Fallen Academy: Year One Page 3

I saw one once. A fallen. I was nine years old, right before my dad’s diagnosis while he was in the hospital. Raphael, the Archangel of Healing, was going around blessing the sick—he must have skipped my dad. I’ll never forget what he looked like, and the way he looked at me, like he could see right through me. It was unnerving.

“Free souls this way. Demon bound that way,” the lead officer called out, and we all entered the hallway.

The free souls started walking into a dressing room to the right as we headed left, where a demon slave with the red crescent moon was waiting for us. She had a cattle prod in one hand, and Shea and I raised our eyebrows at each other. She was a slave minder. If one of us chickened out or tried to run, we’d be shot up with electricity.

Icing on the cake.

We were led into a small dressing room—coed from the looks of it—and the slave minder pointed to a rack of dresses and men’s suits. “Get yourself presentable, and then we’ll go out into the main reception hall. You have five minutes.”

She left the room and closed the door, presumably locking us in from the sound of the click.

“Five bucks says Steph is a Gristle,” Ben told the room, and we all laughed as Stephanie gave him the middle finger, but then smacked his butt. Steph and Ben had been dating for over a year now. They didn’t live in the same housing building as Shea and me, so I only saw them at school in one shared class, but they were cool people.

Shea started flipping through the dresses. “Reality is we could all be Gristles. No sense in worrying about it.”

Steph and I shared a look. Shea was my little pessimist. She never saw the silver lining or had hope that anything would work out. Only on rare occasions did that happen.

James, the fifth person in our group, was quiet, sitting in the corner while staring at the wall. He was one of those perfect guys—smart, utterly gorgeous, and gay.

“What’s up, James?” I asked, dropping into the seat next to him as the others spoke in soft voices near the dresses.

“I had a bad dream last night, that’s all.” He stood abruptly, and walked over to get dressed.

I stayed still. James had the gift of future sight. When the fallen angels quickly closed down the powers of anyone below the age of eighteen, there were a few glitches, and not every child’s power was caught 100 percent.

James had prophetic dreams.

One day he came into school screaming for everyone to get out, even pulled the fire alarm. We all ran out of the building, and not ten minutes later a Fallen Army helicopter crashed into the side and blew up our school. He said he’d dreamed about it and just knew it was real. So if James had a bad dream last night, I was all ears.

Absentmindedly, I grabbed a black silk dress in my size, and followed James to the corner of the room where he was disrobing. I started to take my shirt off and James looked at my chest. “Eww, boobs.”

A chuckle escaped me as I rolled my eyes, stepping into the dress and pulling the delicate straps over my shoulders. “So… your dream? Should we expect a helicopter crash landing later today or what?”

I could usually make James laugh, as he had a good sense of humor, but this time he was just stone-faced. Dark.

“You need to be careful,” James whispered, as I shimmied out of my pants.

I stopped dead. “Okay, elaborate please.” What the hell did that mean, and why me? He said I needed to be careful. I was already nervous for this ceremony, and now my heart was jackhammering in my chest.

James side-eyed the rest of the group, who seemed to be laughing at Shea’s impression of the Fallen Army officer. Then he leaned in closer to me. “You’re different. They—”

The door swung open then, and James straightened as the slave minder walked in.

“All right, it’s time,” she growled, pointing her cattle prod at us.

Frick. Mental telepathy would be a good skill to have right now.

I followed my group out of the dressing room with my knees knocking together in fear. If James said I needed to be careful, I was royally screwed.

Chapter Two

We were sat apart from the free souls in alphabetical order, and I was sitting next to the wench with the cattle prod. That meant I couldn’t ask James what the hell he’d meant, nor could I even freak out with Shea. I had to just sit there, and let my wild imagination dream up crazy theories.

After I turned around I found my mom and Mike’s faces in the crowd. They were standing in the nosebleed section, but seeing their faces only made me more nervous. Now the ceremony was starting, and I was pretty sure I would faint from the amount of adrenaline pumping into my veins.

“You’re different. You need to be careful,” James had said. If that wasn’t an ominous warning, I didn’t know what was.

I hadn’t been watching the stage, but at the sound of the booming voice, my gaze was drawn upward.

“Welcome, Citizens of Earth!”

A shock ran through me as I saw the fallen angel before me. Archangel Raphael. Standing over six feet tall, with wavy golden hair, and piercing blue eyes, he looked to be in his early thirties; the same as when I’d met him. I had forgotten until now that the fallen didn’t age. His long white gossamer wings glowed so brightly that it was hard to look directly at him. He stood to the right of the stage on pearlescent white tiles, while the left half was tiled in a black onyx stone, and a Grimlock demon stood there, glaring at the fallen.

“Thirteen years ago today, a war raged in Heaven, and we mistakenly brought that war to Earth,” the angel admitted as the Grimlock demon rolled his eyes. “We could not take back what we had done to humanity, but we could at least let your power lie dormant for a time, so you could come of age. Now is the time to let that power free so you may train with your assigned academy, and earn your rightful place in society.”

I’d heard rumors of a kid who fled the Awakening ceremony. He lasted about two years on the road before his powers started to emerge by themselves. He had the power of a Beast Shifter, predominantly demon although he was a free soul. With no one there to train him, he’d attacked an entire town and then was killed when the Fallen Army showed up to contain the mess. Moral of the story: Go to the Awakening, get your power and train at your given academy. The powers could only be contained for so long.

The demon stepped forward, casting a long shadow upon the archangel. “When we call your name, you will step up to the stage and walk to the white area. After Raphael unlocks your power, you will exit right, and be enrolled in Fallen Academy if you are a free soul, and left to be enrolled in Tainted Academy if you are demon bound.” He grinned, giving us all a view of both sets of his razor-sharp teeth.

The angel hit the Grimlock demon with a glare that gave me the chills.

“Let’s begin,” Raphael announced, and the demon stepped back, exiting center stage to sit at a table with another demon I recognized.

My mom’s boss, Master Burdock, a Brimstone demon.

The one who held our contracts sat smugly in his seat, his furry black horns came off his head and went straight up like ears. I’d heard many stories of how he gored those who upset him. He was a cross between a bull and a man, and he was about to be my new Master. A demon with the most haunting black shiny eyes you ever saw.

“Tilly Anderson. Free soul,” Raphael announced, and my attention was pulled to the center stage again.

Raphael stood inside of the white half of the stage, and just over his left shoulder was a guy in his early twenties. A Celestial. He was tall, with dark brown hair that was long and spiky on top, with short buzzed sides. The ethereal wings he wore had me spellbound. They glowed at certain angles, and the white feathers looked like they contained electricity as they danced with blue light.

I knew who that guy was. He was the Celestial from five years back. Lincoln something. He’d made it in all of the papers. He was very rare in that he held the power of two Celestials within him, Archangel Michael and Archangel Raphael. They said he’d changed the face of the war, that his demon kill record was one of the highest, and he’d taken back part of the valley for Angel City. Even though demon and fallen were in the same room for the Awakening ceremonies, the war between them was still waging outside of these walls.

Tilly walked nervously up to the stage, and my heart went out to her. Being the first to be called for something like this sucked. It sucked bad. I leaned forward a little, and turned my head to the right, trying to catch Shea’s attention, but the slave minder’s hand clamped down on my thigh, forcing me to look forward. I bit my tongue to keep myself from lashing out at her. Tilly looked ridiculous in her large yellow evening gown. We all did. But the fallen were sticklers for ceremony and respect, so I imagined it was for them.

As she stood before the fallen archangel, I could feel her anxiety from where I sat over fifty feet away. The Awakening was a terrifying thing. To be turned into a monster at random for the rest of your life—how could anyone look forward to that? I noticed a bunch of other Fallen Army officers waiting to the right of the stage to greet her once she was done. Once her powers were revealed, she would immediately be enrolled in Fallen Academy, the illusive and fancy training school for the free souls. Unless she was a Gristle. That was the only supernatural race that didn’t get schooling; you just exited the stage and were given a job working for the city sanitation department.

Raphael held his hands above her head and a golden orange dust began to fall from his palms, saturating her body. We all stared in shock at the golden dust that coated her skin, making her glow like an angel atop a Christmas tree. I saw the appeal of the dresses now. She looked breathtaking. But the beauty was short-lived. Soon, she started breathing roughly, her body lurching forward as she doubled over in pain.

I had never seen an Awakening ceremony, since it was only for the families of those involved, and was never televised. Now I knew why. Tilly made a whining noise and then, as if it had never existed, the dust disappeared. She stood shakily and looked out to the crowd. Holy shit. Her once blue irises were black, her skin looked as white as paper, and her canines were more pronounced.

Raphael took one look at her and nodded. “Tilly Anderson. Nightblood. Welcome to Fallen Academy.”

I heard weeping in the upper deck, and guessed it was Tilly’s mother. Nightbloods couldn’t go outside in the day or they had some type of allergic reaction. They were trained, and used in the war for their extreme strength and speed, but to the free souls, they were seen as an offspring of the tainted. Nightbloods were demon gifted, along with Beast Shifters, Necromancers, and Dark mages. Tilly would be feared by those in her community for the rest of her life, and she would probably end up moving to Demon City just to feel normal.

Tilly cast her head down in shame and exited the stage, walking across the white tiles, and down to the waiting Fallen Army to get her new government-issued identification. She would be matched with a Nightblood master teacher for her training.

“Brielle Atwater. Demon bound.” Raphael’s voice snapped me from my remorse for Tilly.

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