“So are you excited?”
“Not really,” Valentine replied as she pushed her mid-length brown hair back over her shoulders.
“But it’s your sixteenth birthday,” the curly blonde haired teen beside her grinned, her curls bouncing on her shoulders as she struggled to contain her excitement. Her name was Becky, and she’d been one of Valentine’s closest friends for quite some time, but the pair were always getting into trouble. Valentine however was rarely caught, and when she was, people blamed Becky for instigating it and being a bad influence. In truth, they were both equally mischievous, with Valentine coming up with many ideas but not having the nerve to pull them off for fear of being caught. Becky didn’t find that much of an issue and would do it anyway. They were probably no good for each other, but Valentine enjoyed the fun they had. She worried about her future after school, but Becky always reminded her that life was to be lived and sometimes that meant not obeying all the rules. There was no fun living life as a zombie, following the crowd and doing things the way they were told. Becky made sure to constantly remind her of that, especially when Valentine strayed and started to merge back into that herd mentality.
“All I can do is learn to drive. There’s nothing major that’ll happen. It’s not like it’s my eighteenth birthday, or my twenty-first,” Valentine sighed.
“C’mon, it’s your sweet sixteen tomorrow! You should be excited, have you decided when you’re having your party? This weekend?” The bubbly blonde’s blue eyes were lit up and excited. The opposite of what Valentine assumed her green eyes looked like. She was barely excited at all. Celebrations weren’t her thing. Sure, she secretly loved the attention, but at the same time it gave her the blues. Birthday blues as they called it. Another year passed and she hadn’t done anything spectacular.
“Sorry Becky, maybe not at all this year,” Valentine stood up as the bell rang. They had to get to class.
“What? Are you serious?” Becky leapt up as she scrambled for her bag on the table. “No party? You can’t not have a party. Even if you just have a small friends and family party, you still have to have one,” Becky pouted as she caught up with Valentine. “What do your Aunt and Uncle say? Aren’t they throwing you one?”
“No, they’re leaving that up to me, if I want one then they’ll throw one,” Valentine shook her head. She had lived with her Aunt and Uncle ever since her parents died in a car accident. She had been just a baby at the time, so she had never known her parents.
“C’mon, no party? Seriously?” Becky frowned.
“I don’t know. We’ll see,” Valentine sighed and wished Becky would let it go. She didn’t overly like birthdays. The days’ leading up to one always made her feel blue, but the actual day was usually okay.
“Ugh, fine,” Becky scowled as she looked away.
“God, I think too much,” Valentine murmured as she rubbed her forehead.
“You only just realised that?” Becky snickered from beside her.
“Huh?” Valentine looked at Becky, who pointed at her notebook.
‘Smart girls are more depressed because they know the truth behind the world.’
“Heh, yeah,” Valentine rolled her eyes as she scribbled the quote out. There was no need for others to know her inner thoughts.
“Did you enjoy the random pop quiz Mr. Traw threw at us?” Christian smiled as he caught up to the girls after class.
“I think it was just mean,” Becky announced, turning up her nose. “He didn’t even give us a heads up.”
“I didn’t do too bad I don’t think,” Valentine shrugged.
“Same here,” Chris rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s just you that got caught by surprise,” he smiled cockily at Becky.
“Whatever, I probably did fine on it,” Becky rolled her eyes.
“So, it’s your birthday tomorrow Val, what are you going to do to celebrate?” Chris turned his attention back to Valentine. His brown eyes were warm and bright, and he brushed his hair out of his face to look at her.
“I don’t know. I’m not sure if I even want to celebrate,” Valentine shrugged.
“Really? Why not? Do you have something against birthdays?” Chris asked with a frown.
“I guess I just don’t feel like it’s something massive to celebrate,” Valentine gave him a thin-lipped smile, wishing they would drop the subject.
“Well it is! You’re sixteen, it’s one of the milestone years,” Chris grinned.
“It’s not until tomorrow, I have plenty of time to decide,” Valentine said shortly, her patience starting to wear thin. Why was everyone so interested in her birthday anyway? Surely it wasn’t that big of a deal.
“Alright, I won’t push. But you should do something with family and maybe a few friends at least,” Chris looked further up the hallway. “Well, I’ll see you guys this afternoon, I’ve got maths now,” he waved as he hurried on ahead to catch up with some boys in his maths class.
“So…Chris is pretty cool,” Becky said suggestively, raising her eyebrows at Valentine.
“We’re just friends,” Valentine said, giving her friend a warning look.
“I know, I’m just saying…he’s a cool guy. Nice, you know. Not bad looking…” At the furious look of Valentine’s face Becky laughed and threw up her hands defensively “Okay, okay! We better get moving, or we’ll be late for history.”
“Ugh, I wish it was Friday,” Becky grumbled, shoving her books into her bag carelessly.
“Only one more day before the weekend, I’m sure you’ll survive,” Valentine smiled. School was out but Becky was not satisfied, she wanted her weekend now.
“Have you thought any more about your party?” Becky smiled cheekily.
“Not really,” Valentine answered, her tone non-committal.
“Oh, come on Val!” Becky groaned. As Becky opened her mouth to start one of her famous brow beating routines, Chris stepped up beside them.
“Leave it, Bec,” he warned, “Don’t keep pushing it, you’ll turn her off birthdays forever,” he smiled.
“Look guys, I’ll think about it. I’ll probably do something small on the weekend with just family, but then we can do something afterwards. Sound good?” Valentine asked, realising that she had to give in or she’d never hear the end of it.
“I knew you’d cave,” Chris grinned, while Becky let out an excited squeal.
“Awesome! Just let us know what time you can go out after your family party,” Becky clasped her hands together. Valentine could see the gears in her head whirring into action as she tried to decide on what they would do. Valentine would leave that up to Becky.
“Sure,” Valentine turned away. “Alright, I’ll see you guys tomorrow,” she waved as she made her way towards her bus.
“Yep, see you then,” Chris waved.
“Happy birthday for tomorrow!” Beck called out after her before she turned and headed for her own bus.
Valentine’s body relaxed as the light dissipated and she found herself standing in what appeared to be a foyer. Dark mahogany walls rose up to a high cream coloured ceiling with a sparkling glass chandelier lighting the foyer. The room continued on to a long hallway where doors lined the walls. To her right were glass sliding doors, the entry point to the building.
“ What do you know about your biological parents?” Kaleena asked.
“Poisoning the world? An ever growing darkness? I feel like I’m stuck in some bloody movie,” Valentine rolled her eyes, disbelieving what Kaleena spoke of. “You make it sound like there’s some sort of battle going on all around us, which is impossible,” Valentine shook her head. It was impossible. People would know.
“Once a new Summoneer gains their first Summoning creature and begins the process of becoming a proper Summoneer, they become almost invisible among the normal world. This battle, this war, it does sometimes spill into the open, but because mankind can’t comprehend magic, they can’t see the truth, they can’t see what’s really happening,” Kaleena’s mouth pulled back into a thin smile as she waited for Valentine’s mind to process this.
“So what, this war spills onto the street on occasion and people are just blind to it?” Valentine frowned and clenched her jaw. This made no sense.
“No, they’re not completely blind; they just don’t see the truth. They see a twisted reality. It may appear as two people walking their dogs off leash, and the two dogs suddenly attack each other, one killing the other, then the owners may argue and fight. When a Summoneer dies, their powers and abilities leave them, so humans can see a Summoneer’s death, but they’ll never know the truth. I’m trying to explain this as simply as I can; I don’t wish to overload you with information,” Kaleena’s eyes were focused on Valentine as she waited for her reaction.
“This is too crazy, impossible,” Valentine bent forward and held her face in her hands. Kaleena was telling her there was a whole other world out there, a battle being fought unnoticed by mankind.
“I know it sounds crazy. Under normal circumstance, your parents would educate you and you’d grow up with the knowledge,” Kaleena paused for a moment as Valentine took several deep breaths. “Perhaps it be would be easier to comprehend if you saw it with your own eyes? The magic surrounding this school, even if you haven’t decided to embrace your bloodline, allows you to see the truth,” Kaleena asked with a warm smile.
“Alright, let’s take you to the stables,” Kaleena stood up. “The students won’t be back for another week, but their Summonings are here, along with my own,” Kaleena smiled and strode to the door where she waited for Valentine to follow.
“You’re a Summoneer?” Valentine gave the woman a disbelieving look.
“Of course, all those who reside in Norvica are Summoneers,” Kaleena laughed and held the door open. “Hopefully, once you see it for yourself, you’ll join us here.”
“Now, through here is stable block C, which opens up onto the school grounds. Don’t panic, none of the creatures will hurt you,” Kaleena waited for Valentine to agree before she pulled one of the heavy looking doors open. She stepped inside and watched Valentine in amusement. Valentine’s mouth dropped open as she stepped within, her heart pounding at the sight before her.
“Here Ringan comes, he’s my Summoning,” Kaleena nudged Valentine to look where she pointed to the right.
“Ringan comes from the Summoning family called Cervus, and resembles a red deer, although, there are some minor differences,” Kaleena grinned as she stroked the face of the deer.
“Minor differences…?” Valentine gave a soft laugh. The deer was massive, easily the size of a large horse, and she could understand the high ceilings and massive room now. They had to accommodate the large beast and its antlers.
“As you can see, Summoning creatures are quite large, as Summoneers are supposed to ride them,” Kaleena explained.
“Ride them?” Valentine mouth curved into a smile as she took in the size of the deer. If she stood beside it, the top of its back would be higher than her. She’d never seen anything like it.
“Of course,” Kaleena smiled. “Come, Ringan doesn’t mind if you wish to touch him,” Kaleena stepped aside as she ushered Valentine to step closer.
“This is amazing,” Valentine breathed as she stroked Ringan’s face.
“Now do you believe in Summoning creatures?” Kaleena asked as she smiled lovingly at the deer.
“I…I think I might,” Valentine’s mouth opened in a wide smile of surprise as Ringan snorted and rolled his eyes.
“They can understand us, and each Summoning can communicate with their Summoneer telepathically,” Kaleena explained. “Now, we’ve just got to prove to you that magic, and our powers, are real.”
“What is that?” Valentine stepped away from Ringan as she stared dumbly at Kaleena’s glowing hand.
“My powers are earth based; everyone has one of the five elements as their base. Fire, water, air, earth and spirit,” Kaleena watched as Ringan pawed at the straw and revealed the bare dirt underneath.
“Watch,” Kaleena knelt down and reached her hand through the railings to wave over a patch of cleared earth. Valentine knelt down and stared in amazement as a small clump of flowers sprouted, then quickly grew to full height and bloomed.
“Oh my god,” Valentine looked at Kaleena in disbelief.
“Magic is real, and if you decide to become a Summoneer, we’ll teach you all there is too know about the powers lying dormant inside you, along with your own Summoning animal,” Kaleena waved her hand over the flowers to make them slowly withdraw back into the earth.
“I…I don’t know,” Valentine stuttered as she stood up.
“There’s no rush to decide, on the way out we’ll pick up your letter that you left in my office, and if you do decide to join, just give the number on the there a call, and let us know what introduction day you’d like to attend,” Kaleena stood up and smiled softly at her.
“Okay,” Valentine nodded, her mind beginning to accept the truth of what she’d just seen.
“Great,” Kaleena smiled. “Now, let’s get you back home, you probably have school tomorrow.”
“So, have you decided yet?”
“What?” Valentine yawned and looked at Becky as they walked down the hall.
“A party, are you going to have one? Today’s Friday so we’ll have to know by the end of the day so we can be ready,” Becky turned and waved as Chris came their way.
“Oh, right. No, no party,” Valentine shook her head as she stifled a second yawn as Chris joined them.
“Aw, that’s no fun,” Becky pouted.
“What’s no fun?” Chris asked as he turned and kept in step with the girls.
“Val isn’t having a party,” Becky grumbled.
“Well, it is her choice,” Chris shrugged. “But it does suck, you sure?” he looked to Valentine.
“Yeah, I have some other things to worry about right now,” Valentine sighed.
“Like what?” Becky leapt in.
“Just stuff, don’t worry,” Valentine smiled. Kaleena had made it quite clear she was not to discuss it with anyone who wasn’t a Summoneer. They wouldn’t believe her. Besides, there was an introduction day on Saturday, and she planned on going. She’d made her mind up this morning while she got ready in front of the mirror and finally realised just whom she could be.
“Huh?” Valentine looked at Chris and Becky who’d stopped to look at her.
“You alright?” Becky asked as she raised an eyebrow at her. “You zoned out for a bit there.”
“Yeah, I’m fine, just thinking,” Valentine grinned.
“Aren’t you always,” Becky nudged her with her elbow while Chris smiled.
“So, did you get any presents this morning?” Becky asked excitedly.
“My Aunt and Uncle said they’d give me my presents tonight when we go out for dinner, they’re taking me out to a restaurant,” Valentine smiled at the thought. She’d woken up late this morning so had to rush to get ready, but was glad to see the letter on her desk to reassure her that it wasn’t all a dream.
“Ah okay, do you know where you’re going?” Becky asked.
“No, it’s a surprise,” Valentine replied.
“Well, I’ll catch up with you guys later, enjoy class,” Chris waved as he ducked inside one of the open classrooms.
“We’d better hurry if we don’t want to be late,” Becky rolled her eyes as she picked up the pace. But Valentine couldn’t focus on classes or school today, she had something more important on her mind.
“Yeah,” Valentine snapped out of her thoughts and turned to Christian.
“You’ve been zoning out a lot today, are you sure you’re alright?” Christian asked, a shadow of worry in his eyes. Valentine nodded and summoned a smile for him. “Okay, Becky said she’s getting a lift with Jennifer today,” Christian smiled as he turned to where Becky headed their way with Jennifer in tow.
“Hey guys! I’m off, I’ll see you both on Monday. Have fun tonight Val,” Becky grinned as she slowed and waved to them. “Bye.”
“See you,” Valentine waved.
“See you Monday,” Christian nodded.
“Hey, before you go, I wanted to give you this. It is your birthday after all,” Christian smiled and held out a neatly wrapped box. “Don’t open it until you get home.”
“Oh, thanks Christian, you didn’t have to,” Valentine smiled softly and accepted the gift.
“Of course I did, it’s your birthday,” Christian playfully argued.
“Thanks so much,” Valentine hugged him and noted his hesitancy to hug her back. He did though, and seemed quite content until she pulled away.
“Well, I’ll let you go, otherwise you’ll miss your bus,” Christian smiled and waved.
“Alright, well, hopefully I’ll see you Monday,” Valentine waved as she turned.
“Of course you will, where else will I be,” Christian laughed as he headed off for his bus.
“Okay, alright, I’m ready,” Valentine took a few deep breaths as she pulled the envelope out of her jacket. She looked down at the silver bracelet she wore with her name on it. It was the gift Christian had given her, and it was beautiful. But she had something she had to do, and dwelling on Christian and the bracelet wasn’t going to help.
“Valentine, it’s so nice to see you here,” Maureen greeted her from the reception desk where she stood with a clipboard in hand.
“I’m glad to be here,” Valentine couldn’t help but grin.
“Well, the introduction doesn’t start for another fifteen minutes, so you’re a little early, but just head on through the first door on the left. Everyone will be meeting in there,” Maureen indicated down the hall.
“Okay, awesome, thanks,” Valentine nodded as she headed off, her sneakers squeaking on the porcelain floor.
“Hi there!” one of the girls waved and rushed over. The boys stopped talking to glance their way, a few of them smiling at the new girl.
“Hi,” Valentine smiled and gave a small wave as the second girl walked over.
“I’m Cynthia, but you can call me Cindy. And this is Lucy,” the bubbly girl grinned as her shoulder length hair bounced on her shoulders.
“Hi there,” Lucy nodded, her blue eyes looked rather uninterested as she noted the boys looking their way.
“Well, nice to meet you both, I’m Valentine,” Valentine smiled at the two girls.
“Oh, that’s such a pretty name!” Cindy pouted then smiled.
“Thanks,” Valentine looked at Lucy who had turned to inspect the food on the table. She had long, black hair that trailed down her back, which sparked a pang of jealousy in Valentine. Lucy’s hair was beautiful and straight, nothing like her ordinary mid length brown hair with its natural waves. She wondered if Lucy straightened her hair or if it was natural.
“Anyway, those guys are Cyrus, Raoul, Thaddeus, and Levi,” Cindy point at the four teenage boys, who ended their conversation at the sound of their names.
“Interesting names,” Valentine stated as the boys walked over.
“It seems we all had eccentric parents,” one guy stated as he brushed his blond hair away from his brown eyes, which were welcoming. “I’m Thaddeus,” he offered her his hand, which she shook.
“Yeah, well, I was named after Persian Kings, so beat that,” the guy with short red hair playfully shoved Thaddeus. “Name’s Cyrus,” he shook Valentine’s hand as his green eyes gave her a once over.
“I’m Raoul and this is Levi,” the guy with black hair nodded and indicated at the shorter boy with short brown curly hair. Raoul had olive skin, brown eyes and a rather solid build, a stark contrast to the smaller paler boy with blue eyes and rather small but lean build.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you all,” Valentine nodded at the group. “I’m Valentine.”
“Seems we’re not the only ones with interesting names,” Thaddeus smiled. He had the most muscular build of the four and it made Valentine associate him with a football player.
“Looks like everyone is starting to arrive now,” Lucy stated as she raised an eyebrow and nodded at the door, where two more people had walked in.
“Won’t be long now, I can’t wait to find out what my Summoning creature is, I bet it’ll be something awesome,” Cyrus grinned.
“Idiot, we don’t find out our Summoning creatures until the induction day, today is just the introductory day,” Thaddeus rolled his eyes.
“What’s the difference?” Cyrus shrugged, more interested in one of the new girls who had walked in.
“This is amazing,” Cindy exclaimed from beside Valentine. They’d seen the classrooms, had a peek in stable block C, been shown the dorms, and they were now out on the school grounds. They’d been informed that they would have holidays and could return home on weekends if they wished to.
“It is,” Valentine agreed as she looked around at the perfect green land around her, pine trees visible in the distance. They’d been informed that there were more stable blocks that opened up onto the grounds, and the Summoning creatures were allowed to roam the grounds freely. She’d found out that there were five Summoning groups of creatures, Canis, Cervus, Ursidae, Panthera, and Aquila. The school itself was located in a magical rip in space, which meant that the only way in was via the Summoning spell attached to the envelopes handed out to students. Kaleena had told them there was another way, a reverse Summoning, which could be done by ones’ Summoning creature. Summoneers could summon their creatures whenever they needed them, but their creatures could also do a reverse Summoning, summoning their Summoneer to them. It was an ability that the creatures didn’t gain until full adulthood though.
“Oh, look!” Cindy tugged on Valentine’s arm and pointed out over the grounds, where a massive tiger prowled. It was large in size just like Ringan, and Valentine vaguely wondered how easily they were ridden. The sight of the magnificent beast caused the group to stop and stare, but it was obvious that Valentine was the only one caught off guard by it. The others had some idea of what to expect, but obviously had never actually seen a Summoning creature before.
“I’ll bet my Summoning will be a big cat,” Cyrus boasted as he watched the tiger. “My parents both had big cats, and your Summoning creature is hereditary.”
“Mine will be in the Canis family,” Cindy stated as she turned to look at Valentine. “Do you know what group yours will be from?”
“Um, I’m not sure,” Valentine mumbled and bit her lip.
“Well, what creatures did your parents have?” Cyrus crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow at her.
“I don’t know,” Valentine clenched her jaw and looked away. “They died when I was little, I had no idea about any of this until I got my letter,” Valentine murmured.
“Damn, sorry to hear that,” Thaddeus gave her a sad smile, while Cyrus bit his cheek and looked away.
“I never knew them, but I think Kaleena will be able to let me know what it might be,” Valentine tried to drop the subject. Luckily, so did everyone else as they continued on their tour of the school.
“Well, are you in?” Cindy asked.
“Definitely,” Valentine nodded and smiled.
“Awesome, well, I’ll see you Tuesday then, I better head home,” Cindy grinned as she headed out of the room with Lucy behind her. Raoul, Cyrus and Levi had already left, excited about the induction on Tuesday.
“Well, guess I’ll be seeing you around then,” Thaddeus spoke up from behind her.
“Looks like it,” Valentine smiled.
“Well, I look forward to it,” Thaddeus grinned and nodded as he strode off.
“Valentine, there you are, you hadn’t come out yet to be sent home,” Kaleena popped her head in. “Everyone else has left now.”
“Hey Kaleena, before I go, I was just wondering what my mother’s Summoning creature was?” Valentine asked as she walked over.
“Your mother was the proud Summoneer of Lilaylah, a beautiful lion,” Kaleena smiled at Valentine’s grin.
“I’ve already decided. I know you said give it some thought and wait a few days, but I know I won’t change my mind. Count me in.”
“Well, if you’re sure, I’ll get everything prepared on Monday, so you still have a day to say goodbye to your friends. Your guardians will be notified of a school change, but don’t worry about it, that’s something we deal with,” Kaleena explained. “We’ve got quite some influence in that regard. Although if you change your mind, let me know Monday as soon as possible, as it’ll be Monday night that we’ll start contacting all the parents.”
“Okay, I will, and are you sure you’ll be able to talk my Aunt and Uncle into the school change? What will you tell them? They obviously can’t know the truth,” Valentine bit her lip.
“Don’t worry, we’ll handle it. They’ll be informed you have been selected to attend a very elite, private boarding school. If you need to tell your friends something, that excuse should also work for them,” Kaleena explained. “We’ll handle all the rest.”
“Okay, thanks,” Valentine nodded and allowed Kaleena to lead her out. Monday was her last day, and then Tuesday it would all begin. She would start her new schooling, and she would become someone better. Someone with a purpose.
“How was your weekend?” Valentine asked.
“Great, I met this guy at our family barbecue; he was my cousin’s friend. He’s quite lovely and I’m pretty sure he’s interested. He wants to catch up after school this week,” Becky grinned as she tried to contain her happiness and excitement.
“Well, mine was nowhere near as fun, I did my homework, caught up with one of my friends and cleaned my room,” Christian shrugged. “How was yours?”
“It was good,” Valentine nodded which caused both her friends to give her eye rolls.
“Wow, very informative,” Christian chuckled.
“What’d you get up to? Did you have some party or family thing?” Becky tried to get her to elaborate.
“No…” Valentine chewed her lip. She needed to tell them today, but her gut twisted at the thought.
“Look guys, I need to talk to you both about something at lunch,” Valentine sighed. “But we’d better get moving, I’m going to be late to Art class.”
“You’re changing schools?” Becky’s mouth dropped open.
“Why?” Christian frowned, disbelieving her words.
“I’ve been accepted into a school for gifted students. Don’t worry, I’ll still be home on weekends and holidays, so we can catch up then,” Valentine chewed her lip as she felt the full brunt of her choice weigh down on her. She would no longer see her much loved friends and family every day; instead she’d be restricted to seeing them on weekends and holidays. But the opportunity that faced her, the wonder and awe of a life outside of the crowd was too much to pass up.
“I knew you were getting good marks, I just didn’t know they were that good,” Becky sighed. “Please don’t go, we’ll miss you, you need to stay here with us.”
“Becky, don’t guilt trip her. Val is obviously excited about this, aren’t you?” Christian directed the question at Valentine.
“Yeah,” Valentine shrugged but couldn’t hold back a smile.
“So we shouldn’t try to hold her back. Sure, we’ll both miss you heaps, but it looks like you may have a found a new calling, something more suited for you,” Christian smiled knowingly, something Valentine couldn’t help but smile at. He was so understanding, but she knew he wasn’t happy about her choice.
“Christian,” Becky pouted. “Don’t put it like that, it makes me feel bad.”
“Like Val said, we’ll still be able to hang out on weekends and holidays, so it’s not like we’re losing her and we can still text and call each other,” Christian’s smile faltered as he looked at Valentine. “But we will miss you.”
“I’ll miss you guys too,” Valentine bit her lip, starting to feel like this goodbye was too much. But it wasn’t like she was never going to see them again.
“Alright, fine, I suppose I could live with that arrangement,” Becky clenched her jaw stubbornly. “When are you leaving?”
“I do my induction day tomorrow, so I’m assuming it starts Wednesday,” Valentine said slowly as she watched both her friends give her pained expressions.
“Why’d you take so long to tell us?!” Becky blurted.
“I only found out Thursday but my introduction day was on Saturday, so I didn’t want to tell you guys until I had decided,” Valentine defended herself.
“You had an introduction day on Saturday? That’s a weird time to have it. It seems it’s all moving quite quickly,” Christian pursed his lips as he pulled one leg up to his chest. They were sitting on the grass on the oval, soaking up the sun’s rays.
“Yeah, I’m quite excited, they offer different classes there,” Valentine stated, unable to contain her excitement.
“Like what?” Christian’s interest perked.
“Well, we’ll be working with animals and studying them, we’ll also be studying the world’s issues and coming up with ways to help out. There’s a more advanced science class available that focuses on the base elements, and there’s plenty of others as well,” Valentine tried to keep it vague. They were working with animals, and the world issues, well; they’d learn all about Shadow Riders and how to stop them. As for the base elements, well, they were going to have powers, another thing she was still getting her mind around.
“Ah okay, sounds quite interesting,” Christian nodded. “Sounds like you’d enjoy it.”
“Working with animals will be fun, but that science class doesn’t sound like my type of thing,” Becky shrugged. “It’s your choice though, if that’s what you want to do. Just to let you know though, you will be doing things with us on the weekends to catch up, even if it’s a just a sleepover or lunch. I don’t think I’ll be able to live without seeing you at least once a week,” Becky sighed heavily.
“I know guys, and thanks for understanding this. We’ll definitely catch up on the weekends,” Valentine assured them.
“So today’s your last day here,” Becky put on her signature faux pout then grinned. “We should make it memorable,” her mouth curved into a sly smile.
“Oh no, we do not,” Valentine shook her head profusely and giggled at Becky’s mischievous look.
“I say why not?” Christian agreed cheerfully.
“What have you got in mind?” Valentine gave in, not wanting to deprive her friends from some kind of send-off. Besides, what was the worst they could do?
“How was class?” Christian popped up beside Valentine and Becky.
“It’s Mathematics, what do you think?” Becky gave him a flat look.
“Val doesn’t mind Maths, neither do I, you’re the only one who hates it,” Christian smiled.
“It’s a stupid class to have at the end of the day,” Becky grumbled.
“What about you Val, how did your last day go?” Chris asked.
“It was alright. I found it a bit hard to focus on the schoolwork though; my mind was elsewhere. But it was fine,” Valentine smiled. She’d expected her friends to do something crazy, but the afternoon had passed without any dramas. Perhaps Becky hadn’t had enough time to plan anything.
“That’s good,” Christian nodded with a distant look.
“Ugh, well, the day’s over,” Becky smiled sadly. “Maybe we should do something to celebrate? Maybe we should head out to the diner?”
“I can’t I’m afraid, I have to get ready for the induction tomorrow,” Valentine gave her friends a sad smile.
“That’s okay, we understand,” Christian nodded. “We’ll do something over the weekend if you’re available, we’ll text you.”
“Okay,” Valentine nodded as they exited the school. She froze and grinned in surprise as a round of applause greeted her. Many of her classmates from various classes lined the walkway to send her off.
“Oh my god, did you guys do this?” Valentine’s mouth dropped open.
“Of course, we have our sources,” Becky grinned as she bounced up and down and joined in the applause.
“We figured a clap-out would be memorable,” Christian smiled. “Besides, I’ve got friends in high places,” Chris poked his tongue out as he darted ahead and gestured for Valentine to continue down the walkway lined with fellow students.
“Thank you,” Valentine waved goodbye to the students, some of whom she didn’t even know personally, just another face from the hall. Christian did have a lot of friends, so she was positive he played the bigger part in organising this. He was quite popular. But how they’d pulled together to farewell her off, it really did touch her. Even though she barely knew most of them.
“Chris!” Valentine hurried after Christian, the clap-out walkway finally reaching its end.
“Pretty good huh,” Christian threw his arms out as the crowd started to disperse, some still clapping a final farewell.
“Yeah, thank you, thank you both,” Valentine smiled as Becky caught up.
“You deserved it,” Becky smiled. “Well, I’d better go, my bus leaves soon. I guess I’ll see when I see you,” Becky hugged Valentine tightly. “Have fun at the new school. I’ll be calling you tomorrow night to see how it’s going.”
“Okay, talk then,” Valentine smiled as Becky pulled back and nodded before she rushed off to her bus.
“Well, guess this is goodbye then,” Christian pursed his lips.
“Not forever, I’ll be back on weekends,” Valentine shrugged playfully. “So it’s not really goodbye.”
“Yeah, but I won’t be seeing you around at school now,” Christian smiled sadly, his eyes pained.
“It’s not that bad,” Valentine bit her lip. He looked hurt, and it pained her to see him like that. It was more than just their friendship he was worried about. He had deeper feelings for her, and she could see it. But she didn’t know how to deal with them or what to do. She wasn’t sure how she felt about it.
“Well, I guess I’d better head off too, but call or text if you need anything or just want to chat,” Christian smiled as he hugged her and held her close.
“I will,” Valentine hugged him back, wishing she could return his feelings. She didn’t know what she felt though, and if she took the leap, she could hurt him badly and destroy their friendship. Something she definitely didn’t want.
“Well, goodbye,” Chris bit his lip and smiled as he pulled back. “Keep us both updated,” he lightened up and waved as he headed off.
“I will, bye,” Valentine waved after him. She should’ve said something more, done something, but her mind told her not to do anything stupid that could ruin things. To be logical. Besides, did she want to lead a life like her mother? Hiding everything? Christian could never know the truth, he would never understand.
“Oh my god, look at our room!” Cindy squealed.
“Looks like we’ll all have to get used to each other,” Lucy stated.
“It’s pretty neat,” Valentine admitted. The floor was carpeted in cream and had dark mahogany walls, giving the room a certain old world charm. The modern wall lights gave the room a welcoming glow. It was rather spacious but at the same time cosy.
“I call dibs on this one!” Cindy rushed to the one closest to the kitchenette on the right.
“I’ll just take this one,” Lucy tossed her bags onto the closest bed on the left, while Valentine headed for the other bed near the kitchenette.
“Do you know who has that one?” Cindy asked as she plopped down on the bed and pointed at the remaining bed.
“I heard we were the last group to be inducted. On the original letter we got there were only introductions days for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and then an induction day on Tuesday for all those who decided to join. They’re not enrolling any more students now,” Lucy explained as she unzipped her bag and began filling the drawers.
“What about all the people that turn sixteen after now?” Valentine dumped her bag on her chosen bed.
“They’ll be enrolled next year. You’ll find that there are going to be a range of both sixteen and seventeen year olds all throughout the school,” Lucy smiled. “Those who don’t make the cut off time get enrolled next year at the start of the school year, so they’ll receive their letters around then.”
“So we get the room to ourselves?” Cindy grinned.
“For this year, yeah,” Lucy nodded.
“Awesome!” Cindy exclaimed as she went through her bag.
“We’ve got an hour to unpack and get settled into our rooms before they start the induction,” Lucy alerted them.
“Got it,” Valentine sat down on her bed, excitement coursing through her. She’d found her letter this morning on her desk. She’d gotten a call the night before from Maureen to let her know that she needed to have everything packed and ready to get settled in the following morning, and they’d prefer if everyone tried to get there around eight in the morning. She been too excited and had woken early, having to unhappily wait for the clock to reach eight before she opened her letter. Maureen had greeted the arrivals and waited until quarter past to ensure as many people were there before she showed them to their rooms. The dorms were on either side of the large school; the girls were closer to the outside training area, while the boys’ dorms were over by the pool.
“I can’t wait to find out what my Summoning creature is!” Cindy could barely contain her excitement and struggled to withhold from squealing.
“I didn’t think we’d find out so soon,” Valentine stated. Today they’d find out their Summoning and their powers, along with what classes they’d have.
“They always try to get that stuff sorted out as quickly as possible; it gives us more time to bond with our Summoning. Classes won’t properly start until next week, this week it’s all just learning about our Summonings’ and a few lessons on our powers,” Lucy shrugged. “Next week will be everything, like the arts classes, the basic subjects, training and whatnot. It’s still a school after all.”
“I know,” Valentine smiled. She already knew she was going to love this place, she could feel it. And the excitement about finding out her Summoning and powers was almost unbearable.
“You are all here today to start the journey to becoming a true Summoneer. Before we continue on to finding out what your Summoning creatures are, we’ll fill you in on a bit of the process,” Kaleena stated, her voice pitched to carry.
“Today, as part of your induction, you’ll receive your Summoning creature. These creatures, when first summoned, are only young and require attention and guidance to help them grow. You will strengthen your bond with them by raising them, as the stronger the bond, the faster they grow. You will spend as much time with them as possible, but it is completely your choice as to how much time you commit to your creature. Upon receiving your Summoning, your powers that lay dormant inside you will be activated. This is where my fellow teachers come in,” Kaleena indicated at the teachers on either side of her. “Mr Haplin’s element is water, Miss Snark is earth, Mrs Salvetti is fire, Mr Dales is air, while Mrs Tarin is spirit,” As Kaleena said their names, each teacher gave a brief nod.
“Spirit is extremely rare though isn’t it?” Levi asked, breaking the silence.
“Yes, spirit is an extremely rare base element, therefore little is known about it, although it is sometimes referred to as the Life element, as those who learn to wield it quite well have the ability to heal,” Kaleena agreed with a smile “Now, once your Summoning creature has been summoned, going back is not easy. The pair of you will be bonded for life, and severing that bond is extremely difficult. Once your creature has been summoned, a group of carers will take them to their designated youngster rooms. The youngster rooms have staff on a twenty-four hour roster. They will care for your Summonings when you’re unable to and while they’re still growing. They are very experienced in raising them, however you are welcome at any time to go in and spend time with your Summoning, and this is encouraged. Until your Summoning reaches adolescent stage, they must remain in the youngster rooms,” Kaleena explained. “ It is a serious responsibility, so if you’re not sure if you wish to proceed, please speak up now,” Kaleena stated as she clasped her hands and looked around the group. No one stepped forward so Kaleena continued.
“Okay, it looks like we’re all ready to do this. Let’s get this Summoning under way. We’ll call you up one at a time; you are to stand before the Book of Summonings and state your full name, including any middle names you may have. What follows will surely be interesting, but is nothing to be afraid of,” Kaleena smiled as her eyes flashed with humour.
“What’s going to happen?” Thaddeus asked from the front of the group.
“Now that would spoil the surprise,” Kaleena grinned as one of the teachers handed her a clipboard.
“First up is Lucy Acerra,” Kaleena smiled patiently while Lucy moved through the group and stepped out.
“Lucy Rose Acerra,” Lucy stated and jumped as the book cover flipped open and the pages turned in a flurry of paper.
“Lucy, you must make first contact with it,” Kaleena stated when Lucy made no move. “Just pick it up and take a seat over there,” Kaleena gestured to the row of waiting chairs “Now, who’s next?”
“Valentine Maddox,” Kaleena spoke over the murmurs of the students as they fussed over their new Summonings and the assorted sounds of said creatures.
“Valentine Maddox,” Valentine’s grin widened as the pages of the book shuffled through to the decided Summoning creature. The page it settled on showed a black and white picture of a leopard sitting on its haunches. The white wispy orb shot out of the page and swirled over her, leaving Valentine gaping at the magnificent sight. The orb took on the shape of a leopard as it pounced onto the ground and prowled the open space. Valentine watched in amazement as it padded around the room before it turned back to her. It stalked forward and moved into a run before pouncing at her.
“My my, a snow leopard, not something you see every day,” Kaleena spoke over the noise in the room.
“Very cute,” Cindy stated from the seat behind her.
“So is yours,” Valentine turned and smiled as she looked down at the red-brown wolf pup in Cindy’s lap. It had fallen asleep while Cindy stroked its back tenderly.
“Do we name them?” Valentine asked as she turned to the person beside her, in this case Thaddeus, who had a small lion cub in his lap that relaxed at his touch.
“I was told that they already have names, we just have to wait until they reach adolescent stage and their telepathic link with us is completed,” Thaddeus explained.
“A telepathic link,” Valentine smiled at him. Kaleena had mentioned that.
“My parents told me heaps about Summoning creatures. They said that for the first week they cannot communicate with us at all, after that though we can feel their feelings, and when they reach adolescent stage, we can communicate telepathically,” Thaddeus smiled as he scratched his cub’s head.
“Amazing,” Valentine breathed as she looked down at her purring bundle. “I thought big cats like these couldn’t purr,” Valentine stated, enjoying the rumbling sound that the cub made at her touch.
“Snow leopards are an exception. Other big cats like tigers, lions, leopards and jaguars can only purr when they exhale,” Thaddeus explained “My parents both have big cats so they taught me a lot about them.”
“This is so amazing. I can’t wait to find out your name little guy,” Valentine giggled as the cub rolled over in her lap and yawned.
“This must be a huge thing for you; you never knew anything about this growing up, did you?” Thaddeus smiled as Valentine stroked the cub.
“No, I didn’t, but I’m so excited. It was hard to believe at first, but seeing is believing,” Valentine grinned.
“Yeah, it is,” Thaddeus nodded as he returned his attention to his lion. “I can’t believe Levi’s Summoning was a grizzly bear, it really caught me off guard.”
“Yeah, there weren’t many bears Summoned,” Valentine agreed. The bear Summoning was definitely not what she’d expected for the smaller boy.
“Yours was the only leopard, and to top it off it was a snow leopard, I haven’t heard of one being Summoned for quite some time,” Thaddeus shook his head in disbelief.
“It’s adorable,” Valentine loved the feel of its soft fur beneath her fingers and couldn’t stop stroking it. “How do we know if they’re boys or girls?”
“I was told the carers would let us know, as they’re the only ones allowed to check that sort of thing. It could be embarrassing for the Summoning if the Summoneer does it. They’re as smart as us and have feelings too,” Thaddeus said.
“Ah okay,” Valentine nodded. “So you said your parents had big cats as well, where do they keep them?”
“Kaleena didn’t really explain it well, but this school is for training new Summoneers, but it houses all the Summonings for this area. There are other Summoning schools all around the country, the world, and they are also the home for all the Summonings. It’s just a safe place for them to reside until they’re summoned,” Thaddeus explained.
“Oh, okay,” Valentine bit her lip. “So they’re here then?”
“Sometimes, my parents are battling the Shadow Riders, so they summon their creatures whenever they need them,” Thaddeus smiled. “They do have day jobs though as well. Battling Shadow Riders isn’t really a full-on thing unless you want it to be. You get a choice once you’ve passed the Summoning schooling to either join the battle full-on or just be a reserve. A reserve can go back to living a normal life and only gets called upon if they’re needed or if Shadow Riders are in the area where you live,” Thaddeus said as he let the small cub on him curl up into a ball.
“Okay, that’s good to know,” Valentine chewed her lip. She could go back to her friends one day, go back to a normal life somewhat. But she’d live a double life, getting called upon randomly to fight.
“Alright everyone, all creatures have been summoned. You’ll now need to leave your Summoning behind, just put them on the chairs or let them sit on the floor; the carers will be here in a moment to take them to the youngster rooms. You’ll now follow the teachers to another room to find out what your base elements are,” Kaleena clapped her hands to get everyone’s attention.
“Yours is very quiet and laid-back,” Thaddeus commented as he struggled to get his lion cub to stay put. It refused, not wanting to be separated from its Summoneer.
“Yeah, it is,” Valentine agreed as she scratched the cub’s head before she turned and followed the group. She couldn’t help but look back and smiled sadly when the cub cocked its head at her. She’d be seeing it again soon though, but right now, it was time for her to learn about her powers.
“Alright, now that you’ve all received your Summonings, it’s time for you to learn what your base element is,” Mr Haplin’s deep voice rumbled around the room. He was a largely built man with graying brown hair and hazel eyes. He was probably in his late forties or early fifties if Valentine were to guess, and he sauntered over to a table at the front of the room. “We have a Tarix stone here which I’ll explain a bit about first. Tarix stones are rather rare, and to the ordinary human, it is nothing more than an onyx stone. For us though, it boosts the flow of energy in the holder, causing the atmosphere around them to shift with their element, giving them more power. However, this power is unstable when not used by the right person, thus why your teachers are standing by, to contain any issues that may arise. Now, there’s another stone, the Loricka stone, which resembles a green stone. It is used to keep powers in check, and is given to all new students until they learn how to control and wield their powers,” Mr Haplin explained. “Mrs Salvetti will now explain the process.” He added, nodding to the woman beside him.
“So, to continue from what Mr Haplin has explained, you’ll be asked to come up to the front one at a time, and hold the Tarix stone. We’ve got a few materials on the table, and depending on what base element you are, one of them will respond. Afterwards, please see Mrs Tarin for your pendent, it contains a Loricka stone and is to be worn at all times until you’ve gained enough control of your powers,” Mrs Salvetti took over. She had mid-length blond hair and dark green eyes that pierced the group of students. Her brow furrowed as she took in the group before her; she could only be in her thirties at the latest.
“Alright, we’ll be going in the same order that you used for your Summonings, so can Lucy Rose Acerra please come forward?” Mrs Salvetti smiled as she flicked her blonde wavy hair over her shoulder.
“Looks like we’ve got an air wielder,” Mr Dales spoke up. “You can pop the Tarix stone back now.”
“Thanks,” Lucy smiled and did the clasp up around her neck on the way back to the group.
“Cynthia Anne McCalon,” Mrs Salvetti Called out.
“Oh, so exciting!” Cindy shook Valentine’s arm as she grinned widely and hurried up to the table. She picked up the Tarix stone, and stared at the items laid out on the table expectantly. After a few moments and no response, her grin faltered and she turned to the teachers, confusion evident on her face.
“Well, I’ll be,” Mrs Salvetti smiled softly. “Mrs Tarin, looks like this one could be yours.”
“Could be,” Mrs Tarin strode over to Cindy and smiled down at the confused girl. “Here,” Mrs Tarin pulled a small container out from her blue woollen jacket.
“Hold out your hand,” Mrs Tarin instructed Cynthia, who obeyed and held out her hand. Mrs Tarin opened the container and gently poured the gecko onto Cynthia’s hand. Cynthia stared down at the tailless gecko uncertainly.
“You’re a spirit wielder Miss McCalon. A healer,” Mrs Tarin nodded.
“Not so fast little guy,” Mrs Tarin smiled and dropped the gecko into the container, allowing everyone get a look at its nice new tail.
“Congratulations,” Valentine murmured as Cindy came back over and joined her.
“Thanks, I would never have thought I would be a spirit wielder,” Cindy couldn’t stop grinning as she played with the pendant around her neck.
“Alright, let’s continue. Valentine Maddox, it’s your turn,” Mrs Salvetti called out.
“Good luck,” Cindy squeezed her arm.
“Thanks,” Valentine walked up to the table and bit her lip as her hands trembled.
“Here,” Mrs Tarin cupped her hand in hers, and Valentine watched as a soft blue glow shone through the gaps in her fingers. Valentine breathed out and thanked her as a soothing coolness washed over the burn. Around her the other students murmured and spoke, all confused at what they’d just witnessed.
“I don’t understand,” Valentine murmured as the soothing sensation rolled over her hand. “What happened?”
“I don’t know,” Mrs Tarin admitted as she looked up at Valentine with concerned blue eyes. Strands of brown hair had come loose from her bun and hung down into her face, which she tucked behind her ear as she moved her hands away to look at Valentine’s hand. Valentine followed her amazed eyes to her hand and stared dumbstruck at the red mark that remained. It looked similar to a tribal sun tattoo, but had many red tendrils that spread across the palm of her hand.
“Are you okay?” Cindy asked as Lucy came up beside her.
“Yeah, I think so,” Valentine chewed her lip. She wasn’t sure what had happened or why, but hopefully Kaleena would know. She was just thankful Mrs Tarin had been able to heal the burn and soothe the pain.
“Okay,” Cindy smiled sadly as Mrs Tarin waved for Valentine to follow.
“I’ll see you guys later,” Valentine waved with her uninjured right hand before hurrying after Mrs Tarin.
“I see,” Kaleena frowned as she inspected Valentine’s hand.
“I can’t say for sure why you were burned, but I’ve heard of Summoneers that are born without a base element and are unable to wield magic. It is extremely rare, a one in a million occurrence. I’ve never personally had a student without a base element,” Kaleena sighed.
“So I have no powers?” Valentine murmured as she stared at the strange red tendrils on her hand. Of course it’d be her. She’d be the odd one out, the one without powers.
“Perhaps you should leave us,” Kaleena looked at Mrs Tarin.
“Of course,” Mrs Tarin turned on her heel and strode out of the office.
“If I have no powers, then what?” Valentine asked as her heart sunk at the thought. She felt left behind and defeated, having been so excited about the whole thing. But here she was, useless.
“You can still be a Summoneer, you’ll still have your Summoning, but if you do indeed have no powers, we’ll offer different options to you. Like instead of going to your elemental classes, you can spend more time bonding with your Summoning and training physically. You can develop and focus on what you have got rather than sit in a class that doesn’t help you out specifically,” Kaleena explained.
“I can’t believe this, why me?” Valentine bit her lip to stop it from trembling. She been so excited, anticipating her powers and looking forward to learning how to wield them, only to find out she was a dud.
“I don’t know, but don’t think of it as a bad thing, it gives you more time to develop your bond with your Summoning, perhaps you’ll even be able to merge like your mother could,” Kaleena tried to reassure her.
“So there’s no chance I have powers?” Valentine sighed as she blinked away the tears that had come forward.
“Based on the reaction from the Tarix stone, I’d say it’s safe to assume so, and we won’t risk any further testing as we don’t want you getting burned again, especially if it’s only clarify what we already suspect,” Kaleena smiled sadly.
“Merging with a Summoning is a remarkable power in itself, perhaps you should focus on that,” Kaleena offered.
“I will admit, that type of bond is hard to create, I myself took over a decade to master it, but your mother, well, she managed it in only a few years. I don’t doubt for a second that if you put your heart and mind into it, that you too can follow in her footsteps,” Kaleena smiled.
“What is merging anyway?” she asked.
“You become one with your Summoning, you gain their senses and reflexes, their power and strength. It’s quite an amazing thing, but it does drain your energy and take a toll on you physically. It’s an ability that is quite useful, but most Summoneers prefer not to use it if they have elements as it’s more of a close combat skill. Think of it like taking on the traits and skill set of your Summoning. The eyes, the claws, the speed and agility,” Kaleena explained.
“So sorta like a werewolf,” Valentine frowned.
“Not really. You don’t gain fur, just more advanced skills and senses, like when I merge, I gain the ability to sense danger and presences as quick as Ringan does, I can leap much further and run much faster, my reflexes are more advanced, my sense of smell and hearing are heightened,” Kaleena smiled.
“That sounds wicked, why wouldn’t Summoneers use it more?”
“Well, like I said, it takes its toll on you, physically drains you and you’ll need to rest and recover for a few days afterwards. And you do take on some certain characteristics of your Summoning. You take on their eyes, their claws or talons depending on your Summoning, lengthened canines too. I myself, well, I get the eyes, and, uh,” she raised her hands up to mimic small horns on her head.
“Seriously, you get antlers?” Valentine exclaimed, biting her lip to keep from giggling.
“Just small nubs, as do all Summoneers with a Cervus Summoning,” Kaleena grinned.
“That’s weird,” Valentine stated. But she wouldn’t get that, she’d get claws instead, lengthened canines and cat eyes.
“Okay, I’ll do that,” Valentine nodded, her mind made up. Besides, she did already feel quite strongly for that little fluff ball called her Summoning.
“Great,” Kaleena nodded and smiled. “Now, let’s get you to the youngster room. Everyone else will be getting their first lesson about their powers before heading to the cafeteria for lunch,” Kaleena stood up. “You can spend the time bonding with your Summoning.”
“So, what happened? Are you okay?” Cindy asked.
“Apparently I have no powers,” Valentine shrugged as she played with the pendent around her neck. She was to still wear it at all times despite her lack of power.
“No powers? Seriously? How’s that even possible?” Cindy hissed back, pulling Valentine out of her thoughts.
“The Caesar salad please,” she thanked the woman behind the counter as she was handed the salad. She then waited for Cindy to order her food before answering.
“I’m not sure. It’s extremely rare but it’s the only explanation,” Valentine sighed as they headed outside into the sunlight. Sitting in the cafeteria didn’t interest her; she’d prefer the open air. They passed through the rather quiet courtyard where groups of students milled around and sat in groups.
“The food here is quite nice,” Lucy commented as she joined them. “Anyway, what happened with you? Have they figured out your base element?”
“She doesn’t have one,” Cindy jumped in quickly.
“Really?” Lucy frowned. “I’ve never heard of that before.”
“Well, at least I can spend more time with my Summoning,” Valentine shrugged as she jabbed her fork into a piece of chicken and lettuce as they sat down on the grass.
“That’s true,” Lucy agreed, then frowned “But still, no element? That’s strange.”
“Maybe it’s still just dormant, maybe your powers will come out as you get closer to your Summoning,” Cindy suggested hopefully.
“Yeah maybe, thanks,” Valentine smiled at Cindy, appreciating the sentiment, though she knew in her heart that she wasn’t going to be a late bloomer, there was just nothing there.
“So did Kaleena say why you have no element?” Lucy asked, her brow furrowed like this was a puzzle she had to solve.
“It’s extremely rare, but it happens. They’re not sure why,” Valentine replied, perhaps a bit shorter than she meant too.
“It’s okay. I can spend more time with my Summoning, focus my training on him,” Valentine said with a smile, attempting to soften her moment of irritation.
“Him?” Cindy grinned.
“Yeah, the attendant told me he was a boy,” Valentine nodded.
“Awesome, I wonder what mine is, I feel as though he’s a boy too,” Cindy said. “What about you Luce, girl or boy?”
“I’m going to go with a boy,” Lucy pondered before answering.
“I wonder what their names are,” Cindy leant forward and rested her elbows on her knees. “I can’t wait to talk to mine.”
“Look at him! He’s so cute!” Cindy tried to maintain from squealing as she watched her wolf pup play with Valentine’s Summoning.
“Hope you guys don’t mind the intrusion,” Thaddeus laughed as he hurried over, his lion cub pouncing on the snow leopard with a mock roar. They yowled and played with each other while the wolf pup jumped around them excitedly.
“He’s adventurous, I can’t keep up with him,” Thaddeus knelt down and watched the trio play.
“They’re adorable,” Valentine stated, unable to stop from grinning at the baby critters.
“They’re growing quickly, I guess that’s to be expected if they’re magical,” Thaddeus sighed.
“So I hear you were living with your Aunt and Uncle, how did they handle you coming here?” Thaddeus asked, breaking into Valentine’s thoughts.
“Kaleena took care of it; she dropped by my place while I was at school and spoke to them, letting them know I’d been chosen to attend a highly regarded school for gifted students or something. They were ecstatic about it. Kaleena must have made it sound remarkable, because they couldn’t wait for me to start,” Valentine explained with a smile.
“It’s good that they were cool about it,” Thaddeus grinned as his lion cub came over for a pat. “We’re heading off to an elemental class next; I’ve been meaning to ask, what happened the other day? What’s your base element?”
“I don’t have one,” Valentine answered quietly, watching the lion cub wander back to play with the wolf and leopard.
“What?” Thaddeus said, clearly surprised.
“It’s rare, but it happens,” Valentine shrugged, and then smiled to show him she didn’t think it was a big deal.
“Man, that sucks,” Thaddeus shook his head in disbelief, then he frowned quizzically. “Wait, what are you going to do while we’re all in elemental classes?”
“Well, I get to spend more time with this little guy,” Valentine replied with a grin as her leopard ran over and rubbed along her leg before rushing back to pounce on the lion cub.
“Well that’s good then,” Thaddeus chuckled as the trio of creatures darted around. “They’re so cute, I almost envy you.”
“Elemental classes, what are they usually like?” Valentine asked, directing the question at both Cindy and Thaddeus.
“Just like normal classes, I suppose. They’ll tell us about our element, show us how to wield it. We have to take turns, one on one with the teacher, so if we screw up they can rein it in,” Thaddeus explained with a shrug.
“Well I’m going to be the only one in my class, so yeah…” Cindy bit her lip, looking a bit stressed at the prospect.
“Spirit wielders are rare. Plus, you’ll get heaps of one on one time with Mrs Tarin, so you’ll probably learn more than the rest of us. I hear that it’s a Spirit wielders responsibility to keep all the Summonings in good health. It’s a really important job, especially once we begin sparring,” Thaddeus said comfortingly.
“Yeah, Mrs Tarin said that starting next week I’d be helping out with making sure all the Summonings are healthy. And eventually I’ll be able to help heal Summoneers if need be,” Cindy nodded, her countenance brightening a bit.
“Why is it easier to heal Summonings rather than Summoneers?” Valentine asked.
“Summonings are magical, they already hold all the elements inside them so spirit is easier to access through a Summoning; it’s already dormant inside them. It’s only once they are brought into this world by a Summoneer that they change their focus to one element, so they can work together,” Cindy’s eyes sparkled excitedly. “Apparently, there was once a Summoneer, over a hundred years ago, that was a spirit wielder. He managed to access all the elements and founded the Lekden. We should learn about him in our Summoneer History class, which we’ll start next week along with all the other normal classes,” Cindy explained.
“All elements? That’s amazing,” Thaddeus whistled, impressed.
“I know right,” Cindy grinned.
“Hey guys, it’s time for us go,” Cyrus joined them, his tiger cub almost tripping him up as it bravely attacked his shoelaces.
“Awe, fine,” Cindy pouted as she scooped her pup off the floor and nuzzled its fur.
“Well, see you later,” Thaddeus said as he got to his feet. He stooped down and scooped up his lion cub in one hand, interrupting a carefully planned pounce in the leopard’s direction and earning himself a baleful glare from his Summoning.
“Yeah, I’ll catch up with you guys later,” Valentine nodded as she reached out to corral her own Summoning as he attempted to follow his playmates out. Cyrus gave her a puzzled glance before he leant down and picked up his own cub and followed Thaddeus out.
“Bye,” Cindy grinned as she headed off after the boys.
“Bye,” Valentine smiled down at her Summoning as she overheard Cyrus asking Thaddeus why she wasn’t coming and what happened with her element.
“I can’t wait to fully meet you. I am so excited to talk to you and learn your name,” Valentine murmured gently as he swiped at her hands sleepily.
“I still can’t believe any of this, but I’m glad I’ve got you,” Valentine ran her fingers along his back. “From what I hear, we’ll become great friends.”
“Hey, watch this,” Lucy called from her bed where she sat cross-legged. Valentine and Cindy both sat up and looked over.
“Cool huh,” Lucy grinned proudly.
“That’s amazing,” Valentine crawled to the end of her bed to get a better look.
“Mine glows,” Cindy said with a wink.
“Well come on, show us,” Lucy let hers dissipate as she laid down her challenge with a smile.
“Here,” Cindy held her hands about a foot apart, a blue orb slowly coming to life between them, pulsating softly.
“Wow,” Lucy stared, impressed. “I’d only heard about spirit, I’ve never seen someone wield it before.”
“It’s amazing,” Valentine said, shaking her head as she firmly stamped down the tendril of jealousy that wriggled inside her.
“Yeah, but it can only be used for healing. Mrs Tarin said that it can be projected to blind the enemy, but it’s not any use for offence. It’s a healing power, not an attacking power,” Cindy pursed her lips as she let the orb fade away.
“You guys are learning everything so quickly,” Valentine remarked, careful to keep her tone neutral.
“Yeah, I suppose so, but there is still so much to learn. We’ve only just managed to learn how to manifest our element, not how to project it or wield it. That’s going to be a lot harder,” Lucy sighed. “So, how’s your Summoning going?”
“He’s good. Getting big, but they all are, we’re supposed to start feeling their emotions soon,” Valentine said with a smile.
“That’s good. Once we feel their emotions we get to start learning more about them,” Lucy said distractedly, another tiny whirlwind taking shape between her hands as she spoke.
“I can’t wait until we learn their names,” Cindy grinned. “It’ll be nice to finally call them something besides ‘Summoning’ or ‘cub’.”
“Yeah, referring to them as ‘my Summoning’ sounds so objective, names would be nice,” Valentine agreed.
“Well, we can still hang out with them over the weekend too, I love that,” Cindy said.
“Why did you guys decide to stay for the weekend? Why didn’t you want to go home?” Valentine asked, watching Lucy manifest her element.
“My parents are on holidays in Bali, so there’s no point,” Cindy shrugged.
“I just feel like sticking around, enjoying a quiet, peaceful weekend,” Lucy replied. “What about you?”
“I’m still getting used to it all, besides, as soon as I go back, my friends will be asking me heaps of questions, and I haven’t figured out any answers yet.” Valentine sighed heavily, throwing herself back on her bed and glaring at the ceiling.
“Yeah, you can’t tell them the truth,” Cindy pouted as she pulled out her nail polish from her bedside table. “But it’d be cool if you could.”
“What will you tell them?” Lucy asked.
“I think you’re right. Once we’re doing a few ‘normal’ things, you’ll be able to talk to them without worrying about saying too much,” Lucy nodded encouragingly.
“Thanks,” Valentine gave her a half smile.
“Do you miss your friends?” Cindy asked, her tongue between her teeth as she painted her toenails carefully.
“Yeah, I do,” Valentine bit her lip as she played with the silver bracelet she still wore. So much was going on, she’d been so preoccupied, but she still thought about Becky and Christian.
“That’s a lovely bracelet. Did your friends give you that?” Lucy asked as she noted Valentine playing with it.
“I wish my best friend would give me jewellery like that,” Cindy commented with a raised eyebrow and a cheeky smirk.
“It was a birthday present,” Valentine said defensively as her cheeks warmed up.
“He likes you,” Lucy stated and smiled slyly as Valentine looked down. “And you like him?”
“I don’t know,” Valentine mumbled as she played with the bracelet.
“Well, you’ve got something going for you, since Thaddeus seems to have a thing for you too,” Cindy rolled her eyes and lay back on her bed. “Lucky bugger.”
“I’m still adjusting to everything, boys are the last thing I need to worry about,” Valentine said, unable to help the grin slowly spreading across her features.
“Sure, sure,” Lucy smirked.
“Even if I did like him, Christian that is, it’d never work. I can’t lie and live a double life,” Valentine burst out suddenly.
“It comes with being a Summoneer. All of them live double lives if they’re with someone normal, it’s the way the world is,” Lucy gave her a thin-lipped smile.
“I know,” Valentine flopped back on the bed with another heavy sigh.
“That’s amazing,” Valentine gasped.
“I know right,” Thaddeus grinned.
“How do you feel?” Thaddeus asked.
“Content, happy,” Valentine smiled in amazement.
“Same,” Thaddeus looked down at the lion cub on the floor as it scoffed down a plate of raw meat.
“You like that huh?” Valentine crouched down and watched proudly as her snow leopard busily stuffed his face.
“This week we start normal classes, and we get to start taking our Summonings outside to play,” Thaddeus stated.
“Do they move into the stables now?” Valentine asked as she refrained from stroking the feeding cub. Her hand twitched, the temptation to touch the grey-white fur pulling at her. But she’d always been taught never to touch a feeding animal.
“I think they remain here for another month or so, we’ll take them outside but they’ll come back here afterwards. They still have the playroom until they get big enough to go with the older Summonings,” Thaddeus said.
“Right,” Valentine nodded.
“We better go; we have an English Literature class first up,” Thaddeus said as he stood up.
“Look out!” Cindy squealed from across the room.
“Cindy!” Thaddeus cried in exasperation.
“I got him,” Cindy hefted the pup up. “Sorry, he loves his food.”
“I know,” Thaddeus agreed, an edge to his voice.
“He did this yesterday too,” Cindy let out a frustrated sigh. “You’re going to turn into a fatty you know,” she scolded the pup, who wriggled in her grip.
“Just be careful,” Thaddeus warned. “Not all of the Summonings may be as forgiving,” he said, looking down at the lion cub who was scoffing down the last of his food.
“Well, seems they mostly get along,” Levi said as he approached them and scratched his neck, “Thankfully.”
“How’s your girl going?” Thaddeus asked.
“She’s good, doesn’t take crap from any of the others,” Levi grinned down at the brown bear cub by his side.
“She’s beautiful,” Valentine smiled.
“She is,” Levi agreed.
“Hey Shorty, what’s up guys?” Cyrus slapped Levi on the back as he looked around at the others. Levi rolled his eyes at the nickname.
“Well, we’re about to head off for English,” Thaddeus raised an eyebrow as a small tiger cub rushed over and tackled the lion cub.
“That’s my girl,” Cyrus grinned. “She’s going to be a great fighter,” Cyrus watched as the two cubs play fought.
“Right, well, I’m off,” Thaddeus leant down and picked the lion cub up, cutting the fight short.
“Yeah, we better get moving,” Levi sighed, “Don’t want to be late.”
“See you soon,” Valentine murmured.
“So you’re going well then?” Christian asked as he plucked a chip from the dish of gravy covered hot chips. They were sitting on a bench in a park not far from Valentine’s old school.
“Yeah, everything’s going great. I’m learning a lot of new things, and spending time with the animals is amazing, they even have deer,” Valentine grinned. She was happy to see her two friends again, the first week of normal classes had passed in a blur, but she’d learnt plenty about Summonings, their history and anatomy. They had started a survival class, learning close combat and wilderness training.
“That sounds amazing,” Becky grinned as she struggled to choose a chip that wasn’t completely soaked in gravy. “So, any guys there?”
“Here we go,” Christian sighed and rolled his eyes but he was smiling playfully.
“There’s a few nice guys I suppose,” Valentine shrugged.
“C’mon, really? That’s all? Can’t you give me some more details?” Becky pouted.
“I’ve only been there a little while, I don’t know many people yet,” Valentine said with a small laugh.
“Right,” Becky gave her a disbelieving look.
“Well, I’m thirsty as hell, so I’m going for an iced mocha, you guys want anything?” Becky slipped down off her perch on the table and raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“If they have frozen coke, I’d love one,” Valentine answered as she reached for her bag.
“I’ll shout, since it’s your first day back,” Becky stuck out her tongue playfully before turning to Christian.
“I’ll have the same,” he smiled.
“Alright, be back soon,” Becky waved as she strode off.
“So you like the new school?” Christian asked.
“Yeah, I do,” Valentine nodded.
“You will visit more often though, right?” he asked.
“Of course,” Valentine bit her lip, reminded that she had opted to stay at school that first weekend.
“Nice necklace,” he remarked and Valentine’s hand instantly went to the green stone pendant around her neck. The Loricka stone, a harsh reminder of her lack of an element. She still had to wear it though; it was mandatory.
“Thanks,” she smiled.
“You’re still wearing the bracelet,” Christian said softly.
“Of course, why wouldn’t I?” Valentine smiled, but her heart sped up. The way he struggled to meet her eyes, she knew he was going to say something.
“It’s just, I don’t know,” he sighed as he finally met her eyes. Their deep brown colour seemed to swallow her as she stared nervously into them.
“I miss you,” he broke the eye contact as he looked out at the park.
“I’m not gone, you still see me,” Valentine played anxiously with her bracelet. They were bordering on unfamiliar territory, she could feel it. What was he going to say next? Were they going to stumble down a path that could make or break their relationship? Past the point of no return?
“Becky wants you to try to find her a guy there, someone new,” he said with a grin.
“I don’t think she’d go for any of the guys there,” Valentine grinned, thankful for the change of subject.
“I think she’d like at least a few of them,” Christian laughed. “She’s not exactly the picky type.”
“That’s true, I guess,” Valentine agreed with a laugh, popping another chip into her mouth.
“So, made any new friends?” Christian continued.
“Yeah, Lucy and Cynthia, they’re lovely, also my roommates,” Valentine smiled.
“That’s good to hear,” Christian nodded. “And how are your Aunt and Uncle?”
“They’re good, glad to see me back for the weekend,” Valentine said with a grin. Glad was an understatement. From the moment she’d walked through the door they’d been all over her, obviously very happy to have her home and very keen to hear all about her school.
“We’ve had a few people at school ask how you’re going too, and the teachers,” Christian said.
“Oh really? That’s nice of them, tell them I’m doing well,” Valentine smiled at the thought of everyone missing her. But she liked the new school of Norvica, the truth of what she was and her adorable leopard cub.
“Well, just don’t forget about us alright?” Christian turned serious, but cracked a grin when she gave him a horrified look.
“I’d never, you guys are my best friends!” she shook her head at him and smiled as she spotted Becky returning with the drinks.
“Anyways, I did want to talk to you about something, but now’s probably not the best time, so we’ll leave it for now,” Christian focused on Becky as she strode towards them.
“Are you sure? Is it important?” Valentine tried not to pry, but she had a feeling it had something to do with their friendship or more. Did he want to try to be more than friends?
“Nah, it’s nothing, don’t worry about it,” he grinned at her as Becky joined them, but his eyes betrayed him and Valentine sighed. He wasn’t going to say anything else.
‘You think a lot,’ Cerio stated as his ears twitched.
‘Sorry,’ Valentine apologised. ‘Alright, we can go outside, but not for long.’
‘Yes!’ Cerio leapt to his feet as he rounded on the door and used a paw to open it enough to slip through.
‘Wait up!’ Valentine giggled as she darted after him. She made sure to close the door before dashing after him.
‘Last one there’s a rotten egg!’ Cerio looked back at her as he bounded down the hall.
‘Cerio?’ Valentine pushed the thought out as she rubbed her arms in the cool night air. They were outside now, and she’d lost track of the energetic cub.
‘One day I’ll be that big,’ Cerio broke away from the tiger’s side to its relief, and trotted happily to her.
‘I want to see one of the eagles out here, a proper adult one, but they must be sleeping,’ Cerio looked across the grounds at the dark shapes of the bucks.
‘Uh oh, busted,’ Cerio stated as he raised his head.
‘Damn straight, we’re awesome!’ Cerio purred and Valentine giggled.
‘You know I can eat deer right? This guy looks like he’d be tough, but I could get him,’ Cerio stated as he came to a standstill in front of Ringan.
‘I forgot about that,’ Cerio mumbled.
‘Watch me, I can take him,’ Cerio hissed and didn’t flinch as Ringan snorted and stamped a hoof at the cub’s behaviour.
‘I want to learn to fight just like that,’ Valentine said, glancing down at Cerio to make sure he heard her thought clearly. She’d been taking hand to hand combat classes since her arrival at Norvica and felt that she was finally getting the knack of it.
‘You will, we’ll become the best battling team, I know it,’ Cerio stated determinedly.
‘Wow, that’s awesome!’ Cerio shifted at the sight.
‘Alright, let’s do this,’ Cerio slunk up to stand before their opponents and hissed threateningly.
‘Are you?’ Cerio hissed. Valentine smirked and raised the staff before her.
‘Let’s do this!’ Cerio took off and rushed towards Thaddeus. Rickal roared and darted forward as he bared his teeth.
‘Above!’ Valentine sent out as Cerio leapt over Rickal at Thaddeus, who had side stepped and brought his staff down towards the cub.
‘Rickal!’ Cerio landed and leapt to the side as he dodged the rather harsh blow.
‘I’ll pull his attention, you get him from behind!’ Cerio gave a cub-like roar and lashed out with his paw as he drew Thaddeus’s attention, the boy frantically trying to keep his legs away from the huge swiping paws.
If you wish to continue on with the story, you can find the next two books below. Remember to subscribe to stay up to date on everything! And you can also follow me on Facebook here.
Valentine is just your average teenager, until she awakes one night to an unusual letter on her desk. Little does she know that upon opening it, she’ll be whisked away to discover a whole other side to this world she lives in. A world where there are a population of people called Summoneers, with the ability to wield an element. And not only that, she discovers an amazing other piece – Summonings. Creatures from another realm, large tigers, leopards, wolves and more, all of which can communicate telepathically with their specific Summoneer, and not just that, they ride them too! But there’s a war going on, and Valentine and her newfound friends find themselves thrown right into it. Can they turn the tide of the battle and save their friends? Or are these Shadow Riders too strong for the Summoneers and their Summonings?