Hey, everyone! I`m back! Okay, on with the chapter.
BTW: You all should read ThyHuntress`s fics and review them. They are pretty good but it`s that lack of reviews that worry me. The poor author/authoress.
I do not own Artemis Fowl
"So, who wants to read next?" asked Trouble.
"I will," Artemis volunteered. Trouble handed the book to him. Artemis flipped to the next page and began to read.
Ho Chi Minh City in the summer. Sweltering by anyone's standards. Needless to say, Artemis Fowl would not have been willing to put up with such discomfort if something extremely important had not been at stake. Important to the plan.
Sun did not suit Artemis.
He did not look well in it. Long hours indoors in front of a computer screen had bleached the glow from his skin. He was white as a vampire and almost as testy in the light of day. "I hope this isn't another wild-goose chase, Butler," he said, his voice soft and clipped. "Especially after Cairo."
"What were you doing in Cairo?" asked Annabeth, curiously.
"It will say in the book, preferably—the next paragraph," Artemis said.
It was a gentle rebuke. They had traveled to Egypt on the word of Butler's informant.
"No, sir. I'm certain this time. Nguyen is a good man."
Foaly rolled his eyes as his hoofs clomped against the floor. "No one who associates with Artemis in business is a good man."
There were a few nods to this. Artemis just frowned but even he knew that was true. Damn it.
"Hmm," droned Artemis, unconvinced.
Passersby would have been amazed to hear the large Eurasian man refer to the boy as sir. This was, after all, the third millennium. But this was no ordinary relationship, and these were no ordinary tourists.
"Of course. Artemis is never just `ordinary tourist,'" Holly murmured. "That is, unless Orion is in presence. But then he`d be a strange, blubbering fool tourist."
Many concerned looked were directed her way.
They were sitting outside a curbside cafe on Dong Khai Street, watching the local teenagers circle the square on mopeds.
Nguyen was late, and the pathetic patch of shade provided by the umbrella was doing little to improve Artemis's mood. But this was just his daily pessimism. Beneath the sulk was a spark of hope. Could this trip actually yield results? Would they find the Book? It was too much to hope for.
A waiter scurried to their table.
"More tea, sirs?" he asked, head bobbing furiously.
Artemis sighed. "Spare me the theatrics, and sit down."
Athena frowned. "Well, that was rude."
The waiter turned instinctively to Butler, who was after all, the adult.
A small growl came from Artemis. He hated that!
"But, sir, I am the waiter."
Artemis tapped the table for attention.
"You are wearing handmade loafers, a silk shirt, and three gold signet rings. Your English has a tinge of Oxford about it, and your nails have the soft sheen of the recently manicured. You are not a waiter. You are our contact Nguyen Xuan, and you have adopted this pathetic disguise to discreetly check for weaponry."
Those who did not know Artemis sent amazed looks his way.
Nguyen's shoulders sagged. "It is true. Amazing."
"Hardly. A ragged apron does not a waiter make."
Nguyen sat, pouring some mint tea into a tiny china cup.
For some unknown reason, Percy, suddenly, burst out laughing. Everyone stared at him in confusion and concern for his mental health.
After his laughter started to decrease, Annabeth frowned at her boyfriend. "Umm, what were you laughing about? There is absolutely nothing funny about what was just said."
"Oh, that. I was just thinking of a Cyclops drinking out of a tiny, china cup," Percy said. Needless to say, many were worried about his sanity.
Hmm, it seems as if Seaweed Brain and his son have a lot in common, Athena thought.
"Let me fill you in on the weapons status," continued Artemis. "I am unarmed. But Butler here, my . . . ah . . . butler, has a Sig Sauer in his shoulder holster, two shrike- throwing knives in his boots, a derringer two-shot up his sleeve, garrotte wire in his watch, and three stun grenades concealed in various pockets. Anything else, Butler?"
"The cosh, sir."
Holly glanced, wearily, at Butler then Artemis. "Of course there was a cosh."
"Oh, yes. A good old ball bearing cosh stuffed down his shirt."
Nguyen brought the cup trembling to his lips.
"The poor man. He needs to eat more cereal," Demeter said. Hades glanced, disconcerted, at the goddess of agriculture.
"What does cereal have anything to do with this?" he burst out.
"Hmph. It has much to do with this," Demeter shot back.
"No, no it doesn`t, woman!"
"That is coming from the man who kidnapped my poor daughter!"
"What on Olympus does that have to do with this book or argument?"
"It has much—"
Not wanting a nasty argument to get out of hand, Artemis continued reading.
"Don't be alarmed, Mister Xuan." Artemis smiled. "The weapons will not be used on you."
"Are you sure…"
Nguyen didn't seem reassured.
Trouble rolled his eyes. "Of course he didn`t."
"No," continued Artemis. "Butler could kill you a hundred different ways without the use of his weapons. Though I'm sure one would be quite sufficient."
Nguyen was by now thoroughly spooked. Artemis generally had that effect on people. A pale adolescent speaking with the authority and vocabulary of a powerful adult. Nguyen had heard the name Fowl before - who hadn't in the international underworld? - but he'd assumed he'd be dealing with Artemis senior, not this boy.
Artemis glared at the book.
Though the word "boy" hardly seemed to do this gaunt individual justice. And the giant, Butler. It was obvious that he could snap a man's backbone like a twig with those mammoth hands. Nguyen was starting to think that no amount of money was worth another minute in this strange company.
"Strange, you have no idea."
"And now to business," said Artemis, placing a micro recorder on the table. "You answered our Web advertisement."
Trouble turned to Foaly. "Web advertisement?"
Nguyen nodded, suddenly praying that his information was accurate.
"Yes, Mister . . . Master Fowl. What you're looking for . . . I know where it is."
"Really? And am I supposed to take your word for this? You could be walking me straight into an ambush. My family is not without enemies."
"And still counting…"
Butler snatched a mosquito out of the air beside his employer's ear.
"No, no," said Nguyen, reaching for his wallet. "Here, look."
Artemis studied the Polaroid. He willed his heart to maintain a calm beat. It seemed promising, but anything could be faked these days with a PC and flatbed scanner.
"Barbarians," muttered Foaly.
The picture showed a hand reaching from layered shadows. A mottled green hand.
"Hmm," he murmured. "Explain."
"This woman. She is a healer, near Tu Do Street. She works in exchange for rice wine. All the time, drunk."
Artemis nodded. It made sense. The drinking. One of the few consistent facts his research had unearthed.
He stood, pulling the creases from his white polo shirt.
"Very well. Lead on, Mister Xuan."
Nguyen wiped the sweat from his stringy mustache.
"Information only. That was the agreement. I don't want any curses on my head."
Butler expertly gripped the informant behind the neck.
There were a few glances sent to Butler. Mostly, they were terrified ones.
"I'm sorry, Mister Xuan, but the time when you had a choice in matters is long past."
Butler steered the protesting Vietnamese man to the rented four-wheel drive, that was hardly necessary on the flat streets of Ho Chi Minh City, or Saigon as the locals still called it, but Artemis preferred to be as insulated from civilians as possible.
The Jeep inched forward at a painfully slow rate, made all the more excruciating by the anticipation building in Artemis's chest. He could suppress it no longer. Could they at last be at the end of their quest? After six false alarms across three continents, could this wine-sodden healer be the gold at the end of the rainbow? Artemis almost chuckled. Gold at the end of the rainbow. He'd made a joke.
That made Percy blinked.
"What kind of joke is that?" he asked. But he didn`t dare say anything else when he saw the icy glare sent to him by Artemis.
Now there's something that didn't happen every day.
"Nah, actually, you have been joking around more often these days," said Mulch.
The mopeds parted like fish in a giant shoal. There seemed to be no end to the crowds. Even the alleyways were full to bursting with vendors and hagglers. Cooks dropped fish heads into woks of hissing oil,
Grover and all the elves grimaced in disgust. Grover, because he was thinking of all the pollution that was probably there. The elves, because of the thought of meat and oil.
and urchins threaded their way underfoot searching for unguarded valuables. Others sat in the shade, wearing out their thumbs on Game Boys.
Nguyen was sweating right through his khaki top. It wasn't the humidity, he was used to that. It was this whole cursed situation. He should've known better than to mix magic and crime. He made a silent promise that if he got out of this, he would change his ways. No more answering shady Internet requests and certainly no more consorting with the sons of European crime lords.
Thinking, Holly glanced at Artemis. "Well, at least you got a criminal to change his ways."
The Jeep could go only so far. Eventually the side streets grew too narrow for the four-wheel drive. Artemis turned to Nguyen. "It seems we must proceed on foot, Mister Xuan. Run if you like, but expect a sharp and fatal pain between your shoulder blades."
Nguyen glanced into Butler's eyes. They were a deep blue, almost black. There was no mercy in those eyes. "Don't worry," he said. "I won't run."
They climbed down from the vehicle. A thousand suspicious eyes followed their progress along the steaming alley. An unfortunate pickpocket attempted to steal Butler's wallet. The manservant broke the man's fingers without looking down. They were given a wide berth after that.
The alley narrowed to a rutted lane. Sewage and drainpipes fed directly on to the muddy surface.
So much pollution, thought Holly. All the elves and Grover were thinking things very similar.
Cripples and beggars huddled on rice-mat islands. Most of the residents of this lane had nothing to spare, with the exception of three.
"Well?" demanded Artemis. "Where is she?"
"Impatient, are we?" Mulch said.
Nguyen jabbed a finger toward a black triangle beneath a rusted fire escape.
"There. Under there. She never comes out. Even to buy rice spirits she sends a runner. Now, can I go?"
Artemis didn't bother answering. Instead he picked his way across the puddled lane to the lee of the fire escape. He could discern furtive movements in the shadows.
"Butler, could you hand me the goggles?"
Butler plucked a set of night-vision glasses from his belt and placed them in Artemis's outstretched hand. The focus motor buzzed to suit the light.
Artemis fixed the glasses to his face. Everything became radioactive green. Taking a deep breath he turned his gaze to the squirming shadows. Something squatted on a raffia mat, shifting uneasily in the almost nonexistent light. Artemis fine-tuned the focus. The figure was small, abnormally so, and wrapped in a filthy shawl. Empty spirit jugs were half-buried in the mud around her. One forearm poked from the material. It seemed green. But then, so did everything else.
"Madam," he said. "I have a proposition for you."
The figure's head wobbled sleepily.
"Wine," she rasped, her voice like nails on a school board. "Wine, English."
Artemis smiled. The gift of tongues, check. Aversion to light, check.
"Hmm, Irish," muttered Annabeth.
actually. Now, about my proposition?"
The healer shook a bony finger craftily. "Wine first. Then talk."
The bodyguard reached into a pocket, and drew out a half pint of the finest Irish whiskey.
Holly frowned. Why did she have a feeling that it wasn`t an ordinary half pint of Irish whiskey?
Artemis took the bottle and held it teasingly beyond the shadows. He barely had time to remove his goggles when the claw-like hand darted from the gloom to snatch the whiskey. A mottled green hand. There was no doubt.
Artemis swallowed a triumphant grin.
"Pay our friend, Butler. In full. Remember, Mister Xuan, this is between us. You don't want Butler to come back, do you?"
"No, no, Master Fowl. My lips are sealed."
"They had better be. Or Butler will seal them permanently."
Nguyen skipped off down the alley, so relieved to be alive that he didn't even bother counting the sheaf of U.S. currency. Most unlike him. In any event, it was all there. All twenty thousand dollars. Not bad for half an hour's work.
Artemis turned back to the healer.
"Now, madam, you have something that I want."
The healer's tongue caught a drop of alcohol at the corner of her mouth.
"Yes, Irish. Sore head. Bad tooth. I heal."
Artemis replaced the night-vision goggles and squatted to her level.
"I am perfectly healthy, madam, apart from a slight dust-mite allergy,
"Absolutely not, Holly."
and I don't think even you can do anything about that. No. What I want from you is your Book."
The hag froze. Bright eyes glinted from beneath the shawl.
"Book?" she said cautiously. "I don't know about no book. I am healer. You want book, go to library."
Artemis sighed with exaggerated patience. "You are no healer. You are a sprite, p'shóg, fairy, ka-dalun. Whichever language you prefer to use. And I want your Book."
Foaly looked slightly impressed.
For a long moment, the creature said nothing, then she threw back the shawl from her forehead. In the green glow of the night-vision goggles, her features leaped at Artemis like a Halloween mask. The fairy's nose was long and hooked under two slitted golden eyes. Her ears were pointed, and the alcohol addiction had melted her skin like putty.
"If you know about the Book, human," she said slowly, fighting the numbing effects of the whiskey, "then you know about the magic I have in my fist. I can kill you with a snap of my fingers!"
Artemis shrugged. "I think not. Look at you. You are near dead. The rice wine has dulled your senses. Reduced to healing warts. Pathetic. I am here to save you, in return for the Book."
"What could a human want with our Book?"
"How about kidnapping a female Captain?"
"That is no concern of yours. All you need to know are your options."
The sprite's pointed ears quivered. "Options?"
"One, you refuse to give us the Book and we go home, leaving you to rot in this sewer."
"Yes," said the fairy. "I choose this option."
"Ah no. Don't be so eager. If we leave without the Book, you will be dead in a day."
"A day! A day!" the healer laughed. "I will outlive you by a century. Even fairies tethered to the human realm can survive the ages."
"Not with half a pint of holy water inside them," said Artemis, tapping the now empty whiskey bottle.
"Holy water?" Holly cried out. "That could kill!"
The fairy blanched, then screamed, a high keening horrible sound.
"Holy water! You have murdered me, human."
"True," admitted Artemis. "It should start to burn any minute now."
Many glares were directed to Artemis about his lack of care for a life. Artemis hung his head. Wanting to comfort her friend, Holly scooted closer to him and threw her arm around his neck. That seemed to cheer Artemis up. In fact, maybe it was a little too much for normality.
The fairy poked her stomach tentatively. "The second option?"
"Listening now, are we? Very well then. Option two. You give me the Book for thirty minutes only. Then I return your magic to you."
"That`s impossible!" shouted Foaly. Many of the Percy Jackson gang looked very curious now.
The sprite's jaw dropped. "Return my magic? Not possible."
"Oh, but it is. I have in my possession two ampoules. One, a vial of spring water from the fairy well sixty meters below the ring of Tara - possibly the most magical place on Earth. This will counteract the holy water."
"Hmm, that might actually work," Foaly said.
"It would?" asked Annabeth.
"And the other?"
"The other is a little shot of man-made magic. A virus that feeds on alcohol, mixed with a growth agent. It will flush every drop of rice wine from your body, remove the dependence, and even bolster your failing liver. It'll be messy, but after a day you'll be zipping around as though you were a thousand years old again."
The sprite licked her lips. To be able to rejoin the People? Tempting.
Trouble rolled his eyes. Like that sprite was going to rejoin the People. Sarcasm.
"How do I know to trust you, human? You have tricked me once already."
"And he will keep on doing it to others, even his friends," muttered Holly, sadly. Artemis looked down.
"Good point. Here's the deal. I give you the water on faith. Then, after I've had a look at the Book, you get the booster. Take it or leave it."
"Don`t take it."
"Foaly, you do know that you are talking to a book?"
"Of course I do, Miss Annabeth."
The fairy considered. The pain was already curling around her abdomen. She thrust out her wrist. "I'll take it."
"I thought you might. Butler?"
The giant manservant unwrapped a soft Velcroed case containing a syringe gun and two vials. He loaded the clear one, shooting it into the sprite's clammy arm. The fairy stiffened momentarily, and then relaxed.
"Strong magic," she breathed.
"Yes. But not as strong as your own will be when I give you the second injection. Now, the Book."
The sprite reached into the folds of her filthy robe, rummaging for an age. Artemis held his breath. This was it. Soon the Fowls would be great again. A new empire would rise, with Artemis Fowl the Second at its head.
Goddess Artemis looked in disgust at the boy with her name. Boys were all the same. They only want riches and money. They wouldn`t care about anything else.
The fairy woman withdrew a closed fist. "No use to you anyway. Written in the old tongue."
Artemis nodded, not trusting himself to speak.
She opened her knobbly fingers. Lying in her palm was a tiny golden volume the size of a matchbox.
"That`s all?" asked Thalia.
"It may seem small, but it is much more valuable than that."
"Here, human. Thirty of your minutes. No more."
Butler took the tiny tome reverentially. The body-guard activated a compact digital camera and began photographing each wafer-thin page of the Book. The process took several minutes. When he was finished, the entire volume was stored on the camera's chip. Artemis preferred not to take chances with information. Airport security equipment had been known to wipe many a vital disk. So he instructed his aide to transfer the file to his portable phone, and from there e-mail it to Fowl Manor in Dublin. Before the thirty minutes were up, the file containing every symbol in the Fairy Book was sitting safely in the Fowl server.
Artemis returned the tiny volume to its owner. "Nice doing business with you."
The sprite lurched to her knees. "The other potion, human?"
Artemis smiled. "Oh yes, the restoring booster. I suppose I did promise."
"Yes. Human promised."
"He may be a liar, but he still does keep his promises," Holly admitted.
"Very well. But before we administer it, I must warn you that purging is not pleasant. You're not going to enjoy this one bit."
The fairy gestured around her at the squalid filth. "You think I enjoy this? I want to fly again."
Butler loaded the second vial, shooting this one straight into the carotid artery.
The sprite immediately collapsed on the mat, her entire frame quivering violently.
"Time to leave," commented Artemis. "A hundred years of alcohol leaving a body by any means possible is not a pretty sight."
The Butlers had been serving the Fowls for centuries. It had always been that way. Indeed, there were several eminent linguists of the opinion that this was how the common noun had originated. The first record of this unusual arrangement was when Virgil Butler had been contracted as servant, bodyguard, and cook to Lord Hugo de F—le for one of the first great Norman crusades.
Percy looked interested. "Cool."
At the age of ten, Butler children were sent to a private training center in Israel, where they were taught the specialized skills necessary to guard the latest in the Fowl line. These skills included Cordon Bleu cooking, marksmanship, a customized blend of martial arts, emergency medicine, and information technology. If, at the end of their training, there was not a Fowl to guard, then the Butlers were eagerly snapped up as bodyguards for various royal personages, generally in Monaco or Saudi Arabia.
Once a Fowl and a Butler were put together, they were paired for life. It was a demanding job, and lonely, but the rewards were handsome if you survived to enjoy them. If not, then your family received a six-figure settlement plus a monthly pension.
"Okay," Grover said in a small voice. Many were startled to hear him talk. He was quiet during most of the chapter, anyways.
The current Butler had been guarding young Master Artemis for twelve years, since the moment of his birth. And, though they adhered to the age-old formalities, they were much more than master and servant. Artemis was the closest thing Butler had to a friend, and Butler was the closest Artemis had to a father, albeit one who obeyed orders.
Some goddesses looked at Artemis is sympathy, even the goddess Artemis.
Butler held his tongue until they were aboard the Heathrow connection from Bangkok, then he had to ask. "Artemis?"
Artemis looked up from the screen of his PowerBook. He was getting a head start on the translation.
"So eager, eh Mud Boy?" Mulch asked. Artemis just scowled.
"The sprite. Why didn't we simply keep the Book and leave her to die?"
"A corpse is evidence, Butler. My way, the People will have no reason to be suspicious."
"We wouldn`t have cared anyways. She`s exiled," Holly said.
"I was new to that information," Artemis said, rolling his deep blue eyes. For some reason, Holly thought this was very attractive.
Aphrodite smirked as she felt a wave of love and lusts from somewhere near the right side of the room. Oh, how much she will love messing with a cross-species love…
"But the sprite?"
"I hardly think she will confess to showing humans the Book. In any case, I mixed a slight amnesiac into her second injection. When she finally wakes up, the last week will be a blur."
After thinking this over, Annabeth said, "Hmm, smart."
Butler nodded appreciatively. Always two steps ahead, that was Master Artemis. People said he was a chip off the old block. They were wrong. Master Artemis was a brand- new block, the likes of which had never been seen before.
Many elves nodded and agreed to this.
Doubts assuaged, Butler returned to his copy of Guns and Ammo, leaving his employer to unravel the secrets of the universe.
"Dun, dun, dun…"
Irritated, Artemis rolled his eyes at Mulch and said, "The chapter is done."
"I`d like to read next, Fowl," Vinyàya volunteered. Artemis nodded and handed the book to her.
Hey, hey how was that! Review, and also—I had a chat with one of my reviewers and he/she (profile didn`t really say the gender) said that I should chose the latter of an advertisement I am doing for one of the author on this site. He/she said that the first was too scary. Ahh, chucks—I really wanted to scare the pants off someone today.
PRETTY PRETTY PLEASE READ AND REVIEW THYHUNTRESS`S FICS! THEY ARE REALLY GOOD!-BATS EYELASHES AT YOU AND GIVES YOU THE ADORABLE LITTLE GIRL PUPPY DOG EYES-.
Hmm, could I have done better? Review about what you think. And I am serious about what I said above. Now on you go you little youngsters (okay, that makes me sound old. I assure you that I`m only 11) and read and review her stories. That is if you like Artemis Fowl. And do it…or else. –laughs wickedly-