It was incredibly frustrating. I searched for her aura, focusing on her as best I could, but it was hard when there were so many eyes on me. I couldn't think straight with all the pressure.
Relax, Adrian. You can do this. I told myself, hoping that I could force the focus required to dream walk. I took a deep breath, centering myself before tapping into the spirit. Once I felt the magic flowing, I switched my attention to Rose. My mind procured her image, giving me butterflies in my stomach.
I specifically thought of her hair, those silky, shiny, black-brown waves. I remembered how I'd always used to play with it, twirling it into little ringlets whenever we talked.
I felt my energy begin to dwindle, and still no sign of Rose. She wasn't asleep. We were stumped. I began to let the magic go, giving up for now to save my strength when I felt the tug of the dream, pulling me back under. I imagined standing in my grandmother's garden, thinking it would be a nice, quiet place to find out where she was.
"Adrian!" I turned around, my eyes widening with surprise when I took her in. I froze. It was bad… really bad. She ran to me, wrapping her arms around me as best she could.
"Rose…" I croaked, trying to form a sentence but failing, finding myself entranced by her grotesquely abused form.
"Is Dimitri okay? Did he make it out?" She asked, her face full of desperation and fear. I'd never seen her so fragile. Rose would never admit her true feelings, but now, her guardian mask was down and her face easily readable. It was an obvious sign that things were worse than they appeared, if that was even possible.
"He's fine. He's sitting right next to me. Rose, where are you? He says you were taken by Strigoi?" I prayed he was mistaken, but I knew by the way she looked down, deflated, that it was no lie.
"Look, Adrian, I don't think I'm going to be able to make it out of this one. I'm hurt pretty badly," She had changed her appearance as soon as I'd noticed her, trying to hide the damage, but the image of her wounds was burned into my memory, there was no forgetting that, "Just please, tell everyone that I love them, and to please, don't come after me. I'm nervous, Adrian. I think this is all part of some scheme. If I don't give them the information, they're going to turn me." My blood boiled at that. "And if that happens, I don't want any of you anywhere near me. I don't want anyone at risk in case I do get turned. I'd never be able to forgive myself if that happened. I can't stand the thought of it. Just please, tell them to give up on me. I'm not worth your lives being at risk because I was stupid enough to try and take on twelve Strigoi with only Dimitri as back up." She sighed, meeting my eyes with a pained look.
I stood there, shocked at her request. "You really think we're just going to leave you there for dead, or worse? You can't bare the thought of hurting us, but none of us can bare the thought of leaving you to be tortured. God Rose, what kind of people do you think we are? Do you know how many people are sitting next to me having anxiety attacks at the thought of a Strigoi laying a hand on you? There are more than you think. How could you even ask that?"
I knew she was trying to be the brave heroine who dies to save the ones she loves, but to be honest, I always found those characters in the movies the dumbest. I guess it was part of my character to be selfish and irresponsible, I just couldn't understand how one could give up their very life for another. Then, it hit me. I could. If I could, I would trade places with Rose. I would rather die and keep her safe, than try and live without her.
"Please, Adrian, don't make me beg. If I get turned, I'll do my best to steer clear of the Academy and Court. I'll go to Russia or somewhere secluded, far away from harming any of you. If I'm lucky, they'll kill me. It's a slim chance, though; when I was taken I heard them say something about how I'd make a great addition to the team, or something like that. I'm not quite sure though, I was pretty groggy from the bite." I couldn't believe what I was hearing! She was hoping for death!
"They bit you?" I asked, unable to recognize the growl that escaped my lips. She nodded, blushing, as if she was to blame. I turned, punching a trellis covered in roses.
"God damn it!" I yelled as blood leaked from cuts in my knuckles. "What else did the do to you?" I demanded, I needed to know how much longer she had.
"Adrian-" She tried to brush it off, as if it was nothing, but I refused to let her minimize it.
"Don't lie to me, Rose. I saw your body before you hid it with this illusion. If you won't tell me, show me." I altered her appearance so it matched the image from my memory. She looked away, before nodding, changing the scenery.
It morphed into a small, white concrete room with no windows and one door. Rose and I stood in the corner, watching Rose's memory play out from a third person perspective. It was horrifying. The lead Strigoi, Freya, was merciless, slashing dream-Rose's body endlessly, before moving on to dislocating both her shoulders, then punching, leaving her nose broken, and finally, breaking bones. I winced as she was thrown hard on the floor, her left leg finally giving out and snapping. Rose, noticing my discomfort, waved the memory away.
"Stop! I need to know the rest." As much as it pained me, I needed as much information as possible to report back.
"I black out soon after, then you came." She explained nonchalantly, as if we were discussing the news.
"What else happened?" I demanded, knowing Rose was keeping something from me by the way she averted my gaze. I lifted her chin, forcing her to look at me, "Tell me." I whispered softly, as if coaxing a child.
"Then, she bit me, as did the other two." It was like someone had punched me in the gut. The air in my lungs vanished as I imagined three Strigoi sucking the life out of her. A tear escaped down my cheek, but I had no shame. What had happened to such a loving, brave, beautiful woman was beyond cruel and horrific. "Awful" seemed unable to fully encompass the sadistic torture that Rose had endured. The fact that she was alive was a miracle itself, and I intended it to stay that way.
I felt the dream start to slip away, the garden started to fade, "You're waking up. Stay safe. We're coming for you." I whispered, pressing my lips to her bruised cheek as I opened my eyes, bringing me back to reality.
I woke to crimson eyes, studying me intently. "Glad you could join us, Rosemarie." Freya snarled.
"The feeling isn't mutual." I snapped, unwilling to surrender my sarcastic remarks, though it may be wise in the current situation.
"What a shame. Now, are you ready to talk?" She asked cheerfully, giving me a sadistic smile, revealing her lethal fangs, each and every word dripping with venom.
"Over my dead body." I regretted the words as soon as they came out. Usually, that retort had bite to it, especially because of my lethal reputation, but when a Strigoi is torturing you in their basement for information, mentioning your death may not be the best way to go.
"Oh, Rosemarie, I thought we already established that option, though it'd be quite a shame, considering I was toying with the idea of giving you the gift of immortality." She leaned in, whispering it in my ear, sending chills down my spine.
"I'd rather die." I yelled, struggling to break free from the zip ties restraining me from kicking the shit out of this bitch.
"Rose, Rose, Rose…. you don't have a choice." She snapped before back handing me once more. "Let me give you a piece of advice, you filthy blood whore. When I tell you to give me information on the Guardians and Princess Dragomir, you do it." She screamed, gritting her teeth as she smacked me once more. I decided playing dead was my best option. Unfortunately, Freya didn't seem to care whether I was conscious or not.
She stormed out of the room, slamming the door behind her. I sighed in relief, happy to be alone. I heard footsteps outside me door and froze, slumping in my chair once more. The door slammed open and before I knew who it was, a bucket of ice was being chucked onto me. My eyes widened in surprise, as Freya turned to slam the door shut, giving me a short glance at a long hallway of doors outside my little cell.
"You will not go to sleep without my permission, understood? You pass out and you get another bucket of ice thrown on you. Now, are you going to talk or does the little blood whore need to be taught a lesson?" She growled, giving me a menacing glare.
"Well…" I started, getting her attention, "I'm not really in a chatty mood, maybe come back tomorrow?" I watched her face darken at my sarcastic comment.
"Then lets see if we can loosen that tongue." I prepared myself for another round of punches that would hopefully lead to the sweet bliss of unconsciousness, but no, she had another idea on her mind, one I was sure I wouldn't like as I watched her whip out her switch knife.
"Maybe we should give you a little reminder of your place in this world." She chirped, grabbing my right forearm. She made a little cut in a straight line across my top of my forearm, earning a wince as the blood oozed out of the wound. She continued to make a series of small cuts on my arm, I was in too much pain to open my eyes and see what exactly she was doing. They were small cuts, but they were deep, and would definitely scar.
"All done." She snipped. I looked at the spot she had cut, taking in the word 'bloodwhore' cut into my arm with teary eyes. It took all of my self-control to not scream in pain. The pain was excruciating. I squeezed my eyes shut as she started to cut into my left calf. I didn't bother checking what she had branded on my skin with the switch, I focused solely on keeping my mouth shut. I refused to scream. I refused to let her know how much it hurt, at how successful her tactic to break my will really was. I refused to satisfy her need to see me weak. Every Strigoi wanted two things: moroi blood and power, and my fear and screams would give Freya just that, the feeling of being powerful.
Eventually, the cutting stopped, the punches slowed, and Freya was still. I opened my eyes, barely able to focus on her face through the pain.
"You better talk tomorrow, Rose, or I may feel the need to reward your strength, and I have a feeling you'll just love what I have to offer." Her words dripped with sarcasm and venom, making me shiver. I didn't have the nerve or will to respond. She leaned forward and bit me, drinking deeply for a moment before leaving me to suffer as I waited the waves of blackness to pull me under. I didn't have to wait long. My last thought before I closed my eyes was one of despair. Dimitri.