Disclaimer: I do not own Fablehaven. It is the creation of Brandon Mull.

A/N: This story is the fourth entry in a ten-story series, and is a follow-up to "Contradiction of the Malevolent Heart". Please make sure to read the previous three stories before starting this one! Thank you and enjoy!

Chapter 1: Mom's the Word

Kendra was in the midst of experiencing true bliss. She was lying down on a remarkably plush surface, her body completely cloaked underneath a heavy cover. As she slowly opened her eyes, light immediately poured into her corneas. The only source of natural light in the room was coming from the window at the front of the attic, not too far from where Kendra's bed was positioned.

Yawning as she turned to glance at her night stand, Kendra saw that the face of her digital clock read 8:34. Normally, Kendra would try to be up by eight o'clock at the latest, until she remembered that the Christmas holidays had already begun.

Tossing the thick duvet off of her upper body, Kendra slid out of bed and walked over to the window. Looking down through the frosted pane at the preserve below, she could see that the rooftop, yard and surrounding trees had been hit the previous night by a moderate layer of snow. More than a mere dusting, but probably nothing that would go above her ankles.

Kendra was feeling hungry, and wasted no time in heading down to the second floor to use the bathroom. After taking a shower and freshening up, Kendra returned to the attic, got dressed, then traveled down to the first floor.

As Kendra entered the dining room, she saw Seth seated at the table, in the middle of eating a bowl of one of his sugary cereals.

"At last, Sleeping Beauty awakens," said Seth.

"You're one to talk," retorted Kendra. "This is the first time in forever that you've gotten up before me."

"I know. What's the matter with you?"

"It's the holidays," replied Kendra, as she sat down across from Seth. "We don't have any more lessons until the new year."

Seth smirked. "We're home-schooled now. Every day is practically a holiday."

"Unlike you, some of us prefer to not be half-asleep during our lessons. This is our first day off and I'm in no rush to take it for granted."

"Whatever. Do you want Wheat Flakes cereal or Sweetie Pops?"

"What do you think?"

Without saying anything, Seth passed Kendra the box of Wheat Flakes.

"Never mind," said Kendra, as she reached for the Sweetie Pops.

"What gives?"

"I'm on holiday, remember?"

Once Kendra and Seth had finished their breakfast and brought their dishes into the kitchen, Mrs. Sorenson approached them.

"Good morning," she said. "Are you two ready to go shopping?"

"You bet!" said Seth excitedly.

Kendra just shrugged.

"What's wrong, Kendra?" asked Mrs. Sorenson. "Don't you want to get presents for anybody?"

"Of course I do," responded Kendra. "But what am I supposed to get? We've got everything we want already."

"You know what I want," said Seth eagerly.

Kendra rolled her eyes. "BioWarriors Extreme. But I should be thankful. At least that's your present taken care of. But what about everyone else?"

"Don't worry about it too much," said Mrs. Sorenson. "Even just a card would be a nice gift."

"Yeah, a card would be great," said Seth. "As long as it's a prepaid gaming card, worth at least fifty dollars..."

"Seth..." said Mrs. Sorenson, sounding a bit stern.

"What's wrong?" he asked. "By telling people exactly what you want, it's simplifies the process. They spend less time fretting over what to get you, and you get your desired gift."

"Seth has the right idea," noted Kendra. "At least that would save me some trouble."

Mrs. Sorenson sighed. "You're getting worked up over nothing. Now get ready. The mall opens at ten and we need to be there super early because it's going to be packed today."

Kendra and Seth nodded, then ventured back upstairs, brushed their teeth, and grabbed a few of their belongings. Once they came back downstairs, the kids put on their winter clothes and walked out through the front door with their mother.

"At least the path has been shoveled," said Seth, as they walked towards the driveway. He was looking down at the cleared pathway and comparing it to the thick layer of untouched snow that had accumulated on the lawn. "Dale must've gotten Hugo to do it."

"Good morning!" said Warren. Kendra and Seth both looked up and saw Warren flying no more than ten feet above the ground, heading towards them.

"How come you're not using your wings to fly?" asked Kendra.

Warren took in a deep breath, then rubbed his sleeve. "It's too cold to fly without a jacket. And I don't want to cut holes for the wings in the back."

"That's not it, Warren," said Kendra. "I rarely see you flying with your wings. It's usually with the power that Clover bestowed upon you. And even then it's usually only when you're around her. Today you're actually flying solo."

Warren sighed. "I only flew because the path to my cottage hasn't been shoveled yet."

"Don't you like flying?" asked Seth.

"Of course I do. But I feel guilty about doing it. I'm a human, I'm not supposed to fly. And I'm not too big on flaunting fairy wings either."

"I wish you'd at least display them," said Kendra. "They're very pretty."

"That's what all the female fairies say. Which accounts for pretty much all of them."

"I know that Clover loves them."

"That's the problem," said Warren. "All this fairy magic has made me someone I'm not. I know Clover's my friend, but the moment I sprouted these wings... That's when she proposed to me. Part of me wants to marry her, but I don't know..."

"If you want to get your mind off of all this, why not come with us to the mall?" asked Seth.

"Thanks, but no thanks," said Warren. "Besides, I already finished my Christmas shopping the other day."

"All right, then," said Mrs. Sorenson. "I hope you feel better soon."

"I'm sure I will," replied Warren. "It's almost Christmas."

"Shotgun!" said Seth, as he dashed up to the front passenger seat of his parents' SUV.

Kendra rolled her eyes as their mother unlocked the doors and the three of them climbed into the car.

"It's a good thing Hugo's already cleared the driveway," said Mrs. Sorenson, as she started the engine. "No way I'd want to drive through all of this snow if hadn't already been plowed."

Mrs. Sorenson began to drive down the driveway, which looped around at the very end, allowing the car to turn around and head towards the entrance of Fablehaven.

"Poor Warren," said Kendra, as she looked out the back window and watched as her cousin vanished in the distance. "He doesn't know what he should do."

"I'm no expert on all of this fairy stuff," said Mrs. Sorenson, "but I'm pretty sure Warren's just in denial."

"Is there anything we can do?" asked Seth. "Maybe something we could get him?"

"This isn't something that can be solved with a gift. When your father was courting me, he wasn't trying to impress me with wings."

"Mom, this is totally different," said Kendra. "Male fairies are practically nonexistent. Clover must've been so happy when she saw that Warren had changed."

"Maybe Warren didn't want to change," said Mrs. Sorenson. "Clover obviously liked him before, but now she seems to like him even more when he became somebody he's not."

As the Sorensons drove out through the front gate, the SUV slowed down. They then heard a mild thump coming from the bottom of the vehicle.

"What was that?" asked Seth.

"Probably all this uncleared snow," replied Mrs. Sorenson, as the SUV trudged through the snow towards the road. "Hugo only cleared up to the gate. Once we get on the road, we should be fine."

Soon the SUV turned off of the outer driveway and onto the public road, and was running smoothly again.

"On the subject of Warren, I still want to get him a gift," said Seth. "As well as a wedding present. Whenever that is."

"They still haven't decided," said Kendra. "I think Warren's got cold feet."

"Can't say I blame him," said Seth. "It's gotten pretty cold lately. Maybe I can get a new pair of boots today. And I can get Warren a pair as well. What's his foot size?"

Over the course of the next hour, Mrs. Sorenson had driven out of the forest and onto the highway, and by the end, had pulled into the parking lot of a large shopping mall in what was otherwise a rural area.

"This place is all parked up!" said Kendra, as they drove past aisle after aisle of parked cars. And it's not even ten yet!"

"I knew we should've gone weeks ago," said Seth. "But does anybody listen to me? Nooooo."

"Seth, you and Kendra were busy with your studies. "I was busy. Most of the other shoppers who are here now were busy."

"Mom, I see a spot up ahead!" exclaimed Seth, as he spotted a space about ten cars down on the right.

Mrs. Sorenson drove towards the vacant spot that Seth had found, but before they could reach it, another car pulled in.

They continued driving around for a good ten minutes, before Mrs. Sorenson finally found a parking spot at the edge of the lot, far from the mall. They then walked through the parking lot, trying not to get hit by other cars that were looking for spots, until they finally arrived at an entrance to the mall.

As they walked through the doors, they could see that the hall before them was decorated for Christmas. Colorful lights had been strewn above the stores, along with decorations such as wreaths, foil streamers and plastic candy canes.

Kendra glanced at her watch, which read 9:59. Looking around, she could see various stores opening their doors to the public. As they opened, people proceeded to flock towards them.

"Now, kids," said Mrs. Sorenson. "I know we all have our own agendas, so why don't we split up to do our shopping, then meet up by the big fountain at eleven forty-five? You both know where that is, right?"

"Yeah," replied both Kendra and Seth.

The three of them then split up into the crowd of people walking through the mall. First up on Kendra's mind was getting Seth's gift. She made her way over to the mall directory, and once the people in front of her had moved aside, she spotted the location of the gaming store on the map.

After a brief walk, Kendra soon made it to the gaming store. Not a very large place, most of the customers who were packed in were either obvious gamers under the age of forty, or older ladies who had possibly never played a video game in their life and were clearly buying something for someone else.

Kendra struggled to get through the noisy crowd, and made her way to the front counter. After holding her hand up for a few minutes, a clerk finally gave her some attention. His name tag said "Ryan".

"Thanks for waiting," said Ryan. "How can I help you today?"

"I'd like a copy of... what was it called?"

Ryan rolled his eyes.

"BioWarriors Extreme," said Seth.

"That's right," said Kendra, as she suddenly realized what was going on. She turned around to see her brother standing right behind her. "What are you doing here?"

"Just thought about getting a game. For Newel and Doren."

"Seth you knew I'd be here," said Kendra, turning back to face the clerk. "I'd like to get BioWarriors Extreme, please."

"What system?" asked Ryan.

"Any system," said Seth. "And maybe a code for the DLC."

"What's DLC?" asked Kendra, drawing looks from Seth, Ryan and just about every gamer who could hear her.

Sometime later, Kendra had made her way around the mall, looking in at various stores. Unsure of what to buy anybody else, Kendra had decided to just settle for stuff that looked nice. Getting around the mall had eaten up a fair amount of time, and once Kendra looked at her watch, she could see that it was almost eleven forty.

She made her way to the fountain, which was located in a large open area near the food court, where she sat down along the rim and was joined by Seth exactly at eleven forty-five. Like Kendra, Seth had been carrying several bags in his hands.

"Sorry about earlier," said Seth. "But I really did get something for Newel and Doren at the game store."

"Seth, I just want you to be happy."

"Oh, I am happy." said Seth. "You think Mom'll take us to lunch?"

"If she ever gets here. Normally when we agree to meet her somewhere, she's there before us."

After waiting for several minutes, both Kendra and Seth grew perturbed. The PA announcements didn't help. One was about a missing child, the other was a reminder that dogs were not allowed in the mall, with the exception of service animals.

"She's probably in a long line or something," said Seth.

"She should at least contact us," said Kendra. "I'm calling her."

Kendra pulled out her phone and called her mother.

"Hi Kendra!" said Mrs. Sorenson.

"Mom, where are you?" asked Kendra. "We were supposed to meet at the fountain five minutes ago."

"I'm sorry," said Mrs. Sorenson. "I lost track of time. I'll be right there."

After waiting for a few more minutes, Mrs. Sorenson finally showed up, clenching shopping bags in her hands.

"Sorry I'm late. I was busy buying presents for you."

Seth attempted to look into one of the bags his mother was holding.

"Don't look in there!" said Mrs. Sorenson. "It's a surprise!"

"Can we get some lunch here?" asked Seth. "I've been eating nothing but home-cooked meals for a month!"

"The horror," said Kendra sarcastically.

"Sure," said Mrs. Sorenson. "Who wants Taco Bell?"

Mrs. Sorenson led the kids to the Taco Bell. After standing in line for a few minutes, she ordered an assortment of tacos, burritos and fries. Soon after they managed to find a free table in the crowded food court, where the family sat down and ate their food.

"I didn't realize you liked fast food so much, Mom," said Kendra, taking a bite out of her soft shell taco.

"Normally I don't," replied Mrs. Sorenson. "I mean, it tastes good, but it's fatty."

"Hey, there's an extra burrito," said Seth, pointing to the tray. "Can I have it?"

"No, I think I'll save it. Maybe later as a snack."

Mrs. Sorenson slipped the still-wrapped burrito into one of her bags.

"Mom, are you feeling okay?" asked Kendra.

"I'm just stressed out from all of this shopping," said Mrs. Sorenson. "Why don't we go home?"

The Sorensons made their way out of the mall and back through the parking lot to the SUV, where they loaded all of their bags into the trunk.

"Shotgun," said Kendra, as she made her way around to the front passenger door, while Mrs. Sorenson unlocked the car. Once they climbed back into the SUV, Mrs. Sorenson proceeded to back out of the parking space and towards the entrance to the parking lot.

"You kids remember the way back?" asked Mrs. Sorenson.

"Make a left here," said Kendra, as she turned on the GPS on the dashboard.

"Oh, right," said Mrs. Sorenson, who then made a left turn as she drove out of the parking lot.

After roughly half an hour, Kendra glanced at the dashboard and noticed that the gas gauge was almost at empty. "Mom, we need to get gas," she said.

Mrs. Sorenson paused for a moment. "Hey, you're right!"

"There's a station up ahead," said Seth, prompting Mrs. Sorenson to pull into the station and park in front of a pump.

"I'm feeling kind of tired," said Mrs. Sorenson. "Kendra, if you pump the gas for me, I'll give you an early Christmas gift tonight."

"Really?" asked Kendra.

"I'll do it!" said Seth.

"Sorry, but this is for Kendra. "It's a small gift, nothing to get excited over."

"Fine," muttered Seth, as Kendra got out of the SUV and went over to the pump.

"Mom, are you paying with credit card or cash?"

"Hold on," said Mrs. Sorenson, as she looked through her purse. "Let's go with cash. My credit card bill's gonna skyrocket with all this Christmas shopping."

Kendra proceeded to pump gasoline into the the gas tank, then removed the nozzle once she was finished.

"Seth, here's the money for the gas," said Mrs. Sorenson, handing several bills to her son. "You can get yourself a treat in there as well. In fact, get something for all of us."

Seth smiled, then went into the gas station to pay the bill. He came out holding several chocolate bars in his hand. When he got into the car, he handed a bar each to his sister and mother, who both pocketed them. Seth however just ripped the wrapper off of his own bar and proceeded to eat it as Mrs. Sorenson drove off.

Before long, they had gotten off the highway, and were driving through the forest towards the entrance to Fablehaven. With the front gate in plain sight, the SUV suddenly veered a few feet off to the side of the road, prompting Mrs. Sorenson to hit the brake.

"Mom!" gasped Kendra. "What's wrong?"

"Ice slick," she replied. "Hold on, I'll be right back! You two stay in the car."

Mrs. Sorenson got out of her seat, went around to the back of the SUV and opened the trunk. She took out a snow shovel and proceeded to clear the snow out from behind the SUV back onto the road.

"Mom, we're close enough to home," said Kendra. "We could easily go get help."

"I'll be finished before help arrives," said Mrs. Sorenson, who continued to clear the snow for another moment, before returning to her seat. She then backed up onto the road and drove over to and through the front gates of Fablehaven.

"Mom, are you feeling all right?" asked Seth.

"I... I just have a headache," she replied. "I didn't really want to go out today, but I had no other choice."

As they pulled up towards the house, Kendra and Seth were now for the first time approaching it when it was all decorated for Christmas. Much like at the mall, lights and wreaths had been hung up. Additionally, several snow and ice sculptures of various magical creatures such as fairies, centaurs and satyrs decorated the yard.

Once they parked and got out of the SUV, the Sorensons carried their groceries into the house, where Mrs. Sorenson dumped her bags down in the foyer. "I'm going to lie down for now," said Mrs. Sorenson. "Sorry, but please make sure nobody bothers me until dinner."

The kids watched as Mrs. Sorenson climbed up the stairs to the second floor. They could tell something was up with their mother. But what?