Author’s Note; I’ve decided on a theme song for this fic. It’s WWE’s wrestler Christian’s entrance, but I don’t know who sings it even though it’s a fantastic voice. Look for “Just Close Your Eyes” on YouTube, the WWE version of it. Seriously, that song reminds me so much of…well, this fic. It really does. At least of the stuff coming ahead.
I’d like to thank everyone who’s read and reviewed so far. Take note, for full effect you can’t skip over paragraphs. Don’t do that if you’re actually looking for the horror genere. Here’s chapter two.
Myles knew it was following him. It was a bit obvious, actually. The thing was making hissing noises clearly with a human tongue, and thump thumping its footsteps loudly, so by now he was growing quite agitated of Beckett. Just because it was the month of October, his brother had gone on an all-Hallows in-family torment, wearing cheap Scream masks and jumping out of corners with snow spray when they happened to pass his traps. He hadn’t been spotted this evening as of yet, but he was obviously still stalking him, and Myles briefly wondered when his twin would outgrow the phase. Seeing as he was only five years old, it could unfortunately be a while.
Myles finally arrived at his lab, the one Artemis had gifted him last year so he’d keep his experiments to himself, and unlocked the door with a roll of his eyes. He went in and didn’t bother that Beckett followed, convinced that his disguise was as devious as any.
The five-year-old started clearing up the desk he liked to think of as his favourite–which always happened to be in the most deplorable and messiest of states. Myles was pretty sure he accidentally wiped some chemical off with his bare hands in the process. Hesitating momentarily, he simply shrugged afterwards and continued putting things back in place. He liked to see it neat before going to bed. A trait he supposed he’d inherited from his mother.
Beckett leaned on one of the worktops, dropping a conical flask and a tray of magnification lenses in the process. Annoyed, Myles just ducked to pick them up. He didn’t notice that the disguise was a little too perfect ho be Beckett’s.
But when he bent, he did notice that the shoes fit the intruder perfectly, and said intruder didn’t have the foot size of a toddler. Mud-soaked trainers. He’d never seen that pair before.
Well, the best course of action would be to alert Butler on this, he reasoned, staying calm. Leaving the fallen items where they were, Myles slowly rose to his feet and kept his gaze on the ground. I should look surrendering. The moment he leaves this lab, he is completely exposed to Butler on his rounds.
So Myles raised his palms in surrender.
The intruder simply bent low enough to be at eye-level, and tilted his head.
Myles shouldn’t have looked. Because as soon as he did, whatever calm he had just gathered immediately shattered and he was shutting his eyes tight, involuntarily shivering, wishing that he…it…whatever…was just a nightmare. A terrible, blood curdling nightmare that would’ve woken him up sweating, but a nightmare nonetheless.
“No cameras?” asked Holly again, just like she had at the start of the conversation. “Absolutely none?”
Artemis sighed. “Captain, if you’re afraid of any footage leaking over the human internet, your fears are pointless. It’s not going to happen. Even if the Techno Crash, well, crashed my systems, I rebuilt the whole thing last week and not even Foaly managed to get in when I let him.”
“I’m not risking my job one more time, Artemis. And what if I just like my privacy?”
Artemis raised an eyebrow. “What am I going to do, monitor you in your sleep?”
“I don’t know. You lost your memory about the people. Maybe.”
Relenting, Artemis headed over to the lampshade and plucked the final camera hidden within it. Holly just rolled her eyes and gave him an exasperated look. “I hope the bathroom isn’t rigged.”
“Holly, I assure you. There are no cameras in any of the bathrooms,” he sounded just a little annoyed at the notion. “But in any event if someone manages to bypass security and break in, you’re completely on your own.”
“Wow, scary,” said Holly with feigned fear. She herded him out the door. “Good night, Mud Boy.”
Artemis nodded, before turning on his heel and walking away. She closed the door and headed for the shower.
Holly wasn’t used to the expensive bathroom fittings of Fowl Manor, nor the human-height ceiling over them, so the shower took some time to get adjusted to. Living near the Earth’s core had come with the privilege of hot water, something she was pretty used to by now, so she chose instead to turn on the cold shower. Simple, unprecedented bliss after a long day.
Truth be told, Artemis was nowhere near hostile now compared to how he’d been the first couple of weeks. He’d got to know them, not through years of adventuring and experience, but like normal friends. Holly was fine with that. As long as he’d wake up someday.
The LEP had a reason for allowing surface visits. The last time Artemis Fowl had lost his memory, Opal Koboi had broken out the following year, murdered a decorated Commander and designed a probe that would drill through Haven City. Opal Koboi was gone now. But who was to say that was the end of everything? It hadn’t been too difficult to win the Council debate. Foaly and Holly had simply put out the fact that they didn’t want another physcopath emerging and wrecking havoc without having someone who could foil most plans. And Artemis would only be willing to do this, they said, if he actually remembered who we are. So now Holly had a surface visa that would only expire when her human ally had fully recovered.
Holly found herself smiling at the thought. Another physcopath emerging and taking Koboi’s place. Well, it had been a while…
Holly stepped out of the bathroom wearing the usual clothes she considered sleepware, a tank top and three-quarters. Deciding she had very little time before she would knock herself out completely, she settled down on king-size-even-for-humans bed, not bothering to get rid of the bedspread, pulling a pillow under her head and closing her eyes.
Her last thought before falling asleep was, If Fowl still has a camera hidden here somewhere…
Then it was lights out.
He didn’t have a face anymore.
Literally. The…thing had previously been human. And it still was humanoid, standing on two feet and at the height of an average adult. It had protruding jawbones and usually long fingers, but its body was normal. No, Myles got a look at the face.
Two blotches of black paint on a pale face where its eyes should have been, directed inwards like limitless tunnels devoid of any light. The face had a single thin slit for a nose and grey, shriveled lips that leaked black ink from its corners, rolling down the sides of a broad chin, defying gravity and placidly tracing its jawbone. The thing tilted its expressionless, unsettling, ghostly head, and all Myles could do was keep his eyes shut.
“Hello,” it said, simply. Its lips barely parted and its voice was strained.
Myles shook his head fast. “Go away.”
It rasped. “Do you know what I am, Mud Man?”
The six year old scowled, but didn’t look. “No. No, and I don’t care. Some kind of exiled fairy? What do you want?”
He heard a choking sound that could’ve been a chuckle for all he knew. “Why, you do not recognize me then, young human? I,” he suddenly yanked Myles by his hair and spoke with gritted teeth. “Am the very Berserker you let down. The fairy warrior whom you defamed. You may have thought that we were gone, and you were right. We did leave. We did think it was trivial to continue fighting.” He leaned in uncomfortably close to the boy’s ear, close enough to let the pungent smell of the ink overload his senses. “But then we decided,” he whispered. “That slanderers and traitors deserve punishment in any battle. So tell me…”
“Artemis is dead,” spat Myles. The tight fingers pulling his hair were starting to give him a throbbing headache. “Artemis is dead, and there’s nothing you can do about it but leave us alone!”
Gobdaw snorted. “Don’t lie to me, boy. I saw him return. I saw him live. We cannot figure how, but he is alive, and you will tell me where he is.”
Myles dared to open his eyes and glare at the Berserker. It didn’t scare him anymore. It couldn’t hurt him, not in that state. Myles was willing to bet that it had occupied the body of a degrading corpse and the makeup was nothing more than a farce, to easily get at his would-be victims. And, obviously, the Berserker had magic. There were no supernatural forces at work here, but things they had dealt with before.
Except Artemis didn’t remember any of that.
“He returned,” said Myles through clenched teeth. “Yeah, and he was alive. For a while.”
Gobdaw’s featureless new face couldn’t frown, but somehow the boy knew he did. “For a while?”
“The clone didn’t last. It had insufficient time to develop in the chrysalis and didn’t function well enough to keep his organs active,” the boy scowled. “Go away, because I don’t want you reminding me of what it was like to lose him again.”
He’s convinced. Then again, I’m not entirely lying about what it felt like.
The Berserker released his grip of the boy’s hair and forced him to sit down on the floor instead. Classic hostage situation. He’s either going to threaten me into giving information, or he’s going to insist that I’m lying and then threaten me.
“Tell me, Mud Boy,” the mercuric liquid still kept wrapping itself around his jaw, even though his coarse, dry lips moved normally now. “What do you know of Fowl’s connection to the people? Why do they see him as an ally and not as the bothersome Mud creature he is?”
Myles exhaled sharply. The toxic scent of the liquid was starting to merge into the little airspace between him and his captor. He suddenly understood its purpose; which was not as another element of makeup, but as a tactic to get answers fast. A lot of people lost all sense of reason when threatened with oxygen depravation. Smart.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Myles. “He’s gone. You can’t do anything about it and you never will.”
“I already did!” shouted the boy. He didn’t have to fake tears. With the lack of air, they already came. “I answered your stupid question, okay? Artemis is dead. My brother is dead. He was a hero and that’s what the fairy people, that’s what humans are going to remember him as and there’s nothing you can do about it!”
The Berserker tilted its head again, its cold, featureless, lifeless head, and trailed its left index finger along the corners of his chin where the liquid slowly travelled back and forth. “What has he done for the People?” whispered Oro. “What has he done, Myles, besides destroy the legacy Mistress Koboi, who could’ve saved them all from the Mud Men? Besides defame the Berserker warriors, their long-standing guardians? Besides ruin the life and career of that elf whom he so deceivingly calls his close friend?”
“He saved your race from extinction,” snarled Myles. “And succeeded, unlike some.”
He shouldn’t have said that. Myles knew, the moment the words left his mouth, that he shouldn’t have said that. But it was getting difficult to breathe and the Berserker was getting on his nerves. His vision was starting to blur. He could breathe nothing but air that could kill him. The corners of his vision were dimming and the pitch holes of Oro’s face seemed to multiply unsteadily. Myles shook his head and tried to ward off the feeling, but the throbbing and dizziness weighed him down further. He could even hear banging noises from outside his head. At least they weren’t aimed at him.
The Berserker could hear them too. Gobdaw’s face spun, turning to the door, and his pits seemed to squint in irritation. He outstretched a hand at the door and the banging stopped. Myles started to wonder what kind of magic he had at his disposal, before whoever was on the other end–and it was someone very, very big–started ramming into it without a break. Oro’s borrowed lips twisted into a look of distaste. And as soon as Butler broke the door down, the Berserker was gone, vaporized into a thick black mist that left behind a lingering scent of the toxic liquid. Myles felt his senses coming back to him, and the first people his eyes landed on were Butler and a still-investigating Artemis a few desks away. The boy shakily got to his feet. He wasn’t okay, he decided. He was frightened. He was afraid of the Berserker and what it had shown itself capable of. Myles’s composure broke as soon as it had come to him. What if Gobdaw was still around somehow? What if…what it Gobdaw had seen Artemis?
Artemis stood on his toes and peered into a vent, observing into it for a few seconds before turning back towards them. “He’s gone,” he announced. “The sensors picked up a scent, so to speak. It couldn’t be identified, but did detect traces of hydrogen cyanide.” He cast a glance at Myles. “Whoever he was, and my best bet is not human, could’ve killed you.”
The six year old just stared at him. The rescue had been timely and convenient but… It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter where the Berserker is, Artemis is here. Artemis will keep me safe.
And, without waiting for Artemis to repeat his question, Myles ran into him and enveloped his waist in the most bone-crushing hug he could muster, making the older Fowl look down at him confused. But he didn’t let go, so Artemis did the only thing he could think of doing. He bent over and hugged back.
Betrayer…betrayer of your blood…
Holly turned over under the sheets, feeling squirmish and tired. Now was not the time to fall into a nightmare. Especially not one that sounded like a slithering serpent was saying it.
The elf flipped onto her back and groaned. She was going to need some earplugs. Maybe they’d keep the voices out of her head.
Slanderer of your blood!
“D’Arvit,” snapped Holly finally. “Mud Boy, are you behind this somehow?”
The air kept quiet.
“Thought so,” muttered the elf, turning over to one side. “And stay that way.”
She would’ve liked to fall asleep then. Just close her eyes, whizz off into fairyland–metaphorically speaking. It was much nicer Aboveground–and wake up eight hours later for a nice vegetarian breakfast. Also, ask Artemis why the heck he was playing recordings into her ear that night and depriving her of sleep. She would’ve really appreciated it.
But something trailed down her neck.
Holly frowned. What, the bed was rigged now? Or was she simply starting to lose it?
Her back now. Something was drawing circles on her back. The elf froze stiff. It can’t have been some prank machine at work because…because those were fingers. The skin was an alien-like texture but what she felt on her bare skin was obviously…obviously…
Preparing for the worst, Holly slowly turned to look over her shoulder. Almost immediately, she yelped.
The boy simply looked up at her and tilted his head. “Why, couldn’t you fall asleep?”
Holly yanked the sheets towards her and made sure not an inch of skin showed. The tank top was backless and she regretted it. “Fowl, what the heck are you doing here?”
Artemis sat up. “Nothing. A little experiment, if you will allow it, but I’ve done nothing as of yet.”
Holly scowled. She knew her face was red beyond embarrassment and that…that this was not happening. It must’ve been a nightmare of some kind. Or a dream. Nightmares usually didn’t look so goo–Holly caught herself. She wasn’t thinking straight. Heck, she wasn’t thinking at all.
“Fowl, before I punch a hole in your face and pull out whatever your sneaky little brain is thinking, tell me what the D’Arvitting Fronddamn Pot of Gold you’re doing in my room.”
Artemis smiled. It was a real smile and she hadn’t seen one of those in months. “Holly,” he said, his undertone soft. “I remember.”
Holly froze. And suddenly, she liked to think this was actually happening. It couldn’t have been real, but she decided she liked it.
Without thinking, she put the sheets aside and leaned forward, hugging him tight around the shoulders. Artemis hugged back. She knew she was imagining it, but she felt a grin form on his face.
“Now, Captain,” whispered the human. “Isn’t it fit to celebrate?”
“I have no idea what you mean,” frowned Holly. “You’re not even real.”
He held her at arm’s length. Holly suddenly noticed that he was wearing a plain white T-shirt–which was very…unlike him. But he wore it, and he smelt of cologne, a deep, intoxicating cologne, and he was holding her–”I can be as real as you’d like me to be, Holly.”
“You’re starting to creep me out.”
“That’s nice to know,” his grin widened and he inched a little closer. The elf trudged backwards. She didn’t like it. This wasn’t real. This was a delusion brought on by something.
“One kiss, Holly. Just grant me that and I’ll leave you alone.” He moved closer towards her. Holly trudged further back.
“No. You’re a nightmare. Get out of my head.”
“But wouldn’t you give anything,” Artemis licked his lips. “For another Rathdown Park, Holly? Wouldn’t you give anything to re-live that moment, even in a dream?” He trailed his fingers down the side of her face. “I know you. And I know you would, because you love me.”
The fingers were the wake-up call. Holly stiffened, and her first reflex that kicked in was to literally kick herself away from the form-changing Berserker and around the edge of the bed, where she immediately rose to her feet. Her brow was slicked with sweat and her heartbeat was fast. The figure on the bed just laughed and rolled over the edge to his own feet.
“A pity,” said the dead fairy. “I can shape-shift and look like whatever I want, but the hole in my ace that it’ll never feel like the real thing. Isn’t that how you caught me, Captain Short?”
Holly’s breathing was still uneven. “And I knew you were a Berserker because of that trolltrash you were saying into my ear earlier. What do you want?”
Doppelgänger Artemis smiled slyly. “I want, darling, to repay all of you for what you did to us. For the disgrace you caused to us and for the image of us you put into the People’s minds.”
“You wanted mass genocide!” shouted Holly. “There is no image you ought to have but the plain fact that you wanted billions dead!”
The Berserker scowled. “Billions of filthy Mud Men.”
“Billions of harmless innocents, thousands of years after your last war.” Holly took a few steps back. Not in retreat, but in challenge. Challenging him to attack first if he was planning on attacking. “And not even the most Mud-hating of fairies are willing to sink that low.”
Oro chuckled. His mood seemed to have suddenly changed. But he wore Artemis’s face and that made all the difference.
It’s a trick. The old tales always spoke of the Berserkers using their enemy’s weaknesses and playing on their worst fears before executing actual punishments or asking questions. Holly gritted her teeth. “Change into something else.”
The Berserker pouted. “Why? Is this painful to watch? It looks like your best friend’s body has been occupied, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it look like I inhabited it?”
“Change into something else or on Frond’s crown I swear…”
Oro laughed again, holding his hands up in surrender. “You win. I’ll change.”
Artemis’s features started to fade away, ever so slowly, starting with the corners of his face and his jaw, warping into something else, someone else, although his body commutated at an even lesser pace. Holly couldn’t begin to make a guess before most of the shape-shifting was done; and the last things to go were his beautiful, beautiful eyes, replaced by those with a softer hue of hazel while his pale skin started to gain more colour. And it kept on going until the colour was life-like.
Holly’s eyes scowled but she didn’t drop her fists. Oro had played on yet another weakness, but he wasn’t about to get away with this one. She wasn’t about to let anyone use Coral Short as a battle accessory.
Holly’s mother laughed. “Why, honey, you have a lot of fears and weaknesses to be played on.”
“Berserker, I swear I am going to–”
“You wouldn’t so much as land a punch on me,” snickered Oro. “I’ve been through your memories, Holly Short, and I know exactly the people you aren’t going to fight. I’m at the advantage here, and you should be scared. Maybe you won’t do anything to this face…but who’s to say I won’t?”
Oro changed again, and he was faster this time. Holly could only stand and watch as Coral’s features warped into that of Julius Root’s. The Berserker grinned. It was a grin so twisted and unnatural that it didn’t even fit into the departed Commander’s face.
Root’s figure began to circle her, standing straight and smart like he always used to, puffing breaths and looking smug. Oro still wore the same clothes he’d come in, and that kept reminding her of who he really was. That and the look on his face.
Root halted in his tracks and turned to face her. His grin died down and a disappointed look crossed his face. “I’ve realized something, Holly,” he whispered. It was his voice. His exact voice. “That day…that day could’ve been avoided. I could’ve lived if you hadn’t aimed at all.”
Holly was starting to shake, a dreadful feeling of foreboarding settling on her shoulders. “If I…hadn’t aimed?”
“You hit the spot. It connected the last circuits Koboi’s explosion needed. It was your fault, Holly.”
Holly shook her head. “No. No, Julius would never–”
“But Julius is dead,” said Oro, who had now warped into a familiar centaur. “And it was your fault.”
Holly clutched the back of her head and clenched her teeth tight, as if somehow trying to keep the Berserker’s words from reaching her ears. She couldn’t fight him. He was right, she couldn’t so much as land a punch on him. He had found a weak spot and he was attacking it. And his voice…he could manipulate his voice.
Foaly continued to pace mournfully, head hung, quiet. “Commander Root was a brilliant fairy,” he mumbled, almost to himself. “And we lost him. We lost him to Koboi, and we lost him to you.”
Holly gathered herself and faced the Berserker. Her raised fists were shaking. “Stop,” she warned. “Stop that now.”
“You really want to beat me up, don’t you?” Foaly chuckled. “Fine. I’ll play fairer.”
She didn’t have time to think. She didn’t have time to object, or scream, or even get out of the room. Foaly’s skin started to melt away from whatever Oro had prepared underneath, something that started to grow at once and fast, evolving into massive limbs, dreadlocks and talons.
The troll crouched under the ceiling, reared on its hind legs and barred its teeth.
“We weren’t monitoring the corridors just so Butler could skip his rounds,” explained Artemis, sitting back in his mid-20th century Louis XVI style Bergere. He’d had it shifted to the security room because, frankly, he didn’t like it. “I was sent an automatic notification that the fire alarm in your lab had been switched off, as in deliberately…” He switched on one of the empty monitors that displayed every angle of Myles’s lab. “The Berserker used whatever weapon he had at his disposal to damage the lenses of every camera but forgot one. It was better hidden than the others anyway.”
Myles spent a few long seconds staring at the screen before he snapped, “Beckett and everyone else. Are they alright?”
Artemis switched on the relevant monitors. “Yes, we had a look. And their cameras are perfectly in place as well.”
The six year old blinked. “Holly?”
“Holly’s cameras were…” Artemis froze. “D’Arvit.”
Butler frowned. “Why? You’re not saying you actually deactivated every last one of them?”
Without replying, Artemis stood and darted off outside the door, panting as he exerted every muscle of his new body in the task of getting to Holly’s room fast. Three corridors across. He could make it.
Needless to say, Butler and Myles followed. They were at the door almost immediately after Artemis threw it open, came to an abrupt halt on his rush in and took in a deep breath. His eyes were wide enough to be noticed from a distance away.
“Artemis, don’t–” began Butler, but it was too late. His charge was already inside, confronted with whatever unpredictable peril that–
Artemis put his head out the door and held a hand as in wait.
Butler walked up to the door and stood there, but waited. His charge was in one piece and it didn’t look like there was anything in there at all. Maybe he should give him the benefit of the doubt. Just this once.
Holly’s limp figure was still healing itself, and the wounds it healed weren’t small ones either. Artemis assessed the situation from a distance away, but the plain fact of the matter was obvious; whoever, or whatever the attacker was, was dangerous enough to do that to a person. A person as fast and lithe as Holly meant that anyone slower was completely out of the question.
The sparks around the elf receded, evaporating off but pausing to stitch a forgotten cut here and there, and Holly woke up slowly with a pained moan. Artemis was immediately beside her.
“Captain, I am honestly tempted to hold this against you as to why every room needs cameras,” he helped her sit up, leaning her against the wall. “What happened, Holly?”
The elf blinked. “You’re wearing a suit.”
Artemis raised an eyebrow, before looking down at himself. “Yes, I am. Why?”
Holly shook her head rapidly. “Nothing. It’s nothing. Just…promise to keep on wearing suits all the time, okay?”
“Holly, I think we’re straying from the topic a little here, but if you really are admitting that I look dashing in suits, I’ll take the compliment.” Without waiting for her to retort, he continued seriously. “Was it a Berserker, Holly?”
Holly exhaled loudly. “How do you know?”
“One confronted Myles at the same time,” Artemis looked over his shoulder at the half cracked open door. “He had…well, I couldn’t get a detailed enough look through the cameras, but Myles says that he had a poison breath. Something along those lines. The lab’s additional safety sensors picked it up.”
“Looking for me, yes,” he pressed his lips tight and furrowed his brow. “Holly, this is a new strain. Last time, the Berserkers occupied the only bodies they could find in the Manor grounds. Most of which were rabbits and dogs as they had no choice.”
“You remember his from what I told you?”
“Yes. I didn’t recover my memories in the past two hours. However, this time around, it looks like they’ve…changed tactics entirely. Perhaps in Gobdaw’s case, he occupied the body and altered it to his liking. What was your–”
“Oro,” Holly winced. “Their leader. I know it was him.”
“What was he capable of?”
The elf paused for a moment. “Shape shifting,” she answered eventually. “He could shape shift.”
On normal days, Artemis would’ve raised an eyebrow at the use of the term shape shift, but this was simply too intriguing a matter to let that bother him. “I’m assuming he demonstrated.”
Despite everything, a slight tinge of colour crept onto Holly’s cheeks the moment she recalled his first demonstration and all the things he’d said. And then that embarrassment turned into anger as she recalled his next transformations. Coral Short. Julius Root. The Berseker definitely knew how to get under her skin.
“He demonstrated alright,” grunted Holly, placing a hand on her knee and pushing herself up. Artemis helped her to her feet. She looked at him seriously.
“We need to find out if the whole army is back, Artemis. And we need to get your family somewhere safe. They want us, but there’s a likely chance we won’t be the only ones getting hurt when they return.”
Artemis nodded. “We also need to get in contact with Number One.”
“It’ll help,” agreed Holly.
Butler pushed open the door. “I suppose this is turning out to be another one of those neck-risking adventures that are supposed to be over?”
Despite himself, Artemis chuckled. “We’re affiliated with fairies, old friend. Did you ever think those would end?”
Author’s Note; A special thanks going out to CaptainS10 for reviewing the last chapter. Hey, where is everyone? Guys, this site is only dead if you make it. At LEAST try to comment, now that fics are actually being updated!
Mark my words, this is going to get even more horrific. There are Berserkers who can do some very unsettling things, and here’s my goal to everyone looking for a good story; this is going to be the first AF horror fic with an actual plotline. It will stay as in-character as it currently is, but there’ll be some Hartemis later on.
Give me your honest criticism/compliments in your comments!