Kitezh (Ки́теж) is a mythical city of Russian legend, said to have sunk beneath a lake.
Lara sets out to find the city believing it may be home of The Divine Source, a mystical artefact which held the key to Immortality. The City and The Source are the main focus of Rise of the Tomb Raider. It's main part appears in the level The Lost City.
The Deathless Prophet
According to Lara Croft's investigation, Kitezh's origins lie in the Deathless Prophet of Constantinople, a prophet and purported miracle-worker who rose to prominence in the Byzantine Empire in the late 10th century. The Prophet had discovered the Divine Source, an object that granted immortality, and leveraged it to gain a religious following among the people of Constantinople. This was tolerated for a time under reigning Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimiskes, but when he died, his successor Basil II revoked that protection. In 977 AD, fearing persecution from the Roman Catholic Church, the Prophet and his followers fled Constantinople for Syria in the dark of night.
The Order of Trinity was sent by the Roman Catholic Church to pursue the Prophet and his followers, and execute them for their blasphemy. Trinity knights caught up to the Prophet's procession and massacred many, including the Prophet. Trinity returned west and reported that they had succeeded in their mission, while the distraught survivors of the Prophet's followers conveyed the Prophet's corpse to an oasis outside Beroea, or modern-day Aleppo. There, the followers began building a tomb for the Prophet, but it was then that he miraculously returned to life. The Prophet's movement was revitalized, and founded a small city in the oasis that attracted new adherents from across the land.
Trinity learned of rumors that the Prophet still lived, but its leaders assumed that this was a hoax created by the Prophet's followers. A small army was dispatched to exterminate the Prophet's followers at the oasis. They assaulted the city and trapped the Prophet and his followers in the Prophet's tomb, but the Prophet cheated death once again and escaped, leading his surviving followers northeast to safety.
Rise and Fall of Kitezh
Deep within Siberia, the Prophet's followers constructed Kitezh, a new city in a sheltered mountain valley kept warm by geothermal activity. There, they hoped to lead a peaceful existence under the Prophet's guidance, away from the persecution of Trinity and the greed of those who sought after their most prized artifact: the Divine Source. The Prophet's Followers included a number of brilliant architects, engineers, and scientists, who pooled their talents to build Kitezh into a marvel of contemporary technology and self-sufficiency that rivaled anything in the Byzantine Empire.
Unfortunately, Kitezh's peace and prosperity was not to last. A Mongol army ventured into the mountains in search of Kitezh decades later, prodded by Trinity's claims of treasure; Trinity was determined to put an end to the Prophet once and for all, and to seize the Divine Source. The Mongols failed to overwhelm the city's defenses, and the invasion became a siege. The siege only ended when the Prophet's Deathless Army, seeking to ensure the Divine Source was kept out of enemy hands forever, deliberately triggered an avalanche in the surrounding mountains. The Mongols, their Khan and many citizens of the city were killed and most of Kitezh was entombed within the resulting glacier. The Deathless remained within the city to guard the Divine Source for eternity.
The following winters were harsh for the Kitezh survivors who escaped the avalanche. They had arrived in Siberia largely ignorant of how to survive in the wild, and had built a city that had allowed them to live comfortably and carefree; without the conveniences and luxuries they had taken for granted for so long, many of the Prophet's people perished. Those who were left decided that the loss of their city had been a rebuke by God. They became the Remnants, and taught themselves to how live off of the land rather than subjugate it. In the midst of the ruins of Kitezh's outskirts, they constructed a humble village and took up hunting, fishing, and farming. Almost a decade after Kitezh's fall, a wild man stumbled into the Remnants' camp, emaciated and feverish: it was the Prophet, who had yet again escaped death and returned to his people.
Centuries later, in the 1960's, the Soviet Red Army invaded the region and set up a mining operation to extract copper and uranium. The Soviets enslaved many of the Remnants to work in the mine, supplementing the prisoners they had brought along for the task. The main Remnant settlement on the other side of the mountains remained hidden, and from there the rest of the Remnants methodically plotted their counterattack over the next several years. As the uranium deposits began to run out in 1970, the Soviets accidentally bored into one of the subterranean structures of Kitezh and discovered its wealth of artifacts. Spurred into action by the Soviets' plundering of their heritage, the Remnants attacked the Soviet installation in force but failed to dislodge them. The Soviet commander realized that his men would lose a war of attrition, and, unable to request reinforcements due to the Remnants having cut the communication lines, ordered the installation be abandoned. After boarding the last train out of the region, however, the Soviets found that the Remnants had dismantled the tracks, trapping them. None survived the Remnants' wrath and the subsequent winter.
Most recently, Trinity resumed its quest for the Prophet and the Divine Source, which led them to Kitezh. They set up their command center in the old Soviet installation while they narrowed down the Divine Source's location by interrogating and torturing the Remnants. After raiding the Remnants' village, they learned of the Atlas, an artifact that the Prophet's followers had made for him so that he might always know the Divine Source's location. Lara Croft recovered the Atlas in Kitezh's cathedral, a structure that had avoided the avalanche centuries before, but Trinity stole it from her and used it to locate Kitezh proper.
There, they encountered overwhelming resistance by the Deathless Ones, the immortal warriors who had defended the city during the Mongol attack and now guarded the Source. Though Trinity managed to reach the Source, Lara Croft succeeded in destroying it. With the artifact they had been charged with protecting gone, the Remnants began to venture into the outside world for the first time, signalling the final end of Kitezh and the Prophet's following.
Real World Legend
Kitezh is a russian legend, said to have sank beneath Lake Svetloyar in the Nizhny Novgorod region in central Russia in the early 13th century.
Kitezh was allegedly built by Georgy II, Grand Prince of Vladimir, on the shores of Lake Svetloyar and named "Bolshoy Kitezh", or "Big Kitezh". When Batu Khan of the Mongol Golden Horde learned of the city, he drove his army to pillage it, overrunning another of Georgy II's settlements, Maly Kitezh ("Little Kitezh"), along the way and forcing the prince to flee for Bolshoy Kitezh. Upon arriving at the city, Batu Khan found it completely defenseless, its residents praying to God for their salvation. When the Mongols charged, however, Bolshoy Kitezh submerged beneath the lake. The myth of Kitezh appears to originate in "Kitezh Chronicle", an anonymous book written in the late 18th century that some scholars have attributed to a splinter group of the Russian Orthodox Church.
- It is possible that Trinity's initial siege of Kitezh was part of the Crusades.
- The coordinates of Kitezh (37.4828° N, 122.2361° W) on Trinity's computers are leading to Sequoia Union High School District in California, USA.
- The accompanying text of the Kitezh coordinates is a Wikipedia article about Kitezh.