Rise of the Evening Star

Chapter One
The New Student

Crowding into homeroom with the other eighth graders,

Kendra found her way to her desk. In a moment the bell would ring, signaling the start of the last week of school.

One final week and she would leave middle school behind forever and start anew as a high school freshman, mingling with kids from two other junior highs.

A year ago that had sounded like a more exciting prospect than it did now. Kendra had been stuck in a nerd rut since around fourth grade, and a fresh start in high school might have meant an opportunity to shed the quiet, studious image. But this had been a renaissance year.

Amazing how swiftly a little confidence and a more outgoing attitude could elevate your social status. Kendra no longer felt as desperate for a new beginning.2 Alyssa Carter sat down in the desk next to her. I heardwe get yearbooks today, she said. She had short blonde hair and a slender build. Kendra had met Alyssa after making the soccer team back in September.

Great, I looked hypnotized in my picture, Kendra groaned.

Yours was adorable. Remember mine? My braces look the size of train tracks.

Whatever. You could hardly even notice them.

The bell rang. Most of the kids were in their seats. Mrs.

Price entered the room accompanied by the most disfigured student Kendra had ever seen. The boy had a bald, scabrous scalp and a face like a chapped welt. His eyes were puckered slits, his nose a malformed cavity, his mouth lipless and crusty. He scratched his arm, crooked fingers lumpy with bulging warts.

The hideous boy was otherwise nicely dressed in a black and red button-down shirt, jeans, and stylish tennis shoes.

He stood in front of the class beside Mrs. Price while she introduced him.

I'd like you all to meet Casey Hancock. His family just moved here from California. It can't be easy starting at a new school so late in the year, so please give him a warm welcome.

Just call me Case, the boy rasped. He spoke like he was strangling.

Would you look at that, Alyssa murmured.

No kidding, Kendra whispered back. The poor kid barely looked human. Mrs. Price directed him to a desk near3 the front of the room. Creamy pus leaked from multiplesores on the back of his scabby head.

I think I'm in love, Alyssa said.

Don't be mean, Kendra muttered.

What? I'm serious. Don't you think he's a hottie?

Alyssa was acting so sincere that Kendra found herself repressing a smile. That's just cruel.

Are you blind? He's amazing! Alyssa sounded genuinely offended that Kendra didn't agree.

If you say so, Kendra placated. Just not my type.

Alyssa shook her head as if Kendra were crazy. You must be the pickiest girl on the planet.

Morning announcements were droning over the loudspeaker.

Case was talking with Jonathon White. Jonathon smiled and laughed. That was strange ---- Jonathon was a jerk, not the sort of kid to befriend a circus freak. Kendra noticed

Jenna Chamberlain and Karen Sommers sharing looks and whispers as if they too found Case attractive. Like Alyssa, they didn't seem to be joking. Scanning the room, Kendra didn't see a single student who seemed repulsed by his appearance.

What was going on? Nobody who looked this weird could come into a class without raising any eyebrows.

And suddenly the truth was apparent.

Casey Hancock looked inhumanly deformed and hideous because he was not a human. He had to be some sort of goblin who looked like a normal kid to everybody else. Kendra alone could see his true form, the aftereffect of having been kissed by hundreds of giant fairies.4 Since leaving Fablehaven nearly a year ago, Kendra hadseen magical creatures only twice. Once she had noticed a bearded man barely a foot tall pulling a length of pipe out of a pile of rubble behind the movie theater. When she tried to move in for a closer look, the tiny man scurried away into a storm drain. On another occasion she spotted what looked like a golden owl with a human face. She made eye contact with the creature for an instant before it took flight in a flurry of gilded feathers.

Such odd sights were usually veiled from mortal eyes.

Her Grandpa Sorenson had introduced her to magical milk that enabled people to see through the illusions that normally concealed mystical creatures. When the fairy kisses had made that ability permanent, he had warned Kendra that sometimes it was safer to leave certain things unseen.

And here she was, staring at a grotesque monster posing as