It was the beginning of my last year at Brimstone, an elite boarding school in upstate New York. As I watched from the window behind my desk, students filled the courtyard below, scurrying off to their respected classes. It was ajar, allowing a cool breeze to fill my room, causing the curtains to flutter.
I sat there, contemplating my final year, as the stress of it all weighed upon me. I knew none of it was going to be easy, and I was never one to shy away from a challenge, but still, the sense of dread and uneasiness never left my side. It was like a darkness I had never quite mastered in my studies among the other demons, dark witches, and poor souls who made deals with my father.
I eyed the prayer book on my desk, which taught all the students how to properly worship the Dark Lord. I had rarely ever used it, a secret I would take to my grave. Others might have found that fact appalling since Lucifer was revered as a God, but my slow-burning resentment towards him wouldn’t allow me to follow behind my father’s footsteps so blindly.
He had never been the father I wanted, but he was the one I was dealt with by some twisted hand of fate. If it hadn’t been for my mother, Lilith, I didn’t think I would even be alive today. She never spoke much about my father, but if she did, I wouldn’t be surprised if she hated him too, although her sense of duty and respect towards him was more substantial than mine. It was understandable given the amount of history they had together, whereas my account was the length of about a day after I was born.
“Kasdeya! I need you downstairs right now!” shouted my mother.
Shutting my journal and dropping my lucky pen on top of it, I went to pick up my backpack hanging from the bedpost. I wasn’t allowed to live in a traditional dormitory, but whenever I heard the shrill call of my mother, I wished I did. I would’ve loved to say that being alone didn’t bother me, but it enabled the mystery surrounding my reputation. Normalcy was something I craved for a long time.
Walking back over to my desk, I picked up my journal and pen and shoved them into my backpack beside my other books. Crossing the room to my bedroom door, I tugged my black jacket from the hook. I dashed downstairs as the smell of bacon wafted up from the kitchen, where my mother was standing over a gas stove with a spatula in one hand and her cellphone in the other.
“Of course, she’s ready. We’ve been preparing for this her whole life...” my mother trailed off as her ice blue eyes shifted over to me in the doorway.
She motioned for me to take a seat at the kitchen table. I dropped my bag beside the chair and sat as Jinx, my dapper tuxedo cat, sauntered up to rub against my leg, purring. I picked him up to place him in my lap.
“What have I told you about having that cat near the table when we eat?” my mother asked as she set a plate of bacon and eggs down in front of my seat. She drifted down into the chair next to me and placed her phone on the table.
“Trouble in paradise?” I asked as I took a bite of my bacon.
“Nothing for you to worry about. Business as usual with the headmistress. You know she’s always been jealous of me,” my mother said with a grin.
I rolled my eyes and continued to eat. As beautiful as my mother was, she was as coldhearted and ruthless as the next demon. Her competitive spirit often put her at odds with others, but her charm was irresistible. No wonder my father chose her as his wife. She lifted her cup of coffee to her sultry lips and took a long sip.
“What’s on your mind, my little imp?” she teased as she nudged my shoulder.
I smiled weakly at my plate and continued to play with my eggs without an answer.
“Ah, I see.” My mother frowned. “I promise it won’t be as bad as you think.”
“Mom, every year has been bad. People only like me because they’re required to. They don’t like me for me. They’re afraid of me.” I looked at her earnestly, anticipating her response.
“You’re not giving people a chance, honey,” she said as she stroked my auburn hair. “You have friends here, and people respect you. You’re taking it too personally. You’re blessed with beauty, brains, and the finest pedigree one could ask for. That’s not your fault, and if someone makes you feel that way, then that’s because you’re allowing them that power over you.”
I sighed profoundly, understanding the conversation was going to go nowhere as usual. It was hard to stomach her self-help advice even though a part of me knew she was right. Jinx jumped off my lap as I stood up from the table.
“Thanks for breakfast, Mom,” I said as I snatched my backpack from the ground and slung it over my shoulder.
“Take Misty with you,” my mother called from the table as I turned away.
Mephistopheles, my guard, was assigned to me by my mother at birth. He followed me around like a puppy practically every day for as long as I could remember. When I was younger, I had a hard time pronouncing his name, so I called him Misty instead. Unfortunately for him, it stuck.
He stood in the doorway with his arms crossed over his broad chest, a formidable presence. His muscles bulged under his jacket as he stayed his ground, a few inches taller than me. I never saw Misty out of a crisp suit, and he always told me it was because it made him more intimidating. He was right.
“You ready, kid?” he asked as he peeked over his sunglasses.
“Are you going to grow any hair soon?” I teased.
Misty put his hand up to his bald head as I trotted by, rushing out the door. He followed quickly behind as I waited for him on the cobblestone sidewalk. The central courtyard was right in front of my home that connected most of the main campus buildings and housing. Students swerved around me, muttering their pardons while scampering away. Misty grabbed my arm and turned me to face him.
“You should know better by now as many times as we’ve done this on your first day of classes,” he said sternly.
“Believe me, I do,” I replied with a sigh. “Doesn’t this ever get old for you? Babysitting, I mean. I’m seventeen now, not four anymore. I think I can walk across the courtyard by myself and be okay.”
“I work for your mother, not for you, sweetheart. Trust me, if I could let you do this on your own, I would,” he said with his thick Brooklyn accent.
“Okay, let’s do this,” I said softly as I gave Misty a fist bump and took my first step into the courtyard.
Misty trailed closely behind me like a shadow as we made our way down the walkway underneath the trees’ rustling leaves. I could feel the stares of the newly inducted students upon me as they whispered with one another. Trying to appear unbothered, I kept my gaze pointed towards the gothic spires of Abaddon Hall, the main campus building.
Walking across the courtyard every morning was the hardest thing I had to do. It was the one thing that placed me on display in front of the entire school. Some days, I felt like disappearing into myself with all the stares I received. My father was the most feared entity in all the world. It only made sense that I would be the second.
“Do you think Lucifer will come back when the prophecy is fulfilled?” I heard the student in front of me ask as we gathered at the steps for classes.
The student turned around as she felt my presence. Her eyes widened with fear as she realized I was right behind her. It probably didn’t help that Misty was bearing down on her too. I heard her suck in the air between her teeth as I startled her.
“I’m so—so sorry! I—I don’t mean to be in your way,” she stammered as she shuffled to let us pass.
“It’s fine,” I said with a shrug, trying to act nonchalant as I rushed by up the stone steps.
“Misty,” I whispered.
“What was that about? What was that girl saying? You think my father will make an appearance sometime this year?” It was a long shot, but that small ounce of hope kept me on edge.
I shook my head and reached the landing in front of the doorway. Of course, my father wouldn’t come. I wasn’t sure why I wanted to please him so much. Maybe it was in my DNA to live up to his legacy. Or perhaps I felt like a failure because I subconsciously didn’t. As much as the Archdemons and the headmistress drilled me on lore, hierarchical values, human and demon related studies alike, it was never going to change how I felt inside.
I reached the door as another student opened it. He turned around to hold the door for me, making brief eye contact. He lowered his gaze as I walked through, stepping aside. I turned to thank him, but instead, caught his back hurrying down the hallway. He seemed new to Brimstone, as told by his kindness towards me. However, his quick exit seemed in line with every other student.
The tile floor squeaked underneath my sneakers as I shuffled down the hallway. Only a few students lolled about, avoiding eye contact with the resident leper. Sighing, I glanced down at the red and black ensemble of my school uniform, wondering where I had mustered the strength to attend this school for all these years.
“Perhaps, I could convince Mom to let me outside of the gates this year?” I hated that it was even a question. The next ruler of Hell having to receive permission to feel an ounce of normalcy.
“Maybe,” Misty answered. “You could always live vicariously through a friend.”
“Aren’t you a riot today?” I laughed. Misty and I both knew my mother had all but outright forbidden my exploration of the mundane world. The closest I would ever get to being a part of it was through social media sites on the internet.
“Okay, Misty,” I said as I spun around before opening the door to the lecture hall. “I need you to stay out here this year.”
“Kas, you know your mother will kill me if I’m not in every classroom with you,” he said.
“Please, please, please! Just this once. The teachers aren’t going to let anything in there happen to me, I promise. I just want to fit in, and it’s kind of hard to do that when you’re standing over my shoulder. No offense.” If I couldn’t go beyond the gates, then the least Misty could do was let me be without a shadow during my classes.
Misty shook his head and positioned himself next to the door with his arms crossed. “If I get in trouble for this, kid, you better take the fall.”
“Ah! Thank you! You’re the best!” I squealed as I gave him a peck on his cheek.
Misty chuckled, rubbing his cheek with his hand. “Now, get in there before that bell rings!”
I stepped through the door, a sense of freedom in my stride. Beaming, I headed for the middle row and took a seat a couple of spaces over from the nearest person. Setting my backpack down, I took out a notebook and my lucky pen.
“Where’s your guard, Ms. Angelov?” the professor asked, eyeing me from the podium at the front of the classroom.
“He’s in the hall,” I answered.
Professor Grigori shook his head and shuffled through his papers at his podium, slightly frustrated. I knew he would report it back to my mother, but I was prepared to take on that wrath. I was nearing adulthood, and it was time for everyone to start treating me like one. If I was going to take over the throne, then I needed to grow into my own.
“Well, then, class,” Grigori cleared his throat, “it’s a new year, and if you’re here, then it is your final year at Brimstone Prep. Welcome to advanced human requirements where you’ll learn how to hide yourselves amongst humans, Paladin evasion, and...”
His words trailed off as my attention settled on a boy across the room, the same boy who held the door open for me. I watched him, studying his face for any sign of familiarity. He had short, tousled, brown hair with soft blue eyes. It was a softness that was uncommon with the demonic, so perhaps he was a human who had sold his soul, or his family did it for him. Those were the worst. He was seated erect and alert, watching the professor, undoubtedly eager to learn.
Something about him piqued my interest as he wrote notes down in the journal before him. He was so elegant and proper, the look of someone who was refined. Yet, my senses told me that he acted out of a sense of duty and not because he wanted to be at this school.
His eyes slid over to mine as I shifted my gaze to the front of the class. I could feel my cheeks burning, a feeling I had not too often felt. I heard him snicker under his breath as he noticed my abrupt movements. Clenching my teeth, I looked down at my notebook, pen in hand.
“Students, I have a wonderful announcement to make,” Professor Grigori relayed, capturing my attention once more. “We have an exchange student studying with us this year. He’s come all the way from England. Tell us a little about yourself, your parents, and why you’re here.”
“Oh, um,” the student rose from his seat timidly. I got the idea that crowds were not his forte. “My name is Gabriel Melchom. My family hails from Canewdon in England. We were invited to join Brimstone this year as we come from a long line of witches.”
“Ah, very interesting. So you’ve committed your soul to our Lord?” Professor Grigori inquired.
“No, sir,” Gabriel continued with more confidence in his voice. “I did not. My family did.”
And there it was. It was so evident to me. Another unfortunate victim because my father was a greedy, selfish devil. It never ceased to amaze me how truly evil my father could be. Of course, no one was precisely innocent to him, which was why all those broken contracts that occurred during the time of Christ bothered him so much. Now he could only get his hands on those who were genuinely willing to accept him. It was too bad that curse fell upon the entire family line.
“Uh, well, shall we move on then,” the professor stuttered, shocked at the bold response.
I glanced over at Gabriel, who had opened his book to the assigned reading. With a sideways grin, I picked up my pen and started to take notes. I couldn’t help but be a little impressed at his gall toward the professor. Not many people would speak up to Grigori that way. He’d fit in with the others perfectly fine, especially being from a line of revered witches. The ones already here would love to have him in their ranks, at least for a time. As for me, I couldn’t be bothered.