Home > Grip of the Shadow Plague (Fablehaven #3)(10)

Grip of the Shadow Plague (Fablehaven #3)(10)
Author: Brandon Mull

"In the plants?" Larina proposed.

Yolie tittered. "The garden would flourish too quickly. The surplus energy would be unmistakable. We should spread it among ourselves, then share just a little with the plants."

The surrounding fairies cheered, then closed in on the two brightest. Kisses were exchanged until all the fairies shone only mildly brighter than they had originally. "Have you any words for us?" Larina asked.

"Thank you for keeping my secret," Kendra said.

"You could make it an order in the name of the Queen," Yolie prompted.

"An order?"

"Sure, if you want the secret kept."

Several of the other fairies glared at Yolie. A few quivered with rage.

"Okay," Kendra said uncertainly. "I order you in the name of the Queen to keep my identity a secret."

"Is there anything else we can do for you?" Larina asked. "Life here is so frightfully tedious."

"I can always use information," Kendra said. "What do you know about the Captain of the Knights of the Dawn?"

"Knights of the Dawn?" Larina asked. "Who pays them any mind?"

"I'm a Knight," Kendra said.

"Forgive us," Yolie said. "We consider most mortal affairs somewhat... trivial."

"I promise the question is not trivial," Kendra said.

"We haven't paid enough attention to the Knights to know what you're asking," Larina apologized. "All we know about the Knights is that Wesley Fairbanks would trade all his wealth to be one."

"Are Mr. and Mrs. Fairbanks good people?" Kendra asked.

"As far as we can tell," Yolie said. "They treat us kindly and give us every possible consideration. Some of us have even condescended to speak with Marion in English on occasion."

"Do they know any secrets?" Kendra asked.

The fairies all looked at one another, as if hoping one of them might be aware of something. "I'm afraid not," Yolie finally said. "The couple knows little about our kind. We are simply wondrous novelties to them. Maybe we can put the word out to seek the identity of the Captain of the Knights of the Dawn."

"I'd appreciate it," Kendra said. "You don't happen to know anything about secret fairy preserves, do you?"

Kendra heard a door open behind her. Jumping and turning, she saw a figure in a cloak and a silver mask hurry to the screen door. Behind her mask, she licked her lips. Who could it be?

"Kendra?" asked Warren. "They want to issue your assignment."

"Okay," she said, whirling to face the fairies. "Secret preserves?"

"Sorry," Larina said. "We don't really know about secret preserves. Most of us are from the wild."

"Thanks for being so helpful," Kendra said.

"Our pleasure," Yolie chirped. "Come visit again."

Warren held the screen open and Kendra exited. "Be glad you weren't spotted surrounded by chatty fairies," he said.

"It just sort of happened," Kendra apologized.

"Tanu and I saw you go out. We got into a conversation blocking the door. I kept an eye on you through the curtains. Learn anything?"

"Not much. Except that these fairies apparently didn't get the memo to give me the cold shoulder." Part of her wanted to say more, but only Grandpa, Grandma, Seth, and the Sphinx knew that Kendra was fairykind. Disclosing what the fairies had said about her being the Queen's handmaiden might give too much away. Most of her friends at Fablehaven thought that her abilities were a consequence of being fairystruck, which was somewhat less unheard of than her actual condition.

Nobody had become fairykind in more than a thousand years, so nobody could fill Kendra in on all the specifics. Although she knew it meant that the fairies had shared their magic with her in a way that caused it to dwell inside of her as it did in them, she had never heard herself referred to as the Queen's handmaiden, and was unsure what the expression meant. She knew being fairykind enabled her to see in the dark, understand languages related to Silvian, resist certain forms of mind control, recharge magical objects, and apparently transfer some of her energy to fairies. The Sphinx had implied that she probably had other abilities waiting to be discovered. Because her abilities could make her a target of people wishing to exploit her talents, Grandpa insisted on keeping her fairykind status a secret even from trusted friends.

Warren opened the door into the ballroom, where a tall, broad figure awaited. "Is everything all right?" Tanu asked. Warren nodded. He led Kendra across the crowded room and back into the grand hallway.

"Who's meeting with us?" Kendra asked.

"Your Lieutenant," Warren said. "The quick appointment must mean the mission is important. All of the Knights are eager to speak with the Captain and their Lieutenants."

"What do you make of everything the Captain shared in his speech?" Kendra asked.

"We'll discuss that when we have more privacy."

They returned to the same room where they had met the Captain earlier. A person in a gold-trimmed mask stood by the fireplace. Once Warren and Kendra closed the door, Dougan removed his mask, prompting Kendra and Warren to do the same.

"How did you like your first meeting as a Knight?" Dougan asked Kendra.

"It made me nervous," she admitted.

"Good, that was part of the aim," he said. "We need to keep on our toes now more than ever. Are you ready for your assignment?"

"Sure," Kendra said.

Dougan gestured toward a sofa. Warren and Kendra sat down together. Dougan remained standing, hands clasped behind his back. "Warren, have you ever heard of Lost Mesa?"

Warren's eyebrows knitted together. "Can't say I have."

"Clearly you know about some of the secret preserves, like Fablehaven," he said. "Lost Mesa is another of the secret preserves."

"The refuge in Arizona," Warren deduced. "I know of it, though I hadn't heard the name. I've never been there."

"Lost Mesa is on Navajo land. What do you know about the objects hidden on the secret preserves?"

"There are five secret preserves, each with a hidden artifact," Kendra said. "Together, the artifacts can open Zzyzx, the main demon prison."

"The Captain told me you would know," Dougan said. "Protecting these artifacts from exploitation is the top priority of the Knights of the Dawn. We have strong reason to suspect that the Society has learned the location of Lost Mesa. We sent in a small team to recover the artifact there, in order to transfer it to a safer repository. The team has encountered some trouble, so I am personally going there to complete the operation. I need Kendra to come with me, so that she can recharge the artifact before we extract it. We understand she has that ability."

Warren held up his hand. "A few questions. First off, what sort of trouble did the current team encounter?"

"They found the caverns where the artifact lies hidden," Dougan said. "The traps guarding the prize proved too much for the three of them. One of the team members perished, and a second was badly injured."

"Sounds like an ideal situation for involving a fourteen-year-old girl," Warren said. "Why exactly do you need to charge the artifact?" "The Captain thinks that if the artifact is operational, we can use its power to better conceal it."

"Does he know which artifact it is?"

"He or she does not," Dougan answered.

"Won't activating the artifacts make them that much more dangerous if they fall into the wrong hands?"

Dougan folded his arms. "Do you really think the Society won't find a way to charge them if they ever lay hands on them? If anything, charging the artifacts now will make Kendra safer. The Society won't be after her to jumpstart their prison keys."

Warren got up from his seat and wiped his hands down his face. "Dougan, level with me, is the Captain the Sphinx?" He stared at the Lieutenant intently.

"That's one of many popular theories," Dougan smiled. "No theory I've heard has it right."

"That is exactly what I would say if I were trying to conceal the truth, especially if one of the theories were accurate."

"It's also what you'd say if the theories were all false," Dougan said. "Warren, I have to warn you, this line of questioning is unacceptable."

Warren shook his head. "I can't elaborate why, but the question is important. I don't care who the Captain is, as long as he isn't the Sphinx. Just swear that to me."

"I'm not swearing one way or the other. Don't push me, Warren. I'll already have to converse with the Captain about your sudden interest in his or her identity. Don't make it worse. I took an oath. For all of our sakes, I can't expose anything about the leader of the Knights."

"Then Kendra isn't going to Lost Mesa," Warren said. "If necessary, she'll resign her knighthood." Warren turned to face her. "Would you mind having the shortest career in the history of the Knights of the Dawn?"

"I'll do whatever you think is best," Kendra said.

"I don't appreciate being strong-armed," Dougan growled.

"I don't like being kept in the dark," Warren countered. "Dougan, you know me. I don't ask for intelligence just to satisfy my curiosity. I've got a reason."

Dougan rubbed his forehead. "Look, will the two of you swear to keep the following information private? Not a word to anyone!"

"I promise," Warren said.

Kendra nodded.

"The Captain is not the Sphinx," Dougan said. "We like that rumor, because it distracts people from the truth, so don't spoil it. Now you tell me, what would it matter if the Captain were the Sphinx?"

"What do you know about the events at Fablehaven earlier this summer?" Warren asked.

"Were there events out of the ordinary?" Dougan asked.

"Then I can't tell you," Warren said. "None of this is a huge deal, just me being overly cautious. Which I tend to be when the fate of the world is on the line. If the Captain sees fit to fill you in on what happened, maybe we can talk more." "I hear you. I told you what you wanted. Are you ready to step aside and allow Kendra to come to Lost Mesa with me?"

"Who else is going?"

"Just me, Kendra, and Gavin."

"The new kid?"

"Gavin was recruited because we need his help negotiating the caverns," Dougan explained. "Will you step aside?"

"No. But if you promise to keep Kendra far from the caverns, and if you let me join you, and if she agrees, I'll think about it. I may even come in handy. I'm not too shabby at bypassing traps myself."

"I'll have to check with the Captain," Dougan said.

"Understandable," Warren allowed. "I'll need to speak with Kendra privately to gauge her willingness."

"Very well," Dougan said, replacing his mask and striding to the door. "Sit tight. I'll be back soon." He exited.

Warren crouched next to Kendra. "What do you think?" he whispered.

"Could the room be bugged?"

"Doubtful. But not impossible."

"I don't know," Kendra said. "I keep worrying that Vanessa may have us jumping at shadows. If the Sphinx were a friend, and if you came along, I would totally go, no hesitation."

"Here's my take," Warren whispered. "If the Sphinx is a friend, sure, I'll be glad to help, but if he's an enemy, it will be even more important for me to get onto that preserve. I find the fact that they are after another artifact incredibly suspicious, especially since they seem intent on charging it. I'm still not convinced that the Captain is not the Sphinx.

Dougan is a good guy, but he would lie to protect a secret of such magnitude. Even if the Captain isn't the Sphinx, he could just as easily be a puppet. At the very least, the Sphinx frequently trades secrets with the Knights."

"The Sphinx might be on our side," Kendra reminded him.

"He might," Warren said. "But if he were on our side, I don't picture the Sphinx wanting anyone, himself included, to know the location of so many artifacts. On top of Vanessa's accusations, the idea of seeking multiple artifacts in such a short period of time smells fishy. After all, they were hidden separately for a reason." He leaned closer, his lips almost touching her ear, and spoke in the quietest whisper Kendra could imagine. "I need to get onto the preserve, not to help them recover the artifact, but to recover it myself. It will surely mark the end of my association with the Knights of the Dawn, but no one person should know the location of so many artifacts, especially when there is an implication that he may be our enemy."

"So we should go," Kendra concluded.

"This makes things very complicated for you," Warren continued in his faint whisper. "It would be risky to simply go to Lost Mesa and help them extract the artifact, let alone to try to steal it from them! You can play innocent. I won't involve you directly. I'll make it look like I was using this role as your protector for my own ends. There's a chance Dougan may try to hold you responsible. I can't guarantee your safety, but we'll make sure Tanu, Coulter, and Stan all know where you are, so they can ensure that you end up back home."

Kendra closed her eyes and pressed a hand to her forehead. The thought of trying to pull this off made her stomach twist. But if the Society ended up opening Zzyzx, it would mean the end of the world as she knew it. Preventing that was worth taking a gut-wrenching risk, right?

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