Magic Trials (Half-Blood Academy #1)

“Listen,” I said, giving him a smile for the first time since we’d fought and he’d captured me. “I don’t have a trace of gods’ blood in me. I’m actually a witch. I’m sorry for hiding that part of my heritage from you. Being a witch, I should go to the Other Academy.”

I could survive the Other Academy. I’d just borrow some of the spells Circe created and toss them here and there. I’d pretend to be a witch as long as I could so I would see Jasper and Circe settle down and watch over them for a little while before I got kicked out.

Or when the Dominions weren’t looking or lost interest in me, I’d slip away, alone, if my team chose this new life for themselves.

My heart broke a little at the thought of moving on, but that was how things were now.

I’d be a free agent again, but I might have to leave Crack behind.

The Dominions would never find me again.

“Give up already,” Cameron said. “If you were a witch, we’d have known. Our psychic ball showed only your two pack members. You aren’t on any chart of any map.” At Axel’s glare, he clamped his mouth shut.

“Behave, Marigold,” the demigod said, giving me a measured look before his lingering hands left my body. A secret, treacherous part of me screamed at the absence of his heat and touch.

“Your friends will be better off in the Other Academy,” he continued. “They’ll get an education and regular meals and will be with their own kinds.”

I swallowed as I had to admit the truth of his words, no matter how hard it was for me to let go of my team and let them choose what they really wanted for their own lives. This could be a better opportunity for them.

Just when I starting warming up to his comfort, he added, “So will you.” As if he believed I’d survive the trial. But the next sentence out of his sensual, cruel mouth made me hate him again. “But if you give my soldiers any more headaches on the road, the other team will take it out on your friends.”

I stiffened, enraged at his callous threat, a threat aimed at the only two people I cared about in this world. But before I could come up with a vicious comeback for his ruthless coercion, the demigod ducked his head out of the van, and then he was gone.

There was nothing I could do but go along with this travesty—for now, anyway. I bit my nail as the van lurched forward, musing over how I was going to survive the trial.





CHAPTER 4




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The armored van sped through Crack, a “wild west” neither the demons nor the demigods had ever graced with their presence until this unfortunate day in Crack’s history.

The glinting metal on top of the library, my old home, soon disappeared from view.

The Dominions hadn’t allowed us to pick up our personal stuff.

“We must get to our regiment before sunset,” Cameron said with an uncompromising look.

I kind of got it. Demons were more powerful when the sun went down; intense light weakened them. The Dominions didn’t want to get hit on the road.

As I’d said, half of Earth belonged to Lucifer and the other half belonged to the gods—specifically Ares, the God of War. The four demigods helped Ares run the show on their patches of land while four archdemons served the devil on theirs.

It was like a pissing contest between the war god and the devil.

It was funny how Lucifer and Ares had divided the globe. They didn’t split it in the middle. They’d carved up every state and every city in half, leaving some regions as neutral zones.

It was almost like they had cut a dirty deal—or were playing a game and had divided the board up evenly to start.

And they kept fighting to gain more territories and control Earth’s main resources.

In New York state where we lived, north belonged to the gods, and south was the devil’s. In New York City, Queens and the Bronx were the demons’ territory while Brooklyn and Staten Island were the demigods’ domain. Manhattan was a neutral zone, where fights broke out every day.

I sighed. I should worry more about myself than the demigods and demons.

Marie, the female Dominion soldier who had stripped me of every weapon, sat on my right and a tattooed soldier on my left with me sandwiched between them as if they thought I’d still try to escape while the car was running.

Another soldier perched on the seat behind me.

Must Axel put five soldiers with me while leaving only two with Circe and Jasper? What if the other van got attacked by demons while we raced down the highway?

“Where is Axel?” I asked. “Shouldn’t he escort the vans and keep us safe?”

Even though I knew there were no good guys, I’d rather be in the hands of the Dominion of the Gods than in the claws of the demons. My early encounter with that demon had left a chill in my bones.

To be possessed by a demon was even worse than being eaten alive.

“Babysitting isn’t in a demigod’s job description,” Cameron said from the passenger seat. His pose remained alert, as if he expected to go into battle at any moment. “Better drill that into your head now, in case you ever become a Dominion soldier.”

“I also recommended you not poke your nose into the demigod’s business, fledgling,” Marie snorted, “if you know what’s good for you. You’ve riled up the Demigod of War enough today. If he rode with you in this van, he might have to strangle you before we reach the Academy. Demigod Axel is more bloodthirsty than his older brethren. It’s a wonder he hasn’t squashed you yet, given your attitude. A human life is nothing to a demigod. Axel has killed for lesser offenses.”

She gave me another once-over. “I don’t think it’s your face he’s interested in.” I could see her point since my face was covered by soot and dirt. “Beauty is a dime a dozen at the Academy, since anyone with an ounce of god’s blood is easy on the eyes. There’re plenty of gorgeous women fighting to get the attention of the demigods, and you don’t exactly make the cut since I don’t think you’re one of us. You’re something else. I guess that’s why Demigod Axel was obsessed with bringing you to the Academy to see if you can survive the merciless ritual.” She sent me one last pitiful glance. “I don’t think you’ll pass.”

I was heading to my death because of that asshole’s sick game.

I didn’t retort despite her derision. I needed more intel on the demigods, the Academy, and most importantly, the Ritual of the Blood Runes.

I arched an eyebrow at her, hoping to goad her into talking more. “Oh yeah, you think?”

“With her brazen spirit, she might just pass,” Cameron chimed in. “She’s the first creature I’ve ever seen who isn’t afraid of Demigod Axel. Did you see how she resisted his power, as no mortal could ever do?” He turned halfway to peek at me over his broad shoulder. “If you pass the trial, you can join my team. I can probably use someone like you, but you must drop that bad attitude of yours.”

This time I snorted. “I don’t have a bad attitude, and I’m not a follower. I take shit from no one.”

“Bah!” Marie said. “They’ll break you, and I’ll be there to watch instead of catch you.”

“Thank you,” I said in mocking gratitude. “You’re such a good friend.”

Suddenly, Cameron poked his head out the window, then flung his hand backward. Lightning shot out at a truck that had nearly rammed into the rear of the van.

The truck flapped up into the air and then plummeted to the ground. The entire highway shook like we were in an earthquake.

Our driver floored the gas pedal at the same time as Cameron’s attack, so our van was at the edge of the shockwave.

The next second, the van bumped an armored car in the right lane.

Marie moved to the left window, rolled it half down, and blasted bullets into three motorcycles approaching from behind us.

I had damn fast reflexes, yet I’d missed how a lightweight machine gun had appeared in her hands. The Dominions weren’t fools. While conversing with me, they’d stayed vigilant for any looming danger and reacted super fast.

The rest of the soldiers also moved into seamless action.

Bullets, lightning, spells, and fire exchanged between the Dominions and our attackers. Two of the motorcycles were tossed into the air by a soldier’s magic and Marie’s bullets, but more enemy forces were coming.

Cameron kept throwing lightning with a wicked grin on his face. He ducked back into the van every now and then to avoid the spell fires and the bullets that ricocheted off the armored body of the van.

The lieutenant was a descendant of Zeus, the God of Sky.

Luckily, he hadn’t thrown lightning at me when we’d fought.

I didn’t see the other van that held Circe and Jasper. They had less manpower, and my stomach twisted in worry for them.

The asshole demigod shouldn’t have separated my team from me.

“Give me a weapon,” I shouted. “I’m not going to be a sitting duck here.”

“Just sit tight and enjoy the show,” Cameron said while tossing another lightning bolt at a new car that chased us.

“You can’t just throw those fancy bolts of yours all day, can you?” I asked, planning to steal a firearm from either Marie or the soldier on my other side.

“Nope,” Cameron said, producing a shotgun and firing it with one hand. “You think I’m a god?”

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