It didn't take me long to pack. Professor Heath was going to take me straight to the Academy right away. I hadn't gathered much in the way of possessions other than what I had to start with. My spell book, Armen's letter, the toy wolf Arellan had made for me and my clothes. It all fitted in one bag. I got into the car, looking out of the window to take in the home one last time. I felt no regret at leaving it, and Stone, far behind.
The drive to the Academy was long and uneventful. Professor Heath wasn't the most talkative of companions, but it didn't bother me. I was still trying to get over the shock that the Academy was actually a school for mythical creatures. As we neared the Academy, I perked up, wondering what the school would look like.
The gates were black iron and imposing, the walls high and thick, but the grounds inside were a boarding school director's wet dream. Ancient trees lined the long driveway, giving way to extensive grassland. On one side, the grass had been separated into paddocks where horses and ponies grazed. The other side was dotted with students in uniform. All the boys in their smart black trousers and blazers, the girls in perfect skirts and ties. I sank a little lower in my seat. Nerves were starting to kick in. What if the others rejected me? The driveway opened out into a circle with a huge pine tree in the centre. A sprawling mansion occupied my vision as we pulled up. The main building itself was impressive, even without being flanked by two wings that were longer, but shorter than the house. I grabbed my bag, slipping out of the car and looking around nervously. The other kids were staring. They looked normal, until you looked a little closer. A hint of scale, strangely coloured eyes, and a woman with wings walking towards me. I bit my lip. Walking behind the woman was a sight I was delighted to see. Head bobbing as she walked, wings visible and tucked into her sides, Merlas paused long enough to whinny loudly.
"Merlas!" I yelled, running forwards to throw my arms around her neck. I had grown since I last saw her, now reaching halfway up her shoulder. Standing at one metre eighty, I wasn't likely to grow anymore. She still bested me for height though. I didn't mind. It meant I'd never outgrow her. The winged woman coughed politely. I felt my face turn red, turning to look at her.
"I'm sorry," I said apologetically, "I haven't seen her for years."
"It doesn't matter, Shadow. My name is Meredith Feather. I'm the headmistress of the school. Now, the tradition here is that you are assigned a student similar to your own age to explain the rules. We found that it gives the new students a better insight into how we work. Follow me, let's go and save your guide from class."
I followed Miss Feather into the main building, into a place that looked as if it had been furnished from a couple of centuries before. I was surprised that they managed to keep so many antiques here and in impeccable condition with scores of teenaged mythical creatures learning to control themselves. Miss Feather swept up the central staircase up to the third floor, along corridors I was sure rivalled those in Aspheri. I would never learn my way around here. She knocked on a door, pushing it open. A classroom, with a nervous looking boy standing at the front, obviously about to give a presentation on something.
"Mr Carton's charge has arrived." The boy at the front of the class looked relieved, racing to pack up his notes and shoot out of the classroom. I took a good look at him. Floppy brown hair fell into dark eyes as he grinned at me.
"Thanks for the great timing. You saved me from giving a presentation on the relations between unicorn herds." He said. I found myself speechless, unable to formulate a reply. I opted to smile and nod. "I'll take you to your room so you can dump your stuff. I'm Jamie, by the way."
Jamie escorted me to the dining room that evening, making sure I knew how everything worked. I never believed that Earthen food could taste so good! After the frozen, precooked stuff I was used to back at the home, my taste buds felt like they were in heaven. I tugged absentmindedly at my pendant, feeling the need to take it off, but with six years of pent up magic lingering under its protection, I daren't. Jamie seemed to notice.
"Do you need to let it out?" He asked. I looked at him quizzically. "I get fidgety when I need to cut loose on my magic. What kind are you? Demon or angel?" I blinked. He sighed. "The profs always pair newbies with someone who has similar powers or species. I'm half demon and half angel, so it makes sense that you're at least one of those."
"Demon," I murmured, looking down at my plate. Jamie touched my hand.
"It's ok, you're not alone here."
I smiled at him.
The next morning, I looked in the mirror in the tiny bathroom attached to my room in the girl's wing of the school. For the first time in six years, I was looking into my own purple eyes. They seemed a little weird and alien on me now. A white streak had appeared in my violet hair. I had once more donned a cloak, like I used to in Synairn. I touched the brooch holding the garment around my neck. An intricate spiral holding in place a purple gem, upon which was etched the likeness of a dove. It had been Arellan's. She had used it to hold up her own cloak. Now it was mine. Swallowing hard, I tore my eyes from the strange reflection in the silver glass and grabbed my books, heading for Miss Feather's office. I was supposed to report to her secretary to get my timetable.
I was a little put off by the secretary to be honest. She was a sort of humanoid dragon and more than a little scary. I cast an eye over the timetable. At the top, my class and species had been written, but it was the species that caught my eye. Demon/Angel. I took out the note that had been attached to the timetable.
Angel is the closest thing we have to your 'Synari'. Enjoy!
I was the same as Jamie! That thought made my heart swell up in joy. A passing girl raised an eyebrow at me. I quickly quietened down my emotions. I had to remember that I wasn't the only empath here anymore. And an even more sobering thought: I couldn't let anyone get close to me. Not with Karthragan still hunting for me. I could sense him, searching, seeking, hunting me. Putting someone else in the line of fire between him and me was not going to happen. Not ever.
I was in the third year out of seven at the Academy, which encompassed both junior and senior school. Classes started at nine o'clock and finished at five to give us plenty of time to relax and eat before the night students came out to play. According to the rules, day students are allowed to mix with the night, but for our own safety, it was better for us not to. Student knowledge was that some of the vampires in the night class weren't really in control of their blood lust. I didn't care. I spent most evenings in the library, researching every single thing I could for my school work. I wanted to pass so badly. I also wanted to avoid Jamie.