A/N: I don't own Fablehaven.
For about a three mile radius around his tower, there was a ripple of fear and cold that at the outer edges started as a mild chill and prickling unease and that quickly built into the sort of cold that stripped away even the memory of warmth and a fear that blotted out all other thought. There were shadows that didn't shrink even at the height of the sun and that crept and grasped when the sun fled.
Wraiths and revenants haunted the dead land openly; more obscure creatures lurked just out of sight. The tower itself was formed of jagged black rock that appeared to have erupted from the land and that refused to reflect even a hint of light.
In other words, while Seth had been prepared for any number of problems after settling in, unwelcome visitors hadn't really been one.
He had forgotten, of course, to account for the Sphinx.
Seth broke the usual protocol and opened the door himself, mainly so he could have the pleasure of saying a flat, "No," and immediately closing it again. The Sphinx was smart enough not to try to jam a foot in the door. He wouldn't have liked the trap he activated if he did.
"Seth," he called through the door. His voice was as carefully reasonable as ever.
"Not listening," Seth called back. His eyes swept the entrance hall. The Sphinx's appearance couldn't mean anything good. He needed to arm the rest of the traps. His resolve not to talk to the Sphinx shattered quickly. "What are you doing out of your lair, anyway? I thought you and Agad had a deal."
"My lair was attacked," the Sphinx said tensely. "Bast is dead."
Seth's shoulders slumped. He'd liked the little shapeshifter.
Kendra would need to be warned if she didn't know already. She probably did. There were fairies everywhere, and everything they saw sooner or later got back to her.
"Why come here?" Seth demanded. "They could have followed you." He wavered by the door. He ought to move to the other side of the room and arm the traps.
On the other hand, he could hardly just leave another Eternal out in the cold.
Assuming this really was another Eternal. It could just be someone imitating him - a stingbulb, maybe, although the fact that the Sphinx had managed to get this far suggested he still had his powers.
He glanced up at the heavy beam over the door and then waved open the lock with a sigh.
The Sphinx stepped inside. The moment he was in, the door slammed shut behind him, and a long silver snake with vicious fangs dropped off the beam over the door and wrapped itself around his neck. The fangs dug into the jugular and held on.
The Sphinx froze. "Hello, Tara."
Tara, despite being fully capable of speech, merely hissed back.
"She's missed you, really," Seth said casually. He pulled out his watch and checked it. "If you're not dead in two minutes, we can assume the venom's had no effect, you're really you, and you can come the rest of the way in."
"Ah," the Sphinx said. "A sensible precaution."
"You know me," Seth said. "Always sensible."
He was pretty sure both Tara and the Sphinx were giving him a look for that one.
When the two minutes were up, he shoved the watch back under his jacket sleeve and looked expectantly at Tara. She removed her fangs reluctantly.
"I could bite him again. Just to be sure."
The Sphinx winced.
"Maybe later. For now, let's get behind a few more doors."
Seth led the way deeper into the tower, pulling levers and putting in passwords to arm the traps behind them as they went. He headed down, not up. They could be here a while, and the underground floors were far more comfortable than the upper ones.
The Sphinx raised an eyebrow at the decor. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you'd decided to set yourself up as some sort of dark lord."
Seth had realized early on that some of his best defenses would be based on his Shadow Charmer abilities. He had realized shortly afterwards that this would be the perfect excuse to make his hideout a haunted house in every sense of the term. It had made decorating a lot more fun.
"Nah," Seth said with a wave. "Too much work. Also, Kendra would lecture for me for literal years. It just gives off the right vibe, you know? It felt weird to have wraiths floating around a place that looked cheery." He waved a hand at a wall decorated with a variety of wicked looking implements. Seth honestly wasn't sure what most of them did. "It's not like I use any of it."
The eyebrow remained raised. "There's a distinct lack of dust on these for things you don't use."
Seth rolled his eyes. "It's called a duster."
Now both eyebrows were up. "You dust."
"Of course not." Tara said as they started down a tight spiral staircase. "That's what the wraiths are for."
"He makes the wraiths - Of course he does." The Sphinx sounded amused. "You haven't changed a bit."
"Have any of us?" Seth stopped at the bottom of the staircase they'd been and opened the first door at the base. "Welcome to my parlor."
The room beyond was far more inviting - the latest game system, a couch he'd been using preservation spells on for the last couple of centuries because it was way too comfortable to give up, a mini fridge that stocked itself with endless snacks, even a foosball table for old time's sake.
The Sphinx's mouth twitched at the last as he headed inside.
The moment he was in, Seth slammed the door. The lock automatically engaged.
"Seth?" The Sphinx's voice rose in warning.
"Sorry!" Seth called. "It's just, I still don't trust you. Kind of a lot. This way works better for everybody. Plenty of food in the fridge, you can sleep on the couch, feel free to play what you want. I'll get this all worked out with Agad."
"It's better than the one you stuck me in!" Seth turned to go. That should hold the Sphinx at least for a while. Plenty of time for him to call up a few people and make sure everything was on the up and up. "Watch the door, Tara?"
"Of course." She coiled up to wait. "I like listening to him yell."
"I don't know what he thinks he's got to be so upset about," Seth grumbled. "I probably won't be able to go in there for a week."
He knew sacrifices had to be made for the greater good, but if the Sphinx messed up his game files, he was letting Tara bite the guy all she wanted.
Cheered by the thought, he whistled as he headed off.