A dull light flickered against the high mahogany walls from the sputtering hearth in the large bedroom of Lara Croft. This night as all the others, since she returned, was a plague of torment.
‘No! Natla, where is my mother! Where is she!’ her voice echoed in her nightmare. Her face became wet with torrents of tears whilst she thrashed to and fro in her bed. An echoing voice, harsh and shrill came bouncing off the high ice-blue walls of the nightmarish underworld Natla baited Lara to in an effort to find her mother.
The screech of trolls and the thud of their heavy elephant weighted steps startled Lara. The past was haunting her again. With no warning, she found herself free of Natla, and face to face with her mother Amelia. The scene played through her dreams to haunt her into a childlike fear. In her bed, one could see she became frozen as a statue. Her breathing was slow and resistant. As if she saw a monster and didn’t know what to do. That monster was her mother and the way she actually saw her in the tragic underworld a year ago. That monster was the one she shot! ‘Mother is that you?’ she asked hesitantly. After all these years of hoping to find her, dreaming of finding her dear mother, as her father always did, and now possibly she found her. As her mother turned from gazing from the high platform Lara was met with the horror!
‘Mother, what has happened to you?!’ gasped Lara taking a step back as she could make out her mother’s features more clearly. Her face was half skeletal, and her eyes inset. Her hands were half-gone, as a thrall’s would be. ‘No, no, no,! Lara said repeatedly as she backed away from the beastly woman. She closed her eyes tightly as if trying to hold back a sea of despair. Maybe when she opened them again her mother would be standing there. Her dear mother Amelia. The creature steadily advanced on her to the point of Lara having to pull out her guns. She held them firmly in front of her, aiming steadily and loathing the thought of what she may have to do. No, not that! The creature advance farther, obviously in an unfriendly manner.
‘My mother died years ago! My mother is dead!’ With tears spilling down her cheeks Lara felt her hand squeeze the trigger; before she realized a bullet rocketed from the gun and embedded into the thrall. She shot the thrall again several times and it appeared to die. Her mind didn’t work. Her thoughts were shrouded in the reality she killed what at first looked like her mother. Questions swirled through her tormented mind like a tempest. Flashes of when she killed one of Natla’s hired fools that worked with Pierre when she first encountered Natla came to mind. She felt evil, like someone she’d never known. How could she kill her mother? She asked herself that question thousands of times. What had she become?
Her focus lifted to Natla approaching her. Her voice felt like a shrewd, shard of ice that cut through her heart. Her tone rang through her mind like a booming bell. Lara tossed in her sheets and sprang bolt upright as if shocked by electricity. ‘NOOOOOOO!’ she screamed. ‘Bring her back! Bring her back!’
Slumped over with her chin on her knees, and the sheets twisted about her waist she sobbed into her hands. Hasty footsteps sounded against the hall floor. It was Bronte. He opened her door without asking nor knocking first, and stepped into the room. His ice blue eyes narrowed at the sight of Lara in her despair. He slipped his long coat off and let it fall to the floor keeping his focus on Lara as he never hastened his gate toward her. He wondered if she knew he was there. He knelt beside her bed and chanced to brush her cheek with his pale hand. He felt her wet skin.
‘Lara,’ he whispered drawing closer to her face. ‘Lara, can you hear me?’
She lifted her eyes from her hands and met his eyes, then her vision shifted to his white-blond hair he parted in the middle and pulled back in a long ponytail held by a black velvet ribbon. This look she found attractive for him, this mysterious man. Yet, could she trust him?
‘Bronte,’ she murmured in a nearly undistinguishable tone.’ He held his hand out and slowly took her hand while she sat up resting her back against her headboard. He turned the light on that sat on her nightstand. It flooded the room with an intense white light, making her squint and dry her eyes. She sat up straighter and pulled the blankets about her as if hiding from a fierce monster. But this wasn’t Lara.
‘Where are you?’ asked Bronte in his docile tone. His eyes remained fixed on hers watching two warm pools of sorrow fill with tears that threatened to spill down her cheeks. ‘Lara, where are you?’
‘Not where I want to be,’ she sputtered and placed her hand against her wet eyes.
‘What happened? Did you take your medicine?’
‘No, I thought,’ she paused. ‘I thought I could sleep without it. I thought …’ Her eyes drifted past him as if seeing something he couldn’t. A tragedy unfolding, a vision that took her soul and twisted her feelings. ‘I saw it all again, Bronte. I saw it again …’
‘You have to stop playing the visions in your mind, Lara. You have to let go of it.’
‘I can’t. I killed her! I killed my mother! I will never be the same. How could I kill her?’
She shed a torrent of tears against her hands.
Bronte grabbed her elbow in order not to pull her hands from her face. This was important to get her to try and calm down.
‘She ceased to be your mother. Would your mother try to kill you? Would she have approached you the way you have told me she did and tried to kill you? Think, Lara! The thing Natla turned her into was not your mother. Natla was so very evil. She would stop at nothing to destroy worlds in order to obtain her goal. Hurting you, your mother and your father was nothing for her to contemplate. I don’t think she ever knew anyone that was close to her.’ He thought what he said sounded a bit unusual. ‘I mean, from what you’ve told me about her, I would think that is the way she must have been.’
The troubled woman removed her hands from her wet face and blinked her large brown eyes for clarity. ‘You speak of her as if you know her, Bronte. Or, maybe I cannot trust you if somehow you are connected to her.’
‘You are delusional. I am not connected to Natla.’
Maybe it was the condition of her mind, but he sounded hollow to her. She felt a shard of unrest in his voice. However, she allowed him to stay, because, she also understood she needed his help somehow. Though she could not explain why she knew he could help her.
‘You need to rest. Take this pill, and sleep for the remainder of the morning, Lara. These nightmares take a lot out of you.’ He furrowed his blond brows. ‘On the other hand, if you would have listened to me in the first place, you would be sleeping soundly and I wouldn’t be here now!’
She closed her eyes and slid down on her back while she pulled the sheet and blankets upward to her chest.
‘There now. I will be back later. Get some sleep.’
Lara mumbled something in agreement as the tall blond man with the ice blue eyes swept through her bedroom door, down the long upstairs hall, he descended the stairs and went through the great door in the entry hall.
However, as soon as the thud of the front door echoed through the manor, Lara’s eyes popped open, and sleep was a mere memory. The day was at hand, and Lara was not going to waste a second of it in bed. As for the pill, her opened hand exposed it and in an instant, it was plunged into the water glass on her nightstand where it remained whilst she arose and started her day.