Home > Fallen Academy: Year One (Fallen Academy #1)

Fallen Academy: Year One (Fallen Academy #1)
Author: Leia Stone

Chapter One

My mother pushed open the door to my bedroom, allowing the light to leak inside. It took a second for my eyes to adjust to the sudden brightness, and when they did, her troubled face came into view. I’d been sitting in my dark room all day, avoiding the inevitable.

“It’s time,” she announced with resignation.

My gaze swept over the hard lines around her eyes—from years of worrying—then at her tearstained cheeks, but what stood out most of all was the red crescent moon tattoo on her forehead.

The symbol of a demon’s slave. The symbol of my future.

Nodding, I lifted myself off my bed, with heavy limbs, and an even heavier heart. My mother stepped to the side as I passed her, and made my way out into the living room.

Mikey, my younger brother, sat on the couch, staring at the smooth plaster walls as if by his sheer will, he could change the present. Nothing could change what I was about to do, what I was about to become. My fate had been written a long time ago.

“I wish I was the firstborn,” my little brother muttered in a hollow voice that made my throat pinch with emotion. My normally goofball brother was near tears, and it killed me.

I didn’t wish he were born first. I was glad it was me. My brother was too soft emotionally to live the life of a demon’s slave. It was better this way.

“Today I wish I never had children,” my mother said gravely.

I knew she didn’t mean it. She just wanted to protect me from this, and wishing me out of existence would do that. That’s how bad times were. Since The Falling, none of us had any hope at a normal life anymore; all we could do was wish things were different or accept what was.

My mother wiped her leaking eyes and straightened. “Maybe you’ll get Necromancy like me, and get a more prominent post. Then we could work together after your academy studies.” Her mood instantly brightened at the thought.

I nodded, although it was highly unlikely. When the angels fell from Heaven and warred on Earth with Lucifer and his demons, powers flared out like the aurora borealis, infecting most of humanity. The Falling turned most of us into some sort of supernatural creature and left the rest human. Your gift depended on whether an angel or demon’s power touched you during the fight. It was completely random and had nothing to do with whether or not you were a good person. My mother was demon gifted with Necromancy, and reanimated the dead for a living. It was the only reason we weren’t living on the streets, like half of the human population. But they weren’t really alive; the… things she reanimated were akin to zombies. I shuddered, thinking of the times she’d brought her work home with her.

“It won’t be Necro, Mom. It’s random. She could be a Gristle for all we know.” There was my sarcastic Mikey, back in action.

My mom reached back and swatted his head. “Just be quiet,” she chided. Her normally vibrant blonde hair was dull and greasy. She’d no doubt stayed up all night worrying about this.

I laughed dryly to lighten the mood. If I was a Gristle, that would actually be the perfect shitty topping to my already shitty life. It meant having the magical ability to make trash disappear. Gristles smelled like crap, literally, and they were the bottom of the barrel as far as magical society class was concerned.

I was five years old when The Falling happened. My mom said that when the magic hit me, my body hovered in the air for a full five minutes, and she had to pin me to the bed to keep me from floating away. Mikey was four, so he wouldn’t really remember, but she mentioned his skin had turned green for over an hour.

Stepping closer, my mother smoothed my bright blonde hair down. “I’m sorry. I should never have taken the deal wi—”

I cut her off with a wave of my hand. Quite frankly, I was sick of the apology. My dad had been dying of cancer, and the whole family agreed that my mom would sell her services to the demons, becoming a lifelong Necro for the baddies. We just hadn’t read the fine print, which stated your firstborn was also a lifelong slave to the wicked.

I’d have been fine with it, if my father hadn’t been hit by a bus six months after the demons took his cancer. Six months of extended life was all that my mother’s and my lifetime enslavement earned him. Life was jacked up, and I’d learned not to depend on sunshine and rainbows. The unicorns of my childhood dreams were dead and slaughtered.

Now summer was over and I was eighteen. Today I would go to The Awakening, a magical ceremony put on by the fallen angels to fully ignite our powers, to reveal what gifts or curses we held. Angel blessed or demon gifted—at least for those of us who had them. When The Falling first happened and all of the powers were unleashed on the humans, no one was sure who got hit or with what. When the angels realized what they’d done—mutated humanity—they contained all of the powers given to anyone under the age of eighteen. They couldn’t take them back, but they could keep them at bay so we could have a childhood, at least.

Once my power was determined, I would exit stage left, get my demon slave tattoo, and enroll in the notoriously dysfunctional and scary Tainted Academy while the others exited stage right and enrolled in the Fallen Academy with the rest of the free souls. Fallen Academy was an exclusive college for those who weren’t demon-slave bound, mostly the angel blessed. The supernaturally gifted would be trained for four years, and then be drafted into the Fallen Army, receiving good payment for their service to the light. We were still at war, after all, and I was about to sign up for the wrong side. My lifetime service to the demons would start today, and I felt sick thinking about it.

“I should get going. I don’t want to be late,” I said abruptly. That would result in my entire family being slaughtered by demons. They were greedily awaiting their new slave, a fresh eighteen-year-old to torture and wear down over the rest of my life.

My mom fell into a puddle of tears then and I just couldn’t deal with it. I needed to stay strong or I was going to lose it.

“Love you guys. See you after,” I added, ignoring my mother’s weeping as I walked hastily to where my coat was hanging by the door.

“Brielle.” My mother’s voice carried so much emotion that I knew I wouldn’t be able to turn around or I would completely fall to pieces. “I’m so sorry. Forgive me?”

The apology was old, but this was new. Did she think I blamed her? We’d all agreed that the healer demon we went to had tricked her. She had no idea a blood oath included her firstborn. I was twelve years old and mature enough to know what I had encouraged her to do. We all did it for my father.

That time I did turn around.

“Of course I forgive you, Mom. It’s the demon scum that will never get my forgiveness.” I hated them. Rage built in my chest as I grieved for my future. The future I would’ve had if they hadn’t tricked my mother into giving up my life to save my father’s. If he’d still been alive, it would’ve been worth it, but six months? It wasn’t enough.

My mom just stood there and nodded. “Your father would—” She couldn’t finish as the sob escaped her throat. I needed to get the hell out of there. It was too depressing.

When the bus hit my father six years ago, I’d begged my mom to reanimate him so I could talk to him, tell him how much I loved him, and get bear hugs from him again. She refused, and at the time I’d hated her for it. As I grew older and interacted with the reanimated more, I understood why. They were zombies, shells of their former selves. Besides, he’d made her promise that she never would.

Suddenly, my mother and brother were both bearing down on me, arms around me, squeezing tight. “Maybe you’ll be a dud and useless to everyone,” my brother mumbled into my hair, and then we all broke apart laughing.

I punched his arm lightly. “There’s only room for one dud in this family, and you’ve taken to that position beautifully.” He just grinned and shook his head.

A dud was a nonmagical being. A human. They were rare in Los Angeles, since The Falling started there, but it did happen. Maybe I would be a dud, but I was sure the demons could find use for a human, and I was also sure my brother had magical abilities as well. That night of The Falling, when I was floating up in the air above my bed, I had a vivid memory of my brother lighting up like a Christmas tree, bright green.

Neither of us would be duds.

After that night, adults’ gifts started showing immediately, but our gifts had to be locked down. Could you imagine a five-year-old Gristle eating up trash on the street? At least that part had been fair. We’d been given somewhat normal childhoods—if growing up with demons and fallen angels roaming the streets was normal. At least we weren’t being made to raise the dead at seven years old.

“I love you guys. Everything’s going to be fine,” I reassured my family, with as much strength in my voice as I could muster.

A heavy sigh escaped my mom, and she reached out to touch my cheek. “You’re wise beyond your years.”

My throat tightened as unshed tears lined my eyes. My father used to say that to me. In fact, they were the last words he shared before he left for work and was taken from us.

“I can’t be late. Gotta meet Shea.” I grabbed my hooded parka, and headed toward the door.

We lived in Demon City, the place of demons and their slaves, but the Awakening ceremony was all the way in Angel City. Those who enjoyed normal humanity, the free souls, and the angel blessed lived there. Both Demon City and Angel City used to formally be called Los Angeles, having been split apart and renamed after The Falling. Angel City encompassed everything north of downtown: Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Burbank and Pasadena—basically all the fancy rich places the angel blessed inhabited. Demon City was comprised of East Lost Angeles, from Inglewood to Long Beach, including the lovely city of Compton where we lived.

I was going to have to run if I wanted to make the 5:15 pm bus. I slipped my gray parka on and pulled up the hood. It rained 90 percent of the time in Demon City. No one knew why—maybe it was the concentration of so many demons—but the sun barely shone there.

Without another word, I grabbed my messenger bag and slipped out of the fourth-floor apartment I shared with my family, and my best friend Shea. She was meeting me at the bus stop, going right from work to the ceremony. Being late to an Awakening ceremony was not an option. The ceremonies were done each year on the day before classes started at Fallen and Tainted Academies, and Shea and I had birthdays only sixteen days apart, so we were going to be in the same one. Shea was also destined to be a demon slave, except for all the wrong reasons. Her mother was a drug addict and sold her lifelong labor to a demon for a day’s worth of drugs. Shea was her firstborn, so she went right along with it. She had moved to Demon City about the same time we did, and had seen me through more than some who had known me my whole life. When her mom bailed to go to Vegas, my mother took her in.

I burst through the stairwell door, and took the four flights down three steps at a time. Shea was the long-distance runner, while I was more of a “sprint and then collapse panting on the ground, willing myself to die” kind of person. With a giant leap, I crashed through the door that led to the outside. Sitting right next to the stairwell door was Bernie in his usual spot, Maximus curled up at his feet, his tail thumping when he smelled me.

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