Disclaimer: I do not own Fablehaven. It is the creation of Brandon Mull.
A/N: This story is the second entry in a ten-story series, and is a follow-up to "The Wrath of Navarog". Please make sure to read that story first before starting this one! Thank you and enjoy!
Chapter 1 – Back to School
Sitting in the passenger side seat in the middle row of his father's SUV, Seth stared out the side window, watching the rural townhouses as they drove by. On the seat next to Seth was his knapsack, packed with all-new school supplies. This year he would be entering eighth grade at his new school.
Seth and Kendra were both fortunate. Due to the events that had transpired the previous year, they had not been to school since December. In order to make up for lost time, the two of them had received private tutoring after the Zzyzx incident that carried on through the summer, sans the period of time they had to deal with Navarog.
Sitting in the seat in front of Seth was Kendra. Seth could never understand as to why Kendra was always so excited about school. To him, school was a real drag. Sure, it was educational, but to Seth, he found it at times to be extremely boring, and it was hard for him to pay attention through parts of it. Though Seth liked to tease Kendra about her appreciation of school, he secretly envied her.
"We're almost in town," said Mr. Sorenson, as he drove across an intersection. "Your schools shouldn't be much further."
Seth moaned. Although he had never been keen on going back to school before, this year felt especially difficult. Thanks to Navarog, Seth had been possessed by the demon prince back in June, and had no control over his body or actions for over a month. Not only that, but Seth experienced everything that Navarog did, much of which was severely terrifying. Although Seth had ultimately been freed from Navarog, his limited vacation time since then, along with his tutoring, caused the summer to pass by way too quickly.
A few minutes later, the SUV entered Crossroad Pass, a small town located not too far away from Fablehaven. The SUV pulled up to the curb of the local high school, and Kendra opened up her door. It seemed to be the largest property in the vicinity by far.
"Goodbye, Kendra!" said Mr. Sorenson. "Remember, Warren will be here to pick you up after school!"
"I know," said Kendra, throwing her bag over her shoulder. "See you later, Dad! Bye, Seth!"
"Bye," said Seth unenthusiastically, as Kendra closed the door and walked up to the front steps of the school, where many other students were loitering about.
"Your school's not far from here, Seth," said Mr. Sorenson, driving away from Kendra's high school. "Luckily, it's on my way to work, so giving you a lift shouldn't be much of a hassle for me."
"Yay," said Seth, not sounding too keen on the whole prospect.
"Try to have a positive attitude this year, Seth," said Mr. Sorenson. "I know that this is a new school, and that you and Kendra have had to transfer schools since we moved to Fablehaven, but don't let it get the best of you."
"But I've never enjoyed school all that much," said Seth. "At least not the curriculum."
"Well, you've always gotten by," said Mr. Sorenson. "You're not going to know anyone here, so try and make some new friends. Just so you have people to hang out with."
The SUV then pulled up in front of Seth's new junior high school. Seth opened the door, grabbed his bag, and stepped out.
"Have a good first day," said Mr. Sorenson. "Remember, you're getting picked up after school!"
"I know. Bye, Dad!"
As Mr. Sorenson drove off, Seth turned around and faced his new school. Though not as large as his previous school, Crossroad Pass Junior High was two-stories high, and had a population of around 150 students from around the area, or so Seth had been told.
Seth made his way through the small crowd of students gathered in front of the red-bricked school, feeling like a complete outsider. All of them seemed to be with at least one other friend, giving Seth the impression that he was the odd-one-out. It shouldn't have been a huge surprise, given that this was the only junior high in the district, meaning that everyone else probably already knew each other.
Passing through the front doors and entering the first floor corridor of the school, Seth saw that several time sheets had been posted on the bulletin board. Making his way past several kids, Seth skimmed through the sheets, until he found his name on one. His homeroom was in Mrs. Terrell's class, Room 203.
With mere minutes remaining until the start of the school year, Seth ventured up to the second floor and found his way into Room 203, where several other students were already seated. Seth found himself a vacant seat in the back row of the class, and plopped into it.
By the time the bell rang, the rest of the seats had been taken, just as a woman, whom Seth presumed was Mrs. Terrell herself, entered the classroom and sat down at the teacher's desk. She was a slender woman, with short brown hair and glasses, who looked to be in her forties.
Mrs. Terrell introduced herself to the class, although the students mostly seemed to already know who she was. Seth assumed it was that they were returning students who knew her from their previous year.
"Now, I see we have a few new faces with us," said Mrs. Terrell. "Please raise your hand if you're new here,"
Seth held up his hand, as did three other kids. Two of them were girls, both of whom were sitting towards the front of the class. The other was a small boy in the seat next to him. Mrs. Terrell began asking for the new students' names, starting with the two girls.
"Seth Sorenson," said Seth, as the teacher pointed towards him, before moving her finger over to the other boy.
"Lance Springer," said the boy, turning towards Seth. Seth turned his head over towards Lance and took a look at him. At first, Lance seemed somewhat nerdy, due to the thick-framed red glasses resting on his face.
"On behalf of everyone here at Crossroad Pass Junior High, we welcome you," said Mrs. Terrell. "As for the rest of you, welcome back!"
"So, you're new too, huh?" Seth asked Lance.
"Yeah," replied Lance. "I just moved here over the summer."
"All right, settle down, please," said Mrs. Terrell to the entire class. "For the first period, I want you all to write a one-page report about what you did over the summer."
"I'll talk to you later," said Lance, pulling a piece of paper and a pencil out of his bag.
"Oh, this'll be fun," said Seth to himself, getting his gear ready. He couldn't really write about what he had done over the summer. Especially while he had been under the influence of Navarog. Nevertheless, he would have to come up with some sort of made-up story, even if a lot of it involved stretching the truth.
Seth managed to finish his "report" in time for the first bell. As he got out of his seat to hand his paper in to Mrs. Terrell, Lance placed his hand on his shoulder.
"Hey, man. Wait up!"
"Uh, did you want something?" asked Seth.
"Wanna hang out at break?"
"I guess," said Seth. "I got nothin' else planned."
Seth and Lance both handed in their papers, then headed to out to the bleachers by the field behind the school, which were mostly empty, save for a few other kids scattered around them. Seth and Lance made their way to a corner in the top row and sat down.
"So, what do you like to do, Seth?" asked Lance.
"Exploring," answered Seth, not wanting to reveal too much information about himself.
"Oh, really?" asked Lance. "Where 'bouts?"
"Just, around. I live out in the countryside, so there's this forest near my house. But it's no big deal, really. There's forests all over this place! Oh, but I did go to Hawaii back in July! It was a lot of fun!"
Much like he did for his written report, Seth refrained from telling the truth about Fablehaven and the Knights of the Dawn, as well as his whole misadventure with Navarog. Whatever Seth said, Lance seemed to just eat it up.
"So, tell me about yourself," said Seth.
"What'd you say?" asked Lance, fidgeting with his ear, earning Seth's attention.
"Uh, what's wrong with your ear?" asked Seth, leaning over to see what Lance was occupying himself with. He then saw that Lance was actually fumbling with a hearing aid. "Oh, I see."
"Yeah," said Lance, acknowledging Seth's curiosity. "I'm hard of hearing in my right ear. This thing kinda gets loose from time to time."
"I guess you're used to wearing it, though."
"I've needed it since I was little. Same with my glasses. Together, they make me look like a total nerd. Don't you think? Be honest."
Seth snorted. "You should see my sister. She's pretty nerdy. And she doesn't even need glasses or a hearing aid to pull it off! No way you could be a bigger nerd than her. Uh, would you even consider yourself to be a nerd?"
"Not really," said Lance. "But a lot of people get that impression right off the bat."
"Believe me," said Seth. "I've met some pretty strange faces throughout my life. A pair of glasses plus some little machine that fits in your ear... You've got nothing on them!"
"Strange faces?" asked Lance, looking somewhat perplexed.
"Yeah, I'll tell you about them sometime. But enough about me. Tell me about yourself."
"Well," said Lance, "I like action movies, video games and comic books! Oh, and sports! I just moved here from North Carolina. I don't know anybody here and I have no friends. Yet. It's pretty lonely at my house. You said you've got a sister? You're lucky, I don't have any siblings."
"I'd say you're the one who's lucky," said Seth. "Nah, I'm just kidding. Kendra can be a pain, but she's actually pretty cool. A nerd, of course. But still cool."
"Anyone else?" asked Lance.
"Yeah," said Seth. "I live with my parents, sister, grandparents and cousins."
"You must have a large house. Where do you live, anyway?"
"Just a large house in the countryside," said Seth, trying to change the conversation. He honestly didn't enjoy lying to Lance, but knew that it was for his own good.
"Sounds cool," said Lance. "I just live in a townhouse right here in Crossroad Pass. It's not very big, though."
"I used to live in a typical house until I moved here. It's no big deal."
"Wanna hang out after school?" asked Lance. "We could go to your place."
Seth's heart nearly jumped. "I dunno. I don't exactly live around the corner from here."
"So?" asked Lance. "How far can you be? You must live within the school's jurisdiction, or else you wouldn't be able to come here, right?"
"It's still far," said Seth. "Besides, I can't just have visitors coming over on such short notice. My folks don't like it."
"Ah, that's okay," said Lance. "Maybe another time. I know, why don't you just come over to my place instead?"
"I can't. At least not today. I'm supposed to get picked up after school so I can get a ride home."
"Oh," said Lance. "Well, all right. Maybe another time."
At that point the bell rang, so Seth and Lance left the bleachers and headed back to class. At lunch, the two of them sat across from each other at the same table. Fortunately, Seth managed to keep the conversation mainly to things they were interested in, rather than their everyday lives. Again, during their afternoon break, Seth and Lance hung out once more, never bringing up the subject of Seth's home life. It was a relief, but Seth knew that he wouldn't be able to hide the truth about his life like this indefinitely.
After the final bell rang, Lance followed Seth out of the school and out to the street, where a black car was parked. Sitting in the driver's seat was Warren, who watched as Seth and Lance approached the car.
"I gotta go now," sad Seth to Lance. "This is my ride."
"Hey, Seth," said Warren, who had lowered the passenger side window. "You have a good day at school? Who're you with?"
"I'm Lance," said the boy, peering into the window at Warren.
"Nice to meet you," said Warren, as Seth opened the door and plopped himself into the passenger seat. "I'm Warren, a cousin of Seth's."
"Are you busy now?" Lance asked Seth. "If I come over, I can get picked up."
"Well..." began Seth.
"I don't think so," said Warren, "Seth's got stuff to do at home. Remember?"
"Oh, right!" gasped Seth. "I'll see you tomorrow, though!"
"Want a lift home, Lance?" asked Warren.
"Uh, no thanks. I live really close so I can just walk back. See you tomorrow, Seth!"
"Bye!" said Seth, as Warren drove off down the road.
"Seth," said Warren, "who's this Lance fella?"
"He's my new friend. He's new in town, like me."
"He seems like a nice kid," said Warren. "But, you know that you can't just bring someone, even a friend like him, over without permission."
"I know that. But he's just asking. How's he supposed to know about what actually goes on at our place?"
"Look, you know that we aren't very keen about having visitors at Fablehaven, right?"
"He's my friend," said Seth. "I don't see what the big deal is. It's not like I'd let him get into trouble."
Warren then pulled over at the high school, where Kendra was waiting at the curb all by herself.
"Look, can we just drop the subject?" asked Seth.
"Hey guys," said Kendra, climbing into the back seat.
"How was your day?" asked Warren.
"Okay," answered Kendra. "Got all my timetables and classes organized. Now I'm all set."
Seth moaned. "No offence, Kendra," said Seth, "but do you have to talk about school? I just got out myself and I'm exhausted."
"Fine," sighed Kendra. "I'll talk about it later."
That evening, back at Fablehaven, the Sorensons and the Burgesses were all seated in the dining room, except for Grandma, who was bringing in some food from the kitchen. As Seth and Kendra expected, the adults were all interested in hearing about their first day of school.
"So, Kendra," said Mrs. Sorenson, as she pierced several leaves of salad with her fork, "did you meet anyone interesting at school?"
"Not really," answered Kendra. "Some of the kids are nice, but I haven't really made any friends."
"Just give it some time," said Mrs. Sorenson. "You've always managed to make a few friends at school."
"Yeah," muttered Kendra. "But I've never really been close to any of my school friends. In fact, it wasn't until I got involved with the Knights of the Dawn here at Fablehaven when I finally felt like I had true friends."
"Well, I made a friend today," blurted Seth. Warren rolled his eyes.
Seth explained to everyone about Lance. However, when he got to the part about how Lance expressed an interest in coming over to visit, Seth received several frowns.
"What was I supposed to do?" asked Seth. "Lance has no idea what this place is actually like!"
"Seth," said Grandpa. "I'm sorry. But you know how we feel about outsiders. The less business they have to attend to here at Fablehaven, the better. Just explain to him that your grandfather's... a bitter old grouch or something. Won't let you have friends over. If he begs to differ, I can talk to him on the phone."
"What is with you?" asked Seth. "I'm attending a normal school, trying to live a normal life. But, when I want to consider having my normal friend come over, you're in hysterics!"
"We don't want your normal friend coming over, because this isn't a normal home!" blurted Grandma.
"I'd keep him away from all the unusual stuff!" said Seth. "Kendra and I wouldn't exactly have found out the truth about this place if Grandpa hadn't deliberately left clues lying around. Besides, I'd keep Lance occupied the whole time, I'd never let him go beyond the yard..."
"Seth, we can barely keep you from going beyond the yard," said Dale.
"It's not like he suspects anything's going on here," stated Seth. "I've already told him that the forest around the property is boring and all that. I know! I'll have him come over on a rainy day! That way, he really wouldn't want to leave the house!"
"Calm down, Seth," said Mr. Sorenson. "Now Dad, Seth does have a point. Why can't he have his friend come over for a visit? I don't want my own kids to be deprived of the privilege of having a friend come over for a visit once in a while. At least give Seth one chance to prove his point. He can't keep his own home a secret for the rest of his life, can he?"
"You have a point," said Grandpa. "I'm sure that with the right precautions taken, having a friend of Seth's visit might not be so bad. However, Seth, since you only just met Lance, I'd prefer if you got to know him a bit better before inviting him over. Evaluate his personality. See that he's not the kind of person who has a nack for breaking rules and all that."
"How good does he have to be?" asked Seth.
"As long as he's no worse than yourself, I think we'll be okay."