Chapter 1: Awakening, part 1
Hadrian's life had been turned upside down many times in his short seventeen years of life. The first time, was when he first met the Overlord. He went from living peacefully with his loving parents, to a harsh life with his hateful relatives. The second time was a happier change, which righted the table so to speak, when he was eleven and learned that he came from a line of Mages, humans who manipulate Aether to perform unworldly acts. It was the happiest he could remember being.
His life was stable from then, up until his third year attending The Academy, which was when he learned that he had a godfather who was wanted by the magical authorities for betraying his parents to the Overlord… and killing 13 people. It was in that year, too, that Hadrian discovered his godfather's innocence and own betrayal at the hands of the real betrayer.
Everything was going smoothly in proving his godfather's innocence to the rest of the world, then they completely lost the Betrayer. His godfather had to go back into hiding.
Things only got worse in the fourth year when his best friend, Sebas, was killed during the last event of the Sports Festival, and the Overlord returned to full power. The worst of it all, is that his godfather had died. They, he and Hadrian, had been fighting with some of the Overlord's followers, and his godfather had been knocked into the Broken Worlds Nexus, never to return.
Some days after this, Hadrian would kill the Overlord.
It's after that, that everyone abandoned him. He'd asked Magus Vermilion, the Headmaster of The Academy, to take him from his abusive relatives, many times, but never been. He was told it was for his own safety; The Overlord was dead, but his followers would come after him. Some magic or other was supposedly in place to protect his relatives' house.
Even though he saved them all from the Overlord, the Mage World all looked at him like the next Overlord. It was all rumors, though… for now that is.
What hurt the most, was not the rumors, nor his dead godfather, but his friends. They had cut off all communication after the Overlord's defeat. He would send letters, only to receive them back, unopened. He'd been naive, but now?
They had been hollering about the Normals out in the open when they first met. They had appeared out of nowhere when he had been searching for the Entrance, when his guide had run off. When suddenly, miraculously finding the car Hadrian was in, the first thing he'd asked was to see his Mark, and not how he felt. How greedily she had looked at him after taking a handful of gold coins from his Vault.
Looking back on all of it, Hadrian hates all of them, save for Sebas, who had really been his friend.
Hadrian is sitting on his bed in his relatives' house. In just a few minutes, he will turn 16, and after that just two more years until he could move out on his own. He bites his lip, trying not to cry. His godfather and best friend are dead; He feels broken, sad.
Normally, people would say that he thinks its all his fault, but they'd be wrong, because if he thought that, it'd mean he's given up. He's not some legendary hero whose story is over just because he beat the evil Overlord, so he can't think that. The idiots in the Flame-Wreathed Order of Vermilion told his uncle not to be hard on Hadrian, that he just lost his godfather; What they didn't know -or maybe they did and are worse than he thought- is that his uncle had stopped beating him when his godfather was around, being scared of the "murderer" who killed 13 people. Now that he's dead, there's nothing to hold uncle back.
He shifted slightly and winced as the pain on his back flared up, where there were long scars from uncle's bullwhip. He had been in the middle of preparing dinner, when his cousin ran in and knocked over a stack of dishes. Aunt and Uncle came in to see what the loud noise was, Aunt shrieked at the mess that had been made. Hadrian tried to explain what happened, but his cousin spun a story involving him knocking them over, and obviously Uncle believed her over Hadrian.
Uncle got so mad he could hardly breathe right, his face going an ugly mix of red and purple, then dragged Hadrian out to the back yard for punishment. He was able to speed up the healing process once Uncle was out of sight, but the rushed job left him with scars.
Hadrian sighs, looking up at the old clock on the wall, mentally counting down the seconds.
The clock strikes midnight, and he begins to quietly sing himself happy birthday, but he is suddenly overtaken by excruciating pain. Every cell in his body cries out in agony and he falls off the bed onto his hands and knees. He can't hold it in any longer and screams. It feels as though his body is being torn asunder, like his insides are being ripped apart then stapled back together.
After what felt like hours of unending, rapt agony, it ends as Hadrian passes out, falling flat like a ragdoll.
Some actual hours later, Hadrian opens his eyes. He felt odd. Looking around, things looked much bigger than they should be, and blurrier. He looked around for his glasses, but found he was still wearing them. He adjusted the now-giant spectacles, then took them off and everything was crystal clear; the reverse from how this usually went. It would appear Hadrian has 20/20 vision now.
He looked to the clock; It showed 5:32 in the morning, and an hour before any of the relatives would be getting up. He climbed down off the bed and saw just how big everything is… or rather how small he is. His handmedown clothes were huge on him now, with only the shirt remaining on. He had to bunch up the sleeves and hold up the bottom of the shirt to walk.
He needs to find a mirror.
Opening his bedroom door, slowly so as not to make any sound, he scurries down the hall to the bathroom. He climbed onto the counter, using the toilet as a step, and flipped on the light. He looked in the large mirror and was shocked at how different he looked. His hair had turned as white as snow, and his eyes were slitted like a cat's. His face as a whole had changed too, looking more androgynous now. Though, the icing on the cake is his ears, which were triangular and furred, having moved to the top of his head from the sides.
He looked ethereal and inhuman… and young, like he was three or four.
Hadrian started trembling, and wisely got down off the counter before he fell off. He had to get out of here before his relatives woke up and found out about this. He exited the bathroom into the hall and started to make his way towards the front door. He heard a scream and turned around to find his Aunt with one shaky, boney finger pointed at him, and mouth hung open in shock.
"A-aunt Cassedy, I can explain-!"
Well, he could, given some time to research.
The door to the upstairs bedroom opened and his uncle came down in a huff. He looked at the shocked visage of Aunt Cassedy.
"What is it Cass?"
She simply pointed at Hadrian. He shrunk back at the two of their stares. Uncle Reynard looked at the small, furry-eared kid.
"What, one of the freak's friends broken in?" He asked, irritated.
"No that is the boy!" Aunt Cass snapped out of her shock long enough to say.
Hadrian turned and ran, but couldn't get far before Uncle Reynard grabbed him by his hair in one of his meaty hands. He grabbed one of Hadrian's ears in a ham-fisted pinch, tugging on it.
"They're real…" He said in mild surprise, then got angry. "What did you do Freak?! Another of your stupid witchcrafty tricks?"
Uncle picks him up by the collar of his shirt and stomps over to the door to Hadiran's bedroom, throws open the door and flings him in. He lands on his face, which makes his eyes tear up.
"NO FOOD UNTIL YOU MAKE YOURSELF NORMAL!"
He then slammed the door closed. Hadrian climbed onto his bed and lay there, head buried in his pillow. Eventually he fell still, sound asleep.
I tilted my head in confusion. Hadn't I just gone to sleep? But now I'm… here. I'm standing in the middle of a lake, on top of the water. I couldn't see the bank in any direction, only the mountains in the distance and the starry night sky.
I walked around, constantly watching the water, as though the surface would give and I'd be plunged into the murky depths. I had enough trotting around after what felt like hours, stopping on one place and pulling my hair in frustration.
"Are you okay?"
I blinked, and looked behind me at the source of the voice. There was a teenaged boy there, with medium length, jet-black hair. Two long bangs framed his face and the rest was tied back. His clothes looked foreign, with a black top and tan short bottoms, bandages wrapped around his lower legs and he was wearing sandals.
When he saw the tears in my eyes, he walked over and knelt down, hugging me. I could only cry harder, bottled up feelings bubbling to the surface of the lake.
"Shh… it's okay." The boy crooned, and caressed my ears.
He sat down, and pulled me to lay on my side in his lap. He stared at my back.
"Who did this to you?"
"Because I'm a freak."
The boy opened his mouth and said something, but I couldn't hear it. The world turned black.
A small, glowing slot opened up in the wall and spat out a letter, which flipped unnaturally through the air to land on Hadrian's head, rousing him.
"It was… just a dream?" Hadrian lifted his head. "Felt so real…"
The letter slipped off his head, and he caught it before it could fall to the floor. He looked sadly at the letter, but then noticed the sender, Vault Management, and was now confused instead. They'd never sent him a letter before… did someone break into his Vault? He tore open the envelope and read it.
Dear Lord Privin,
We at Vault Secure Storage have been attempting to contact you for some time, now we have decided to take extreme measures.
We do not take kindly to being ignored. Once you have finished reading this letter, you shall be summoned to our office so we may discuss your estate.
-Head of Vault Management
Hadrian frowned at the latter. He'd never received any letters before now, if he did he'd have responded immediately; Bankers are a breed apart and could easily kill a Mage easily. A shiver ran up his spine as he had a thought; He probably wasn't human anymore… was he even a Mage anymore?
Some seconds later Hadrian felt the, unfortunately, familiar sensation like a fish hook inside his brain, and the world around him blurred. Then the world snapped back into place and he was in the lobby of the Vaults building. He tumbled over gracelessly onto the floor, from the sudden stop of perceived motion.
His ears perked up as he caught some murmuring. He looked around and saw several other Mages, waiting around to get into the Vaults, staring and pointing at him. Hadrian's face went tomato-red as he covered his ears with his hands and pulled his tail back under his shirt.
When he got up, one of the Bankers, marked by his bright yellow attire, was standing in front of him, looking rather disapprovingly at him.
"The manager is waiting for you, mr P-"
"Yes!" Panicked, Hadrian cut him off. Who knows what chaos would erupt if people knew this was him.
Thankfully, the Banker didn't seem offended, rather understanding, and led him down to the Vaults, which were situated in a cave system below the building.
"What the hell do you mean we aren't allowed in? We've got the key, see!" A female voice came from in front of them… a voice Hadrian recognized.
When he went around the bend, he saw three people, blus another banker looking at them with a long-suffering sneer. They were his former "friends", Ross, Hariet, and Ginger. Hariet, feeling eyes on her, turned around an met said slited, emerald eyes. She stood there for a second before walking over, curious, and not recognizing Hadrian's new form.
"What creature are you, a fox?" She asked, looking at him like some sort of curiosity.
Hadrian frowned and glared at her.
"I do not see any reason I should tell you anything, Miss..." His attempts to sneer only made him look cute, much to his chagrin.
She didn't notice. She was too busy making herself look superior.
"Hariet Garande, Normalborn." She introduced herself.
"Hah?" came a male voice, Ross' as he walked over. "What's with this midget?"
Hadrian simply ignored him.
"I don't talk to theives."
Hariet gasped and paled slightly.
"What do you know, lowly welch, that money's ours!" Ross asked angrily, defending his girlfriend.
"Indeed." It was Ginger's turn to speak up, snidely. "I am, of course, the future spouse of Hadrian Privin."
Him, marry Ginger? Hadrian's face went green with disgust. He couldn't feel like that towards her of all people, not after everything they'd done. He turned away and started walking away, but Ross painfully grabbed his shoulder and pulled him back.
"Not so superior now, huh you little sh-"
He stopped as a shadow was cast over the entire group. A tall, imposing man, towering even over Ross' 5' 6", glaring down at the teen. Ross let go of Hadrian and left, gathering his two female compatriots. The man knelt down to look at him.
"Are you alright, little submissive?" He asked, a strong hint of worry in his voice.
Hadrian looked at him in confusion. What did he mean by submissive? He swallowed, and nodded to the man.
"H-hummm… thank you, but I need to go see the manager, so..." He fidgeted under the man's strong but caring gaze.
He can tell that this man isn't human. He isn't sure what he is, but he's definitely powerful.
"I see." He reached into his bag and pulled out an icecream-pop, handing it it Hadrian. "I wish you luck."
The man stood and walked past him, to where a woman was waiting impatiently with a bag of coins. Hadrian's banker stepped back next to him and they both continued down the winding tunnels of Vaults. Hadrian stuck the icecream-pop in his mouth. It tasted of seasalt, with a slight coppery aftertaste. It was good.