Disclaimer: I do not own Fablehaven. It is the creation of Brandon Mull.
A/N: This story is the sixth entry in a ten-story series, and is a follow-up to "Heir to the Deity's Throne". Please make sure to read the previous five stories before starting this one! Thank you and enjoy!
Chapter 1: Unsolved Mysteries
As the afternoon sun flickered into his eyes for a brief moment, Seth turned his head away as he continued to stroll down a serene path at Fablehaven. Walking next to him was Ingrid, the newest addition to his household.
The branches that grew above Seth and Ingrid only did a partial job of shielding them from the sun's rays. It was early in the month of May, but many of the the leaves on the trees had not yet come into full bloom. However, Seth didn't mind. As far as he was concerned, the harsh coldness of the winter season was finally over with, and for the next few months, things were only going to go uphill from this point.
"What was it that you wanted to show me, Seth?" asked Ingrid, looking at her foster brother with a pleasant smile on his face.
"We're almost there," said Seth, looking down the trail to see that it forked off in two directions just a few yards ahead from where he and Ingrid were currently walking. Soon they had reached the fork, and Seth proceeded to turn down the path to the right.
"I hope this is good," said Ingrid.
"Well, it's something that you never even knew existed. So I don't know what you'll think. Still, I want you to check it out."
"Seth, it feels like every day that I've been here I learn about some new creature. What's in store for me this time?"
"Oh, this isn't a creature," said Seth, smiling at Ingrid.
Before long, Seth and Ingrid had reached a greenhouse. Slightly larger than a two-car garage, an assortment of plants could be seen growing inside through the glass panes that made up the walls. Seth approached the door and pulled it open.
"After you," said Seth, holding the door open for Ingrid as she walked into greenhouse. Seth followed Ingrid inside, then closed the door behind himself.
"What's this plant you wanted me to see?" asked Ingrid, gazing around at the greenery that populated the interior of the greenhouse. "Nothing in here seems unusual to me."
"This," said Seth, pointing to a small, potted bush that was sitting on the edge of a table. No larger than a basketball, the foliage of the plant sported dozens of tiny, purple berries.
"What kind of plant is this?" asked Ingrid, giving the bush a close examination.
"Go on," said Seth, "taste a berry."
"Okay," said Ingrid, as his foster sister plucked a berry from the bush and proceeded to pop it into her mouth. As she began to chew the berry, a huge smile suddenly formed on her face.
"Wow! Seth, this is incredible! It tastes like candy! What kind of plant is this?"
"We're not sure. It's from a prehistoric time."
"Prehistoric?" asked Ingrid, as she she spat out a pit the size of a sesame seed. "Was this plant some sort of fossil?"
Seth laughed. "Nah! Remember how we told you about the time when we accidentally went back to the time of the dinosaurs?"
"Oh yeah. Though I find that a hard pill to swallow."
"While we were there, we discovered this now-extinct bush that sported these delicious berries! I saved a few of the seeds in hopes of regrowing the plant as a wedding gift for Warren and Clover. But, the wedding happened too soon for that to work. So instead, I'm going to give one of these plants to Warren as a birthday gift. Actually, make that Dale and I. He helped nurture the plant."
"That's so thoughtful of you," said Ingrid. "And it didn't even cost you anything! Man, I wish I had a good gift for Warren. I know I get an allowance, but what can I buy that would make just as good a gift as this plant?"
"Look, I can say that the plant's from you as well."
"But it's not. I played no part in discovering that plant, bringing it to the present or growing it. What's the point?"
"It's no big deal," said Seth. "Whatever you get Warren, I'm sure he'll appreciate it. Right now almost anything would make him happy."
"What do you mean?"
"None of us still have any ideas as to how the Necromaster is supposed to function. Warren's been trying for weeks, but he hasn't had any success. Even Agad has taken a crack at the relic. And while he agrees that it does possess some degree of magic, he's been unable to determine just what the Necromaster's abilities even are."
"Well, what's Warren so worked up about?" asked Ingrid.
"He thought figuring out the Necromaster would be easy. Now that assumption has hit him like a ton of bricks. He'll get over it. Problem is, sometimes Warren just doesn't know when to quit."
At this point, Seth and Ingrid proceeded to walk out of the greenhouse, and headed back the way they came down the dirt trail.
"Obviously the Necromaster does something," said Ingrid. "But where would the answer lie?"
"If you ask me," answered Seth, "it's probably somewhere within Murdred's castle. If it's anywhere at all."
"Well, if you ask me, I think we just ought to be sitting pretty. I mean, we haven't heard from Murdred since he was last here at Fablehaven."
"What the Fairy Queen did to his evil eye... It must've severely crippled him."
"Yeah, but as long as Murdred isn't a threat, perhaps we don't need to worry about hunting him down and finishing him off for good."
"You don't understand..." said Seth. "I want Murdred to be destroyed."
"Look, I don't like that monster any better myself. But why are you still so gung-ho on killing Murdred? You got out of your contractual obligation with the Singing Sisters, didn't you?"
"Yes, but it's what Murdred represents which is why I, along with the rest of our family, want him to be truly destroyed at any cost."
"I wish I understood better," said Ingrid. "But I'm fairly new to the magical world and Fablehaven."
"Newbie or not," said Seth, "even you understand that Murdred is the living embodiment of hate. I may be a shadow charmer, but I love my family and my home, as fairy-heavy as they may be. And as cool as my powers over darkness actually are, I'd trade them all away in a heartbeat if doing so would somehow eliminate Murdred."
"I see. Look, I'm willing to support you in your cause, but just how would you go about doing that? Fairy magic was able to weaken him, but only in this world, and only when he was in pain after his evil eye had been destroyed."
"It won't be easy," said Seth. "But I'll get him. If it comes down to it, I'll be like Captain Ahab, trying to kill Moby Dick. Only, I won't get myself killed in the process."
"So that's why you want the Necromaster's function to be properly recognized?" asked Ingrid.
"Exactly. We're not even sure if it is capable of killing Murdred. But from what we understand, it may be our best shot. Luring him into our world where he'd be vulnerable to fairy magic is far too convoluted and dangerous to even attempt. But if we could get the Necromaster working, and our theories on it are correct, then we may have a chance of killing Murdred with it."
Soon Seth and Ingrid had followed the trail until they had arrived at the back door to the house, through which they entered.
"Dinner smells good," said Ingrid, sniffing the air and smiling as she and Seth stepped into the kitchen.
"Smells like brisket," said Seth, as the tantalizing aroma of stewed beef wafted into his nostrils.
"Hey, kids," said Mrs. Sorenson, who was in the midst of chopping a red pepper over at the kitchen counter. "Dinner should be ready at six."
Seth looked over at the clock that was hanging over the sink. It appeared to almost be five-thirty.
"Five-thirty already?" asked Ingrid. "But it's still sunny out."
"Now that it's spring, the days are only going to be getting longer," said Mrs. Sorenson.
Before long, dinner was being served, and the family had all been seated in the dining room. Everybody was helping themselves to the various plates of vegetables that had been set up across the table.
"Seth, where were you and Ingrid this afternoon?" asked Mr. Sorenson.
"We just went for a walk around the preserve," replied Seth. "But don't worry, we didn't venture anywhere off limits. I swear."
"Seth," said Grandpa, "I happen to know for a fact that your opinion as to what's considered off limits, and my opinion, are as different as night and day."
"Seth's telling the truth," said Ingrid, nodding her head in agreement.
"So, where did you go?" asked Kendra.
"Just to the nursery."
"The nursery?" asked Warren, looking confused. "Since when are you into plants, Seth?"
"I was just... showing Ingrid around," replied Seth, not wanting to give away the real reason as to why he had gone there.
"Oh, I see," said Dale, glancing over at Seth with subtle grin. "Don't worry, it's cool."
Warren scratched one of his eyebrows using a single finger. "You know, I get the feeling that's there's something someone's not telling me."
"I'll say it," said Ingrid, whose remark caused Seth's heart to skip a beat. Was she just going to up and spoil the surprise? "You see, while we were out, Seth and I got to talking."
"About... what?" asked Kendra, who had now become intrigued by the current situation.
"Well... we got to talking about the situation regarding Murdred and the function of the Necromaster."
"I see," said Grandpa. "Is this about how we hope to one day destroy Murdred for good?"
"Well, yeah," said Seth. "But I don't know if that's even possible. Murdred isn't just a bad being. He may literally be a manifestation of hate and darkness. In that sense, he may be truly immortal, and would possess the capacity to elude death."
"Then what good would the Necromaster even be against someone who cannot die?" asked Kendra.
"That what we don't know," said Warren. "It depends on what's ultimately stronger. Murdred or the Necromaster. And right now, we still don't know if or how the Necromaster even so much as works."
"How is the research coming, then?" asked Seth. "Any progress?"
"Well, I gave up on the Necromaster weeks ago. Magical items are not my best subject. Agad's been looking at it ever since, but even he's had no more success than I've had."
"Nothing? But he's a wizard! If he can't figure the Necromaster out, who can?"
"It hasn't been a total loss," said Grandpa. "Agad has assured me that the Necromaster does indeed possess magical properties. However, he hasn't been able to get the relic to work at all."
Seth shook his head. "So, are you saying that figuring out the Necromaster is basically like trying to solve a Rubik's cube?"
"Not exactly. At least with a Rubik's cube, you have an idea of what the end result should look like. With the Necromaster, the entire thing is a complete mystery."
"Well, I hope that Agad manages to figure out the mystery of the Necromaster soon. The longer we wait, the more time Murdred has to strike back against us."
"How much time is Agad going to take with studying the Necromaster?" asked Kendra.
"I couldn't tell you," replied Grandpa. "Being a wizard, Agad will live on for a very long time. He could be willing to invest centuries into trying to figure out the Necromaster with no degree of success. Or, he might give up on it tomorrow."
"Well, that's doesn't sound very promising," said Seth. "We need a solution and we need it soon. The sooner the better."
"This isn't something that can be rushed, Seth. The Necromaster appears to have originated from the Demon Domain. And as you know, the Demon Domain is an unstable world where chaos prevails over order. Therefore, the inner workings and exact nature of this relic are unknown to us."
"Besides," said Grandma. "There's always the chance that Murdred will come to realize that he just doesn't have the strength he needs to invade our world, and will potentially never come back at all."
"That's just an assumption, Ruth," said Grandpa. "From what we know about Murdred, it's given me the impression that he does not just give up so easily. He has a lot of power at his disposal, and will typically stop at nothing to get what he wants."
"I remember when we defeated Murdred," said Kendra. "He seemed to be very angry about the whole situation."
"As ruler of the Demon Domain, Murdred's probably used to getting whatever he wants," said Seth. "And with those two negafae under his direct control, it usually came to him."
"But Demoric," said Ingrid. "You... destroyed him."
"Exactly. And I'm sure Murdred didn't take his demise all too well. He'll want revenge on us just for that alone. But he still has Helwic at his command, and while she's only half of a pair, she's just as crafty as Demoric was."
"Look, the point is we don't know for sure just how powerful Murdred actually is at this point," said Grandpa. "We know that his defeat hindered him in some way, since we haven't heard from him since. But, at the same time, it's possible that he's been regaining his strength in some way, and might make an attack against us."
"But, we're safe here at Fablehaven, aren't we?" asked Ingrid.
"I'd like to answer your question with a yes," replied Grandpa. "I mean, the preserve has powerful protection spells that shield it, not only from unregulated physical intrusions, but also from entry via unwanted teleportation. However, it's not flawless."
"Well, Ingrid, remember how we told you about the whole ordeal with Tritanoss?"
"Oh yeah! Oblivion and Tritanoss were so powerful, they were able to just bypass the barrier without any struggle."
"But Murdred was able to get through by exploiting a loophole," said Grandma. "Under normal circumstances, he shouldn't have been able to make it. But, when Helwic was here using Sarah's persona, she was able to set up a warp point on the preserve for them to later travel through."
"But that warp point was later destroyed," noted Clover. "Still, you never know if Murdred has some other method of making it back to Fablehaven at his disposal."
"If only there was some way for us to check on him," said Seth. "It's too bad that the Oculus is incapable of penetrating its focus into the Demon Domain."
"As powerful as it and the other artifacts may be, none of them are simply compatible with physics of the Demon Domain," said Grandpa. "I'm sorry."
"I realize that this sounds risky," said Ingrid, "but why not just make a return visit to the Demon Domain and see for yourself?"
"It's a good suggestion," replied Seth. "But it's extremely risky. In order to find out for sure just what Murdred is even up to, we'd have to be in disguise. Going as the adlets last time worked to an extent, but our performance wasn't perfect. Also, we got extremely lucky and never encountered the real adlets during that visit. What are we supposed to do if we try going back there as adlets again, but run into Xipp, Xeero and Xillch?"
"You've got fairies, don't you?"
"Well, yes," replied Clover. "But our magic has its limitations, especially within the Demon Domain. Disguises will only get us so far."
"What about invisibility?"
"It'll wear off before too long. Even without a negafae around to hamper our power, it would only last for so long."
"It's too bad that Coulter's glove isn't very effective," said Seth. "You've gotta remain perfectly still, or you'll just give yourself away."
"Still, if we could get the glove to work better, it would allow the wearer to sneak around the Demon Domain unnoticed," said Warren.
"I've got an idea," said Kendra. "Maybe we could have Agad examine the glove. Just because we know no more about the glove than Coulter did, doesn't mean that Coulter knew everything about it in the first place."
Grandpa stroked his chin. "That's not a bad idea. Perhaps there is more to this glove than we're actually aware of. I mean, what's the point of an invisibility glove, if you need to remain still for it to even work properly?"
"I always assumed it was just an imperfection," said Seth. "But I'd like for my theory to be proven wrong."
"However, Agad is already preoccupied in trying to figure out the Necromaster. Instead, I'll see if Trask would be willing to look into the glove situation. We already know how the glove works, but maybe there's a way to make it work better."
Seth smiled. "Hopefully there is a way to improve the functionality of the glove. Because if the thing actually worked better, one of us would be able to properly infiltrate Murdred's castle."
"But you'd be all alone," noted Grandma.
"Hey, better somebody's invisible and alone, than a whole visible group that our enemies can easily detect. And I wouldn't have to be alone. I could still go along with Raxtus. Even though he's a fairy dragon, I'm sure that he'd be able to withstand the harshness of the Demon Domain, at least for a little while."
"Okay then," said Grandpa. "After dinner I will speak with Trask and see what he can do about looking into the glove."
"Great," said Seth. "If there is a way to improve the glove, it'll mean that we'll have a safer way of infiltrating Murdred's castle."