Me, working out how to deal with the official ending of my childhood, with the closing of the final series I grew up with. Apart from the Faraway Tree series, but I don't think Enid Blyton's in any position to finish those.

Told as a fairytale, because books with fairies are invariably fairytales, right?

DISCLAIMER: Not Eoin Colfer.

The Little Metal Boy

Once upon a time – which is how all stories with fairies start, right? Once upon a time, a hero, a princess, a dungeon and a wicked queen. Dragons, quests to find lost treasure, journeys to far off lands and back home again. Houses divided and the return of old enemies. And, then there is a kiss. Isn't there always a kiss? Just like there is always a beginning, a Once upon a time, and then there is always a happily ever after.

That's the way it used to be.

But now, little one, sometimes we have to be happy that there is an after at all.

In the beginning

the hero / the little metal boy / our artemis fowl

Once upon a time, there was a little boy, and he was made of metal. I know, you know this one, my dear, but the best stories are the ones we hear a hundred times.

He was hard and polished on the outside, cold and shiny on the inside. He kept his gears polished and well oiled and updated and they ticked over faster than any gears ever seen before. The little metal boy was proud of his silver skin and quick-ticking gears, even if they meant he was clumsier than the rest of the boys, who were made of wood or sand and had slower gears, older gears, older ideas.

The little metal boy's mother was made of glass and his father was made of gold, which meant he'd sunk to the bottom of the icy ocean without trace. They couldn't let his mother crack after this, so she was kept in the attic, wrapped in blankets and lily petals. Without his glass mother and gold father the little metal boy reset his gears so they spun ever faster and decided he must be like father. He would remake himself in gold and save the family from ruin. He would stop his mother from shattering.

The little metal boy had a protector, a patchwork man of metal, sand, clay and wood, towering like a tree and strong like the tides. He had seen much, bore scars from a thousand battles, and knew of arts the little metal boy could never learn. And he was to help the little boy find the gold.

The little metal boy decided he would take the gold from the fairies, because this is a fairytale, right? It started with Once upon a time, so it must be.

the princess / the fire fairy / our holly short

Once upon a time, there was a young fairy, and she was full of fire.

She was polished and hard on the outside, sure and confident on the inside, but softer than anyone could know. She was proud of her wiry strength and cropped red hair, the fiery spark of determination shining through her eyes.

Her spirit was fire, and it gave her strength and made her brave and made her first, the first female fairy to play with the big Knights and to fight with them and win. But she knew they weren't her friends, because no matter how much she fought and won, and joked and laughed with them, she was still a she and that is the issue. A girl can't be a hero, can she? They're only princesses in fairytales, right?

That's where you're wrong, little one. The fire fairy was a knight of the Fair Folk, and had a guide, a man who acted like he hated her but deep down she was a daughter to him. And the fire fairy knew this, and pushed herself to try and please him, to be the best and bravest knight the Fair Folk had ever seen.

But fire is restless and reckless. The fire fairy was a knight of the old school, and she pushed herself so hard and so far she found herself asking the Gods to restore her power, in the bend by the river by the old Oak. In the full moon's light she found her acorn and –

Once upon a time, a little metal boy caught a fairy made of fire.

Book One

the dungeon / the cold / the stone

"I don't like lollipops."

The little metal boy, his gears ticking over, locked the fire fairy in a room in the earth, but still the earth was blocked from her by the cold and by the walls of stone. All of us need the earth, and the sky, and the water and fire – because that's what fairytales are made of, and what we are all made of, little one. Fairies need it more, and the fire fairy needed it more than most.

The fire fairy kicked and screamed and beat at the walls and the little metal boy felt a spring come loose. He watched, and opened his chest and tried to find the loose spring. It wasn't anywhere he could see.

The patchwork man watched and judged silently, but kept his wise mouth shut, because being wise sometimes means letting people learn for themselves. Alternatively, little one, the patchwork man knew the little metal boy wouldn't have listened anyway.

The fire fairy felt she didn't have friends in the underground, but she was wrong. They fought for her and her freedom, threw their blue time-magic up around the stone rooms and she, in turn came out with the gold the little metal boy had fought so hard for.

She was bumped and scraped by him, the fire fairy and the little metal boy. She would admit it and think of it and talk of it and deal with the hatred that raged in her, a fire hotter, and more dangerous than her own sparks.

The little metal boy, for all his brilliance, and ticking gears, forgot that metal melts. Because he had his mother back, and that was all he had wanted, deep down under his gears.

He would remember melting a long time later, when it mattered again.

Book Two

The wicked queen / the ice pixie / opal koboi


Once upon a time, there was a pixie made of ice, and a world of snow – I think you know this too, little one, or have you forgotten already? The ice-pixie manipulated the fairy world and trapped the metal boy and the fire fairy together in a world of white. Once the ice-pixie could have been beautiful and a true gift to the Fair Folk, her brilliance shining like an opal or diamond.

But as she grew she was twisted by anger, and hate and loneliness and so she tried to trick the fairy people. She in turn was manipulated by a wicked warlock, one with a melted face and burning hatred in his soul. He was what the fire fairy could become if she dwelled too long on the little metal boy. But the fire fairy was made of stronger stuff than he.

The Fair Folk despaired and wondered who could have wrought such terror on their people. And they turned to the little metal boy and blamed him, but it was not his fault, little one. The little metal boy used his gears and said he would help the Fair Folk, but in return the fire fairy and her guide must help him find his golden father. Remember, little one, he had sunk to the bottom of the ocean.

The ice pixie thought this was all very good fun and believed the little band of heroes and villains to be of no threat. But she was wrong, so very wrong, because fire and metal together mean sparks. Sparks of anger, sparks of fear and sparks of brilliance.

Atoms accelerate when they're heated. The fire fairy made the little metal boy not just quick and bright and shiny, but blazing and brave. They were quite a team, and one we know quite well, don't we?

Loath as they were to admit it, they knew it too. The little metal boy and his patchwork man saved the fairies from a terrible fate, and in return, the fire fairy went to the bottom of the ocean and found his golden father. And for a while, little one, they all lived happily, but it wasn't ever after.

Book Three

The dragon / the days yet to come / jon spiro

"See you in my dreams."

Once upon a time, there was a metal man who loved gold like the little metal boy did, for the man had taken the soul of a dragon and dragons are greedy. You know that well, don't you little one? Dragons can be protectors and guard the innocent and warm the cold, but so many choose to be greedy.

These greedy dragons are invariably lonely, little one. Gold is gold forever, but love is many things at once. Gold is cold. Friends and family and excitement are warm and cold and exciting and dull and what we all need. Don't roll your eyes at me, it's true.

He sat in his tower and hoarded his gold in piles. The gold was beautiful, but the man was not. His gears were rusted and covered in grime, and his tin heart was shrunken in his chest. It rattled when it beat. The little metal boy tried to play dragon with him, but the dragon took the little metal boy's toy, for he had made a mistake. The little metal boy had made a mistake, and now everyone would pay.

The little metal boy (who couldn't really be called little any more) saw himself reflected in the metal man and hated what he saw. He had made the patchwork man tear himself apart and split his seams, made the fire fairy look at him with disgust. The Fair Folk were tired of the little metal boy endangering the innocent and spreading terror – even though he hadn't meant to – and so wished to cut out his memories.

But the little metal boy couldn't let the Fair Folk cut out his memories, little one, and so his gears span and he came up with a plan. He made many plans, but the one he undertook with his friends and family was of course the most exciting. They raided the dragons den and took back the little metal boy's toy, and the little metal boy did as his golden father would, and stole the dragon's gold.

And then, little one, he gave the gold to the innocent and the endangered. But still, the Fair Folk took their knives and their magic, and cut his memories out.

The fire fairy found herself missing the little metal boy and his patchwork man. She hated herself for it, for caring for someone so close to becoming a dragon. She sat and thought and missed the two humans but kept it to herself as she couldn't be weak in front of the other knights.

Remember this, little one, and don't look so sad. Fire can never forget what it forges, and the fire fairy had made changes to the metal boy, just as he had made changes to her.

The Fair Folk cut out the little metal boy, and the patchwork man's memories, and then there was an ending, little one. Just not a happily ever after.

For now, though, that shall be the end. Close your eyes, little one. I'll tell you the rest tomorrow. Sleep tight.

Breaks off there because that was where it was going to originally end, after The Eternity Code. Good thing it didn't, huh?

Reviews, as always, are appreciated. It's good to be (sporadically) back.