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Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Young adult or teen  ➡  Sci-Fi & fantasy  ➡  Paranormal

The Summonings

© 2016 Emily Fox

All Rights Reserved

I’d like to thank you for purchasing this book, and I hope you enjoy the wonderful world I introduce you to of Summoneers and Summonings. This is only book 1 of 4, and you can find links at the end of the book for the others if you choose to continue reading.

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You can find my website below, but I will include my other books at the end if they interest you.

http://www.emilyfox.com.au

Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

The Summonings

Prologue

The large black creature padded down the street, keeping away from the light emitted by the street lamps and sticking to the shadows. Its claws scraped on the pavement as it loped along while its red eyes gleamed in the darkness.

In its wake, the shadows grew heavy and the streetlights flickered as it passed.

The massive hound barely flinched as a couple stepped into its path, they laughed and chatted happily, oblivious to its presence. It continued on, growling deeply as it brushed past them. The couple slowed, their laughter died and they glanced over their shoulders warily, an instinctual fear quickening their footsteps.

He went unseen, invisible to them. But his effect was there. He didn’t need to look back to see his work. Spider like tendrils would have touched their skin and infected them with his darkness.

He would poison all in his path. He would take the light from this world, the happiness.

He was a demon hound.

He was darkness.

Chapter 1

“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.

Valentine smiled softly. Birthdays just weren’t her thing.

The classroom was silent save for the scratching and scribbling of pens as the students took down notes from the board. Valentine smiled as she looked around and caught Christian looking at her. His soft brown eyes and blond hair was an all too familiar sight. They’d been friends since they were small children. She still remembered glimpses of them playing in the sandpit in third grade. If only she could be attracted to him, he’d make an ideal boyfriend. But sadly, she only thought of him as a friend. She wasn’t sure what he thought of her, they were good friends but Chris had never shown any indication of wanting it to be more. She sometimes wondered if she was just missing the signs or not reading them right, she didn’t want to hurt his feelings. He seemed content with just being friends though, and she was perfectly happy with that. If he ever asked to take it further she didn’t know what she’d say or do. She liked him, but more in brotherly way. She’d probably have to turn him down, which would hurt his feelings. They’d never be the same after that.

“God, I think too much,” Valentine murmured as she rubbed her forehead.

“You only just realised that?” Becky snickered from beside her.

The teacher looked their way and Becky bit her lip as she tried not to smile.

Valentine tried to hold her smile back.

But after school, what would she do then? She wanted to do something amazing, make a difference. Something everyone probably wanted to. But how many people actually did it? How many actually went out and made a difference?

Valentine knew she could do small things like volunteering or donating but it never seemed like enough. Valentine wanted a big life; she wanted to change something, anything. She wanted to be remembered. There were so many things she wanted to fix – ending world hunger, stopping pollution, saving the earth, world peace – the list went on. But what could she actually do?

“That’s true.”

“Huh?” Valentine looked at Becky, who pointed at her notebook.

Valentine looked down and realised she’d written something while in thought. A quote she’d heard or read somewhere, maybe even from a song, but she didn’t recognise it.

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.

Valentine pushed her thoughts away as she tried to focus on the task at hand. They would probably have a random quiz or exam soon on what they were learning, and she didn’t want to get a bad mark.

“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.”

Valentine found herself wondering where the day went as she walked out of her last class and joined the crowd of people streaming out of the buildings, the time had seemed to fly by.

“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 shook her head as she climbed onto the bus. She had two great friends right there. Two that she could trust with anything.

  • * *

Valentine awoke to the familiar sound of her message tone. Groggily, she reached over to her bedside table and picked up her mobile.

The time across the screen read just after midnight, and she groaned. Blinking rapidly against the harsh light from the phone screen, she unlocked the device and stared down at it. After a second she smiled and rolled her eyes. The message was from Chris, wishing her a happy birthday. The thought crossed her mind that he had waited up all night just to text her, and she wondered if it meant something more to him than being a good friend. Then she grinned to herself, either way, he was going to be tired tomorrow.

“Great, I’m awake now,” Valentine sighed as she locked her phone and fluffed her pillows a few times, trying to get comfortable again. The moonlight seeping through the crack in her curtains gave her room a peaceful but eerie feel. The light bounced off an ivory envelope on her desk and she frowned tiredly as her body begged for more sleep. It took a few minutes for her brain to understand what she was seeing, and when she did all thoughts of sleep fled.

The envelope hadn’t been there when she’d gone to bed, she was sure of it. Valentine liked things in their place; her room was clean and tidy, with everything put away properly, so the envelope was definitely new.

Curiosity won out and she dragged herself up into a sitting position, stretching as she stifled a yawn. She could always wait until morning to investigate it, but she was awake now, and something about the strange envelope peaked her interest.

She felt around clumsily for the switch for her desk lamp. She groaned and shielded her eyes as the lamp burst to life. God it was bright.

Wiping the sleep from her eyes, she waited for them to adjust before she focused on the envelope. At first she’d thought it was a surprise gift from her Aunt and Uncle, but now that she was looking at it, she knew it wasn’t. Her name was elegantly scrawled on the front and she was instantly aware that the handwriting was not familiar at all. The style belonged to no one she knew. It was very old school, something she’d expect from a grandparent, but it didn’t belong to her grandparents.

She picked up the envelope, a strange sensation coursing through her as her heart sped up. That was strange. Why was it having such an effect? What was it, was it for her birthday? If so, who was it from?

Valentine bit her lip as she flipped it over and stared dumbly at the purple wax seal on it. A symbol was stamped into it, one she didn’t recognise. It was a strange Celtic circle with odd patterns in it.

The envelope now had her full attention. What was it? And who, where, was it from?

Throwing caution to the wind, Valentine touched the seal gently before slipping her fingers under the flap.

What was the worst that could happen? It was just an envelope. Nothing could go wrong.

“Okay…” Valentine murmured as she broke the seal.

Her body seized up and her mouth dropped open, but she was unable to move or scream as a bright light washed over her.

Right, it was just an envelope.

Nothing could happen.

Chapter 2

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.

“Hi there, I’m Maureen.”

Valentine jumped as she snapped her head towards the voice and stared stupidly at the face that peered over the reception desk.

“I’m here to explain what’s happening. Please, be welcome,” Maureen smiled reassuringly and stood up. She had blonde hair that was tied into a high ponytail, and wore a white shirt and black skirt. She appeared very businesslike and was probably in her early thirties. Her green eyes crinkled at the edges as she smiled.

Valentine stared blankly at the woman as she clutched the unsealed envelope.

Her body had frozen when she’d been brought here, she’d been unable to scream or move. That had been quite frightening, Valentine hated not having control over her body, no matter how brief and the shock of it had left her quite shaken. On top of that horrible sensation, now she was here, facing a complete stranger in an unfamiliar setting. She felt sick to her stomach and she instantly held her free hand against it. She prayed her spaghetti dinner didn’t find it’s way back up.

What had happened? What was going on? How had she even gotten here?

Where was here?

“Where…where am I?” she stuttered as her eyes flicked around the foyer. Maureen was the only other person visible.

“Ah, yes. I do apologise, the transition can be a bit rough. You’re at Norvica, a school for a special line of people called Summoneers,” Maureen clasped her hands together, watching Valentine expectantly.

So this was the foyer for a school? And it was for special people. What was this? This was just getting weirder and weirder.

“Wait, what are Summoneers?” Valentine frowned. Why was she here then? What were these Summoneers?

“Well, you should start by reading your letter; it will clarify a few of your questions at least. If you have any more afterwards, I’ll be right here,” Maureen smiled as she sat back down and began typing away at her computer.

Valentine stood awkwardly in the foyer and bit her lip as her eyes dropped to the envelope.

Right, the letter. She lifted the flap and gingerly withdrew the pale letter within. She glanced over at Maureen who was busy working away as she unfolded the letter. The strange symbol in the top corner with the Celtic circle caught her eye. She could now see the patterning clearer, and could see what looked like small tribal animal heads, five in total. There was also a now visible Celtic ‘S’ within the centre of the patterning.

What a strange symbol. Obviously it had something to do with the Summoneers. There was no address listed for the school, for Norvica.

Ignoring the lack of address, she started reading the letter, needing to know what was going on.

Dear Ms Valentine Maddox,

Please accept our congratulations upon reaching your sixteenth birthday. As is customary, you will find enclosed with this letter a timetable for our Introductory Seminars here at Norvica School for Summoneers.

We look forward to seeing you attend an Introductory Seminar and answering any questions you may have about your summoning powers. Please notify reception as soon as possible as to which day would be suitable.

We look forward to seeing you at Norvica in the near future.

The letter was signed by the principal, a Miss Kaleena Cohen.

Valentine stared dumbly at the letter as she reread it, not believing what it said. What the hell was a Summoneer. What did they mean by ‘powers’?.

“This is impossible…what?” Valentine mumbled to herself then looked up as Maureen got to her feet. “None of this makes sense,” she stated bluntly.

“Your parents never told you about this?” Maureen frowned disapprovingly.

“My parents died when I was a baby,” Valentine replied, glancing down at the letter again. Maureen’s eyes widened, her expression faltering into uncertainty. She clasped then unclasped her hands again, clearly agitated.

“I don’t understand this,” Maureen muttered as Valentine stood there awkwardly. “Usually they have some sort of understanding due to their parents. But you…” Suddenly Maureen seemed to recover herself and pointed at Valentine. “I’ll be right back, stay here,” Maureen ordered sternly, and then she turned and strode off down the hallway. Valentine watched as she knocked before entering the first door on the right.

Valentine stood awkwardly in the foyer as she waited for Maureen’s return. Behind her were a few couches and armchairs, but she remained standing, her nerves making her jumpy.

“Miss Maddox?”

Valentine turned to face the woman who was approaching her so quickly she seemed to be gliding, her black heels clicking on the porcelain floor gave lie to this, although Maureen was behind her, a bit pink in the face and taking long strides to keep up.

“Yes,” Valentine gave a small nod.

“Welcome to Norvica, I’m Kaleena Cohen, the principal of this wonderful school,” the woman smiled as she came to a halt before Valentine and offered her hand. Kaleena Cohen had raven black hair that was tied up in a neat bun, and wore a grey and white professional suit. She was a slender woman of average height. Her striking blue eyes peered through some black-rimmed glasses; she was a stunning woman, and Valentine could only guess that she was in her early to mid forties.

Valentine took the outstretched hand carefully which caused Kaleena to grin.

“I understand you may be a bit overwhelmed right now, but please be assured you are safe.” Kaleena said warmly, adjusting her glasses as she gave Valentine a once over.

Valentine was instantly aware of her white rose dotted pants and black singlet. She had only a pair of socks on as well as her nightwear, but the foyer was rather warm. She was not at all dressed appropriately for this.

“Hmm, it seems we just got you out of bed, you poor soul,” Kaleena pursed her lips. “Come with me, I’ll explain what’s happening in more detail.”

Kaleena turned on her heels and strode past Maureen who had regained her composure and nodded and smiled at Valentine as she returned to her desk. Valentine managed to get herself to move, wanting to understand what was happening as she hurried after Kaleena.

Her socks slid on the smooth surface as she hurried to catch up with Kaleena, who had stopped before the first door on the right. She held it open for Valentine and smiled as she ushered her in.

Valentine shuffled inside and folded her arms close to her chest as the door click shut behind them. The room had the same mahogany walls and cream ceiling as outside, but the floor was cream carpeted in here.

Kaleena strode around the wooden desk and sat down. She indicated for Valentine to sit in one of the armchairs before her.

Valentine sat down slowly, struggling to keep her hands from fidgeting. Valentine’s eyes flicked to the bonsai tree that sat on the corner of the desk. The tiny tree intrigued her, with its small stature and thin branches and foliage. A tiny replicate. She’d always been fascinated by miniature things.

“Well, happy birthday Miss Maddox,” Kaleena said with a warm smile as she clasped her hands together in front of her on the desk.

“Thank you,” Valentine mumbled and gave the woman a half smile.

“I can see you are feeling overwhelmed and probably have many questions. I’ll do my best to explain the situation in more detail and provide you with some answers, alright?” Kaleena asked in very businesslike manner. Valentine nodded her agreement as Kaleena leaned back in her chair.

“ What do you know about your biological parents?” Kaleena asked.

“Um, not much. I never really knew anything about them. My Aunt and Uncle never really speak about them. They told me my parents died in a car accident, so they took me in and raised me. My Uncle sometimes talks about them, but he never seemed to like my mother. Apparently she was very secretive and my dad didn’t even know what she did for a living. Some sort of freelancing career I think. My dad never asked many questions, he just accepted it, which my Uncle hated,” Valentine explained and bit her tongue when she felt she was over sharing.

“Your Aunt and Uncle are Alicia and Scott Maddox, correct?” Kaleena asked and continued when Valentine nodded in confirmation.

“Your mother, Evelyn, was a remarkable Summoneer, whilst your father, Mason, was a mortal. He was oblivious to your mother’s true self, her powers and abilities. He didn’t know the truth about his wife, what she was capable of and what she did.”

“You knew my mother?” Valentine frowned. The way Kaleena spoke, it was if she knew her mother well.

“Evelyn was an amazing Summoneer; she took down many Shadow Riders in her time, and was quite renowned in the Summoneer world. Her Summoning, Lilaylah, bonded so strongly with her that that the pair was blessed with the power of old, the ability to merge their forms and power. She soon after joined the Lekden, a group of highly skilled and powerful Summoneers, whose sole purpose is to hunt down the source of the Shadow Riders,” Kaleena stopped, knowing Valentine was struggling to take it all in.

“Wait, Shadow Riders, what are they? And what even is a Summoneer? And Summonings?” Valentine shook her head as she tried to sort through the information.

“Well, I’ll start by explaining exactly what a Summoneer is. A Summoneer has the blood of the old spell casters running in their veins, they are a special line of people who carry the ability to wield powers and call upon a special summoning animal. Depending on your bloodline, you will be able to summon a particular summoning animal. These animals come from one of the five chosen special summoning groups of creatures.

It is their duty to master their element and Summoning so they can protect the world from the Shadow Riders, a race of dark beings who can summon and control demon hounds. They are slowly poisoning the world as their demon hounds roam the streets, creating an ever growing gloom and darkness on the people,” Kaleena explained. “Although the blood runs through your veins as it does many others, it is your choice whether you wish to embrace your heritage and join the Summoneers.”

“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.

Valentine looked up at Kaleena and searched the woman’s face. Show her the truth? Perhaps it would make it easier. But a whole other world? Summoneers and their creatures, magic and powers, it was all too much to believe. But seeing it with her own eyes, perhaps that would help. She nodded slowly at Kaleena, still struggling to process it all.

“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.”

Chapter 3

Valentine hurried after Kaleena down the hallway, trying to keep track of where they were going. They’d turned left at the end of the first hallway out of the reception area, and were passing numerous doors. They turned right at the end, and Kaleena kept at a brisk pace. This hallway ended at a set of large wooden doors, which Kaleena stopped in front of.

“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.

It was a massive room with wooden beams and large doors on the far side, one of which was open to the school grounds. There was a walkway down the centre of the room, with white railings lining it to keep the people separated from the creatures. The high ceiling had two hanging lights down the centre line to light the walkway. There were old bronze wall lights on the walls, but they were switched off. Despite all the splendour, it wasn’t the room that had taken Valentine’s breath away.

It was the large mounds lying in the straw on the other side of the railings around her.

“Here Ringan comes, he’s my Summoning,” Kaleena nudged Valentine to look where she pointed to the right.

Valentine stared dumbstruck at the large creature that moved quietly through the straw. It came to a standstill and leant over the railing.

“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.

Valentine smiled as she struggled to believe what she was seeing as she stepped closer and slowly raised her hand.

Around her, other heads lifted from the straw, their interest piqued at the sight of a newcomer. The antlers all around stood out in the darkness, but she noted how not all of them were of the same size as Ringan.

Ringan snorted softly and moved forward as he pushed his muzzle into her hand, causing Valentine’s breath to hitch. She grinned at the softness of his fur and her eyes darted around the deer’s face. His large eyes were soft and calm, while his antlers towered over her.

“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.”

Valentine looked at Kaleena with one eyebrow raised. Kaleena smiled and raised her hand. She chuckled as Valentine squeaked when her hand glowed with a calming green light.

“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.

She’d always wanted to help the world out, play some part and do something big. Being a Summoneer meant she’d join the battle and help people. She didn’t feel afraid of that thought, she knew she wouldn’t be alone; there would be others. She’d have her own Summoning like Ringan, and she’d have powers. She would be like her mother. She had the ancient blood flowing through her veins. She was special, different from those whom she now passed in the halls. She’d made her choice.

She was going to be a Summoneer.

“Valentine?”

“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.

She was going to become a Summoneer, which meant this schooling would become meaningless. Still, it couldn’t hurt to try and pay attention.

Classes dragged by and all Valentine could think about was the introduction day. But it was worrying her now. Would she be leaving this place? Leaving all her friends to attend this new school? She’d miss them, but inwardly she knew it was what she had to do. She’d finally be able to make a difference in the world, be able to save people, protect them.

But what about Christian and Becky? She’d miss them, but it’s not like she’d never see them right? Then again, where was Norvica even located? She’d been teleported there somehow. What if it was more like a boarding school, and she would have to live there. Then she’d never see Christian and Becky again.

Well, she’d find all that out in the introduction day. But would it change her mind? She already knew that she wanted to go there, learn everything they had to offer and become a Summoneer. Just the thought of being a Summoneer and being able to make a difference excited her. What would her Summoning creature be? What powers would she have?

“Valentine?”

“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.

Valentine watched as Becky strode off and wondered if she would be there Monday. When would she start this new school? She tried to not over think it; it was all something she’d find out tomorrow. When she got home, she’d call them and let them know she was coming.

“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.

Valentine smiled sadly as she turned the wrapped up gift over in her hands. She knew it was more than that. He wanted more than just friendship, but he was waiting for her. She could see that clearly now, and it pained her. But now was not the time to dwell on that, she had a call to make.

Chapter 4

“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.

She’d called Norvica yesterday afternoon to confirm her participation in the introduction day before going out to dinner with her Aunt and Uncle. She received jewellery and money from them, and a beautiful photo album with a few photos of her parents. Where they had gotten them was a mystery.

She’d then woken this morning to a new envelope on her desk addressed to her. That was another thing she’d ask about, how the envelopes were delivered to her room. It had to be some kind of magic, as she lived in a two-storey house.

Maureen had answered the phone yesterday, and informed Valentine a new letter would be sent, outlining their schedule for the introduction. Upon breaking the seal she would again be teleported to the school. Maureen confirmed that it was indeed a magical teleportation when Valentine asked, only one of the many questions she had.

Valentine informed her Aunt and Uncle she’d be out for the day at a friend’s, and they hadn’t argued. Now she stood amongst a clump of trees at the corner of her street. Being teleported in public would be twisted for anyone who witnessed it, but she didn’t want to take any chances.

Her heart pounded in her chest as she grinned down at the letter. Excitement filled her as she flipped the envelope over and hooked her finger under the seal as she broke it. The now expected bright light washed over her and she closed her eyes as a surge of adrenaline coursed through her.

The light dissipated and Valentine opened her eyes and looked around the foyer.

“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.

Upon entering the meeting room, Valentine was greeted by the sight of six other teenagers, two girls stood near a table with complimentary food and four boys stood talking excitedly in the centre of the room. There were a dozen chairs lined along the wall on her right and along the back wall.

“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.

Thaddeus rolled his eyes and looked at Valentine. He winked at her when she tried to hide a smile at Cyrus’s response.

It wouldn’t be long now until the introductory to Norvica started, and Valentine couldn’t help but grin in excitement.

  • * *

“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.

Valentine had a feeling they were somewhere north, perhaps even Canada by the look of the landscape. She didn’t quite understand the whole rip thing, but it basically meant that the land was an actual area, but only Summoneers and their creatures had access to the school. Anyone else who happened to wander into the area wouldn’t see the school or its grounds. She didn’t quite understand it, but she was more awed at the sights before her.

Summoning creatures roamed the grounds, and she finally got to see what different types there were. From what Kaleena had told them, the Cervus group was made up of a variety of large deer, bucks to be exact. Doe’s could not be summoned, as they were not fighters. Canis was made up of certain canines such as wolves, coyotes, and jackals. Urisdae consisted of bears, while Aquila was eagles, and Panthera was tigers, lions, jaguars and leopards.

“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.

  • * *

The room was slowly emptying and Valentine looked around at the dwindling group. They were back in the meeting room and had finished the introduction and tour, and they’d asked all their questions. They were now asked to decide what their choice would be, join the school and learn all there was to know about being a Summoneer, or choose a normal life. Kaleena had asked them to let her know by Monday afternoon, as they’d do their induction the following Tuesday.

Valentine already knew her answer despite Kaleena’s spiel on how they’d also be joining the battle against Shadow Riders if they chose to join. She wanted to ask Kaleena in private about her animal Summoning though so she waited back for the group to leave.

“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 watched him go and bit her lip as she looked down at her silver bracelet. She would only have one day at school to say goodbye, and she dreaded it. What would she even say?

“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.

A Summoneer.

Chapter 5

“Hey Valentine!”

Valentine turned and smiled as Becky and Christian approached her. Christian grinned as he noted the bracelet she wore.

“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.

Today was her last day. But she could still see them on weekends if she chose to come home. And holidays too. But she would no longer walk these halls with them.

“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.”

Christian frowned, knowing something was up, while Becky nodded with a mildly confused looked. They went their separate ways to their morning classes after they agreed to meet her at lunch at their usual lunch spot on the school oval.

  • * *

“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.

It would never work.

  • * *

“Oh my god, look at our room!” Cindy squealed.

“Looks like we’ll all have to get used to each other,” Lucy stated.

Valentine looked around at the large room. The entryway where they stood opened onto a living area with a plump, comfortable looking couch and a huge flat-screen T.V. Past that, four double beds lined the edge of the room, two on the left and two on the right. Each bed had a set of drawers at the end, plus a nightstand. Down the far end of the room, a spacious kitchenette boasted a huge double door fridge.

“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.

It wouldn’t be long now.

Chapter 6

“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.

The group of students stood quietly in the darkened room, eager to find out everything and begin. The room was large enough to hold the group of around 60 odd students, while five teachers stood with Kaleena at the head of the room in front of a wooden stand with a book on it. There was a fair amount of space between the teachers and the students though and Valentine briefly wondered why they’d been instructed to stand right before the doorway rather than further in the room. To the right was an area of chairs lined up in three rows facing towards the centre of the room.

“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.

Valentine shuffled over to get a better view and watched as Lucy came to a standstill in front of the wooden stand. She looked apprehensively at the leather bound book sitting there emblazoned with the Celtic seal for Summoneers.

“Lucy Rose Acerra,” Lucy stated and jumped as the book cover flipped open and the pages turned in a flurry of paper.

Valentine stared, dumbstruck at the book. It had a mind of its own as it flew through the pages it contained.

The book came to a sudden standstill and Lucy gasped as a bright white wispy orb shot out of the page and swirled above her. Slowly, the orb took on the shape of an eagle and Lucy’s face broke into a grin. The bright white eagle spread its wings and soared over the group of amazed students, leaving a trail of white wisps in its wake as Lucy watched on in amazement. It arced into the air in front of Lucy before torpedoing down and arrowing straight into her chest.

Lucy’s eyes glowed briefly with the same bright white light as her Summoning animal and the students murmured and gasped.

After a moment, the Summoning creature reappeared, the white wisps swirling more furiously around it as it landed on the floor between the teachers and students. The white light engulfed the eagle and became brighter and brighter until everyone, including the teachers had to shield their eyes.

As the bright flare of light faded away, in its wake was left a small eagle fledgling covered in fluffy white down.

The room was silent as everyone stared at the small bird, which looked around the room curiously.

“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 waited patiently for her turn, her excitement growing with each new Summoning that swirled around the room before taking on a solid form. They were going alphabetically, but there were only a few students left now.

There’d been various fawns, canine pups, bear cubs and assorted feline cubs, as well as a few more eagle fledglings. She was excited to find out what hers was; Kaleena had said it would be some sort of large cat.

“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 had to hold back from running up to the stand as her excitement spilled out of her in the form of a massive grin and slight shakes.

“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.

Valentine’s heart hammered in her chest at the incoming leopard and she closed her eyes instinctively as it leapt into her.

Her mind calmed and all she could see was a blinding light behind her eyelids and inside her mind, while her body filled up with pulsing energy. The strength and power she felt amazed her, but it slowly dissipated as she opened her eyes and the room came back into focus. She still felt the presence of the energy and power, just within reach inside her, and she knew she now had access to the power that had lain dormant inside her.

The white glowing leopard was now on the floor and the wisps engulfed it and exploded into a blinding light, leaving a small grey-white spotted cub in its place.

“My my, a snow leopard, not something you see every day,” Kaleena spoke over the noise in the room.

Valentine forced her body to move as her mind struggled to believe what she had just gone through.

This small cub was hers; it was her Summoning.

She reached down and hesitantly picked up the small cub. Its grey eyes watched her with interest as it remained quiet. Its fur was soft and warm and she held the cub close to her chest and listened to it purr as it nuzzled into her. She smiled at the cub as she stroked its head and scratched its neck as she joined the others on the chairs.

“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.

Cindy grinned and looked down at her pup, while Valentine returned her focus to the small cub in her arms.

“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.

Valentine unhappily petted the cub as she stood up and hesitated before setting it down on her seat. The cub sat up and watched her with knowing grey eyes while one ear twitched at the sound of the other creatures around it.

“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.

Chapter 7

“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.

Valentine shifted to get a better look at the table where the five teachers stood. She could see the items now and adrenalin coursed through her. There was a lit candle, a jar of water, a potted flower, and an empty glass jar with the lid on. A strange set of items, but she couldn’t help but be curious as to which one would respond to her.

“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.

Lucy strode up to the front and plucked the Tarix stone off the table.

A small breeze moved through the room as the empty glass jar shook, and Lucy took a step back as her hair fluttered in the air.

“Looks like we’ve got an air wielder,” Mr Dales spoke up. “You can pop the Tarix stone back now.”

Lucy did as she was told and headed over to Mrs Tarin who fished a pendent out of a box beside her and handed it to Lucy.

“Thanks,” Lucy smiled and did the clasp up around her neck on the way back to the group.

Valentine waited patiently as more students were called up and watched on as the candle’s flame erupted or the jar of water rocked as the water swirled. The one she found most interesting was when Thaddeus went up, the responding element was earth, and she was mesmerised as the flower grew in size and a second flower sprouted beside it. Earth looked like an amazing element to have, and Valentine’s body shook in anticipation.

“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.

Valentine could see what appeared to be a small gecko in the container moving around.

“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.

Valentine pushed forward through the group, wanting to see what was happening to the gecko. She couldn’t see the gecko itself, but watched the amazement dawn on Cynthia’s face. Cynthia looked to Mrs Tarin, not believing what she saw.

“You’re a spirit wielder Miss McCalon. A healer,” Mrs Tarin nodded.

Cynthia gasped as the gecko leapt forward, but was luckily caught by the quick moving Mrs Tarin.

“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.

Cindy grinned as she followed Mrs Tarin back over to the box of pendants, thanking the teacher as she was handed a pendent.

“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.

This was it; this was the moment of truth.

What element was she going to be?

Air, like the beautiful but quiet Lucy, Earth like Kaleena and Thaddeus, Fire like Cyrus and Levi, Water like Raoul and Mr Haplin, or would she be a rare Spirit wielder like Cynthia and Mrs Tarin?

Valentine reached out and picked up the Tarix stone.

She clutched it tightly and watched the items on the table. She waited eagerly as her eyes flicked over the items as she searched expectantly for a response.

Nothing responded, and she felt a chill run down her spine as the stone began to heat up.

She cried out as the stone burnt her hand and she dropped it on the floor, holding her burning hand gingerly. She gritted her teeth and looked at the teachers as they rushed over.

Mr Haplin glanced at her hand and cursed as she called Mrs Tarin over. Mrs Salvetti picked the Tarix stone up and looked it over, not understanding why it had responded the way it did. Mr Dales and Miss Snark stayed back, not wanting to get in the way.

Valentine stared at the round burn on her hand while her body trembled and her eyes welled up. Her hand stung like nothing else, and she couldn’t understand why this had happened.

Why her? What did it mean?

“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.

What had happened?

“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.

Mrs Tarin clenched her jaw and looked at Valentine. “I think we best get you to Kaleena. I’ll grab you a pendant along the way, c’mon,” Mrs Tarin stood up and nodded at the other teachers. “Continue on.”

Valentine hesitantly followed Mrs Tarin and hid her hand from the curious group of students who tried to see what had happened. Cindy pushed through the group and Valentine slowed down.

“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.

Why had this happened to her? Why did she get burned?

What was wrong with her?

  • * *

“I see,” Kaleena frowned as she inspected Valentine’s hand.

Mrs Tarin had taken her straight to Kaleena’s office and explained what had happened in hopes that the principal would have some answers.

“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.

Valentine nodded, her throat constricted and tight. She’d wanted to help people, protect them, but how was she going to do that without powers?

“Merging with a Summoning is a remarkable power in itself, perhaps you should focus on that,” Kaleena offered.

That’s right, she still had her Summoning. She could raise it and bond with it, and awaken a different kind of power.

“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.

Valentine managed a smile in response. Yes, her mother had become a part of the Lekden, highly skilled and renowned Summoneers. She had her mother’s blood inside her.

“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.”

Valentine stood up and followed Kaleena out into the hall, inwardly excited to see the small cub again.

  • * *

“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.

She stood in the cafeteria line and eyed off the Caesar salad. She’d spent the time until her first lunch break in the youngster room with her Summoning. She’d sat with the cub, stroking and petting it. She’d been informed her cub was a male and one of the staff had shown her how to bottle-feed him.

When she asked the attendant what Summonings ate as they got older, she was told that the predators hunted their own food in the surrounding forest. The rip that the school resided in spread out for miles, meaning the predators were safe and out of sight. Even if a young Summoning did cross out of the rip zone, their true forms would stay concealed due to the reality warp.

It confused her a bit; she wondered if the prey were aware of the incoming predators, their sheer size difference and the fact that some of them weren’t from the area (like her Summoning). Probably something she’d have to ask in one of her Summoning classes.

“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.”

Valentine nodded unhappily and noted this was one of the few times she’d spoken with Lucy. She seemed awfully quiet, but it didn’t seem like timidness. It seemed to Valentine that Lucy liked to hang back to observe before deciding to get involved.

“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.

Lucy blinked. “Huh, okay,” Lucy’s cheeks went a bit red as she chewed her lip then blurted, “Sorry to hear that.”

“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.”

That’s right, a telepathic link. That was still mind-boggling to Valentine, and she wondered what it’d be like.

Well, she’d find out soon enough.

Chapter 8

“Look at him! He’s so cute!” Cindy tried to maintain from squealing as she watched her wolf pup play with Valentine’s Summoning.

They were in one of the youngster rooms containing the Canis, Ursidae, and Panthera Summonings.

Lucy was next door in the other youngster room that contained the Aquila and Cervus Summonings.

“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.

Valentine nodded.

It was their second day. Yesterday, after having lunch with Lucy and Cindy, Valentine and her classmates had gone back to the Youngster rooms for feedings. They had spent the first half of the afternoon bonding with their Summonings, learning their genders and receiving instruction from the attendants on how to properly care for them once they left the Youngster rooms. Afterwards they headed off to a Summoning class to learn about their Summonings abilities.

Once their Summonings reached adolescence, they could start training them and sparring with others. Once they got bigger, they could begin to learn how to ride them, something that still astounded Valentine. All she could think of was how Lucy had an eagle, which apparently would grow big enough to ride. Flying, now that would be amazing.

The Summonings grew quickly, and in only a few months they’d be full grown. Once full grown, they’d go though their final training, learning how to wield powers together, and overall work with their Summonings and the others.

The graduates of Norvica only studied for two years, and upon graduation, they were expected to know everything they needed to know in regards to their Summoning and Shadow Riders.

“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.

She wondered if people would give her the cold shoulder now or think of her as a freak. The idea scared her and she focused on the grey-white fur of the leopard, tracing the black rosettes on his pelt. Then, as her cub climbed into her lap and curled himself into a ball, she abruptly decided that she didn’t really care.

Being with him filled her with a warm peaceful feeling, and she continued to stroke him as his eyelids began to droop. His purring was a welcome comfort, and she moved her hands through his fur, running them down his legs and stroking his large paws.

“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.

Valentine knew it would be a week or more before she would start to feel his feelings, and a little longer again before she could speak with him. For now though, she’d have to try and learn to understand him through his body language.

“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.”

It still seemed strange to her that this small creature would be able to communicate with her. But she’d seen a lot over the past few days, and one thing she knew for certain was that she couldn’t wait to begin training.

  • * *

“Hey, watch this,” Lucy called from her bed where she sat cross-legged. Valentine and Cindy both sat up and looked over.

Lucy held her hands apart, the air between them visibly swirling and twisting as Lucy stirred the air into a tiny whirlwind.

“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.

Lucy had opened up a lot over the past few days. Everyone had been given the option to return home for the weekend but the three of them had opted to stay at Norvica. Valentine had called her Aunt and Uncle to let them know and had felt a pang of guilt at their obvious disappointment. Next weekend, she’d promised them.

“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.

Lucy was quite smart and was ahead of most of her other classmates, and Cindy was the only student in her class so she got intense one on one coaching.

“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?”

Valentine rolled her eyes at Lucy’s change of subject. She knew they felt bad for her, that she had no element, but she was bonding quite quickly with her Summoning, and he was growing fast.

“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.

Valentine shrugged, turning onto her side to look at her friends. “Just what they already know, I guess. It’s a school for gifted students, I’ve made friends, and it’s going well. If they start asking about the classes, well, I guess I’ll make something up. I’ll tell them there’s an agriculture class and we’re working with animals. We’re supposed to start normal classes next week right? So maybe it’ll be easier to talk about it then,” Valentine said with a sigh.

“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.

They’d both texted her, and she could only reply at night after the day was over. They missed her and wanted to know when she’d be back. Christian wanted to chat with her, talk to her about something when she got back. Her stomach had churned when she’d read his text, sensing what he may want to talk about, and it made her nervous as hell.

She’d told them she wouldn’t be home until next weekend as she was still settling in and they’d accepted that.

“That’s a lovely bracelet. Did your friends give you that?” Lucy asked as she noted Valentine playing with it.

Valentine nodded, “Christian, he’s one of my best friends,” she answered with a fond smile.

“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.

It was slowly becoming clear that this new life was full of secrecy. But she’d chosen it willingly and Valentine knew she didn’t want to go back. Not with all she knew now.

  • * *

“That’s amazing,” Valentine gasped.

“I know right,” Thaddeus grinned.

The weekend had passed quickly and Valentine had been spending a lot of time with her Summoning. So much time, that on Monday morning when she and Thaddeus had entered the room, a strange wash of emotion had greeted her. It took her a moment to realise that the emotions she was experiencing were emanating from her Summoning.

“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.

The Youngster room consisted of numerous different sleeping and feeding areas for the young Summonings, whereas the playroom was more spacious, filled with fake trees and assorted bits and pieces for them to play with and explore. Despite the three family species of Summonings, they were all allowed to play together as there was never any aggression between them.

“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.

Valentine covered her mouth in surprise as the red-brown wolf pup barrelled into the lion cub, turning and snapping up some of it’s food.

The lion cub snarled as it pounced on the pup and a scuffle ensued as they each scrabbled for the food.

“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.

Valentine looked down at the leopard cub, who was watching it all with interest as he sat quietly.

“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.”

Valentine nodded as she leant down and ran her hand down the leopard’s back. He purred and flicked his tail.

“See you soon,” Valentine murmured.

Chapter 9

“What do we know about the Founder of the Lekden?” Mr Haplin asked.

“He could wield all elements,” Cindy piped up immediately.

“Correct, he was a wielder of all five elements. What was his name?” Mr Haplin nodded.

“William Corvis,” Thaddeus answered.

“That’s right, William Corvis. Does anyone know what his Summoning was?”

Valentine shifted uncomfortably, unhappy that she knew none of the answers. The class was being held in a small classroom, which held around twenty-five students. There were two blocks of classrooms in the school; this end, block B, consisted of classrooms for English Literature and Language Arts, Mathematics and Science, History and Summoneer History, which they were in now. The other classes, such as Elemental class, Summoning class and Combat class, Animal Behaviour and Physiology as well as the assorted Arts classes were held in block A. The Arts classes were voluntary, and Valentine hadn’t signed up for them.

“A jaguar named Morad was his Summoning,” Raoul answered.

“I don’t know any of this,” Valentine mumbled.

“That’s understandable; you weren’t exactly raised like the rest of us were. Some of the other students only know the basics anyway, not the history,” Thaddeus murmured from her right.

Cindy sat on her other side where she scribbled down notes in her book, with Lucy beside her.

“Morad is correct, and it was with his guidance that William successfully managed to gain access to all elements. He was also the Founder of the Lekden after he discovered strange Shadow Riders, Summoneers that rode demonic hounds. These demonic hounds poison the streets with darkness, infecting non-Summoneers. This leads to depression, an overshadowing gloom, and can drive mankind to do terrible things, including murder,” Mr Haplin stated.

Valentine frowned at this piece of information. How much of an influence had these hounds been in the modern world? What part had they played? Had they been the cause behind some historical slaughters? The darkness behind it all? How long had they been around?

“How long have Shadow Riders been around?” Valentine spoke up and felt all eyes shift to her, causing her to instantly regret speaking out. She felt the scrutiny on her, she was certain almost everyone knew by now that she didn’t have an element and it made her self conscious.

“That’s a good question, and the answer is, no one knows,” Mr Haplin spoke over the students, his voice demanding silence, “William was around back in the 1800’s, which was when he first discovered them. But it was obvious they’d been around for a while. As to how long exactly, your guess would be as good as mine.”

Valentine nodded as she glanced around the room, everyone had fallen silent, but many were still looking at her, their expressions ranging from curiosity to pity. Valentine sighed and slouched onto her desk, wanting to go back to her room.

“They can’t get to us can they?” Cindy asked, diverting the class’s attention back to the topic.

“No, Norvica and all Summoneer schools are protected by a powerful magic, access is only granted to Summoneers and their Summonings,” Mr Haplin said, “Shadow Riders and their Demon Hounds are unable to cross over into the rip.”

Valentine smiled thankfully at Cindy, glad the focus was off her, even if only momentarily.

“So, what do we know about Demon Hounds and Shadow Riders?” Mr Haplin moved on.

Valentine shifted uneasily and perked up as a student from the front answered.

“Shadow Riders are Summoneers gone bad, no one knows why they go over to their side, but they do. They become dark shadowy forms, and they ride Demon Hounds,” the student stated.

“That’s correct. Does anyone know where the Demon Hounds come from?” Mr Haplin asked as he looked around the class as everyone shifted nervously. “Anyone?”[
**]“I was told that it is their Summoning which has been tainted with darkness,” another student spoke up.

Valentine frowned as she imagined her leopard becoming some horrible Demon Hound. What did they even look like? Perhaps they’d have pictures or something. They were getting their textbooks soon, so maybe they had illustrations.

“Many people believe different things, what we do know is that they are beings of darkness and evil. As for what happens to the Summoneer’s Summoning, we’re unable to say if it becomes the Demon Hound they ride or if something else becomes of them. It’s hard to believe that our beloved Summonings can become such horrible creatures, but it’s a possibility. As to why and how, it’s still being investigated,” Mr Haplin explained.

“But we’re training to fight these things? How are we supposed to fight them if we barely know anything about them?” a student queried.

“We know that if you kill the rider, the Hound dies. The Demon Hounds are impossible to kill otherwise, and won’t stop until their prey is dead. That much we’ve ascertained,” Mr Haplin nodded.

Why would anyone want to become a Shadow Rider? What was in it for them? Was there something they weren’t being told, or was there more to it that they simply didn’t know?

“My cousin became one of those things; my dad fought him and ended up killing him and his Hound. My dad hasn’t been the same since, and he and my Uncle don’t talk much now,” Thaddeus mumbled and Valentine barely caught it.[
**]“My god, I’m so sorry,” Valentine whispered. Thaddeus knew first hand about these riders, but a relative? She couldn’t imagine it.

“Don’t be, we weren’t that close anyway. I just can’t figure out why he chose to join them,” Thaddeus sighed.[
**]Valentine stared at the hard line of his jaw as she wondered if she’d ever have to face a Shadow Rider and their Hound. That’s what being a Summoneer was about though, joining this secret war.

But could she do it? Would she be able to fight? Could she kill if it came to it?

Would she kill?

  • * *

“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.

Christian watched her intently, and Valentine felt her cheeks warm under the gaze.

What was he thinking?

“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.

Valentine shifted on her seat before looking over at Christian, who was fiddling with his hands.

“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?

She moved her hand to tug at the fingerless gloves on her hands, a last minute effort to conceal her red sun scar. She referred to the strange scar as a sun, as that was what it appeared like.

She wasn’t sure what she would say if he wanted more than friendship.

But Christian was quick to salvage the situation and turned it off into another direction almost as if he sensed her hesitation and uncertainty.

“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.

She just wanted to tell Christian everything, everything about the Summonings, the powers everyone had, the magic. God, she just wanted to blurt it all out, confide in him her worries and doubts, her joy and excitement.

But he couldn’t know anything. That’s just how it had to be. He could never understand.

“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.

She loved her friends, and she’d never wanted to let them go.

“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.

Chapter 10

‘Valentine…’

Valentine shot awake at the sound of her name, her heart pounding and alarm shooting through her.

It’d been just over a month since she’d started at Norvica and the time had flown by. Between all the incredible classes she was taking, the knowledge she was gaining and the time spent with her Summoning, it was easy to lose track of things in the normal world.

Valentine rolled over and eyed her two friends. Both were tucked up in their beds, fast asleep. They obviously hadn’t woken her. Stretching her arms above her head, Valentine realised she felt more energised and alert than she usually did upon waking.

‘Valentine, come play…’

There it was again, a distinct voice inside her mind, it sounded like a young boy.

“I’m going crazy…” Valentine muttered, staring up at the ceiling until she blinked and it dawned on her.

Could it be?

Valentine threw back the sheets as she clambered off the bed and struggled to remain quiet as she dashed out of the room.

Excited giggling echoed around in her head, which caused her to grin stupidly as she made her way down the dark halls. Dim lights on the wall kept her from being in total darkness, and she was careful to walk quietly.

‘Hurry up, I’m bored…’

Valentine dashed the last few lengths and held her breath as she entered the youngsters’ room. She tiptoed in, not wanting to wake any of the other sleeping forms in the room.

She grinned as she spied the snow leopard sitting patiently at the front of his large pen, his grey eyes glittering in the faint glow from the ajar door behind her.

‘Took your time, I want to play.’

Valentine gaped as the leopard stood up on his hind legs and stuck his head over the side of the pen. He was the size of medium dog now and his back reached just above her knee.

She could hear him.

She could communicate telepathically with her Summoning!

“My god,” Valentine murmured in the darkness.

The leopard’s ears twitched and he sat back down. He shuffled his haunches as he prepared to jump.

Valentine watched dumbly as he bounded over the railing. He landed softly and trotted over to her.

‘Can we go outside? Please?’

Valentine stared at him as he sat down in front of her and cocked his head.

“I can’t believe I can hear you,” she whispered as she knelt down and stroked his face.

‘Of course, you spend more time with me than any other Summoneer does with their Summoning.’

Valentine grinned at the crystal clear voice in her head. So her extra time with him had paid off, she’d connected telepathically with him early. She looked away and shook her head as it all sunk in.

This was amazing; he could talk to her. He sounded just like another person, no strange speech or anything.

“Will you tell me your name?” Valentine asked gently. She’d finally be able to call him something, rather than her Summoning or cub.

‘Cerio.’

“Cerio,” Valentine repeated the name and smiled as he purred. She was the first one to say it out loud.

‘Now can we go outside?’

Valentine looked at the other sleeping Summonings.

“I’m not sure we can, we might get in trouble,” she whispered.

‘Aw, please? And why are you talking? You can communicate telepathically you know. You might wake someone up.’

“Right, sorry,” Valentine bit her lip and wondered how she’d communicate telepathically with him. How did it even work? Did she just think thoughts and he’d hear them?

‘Pretty much.’

Valentine gave Cerio a startled look. So that’s all it was then. Just her thoughts. Awesome.

She did feel restless though, and she blinked as she realised the feelings were coming from him. She’d learnt in class that they could feel each other’s emotions but she was still learning how to separate their feelings.

She also learnt that there was a way to block their telepathic link when they didn’t want to share thought and emotions. Such as when with a partner, that had been the main one the teacher had said could be strange.

‘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.

Valentine chuckled at his cockiness. Never would she have thought she’d wind up in a situation like this.

‘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.

‘Valentine!’

She turned to the shouted voice in her mind and spotted the young cub bounding alongside a massive tiger. It glanced down at the intrusive cub, obviously not used to seeing youngsters out so late.

The tiger seemed unfazed at the cub though and allowed it to bound along beside him.

For a moment she could’ve sworn it was the same tiger they saw in their introduction day.

She took a moment to look around the dark grounds of Norvica and spotted what looked to be a few bucks standing off under some trees. She could see a lion off in the distance as it slipped into the tree line almost unnoticed by her.

It was quiet outside, the crisp night air peaceful and calming.

‘One day I’ll be that big,’ Cerio broke away from the tiger’s side to its relief, and trotted happily to her.

“I know,” Valentine murmured as she leant down and scratched his neck, causing a soft rumble of purring from him.

‘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.

Valentine agreed, she had glimpsed large dark shapes in the skies multiple times during her lunch breaks and out class windows, but she was yet to see one up close, a fully-grown eagle Summoning.

Lucy’s eagle could now perch on her arm easily, and was a little smaller than your average eagle. That would change quickly though, and so would Cerio.

Valentine sat down and smiled softly as Cerio purred and rubbed against her side before he lay down beside her. He rested his head on her leg as his tail flicked in the faint moonlight.

She stroked his fur, loving the sound of his happy purring.

Above them, the sky twinkled with hundreds of stars, the sliver of the moon gave them barely enough light to see. But her eyes were adjusting to the darkness, and Cerio had night vision of course.

‘Uh oh, busted,’ Cerio stated as he raised his head.

Valentine turned to look behind her and bit her lip as Kaleena strode over. They had a curfew for a reason.

“Valentine,” Kaleena came to a standstill behind her and raised an eyebrow at her. “What are you doing out here? Both of you?” she dropped her eyes to the cub as he sat up.

“Cerio wanted to play,” Valentine didn’t bother to lie.

“Cerio? Is that his name?” Kaleena’s eyes twinkled as she smiled and lowered herself to sit beside them.

“Yes,” Valentine smiled as she unconsciously leant out and stroked his neck fur.

“So you two can communicate now,” Kaleena noted as she watched Cerio lean back against Valentine’s side.

“Yes, it’s amazing,” Valentine couldn’t stop from sounding excited.

“It sure is,” Kaleena chuckled knowingly as she turned and smiled as Ringan appeared through the darkness, having stepped away from the small group of bucks.

So he’d been the one to rat them out. Valentine figured he could let Kaleena know of any students out on the school grounds through their telepathy.

Did all the teachers’ Summonings have a secret agenda, staying out in the darkness and alerting them to any students sneaking out?

It made sense, and was actually a comforting thought. They had watchful eyes all around, not only alerting the teachers to students sneaking out, but to danger sneaking in as well.

“You’re the first student to make telepathic communication,” Kaleena stated.

‘Damn straight, we’re awesome!’ Cerio purred and Valentine giggled.

“It’s quite amazing, isn’t it,” Kaleena chuckled as Cerio pranced over to Ringan and stared up at the buck.

“It is, he’s remarkable,” Valentine nodded as she watched Cerio circle the buck who watched the cub with mild interest.

‘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.

“Cerio,” Valentine’s mouth dropped open.

“Do you mind me asking what he said?” Kaleena raised an eyebrow.

“He says he can eat deer, and he thinks he could get Ringan,” Valentine tried to refrain from grinning at the outrageous remark.

“Oh really, Ringan thinks he’d be in for more than he bargained for,” Kaleena chuckled as Ringan snorted and pawed the ground and lowered his antlers to Cerio. “But Cerio should know that Summonings can hear each other’s thoughts unless they close off their link. Upon arrival into our world, all Summonings can link with others if they choose too. While young, their thoughts can sometimes be heard since they don’t know how to control the link yet. It’s something they’ll pick up on their own.”

Cerio bounced back and took refuge behind Valentine.

‘I forgot about that,’ Cerio mumbled.

“I think you may have your work cut out for you,” Kaleena leant over and murmured. “The first day of Summoning training starts in two weeks, so you’re quite ahead of everyone. But it is a very interesting first day, extremely fun. You learn a lot about the other Summonings, what their personalities are,” Kaleena leant back as Cerio padded out from behind Valentine and growled softly as he stalked towards Ringan. “You’ll see what I mean.”

‘Watch me, I can take him,’ Cerio hissed and didn’t flinch as Ringan snorted and stamped a hoof at the cub’s behaviour.

Valentine shook her head and laughed as Cerio released an attempted roar, which did not sound at all ferocious or terrifying.

“He has passion and guts, you have to admire that,” Kaleena grinned as her body shook from the suppressed laughter.

“Yeah, he sure does,” Valentine agreed.

Chapter 11

Two weeks passed quickly, Valentine texted Becky and Christian nightly, but it never seemed like it was enough. Christian wished her all the best and kept asking to see her on the weekends. She told him she couldn’t make the next two weekends due to homework, which she felt was an innocent white lie. There was just so much going on. Valentine wanted to tell him all about Cerio, about the cub’s ridiculous antics and wonderful personality.

Mrs Salvetti, their combat and Summonings teacher, had taken it upon herself to teach Valentine how to block out the cub’s constant mind invasion. His intrusion had caused her a considerable amount of trouble during her classes. Within a week of their first lesson, Valentine was able to successfully block his thoughts. Cerio’s reaction to this development had been an epic tantrum, during which he tore his sleeping pad to shreds. The destruction served to remind Valentine that although Cerio’s progression was miraculous, he was still a very young Summoning and she still had a lot to learn about being a Summoneer.

“So, today we should all be able to communicate telepathically with our Summonings. Is there anyone unable to do that?” Mrs Salvetti stood before the small Summoning class on the grounds.

Each teacher took a Summoning class, dividing all the students up between them to make sure everyone got enough individual attention. Mrs Salvetti was also their combat teacher, and Valentine loved having her as their designated Summoning teacher as well. The tiger Valentine had seen so many times was sitting behind Mrs Salvetti as she took the class – even sitting down he towered above all of them.

The class had their Summonings with them, some of which squirmed unhappily at being told to sit still while Mrs Salvetti spoke. Hushed words were shared, as many were still adjusting to their telepathy.

Cerio sat quietly, understanding the importance of the class. He was by nature a playful cub, but he was learning quickly when it was time to quiet down and listen.

“Good. Over the next week, in your daily Summoning class you’ll be taught how to both communicate with and block out your Summoning. Today however, we will learn to work alongside them and co-ordinate your actions with theirs. You will learn to do battle with your Summoning, and when the time comes you will learn how to ride them,” Mrs Salvetti grinned, looking up at her own Summoning, Gredon “Come, Gredon, let’s demonstrate.”

The tiger gave a soft growl as it stood, it’s back as high as a horses. His solid build made him look like a being from another world and he moved with a grace that no earthly tiger could match.

Valentine knew Gredon was the tiger Cerio had been pestering two weeks ago, but she kept that to herself. Obviously Gredon didn’t have an issue with it, so why bother with the trouble?

Mrs Salvetti plucked out one of the many wooden broom handles that stuck out of a barrel and twirled it between her fingers before bringing it to her side.

‘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.

He was cheeky and playful, but his heart was truly in the battle. He’d spoke of it with her often, excited to start training, saying he’d give it his all and focus on it. Only now did she realise how much he’d meant it. There was no cockiness or cheekiness coming from him, only focus and the will to become just like the graceful pair before them.

Mrs Salvetti raised her hand and flames shot out and took on the forms of four human like masses.

‘Wow, that’s awesome!’ Cerio shifted at the sight.

Valentine smiled and nodded. Cerio knew she had no powers; it was something he’d asked about, wanting to know what her affinity was. She’d had to tell him she had none. He didn’t seem overly bothered by it, and said they would excel at combat instead.

Mrs Salvetti dashed at the first figure while Gredon bounded alongside her and circled out to the left.

Mrs Salvetti swung out with her staff and the flaming figure dodged and leapt to the side. But Gredon was there now, and he roared as he lashed out with his clawed paw, his strike causing the figure to dissipate.

They continued using this teamwork to destroy the other three, working together to bring them down.

Valentine realised it was all for show though, since Mrs Salvetti controlled the figures herself. It would be much more interesting if someone else controlled them.

And as they attacked the final figure, Mrs Salvetti made sure to show them how their powers could be combined. She leapt over Gredon’s back, briefly touching his back with her palm, and Valentine’s jaw dropped as Gredon erupted into flames. He slashed through the last figure, the coat of flames flickering off him before dissipating, leaving Gredon unharmed.

“As you can see, once you master working with your Summoning and your powers, you’re capable of amazing things,” Mrs Salvetti grinned at the hushed murmurs all around. No one had really seen Summoneers in action, they’d only heard about it.

Valentine raised her hand and looked at the red tendrils on her palm. Her red sun scarred into her hand, a constant reminder of her inability to wield any powers.

She sighed as she wished she could do something amazing like Mrs Salvetti had just done.

“Now, you are to grab a staff from the barrel and choose a partner. You are to train as a pair, using your Summoning as well. Please understand this is only training, all Summonings are to withhold as much as possible from using claws and fangs,” Mrs Salvetti’s mouth curved up into a smirk.

“Valentine, you want to be my sparring partner?” Thaddeus appeared as if by magic by her side, smiling at her eagerly.

Valentine tossed a look at Cynthia. Lucy wasn’t in this Summoning class and Valentine didn’t want to leave Cindy without a partner. Catching her eye, Cynthia smirked then winked at her and strolled over to Raoul whose young buck stood behind him on spindly legs.

“Looks like I do,” Valentine smiled and flicked her eyes down to the lion cub, Rickal. He was of equal size to Cerio now and Valentine could see the start of a mane beginning to show.

Thaddeus fetched the staffs and tossed her one, which she managed to catch with apparent ease. She did not want to mess up. Not in front of him. She wanted to prove she was just as good as the rest of them, with or without powers.

‘Alright, let’s do this,’ Cerio slunk up to stand before their opponents and hissed threateningly.

She smiled at him, he actually sounded intimidating. Thaddeus and Rickal were unfazed though, the heavily muscled lion giving himself a nonchalant shake as they squared off.

Unbeknownst to Thaddeus and Rickal, Valentine and Cerio had been busy making the most of Valentine’s free classes. Whenever she had no where else to be, Valentine would bring Cerio outside and practice using their telepathy to keep in sync with each other as they ran around. They’d weave around each other, testing their mind link to see if they could predict where they were going to step.

“Ready to lose?” Thaddeus grinned mischievously.

‘Are you?’ Cerio hissed. Valentine smirked and raised the staff before her.

“Begin!” Mrs Salvetti shouted.

‘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.

Valentine caught the shouted thought and swept her staff under Rickal’s feet as he lunged at her, sending him toppling to the side.

‘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.

Valentine weaved backwards and flicked her eyes to Rickal who was on his feet and bounding after her. She was having so much fun that she couldn’t stop from grinning.

Rickal obviously communicated some of their plan to Thaddeus as he ducked just as Valentine swung out with her staff.

‘Cerio, now!’

Cerio was quick to obey and used his weight to knock Thaddeus’s legs from under him.

Valentine stood over the downed boy and held her staff against his chest while Cerio tackled Rickal to the ground, carefully but firmly holding the young lion in place by the throat.

“Not bad,” Thaddeus forced a smile, but his eyes showed his unhappiness at the loss.

Valentine glanced over at the two cubs, who’d separated and were now half-heartedly wrestling on the grass.

“Very good Miss Maddox,” Mrs Salvetti complimented Valentine as she approached them.

Valentine offered her hand to Thaddeus and gave him a charming smile. Rolling his eyes he took her hand and accepted her help.

“Next time,” he muttered playfully as she hauled him to his feet. Valentine grinned.

“Thank you,” Valentine nodded at the teacher once Thaddeus was standing.

“You and Cerio work well together,” Mrs Salvetti stated as she looked at the cub who now sat quietly beside Rickal. Rickal was distracted, watching the other fights around them but Cerio sat straight and alert as if awaiting orders, his entire focus back on Valentine.

“He may be young and playful, but he knows what his purpose is,” Mrs Salvetti smiled knowingly. “You’ll make a great team, I know it,” she turned to look back at the pair.

“Thaddeus, it seems Valentine is ahead of you in this particular area, I’m sure she can give you some tips,” she gave him a thin-lipped smile before she strode off to check on some other students.

“Ouch,” Thaddeus laughed, feigning injury at the comment.

“I’ve had more time to bond with Cerio and learn what to expect, you’ll be fine,” Valentine shrugged and gave him a cheeky smile.

“We went easy on you,” Thaddeus rolled his eyes, but his mouth curved up into a side smile. “Next time will be different.”

“You hope so,” Valentine grinned.

….To be continued

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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.

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The Summonings Book 2

The Summonings Book 3

If you’re interested, here’s a list of all my books, both under my pen name and real name.

Dingoes of the Outback

Finding Purpose: A guide to finding purpose and fulfilment in life!

Guardians of the Night

Rise of the Golden Dragon

Rise of the Golden Dragon: Book 2

Rise of the Golden Dragon Book 3

Tiger’s Night

101 Things all Young Adults Should Know: Moving Out


The Summonings

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?

  • Author: Emily Fox
  • Published: 2016-04-16 06:35:11
  • Words: 25320
The Summonings The Summonings