As the candle's flame began to flicker out, Adrian's head tilted back against the wall; his eyes focused on the distant castle. It had been seven years since he had stepped foot inside Lindell. Seven long, tiresome years away from his home. A sarcastic half-smile formed on his lips at the thought of calling Lindell home. A home isn't just a place to live, or a roof over your head; a home is where you feel safe, loved, and happy. Adrian felt none of those things any longer.
Though he was only nineteen, Adrian's body was worn and tired; scarred, bruised, and broken. There was blood on his hands that not even God could wash away; things he had seen that would make the average man deaf. Words that would make the average man deaf. Thoughts that would drive the average man insane. Adrian was not an average man, not any longer: he was an agent of despair.
The name tasted bitter on his soul, though it had an oddly lemon flavor in his mouth.
"How far are you willing to go to save your friend?"
Adrian never contemplated the question posed to him before now, he merely answered.
"As far as it takes and beyond."
Was it foolish? Nay, childish to defy fate? He was young then: naive and stupid. You cannot challenge destiny without forsaking your own, you cannot alter the path without losing your own. Adrian knew this, but it was too late. He existed now for one purpose. It was what he wanted.
"You have the tools to save him, Adrian. Only you can do this. Your bond is what enables you to do so."
Eight years ago, the Daemon Wars orphaned Adrian and widowed Lady Lindell, Nicholas' mother. Many children were orphaned during the war, but many were also adopted by families who had no children of their own, or who also lost family. They were not true brothers, a fact that many took upon themselves to remind Adrian of, but their bond was unbreakable from the moment they met.
"You know of her power, but what you've seen is only a glimpse. Her time is coming and she grows weak, but she is arrogant. She is too comfortable. She feels safe. She will wait until she can wait no longer. You will use this to your advantage."
They had been told hundreds of time to never explore the castle at night. They were confined, locked, in their room until morning. Biological parents have a curious way of transferring their emotions to their children; an authoritive way of speaking, though they sound caring and sincere. Though Adrian had bonded with Nicholas, he would never consider Lady Lindell his mother; he was immune to her empathy.
For what cursed impulse had dared Adrian to wander into the night, he could never recall, but it pulled him towards his adoptive mother's bedroom. Swift and quiet, Adrian unlocked her bedroom door and entered. He could see her shape on the bed, slowly moving as she breathed in slumber. Upon her mantle laid a book, open with a quill and key atop. Curiously, he took the book to the window and began to read.
"When a Daemon is born, it possesses no power. As it ages and develops, it grows and shapes based on its personality and environment. She is what we refer to as a Shifter. When her life is nearing its end, she can shift her consciousness into a new host and take control. It takes an extraordinary amount of power and can only be a biological related creature. For years she has been slowly putting her own life force into Nicholas to make the final transfer as smooth as possible."
Nobody really believed in Daemons. They were the sort of fairy-tale monster that parents would create to frighten their children into eating vegetables, or taking bathes. The existence of Daemons was hidden from the people; not to keep them safe, but to keep them calm and controllable. The Daemons possessed no real threat to humanity, but as there are bad seeds in people, there were bad seeds in the Daemon community. The only difference was the danger that an angry Daemon possessed compared to an angry human.
Lady Lindell wasn't an angry Daemon, she was greedy. For all Adrian knew, Lady Lindell could be hundreds of years old, continuously possessing her offspring to maintain her throne. Though Lindell prospered under her rule, Adrian knew of her immoral governing and the illegality of her actions to get things the way she wanted. From contract killers to gangs, corrupt guards and extortion schemes; Adrian had seen it all. Nicholas, on the other hand, was blissfully ignorant of his mother's ethical problems.
"You cannot reach your limits to defeat her. You must surpass them. Humans are curious creatures, as they are constantly evolving and advancing. Do you know why they stopped? Emotions. Your mind is the gateway to power and emotions are the lock that prevents you from ever reaching a greater state of being. Emotions make you act irrationally, for how else would one throw their life away for another?"
Adrian stalked the halls of his former home with catlike stealth. He moved deftly from corridor to corridor, embracing each wall fully before moving on. The castle, though ancient, stood defiant to the times and enduring to the elements. Though extravagant, Lady Lindell had ensured that her dominion was the apex of perfection, constantly maintained by the finest craftsman Lutte had to offer. Not a creek nor a draft escaped her eyes and as Adrian saw it, this would be one of many fatal errors she had made in her life.
"This is your fate now Adrian. Nicholas' life is your responsibility. I trust you will not let him down."
A crescent moon hung in the night sky, illuminating all but the deepest corners of the castle halls. Adrian was a shadow. The night guard, though highly skilled and trained knights, were still only human. They thought like humans and used their eyes like humans: not hunters. However, with no target, they had nothing to look for and Adrian had to keep it that way. His dance was elegant, traversing the boundaries of the corridors, darting to and fro, deftly maneuvering around patrols ignorant to his existence.
Again could feel her energy again, pulling him to her room. His hand touched he door, his fingers gliding to the keyhole. An image flashed in his mind, recalling the first time he had snuck into her room and the discovery that had led to this. Awestruck momentarily, Adrian's hand shook, and he froze. It was all going to be over soon. Shaking it off, his momentum returned and his fingers moved quickly to unlock the door. Adrian entered Lady Lindell's room for the last time.
"Do not forget our deal Adrian. When you've met your destiny: you are mine."
Adrian was a child again, staring at the form of Lady Lindell beneath her blanket. He moved closer, slower than he had ever moved before. Carefully he unsheathed his dagger, the blade glistening in the moonlight as he held it before him. She begun to move and Adrian froze. As her body began to turn over, Adrian was gone to the shadows. The sound of her heavy breathing recalled him to position and with a deep breath, he moved in for the kill.
"You. Are. Mine."
Nicholas had never moved out of their old room and Adrian wasn't surprised to find it almost exactly the same way it looked as when he had left; Nicholas had always been the emotional, sentimental one. He shook Nicholas slightly, whispering his name, hoping his friend would be happy to see him once more. After a few moments, Nicholas began to stir, and Adrian smiled for the first time in years.
Nicholas clung to Adrian as tight as his arms would allow, tears staining Adrian's clothes as he cried and yelled. Adrian held Nicholas softly, waiting for him to calm and when he did, he looked down to see him smiling. It was a good feeling, Nicholas forgotten how warm love could make you feel. How it made your body numb and your heart beat faster, how it made your muscles tense and lungs weak, how it made you wince and how much it hurt in your abdomen, how it...