Chapter 1: Kidnapping
Artemis was sitting in front of his computer, trying to figure out a complicated mathematic formula. It wouldn’t take much longer, he knew.
Everything was silent in the house–everybody was sleeping. Well, who knew if Butler was really sleeping. But his twin brothers–who turned six a few weeks earlier–had long gone to bed. His parents never stayed up late these days. He looked at the clock: 1:34 AM. He knew he should probably get some sleep, but he badly wanted to finish his task.
He was trying to configure a program to locate his duplicated nemesis, Opal Koboi. The pixie had followed him back from his trip in the past and was now bent on freeing her present self from jail. The LEP, or Lower Elements Police, had tripled their security around their prisoner, but Artemis was uneasy. The pixie was clever–nearly as clever as him, and it wouldn’t surprise him if she managed to outsmart the LEP.
He was in regular contact with his elfin friend from the LEP, Holly Short. He winced as he thought of the word–a rare physical reaction in him. Was he still friends with Holly? He had betrayed her, made her believe that she had infected his mother with the deadly Spelltropy so she would agree to take him back in time.
It had worked. He had gone back with her. And during their trip, before he admitted his treachery to her, she had kissed him. Months later, he was still confused about that. True, they both had been hormone-ridden, him as a much older teenage boy, and she as a much younger female in the same age group, but he knew that it wasn’t the only explanation as to why she had done that. Besides, it wasn’t only because of the hormones that he had enjoyed it.
Now, Holly had forgiven him for his deception, but their friendship was not the same. The trust he had slowly gained had entirely evaporated. In addition, he missed being friends with her. Deep down, he wondered if he didn’t miss kissing her, too.
Not many people knew about Artemis’ adventures with the People. Butler, his bodyguard, Minerva Paradizo, a French genius child with whom he had crossed swords, and his mother. He had been forced to explain the whole thing to the latter after she had been possessed by Opal Koboi.
It hadn’t been very pleasant to tell his mother about all his wrongdoings with the People. After all, who wanted to admit to their mother that they had abducted a fairy for ransom money? However, he had changed since then. At least, he hoped.
Yawning, Artemis decided that it was really time to stop. The formula would have to wait until tomorrow. He didn’t think Opal would break into Howler’s Peak by then anyway. The pixie usually did a lot of planning. Looking up from the computer, he jumped. A shadow had seemed to pass in front of the window.
Frowning slightly, Artemis stood up from his chair and walked to the window. It hadn’t seemed like an animal, or a fairy. Artemis would know–since he had been through a time spell, he had exchanged an eye with Holly Short. So now, with one blue and one hazel eye, he could see shielded fairies. Quite practical.
Shivering in advance, Artemis opened the window and let the cold night air in. Peering out, he searched with his enhanced vision for the shadow he had seen earlier. There was nothing at first, but then he spotted two human forms hiding under a tree.
“Intruders,” he whispered, before closing the window and walking towards the alarm. He wasn’t scared, just a little intrigued at how those two people had managed to get passed the Fowl security system. He would have to fix that tomorrow morning. Just as he hit the alarm, the window behind him shattered loudly.
Artemis didn’t yell–it would have been childish–even though he was now quite scared. He still had time to berate himself mentally for alerting the intruders that he knew of their presence. It was below his standards. The alarm was ringing loudly through the whole house, waking up it’s occupants, especially Butler. Butler would be here soon, all Artemis had to do was to slow down the intruders.
“Damn,” he heard one say in a strangely musical voice. He looked up at the figure and gasped. It was cloaked in black it was huge, huge and menacing. The other figure was also cloaked, but it’s hood was down. His face was exposed. A face more beautiful than everything Artemis had ever seen, more beautiful than any painting. In the middle of this angelic face, were two burgundy eyes, looking at him hungrily.
Artemis was clever. He had seen things that were considered impossible by the rest of humankind. Therefore, he wasn’t prejudiced into thinking that supernatural didn’t exist. It did. So when he saw those two figures standing in front of him, his unprejudiced and brilliant mind immediately thought: not human.
The second figure came swiftly towards him and took him in his arms, carrying him like a sack of potatoes. Now would be the appropriate time to yell, Artemis thought. Before he could get the appropriate amount of air in his lungs however, he was gagged by the other stranger. He tried to break free, but the creature’s hold on him was incredibly strong. Stronger than Butler, Artemis thought with a shiver.
Butler, where was Butler? Where was his faithful friend and bodyguard? He should be here by now, shouldn’t he? Artemis’ rational self knew it had only been a few seconds since the alarm had rung, and the first place Butler would check was Artemis’ room, not the computer room. It was unreasonable to hope Butler would get here in time.
The creature carrying him ran to the broken window, and jumped through it as lightly as cats. Artemis’ scared scream was contain by his gag. And then they were running, running faster than anything Artemis had ever seen, if he could trust the vision of the ground under him, passing at an incredible speed. Even when he had been transported by Holly over the sea, he hadn’t been going this fast–if his calculations were exact, that is.
In no time, they were out of the property, where a black car with tinted windows was waiting for them. Hastily, he was thrust in the back seat, while the two creatures sat down in front. The car lurched forward at a speed that made Artemis reach for his seatbelt. Faster than when Butler drives, he thought, comparing his friend once more to his two kidnappers. Faster than Mulch Diggums.
Calmly, he undid his gag. If his captors had wanted him to keep it on, they would have bound him. Before saying anything though, he observed the people in front of him. Their lips were moving rapidly, but it seemed as if no sound was coming out. However as they weren’t looking at each other, they couldn’t possibly be lip reading. There had to be some kind of sound coming out, only Artemis’ ears couldn’t hear it.
He then tried to read their lips, but he only managed to understand a few sentences–they were speaking too fast. And Italian. “He shouldn’t have seen us,” one said. “They were supposed to discover his disappearance in the morning,” Artemis also understood. “The police will be on our tracks.”
Artemis didn’t understand much more. He continued observing his captors, nonetheless. The more he looked at them, the more he was convinced that they weren’t human. What could they be, though? He had never seen, never heard of, and Holly had never told him of anything that looked like those creatures–and he had studied the LEP files extremely closely.
There were two solutions: either Foaly had been much cleverer than Artemis and had managed to keep something from him, or the People were unaware of the existence of these creatures. Artemis thought the second explanation more likely. He was cleverer than the centaur.
“Scusi,” he said in Italian, in a calm voice, though he didn’t feel nearly as calm inside. “Would you mind telling me what you are and why you felt the need to kidnap me?”
The two males snapped their heads back at him.
“What?” the larger of the two asked, bewildered. “Why did you speak Italian?”
“Weren’t you conversing in that language?” Artemis replied with a smirk. Looking confident was one of his specialities. No matter how scary these people were, or how scared he was. Artemis didn’t often trust his instincts, he’d rather use his intellect; but now he knew, he felt that his kidnappers were dangerous. He had to be careful.
“You heard us?” asked the second man.
“No,” Artemis decided it would be safer for him to tell the truth. He didn’t want to think about what these people would do if they discovered he was lying to them. “However, I am quite proficient at lip-reading.” The man–or male if you decided not to call non humans men–looked taken aback.
“How much did you understand?” he asked in a would-be calm voice.
“Will you answer my question if I answer yours?” Artemis retorted, hoping that impressing his captors was a good way to get them to talk.
“No,” the man said. Too bad, Artemis thought. “But I expect you to answer my question anyway,” the smaller male continued. He flashed his teeth in a predatory smile. Artemis shivered. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he remembered Holly giving him a smile like this once, when he had held her prisoner. It hadn’t been nearly as scary, even if Holly was a dangerous creature. How much more dangerous were these people?
“I didn’t understand much,” Artemis admitted. “Your lips were moving too fast. I heard that someone–I’m guessing it was me–shouldn’t have seen you, that my capture wasn’t supposed to be discovered until morning, and that the police will be on our tracks.”
“That is still a lot,” the big male, who was driving, said with a scowl.
“Aro said he was clever,” the one next to him answered. “We should have expected it.”
“Who is Aro?” Artemis asked, intrigued. There was at least another person in this scheme, probably another non human creature. “Also, since you won’t tell me what you are, would you mind telling me who you are?” Again, the men looked surprised. The smallest turned towards Artemis.
“My name is Demetri. My friend here is Felix.” He didn’t volunteer any other information. “You should get some sleep.” Artemis raised an eyebrow, skeptical. “We won’t hurt you, you can sleep safely.” Artemis didn’t trust his word much, but on the other hand, even if he was conscious, those two were much stronger than him, so perhaps it didn’t matter. Uneasily, he closed his eyelids. He had the feeling that he would never go to sleep, he was so tense. He was exhausted however, and it was only a matter of minutes before he was lost to the world around him.
When Artemis woke up, he was in a bed, and the bed was moving. He sat up abruptly, only to feel sick. Looking around, he realized why. He was on a boat. And seasick. He needed air, fresh air. He made for the door desperately. Surprisingly, it wasn’t locked.
He felt immediately better with the sea breeze. Looking around, he noticed that the boat was medium sized, and could obviously go far at sea–which wasn’t a reassuring feat. Obviously this was the easiest way to get him out of the country unnoticed. They were out at sea, Artemis could barely make out the Irish coast in the horizon. The overcast weather wasn’t helping either. He guessed they were sailing south. To Italy, then?
His two captors were at the end of the ship. Though they didn’t speak to him, their eyes watched him suspiciously.
He was quite certain now that the Irish police would never find them. His kidnappers weren’t human after all, and they were rapidly leaving territorial waters. How could he find a way to tell his friends he was in danger? How could he get help?
Artemis thought about the fairy communicator, concealed in a ring on his right finger. Maybe he could call Holly to get some help. The People were maybe awaiting his call anyway. It was morning, so the news of his disappearance would have spread, even in the Lower Elements. Foaly may have said once that he was no longer under surveillance, but Artemis highly doubted it. He would have to get back to his cabin to call.
He closed the door carefully behind him. He was hoping that with the noise of the motor and the sea, the two men would not be able to hear his conversation with the People if he ever had one. That worried him. From what he had gathered the evening before, these creatures had very sensitive hearing–they had heard him whisper from his window, and they could converse in voices lower than what was humanly audible. Well, he reasoned, if they heard him, they mustn’t understand him–he would speak in Gnommish. After all, he was fluent.
Before he called, he explored his cabin. He had to admit it was comfortable. There was a comfortable-looking bed, a bathroom, a kitchenette, and … food. Artemis suddenly realized he was famished. Looking at his watch, he understood why: it was noon already. He decided to make himself some lunch. The resulting sandwich wasn’t extremely practical to eat–making sandwiches was a skill he never mastered–but at least it was nourishing.
He finished quickly, and twisted his fairy transmitter-camouflaged-as-a-ring around, pressed a button and lifted his hand to his ear, sticking out his thumb and his pinkie as if he were speaking on an imaginary phone. He barely waited before he heard someone “picking up” on the other end.
“Holly?” he whispered, anxious.
“Artemis?” he heard. The voice was slightly panicked. “Artemis, is that you? What happened? Foaly told me the Mud Men news said you were kidnapped. Are you alright?” It didn’t really reassure Artemis that Holly sounded just as scared as he was.
“Yes, I’m fine,” he whispered back in Gnommish. “I was kidnapped by two males around one a.m. this morning. I am currently in the cabin of a boat that is sailing south of Ireland, towards Italy I think.” He heard Holly’s sharp intake of breath, but continued. “Don’t speak, I don’t know how long I can do this without them hearing me. My kidnappers aren’t human, Holly. They aren’t like anything I’ve heard of or seen before. They look like Mud Men, except that they are incredibly beautiful, strong, their skin is icy, they run at a speed that defies imagination. Their irises are burgundy. They can speak very fast, and so low I can’t hear what they say, even though I wasn’t a meter away. I read their lips–they were speaking Italian–and only managed to understand that my kidnapping wasn’t supposed to be discovered until morning, but I saw them and set off the alarm before they caught me. Their names are Demetri and Felix, and they have another accomplice called Aro. Do you have any idea of what they can be?”
There was no sound on the other end, and then he heard Holly.
“I haven’t heard of anything like that, I’ll ask Foaly.” Again, there was a pause, and Artemis trembled, lest his kidnappers heard him and discovered his communicator. Then, he heard Holly again.
“Foaly doesn’t know about them either.” Holly’s voice was calm now, but Artemis knew her too well. She was always reassuring when situations were at their worst. “Don’t panic Artemis, I’m on your case, and I’ll do everything I can to get you out of here. Do you know why they kidnapped you?” she asked.
“No, I don’t,” Artemis answered. “Though since they aren’t human, I doubt it’s for money.”
“Well, Foaly is tracking the transmitter, so don’t take it off if you can. I won’t be contacting you much, since you’re afraid of being overheard. If I do call you and you can’t answer, at least turn on the transmitter so we can hear what’s happening. We won’t speak through it unless you talk to us first. Is there anything else you want me to do?” Holly asked worriedly.
“Yes,” Artemis said, his voice shaky. “Please tell Butler about what happened. Most of all, tell him not to come to try to find me. Tell him it’s an order from his master or a plea from his friend, whichever works best. These creatures are stronger than him, and stronger than anything we have faced before. And be careful, Holly.”
A few years ago, he would never had said anything like that. But Artemis Fowl had changed: he cared for his friends. Now, he was just as scared for his life as for theirs.
“Of course I will,” Holly answered with a strange laugh. “The LEP doesn’t want to lose me. Take care, Artemis.” The line went dead. Artemis waited, his heart pounding, for his kidnappers to come, but there was no sound. He sighed in relief. They must not have heard, or thought he was talking gibberish to reassure himself.
Again, he went outside to try to get more information from his captors. He needed to know as much as he could find out to inform the People. The two of them hadn’t moved, even though as soon as he came out from his cabin their eyes never left him. Cautiously, he walked up to them.
“Sleep well?” Felix asked with a mischievous smile.
“Very well, thank you” Artemis answered curtly. “How about you?” The two of them laughed as if he had something extremely funny, but didn’t answer. Artemis tried something else. “Are you taking me to Italy?” The creatures calmed down, and Demetri murmured:
“So very bright … I can see why Aro wanted him.” Again, that Aro. Artemis assumed he was right about Italy.
“Aro is you boss, isn’t he?” he continued, fishing for information.
“In a way, yes,” Demetri answered cautiously.
“And he wants me because I’m clever?” This was strange. People who needed his intelligence always tried to get him through money. Why hadn’t these people done that first? They were obviously quite wealthy, considering the expensive car and boat.
“Indeed,” Felix said. Artemis saw a calculating smile appear on Felix’s face, a smile he knew well. He himself used it quite a bit. “So, Artemis, tell us what you think about us,” Felix continued.
“If you tell me why you kidnapped me,” Artemis said shortly. Felix burst into laughter.
“Oh, I do like him, Demetri! Always bargaining or tricking for information … Good thing we just went hunting, though, because–”
“I know, Felix,” Demetri interrupted. Turning towards Artemis, he asked him almost kindly: “Now, we would be extremely interested if you told us what you think we are, since that seemed to trouble you this morning.” Artemis wondered how much he could tell. He had already almost admitted to them that he didn’t think they were human, and they also nearly confirmed it. He wouldn’t be risking much more by saying it clearly.
“I know you aren’t human. I don’t know what you are though.” Artemis hated giving out information–he always felt like he was giving weapons to the enemy. But these creatures didn’t seem like they would take it calmly if he refused to cooperate.
“Non-human sentient beings?” Demetri asked, his face composed in a surprised mask. “Why do you think such things exist?” Because I’m friends with such things, as you call them, Artemis thought, but he didn’t voice it aloud. He had to be careful. If these creatures didn’t know about the People, he mustn’t lead them to them. He couldn’t lead them to Holly.
“There is no other rational explanation for what I saw,” Artemis answered calmly.
“You call your explanation rational?” Felix asked with a shrewd expression. Artemis didn’t like this conversation. They were trying to extract too much information from him.
“Yes,” he answered shortly.
“Why?” Felix asked with a smirk. Artemis sighed: so much for trying to give short answers.
“No human can do what you did, run as fast, talk as fast, as cold, have eyes of that colour. Therefore, you are either a mutants or another species altogether. Personally I think you are too alien to still be human, so you can’t be mutants, or still belong to my species.”
“Amazing,” said Felix softly. It was then that Artemis realized for the first time how beautiful the voices of those two creatures were. What were these people? Were they the pinnacle of evolution, being so physically perfect? Well, at least he was impressing them too. He might as well continue.
“When did you go hunting?” he asked. Demetri shot Felix an exasperated look, but Felix answered with yet another smirk.
“Just before we embarked.”
“What do you hunt?” Artemis asked. Now both Felix and Demetri looked unhappy at Artemis’ question.
“Enough questions,” Felix snapped. It took all of Artemis’ self control not to take a step back in fear. He wouldn’t let them see he was scared. He was a Fowl. He would act with dignity at all times. Though he somehow had the feeling these two creatures, whatever they were, could sense his fear anyway.
“We have a long journey ahead of us–a week I’d say, if the weather stays good.” Demetri said in a soothing voice. You are free to roam on the boat wherever you like if the door from your cabin is unlocked, as long as you don’t get into trouble. We have removed any communication devices, so don’t try to look for any. As you have certainly have seen, there is all the food you will need in your cabin.”
Artemis understood he was being dismissed.