Whoops, I had exams... and other stuff
"So this is where you stay...?"
Foaly looked around the barren room that the three had arrived at. There were two mattresses on the floor, complete with tattered blankets and torn pillows. A single window window at the back let in a little light from ourside, and there was a chair that looked covered in splinters. Unappealing.
Qwan grinned. "Of course. We demons don't pamper ourselves with all the 'comfort' nonsense - especially not while training."
"I can tell," Foaly said, looking up at the ceiling warily.
"It's all in the conditioning." Qwan winked at No.1. "I remember when I was just an apprentice. I didn't know much about magic then, and every morning my-"
"Master, the symbols?" No. 1 interrupted, before Qwan could launch into an anecdote.
"The symbols. The ones that Foaly showed us at the café."
"Yes. The symbols I showed you at the café," repeated Foaly.
"Oh, the symbols!" Qwan gasped. "I - I think I left them on the table!"
Qwan laughed. "Relax. I have them here." He reached into the bag and pulled out two now-crumpled images. "I threw away the folder, though. There didn't seem much point to it."
Foaly gritted his teeth. "I- OK. Never mind that. Explain the symbols."
"Alright. Although, it will take a while. You might want to take a seat."
Foaly pointed at the battered chair. "Do you expect me to sit on that?"
Qwan shrugged and settled comfortably into it. "Fine by me. So, the symbols. Well, as I was saying at the café, they are bad news. I recognised them immediately."
"What did they mean?"
"It's not so much what they mean - well, not in that sense. It's what the language means. Any fool can scribble down on a piece of paper, but if it's a language, you can find out so much more."
The old warlock leant back and closed his eyes for a minute, then continued. "Once upon a time, demons were a plentiful race. When we were still anchored on Earth. This was before even the Battle of Taillte. yes, this planet's been the host of many species' history. "
"You probably already know that demons were one of the oldest races to evolve here on Earth. Well, No. 1 knows because he's my apprentice, and a sharp one at that. But yes, that is true. Not that I remember that far - I'm not that old - but memories can be exchanged and passed down. We were fairly dominant - but obviously not the only race."
"Back then, we all shared the world - well, I say shared, but it was more live and let live. Humans were doing their own thing with evolution, some of them trying to ignore magic and others killing each other with it. Dwarves were the only race who remained underground, while sprites dominated the skies. And demons? Well, we had our own problems to be dealing with."
Foaly faked a yawn, although his interest was well and fully sparked. "Go on."
"I was. Anyway, you know demons are warlike already - well, obviously, after that nutcase N'zall decided to try and single-handedly destroy his own species because of his hatred for other ones - but we were warlike because we spent so much time warring, strangely enough."
"With each other?" No. 1 asked. It was possible - but hard to believe. Back in Hybras, his kind had been very on-the-spot about things, and organised war between two or more sides seemed unlikely. On-the-spot. Nice phrase.
Qwan leant forward with a grin. "No. With angels."
Foaly was surprised. "Angels?"
"Of course. Angels. They're about as opposite as can be to us. Winged, ugly, cowardly great things - as opposed to us demons - who're headstrong and easy on the eye."
There were a few seconds of silence as Foaly considered this. The People had no records on a species of angels, but then again, if they existed before Taillte, then that was an explanation why not. Also, the People had had very limited information on demons, too, until of course they had begun materialising and the entire Section 8 project had started. Qwan however had, through magic, received memories passed down throughout time and warlock apprenticeships - it was entirely plausible.
No. 1 was equally surprised, but he had no reason to question it. He had never known about this opposite species, but then again, he hadn't had a warlock master to pass it on until he'd unfrozen Qwan in the Kimsichiog Gallery. He resolved to ask the old warlock to pass on the memories to him, too.
Foaly pointed at the piece of paper. "I'm guessing that writing is an ancient angel tongue?" It would certainly explain why his translator hadn't been able to crack the text.
Qwan shook his head. "No, I wouldn't be able to read it if it was. Demons and angels are powerful races - possibly two of the most powerful on this planet. Our warlocks possess the strongest magic known to be. Even our languages were intertwined with it, and it was impossible to simply read the others' language without taking a long time to learn it first - and everyone was a lot more concerned with tearing each others' throats out than spending years learning a language they weren't even likely to use."
So that was why the Gift of Tongues hadn't worked for Holly. "Why could you read it then? And No.1? I doubt No.1's learnt the language of a species he didn't even know the existence of until about five minutes ago."
"He hasn't - and this is where it gets serious," Qwan said, his facing turning slightly grave. "As demons and angels, we're supposed to hate each other. Upon seeing some of the human media here, I noticed that us demons are portrayed as hateful Hell-dwellers, and angels as golden saviours. Well, that's not the case, as you well know - just look at No.1; he wouldn't hurt a fly unprovoked. We're just, somehow, polar opposite species. I don't know how that works - you're the technical genius - but even Bludwin would have enough brain cells to realise that we're not meant to mix."
"Mix..." No. 1 breathed. Surely-
"Aye. It only takes two fools to cause a major disaster," continued Qwan. "You would think - well, contraceptives weren't very popular - but in any case, I find it difficult to understand how it came to be. You know, if being alive for so long has told me anything, it's that you'll never stop getting surprised out of your wits. The moment I read the writing, I suspected it - but it's all too obvious now. A demon, and an angel - having a child. It's ridiculous - and yet it's true. If only I could find out how it happened - if the universe permitted, I would go back in time and turn the pair of idiots into stone decorations."
Foaly was dubious. "And how'd you come to that conclusion?"
"The language! The text - it was half-Demonish, and half-Angel. If it'd been written in the angel tongue only, I wouldn't have been able to read any of it. The magic of two languages..." He shook his head. "You can't learn one and just learn the other. Don't think I haven't tried ... and I fell ill for a week afterwards. Demons hardly ever fall ill, much less warlocks. This is the only valid explanation, unless you can think of a better one."
"Think of it like that Book you lesser fairies all dote over - even though there have been scores of better books about magic. Apparently if you enter a human dwelling without being invited in - a foolish thing to do, since there's nothing interesting about a human dwelling, you begin to retch and eventually lose your magic. Well, it's similar with attempting to mix both languages into your consciousness - except instead of losing magic, which most demons and angels don't have, you die."
"But why isn't this rule mentioned in the Book?" True to his paranoid nature, Foaly wasn't one to accept something until he was absolutely sure it could be true, and what better way to do that than to question it himself?
No.1 answered this time. "Demons aren't in the Book at all - nor are warlocks, even though we're one of the most magical of all the species."
"Angels aren't, either," Qwan added helpfully.
There was a long pause, during which Qwan got off the broken-down chair and stretched, rubbing his head and muttering about too many questions. No.1 was quiet as always, immersed in his thoughts. He certainly had a lot to think about. Foaly gave the symbols another close look, scrutinising them for something that he could relate to after the discussion. He wondered what Trouble would say if he told him about the existence of another powerful species. The young commander would probably turn bright red, grow a cigar out of his mouth and transform into Julius Root.
"Alright," the centaur said at length. "So the child of an angel and demon is what we're dealing with here. But against the whole of the Lower Elements Police, I doubt it would stand much of a chance, besides you and No.1 being there to combat them."
Qwan turned to him, his face entirely serious. There was almost fear in the warlock's eyes - a weary, old fear. "An angel is a formidable opponent to any warlock or demon. Whatever power this creature has, it's an amalgam of both of the strongest types of magic... and so easily more powerful than mine or No.1's. The LEP, as far as I've seen, have foregone working on their magic for unnatural weaponry - they won't pose much of a threat at all. As for me and No.1..." He glanced at the younger warlock. "We'll do what we can.
Butler swerved into the Fowl Manor driveway, the gate opening automatically for the car after scanning its registration plate. It shut behind them immediately, and if they hadn't lost their pursuers long ago, no other vehicles would've been able to enter.
There hadn't been any time to put on seatbelts, and as such Artemis was sprawled in his seat, his suit crumpled and his arm pinned down uncomfortably by his own leg. Holly was considerably less ruffled, having been part of far too many shuttle races to not know what to do in that type of situation. She'd had the additional job of taking care of the body, which was, in contrast to Artemis, quite carefully positioned on the seat without so much as a bruise.
The car slowed to a halt, and Butler turned in his seat to look back at them, wincing slightly at the sight of his tangled principal. "Is everything intact?"
"Of course," Artemis said smoothly - punctuating this with what would have been an equally smooth unravelling of his limbs, had he been able to do it. Instead, he managed a feeble tug, banging his head against the window in the process.
Holly watched him in amusement. "Need any help there, genius?"
Choosing to ignore this, Artemis tugged again, this time successfully dislodging his arm. He then checked the unconscious man's pulse.
"Good," he muttered, looking up. "What of mother and the twins?"
"They're inside. You'll just have to avoid them for now; I'll try and explain the situation," Butler replied, opening the car door. "Let's go."
Holly kicked open the car door and got out, stretching briefly. Artemis followed, shielding his eyes from the sun which the clouds were reluctantly beginning to uncover. The beams spread themselves proudly, and the momentary warmth was welcome. Only three days ago, he had dutifully sat out here in similar sunshine with Myles and Beckett, trying to read a chapter of 'Gulliver's Travels' to the pair. They'd seemed far more interested in burying each other in grass.
Minutes later, they were in the house, with Butler laying the body on a table that looked like it had been designed specifically for that purpose. Indeed, it probably had been.
"He's breathing evenly," noted Artemis. "He'll be awake soon."
Butler nodded. "You two will have to interrogate him. I'll deal with your mother, and I'll also have to pay for that car, otherwise you might have a few more enemies on your hands."He slipped out of the door, and it clicked shut behind him.
Holly sighed. "More waiting."
"You haven't waited at all since your arrival," Artemis pointed out. "Besides, he'll be awake shortly."
"I could shoot him on low power," Holly ventured. "He'd be awake a lot less shortly then."
"No," he said firmly. "It's important that he's in a neutral state when questioned."
She shrugged. "In my experience, prisoners always talk more when threatened with a broken bone, or three."
There was a pause. "In Root's experience, you mean."
Holly smiled slightly. "Of course." She'd taken that quote right from the now-deceased Commander. He'd always loved interrogations - probably because they were the only time he could vent some of the steam that always seemed to be building up in his skull.
"Gung-ho," Artemis admitted, "but not practical."
He saw it out of the corner of his eye. A slight flicker of the eyebrow and the smallest of tensions in the forehead.
"Shield - in case," Artemis said quickly, before turning his full attention to the man spread out on the table. He was in no danger - he'd long since emptied out the assassin's pockets of any potential weapons. Now was the time to extract information. A delicate task.
The man sat up and opened his eyes, not looking surprised in the least. He took in his surroundings with a quick turn of the head and then faced Artemis.
"You're alive," he said evenly, as if observing the weather. His eyes flitted about the room briefly, not seeming to focus on anything. Not even the priceless tapestry from mid-Medieval Scotland, nor the antique suits of armour that gleamed in the sunlight streaming through the single window. His eyes passed on, and fixed themselves on a blank part of the wall,
Artemis examined his fingernails. "I imagine you know why you're here."
"I do," came the reply.
"Then you know it'd be wise to co-operate."
"But I know," said the man. His mouth suddenly split into a delighted smile. "I'm Mark. I know exactly why I'm here, and what's more..." He suddenly cut himself off.
Artemis looked up from his fingernails and cleared his throat. "Who is your contractor? Who hired your ... ah, inadequate services? And perhaps more importantly, how human were they?"
The man tipped his head back, his eyes rolling upwards, as if in exasperation. Artemis watched his body language. Relaxed shoulders, no tension. Either this man was extremely confident, or he was extremely stupid. Both notions were unnerving.
"You're up against three," he said abruptly, in a neutral voice. "Two female, one male. No, we're not human, although you've probably figured that out by now. I can't believe this is ... Inp, don't you dare..."
A pause. Artemis glanced around for the familiar heat haze that was Holly, spotting her hovering a few feet above his head. He hoped she was recording this.
"One of the two remaining Human to People links, Artemis Fowl... this is a warning. I -"
The man suddenly slumped sideways without warning, tumbling off the chair and onto the floor with a short gasp. Artemis checked the vitals, but he already knew the man was dead.
Holly landed and unshielded. She'd seen this before. It was standard criminal procedure - if someone gets captured, kill him and do it before he talks. Root loved it, as it meant he could lock up two goblins at the price of one - goblins weren't very discreet about the operation.
"Look," Artemis said, rolling back the eyelids to reveal ragged pupils. The centre of each was clouded, stained with a milky-white fog.
"So he was mesmerised," nodded Holly, crouching down beside him to look. "So what?"
"Pupils are dark because eye tissue absorbs light. Whoever this man is, he was mesmerised so much that his pupils eroded from the centre." Artemis closed the eyes, feeling a twinge of sympathy. "He should've been near blind, and yet he saw well enough to identify and fire at me from fifteen metres away."
"Not sure how he died, though. I scanned the area and there aren't even any wave traces."
Artemis stood up. "Two females and one male, with an affinity for the mesmer. That's all we've got."
She grinned. "We've had worse."
I barely proofread this, so please point out any mistakes.