Shadow - Sadie Moss

Chapter 1

The attack seems to come out of nowhere, a fireball hurtling right toward me.

I dodge, leaping to the side. My skin ripples, shifting and changing quickly in mid-air. My snout elongates, fur springs up, and I land on my feet as a wolf.

My heart is beating about a mile a minute, but I stay calm and focused. This is my biggest and most important final exam at Griffin Academy—affectionately referred to by almost everyone as the Academy of Unpredictable Magic—and I really want to ace it.

You can do this, Rae. You’ve got this.

My paws pound heavily against the floor as I navigate the magical obstacle course set up in one of the largest training rooms on campus. The goal of the final exam is to successfully complete the course and grab the small golden ring that’s waiting in the center of the room.

Sounds easy, right? Well, it would be, if not for the dozens of magical attacks and obstacles set up in my way.

Speaking of which…

My footsteps slow as several figures step forward into my path. They look like shadowy versions of people, and although I know they’re not real, they’re definitely corporeal. And they’ll definitely try to stop me.

I rear up onto my hind legs and transform back into my human form—my true form—then thrust my arm out, palm flat, fingers splayed.

The telekinetic blast that hits the fighters sends them all flying backward. I grit my teeth and leap forward, transforming mid-jump into an eagle. I can’t use my telekinesis when I’m in animal form, and a blast like the one I just sent out drains a lot of my power. I’m not sure how many of those massive bursts I’ll be able to create before my magic taps out.

Unlike normal magic users, most Unpredictables have more than one power, and what those powers are varies from person to person. Hence, the name “Unpredictable.”

Regular magic is divided into seven pillars. The four types of elemental magic account for four of those pillars, then there are illusionists, enchanters, and potion brewers. Unpredictable magic represents the eighth pillar, and it encompasses all the strange and unique types of magic that don’t fit in any other category.

I have two types of magic: shifting and telekinesis. And I’ll need to use them both strategically if I want to do well on this final exam.

Another fireball comes flying at me, and I bank left, feeling the flare of heat on my wings as it narrowly misses me. I dive down, tucking my wings behind my back to make myself more aerodynamic.

Just because one of my magical powers is the ability to shift into various animal forms, that doesn’t mean I get the animal instincts that come with the form. I can turn into an animal, but when I’m a wolf or an eagle, I don’t automatically know how to fly or hunt or track the scent of someone through the woods. I’ve had to teach myself all of those things over the grueling last few years at Griffin Academy.

I’ve studied my ass off, and I’m hoping to graduate with honors. My grades have always been top of my class, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna sit back and half-ass this final. I’ve never been the type to half-ass anything.

Up ahead, several large stone shapes rise up out of the floor, blocking my path to the ring. They weren’t there a moment ago, I’m sure of it. I land on the ground in human form and sprint forward, trying to think of what animal form would be most effective for this challenge.

Something good at climbing…

Ah hah!

I transform into a chimpanzee as I reach the first massive boulder and begin to climb up the side of it. Behind me, I can hear the footsteps of the magical figures I blasted back earlier. They’ve recovered and are coming for me.

My pulse quickens, but I don’t dare turn around. I just keep climbing, flinging myself over the obstacles and trying to keep a good pace. I can’t let them catch up with me.

When I reach the end of the obstacle course, I feel the air shift with magic, and I know without looking behind me that the obstacles have vanished now that they’re not needed. I turn back into a human, and up ahead, I can see the gleam of the ring on a pedestal.

I feel kind of like Lara Croft right now. Only I’m not in some crumbling temple, I’m in a magically designed obstacle course in