Disclaimer: I do not own Fablehaven. It is the creation of Brandon Mull.
A/N: This story is the fifth entry in a ten-story series, and is a follow-up to "Destiny of the Dark Destroyer". Please make sure to read the previous four stories before starting this one! Thank you and enjoy!
Chapter 1: Seth's Desire
It was a calm, relaxing day in late March. Spring had officially started only a few days prior, but the weather throughout New England was proving to be most enjoyable. Within the secluded preserve of Fablehaven, fairies were fluttering around the various ponds and gardens that dotted the landscape. Satyrs were running across the fields, giggling among themselves. All of the creatures, be they of light or darkness, appeared to be at peace, or were at least keeping out of trouble.
Despite the gorgeous weather, on the second floor of the main house, Seth had locked himself up in his bedroom. Under normal circumstances, there would be at least some light seeping through behind his closed curtains. But for now, Seth had used his shadow charmer ability to plunge the room into a complete void of darkness.
Seth was not thinking about the world around him. Right now, all he wanted was to be left alone. He knew that in a matter of days, he would have to fulfill a particular obligation. There was seemingly no way out of it. And while Seth was hardly one to run away from his problems, deep down he wanted nothing more than to get as far away from this particular one as he possibly could.
However, such an option was seemingly impossible. It had been almost one full year since Seth paid his first visit to the Singing Sisters. And it was this visit that had built up to all of the tension that Seth was currently experiencing. For when Seth haggled with the Singing Sisters, he agreed to obtain specific knowledge from them in exchange for an undetermined favor in a year's time.
As of now, that year was almost up, and Seth was due to return to the Singing Sisters. If he didn't, the word "deadline" would literally lend itself to Seth's demise. Back when Seth made his bargain with the Singing Sisters, he agreed that he would come back to them within one year's time to accept his favor. Failing to do so, Seth would die due to a pact he was coerced into making as part of the Sisters' deal.
And it was this impending favor that was stressing Seth out. Seth didn't have the slightest clue as to what it was. It might be something within the realm of possibility which he could manage. Likewise, there was also the chance that they would ask Seth for a favor that would literally be impossible for him to do. If that was the case, what then? Would Seth have the opportunity to dismiss an impossible favor in exchange for one that was actually doable?
Whatever the outcome, there was seemingly no way for Seth to just avoid this whole thing. There were no loopholes that anybody could seemingly think of. He was just going to have to stand up and take his responsibilities like a man.
Seth's solitude came to an abrupt halt when he heard the sound of someone rapping their knuckles upon the other side of his bedroom door.
"Seth!" came his mother's voice from the other side of the closed door. "Seth, are you in there?"
Breaking away from his concentration, Seth looked over towards the door as the darkness throughout his room began to fade away, slowly revealing the light it had been blocking out. Despite his mother's interruption, it did absolutely nothing to better his mood.
"Mom?" asked Seth. "What is it?"
"Can you come downstairs and help set the table?"
Seth sighed, then rolled his eyes. "Fine, I'll be right down."
Still feeling miserable, Seth slipped out of his bed and hesitantly walked over to the door. As he entered the hallway, he could hear the footsteps of his mom walking down the stairs to the first floor. Like the rest of his family, she knew of the situation that was going on with Seth. But alas, there wasn't really anything that she, or anybody else, could do about it.
Seth made his way into the kitchen, where his mother had gotten back to stirring a pot that was heating on the stovetop.
"It's already after five?" asked Seth, as he glanced up at the analogue clock that was hung over the sink. "That's just what I need. Time flowing faster than it needs to."
"Try to be optimistic," said Mrs. Sorenson. "We don't like this situation any better than you do."
"Easy for you to say," said Seth, as he opened up a cupboard and removed a stack of plates. He proceeded to carry the plates into the dining room, setting each one of them down on the table in front of a chair. The stack had not been too heavy to begin with, but got lighter with each plate he placed down.
"Oh wait," said Mrs. Sorenson, sticking her head through the doorway to the kitchen. "Don't set a place for Kendra. She's not eating with us tonight."
"No?" asked Seth, as he placed the second last plate down on the table, leaving just one in his hands. "Why not?"
"She's going on a picnic with Bracken."
"A picnic?" asked Seth, carrying the extra plate back towards the kitchen. "That's nice. Why didn't she tell me?"
"Because it's a date. It's just going to be the two of them."
"I see," said Seth, placing the plate back into its appropriate spot in the kitchen cupboard. Normally, he didn't seem to mind the fact that his sister was dating a unicorn, but lately, the whole idea was just making him feel empty inside.
After he finished setting the table, Seth went back up to his bedroom and turned on the television. However, he paid zero attention to whatever was on the screen, and instead gazed up at the ceiling above him for the next three-quarters of an hour, until he was called down to dinner.
As the rest of the family came in to be seated, Seth sat down in his usual spot at one corner of the table. The seat to his left was empty, as it was normally where Kendra sat.
"I have an announcement," said Warren, holding up his hands with a grin on his face.
"What's that?" asked Dale, transferring some spring mix salad from the bowl to his plate.
Warren looked across the table at the empty seat between Seth and Mrs. Sorenson. "I kinda wish Kendra was here to hear this, since she can relate. But I can't wait. I am officially fairystruck!"
The news had startled nearly everybody at the table, including Seth.
"You're kidding," said Grandma, whose jaw dropped.
"'Fraid not. See, yesterday I was walking towards the house and saw some fairies floating around like usual. Then it hit me. I didn't remember drinking any milk that morning! Of course, I didn't want to jump the gun, as there was the off chance that I did drink milk and simply forgot. So today, I purposely avoided drinking milk, and I was still able to see magical creatures."
"How'd this even happen?" asked Seth.
"It must've been all those kisses I gave to my husband," replied Clover. Sitting next to Warren, she turned towards him and gave him a kiss on the lips.
"How long do you think you've been fairystruck?" asked Grandpa.
"I have no idea," replied Warren. "I've been drinking milk pretty well every day. Could've been last week, or the day we got married."
Seth thought back to Warren and Clover's wedding day. It took place on New Year's Day, just as Warren had requested. The ceremony had taken place in the garden at Fablehaven. It may have happened during the middle of winter, but thanks to the magic of the fairies, the yard was quite warm that day.
The ceremony had been performed by none other than the Fairy Queen herself. Dale and Bright were the best man and bride of honor respectively. Seth had the role of ring bearer, while Kendra got to be the flower girl.
Because the Fairy Queen was not a legal authority in the human world, the marriage would never considered legal according to the State of Connecticut. But Warren and Clover didn't care. As long as they took the words of the Fairy Queen seriously, they confessed that they would always be married in their hearts.
Now, almost three months later, the two of them were still happily married. Although Clover confessed that she didn't care whether Warren was a fairy or not, in the end, Warren still wound up having some semblance of fairy qualities within him. It may not have carried the perks of being fairykind like Kendra possessed, but it was indeed something.
If anything, the news did little to cheer Seth up. Sure, he was grateful for Warren's new revelation. But it did absolutely nothing to better his own situation. Ever since Warren got married, it seemed like he was spending more and more time with Clover. It wasn't as though Warren had abandoned the Sorensons or anything, but with no new adventures for them to go on, there just wasn't too much for him to get involved with.
"Warren, you're coming with me when I go visit the Singing Sisters, right?" asked Seth.
Warren nodded, "Course I am. You think just because I got married that I need to settle down?"
"Not a bad suggestion," said Clover, giving Warren a sneer.
"You knew what you were getting into," said Warren, turning to face his wife.
Clover smirked. "Once an adventurer, always an adventurer."
"Warren, how do you propose we go about dealing with the Singing Sisters?" asked Seth.
"Seth, don't tell me you haven't made any preparations for those three," said Warren.
"How am I supposed to prepare for them?" asked Seth. "They could ask for anything."
"Well, sitting around the house all day doing nothing doesn't count as preparing," said Mrs. Sorenson.
"In that case," said Mr. Sorenson, "I think Seth should at least be engaged in some sort of activity."
"What kind of activity?" asked Seth. "Can it at least be something fun?"
"Well, baseball season is starting now" said Warren. "What do you say we play a little baseball after dinner? Just the two of us?"
Seth nodded lightly. "Sure. At least it'll be something to do."
Once dinner was finished, Warren and Seth grabbed some baseball gear out of a storage closet, then made their way out through the back door in the kitchen.
Outside, in a clearing not too far from the house, Kendra and Bracken were sitting upon a sprawled-out red and white checkered blanket. Also on the blanket was a picnic basket, water bottles, turkey sandwiches on ciabatta buns, two ears of corn, a bunch of red grapes and two red velvet cupcakes.
"I'm so glad two of us can be together," said Bracken, turning his head to face Kendra. Kendra looked at him. His silvery-blue eyes only seemed to compliment his wide smile.
"For you," said Bracken, reaching down to uproot a dandelion that was growing just beyond the edge of the blanket.
"Oh, thanks," said Kendra nonchalantly.
"I wasn't done with it," said Bracken. He squeezed the dandelion firmly in his wrist, until it suddenly expanded and transformed into a bouquet of beautiful flowers. "There, now it's Kendra-worthy."
"Oh, thank you!" said Kendra, accepting the bouquet from Bracken. Almost instinctively, she leaned forward and kissed Bracken on the lips.
This hadn't been the first time that Kendra and Bracken had kissed. But whenever they did, it truly felt magical. Whenever she kissed anybody else, like her father, it felt no different than kissing the back of her hand. But with Bracken, the two of them could feel magical energy surging through their lips.
"Hey, guys," said Seth, prompting Kendra and Bracken to turn their heads. Standing only twenty feet away were Seth, Warren and Hugo, who was carrying the duo's baseball gear. A feeling of embarrassment suddenly overwhelmed Kendra's nerves.
"Sorry, we didn't know where you two were having this picnic," said Warren. "We'll find another spot."
"Nonsense," said Bracken. "As long as it's okay with you, Kendra."
"Well, as long as they keep to themselves and don't come too close."
"Understood," said Warren, pointing further down the clearing. "There's plenty of room and we don't need a ton of space. We're just pitching and batting, not playing a nine-man game."
Seth, Warren and Hugo moved a fair distance away from Kendra and Bracken, although they were not quite out of sight. In fact, Kendra and Bracken would be able to watch from where they were sitting.
As Seth slipped on his mitt, Warren grasped the bat and stepped up to face him. Hugo stood behind Warren, serving the role as catcher. Seth stood before Warren. He wound up a pitch and threw it towards Warren, who made contact with his bat. The ball went flying into the air and fell behind several layers of trees, many yards away.
"Pretty sweet," said Seth, as Hugo, who was already familiar with his duty, ran off after the ball. He returned with the ball a minute later.
"You bat now," said Warren, as he handed the bat to Seth and switched positions. Seth threw his mitt down on the ground, as Warren slipped his on.
Seth gripped the bat between his hands, then turned to face Warren. He waited anxiously until Warren wound up the ball and tossed it towards Seth. Seth swung the bat, attempting to smack the ball, but missed.
"Try again," said Warren, as Hugo tossed the ball over towards him. This time, Warren slowly held his arm back, then thrust it forward, releasing the ball towards Seth. Again, Seth swung at the ball, but failed to make contact with it.
"Not quite," noted Warren, holding out his mitt to receive the ball from Hugo.
"This is a lot easier when I play with my dad," muttered Seth. "Why do you have to be left-handed?"
"Because lefties are awesome," said Warren with a grin. He proceeded to toss the ball up into the air with his left hand, then as it came down, caught it in the mitt on his right hand.
"Awesome?" asked Seth doubtfully. "You and what army?" Seth knew full well that Warren was the only left-handed member within his family at Fablehaven.
"I don't need an army. If any of us needs support, it's you. You're the one who needs to be in tip-top shape when he goes to visit the Singing Sisters. Just keep trying, you'll get the hang of it."
It took a few more tries, but eventually, Seth was managing to hit most of Warren's throws. They then switched positions again. Seth lobbed a ball towards Warren, who smacked it significantly further than Seth had managed to do with any of his hits.
"It's not fair," muttered Seth, as Hugo ran off in the direction that Warren's hit had sent the ball. "You can hit the ball way further than I could ever hope to."
"Seth, you're only fourteen," said Warren. "When I was your age, I could never hit the ball as far as I can now. And if I wanted a chance to compete in the major league, I'd probably have to hit the ball even higher and further than I already can."
"Look, I don't have the time it takes to grow up and get stronger. I need to be prepared for the Singing Sisters right away."
"Well, you're just going to have to do your best," said Warren.
"But my best might not be good enough. Man, I wish I never had to visit those stupid sisters in the first place."
Hugo walked up to where Seth was standing and presented him with the retrieved baseball. "Here you go, Seth."
"Forget it," said Seth. "I don't feel like playing right now."
"Don't quit now, Seth," said Warren worriedly. "I'm sorry I brought up... you-know-who."
"Look, I'm sure that whatever bizarre favor the Sisters ask for, it won't involve me playing baseball against a team of river trolls."
"But we've only been playing for ten minutes!"
"Thanks, but no thanks," said Seth. He began walking in the direction of the house, as Warren and Hugo followed close behind.
"Why Seth so upset?" asked Hugo.
"He's just under a lot of stress," said Warren.
They soon passed by the spot where Kendra and Bracken were currently in the middle of savoring their turkey sandwiches.
"That was quick," said Bracken with a grin, as he swallowed a bite of his sandwich.
Kendra could see that Seth did not appear to be in good spirits, as he continued on past the spot where she and Bracken were picnicking. However, Warren and Hugo opted to stop at the picnic.
"What's wrong with Seth?" asked Kendra.
"He's really uptight about this whole ordeal with the Singing Sisters," noted Warren. "Not that I can blame him. I'm really worried about Seth."
"We all feel for Seth," said Bracken. "But really, there's nothing that any of us can do to ensure that his trip to the Singing Sisters goes smoothly."
"We can help him, can't we?" asked Kendra. "I mean, whatever it is that the Singing Sisters ask of him, why should they care, so long as they get their desired outcome in the end?"
"We've got no way of knowing if the Singing Sisters will impose any restrictions upon Seth when they make their request," replied Warren. "They may forbid assistance for all we know."
"Poor guy," said Kendra, as she was caught off guard by thunder rumbling in the sky above them.
"Whoa," said Bracken, staring upwards. "Look at the sky!"
Kendra gazed up and saw that grey clouds had gathered in the sky over Fablehaven. "It seemed sunny only minutes ago!"
"Sorry about the picnic, Kendra," said Bracken, as he proceeded to toss the rest of the food back into the picnic basket. "But we'd better get out of here before it rains."
"Hugo hate rain," said the golem. "Makes me slimy."
Once Kendra and Bracken had gotten off the blanket, Hugo bent down and picked it up off the grass. Following Kendra, Bracken and Warren, Hugo proceeded to fold the blanket up as the group followed Seth back towards the house.