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This hit in the middle of the night from nowhere and I just HAD to share it with you. More info in the ending author's note.
Chapter 1 – After the Trial
Holly had expected it to hurt. It didn't hurt; her panic only eroded into fatigue, and then exhausted sleep. It left her with a feeling of emptiness when she woke up. That makes sense, she decided, her eyes unmoving, yet taking in the plain gray walls of the small cell she lay in.
The concrete melted in with everything; she couldn't make out the metal door. There were no windows, and the only light came from a weak bulb on the low ceiling. There was nothing in the room except for the threadbare mattress and the bulb. The world seemed to have disappeared and the only thing that existed was this cell. She was surprised that her claustrophobia wasn't stressing her; maybe Ursula had removed that along with her magic.
Holly wanted to move, to touch her ears to see if they were still pointy. To scratch a finger to see if, maybe, just maybe, she still had an ounce of magic left. But she couldn't. She couldn't find the will to do it. She couldn't.
Every day for the past month, Foaly went out of his way every morning to go down to the entrance of the solitary confinement unit. He couldn't go any further; the guards knew he had no reason to.
For the past month, Foaly desperately wished he could, though, if just to get a mere glance of Holly. But after what had happened last night, he found that today, for the first time in the last four weeks, he didn't want to face Holly. He couldn't face her. How could he – how could anyone – stand before her, knowing that they'd so cruelly failed her?
Foaly barely glanced at the two fairies guarding the heavy metal door that led into the solitary confinement cells. He had no idea what Holly would be doing in her dark, cramped cell. Guilt and sorrow gnawed relentlessly at him. She didn't belong in there.
On the way down, Foaly had crossed Root's path. The same guilt that consumed Foaly was probably attacking the commander with twice the vengeance. Root's eyes had been bloodshot, with tire and grief, and neither of them had bothered making any comments. Foaly had watched Holly's trial, where Root had been questioned and then later informed of Holly's punishment. They were both reliving it, wondering where they'd gone wrong and how they might have saved her.
Foaly remembered watching the court from the OP Booth, thanks to a hidden camera in the ceiling. The Council sat at one end of the room, most of its members having already judged and sentenced Holly. Root stood alone before them, in the witness stand, prepared to do anything to defend his captain. It had been spiteful; and Holly hadn't even been allowed at her own trial.
The head of the Council, Benjamin Leymus, had not tried hard to hide his contempt for the Commander. The man was obviously sexist and vindictive, hoping to extinguish the hope of there ever being a woman in Recon and desperate to punish Holly for daring think she can change centuries-old tradition. "The first ever female in Recon," Leymus started, sneering. "Look at what's happened!"
Every other Council member had echoed Leymus' sentiments; it was only Vinyaya who kept her sad eyes on the book in front of her.
"What happened to Holly," Root had said, struggling to keep his voice even. "Could just as well have happened to any male."
"It doesn't matter." The female fairy who had spoken was one of the oldest fairies alive. Raceme was aged and weathered, her face and skin lined with heavy wrinkles, but her voice was strong. "It does not matter that she was a female or a male. It doesn't change what has transpired."
Root had been able to respond to that; she was right. Leymus took his opportunity to pounce. "Exactly!" he had shrieked. "Because of her startling amount of irresponsibility, look what has happened! One does not go to work for Recon without his magic! And after everything, everything, she stood in the way of the bio bomb. We should have just blasted the thing with her inside the Fowl Manor! One incompetent officer was not worth everything we faced!"
"Captain Short is far from incompetent!" Root had snapped. "She did what was right."
"Your definition of right is a far cry from ours! From the People's!" Leymus had roared. He snatched a piece of paper from the table in front of his and waved it vehemently. "She went to work without her magic. After being captured by the human, she told him everything about the People!"
"Under sodium pentothal!" Root interrupted. "She had no choice! She does not even have a memory of - "
"Irrelevant!" Leymus yelled. "If it hadn't been for her first mistake, she would never have revealed anything to him! Do you realize what has happened?! There are humans who know of our existence!"
Root was, once again, silenced.
Raceme spoke again then. "We were prepared to biobomb the manor, and the second she asked you not to, she turned her back on the People." She held up a hand to silence the commander when he tensed. "We the People try to preserve life, but the cost this time was too high."
"Half a ton of gold!" Leymus spoke again. "Not to mention how much the rescue attempt cost us! Half a ton!"
Root scowled. "She got half of it back!"
"She could have gotten every ingot back!" Leymus retorted. "To cure his mother! He would have given up anything to keep the authorities from running in on stallions to bloody 'save' him! Argon said so!"
"Argon says a lot of things," Root stated.
"Short could have demanded that Fowl hand over all the gold and submit to a mindwipe before she cured his mother!" Leymus shouted. "But she didn't!" He suddenly felt silent for a second, and leaned back in his large throne-like chair. "It makes you wonder," he said, quietly.
It took Root a second to see where Leymus was going. Then his face flushed. "Don't you dare accuse my captain of working with the mud boy!" he said, his voice dangerously quiet.
"Stop," Raceme suddenly said. She fixed her dark eyes on Root. "Commander, there is no way to save your captain. What's done is done, and she must be punished for what she has inflicted upon the people."
Root gulped. He saw his dreams for Holly diminishing before his eyes. The girl was like a child to him, and her future in the police force being destroyed left him feeling so hollow and saddened. "Will she be removed from the LEP?"
Leymus snorted loudly, but said nothing.
Raceme spoke, her voice as strong, hard and unyielding as it was before. "She will be removed from the People altogether. Exile."
Root reacted differently than how the Council had imagined. They had expected a full tirade of insults; a last desperate attempt to save his captain. But Root had only frozen to the spot; his eyes and expression unreadable. It was like he hadn't even heard Raceme. It was impossible to tell what he was thinking.
"That's not all. She will also give up her power and her knowledge of the people," Raceme continued. She plowed on ahead, in case Root finally reacted. "Investigation shows that Fowl first got his information from an exiled pixie. We cannot take a chance of having any more of them above ground. A new law has been passed; any fairy who has such a connection to mud men will be exiled and give up anything that has to do with the People." She paused, looking into Root's eyes. "We have called the Sorceress Ursula to remove her power tonight. Tomorrow morning, she will be mindwiped of the People's existence and set above ground. That is the last the People will have to do with Holly Short."
Foaly swallowed a lump in his throat. Ursula had taken Holly's powers last night, and later this morning, Holly will be mindwiped. She will be left alone in the middle of Dublin, void of any memories – no name, no identity. Best case scenario: The police find her, she gets diagnosed with amnesia and is taken care of by the authorities. The worst case scenario… Foaly shuddered. He didn't want to think of the worst that could happen to a meter-high girl with no memories in the middle of a city.
Suddenly feeling sick, Foaly turned from the door and started walking back to the OP Booth. He glanced at his watch. Half an hour. Holly had half an hour with her memories before they would be ripped from her. Before her identity would be taken from her. There were thirty minutes until Holly Short ceased to exist.
"Howler's Peak this time, Mulch, there's no doubt about it!"
Foaly stopped short and turned around.
"Haven't we heard that before?" Mulch's voice was lazy and sarcastic as the LEP cop led him to his cell.
"Get in there!" the cop snapped, pushing Mulch in. He closed the cell door with a loud bang and locked in with his card. All the doors worked on electronic locks and passwords; Foaly had installed them himself.
Mulch leaned against the bars, irritating the cop with his apparent inertia at getting caught. He even winked at the officer as the fairy walked away.
As soon as the cop was gone, Mulch started looking around, trying to figure out a way out. His eyes accordingly met those of Foaly. "Centaur!" he exclaimed, slipping back into his cool persona. He frowned looking Foaly over. "You've looked better before."
Foaly didn't answer. As soon as he'd seen the dwarf, a plan started forming in his mind. It was seemingly, deceivingly, simple – all the pieces fell into place in his mind like a child's jigsaw puzzle. But his rational side knew better; it was a plan so wild, so crazy, it could never work. All that could happen was that Mulch would get an even harsh punishment than he'd already get and Foaly himself would lose his job and earn a jail term. Foaly gulped and starting making his way over to Mulch's cell. But Holly could escape. It was her last chance.
"We have thirty minutes to do this," Foaly said to Mulch.
A mere two minutes later, Foaly was in the OP Booth, his hands and hoofs shaking as they whipped across his keyboards. He couldn't believe that he was about to do this. His mouth was so dry, he didn't know how he would complete this phase of the plan right. He selected a call icon of the screen, and a ringing filled the OP Booth.
'Hurry, hurry, hurry…' Foaly prayed. 'Pick up the damn - '
"Hello?" the voice was vaguely familiar. It was deep, but almost quiet, in all its strength.
Foaly steeled himself, all the while praying that everything would be fine. "Is this Domovoi Butler?"
"Yes. Who is this?"
"Are you alone right now, Mr. Butler?" Foaly asked.
There was a pause. "It is about 6:30 in the morning," came the reply. It wasn't a direct answer.
"I have to discuss something private with you, Butler," Foaly said, hoping that Fowl wasn't up. It was impossible to make assumption with him.
"Who is this?" Butler asked again.
"About one month ago, your master kidnapped a fairy named Holly Short," Foaly said, ignoring the question. "During her captivity, she saved your life and the life of your sister when you were attacked by the troll."
"Who is this?" Butler's voice was lined with tense impatience now.
"This is a friend of Holly's," Foaly replied. "I need you to help save Holly's life now. This can be your opportunity to repay her."
Butler didn't answer right away. "What happened to Captain Short?"
"The Council has blamed her for everything that happened a month ago," Foaly responded. "Her punishment is… It's unforgivable. I can honestly tell you that Captain Short will disappear from the world in less than thirty minutes if you don't help me save her."
There was a sound of rustling in the background. "What do you need me to do?"
Foaly rushed down to Mulch's cage, a body bag and a cam foil concealing a Neutrino under one arm and his card clutched in his hand. "Hurry, we don't have much time now," he said, opening Mulch's cell door.
Mulch got out, all signs of sarcasm and smugness gone. "So the mud man agreed, huh," he said as he fell into step with Foaly.
Foaly grabbed Mulch's hand. "He is a good person, as hard as it is to believe," he said. They reached the door to solitary confinement. "Out of the way, I have to lock Mulch up," he said to the guard.
"Mulch?" the guard asked, narrowing his eyes in suspicion.
"I don't have time to explain! Get out of my way!" Foaly snapped, stomping a hoof threateningly.
The guard, thoroughly confused now, stepped out of the way and let Foaly unlock the door. Mulch had escaped the LEP numerous times before. They probably weren't taking any chances with him now.
As soon as the door closed behind them, Foaly and Mulch burst into a sprint. Holly was being held at the very back, as if she had intentionally committed a series of murders.
"Here," Foaly said, tossing the cam foil and the bag and Neutrino to Mulch. He got out his card and started working on Holly's cell door. "Now the hard part," he said, throwing the door open.
Holly hadn't seen light or person during the last month. She'd been lying on the mattress on the ground, staring blankly up at the ceiling and the sudden movement and noise caught her off guard. Unarmed and powerless, she shot up and moved back against the wall, flinching against them.
Foaly and Mulch were both hit with a ton of bricks when they saw her. They'd expected the worst – fairies who were stolen of their magic could be left with a wide range of symptoms. They were irresponsive, physically ill, feral even… This wasn't the Holly they were used to – her skin was paler. Her hair had grown a few inches during the last month, but it was dirty and scraggly. Her eyes were dull and blank.
Foaly lowered himself to his front knees before her as he pulled out a small white pill. He spared a moment to search her emotionless, unrecognizing eyes. "Holly? Please swallow this."
Holly only glanced at Mulch, who was on his knees, struggling to set up the body bag and the Neutrino.
"Holly, we're your friends," Foaly said, drawing her attention back to him. "We're here to help. Just swallow this, please."
After what seemed like eternity, Holly finally reached out and took the pill from Foaly. In one movement, she swallowed the pill before turning to Mulch again, looking at him with an expression of the vaguest curiosity.
Mulch zipped the bag open and looked up at her, smiling sadly. He watched as the pill began to take effect; Holly's eyes widened a little and she swayed as the sleeping pill starting working. "I beseech thee forgive me for this, m'lady," he quoted as she finally fell.
Together, Mulch and Foaly gathered her up and transferred her to the bag. Foaly picked up the bag, carrying her the way he'd carry a child. Mulch took the Neutrino and the cam foil. They shared a glance before leaving the cell – now was the hard part.
As he drove at over 200 mph to get to Tara, Butler tried not to think about his boss' reaction later. It would be an understatement to say that Artemis would be less than pleased when he would find out. But what other choice did he have?
After his call from Foaly, Butler had woken up Juliet and told her to stand guard before leaving. He hadn't answered any of her questions and shot down her suggestion to wake anyone else up. As he'd passed Artemis' door, he suddenly got the feeling that somehow, no matter how improbable it seemed, Artemis Fowl was already awake and knew what was happening.
It was raining torrents and the gray skies made the early morning look like the middle of the night. Butler screeched to a halt at the side of the road and then shot out of the car, throwing his hood up as he sprinted into the sacred land of Tara. His gun dug into his hip as he ran, but he drew comfort from it rather than being annoyed. He knew the fairies couldn't attack him because the event was done and over last month, but one couldn't be too careful… And the bottom line was that he owed Holly Short. He owed her his life and his sister's.
Butler stopped at the spot Foaly had told him and glanced at his waterproof electric watch. 6:53AM. The centaur had been uncertain of what time they'd come up, and that made Butler uneasy. He liked plans where the timing was set down to the second; acting on chances gave him nerves.
Sudden a small explosion lit the trees in a brilliant white light. Butler turned toward it, raising an arm to shield himself from the light. It was only there for a second however, before it was gone, leaving nothing but the darkness and the rain. But Butler's sixth sense acted up again. A second later, he saw that he was right.
A small figure walked out from the darkness, holding something in its arms. The little man was covered with dirt and hair, and even in the darkness, Butler made out the silvery metallic material of the bag he carried. "Butler?" the man asked.
Butler recognized him at once. "You!" he exclaimed. "Last month, you - "
"We don't have time for this!" the man interrupted. He lay down the body bag on the ground and then took several steps back. "I have to run before they find out what we've done. None of what happened last month was Holly's fault, but they all blame her. You and your master are actually her only hope – Fowl Manor is the last place they'd check."
"Foaly has told me that already," Butler said, taking a few steps toward the body bag. He stopped right in front of it, but refused to pick the fairy up with the other man standing so close.
To anyone but Butler, the man would have come of threatening. "If any of you mistreat her in any way, shape or form, I will come find you," he swore. His tone told Butler that he meant this. "Remember, you owe her your life."
"I know," Butler said. "I can promise you I will do anything for her."
The man seemed to incline his head a little in acknowledgement before he turned, took a step and then seemingly disappeared into the ground.
Butler quickly took off his jacket and knelt down in the cold, wet ground. He opened the body bag and quickly wrapped the jacket around Holly, shielding her from the cold and the rain. Foaly had instructed him to leave the bag. It was fine; Butler wouldn't have transported her in a body bag again anyway.
Butler gathered Holly up in his arms and sprinted back to the car. He quickly lay her down in the back seat before getting into the driver's seat and speeding off back toward the manor.
Butler's eyes kept flickering to the rearview mirror. Holly hadn't awoken yet, she lay as still as the dead in the backseat. He lightly shuddered and hoped she'd be okay. She certainly looked different than she had four months ago. Thinner, paler and… Something that he couldn't put a word to. A scowl appeared on the bodyguard's face even as a bit of unwanted guilt licked at him; he couldn't believe those bastards had locked her up for four months straight.
Butler forced himself to shift his thoughts to more pressing matters. There were questions that scared him. Foaly had taken him through every step of the plan, so he knew what the centaur and the dwarf did and did not do. They did rescue Holly; they did not tell her where she was going. Butler almost groaned out loud – he didn't know whose reaction he dreaded more. Artemis' or Holly's?
There were other complications. How would Angeline react? How would they explain away Holly's past? What about Holly's physical appearance and the fact that she never aged? What if Angeline insisted that Holly be checked by a doctor?
Butler sighed. At least the rain seemed to be letting up. He passed the gate and stopped in front of the manor. As Butler got out, he took a deep breath, that guilt flaring up in him again. He tried to swallow it down as he got out and picked Holly up again. She looked even paler and thinner in his heavy, black jacket.
Juliet had obviously been waiting for them. The front doors flew open before he even reached them.
"Is that Fairy Girl?!" Juliet asked, incredulously. "What's she doing back here? I thought…"
Butler hushed Juliet, shifting the fairy in his arms and moving past his sister. "Something's happened," he said. "I can't explain - " He stopped short, his arms tightening almost protectively around Holly. He felt Juliet tense beside him.
Artemis Fowl was standing at the top of stairs, his icy blue eyes unreadable as they studied Holly. It was impossible to tell what he was thinking or planning or feeling. A torturous moment passed before he spoke, not taking his eyes off the fairy for a second. "Go and buy Holly some clothes, Juliet," he finally said, coolly, dismissing the bodyguard in training with a curt nod.
Butler slightly relaxed, but only slightly. Just because Artemis had acknowledged that Holly would be needing clothes meant nothing. He could only pray that Artemis planned to treat Holly humanely.
Artemis smirked at Butler's unease. "We can't put her in the basement cell again, can we, Butler?"
Butler swallowed a sudden lump in his throat. "Sir, please. She needs - "
Artemis chuckled, quietly, but it was a wry, empty sound. "Put her in the guest bedroom. I'll see her shortly."
Before Butler could respond, Artemis had already turned and disappeared into the darkness of the upper hallways.
Butler decided that had gone better than he'd hoped. Maybe Artemis had known what was happening; his employer was always a step ahead in everything. Sighing a little in relief, he carried Holly up the stairs and to a spare bedroom that was closest to his room and Artemis' room, in case something – he wasn't sure what – happened.
Butler gently lay Holly down on the queen-sized bed and left to go wait outside the door for her to wake up.
Now's the hard part.
I know there's a big hole from where Foaly and Mulch pick up Holly and where Butler gets her at Tara, but that'll come up in later chapters. A lot of stuff from Foaly, Mulch and Butler's points of view in this chapter, but chapter 2 will mostly be from Artemis and Holly's points of views.
Of course, this will be AH. Do I even need to say that?
To fans of Double the Fun, I am hit with major MAJOR writers' block, but I think I'm finally getting over it. (Especially now that midterms are out of the way. :S )
So what do you think? Should I continue with this?
Bonus point questions:
1) Explain the significance of the story's title.
2) The sorceress who took away Holly's power – Ursula – where did I get her name from?
Once again… REVIEW! (Please?)