Shadow of The Fox (Shadow of the Fox #1)

By: Julie Kagawa

Once Every Thousand Years...

Every millennium, one age ends and another age dawns...and whoever holds the Scroll of a Thousand Prayers holds the power to call the great Kami Dragon from the sea and ask for any one wish. The time is near...and the missing pieces of the scroll will be sought throughout the land of Iwagoto. The holder of the first piece is a humble, unknown peasant girl with a dangerous secret.

Demons have burned the temple Yumeko was raised in to the ground, killing everyone within, including the master who trained her to both use and hide her kitsune shapeshifting powers. Yumeko escapes with the temple’s greatest treasure—one part of the ancient scroll. Fate thrusts her into the path of a mysterious samurai, Kage Tatsumi of the Shadow Clan. Yumeko knows he seeks what she has...and is under orders to kill anything and anyone who stands between him and the scroll.

A WISH WILL BE GRANTED AND A NEW AGE WILL DAWN.



PART 1





1

Beginnings and Endings

It was raining the day Suki came to the Palace of the Sun, and it was raining the night that she died.

“You’re the new maid, are you?” a woman with a narrow, bony face demanded, looking her up and down. Suki shivered, feeling cold rainwater sliding down her back, dripping from her hair to spatter the fine wood floor. The head housekeeper sniffed. “Well, you’re no beauty, that’s for sure. But, no matter—Lady Satomi’s last maid was pretty as a butterfly, with half the wit.” She leaned closer, narrowing her eyes. “Tell me, girl. They said you were running your father’s shop before you came here. Do you have an intelligent head on your shoulders? Or is it as full of air as the last girl’s?”

Suki chewed her lip and looked at the floor. She had been helping to run her father’s shop within the city for the better part of a year. The only child of a celebrated flute maker, she was often responsible for dealing with the customers when her father was at work, too engrossed in his task to eat or talk to anyone until his latest piece was done. Suki could read and do numbers as well as any boy, but being a girl, she was not allowed to inherit her father’s business or learn his craft. Mura Akihito was still strong, but he was getting old, his once nimble fingers stiffening with age and hard use. Rather than marry Suki off, her father had used his meager influence to get her a job in the Imperial Palace, so she would be well taken care of when he passed away. Suki missed home, and she desperately wondered if her father was all right without her, but she knew this was what he wanted. “I don’t know, ma’am,” she whispered.

“Hmph. Well, we’ll see soon enough. But I would think of something better to say to Lady Satomi. Otherwise your stay will be even shorter than your predecessor’s. Now,” she continued, “clean yourself up, then go to the kitchen and fetch Lady Satomi’s tea. The cook will tell you where to take it.”

A few minutes later, Suki walked down the veranda, carrying a full tea tray and trying to remember the directions she’d been given. The emperor’s Palace of the Sun was a miniature city in itself; the main palace, where the emperor and his family lived, loomed over everything, but a labyrinth of walls, structures and fortifications lay between the keep and the inner wall, all designed to protect the emperor and confuse an invading army. Nobles, courtiers and samurai paraded to and fro down the walkways, dressed in robes of brilliant color and design: white silk with delicate sakura petals, or a vivid red with golden chrysanthemum blooms. None of the nobles she passed spared her a second glance. Only the most influential families resided this close to the emperor; the closer you lived to the main keep of the palace, the more important you were.

Suki wandered down the maze of verandas, the knots in her stomach growing tighter as she searched in vain for the right quarters. Everything looked the same. Gray-roofed buildings with bamboo and paper walls, and wooden verandas between them so the nobles wouldn’t sully their clothes in the dirt and dew. Blue-tiled turrets towered over her in regal splendor, and dozens of different songbirds trilled from the branches of the perfectly groomed trees, but the tightness in Suki’s chest and the churning of her insides made it impossible to appreciate any of it.