By C. Nyghtvision
SUMMARY: Written in response to AbigailNicole's "Idiot Savant" challenge. See Artemis cringe from Quality Bonding Time as his father attempts to discover his weaknesses and Get to Know Him Better. Because nobody can be a genius at everything… right? Throw in a sinister, life-changing experience and several soggy birds, and you have this fic. (Parody/Drama/Action-Adventure/Angst/Suspense/Humor. Post-EC. Artemis-Centric. Rinse, lather, and repeat if desired.)
DISCLAIMING: Artemis Fowl belongs to Eoin Colfer. Kudos to everyone who discovers the various references (Monty Python, Douglas Adams, LotR, The Ivory Files, other various random nonsense.)
Archiving: As with all my stuff, it can be borrowed with permission, which I will happily give if asked.
Praise be to: God, Bob, Eoin Colfer, my beloved reviewers, AbigailNicole for the idea, and just about everybody else. Love you all.
SOME KIND OF NOTE: This one-shot may not truly explore the issues of being an Idiot Savant. It may not seem to live up to its title or premise. Basically I just grabbed the idea and ran with it, although I promptly tripped over a plotbunny, broke my ankle and had to spend several weeks encased in a full-body cast because of a humorous mix-up of insurance records. Thus I have not been able to read, review, respond, revise, renovate or perform any other required duties. Sorry.
Well, not really, but it's an excuse.
Reviews, emails and constructive criticism are always appreciated. I will try to respond by email to thank you for your time.
"Genius is always allowed some leeway, once the hammer has been pried from its hands and the blood has been cleaned up." – Terry Pratchett, "Thief of Time"
Lord of the Dance
Artemis Fowl the First was tap-dancing again. Rather badly, given his age and prosthetic leg. Since his recovery, the elder Fowl had been overtaken by a sudden zest for life, which manifested itself in odd ways. Tap-dancing. French embroidery. Gardening. Pigeon breeding.
This unexpected eccentricity had stunned the criminal aristocracy, who were used to the old conniving Fowl. His son, Artemis Junior, was turning out all right, but Fowl Senior had obviously nose-dived into harmless, straight-edged lunacy.
"It could happen to anyone," the criminal element said sadly.
Artemis Senior's excuse was that he'd "seen what death looks like, so now I'm going to live as fully and happily as I possibly can. Look at this marvelous Sponge-Tufted Pigeon!"
"There but for the grace of God go we," the criminal element sighed.
Artemis Senior tap-danced across his bedroom floor.
From the doorway came a Discreet Cough. Butler stood there, looking alertly placid, which is something Madame Ko taught specifically. (To achieve the next level of study, students had to sit still for hours at a time, looking calm, eager and vigilant, while Madame Ko poured hot oatmeal on them, beat them with small branches, and insulted their body parts. The idea was to instill self-control and serenity. Needless to say, Juliet Butler barely passed.)
"Butler! Have a seat." Mr. Fowl clicked off the music. "What do you think? Am I improving?"
"Not quite Riverdance yet, sir."
"Ah, well. Butler, I'd like to talk to you about Artemis."
"Of course, sir."
"I want to get to know my son better. I want to do things with him. I'd like him to act like a normal child. But… as you know, there was the accident, and before that, I wasn't too involved with the family…"
Butler nodded sympathetically. (Madame Ko's Five Hundred and Eighty-First Lesson of Body-Guarding: The Employer may entrust you with Personal Matters. Show Empathy with the Employer, but not too much.) (Butler had aced the Platonic Sympathy test, by nodding and making the correct expressions at Madame Ko as she poured out a two-hour long litany of complaints.)
"Simply put, I want to get to know Arty better."
"Commendable, sir." Butler nodded sympathetically.
"I want to do some serious father-son bonding."
Butler nodded sympathetically. "That's a very good idea, sir."
"I want to learn who my boy truly is."
"Very good, sir." Butler, sympathetically nodding, wondered where this was going.
"So." Mr. Fowl sat back and took out a yellow legal pad. "Tell me who my boy truly is."
Butler nodded automatically, then blinked. "What?"
"Yes, tell me all you can about Artemis, and I'll take notes."
Butler stared before pulling himself together. He felt a nervous tic coming on. "Er…"
"Why don't you start by telling me what he's good at?" Mr. Fowl asked, all innocence, his gold-plated pencil poised above the legal pad.
Butler bit his lip.
Half an hour later…
The two men stared at the inch-thick pile of legal paper, which was covered with Artemis Fowl the First's neat handwriting. On both sides.
"He's good at all that?"
"I think you'll find your son to be quite a multi-faceted character. Sir."
"But… seriously. Artemis appears to have facets in nine bloody dimensions."
"Yes, he's very talented."
"Bloody hell." Mr. Fowl stared down at the paper. Butler expected to see pride in the man's eyes; a sudden recognition of his son's brilliance. Instead, his employer slumped, his shoulders and mouth drooping. He looked old, unhappy.
"When a boy does all this," Mr. Fowl muttered, "What does he need a father for?"
"Is he any good at music? Chess? Astronomy?"
"Brilliant. An internationally renowned grandmaster. He's published a paper under a pseudonym on the fallacy of measuring distance by light-years."
"Oh, dear God." Mr. Fowl slumped further and stared off into space.
Butler had no idea what to say. Bodyguards aren't that well trained to handle emotional crises. He sat back and waited.
Mr. Fowl came around a few minutes later. "Domovoi Jacques Butler."
The manservant snapped to attention. "Sir!"
"We are on a Mission." The resolve in Mr. Fowl's voice could have launched a thousand ships and a squadron of artillery.
Butler resisted the urge to salute.
"Come hell or high water, we will find something the boy is bad at---"
Butler winced mentally.
"Some chink in his armor." Mr. Fowl's voice softened. "Humans aren't meant to be perfect. We're not meant to be good at everything…"
"That's what makes us lovable," Mr. Fowl finished.
This cannot end well, Butler thought.
THE COMPILED FLAWS OF ARTEMIS FOWL THE SECOND:
1.) Subject has absolutely no cooking skill. Could burn water if set to it.
2.) Subject is rather bad interpersonal communication.
3.) Subject does not appreciate the Great Outdoors.
4.) Subject secretly has an irrational, and rather amusing, terror of clowns.
5.) Subject is hopeless at driving. (On the one occasion when Butler attempted to administer a secret driving lesson, subject managed to crash vintage Bentley into greenhouse, which should have been impossible, as lesson was administered on other side of property. Cost in secret repairs: $5000 American. Bribe money to keep Juliet from telling anybody: $600 American, plus new Venus flytrap. Secret bonus given to Butler from Artemis in exchange for never telling another living soul: $1200 American. Look on Butler's face when his Principal mixed up the gas and the brake and sent them flying through the tropical shrubbery: Priceless.)
6.) Subject has never been able to keep a pet alive for more than a week. Examples: Tchaikovsky the hamster, tragically killed when three-year-old Artemis dropped it inside a grand piano. Albert Einstein the goldfish, sadly slain in an experiment when the four-year-old Artemis attempted to make it into a Super Goldfish. (Said Super Goldfish failed to come back to life, despite Young!Artemis zapping it repeatedly with homemade defibrillators.) Sir Isaac Newton the newt, wretchedly killed in a horrific accident involving five-year-old Artemis, a chemistry set, and a falling apple.
7.) Although subject is a musical prodigy, subject has no rhythm.
8.) Subject has no patience with less intelligent life forms (i.e., most of the human race.)
9.) Subject doesn't like lollipops.
10.) Subject does not appreciate sports or any form of physical activity.
11.) Subject has a malnourished sense of humor. Which is a real pity, considering what's going to happen to him.
It's A Beautiful Morning
"Good morning, Son!"
Artemis II bolted backward as if electrocuted, cracking his skull against the mahogany headboard and getting tangled in the sheets.
Undaunted, Mr. Fowl threw open the massive drapes. Stormy light trickled in like oatmeal. Rain threw itself against the windowpanes like bullets. Occasionally, to make things interesting, the rain threw a soggy bird against the windowpanes. Mr. Fowl beamed like the absent sun.
"It's a lovely Saturday morning. Let's make pancakes."
With a sad squawk, a soaking robin splatted against the window and slid slowly down.
"Father?" Artemis groaned, holding his head in his hands. "What is the meaning of this?"
"Ah, smell that fresh air. Here, get dressed. You can wear these. Juliet bought them for you."
Artemis reared back to stare at the 'clothing' with groggy eyes. T-shirt. Jeans. A pair of the mutated evil shoes that Americans call 'sneakers' and Europeans call 'trainers,' though neither culture is entirely sure why. Oh, no, he thought. How do I get out of this?
"No. Father, I really must--" Artemis trailed off as the wind and rain chucked a swallow at the window. Mr. Fowl turned to smile lovingly at his son.
"I'll put this bluntly, sir. What's wrong with you?"
"Oh, Arty." Mr. Fowl sat on the edge of his bed, not noticing Artemis's slight dignified wince at the nickname. "I just want to get to know you better."
Most teenagers cower when the previous generation utters Those Words. They mean: There will be questions, yea, and we will want to know what you're doing on the Internet. ("What be this thing you call fanfiction?" and "Why are you hacking into Fort Knox and draining the money into your Junior Savings Account?") And verily, there will be Chores, which will Build Character. Yea, there will be Quality Time.
Why did he have to pick today? I have to meet the contact in Limerick. He says I ordered those damnable contact lenses. I have to get to the bottom of that. I don't have time to bond.
"Father," Artemis stated, pulling the covers up to his chest, "That's a noble sentiment, and I appreciate the outlook behind it. But I believe that both of us have business to take care of, so perhaps--"
"Always so serious, Arty," Mr. Fowl said mournfully, "Always so formal."
Yes, you were the same way with your father, I know.
"I was the same way with my father."
I couldn't possibly have ordered those contact lenses.
"I want things to be different between us."
"Which is why I'm going to show you how to cook!" Mr. Fowl beamed. "Butler tells me you're quite useless at it."
Why? Why do these things always happen to me?
Still Life with Pancake
Juliet watched warily from the doorway.
Apparently this lack of cooking skill was hereditary.
Artemis I and Artemis II were making pancakes. More accurately, Artemis I was cursing and attempting to unglue the pages of an ancient cookbook. Artemis II ignored him, slim fingers tapping at the keyboard of his laptop.
"Would you like some help, Mr. Fowl?" the younger Butler tried. The kitchen was her domain, but the whims of her employer had to be tolerated.
Mr. Fowl dramatically threw the book across the room. "Thank you, Juliet, but no. I shall have to whip something up myself."
He rolled up his sleeves, revealing unlovely, pale, skinny arms. Juliet vaguely remembered why aristocrats were called 'blue-bloods;' their skin was so pale from staying indoors all the time that the blue lines of their veins showed.
"We'll probably need milk and eggs, et cetera. And brandy."
Artemis quietly shut his laptop and slunk away.
Did That Cat Run Past Twice?
Artemis Senior rounded up Artemis Junior. The boy had attempted to escape by lurking along a wall, holding his laptop to his chest and pretending to be deaf and invisible, a primal evasion tactic that sometimes still works.
"Arty! I was wondering – can I teach you Scrabble?" Mr. Fowl held the box like an offering; Artemis gripped his laptop like a shield.
Honestly, there has got to be something wrong. He must have undergone some kind of terrible stress in Russia, perhaps skull damage that altered his state of mind. There's no explanation for this… strangeness. It's like some bloody magical change in the man.
It rose up in his chest like bile, the weird feeling of slight nausea coupled with the way the hall seemed to jolt and settle around him. As if his mind had shot down a line of thought, touched something it shouldn't, derailed suddenly, and hit the reset switch. It was the weird déjà vu feeling again. Artemis didn't understand it. It churned up bizarre, eerie echoes and whispers of memories that had never happened, but felt like they were going to.
What set it off this time?
It's like some bloody magical change in the man.
Bad thought. Derail. Reset.
What the hell is wrong with me? Am I actually going mad?
"Arty? Son?" Mr. Fowl peered at his son, who possibly looked paler than ever. The boy was staring at the Scrabble box with a stricken, confused look on his face.
"Excellent, I'll take that as a 'yes.' Here, Juliet's just vacuumed the Game Room. We'll play a nice quick game."
The Game Of Kings and Bored Bibliophiles
It took Artemis fully one minute to grasp the rules of Scrabble, and after a few turns he was muttering that there wasn't enough room on the board to fit the really good words in.
After some deliberation, Mr. Fowl carefully added letters to spell VITRIOLIC, which was probably worth several gajillion points. Artemis wasn't really paying attention.
Artemis sighed, shuffling listlessly through his little letter tiles. He picked out four letters without really looking at them, clicking them into place and using one of the letters in 'vitriolic.'
"Interesting choice." Mr. Fowl said after a second's thought, "But I don't know if the rules allow words in Gaelic."
"They don't," Artemis said automatically, having memorized the rules at the onset of the game.
Mr. Fowl gave him an odd look.
Artemis blinked and forced his wandering eyes to look at the word he'd just laid out.
Like most Irish kids Artemis knew at least a little Gaelic. Unlike most, he'd studied the old language more than he needed to. 'Sídhe' in all of its muddled spellings was a mostly obscure term for the Fair Folk.
Bad thought. Derail. Reset.
"I forfeit," Artemis said, pushing back from the table.
"Arty, be a good sport-"
Artemis had pulled one of his vanishing tricks, taking his laptop and neatly disappearing while his father talked to an empty chair.
Alone in the room, Mr. Fowl sighed. He took out his list and added a few notes to it.
Can't Sleep, Clowns will Eat Me
Angeline Fowl was a late riser. She started her day by brushing out her long, dark brown hair at her large mirror. Caught without makeup or formal clothing, her hair down around her pale shoulders, she whirled like a deer as the bedroom door opened.
"Artemis Fowl the First! Would it kill you to knock? You almost gave me a damn heart attack!" (Although voiced in tones of aristocratic outrage, Angeline's speech patterns had been corrupted by constant exposure to Juliet Butler.)
Artemis Fowl the First was unmoved. He started telling her about his new theory.
Angeline laughed, relaxing as she pulled a dressing gown around herself. "Oh, Timmy. Artemis, an idiot savant? That's very amusing, though I don't entirely get the joke."
"Please, stop laughing."
"You're really serious? Oh, dear."
Mr. Fowl wordlessly handed her the list he had compiled of their son's faults. Angeline took it, dark eyes scanning with amusement, then interest, then slight disbelief.
"Arty has an irrational fear of clowns?" She arched a slender brow.
"According to a psychologist we hired when he was much younger, the circus décor in the doctor's office caused Artemis to have nightmares for weeks."
"Yes but that's normal." Angeline well remembered the traditional childhood terror of clowns. Painted faces crowded into her imagination, embarrassing yet horrifying, grinning sinister red grins. "Almost all children are scared of clowns. I certainly was."
"Apparently they had to give him medication."
"Oh." Angeline tried to remember this uncharacteristic psychotic episode and failed. "Why didn't we hear of this?"
"Angeline… the scary thing is, we probably did. We just didn't pay attention."
Angeline pulled dark chocolate hair through restless fingers, pinning it up here and there. Women of her stature really didn't wear their hair down. "Clowns?"
"Clowns." An unholy gleam sparked in Mr. Fowl's shrewd eyes. "I think we may be onto something here."
"Timmy, this does not mean he has flaws. This only means he has a perfectly rational fear of terrifying childhood icons. Why can't you accept Artemis for the mature young genius he is?" Angeline faltered, realizing she was wasting her breath. "Dear? Just make sure nobody is emotionally scarred by the end of all this."
"Emotionally scarred?" Artemis the First asked innocently.
Take Notes, There Will be A Quiz
It wasn't that Artemis was a loner, per se. It wasn't that he was antisocial or an outcast.
He just preferred being alone, as the company of other people had nothing to offer him. He wasn't antisocial, he just… wasn't social.
In fact, 'Society' and 'Artemis Fowl the Second' existed like trains on parallel tracks. If, due to some inexplicable balls-up, the trains managed to collide, it resulted in explosions, debris flying around, general confusion and bewilderment, and bad feeling, embarrassment and sneers all around. Vaguely amusing for onlookers to watch, but not very fun for either Artemis or Society or the poor engineer who has to clear the metal off the tracks. (Usually Butler, in this case.)
There was a point to this section, but the author got so wrapped up in her train metaphor that she forgot it.
Due to more brilliant scatterbrained-ness she might accidentally leave it in.
The Point IS
"Artemis, the problem is this. It's not that you're good at everything, it's that you never learned to be a child."
Artemis, who had been discovered hiding with his laptop in Butler's walk-in closet, sighed. It was a horribly undignified way to be caught, sitting on the floor of his bodyguard's closet, typing quietly like a fugitive.
Well, he was a fugitive, of sorts. He'd just wanted some privacy. For most of his life he'd lived for weeks without seeing a parent. The parent was always too busy. The only times the Fowl parents were not busy was when they were going through phases of certifiable insanity or legal death.
And now Mr. Fowl was acting like he'd just eaten the manual on "Hands-On Parenting" and was going to be Interactive if it killed him.
Artemis almost preferred the old way. He wondered if this made him a very bad person.
He clicked the laptop shut and stood up.
"Father, do you have any idea how many times psychologists and psychiatrists have said that to me? Being a child is not something you learn. It is a stage in life. You can blame my environment or my upbringing or chemical imbalances or little green men or my sheer obstinacy, but the fact remains: I am Artemis Fowl the Second. It's a bit late to change who I am, don't you think?"
"I changed who I was!" Mr. Fowl said, matching Artemis's controlled shout.
"Did you, Father? Did you suddenly consciously decide to drop several dozen I.Q. points and start being… perky? Or was it head trauma?"
"It's within ourselves to make ourselves better, Artemis. You're just not trying hard enough. You used to be a happy little kid."
"And you used to make sense. You're trying too hard." Artemis vibrated with pissed-off, pent-up outrage. He felt a simmering, cruel delight in destroying his father's artificial benevolence. Underneath this strange, fantastic mask of goodwill, there had to be the calculating man he knew.
Once I would have preferred him this way. Wouldn't I? Once…
Artemis didn't remember leaving. He staggered vaguely out of the room, lost in another cobwebby déjà vu.
He Drives Me Crazy
Despite Mr. Fowl's best efforts, Artemis was not proving to be an idiot savant. He was defiantly and persistently good at almost anything set in front of him.
Drastic measures were called for.
Artemis seethed behind the wheel of the plain black Pontiac. Butler and Mr. Fowl had produced the cheap tin can of a car, the theory being that Artemis simply could not be trusted with anything that cost over $30,000 American.
Most boys would be gibberingly overjoyed to receive a nearly-new car out of the blue, but Artemis was irritated. He'd never intended to learn driving. Driving was something the lower class did, along with riding buses and…. and eating hot dogs. Butler had always been there for him, and – Artemis's feelings stubbornly stomped on his protesting common sense – Butler would always be there.
He is looking much older lately. It's strange, but true.
Bad thought. Butler's probably going to outlive me.
Maybe it would be a good idea to learn driving. Just in case, protested Artemis's more feeble bright side.
Feh, his usual cynicism snorted. Not with this madman teaching me. When did Father ever bother to drive? The Major* always drove him everywhere. And how exactly do you operate the pedals with a prosthetic leg?
Artemis's bright side promptly smacked his cynic side, wincing in horror. No! Don't think of things like that. Go to the happy place.
"All right, son," Mr. Fowl said cheerfully. He slid into the shotgun seat. "Isn't this a nice little car?"
Artemis's eyes glazed slightly.
Butler made a Respectful Bodyguard Noise. "Sir? You have to get out and put the front seat down. That is, if you still want me in the back…"
The small Pontiac had only two doors. To access the miniature back seat, you had to perform a complicated maneuver that involved pulling tiny plastic levers, sliding the back seat back and forth, kicking random parts of the car, cursing, and much banging of heads and elbows. Then the unlucky backseat rider had to duck and wriggle through the gap into the backseat, like a snake through a cheese grater. **
Butler looked at the gap. He looked at Mr. Fowl. There was a silent, uncharacteristic plea in the man's slanted gunmetal-blue eyes.
"Hmm. Perhaps I'll go in the back," said the small, slight Mr. Fowl.
Artemis rubbed his temples and groaned. Not for any particular reason, just a combination of everything that the universe persisted in throwing at him.
After the two men had embarrassed Artemis as much as possible, Butler handed Artemis the keys. Artemis jabbed them irritably into the ignition, or what he imagined to be the ignition.
"Ah! You just failed your driver's test. You forgot your seatbelt. Incidentally, that's the cigarette lighter you're trying to jam the keys in. The ignition is behind the wheel."
"Okay, Father, fine." Artemis yanked the key out of the cigarette lighter, turned around, and pierced his father with his unsettling Siamese-Cat glare. "You won. I'm an idiot savant. My weakness lies in cars. Can I go now?"
"Bugger." The word was so lightly whispered that Mr. Fowl thought he was imagining it.
"Artemis, I did not just hear you say that."
"Good." This time the word was just above a breath. Mr. Fowl decided that ignorance was the better part of fatherhood and sat back in controlled disgust, opening up the newest 'Wall Street Journal.'
Butler took over. "With your foot on the brake, turn the key all the way—No! NO! The other way!"
"It's all right, we've got another key." Butler used a small pair of pliers (conjured with his Magical Butler Powers™) to extract the shattered key.
Mr. Fowl held out his hand for the broken pieces. "Seek for the sword that was broken," he quoted whimsically.
The unexpected quote from 'Lord of the Rings' made Artemis's eyes glaze over and Butler's eyelid twitch. Neither knew exactly why, and both pretended it hadn't happened.
"All right. This time turn it the other way, remembering to keep your foot on the brake. This is an automatic transmission, so it's best to always keep your foot on the brake---" Butler trailed off as the car lurched backward violently. He shot Artemis a frustrated look; the youth shrugged helplessly.
"Then you take this and set it to 'drive,' remembering to keep your foot on the brake—"
The little Pontiac squealed in pain and ground into drive, making an ungodly and totally impossible noise. If Butler had hair, it would be standing on end. He had no idea how Artemis could change gears so… clumsily. It shouldn't even be physically possible.
Mr. Fowl read on obliviously, obviously thinking this was normal. Either that or the man was on some kind of powerful drug. Given his recent behavior, that might actually make sense.
"Good," said the manservant. "Now gently ease off on the brake, lightly applying pressure to the gas—that is the other pedal, remember?" He tried to stop himself from sweating.
Artemis nodded solemnly, staring straight ahead. The car moved gently forward. Butler let out his breath in relief, realizing that he had been practically hyperventilating.
Gravel crunched smoothly under the wheels as Artemis glided the car down the tremendous driveway. Butler relaxed more, allowing his teeth to unclench, and relaxing his deathgrip on the dashboard.
Maybe Artemis could conceivably learn to drive.
"All right, we'll try to make a slow turn around the fountain." Butler pointed with his chin to the graceful ornamental fountain, not wanting to relax his grip on the seatbelt.
Artemis nodded again, his sharp features drawn in concentration. The Pontiac eased gently around the fountain…
… Butler's glazed eyes started to clear with hope…
… And the car promptly went into a vomit-inducing tailspin.
Mr. Fowl was thrown against Butler's seat, then fell to the floor. Butler performed the Bodyguard Leap™, of the sort usually shown in slow motion with dramatic music, which was another special thing taught by Madame Ko. His seatbelt promptly snapped in half as he clutched the steering wheel from Artemis's weaker grasp and spun it frantically.
Only one thought was running through his trained mind; protect the Principal(s) at whatever cost. This meant dragging the Pontiac out of its crazed spin and getting both Fowls out of there before they died of whiplash and/or heart failure. At whatever cost.
Artemis might not have been great in a driving crisis, but his mind was still lightning fast. Midnight-blue eyes widened in horror.
"Butler, NO! Mother's fountain!"
* (Butler's uncle, the Major, perished on the Fowl Star. Most people assume he was Mr. Fowl's personal pet Butler.)
** (The author herself is five foot two and still can barely fit in the backseat of a two-door Pontiac. Imagine, if you will, Butler being forced into one.)
I Lied About Being the Outdoor Type
Vacation was almost over; Artemis would soon be returning to St. Bartleby's. Although the school itself was slow, immature, puerile, stupid and a general waste of time, Artemis found himself vaguely looking forward to it.
It seemed that it was easier to plot nefarious deeds under the noses of teachers who didn't care than to plot in front of parents who were Making up For Lost Time And Trying to Exude Care.
The Driving Fiasco had become one of those things Which We Don't Talk About. Angeline had been rather stricken at the loss of her fountain, which was a tastefully rude sculpture of Leda and the Octopus that had been given to her by an eccentric cousin. (The cousin was one of those family members Whom We Don't Talk About Anymore, Though We Did Like the Fountain, Not That We're Mentioning It.)
Juliet had been overcome by hysterical laughter and had to be given money to go away. As she was leaving, she saw the suggestively broken Octopus, fell over laughing and had to spend the rest of the day with an icepack.
Mr. Fowl had calmed down after that, leaving Artemis to his own devices for almost a week. Then, just as Artemis was neutrally packing to go back to school, Mr. Fowl proposed the newest disaster; a Weekend Camping Trip.
Now it was time to leave, and Artemis was sitting in his study, hastily charging up laptop batteries so he wouldn't be completely defenseless.
Artemis sighed, rubbing the dark fragile skin of his eyelids, as his father's distinctive shuffling step echoed behind him. Mr. Fowl limped up, beaming cheerily as he shouldered a horribly orange backpack.
"Ready to go, son?"
"Father, it's quite possible that I will never be ready to go."
Mr. Fowl scowled briefly, his old personality glinting in his indigo irises. "Get in the car, Artemis."
Slightly chastised, though not all that chastised, Artemis picked up his own tasteless radioactive-orange backpack. The color alone could stun small rodents. With a look of extreme distaste, Artemis slid the lightweight pack over his narrow shoulders, wincing the whole way as if the nylon straps were made of decaying fish.
Butler tromped in, looking for all the world like a tolerant old packhorse. Strapped to his huge shoulders, towering above his head, was a massive pack frame. Pots, pans, bedrolls, packs, a shaving kit, something resembling a collapsible two-story house, lanterns, matches, bundles of food that could feed a troop of Sherpas for a month, bottles of water that could sate a caravan of post-Sahara camels… Butler looked more like a well-stocked war elephant than a bodyguard escorting his charges for a little camping trip.
Mr. Fowl coughed discreetly. "Butler, are you sure you need all the ammunition?"
Butler looked down at the arsenal strapped across his chest. "Yes, sir."
"You can never be too careful," Butler said patiently.
"Yes, but it's just a little camping trip, practically in our backyard. You don't really need the Sig Sauer."
"Usually not, sir, but there's always the possibility of wild animals."
"In Ireland? On the grounds of the manor?" Mr. Fowl's voice soared incredulously and practically broke. "What could possibly attack us? Ravening savage runaway sheep?"
Butler said nothing, but there was something in his steel-colored eyes that said: I'm not taking any chances, sir, I've seen what sheep can do when it comes down to it, and with all due respect, they'll have to go through me and several hundred bullets before they get to you two…
There was a moment of slightly awkward silence, as Mr. Fowl rubbed his chin and stared into space with a slightly worried expression, as if he was wondering exactly how a sheep could be dangerous and not liking what he was coming up with. After all, the gigantic stuffed bighorn in the guest study (gunned down by Cedric Fowl the Third) had horns that you could bludgeon panthers with.
"All right, bring the gun. But leave the portable satellite tracking system here."
Artemis decided to stop sulking, as his father was making a stupid decision that could possibly kill them all. "No. That was my idea. We need it."
"But we're roughing it!"
"If you don't bring the satellite tracking system, you don't bring me."
Mr. Fowl sighed aristocratically. "All right, keep the gun and the satellite system, but leave the collapsible generator. Was that your idea as well, Arty?"
Artemis sighed, too, wondering just how he had been talked into this.
In the Days of the Caveman
Artemis lay in the tent, his head on his pack, with his laptop on his stomach. He calmly hacked into St. Bartleby's records and got a look at his upcoming schedule ahead of time. The clatter of rain was actually quite pleasant.
Of course, the crashing around of undergrowth as his father Observed the Wildlife was annoying. Butler's nerves were on edge, as he had to keep his eyes on the wandering Mr. Fowl and the world-weary Artemis, while listening for sounds of danger on all sides. And this was a temperate forest, not an urban jungle. Butler was off-center and unsettled in forests, as the unfortunate squirrel had discovered.
As Butler slid about like a restless panther, Mr. Fowl happily Observed a soggy mud-colored bird that squatted hopelessly in a bush.
"Look at its plumage!" Mr. Fowl warbled.
Butler and the bird shared a mutual look.
Artemis, oblivious to the Great Outdoors, shuffled all of the boring classes off his schedule and onto Edgar Fitzsimmon's, and stole all of Edgar's good ones. He kept his psychiatric counseling sessions, as they were more amusing than gym, and budgeted plenty of time for devious plotting.
To get to this campsite, they had taken a sleek black Land Rover – Juliet's car, though she rarely got to drive it – about a mile into Fowl Manor's extensive woods. The forest had once been park-like and controlled, with no underbrush between the gracious, evenly planted trees. But the staff at Fowl Manor had been gradually whittled down over the decades, and there was no gamekeeper to keep back the wildness.
Artemis liked to know the Land Rover was there. It was his little oasis of civilization in this jungle.
He closed the laptop and listened intently. The sounds of crashing and marveling grew fainter. He smiled his Vampire Smile™ and slid out of the tent. His narrow feet left swish marks in the wet grass.
After a scary moment involving a steep slide and wet grass, he was settled comfortably in the warm dry Land Rover, watching the Great Outdoors and all its rain from behind nice bulletproof glass. Artemis carefully untied a key from his shoelace. Juliet chose rather obvious places to hide her keys, and it had been very easy to steal one.
Wincing, hoping he didn't set anything on fire, Artemis slid the key into the ignition. He turned it slightly so that the car battery turned on, but the engine didn't turn over.
A few minutes later, Artemis Fowl the Second relaxed in high splendor, leaning against heated leather seats, listening to high-quality Mozart, drinking chilled water and checking his email.
The rain dribbled on, chilling the air.
Let the camera of the imagination pan away from Artemis, taking in the shiny black Land Rover and the swish-trail of wet grass and the two tents and fire ring of the little camp. Watch as we pan back, out of the camp and out of the clearing and through the forest. From here we can see two middle-aged men wandering through the forest and amusing the local wildlife. From here we can even see where the forest ends and gives way to green downs and ravenous sheep.
It would help if the soundtracks of the imagination were playing the creepy song from "Jurassic Park," the part where the raptors come bursting through the kitchen and the children whimper behind their flimsy human defenses...
Somewhere out there, something moves.
And no, before you start getting silly ideas, it isn't a bloody sheep.
The Obligatory Wake-up Call
Artemis blinked and flicked off the CD player. It had suddenly gotten dark, the sky turning to dusk in an instant. Mosquitoes danced against the windows, and Artemis imagined them whining for his warm blood. He shivered.
For some reason, chills were running down his spine. His hair prickled and he backed up in a corner of the seat, staring out into the gathering twilight.
Humans are creatures of the day and light and when the night comes, the world belongs to older things…
It had gone strangely still. The rain fell through the trees, but the depressed gibbering of the birds and little animals was absent. There was a hushed sound to the air, an ancient fear.
Artemis opened the door slightly.
It pauses, listens, smells fresh meat on the wind.
Butler's Soldier Senses were beating a drumroll on the inside of his skull. He put a restraining hand on Mr. Fowl's shoulder.
"We have to get back to camp now."
Mr. Fowl didn't argue. There was something about the huge manservant's voice that overrode petty things like status. He went.
Butler's head swiveled around like it was on ball bearings, scanning the forest. His hand dropped to the Sig Sauer, clenching instinctively around its worn grip.
"We have to get to the car… but don't run."
It's torn. It smells fresh young meat, but only a little of that. It smells older meat, but there's a lot of that. Which way should it go? Decisions, decisions.
Artemis warred with himself. He wanted to find his father and Butler, but rationally he knew that he was just a lightweight, unathletic teenage boy and leaving the Land Rover would be suicide.
Besides, he had nothing but instincts to go on. Instincts and the metal taste of terror in the air.
He dropped his hands to his lap and looked into the forest.
It decides abruptly. The two men for dinner and the boy for dessert. It swings around and scythes its way towards the men, cutting tantalizingly close to the clearing where the boy is.
Artemis simply stared as a large section of forest was swatted away, and he saw a beast.
It looked something like a hyena, and something like a bear, with an extra helping of wooly mammoth, wild boar, and pure nightmare thrown in to make things interesting. It looked like something that had escaped from the Creator and built itself out of leftover bits from Hell. It looked like something that had stalked primal humans in the night and eaten them like popcorn chicken, finishing them off with a mastodon and perhaps a small saber-toothed cat.
This creature was certainly saber-toothed. It was also scimitar-toothed, rapier-toothed, and bloody-big-broadsword-toothed.
Artemis saw a glimpse of it, as big as the Land Rover. It blinked at him, growling sourly, swiping claws like demented bananas over its livid red eyes and wincing at the faint light of the clearing.
Artemis sat as frozen as an abandoned fawn.
The beast chuffed, looking generally pissed. It blinked again and again, tears pouring from its piggy eyes. It tried to focus on the Land Rover, but the light was still too strong and it was getting an incredible headache.
So it casually batted aside the tents, poles snapping like plastic forks, and shambled back into the dark forest. It struck off towards the men it had scented, moving like a charging grizzly bear.
Artemis trembled, memories lighting like Christmas tree bulbs in his brain.
Deus Ex Machina
The troll was a sow, or female, smaller than the bull troll that had attacked Fowl Manor. Her face was leaner and longer, her eyes more intelligent, her powerful shoulders slimmer and maneless. Among troll sows, she was quite pretty, with flirtatious little tusks and a cute little waist that drove the bulls to rock-gnawing frenzy.
She paused, growling and shaking her massive head. Something had grazed her right cheek, only missing her eye because she had been moving as it struck. She charged forward, stopped, and bellowed in frustration as another bullet zapped her skull. Man-scent was everywhere, but she couldn't see the man!
Butler pressed Mr. Fowl deeper into the bush, reloading his gun. He had also undergone the obligatory memory recovering, and remembered quite clearly how he had dealt with his first troll. But that had been a bull, all testosterone and dumb muscle. This female looked considerably craftier.
She proved his theory correct by melting back into the woods, her shaggy shape blending in with tree trunks and shade. Dusk was falling deeper now, and she had all the night ahead of her. She could wait. They could not.
Butler plotted his next move. Striking back toward camp would bring the troll onto Artemis, but they would have the Land Rover. The Land Rover, with headlights and a reinforced frame. Butler remembered Holly and a suit of medieval armor. The Land Rover would be their deus ex machina.
"What was that?" Mr. Fowl asked quietly.
"Oh. Really? I didn't know we had those here."
Butler shot his employer a glance. The man seemed quite calm, though his features were hard to read in the gathering dark.
Shock, Butler decided. He must be in shock.
"Do you think it was hunting the sheep?" Mr. Fowl continued blithely.
"Ah…" Butler wrestled with himself. "No, Mr. Fowl, it was hunting us."
Artemis's mind was like a blender full of grasshoppers.
Fragments of memories and plans pinwheeled through his mind.
He slid a hand under the driver's seat and pulled out Juliet's old shotgun, which she'd kept there as a precaution against grizzly bears. (The Land Rover had been all over the world with her, but still remained impossibly shiny and new-looking.) The gun was massively heavy, but Artemis managed to lift it. He wiggled into the driver's seat and placed it against his lap.
He was rather short, and the Rover was huge. He practically had to stand up to reach the pedals.
Artemis started the engine and rolled the big car forward, making for a spot between two trees that was just big enough to let him through.
The troll charged Butler and Mr. Fowl again, but was driven off by a spray of bullets to her chest and head. She shambled off patiently before Butler could get a clear shot at her eyes. His night vision was deteriorating, and he made up his mind. As it got darker, the odds dipped more and more into the troll's favor.
Butler slung Mr. Fowl over his shoulders. "We've got to try to get to the car."
Artemis plowed through the undergrowth, listening to Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" on the surround-sound stereo system.
Male trolls crash their way through landscape, leaving a trail of smashed boulders and crushed trees. Females are slightly subtler. Artemis had only a small trail of destruction to follow. Bark ripped off trees in three-foot chunks, ground ploughed up like a rutting elephant had charged through.
Oddly enough, he was driving like a natural. Guiding the Land Rover over the bumpy trail, Artemis had a convenient flashback, accessing memories he should never have seen again.
Holly laughed hysterically as Artemis crashed yet another virtual car.
"Mud Boy, you are the most hopeless driver I have ever seen."
Before they could go rescue Artemis's father, Root and Foaly had to work some things out and commandeer transportation. Butler was resting in preparation for the journey. Holly and Artemis were left with twenty minutes to amuse themselves in, so Foaly provided them with a holographic driving simulator used to train young fairies.
"Bear in mind, Captain Short, this is the first time I've ever tried anything like this."
Holly burst out laughing again as Artemis's virtual car disemboweled a virtual cow. She was sitting in the passenger's seat of the simulation, offering unhelpful comments and sniggering.
At least they weren't being openly hostile.
As Artemis's car rolled off a cliff and burst into pixilated flames for the fifth time, Holly took pity on the young human.
"Here. You keep mixing up the gas and brake pedal… use them lightly, don't stomp, that's suicidal. Slow down when going around turns. I thought you were supposed to be some sort of genius… that's basic physics!"
Artemis bit back his coming retort and listened. This information could be quite useful in the future, and he preferred to have Holly in a good mood.
"Stay on the road! Stay on the road, you pathetic little fool!" Holly wailed as Artemis careened into the virtual forest. Her small hands gripped for the wheel and she swung them back on. "Turn the wheel in the other direction when you're going into a skid! And quit grinding the gears, you'll kill the car! LOOK OUT FOR THE DOG! LOOK OUT FOR—you scrawny little mud weasel, you murdered the virtual dog! That's sick!"
By the end of the twenty minutes, Artemis was shaken and felt like he had truly survived seventeen car crashes.
But on the bright side, he had some idea how to drive the car.
The troll finally lost patience and pounced, knocking Butler down like a kitten. Mr. Fowl crouched low into the bush, going deeper into shock.
Sow trolls don't produce venom, so Butler's death would be extremely painful. The troll decided to pierce his heart, make it nice and quick. She raised a serrated claw and stabbed down.
The little fragment of bulletproof vest over Butler's heart saved him. He wiggled out of her grasp while she was busy being confused. At this range, the Sig Sauer punched a hole in her thick cranium.
The troll bellowed and gnashed her tusks, swiping her class across Butler's chest. But the gunshot would prove fatal in a few minutes as her massive brain realized it was dead. It was just a matter of staying alive until then.
Butler managed to dodge behind a tree. The sweetest sound in the world reached his ears; the sound of the Land Rover's powerful engine, its horn blasting. Blue-white headlights scythed through the woods, bouncing over branches. The troll wailed, stunned by the potent beams and earsplitting noise. Butler dragged Mr. Fowl onto his shoulders and ran for the car.
The Land Rover stopped, its horn blaring out a challenge. The dying troll stumbled back, bawling and howling and trying to block her eyes and ears.
Butler ripped open the door, tossing Mr. Fowl in before him, jamming his body in and slamming the door shut. "We have to get out before it starts its death throes," he said matter-of-factly. He turned to look at the driver, expecting to see Juliet in the seat.
"Of course, old friend," said the last voice in the world he was expecting.
In the faint light of the cab, Artemis's eyes looked black and full of mysteries. He smiled at the stunned look on Butler's face, knowing he would rarely see it again. Turning to look behind him, he put the Land Rover into reverse and backed away from the dying troll.
"Artemis? You can drive?" Later, Butler would regret sounding stupid, but at the moment it seemed like the most pressing matter.
"Actually, Holly taught me. I assume you remember her now. Apparently when the fairies took our memories, they had to remove the entire chunk of our lesson, which is probably why you were never able to teach me." Artemis stated this calmly, as if it were a rather interesting thing that was happening to somebody else.
The dying troll decided to take an offensive pine tree into the afterlife with her. She ripped it down blindly and fell over with it.
"So. Er. What do we plan on doing now?"
"At the moment, Butler, I would like to get back to the house and have a cup of tea."
Fowl's in his Heaven, And All's Right with the World
While it might be a stretch to say that they all lived happily ever after, we can at least say that they were not miserable ever after.
Artemis re-established contact with the fairies, who, by the rules of the Book, couldn't mindwipe him again. Artemis pointed out that memories were like gold, and the Book stated that if the Mud Man managed to keep his gold despite the fairies, they had to let the matter drop.
Juliet also regained her memories, and renewed her friendship with Holly.
The troll was carted away by LEPRetrieval One and stuffed as an example of the first recorded troll killed by a Mud Man. (The bull troll that Butler had almost killed was kept in a high-security zoo.) The stuffed sow was placed in the lobby of the LEP Academy, the first thing cadets saw when they entered.
Artemis became quite a good driver.
Mr. Fowl continued to try to be a good father, and with his memories back, Artemis's personality changed slightly. He remembered all he had done to get his father back, and they managed to patch up their relationship.
Angeline was surprised to discover that another eccentric cousin had given her an ornamental fountain. She liked the new one very much.
They would all die soon, as humans do. And perhaps it is too much to say that Artemis accepted his weaknesses and imperfections and grew more comfortable in his own skin. But it would be nice to say that.
Because everyone is an idiot savant, and no one is good at everything. And it's impossible to love a human that is absolutely smugly perfect at everything…
And we all know that we find Artemis loveable.
So logically, the ending is happy after all.