Story: The Powers Arcane
Summary: On the anniversary of the day of his father's disappearance with the Fowl Star, 7 years after the incident, Artemis contemplates.
Disclaimer: The story Artemis Fowl does not belong to me. I make no money from the writing of this fic.
A/N: The paragraphs in italics in this story are excerpts from a letter written by Van Gogh to his brother Theo.
Oh, it'll take a little time …might take a little crime…to come undone now
We'll try…to stay blind… to the hope and fear outside…
Hey child…stay wilder than the wind and blow me in to cry…
-'Come Undone' by Duran Duran
Artemis had shut himself in his study again.
Butler sighed. This was not unusual for the boy. He would find something, some new project, some new impossible task to master and would shut himself in his study with orders not to be disturbed and woe befall anyone who tried to coax him out. They would leave the room in tears.
But today was different. 7 years from the day young Artemis Fowl had got the news that his father had been in an accident, most likely dead. 7 years from the day his world came crashing down around him. 7 years from the day Artemis Fowl II had been forced to grow up.
Much as Artemis believed in being rational and not letting 'emotions needlessly affect his decisions', yet there were times when he would withdraw from the world into his own space. Butler understood this and he also understood how lonely it was for the genius to look back on a life full of secrets. Artemis Fowl's life was visible even to his parents and those closest to him in parts – it was one of the hazards of being an unparalleled genius. That, coupled with Artemis's own solitary disposition, caused him to shut everyone out- even those who cared for him.
And so Butler entered Artemis's room without permission. There was a documentary of some sort playing on Artemis's computer and Artemis was staring at the screen, his expression unreadable.
"There have been many instances in history where creators of the greatest work have fallen prey to various psychological illnesses – depression, schizophrenia, delusions, neurosis, etc.- which has led to their untimely deaths many a times because of suicide. It's a shame that the greatest of talent seems to go along with the greatest of sorrow."
Artemis did not look at Butler but nevertheless, paused the documentary.
"What?" he asked, voice flat.
Butler sat down on the bed. He had learned years ago that when Artemis was in one of these moods, the only way to get him out of it was to provide a sounding board for his arguments. He shrugged.
"I know about the age old controversy as to whether their genius was because of their intense melancholia and anguish. Personally, I agree. They say great suffering is behind every great work"
"No," Artemis said quietly, "Great suffering is behind every sensitive soul – be it their own or someone else's. Talent and genius are not born out of pain – I believe it is vulgar to attribute their greatness to their suffering." He turned to the bodyguard, giving him a piercing glance. "I believe it is an insult to their memory and their life to romanticize their suffering as something they were grateful for when they were not."
Breaking his gaze, Butler glanced at the cover of the CD lying on the bed. It read Van Gogh. He wondered why he was watching this particular documentary. Artemis already knew just about everything about everyone and since even he, Butler had heard of Van Gogh, it was a safe bet that Artemis could easily write a thesis on the celebrated painter.
"I suppose you're talking about Van Gogh?" Butler asked.
Artemis stepped away from him and towards the window. "I was not referring to anyone in particular. But yes, Van Gogh may be a good example."
"All that I know of Van Gogh," shrugged Butler "Is that he was seriously ill during his life and had several bouts of mental illness and that he killed himself in the end. I suppose it is logical to assume that art was a good channel for him to direct his feelings into."
"It is not merely that," Artemis said. "As a child, Vincent has been described as serious, silent and thoughtful. When he went to the elementary boarding school in Zevenbergen in the Netherlands, he was distressed to leave his family home, and recalled this even in adulthood…"
"My youth was gloomy and cold and sterile ..."
Despite years of training in keeping a poker face, Butler's eyes widened fractionally and his heart clenched, fist tightening involuntarily on the bed sheet.
"His paintings sold at a good price but he became resentful at how art was treated as a commodity."
What Father […] tried to force on me as a duty was the spectre of a duty. What they really said was (though not in so many words) "Earn money, and your life will become straight."
Aurum Potestas Est.
"Van Gogh's life was full of hardships and disappointments; just like any other normal human life…the artistic talent is why we remember him. There must be thousands of Van Goghs in the world, resentful of the life forced upon them, a mellow temperament making them unable to fight against those held dear, a deeply caring nature making them unable to hurt those close to them, internalizing the loneliness and pain-
…Whatever may be true of my losing patience with Father etc., etc., do not think of me as being in the least influenced by hate or spitefulness toward them […] I do not suspect them of wicked intentions. I think they do follow their conscience, but that it is haunted by ghosts…
"-turning it inwards until it drives them mad…"
"I have tried to express the idea that the [Night] café is a place where one can ruin oneself, go mad, or commit a crime…"
Artemis stared out the window from which the afternoon sunlight was streaming in, bathing the room in melancholy, nostalgic colors.
"Vincent Van Gogh's specialty is the colors in his paintings, colors that he painted as he saw them and not as they were – colors that only artists and poets see, and everyone else sees them through their paintings. They're not as they are supposed to be in real life but which seem, nonetheless, more real…"
Artemis crossed over to a shelf and pulled out a large volume. He turned a few pages till he found what he was looking for. He placed the open book on his desk.
Usually, this desk was covered with numerous, priceless papers full of whatever near-impossible problem Artemis was grappling with at the time. But right now, it was clear save a framed picture of Artemis and his family (of course, Butler was in it), and a few mementos from the fairies. Artemis, as a rule, did not believe in having sentimental things around his workplace. They were a needless distraction, he said.
Butler walked over to see. Artemis glanced at him and then turned a few pages slowly. They were paintings – some with dark, earthy tones and others with bright, forceful colors.
Butler looked at the bright colors and couldn't help but feel that the great painter had put in his works, all the colors that he was unable to have in his own life – it was the open, cheerful brightness that failed to color his real life.
"Frustrated and depressed, Van Gogh cut off the lower part of his left ear lobe. A few years later, he shot himself. That is how he is remembered."
/… Perhaps because they did not wish to be remembered as the distorted, fanciful caricatures that common people would undoubtedly make of them in an effort to grasp in their limited capacity, just what these genii are…/
Artemis smiled thinly, not glancing up, not allowing the manservant and his friend to see the emotion in his eyes – something that Butler had grown a bit too good at.
"Van Gogh had suffered from mental illnesses – delusions and hallucinations – throughout his life but during this period they intensified. He was soon allegedly unable to paint…"
"Does that really justify suicide?" Butler asked gently. "I mean yes, he couldn't paint but everything else, be could still do…"
"Imagine, Butler; frustrated with his continued illness, unable to continue with the one thing that gave him some reprieve from his suffering and intense loneliness –
I shall be poor, I shall be a painter, I want to remain human, in nature.
"- was it really surprising that he snapped?"
Butler glanced away. The one thing that kept him going…ensuring Artemis's safety…If something ever happened to Artemis…if he failed in his duty...no, it wasn't surprising.
"Yet it is said that he had not intended the shot to be fatal. He died of the injury after two days…is it right that the man is remembered as a suicidee, a depressed individual when he fought so hard throughout his life to not be that?"
Butler gave Artemis a knowing look. "No," he said quietly, placing a hand on his shoulder. "No, it is not." Artemis didn't turn around.
"His final works contain a note of hopefulness. Critics claim that they reflect a desire to return to lucid mental health.
But, brother, my very grief over so much proves to me that I myself have definitely done with the systems in question. I have suffered from them, but in my heart of hearts I no longer belong to that side of life. And now I say to you, as brother to brother and as friend to friend, Though your youth was gloomy and frustrated, in the future let us seek that soft light for which I know no better name than the white ray of light or the good.
"- Is it right, then, to taint his memory by branding him a mad man?"
"Hmm," he responded softly.
Butler came to stand in front of him and Artemis finally met his eyes.
"Whatever Van Gogh was, Artemis, there is no doubt that he was unhappy…and lonely…"
Artemis smiled slightly, well aware of where this was going. Butler looked him straight in his eyes.
"Does it have to be like that?"
/…Holly, Foaly, Mulch…the first thing that had occurred to him when he had regained his fairy memories after the opal Koboi and troll incident...I have friends? I have friends…/
"No, it doesn't have to be like that. But-"
Artemis turned to face him and the usually sharp, clear blue eyes were dark with shadows. "-you have to understand, Butler. Sometimes…sometimes it cannot be helped."
Going in for painting requires a certain foi de charbonnier because one cannot prove at the outset that it will succeed and everyone takes a gloomy view of it. But, Theo, though it be true that you as well as I begin with as many repressed tears as the figures by Monteyne and Grollo, at the same time we have a little quiet hope mixed with all our sadness.
The next day, Artemis was back to his usual sarcastic, arrogant, insufferable self, all signs of nostalgia or melancholia gone. No one would suspect or even believe that this self-possessed, together young man reflected on such things a mere night before. Butler said nothing on the matter. For those who seek to study the brilliant young man – psychologists, scientists, fiction writers, biographers – this is the part that they would know nothing about.
Next day on, Artemis went about his usual routine, his usual work. Everything was normal; everything was as it should be. Of course Artemis Fowl never falls apart; that is what happens to normal, average people. It doesn't happen to Artemis Fowl the II. If anyone even suggested otherwise, they would be countered with a scathing retort.
Artemis's desk was once again cluttered with pages and pages of elaborate plans and impossible equations – flawless diagrams and meticulously calculated results. But between the many sheets containing complex algorithms and convoluted equations, there was a half finished sketch of twelve sunflowers.
A/N: Van Gogh's series of sunflower paintings was quite popular. One of them is a painting of 12 sunflowers in a vase. I couldn't help but think that Van Gogh's life is in some ways quite similar to Artemis's except that Artemis had money and a very supportive family. Still, even someone as confident and rational as Artemis must also have spells of dejection and nostalgia – I think they would be more intense because of his level of intellect and his nature. I have tried to explore that part of his character here. I hope it was not too weird.
The parts in italics in this story are excerpts from a letter written by Van Gogh to his brother Theo. The facts mentioned in the story are authentic but all interpretations and descriptions of his paintings and style are my own. I have not studied art or Van Gogh so pardon any errors. Please tell me if you find any mistakes. I hope you enjoyed! I have never tried anything of this sort before so please tell me how you found it.