Chapter One

SHADOW

There was a full moon, and as Shadow skimmed over the forest, he noticed how the woods were bathed in its silvery light. The woods beneath him looked softer than usual, and more inviting. He was happy to oblige to the invitation, and he swooped down beneath the tree line, grabbing a few mosquitoes on the way.

Although the woods looked prettier in the light of the moon, there was something eerily familiar about it. He shuddered as he remembered what had happened on a night exactly like this one. The full moon, how many hours ago the sun had gone down: everything was exactly as it had been a year ago. The memories came flooding back to Shadow, even though he tried to stop them, and he watched in his mind the events of that awful night.

The other little brown bat newborns, taunting him because he was half Silvertip.

Him getting angry at them and deciding to do something brave.

Shadow attacking an owl even though it had just been sitting there and not bothering him.

And worst of all: banishment from his colony.

Shadow thought he must have set some kind of record at being the youngest ever to be banished from his little brown bat colony. Actually, he was one of the few bats ever to have been kicked out: there hadn't ever even been many troublemakers in his colony.

After Shadow had been banished, he had been alone for a few hours, a small and frightened newborn bat, and in the day. But then Hala had come along.

It was strange that an owl had become one of his best friends, especially after attacking one had gotten him in trouble in the first place. But she had befriended him, and so had Achmed, the African fish eagle, whether he would admit it or not. Hala had been on a mission to save her kind, the boobook owls, and Shadow had agreed to join them, preferring to travel with the birds rather than stay alone.

Their journeys had taken them far away from where Shadow was born, farther from home than the little bat had been in his life. The group had done some amazing things, not the least of them being making friends with a griffon vulture named Griffin. So it was a group of four that finally made it to where humans had been keeping boobooks in captivity. Shadow and his friends had managed to free the owls, and then they had returned home.

Shadow remembered how nervous he had been at returning home. Would his colony accept him now, even though he had been banished? The answer was yes, but only after Hala and the other birds had talked to the leaders of the colony and they had decided that Shadow had learned his lesson.

Now it was a full year after his night of banishment, and Shadow still couldn't help but feel nervous; this night looked so much like the other one. He was afraid it was an omen, afraid that something bad would happen on this night like it did on the other.

"I'll just hunt a little bit longer, and then I'll go back to the roost. I'm not going to do anything reckless," he thought, deciding to play it safe. Then he grinned sheepishly. Here he was, a year old already, and still superstitious like a newborn! But still, better safe than sorry.

Coming out over a clearing, something caught Shadow's eye. Cautiously, he circled lower over it, sending out waves of sound and wondering what this thing was.

It appeared to be some sort of spherical object, but what it was Shadow had no clue. Probably some human thing, Shadow guessed.

He knew he shouldn't go closer, but his curiosity was insatiable. Sending more sound at the curious item, Shadow flew a bit closer to it, still flying in tight circles. Maybe he'd be able to figure out what it was if he went closer.

When he was about two feet away from the thing, he smelled something, a sweet smell. The smell was enticing, and Shadow felt himself drawn nearer to find out what thing would make such a sweet scent.

Shadow landed on the ground, staring at the thing. Maybe if he touched it, he'd be able to determine what it was, he thought.

But as he reached out his wing to touch the object, Shadow suddenly felt a tremendous pressure on his back, pinning him to the ground. He tried to struggle and get it off, but he wasn't successful; he couldn't even turn around to see what the pressure was coming from. It pushed harder on him, and he felt his consciousness slipping away from him, his world going black.