Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull, now you can read online.
On a muggy August day, Seth hurried along a faint path, eyes scanning the lush foliage to his left. Tall, mossy trees overshadowed a verdant sea of bushes and ferns. He felt damp all over-the humidity refused to let his sweat dry. Seth checked over his shoulder periodically and started at any sound in the undergrowth. Not only was Fablehaven a dangerous place to roam alone, he was terrified of getting spotted so far from the yard.
His skill at sneaking into the woods had improved over the long summer. The excursions with Coulter were fun, but not frequent enough to satisfy his appetite for adventure. There was something special about venturing out onto the preserve alone. He had become familiar with the woods surrounding the main house, and despite the concerns of his grandparents, he had proven to himself that he could explore safely. In order to avoid deadly situations, he rarely strayed far from the yard, and he avoided the areas he knew to be most perilous.
Today was an exception.
Today he was following directions to a secret meeting.
Although Seth felt certain he had interpreted the instructions correctly, he was beginning to fret that he had somehow overlooked the final marker. The trail he currently trod was one he had never roamed before, quite a distance from the main house. He remained intent on the shrubs along the left side of the path.
Many people had come and gone from Fablehaven over the summer. At breakfast, Grandpa Sorenson had notified Seth, Kendra, Coulter, and Dale that Warren and Tanu would be returning home that evening. Seth was excited for a reunion with his friends, but knew that the more people who were at the house, the more eyes would be watching to impede his unauthorized expeditions. Today was probably the last time he would be able to slip out on his own for a while.
Just as he was losing faith, Seth observed a stick topped by a large pinecone planted in the ground not far from the path. He should not have worried about missing it-the tall marker was unmistakable. Standing beside the stick, Seth took his compass from his emergency kit, found northeast, and set off on a heading not quite perpendicular to the meager trail.
The ground sloped mildly upward. He swerved to avoid some thorny, flowering plants. Birds twittered in the leafy branches overhead. A butterfly with wide, vibrant wings bobbed on the breezeless air. Because of the milk he had drunk that morning, Seth knew it was actually a butterfly. Had it been a fairy, he would have recognized it as such.
"Pssst," a voice hissed from the bushes off to one side, "over here."
Seth swiveled and saw Doren, the satyr, peering over a glossy shrub with broad leaves. The satyr motioned him over.
"Hey, Doren," Seth said in a low voice, trotting over to where the satyr crouched. He found Newel hiding there as well, his horns somewhat longer, his skin slightly more freckled, and his hair a bit redder than Doren's.
"What about the brute?" Newel asked.
"He promised to meet me here," Seth assured them. "Mendigo is covering his chores at the stables."
"If he doesn't show, the deal is off," Newel threatened.
"He'll be here," Seth said.
"Did you bring the merchandise?" Doren asked, trying to sound casual, but unable to hide the desperation in his gaze.
"Forty-eight size C batteries," Seth said. He unzipped a duffel bag and let the satyrs inspect the contents. Earlier in the summer, Seth had given the pair dozens of batteries as a reward for helping him and his sister sneak into his grandfather's home under dire circumstances. The satyrs had already depleted their bounty watching their portable television.
"Look at them, Doren," Newel breathed. "Hours upon hours of entertainment," Doren muttered reverently.
"The sports alone!" Newel cried.
"Dramas, sitcoms, cartoons, soap operas, talk shows, game shows, reality shows," Doren listed lovingly.
"So many lovely ladies," Newel purred.
"Even the commercials are amazing," Doren enthused.
"So many technological marvels!"
"Stan would flip out if he knew," Newel murmured gleefully.
Seth understood that Newel was right. His Grandpa Sorenson worked hard to limit the amount of technology on the preserve. He wanted to keep the magical creatures of Fablehaven unspoiled by modern influences. He did not even have a television in his own home.
"So where is the gold?" Seth asked.
"Not far ahead," Newel said.
"Gold has become harder to find since Nero moved his hoard," Doren apologized.