Charlie opened the door to Bella's bedroom, sticking his head in to just check on her before heading to bed himself. The room is lit up by the full moon shining in through the open curtains. As he glanced over her room, he admired the photographs on the walls, the wild animal's taken at what looks to be a close up - whoever took them must have been a skilled photographer to manage to blend into the forest so as not to disturb the animals.
He smiles softly as he looks at Bella, deeply asleep curled up under her quilt, the moon shining on her face. He shakes his head as he thinks how much she has grown up in the past few years. How proud he is of her working as part of the State police physical training department, knowing that is able to protect herself in any situation that she could come across.
He notices that her dressing gown has fallen off the place where it hangs, so he picks it up and puts it back on its hook, the dark mass creating a shadow in the corner. He sheepishly grins to himself and leaves the room, gently closing the door behind him. Little does he know that there was good reason why the dressing gown was left on the floor each night as shortly after the door closed and his footsteps faded from the hall, the dressing gown falls to the floor with a clatter as her makeup bag tumbled onto the floor.
Bella startled at the noise, not coming fully awake but just raising enough out of deep sleep to become aware of something not being quite right. Her subconscious waved away the concern and she started dropping back into REM sleep, and quickly enough she falls into dreaming.
At first, the dream seemed like any other dream that she had encountered recently, it started with feeling a sense of the place she was in.
Warm, stifling air, musty, tangy odd smell, perhaps slightly metallic. As I open my eyes, I realise I have hanging by my arms cuffed to the wall.
I start to panic, what's going on? Where am I? How did I get here?
I can feel something strange going on in my chest, a rippling rumbling feel, and my mouth is very moist as if I am producing too much saliva. I swallow again and again, but my mouth is constantly refilling…
I don't understand.
A deep breath is taken, a scent fills my nose, sweet and perfect, a snarl burst out from me, that rippling rumbling feel - I was growling! I swallow and swallow, that smell is just so, so delicious. I look around the dark room, but somehow I can see every inch. Nothing obvious, and then I look down at my feet - a human, neck cut open and a pool of blood around the body. Looks totally bled out by the sheer amount around the corpse. I can't stop the snarling and hunger racing through me. I need blood, I am starving for blood.
Oh my god! It all suddenly becomes clear to me, this is what Peter warned me about, the nightmares…
My head turns rapidly toward the door reacting to something or someone I can't hear, and then, all of a sudden I hear feet marching towards the door and then a harsh voice ordering, "You show him respect, or else." An image of one of the mid level commanders flashes to my mind, one of Peter's group. A good soldier. Loyal.
The knowledge startles me, this is more than I have received before in these weird connections to whom I think is the Major.
The door swings open, the commander approaches, "I'm sorry Major, She is looking to cause hell to you." He looks to his left, "Okay, one arm each, respectfully!" he growls as his men. They approach with caution, unlocking each cuff and taking hold of my arms. I try to take a step away from the wall, but my legs give way. The commander crouches next to me, "Don't try Sir, you have been starved for far too long." He lowers his voice to a whisper, "She intends to break you - get yourself ready." I just manage to growl out a "Thank you," before he rises and jerks his head towards to corridor. I start pulling myself in, focusing internally, shutting off outside, in the vain hope that it will be enough.
I feel the horror as the body collapses under its own weight, and then find myself aware of how he is fighting to protect himself by shutting himself down emotionally.
I am dragged into Maria's hall, her sycophants surround the guards holding me. I am forced down to my knees and a hand grabs the top of my hair and pulls my head up to see Maria staring down at me. "I ordered that women killed, and you decided to free her and another soldier instead." Hisses broke out all round me, "You let Peter escape with his women, how dare you!" She steps forward and rips my shirt from me, throwing it away behind her. "You will pay for letting him go! You will pay for disobeying me!" She takes hold of my hair and tugs it to the side, exposing her Sire's mark. "You think you are better than me, let's see how you cope with this." With that she leans in and bites deeply into her Sire's mark, pushing venom in and flooding the wound until it overflows. The burning is excruciating, but the sadistic pleasure I sense she is feeling from the intimate contact is worse.
Oh my god, Peter warned me, how did the Major cope with all this? How did he cope with the emotional feedback as well as the pain? It's worse than being turned!
Maria steps back, her emotions turning darker, more malicious, and I know now that this is it, this is going to be hell. She extends her arms and smiles at the men lazing around the room, "You will leave his face, shoulders and neck alone - Bite him, let him feel my wrath!"
The Guards remove the restraining poles, releasing my arms and step out of the way. I just about straighten up when the swarm of men fall on me. I fight to hold my arms to my chest, to keep the area of attack at a minimum. The pain across my back where I can feel bite after bite digging into me. Suddenly someone wretches my right arm away from my body and pain blooms all across the upper arm. I drag my other hand to my mouth, biting down on the webbing between my thumb and forefinger, giving myself something to focus on rather than the random bites and scratches, with bursts of emotion stabbing, the pain I am causing myself just about managing to smother the rest.
The pain… so much pain!
I start noticing that they are backing off, I allow myself to feel briefly, fear, concern, worry, dread; and then I hear the noise coming from myself - wild snarls and growls. Something is changing in my eyes, I am seeing more, tiny flecks of blood on the ground attract my attention, then I sniff, once, twice, blood behind me… crazed emotions rush through my consciousness, something is changing within me, something dark is happening to me, something out of my control…
What's going on with him? He's changing? It feels strange, so much more than before…
Venom floods my mouth as I see the door open and a guard holding a bleeding human, I surge forward and just as I get outside and grab the meal, hands push me from behind. I stumble forward, my mouth full of blood I just began to feed on, and fall forwards on top of the body. I swallow and swallow, the need for more rising, yet the body is empty. A starved roar and then the scent of humans catches my attention, hissing and thrashing at bars trying to escape to feed, to quench my desperate thirst.
She's driven him over the edge… Is this what they mean when they say about their beast being feral?
Emotions overwhelms me, lost in the waves, lost to a mindless raging fury, my sense of self gone, just feeling, just reaction, just needs and wants control me now. Anger, such anger… The movement stops, door opens, I explode out attacking, ripping shredding anyone in my way, slaughtering anyone who gets between me and my need for food. I rip heads off quenching my thirst on humans, tossing aside corpses, destroying anyone who gets in the way. So many deaths, how does he cope? Nothing left standing, the haze lifts, piles of bodies surround me. Devastation at what I've done pours from my every pore. As I raise my head I realise my people surround me, all groaning and crying out in my pain. I reach out, pulling it all back into me, black shadows on the hills catch my eyes as I collapse to my knees as wave after wave of emotional pain explodes back into me - the world turns black briefly as I fight to keep conscious.
What on earth was that? It feels like I was hit with a tazer, without the electricity.
As the blackness retreats, I manage to open my eyes just as I become aware of the total calm that has overtaken my emotions. I pull myself to my feet, as knowledge of who I am flows throughout me. 'I am Major Whitlock, Warlord of the Southern Wars… No other name any more, it has been cut, dissected away, like a piece of diseased tissue is cut away. No more friends, only allies or enemies.'
I jerk awake, the violence and gore still vivid in my mind. I throw myself out of bed and run to the bathroom, just making it to the toilet before throwing up violently. Image after image flash through my mind, each one worse that the previous. I keep retching, emptying my stomach. How on earth did he survive that! How is he even sane? That cell… I briefly close my eyes, and the corpse laying at my feet is there, it is just a youngster. A child put there to torture the Major even more - I know he doesn't hunt from children, I just know it.
I push myself to my feet and flush the chain, the sickly sweet stench of vomit still bothering me. I grab a towel from my room, and dive into shower, scrubbing my hair and body with my herbal body wash to remove the scent of sickness from me. After I finish, I climb out and wrap the towel around my body, then grab the mouthwash, my hands still shaking, and swish it around my mouth and teeth, freshening them up. As I step back into my bedroom I glance at the time, 2am, just brilliant. I know I'm not sleeping any more tonight.
I grab my mobile and text Peter, 'Hey Peter, Can you come over - nightmare… Back door in 10 mins?'
Just as I am dressing, I hear a reply arrive and read it as I am finished getting my jogging pants on, 'No problems, will see you then, Peter.'
I grab my quilt and take it downstairs with me, so Dad will think I just slept down there when he gets up. I close the door to the hallway, so Peter's and my voice don't disturb Dad's sleep, and unlock the back door. I put the kettle on and make a chamomile tea, just hoping that it has some effect.
Just as I am setting the mug on the coffee table, I hear Peter's voice softly call out, "Knock knock!" I turn and after checking it is him, beckon him into the house. He had just come in and closed the door when the horror of the nightmare finally hits me.
"Oh Peter," I manage to whimper as I burst into tears and throw myself into his startled arms.
He instinctively wrapped his arms around me, his chest instantly rumbling away, "Oh Little One, what on earth happened?" All I could do was shake, the horror of what I had witnessed, what the Major had gone through even before she broke him.
"The Major… How could she do that!" Peter tightened his arms around me at those words.
Peter closed his eyes in grief, "I know Bella, I know. He knew what she would be like, what she would do." He starts stroking down my back slowly, trying to calm my stuttering breaths down. "He coped with it in the end, it just took time."
Suddenly words started to spill from my mouth, I couldn't stop them, they just kept pouring and pouring until the dreadful images stopped flashing in front of my eyes, "She set all her men on him, they bit him and bit him until he broke. He lost all sense of self, he just became feral, a starving feral beast and then they locked him in a cage and only let him out to fight a huge battle."
She took a final shuddering breath, "He fought until there were no more to fight, then the haze lifted and he saw what he had down and that broke the final straw, something happened, everyone started to cry out in pain, he fell to his knees, then they stopped. But when he stood up, something changed in him, I could hear him thinking it, he was only Major Whitlock, no other name. No friends, only Allies or Enemies." I look up into Peter's eyes, "It was like he cut out anything that could hurt him, just leaving the soldier and that was it."
Peter looks back at me, obviously deeply affected by what I just told him. He guides me over to the settee and settles us both down, wrapping my quilt over my curled up legs, and passed me my tea.
He takes a breath, "You have pretty much hit the nail on the head, he did cut out everything else, he became the most feared warlord the South has ever seen after that happened. He was coldly focused, brutal when needed, but no one dared stand against him. His own soldiers were intensely loyal, even Maria became wary of how she was around him. She may have broken him that night in her hall, but he built himself back up and followed his own rules to live by, no longer living by her rule. She was lucky he didn't turn on her - he could have at any point, but he didn't."
"I don't know why, but my mind keeps flashing back to the beginning of it all. Him cuffed to the wall, a corpse at his feet… It was a child." I shake my head as if trying to shake the horror of the situation out. "When the guards took the cuffs off him, he took a step forward, but his legs gave way. The commander, I got the impression he was one of yours from the Major's memories, helped him up, told him not to try, he had been starved far too long. He warned him too, that Maria was going to try breaking him."
Peter blanched, he brought a fist up and covered him mouth, his eyes deeply troubled. I ask, "What is it Peter? What has you just realised?"
He shakes his head, dropping his face down to cover his eyes with his hand." That stupid man, I just put together how long he must of been in that cell for. For a vampire to lose the strength to hold oneself up it takes months of starvation. Human drinkers only need feed fortnightly or so, but can last six weeks before becoming extremely dangerous. To get to that weak a stage, twelve weeks maybe sixteen, probably more considering who it is." He huffs to himself, "She probably did it because she wouldn't be able to punish him otherwise - she had already lost the only leverage over him when we left the camp, so she had to weaken him sufficiently before attempting to break him, otherwise he would have just turned on her then."
"She totally broke his mind by pulling his feral side out, then targeting the enemy, didn't she?" I look at Peter, studying his face and body language as he answered.
"Yes, you could say that - he locked the rest of his personality away, became the only part of himself that was strong enough to deal with the war, with only the feral side which he pulled out when he needed it, no longer allowing his beast to rise to the surface without permission either." Peter explained, looking more and more pained the longer he spoke. "As we said previously, he is trying to heal, trying to bring himself back together, but the War took more that anyone know." Peter smiles a wiry grin, "Well, apart from you perhaps."
"Is he aware that I am dreaming of him?" I ask sleepily.
"Not yet he isn't. I hope to be visiting him soon, I will tell him face to face." Peter puts his arm around my shoulder and tugs lightly, "Come on, lean on me and see if you can sleep a bit more. I will be here to keep your dreams peaceful."
I lean into his chest, his scent a weird twist of his own and an underscore of Jays… I find myself starting to drift off, the soft rumble of his chest bringing a peace to me that I haven't felt since Jay left.