBE REQUIESCIT…
Drake paused, looking at the upper corner of the page. It read “PYTHEAS – On the Ocean, Roman recreation.”
“Holy shit,” Drake suddenly declared.
“What?” Cutter asked, surprised.
“This can’t be right…”
Cutter’s tone pulled Nathan from his thoughts, and he looked up from the papers. “Uh… this – this thing says it’s from Pytheas’s book, but that book was lost except for a few quotes in Strabo and Pliney…” he was drifting into thought again. Knowing he was about to lose him, Cutter spoke up.
“Pytheas?” he echoed.
“He was a Greek explorer. I’m surprised you don’t know him, he supposedly sailed to Britain – maybe even Scotland,” Drake commented with a wry smirk. “But he also said he found this place called Thule.”
Even while they left the car and approached Cutter’s place, Drake kept talking enthusiastically. Cutter listened, but he was a bit more occupied with getting home.
“Supposedly, Thule is the place the ‘sun went to sleep.’ It’s supposed to have six months of day and six months of night. And this,” he held up the picture, “is from the book he wrote about his voyages. ‘Magnum saxum solis in intima urbe requiescat…’”
“In the heart of the city rests a great sunstone,” Cutter said almost the second he finished.
Drake grinned. “A sunstone. Get it? This guy thinks he’s finding pieces of a relic from Thule. Maybe some kind of… ritual object, like a monument to a god.” Drake fished out the woodcut of the Vikings standing around the glowing stone. “I bet he thinks there’s a stone of the moon to go with his little bits of this ‘great sunstone.’” He paused, laughing. “This guy is completely off the deep end!”
Cutter arched a brow. “Maybe. We’ve seen some things that’d make people think we’re off the deep end, too, ya know.”
Drake’s smile slowly dropped. “Yeah, I guess.”
“Who knows?” Cutter said with a shrug. “But even if Thule’s out there, all we’re lookin’ for is a silly rock. We get that, we bring it back, and we get easy money. We don’t exactly have a map to Thule.” He suddenly stopped, looking at Nathan. “Unless this guy isn’t telling us everything.”
A smirk pulled at the corner of Drake’s mouth again. “Don’t trust him now, huh?”
“No, no, it’s not that…” he said thoughtfully, pausing. “I just don’t think he’s bein’ on the level with us yet. Let’s bring him his shiny stone and see how he plays it from there. What do you say?”
“Sounds good to me. I just hope that castle is as abandoned as it looks in these pictures…”