Author's Notes - Right. I haven't done this in quite a while lol. Be gentle people :) And hopefully enjoy :)
Disclaimer - Eoin Colfer owns all characters apart from Annie :)
Chapter 1 – Unburied Past
'I understand. I will tell no-one. Not my Mother. Not Butler. Not Juliet and never my Father.'
'And you must never forget it…'
Holly Short knew she was dreaming; the fact that Commander Julius Root was stood before her dressed in full ceremonial uniform complete with gold lapels and honorary medals told her so. Her murdered Superior bowed to her and extended a hand which she took, smiling broadly. She laughed as he led her to the ball room floor, his rough, warm hand clutching tightly to hers as he spun her through the crowds. They waltzed joyfully, flying with ease past the other couples including Foaly with Caballine, Trouble with Corporal Frond and Mulch with a large roast chicken. Everything was wonderful.
'Are you happy Holly?' asked the Commander, his hand resting gently at her waist, 'Are you really happy?'
'Yes, Sir!' she called back 'Of course Sir!'
Julius Root beamed then glanced over her shoulder, 'Look Captain! There's Artemis and Annie!'
Holly turned to see a tall couple sweeping gracefully towards them, both dressed in dazzling white. It was Artemis, Artemis Fowl, as tall and handsome as he had appeared when they had time travelled; his face older, matured. In his arms rested a girl, perhaps seventeen years old. Long lushious mahogany locks cascaded past her blushing cheeks while dark eyes sparkled in the light.
Holy stared, enthralled as they spiralled closer eventually coming to a rest, the girl's smile widening.
'Hello Holly.' She said warmly, 'I hear you've been looking after my Arty.'
Artemis smiled tenderly, pulling the girl closer. Holly blinked.
'It-It's been nothing.'
The girl laughed softly. 'Well, I am grateful all the same.'
'We've got something to show you,' said Artemis, releasing the girl to hold out a hand, 'something extremely special.'
Holly looked at his palm and hesitated, her own hand still resting on her Commander's shoulder.
'Go.' whispered Root in her ear, 'He needs to show you something.'
Holly looked at him wearily, 'You will stay here Commander? You'll wait until I come back?'
He nodded once, pushing her towards Artemis, 'I'll be right here Captain.'
The tall boy reached for her hand and she let his long pale fingers entwine around hers. The girl was smiling again.
'Come on, Holly!' she called, walking backwards into the crowds 'We'll have to run!'
Artemis pulled against her grasp.
'Run?' asked Holly nervously
'Yes! We have to run!'
She felt the wind blow in her hair and saw the Commander disappear behind whirling dancers, saluting stiffly. The two humans were laughing; their own heat and energy pulling her forwards, making her feet want to follow. Artemis' grip yanked her forwards and now she was laughing too, the swirling colours of dresses, uniforms, faces, all blurring, merging together. The girl's beaming face was ahead.
'Come on Holly!'
The elf grinned back, 'I am!'
And suddenly she was sprinting and Artemis' hand had gone and so had the ballroom and so had the girl.
A child's high pitched giggles ricocheted from the trees she suddenly found surrounding her and dead leaves and discarded bark pounded beneath her now bare feet. She didn't falter but spread her arms, the ferns whipping her finger tips as she raced through the undergrowth. She let her mouth breath the air, tasting the tang of wet earth and raw wind rush over her tongue. This was clear, this was real. Holly lent into her stride, flying through the trees when she just caught a glimpse of another figure raging through the forest ahead.
It was a male child, perhaps five or six years of age, an expression of joyous freedom etched across his pale face. His hair was black, his eyes a familiar ocean-like blue, his torso wrapped in a thick woollen jumper, his skinny legs obscured by brown corduroys and his feet clad in nothing but grass dew and dirt. The boy ran on, deeper and deeper into the trees.
Holly followed swiftly and soon they were side by side. She didn't talk while jumping tree roots and dodging brambles, just listened to his quick but steady breathing and his soft grunts as he pounded on. Soon, the trees grew darker.
He changed pace; slowing to barely a jog, making his bare feet pad lightly over the sponge-like floor. She followed as he edged into a dense fern bank, dropping to his hands and knees to crawl his way inwards before lying flat against the ground and squinting through the leaves.
It was then that the voices began to travel across the clearing.
Holly watched the boy tense. He'd been waiting for this, waiting for this opportunity for weeks. He'd made sure Butler was absent, practicing hard at kendo in the Dojo, he'd set up the Nanny's kitchen so the kettle would pour water over the handle, made sure he was asleep when she checked, still swearing and clutching at her burnt hand, that he would be okay to leave alone for a minute, so he could escape and see for himself where his Father went when he walked into the forest…
Deep voices accompanied by thudding footsteps arrived into the clearing overlooked by the ferns, their boots stamping out a steady drum beat on the forest floor.
The footsteps stopped.
In the undergrowth, the little boy wriggled forwards another inch.
'Yes.' Spoke a voice, 'Here is fine.'
There was a muffled thud as something was dropped to the ground. Both Holly and the boy silently tilted forward.
The dull sounds of a shovel being driven into wet earth found their way to the child's hiding place and guttural grunts could be heard as one man dug. The other simply observed and kept well away from the dirt.
Twenty minutes later the boy was still lain stock still even as the wet seeped through his clothes. A shallow trench had been dug, roughly six feet long, two feet wide and three foot deep by the man in the clearing. There was silence as the shovel ceased and both men stared at the hole.
The second, thinner man spoke up sharply. 'Well?!' he hissed impatiently, 'Finish it! I wish to return to my office!'
'Yes, Sir.' responded the bigger male, grasping the something dropped to the floor, 'Of course Sir.'
The boy in the ferns shuffled forward as far as he dared, trying to tell what the man was carrying but with a quick shove and a grunt it was gone, falling with another dull thud to the bottom of the trench. The noises of the shovel began again and after another ten minutes of shunting the thing was covered. The giant smoothed the top of the mound with the back of a shovel, reminding Artemis of how the Fowl chef finished icing on a cake.
'Good,' said the other man, turning from the scene, 'that business is finished. Now come Major, I have other work waiting at the Manor.'
'Mr Fowl, Sir.' Spoke the manservant 'I would like to stay and neaten the job, if only for a short time…'
The boy's Father was silent for a quick second, surveying his old bodyguard with a suspicious eye but the moment passed and he gave one sharp nod before striding back in the direction of the house.
'No more than 20 minutes.' He said coldly, 'My time is not to be wasted.' and disappeared into the woods.
The manservant just stood for a moment, staring after his master and hidden in the ferns Holly felt the small boy's irritation. What was the Major doing just standing there when his Father had ordered his quick return?! How impudent! However, it was then that the man moved, crouching low and laying a massive palm flat on the mound. He bowed his head and closed his eyes, muttering under his breath, fingers still splayed in the dirt.
The child in the bush was utterly bemused.
After a while the manservant stood and sniffed loudly, wiping a wide sleeve across his face. He gave the mound a quick nod, before walking away back through the woods and following his Master.
The boy waited until the muted footfalls had faded fully into the distance before standing cautiously up through the ferns, leaves sticking to his fringe and clothes. Holly walked forward as he did, her eyes drawn as his were to the brown mound. He hesitated, then dropped to his knees, beginning to undo the work done mere minutes earlier, his bare hands digging swiftly.
Holly heard his eager thoughts;
What is Father hiding? Jewels? Gold? Blue Prints? Bearer Bonds?
A hundred treasure-worthy ideas sprung in the boy's mind as she knelt beside him, her hands resting in the thrice disturbed dirt.
The child made short work of it, his tiny hands worming through the earth clearing a small peep hole. With his tongue clenched between white milk teeth he spread the hole further until a wide enough gap was formed revealing the end of a black zip-up tarpaulin bag. He grasped the tag with a grubby fist.
Is it Diamonds? Cash? Paintings? Antiques?
The options span faster in Holly's open mind as he yanked the zip sharply across then…screamed.
It was a face. A white face with its eyes rolled back, its mouth open in a silent shriek, Dead.
His Father had buried a corpse.
The six year old boy cried louder, only to have the noise cut brutally off as a giant hand clasped across his mouth.
Holly could only watch, horror struck as he was dragged backwards away from the body. The child kicked and writhed in his captor's arms only to be squeezed tighter, harder. Eventually the boy's struggles weakened, and his eyes rolled back. It was then, nearly at the point of suffocation that he was released, dropped heavily to the floor. The child heaved, his battered frame shaking violently, wracked with painful sobs as he gulped for air. His towering attacker advanced again, grabbing the child by his collar and hefting him into the air. He gasped as the thunderous face of the Major shot into focus.
'Artemis!' growled the old manservant, shaking the boy roughly, 'Artemis, listen to me!'
The child just whimpered, head lolling, tears streaming down his muddied cheeks.
'You must listen!' barked the man again
The boy's eyes were unfocused.
'Father!' he choked, lips trembling 'He's…He's…'
The Major's eyes suddenly widened with fear and he shook the boy again, making him cry out with pain.
'No!' he ordered, his voice thunderous, 'You must never speak of this, not to anyone! Not your mother! Not to Butler! Not to Juliet! And never your Father!'
The boy was sobbing hysterically now, his red eyes swollen, tiny nose streaming. The Major stared as the child gibbered, obviously not listening to a word he was saying. He hesitated, twice, before taking one giant step forward, kneeling deep in the mud and forcing the boy's face towards the open grave. The child squealed hysterically, crying out and Holly felt her stomach lurch.
'Do you see this?!' roared the Major, keeping a stone hand on the back of his Master's son's head. 'Do you see it?!'
'Please!' screamed the child, 'Please!'
'Do you see it?!'
The Major forced the boy's face closer, and his thin arms scrabbled at the mud, nails clawing for an escape.
'If you ever speak of this,' Warned the Major clearly 'you will end up like this; dead, in a hole, where no-one will ever find you. Do you understand me?'
He cried out again, the stench and the horror burning his throat and nose. The Major's eyes flickered with the same fear as before.
'Artemis!' he shouted, 'I will not release you until I know you understand; until you answer me calmly!'
'Please!' sobbed the boy 'Please! I understand!'
The Major's expression was twisted with repulsion.
'No!' he said firmly, though Holly caught the slight shake, 'You will be calm and answer me reasonably so I know you understand. So I know you'll be able to keep your word.'
The boy struggled once more, his weak desperate cries disturbing Holly to the core.
Slowly the child's breath began to even out, his face still centimetres from a corpse and he began to speak, coldly, levelly in an emotionless voice no six year old should ever possess.
'I understand. I will tell no-one. Not my Mother. Not Butler. Not Juliet and never my Father.'
He lifted his hand.
The boy reeled backwards, scrabbling away, hands and nails scratching at his face where the dead man had stared.
'And you must never forget it…' murmured the Major softly, watching as the boy ran desperately back to the trees.
The elf span sideways as a hand clamped down on her shoulder. It was the girl from the ballroom, her dark eyes still sparkling, long dress still bright.
'Holly, wake up!' she said, shaking her shoulder roughly.
'No!' shouted the elf, 'I have to go after him!'
'Holly, wake up!'
'No! I can't!'
'Major, wake up!'
Her eyes shot open while she was still screaming.
Commander Trouble Kelp's face loomed above her, concern etched in every line of his face.
'Major Short, are you with us?' he asked sharply, his hand on her shoulder.
She blinked thickly.
Her Superior breathed a deep sigh of relief.
'Glad to see you awake, Major.' He said wryly, standing properly upright.
Holly lurched into a sitting position to find herself back in the transfer training shuttle with around eight wide eyed recruits staring at her, their lime green academy jumpsuits glowing slightly in the dim dorm lights. She coughed, embarrassed.
'Commander Kelp.' She said shakily 'I apologise…I just…I just nodded off…'
Trouble was already half way out the dorm.
'Well, Major, we've arrived so if you'd like to start the procedure…?'
She took a deep breath, forcing her face into an expression she hoped showed a person in control.
'You heard him!' she shouted, suddenly all business 'Move out! I want you all off this shuttle in 20 seconds or behinds start being buzzed!'
There was the predictable scramble as the green recruits all clambered to reach the exit doors. Holly just frowned, watching them run.
'What was that about?' she muttered quietly, once alone, rubbing the back of her neck
She closed her eyes and a dead white face flashed behind her lids.
'Major?!' bellowed a voice from outside.
Her eyes shot open.
And she jumped from the shuttle door, the cries of the desperate little Artemis Fowl still ringing in her ears.