Please note – this has not yet been professionally edited.
Keepers – The Eden East Novels – Book 1
“Where there is Balance, there is Imbalance.”
First Law – The Book of Balance
Father always said not to trust a Fallon that can’t Keep the Balance. I should have listened.
My mother and father are fidgeting, perched on the front row of the lecture hall’s steep tiered seating, along with everyone else’s parents. Someone must have opened a door because a ripple of air drifts through the auditorium. I close my eyes, let it wash over my skin and take a deep breath. It doesn’t help. The wind is carrying everyone’s anxiety, and my Elemental power seeks out the anomaly and feeds it into my system.
I snatch a glance at the sim door. They’re useless; everyone knows the sims are nothing like Earth. But the Council won’t allow anyone in the field until they’ve been Bound and passed their finals. Especially not if you’re a Fallon.
“You’re too precious,” Arden, the Council deputy would say every time I begged him to let me go on the school field trips. “Your blood is too royal to risk injury or death before you’re properly qualified, Eden. You know that.”
I did know, I just wish I could change it. My heart races so I open my eyes and focus on Father instead.
He sits up a little higher, and for the briefest of moments, we share a knowing look. Then it’s gone. Replaced with a perfectly poised expression and a smile befitting any Fallon. I give the faintest of grins back, grateful for the years he spent breaking the rules and smuggling me through the barrier into Earth to practice. Under normal circumstances, I’d have an unfair advantage, but today, Victor is on my team. And while we both get scored individually during the sim, after it’s over, we’re scored again as a team. Victor’s performance will impact my final grade, and that, is exactly why Father smuggled me out to practice.
Victor’s gangly figure slides into place next to mine. His usually white blond hair is muted with grease and a mousy shade of beige. He’s thrown it into a sloppy top knot in what I can only imagine is an attempt to hide the oil. But I swear I can see the strands twitching and moving like there are bugs crawling in his scalp. I turn away to prevent my nose wrinkling, but a faint shudder grips my chest anyway.
Victor is my potential. That means The Royal Council of the Netherworld think he is the most likely candidate to become my Balancer, something I’ve never understood. How is he supposed to Balance my soul? There’s no way he’s my perfect match.
“Victor,” I say, struggling to hide the distaste in my voice.
His clawed index finger extends until it pokes me in a rib.
“You better not mess this up for us, East.”
My teeth clench instinctively.
You can’t practice with magic and power as strong as ours for long without it leaving some kind of trace on you; a kind of magical signature. I was lucky. My eyes, like Mother’s are slowing turning violet, like the bright light from a lightning flash. Victor isn’t so lucky. He’s a Fallon and a Shifter, he can shift into any animal. But your trace always reflects your essence, and his, is a wolf. His hands are slowing gnarling up and forming mangled wolf paws.
I knock his dog nail off my side and glare at him. Fire Elements flicker in my belly, daring me to retaliate. But my parents are watching so I force composure into my face and stand a little straighter.
“We both know I will carry your whimpering ass across the finish line, Dark. So why don’t you play nice and I’ll let you thank me after. Hmm?”
His lip curls bearing his canines at me, and for a second, I think I hear a growl emanate from his chest. But before I can call him out, Professor Kemble signals the auditorium’s silence.
“Fallon Victor Dark? Fallon Eden East?” Professor Kemble says, gesturing for Victor and I to approach the Balance Simulators.
My eyes narrow to slits and Victor’s face pinches like he sucked a lemon. It takes all my willpower not to slap the expression off his face. I know deep down, even though he’s never said it, that he can’t stand the thought of being Bound to me any more than I can being Bound to him.
I flash a quick glance over my shoulder. Mother’s violet eyes are bright as she nods and urges me on. I look at father and smile to myself. Physically, I am like him with the same stocky stature and dark curly birds nest atop my head. But behind mother’s sparkling eyes I see the grit and determination I can feel burning in my gut. Her palms are crossed in her lap, an attempt to hide her emotion and stay respectable. But even from the stage, I can sense the electricity sparking like hot static between her palms.
Victor doesn’t bother to look at his parents, and I’m not surprised. His ego is what will catch us out in the sim if I’m not focused.
Professor Kemble moves in front of us, his long green fighting robes a stark reminder of what’s at stake. If we mess up, we won’t secure a place at Specialist School or a set of robes for ourselves.
Kemble opens the sim door, I take a deep breath and Victor and I step into the darkness.
Sacha Black © 2016, All Rights Reserved
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