Spark (Legends of the Shifters)

Spark
LEGENDS
OF THE SHIFTERS

BOOK ONE

By
J.B. North

Spark (Legends of the Shifters: Book
One)

Copyright © 2014 by J.B. North

This ebook is licensed for your personal
enjoyment only. This book may not be resold or given away to other
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No part of this book may be reproduced
in any form whatsoever without the written permission of the
publisher, except in the case of brief passages embodied in critical
reviews and articles.

Thank you for respecting the hard work
of this author.

For Mom and Hannah,

who help me get through the tough spots
in writing and more importantly, life.

Table of Contents

PART
ONE: THE CONSERVATORY

-
CHAPTER
ONE

-
CHAPTER
TWO

-
CHAPTER
THREE

-
CHAPTER
FOUR

-
CHAPTER
FIVE

-
CHAPTER
SIX

-
CHAPTER
SEVEN

-
CHAPTER
EIGHT

-
CHAPTER
NINE

-
CHAPTER
TEN

-
CHAPTER
ELEVEN

-
CHAPTER
TWELVE

-
CHAPTER
THIRTEEN

-
CHAPTER
FOURTEEN

PART
TWO: THE QUEST

-
CHAPTER
FIFTEEN

-
CHAPTER
SIXTEEN

-
CHAPTER
SEVENTEEN

-
CHAPTER
EIGHTEEN

-
CHAPTER
NINETEEN

-
CHAPTER
TWENTY

-
CHAPTER
TWENTY-ONE

-
CHAPTER
TWENTY-TWO

-
CHAPTER
TWENTY-THREE

-
CHAPTER
TWENTY-FOUR

-
CHAPTER
TWENTY-FIVE

-
CHAPTER
TWENTY-SIX

-
CHAPTER
TWENTY-SEVEN

-
CHAPTER
TWENTY-EIGHT

-CHAPTER
TWENTY-NINE

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ABOUT
THE AUTHOR

Part
One
THE CONSERVATORY
CHAPTER
ONE

I awoke to darkness and
silence, the cold biting at my nose and numbing my cheeks. I trembled
under the thin blanket, the only thing I had to protect me from the
bitter frost. I pulled it tighter against my small frame, but it was
no use. If I wanted my body to warm up, I would have get out of bed.

Without stirring, I looked
around the room. The eight other girls that shared it with me were
sound asleep in their bunks. In the moon's dim light, I could see the
fog escaping from their mouths, like ghosts lingering in the air
before disappearing into the coldness. To avoid making sound, I sat
up slowly and slid my feet to the ground. I ignored the icy feel of
the floor as I hurried to strike a match and set it against a
candlewick for light.

The girl sleeping next to
me shook in the cold. I tip-toed over to her, and laid my blanket
across her body. Most of the girls were younger than me or new. I
barely knew any of them, but the girl that I had laid the blanket
over was the newest and the scrawniest. She would need the extra
warmth more than any of the others.

I
silently slipped to the chest at the end of my bed. It complained
loudly as I lifted the rusted lid. I winced, afraid someone would
wake up, but when no one stirred, I continued to pull out my warm
winter clothes. I put on a long-sleeved, button up shirt, some worn
out light brown trousers, a dark green jacket that had a few
mysterious stains, two thick, leather boots, a pair of red gloves
with several holes in the fingertips, and a woolen hat. I was
grateful for the little bit of warmth that started to seep through my
body, but I was still shivering with cold.

There
was only one place in the orphanage that was warm enough to cut the
sting on my cheeks, eyes, and the tip of my nose, and that was the
kitchen.

Candle
in hand, I crept to the door, shutting it softly behind me, and
walked into a small, shabby sitting room. It was silent except for
the haunting winds outside the shattered window. The only thing that
let me know it was morning was the low coo of the winter dove, barely
audible over the winds of a rising storm. I rubbed my arms and set a
clipped pace toward the kitchens. Not surprisingly, it already had
most of its staff up and working. I stood by one of the lit stoves.
Just as I was starting to warm up, the head cook, Elna, stepped
beside me, nearly scaring me to death. Her frazzled, gray hair stuck
out in all directions.


Good
morning, Ivy!” she chirped, a wide smile spread across her
face. Elna must have been in her late fifties, but she acted a lot
younger than her years. It was one of the characteristics that made
me love her so much. “I didn’t know you’d be up so
soon, or I'd already have the hot chocolate made up for your
birthday. As it is, it won’t be ready for a few more minutes.”

Hot
chocolate was rare at the orphanage, but Elna had insisted on giving
it to me every year after we met, which was almost four years ago. It
had become a tradition, in a way.


It’s
really not necessary—” I started, but she cut me off by
signaling to one of the kitchen maids and ordering her to bring the
treat when it was ready. Then, not even acknowledging my protests,
she turned back to me and asked quietly, “Are you nervous about
your trial?”

I
decided to abandon my argument. It was useless against Elna's
giving—but stubborn—heart. “Not yet,” I
answered after a short moment.

She
smiled at me as she lifted a lid off of a pot that sat on the stove.
“When I had my trial, I was terrified. There were two other
boys there that day...Unfortunately, I was the only one that managed
to survive.”

I
kept my mouth shut. I wasn't sure if she was supposed to give that
much away. It was forbidden for anyone under the age of seventeen to
know anything about the trial, and both the talker and the listener
could be imprisoned for such an offense.

Elna
looked down at her creation and frowned. “Oh, I’ve burnt
the porridge again.” The lid clattered onto the stove as she
hurriedly stirred the goopy concoction, filling the air with a
terrible smell.

I
tried not to feel disappointed. The porridge was always burnt. Burnt
or undercooked. I loved Elna, but her food was horrible. The other
workers in our kitchens weren't much better than her, but none of
them knew what to prepare for when they were younger.

In
all of the five kingdoms—Leviatha, Ginsey, Onwin, Pira, and
Kislow—everybody is required to go to their region's arena the
week of their seventeenth birthday. By law, they are banned to enter
the doors until then. For me, there are only two friends that are
legitimate to watch my trial. Elna and Ayon.

Ayon
is like my big brother. While he wasn't an orphan, his mother was
Madam Grant who was the main director of the orphan girls. Because of
that, he was the only boy that was occasionally allowed to enter the
girls' side of the orphanage.

When
it was Ayon's turn to go into the arena, I had been devastated. I
thought I would lose my best friend either to death or to an
occupation that would take him away from Forlander. As it turned out,
he changed into a horse and was therefore placed in the stables that
his mother looked after.

It
was hard to believe that
I
was
the one going to the arena this time, the one that would discover
what my second form was. My second form will determine what my
occupation, and ultimately my life, will be like. If I had been a
noblewoman, it would not matter as much. It doesn't matter what
nobles turn into because, in the end, they will always be a noble.

Long
ago, the five kingdoms were ruled by a single young king, King Jaris,
whose foolish decisions made him feared by his people. His second
form was a dragon, and because he was a mighty beast, he thought that
all other creatures were lesser than he. To make his power known, he
changed the entire system of the government and replaced it with his
own ideas, locking his people in a cast system that has stuck with
them for as long as they can remember—that
we
can
remember
. Near the end of his life, King Jaris was overthrown,
but his law is still inscribed on every courthouse, on every town
sign, and on every school wall. Commoners must obey it, unless they
have the favor of a nobleman.

Horses
are always stable workers or carriage drivers and birds are tailors
and seamstresses. Certain rodents, like Elna—a white mouse—are
given the occupation of cooks and other kinds of servants.
Furthermore, foxes and fierce birds are spies, canines and felines
are soldiers, fish and other water creatures are sailors, and the
list goes on. The poor can't help but hate the system, and if we
tried anything, the noblemen would have us arrested and probably
flogged within an inch of our lives.

I
can't say that my life has been interesting thus far, but I can say
that I am a good, law abiding citizen. Even though I don't like the
system, I will live with it. I have no choice but to live with it.
Knowing this about myself, I can only hope that God will have mercy
on me and grant me with a second form that will plow the path before
me, like the men who spend every winter day shoveling snow off our
roads.

The
kitchen maid—the same one that Elna had given orders to
earlier—interrupted my thoughts when she held a steaming mug of
hot chocolate under my nose. “There you go, miss,” she
said. No sooner than I had taken it from her hands, she hurried off
to perform some other task that I had kept her from. A twinge of
guilt settled in my stomach.

Elna
had been thoroughly focused on spooning burnt bits of porridge out of
her dish. She was mumbling to herself, but the words were too quiet
for me to understand.

Since
I didn't want to disturb her, I snuck out of the kitchen through the
door that led to the frozen world outside. I sheltered the drink from
the sheets of snow and hastened to the stables where Ayon would be
working. I entered and found him chipping the mud out of a horse’s
hoof. He looked up and smiled. “Good morning, sleepyhead.”


Morning,”
I replied. I knew that he had already been up for an hour or more. “I
brought you something.” I held out the hot chocolate for him to
take.

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