Artemis took a sharp inhale, rubbing his temples in irritation. Month three, now, post return from the demon’s pocket dimension. His parents had accepted him easily- though how much was parental love and how much was the very minor mesmer Artemis put on them he didn’t know. He frowned. He was a changed man from that one day-cum-three years trip.
It wasn’t just that he was now an older brother. Butler looked at him differently, more protective. On the plus side, Holly and the fairies called far more often, and with more genuine joy to speak to him.
His original interaction of literally kidnapping and ransoming one of their best officers was now chalked up to an unfortunately bad series of events. The People at large still only knew of him in whispers, or from a fairy-made movie (some elves played the part of himself and Butler, with taped down ears and lots of forced perspective, to their chagrin), but the reactions were turning slightly more positive.
But that didn’t help him now, with a magic-induced migraine on the horizon. Artemis checked his phone calendar, even though he really didn’t need to. It was a week to a full moon, and the fairy part of him was demanding something primal.
‘I am not going out dancing naked under a full moon,’ he thought morosely. ‘No matter how much my mind is insisting.’
He wasn’t sure if the naked part was just his own imagination, but the full moon, dancing, and flashes of the idea of a fairy circle were absolutely some form of instinct. Him! Dancing! As if he could even imagine it at all. He could barely fight or do anything remotely physical. He couldn’t even imagine a whole evening of that, even if he were among fairy friends.
More worrying was the severe nausea whenever he entered a house or shop or building if he wasn’t specifically invited. Or the bile in his throat when he was in someone else’s house and asked to do something that he didn’t. He was in a human’s house, and had to do what was asked of him now, he mused.
‘Well, if I have to follow fairy rules now, the least I should do is go and perform the Ritual,’ Artemis finally concluded. ‘Which means I need to…’
Artemis sighed. He’d have to get an acorn from an old tree at a river bend on the same night that… how many fairies were there in the world anyway? And didn’t most go to Tara for their acorns? If he went to where he had nabbed Holly and waited for a quiet moment, he could probably-
Artemis’s communicator began to ring with Holly’s ringtone. Social call, at least.
Artemis rubbed his temples once more, put on a neutral face- as much as he could- and answered.
“Afternoon, Holly, to what do I owe the pleasure?”
Holly’s face, which had been bright and chipper, changed to shock. “Artemis? Are-”
Artemis looked at the screen, confused, then worried as he watched Holly’s face quiver. “Holly? Holly? Can you tell me what is wrong?”
“You’re… healing yourself, Artemis.” Holly said each word slowly, as if she didn’t believe what she was saying. “You’re sparking with magic around your face.”
Artemis paled for a moment. “I…” he said, flustered, pawing worriedly at his face, seeing sparks of blue bounce of the inside of his hands.
Artemis bit his lip and fumed silently.
“No more magic, huh?” Holly said, eyebrow cocked.
“Maybe a small amount,” he replied, face slightly flush. “And…” he added, pausing. He closed his eyes and steepled his fingers. Holly was his best friend. He needed to come clean.
“I think I’ve become part fairy. I haven’t been sure but I think I’m bound by the Book.”
Holly pulled at an ear. “Foaly had his suspicions. So did Quan. I was just calling about coming up to visit, but, maybe a few of us should.”
“I’ve been getting headaches right before a full moon,” Artemis supplied, shoulders separating and relaxing a little. Holly wasn’t mad. Just worried. “And extremely nauseous when I enter a building uninvited. I have to step out and ask permission to come inside.”
Holly nodded. “The dimensional shift,” she said flatly. “If you are partially fairy now, well, you’re one of us. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or…”
“Utterly terrifying,” said a deep voice. Artemis felt a massive hand thud on his shoulder, and almost jumped from his chair. He slunk a little in his plush office chair, realizing it was only Butler. There went his privacy.
“You were listening?” Artemis hissed at him.
“My Gnomish could use some work, but…” Butler said, with a sharp grin and heavily Irish-accented Gnomish. “yes. Of course I was. It’s my job, Artemis.”
Artemis just yanked at his hair. “So are you going to sedate me when you drag me down to Police Plaza this time or is your new Commander a little more forgiving?” he snapped out at Holly before calming himself back down. The migraine was making him more irritable than he should be to his friends.
Holly frowned, tapping her cheek under what had once been Artemis’s blue eye. “If you’re a fairy, Artemis, our law demands we treat you like one. I’ll have to bring this up to Commander Kelp, but, if this is true, a severe change in magical power of a fairy is usually a home visit first. Often followed by a solicitation by the Warlock College,” she added with a smile. “They always need more smart people who can conjure.”
Artemis frowned. “Are you telling me that I’ll be hounded by magic prep schools?”
“Their mascot is a dullahan,” Holly said, helpfully, a wicked grin on her face.
“Mirrored contacts, Butler?” Artemis asked under his breath as he adjusted his Armani sport coat.
“On,” Butler replied gruffly. “Though I don’t think they’re going to do anything.”
“You know me. Best be prepared for any eventuality,” he replied a little nervous. He wasn’t expecting company to arrive within 24 hours, but here he was, ready to receive at least five or six fairies in the back garden at twilight.
Artemis spotted a shimmer of haze. “You can unshield, friends,” he said to the air. “My parents are out with the twins. And Butler has deactivated all the patio cameras.”
Holly slipped into view, as did a gnome in a lab coat, and a tall (by fairy standards) male elf, dark skin and raven black hair with colored pink streaks. A fairy doctor and Commander Kelp, he realized. Artemis heard a crinkle, and Foaly, who was a centaur and unable to shield, folded up his cam-foil cloak and gently rolled it on his shoulder. Quan and N’1 followed, popping into existence.
Kelp squinted, craning his neck over a foot to look Artemis in the eye.
“Would you prefer I sit?” Artemis asked cordially. “I have drinks and snacks for all. I know it takes time to come all the way here.”
“Drop the pleasantries, Fowl,” Commander Kelp grumbled.
“Fruit?” Holly asked cheerfully.
“It is fall,” Artemis said with a genuine smile, pointing to a spread of sliced fruit, jams, and artesian crackers on the table. “The persimmons are in season.”
“Captain Short, you aren’t seriously-” Trouble started, but it was too late. Everyone was attacking the crudités, as Artemis pulled up his brother’s booster seats for his company.
“Sorry, Foaly, I wasn’t expecting you,” Artemis added, with an apologetic shrug. Butler was already pulling the outdoor chaise lounge over to the table so the quadruped could sit with them.
Trouble sat down in a regular patio chair in a huff, just tall enough to sit in it, but still short enough that his head barely cleared it seated.
“Captain Short claims you’re fairy enough now,” Commander Kelp said sharply, trying to ignore the treats on the table, drumming his fingers to take his mind off the apricot jam facing him. N’1 fixed up a small plate and pushed it towards the irate elf who finally, begrudgingly, took the food.
“Anyway,” Kelp continued, after he took a few tentative bites. “That’s for us to decide. I have one of our best warlock doctors here to look at you. And if you are ‘fairy enough’, well, you’re one of us. As much as it irritates myself and the rest of the council.”
“And if I’m not?” Artemis asked calmly.
“Our demon friends will suck out the rest of the magic you have. A human with magic is a bad idea. We won’t mind wipe you or anything. Frond knows how well that went last time. But as a human, too much fairy power could rip you apart, Fowl. Best nip it here.”
“What if I’m injured after?”
“Do what humans do. Go to the hospital,” Trouble said simply. “Doctor Moss?”
The gnome finished a slice of plum, wiped his hands, and picked up a large bag. “I’ll assume you’d rather be somewhere private?”
“You’re welcome inside,” Artemis said with a nod. “And everyone else here is always welcome in my home,” he added. “Any fairy that is a friend of mine or Holly has free passage in Fowl Manor.”
Trouble blinked twice. “You mean for tonight, right?”
“In general,” Artemis replied nonchalantly. “I don’t enjoy finding the contents of fairy stomachs on my carpet.”
Artemis sat unceremoniously on the edge of his bed, down to his boxers as he was poked and prodded by not only Doctor Moss, but Foaly, who covered him in paste and pads.
Other than the occasional “hmm” and “I see”, the room was deadly quiet. Artemis knew his parents were taking the boys to their very first theater performance in Dublin, so they’d be gone not just the night, but all the way to the following morning. That didn’t make the worry that they could walk in on a home doctor’s visit any less pressing.
“I’m just going to confirm my findings with Foaly, here,” Doctor Moss said sternly, closing up a strange tool that he’d used to press on Artemis’s shoulder blades. “You can dress and return outside.”
Artemis didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing- or if being a fairy was even the good outcome in this scenario. Soundlessly, he got dressed, pressing his temples again as the moon-dance migraine hit again.
He’d either have the magic taken away, or he’d be going out on the wild hunt this weekend, he mused. No use worrying about it until the two of them figured out what to do.
Artemis sat outside with the elves, demons, and Butler, more nervous with every minute that ticked by.
He was a fairy, or he wasn’t. Why was it taking so long? At least N’1 and Butler were in a spirited conversation about Jane Austen, while Holly continued to raid the snacks- Butler had already refilled the vegetable tray three times over.
“You don’t have any springwater, do you, Fowl?” Trouble finally asked.
“The pitchers are all spring water,” Artemis replied. “Even the ice. I know human pollutants are a problem.”
“Well, you’re not a terriblehost,” Trouble muttered back, pouring himself a glass.
“Fairy,” Foaly said, commanding, clopping his way to the table, with the doctor on his hooves. “He’s absolutely a fairy now.”
Trouble spat his drink, dropping the crystal glass on the paving stones below.
N’1 bent under the table, magicking the glass shards back to a whole while the rest stared on at the doctor and Foaly.
“Sorry it took so long,” Doctor Moss added. “We just couldn’t believe it. After all, Artemis only traded an eye. However, it’s likely that his, well, everything mixed up with the demons and Holly as he traveled trough the rift. Even though the only actual trade was this,” he said, pointing at his own left eye, “his overall DNA is far closer to us than human. He’s a fairy. And, despite the height and ears, would likely be classified an elf. A Short, no less.”
“Are you saying I’m Holly’s brother?” Artemis asked incredulously.
“Biologically speaking, that’s a good descriptor,” Foaly replied, patting Artemis on the knee. “Welcome to the Family.”
N’1’s head popped up, followed by an arm, shaking the crystal glass.
“Fixed it!” He chirped happily, before looking between the others seated around him.
“Did I miss something?”
“So what now?” Artemis asked Holly, slumped in his chair. It was nearing midnight, and everyone else had left. Trouble needed to go get paperwork for the newest elf to have passage to and from Haven. Begrudgingly.
Or was it? The sharp raven and pink haired elf cocked an eyebrow-less eye at Artemis as he, the Doctor, Foaly, and the demons left for Haven.
Holly had an overnight visa, which she’d been saving for the weekend to go back up and do the Ritual. She’d need another now, which she’d likely be granted lest the force have one of their best less magic another month.
“Now?” Holly echoed, looking pensively up at the stars above. “I guess you’re my little brother.”
Artemis considered cracking a joke about how she was the smaller between, but stopped himself.
“Do you get the urge to go out under the full moon? Is that… normal behavior?” he settled on asking.
“Anyone magical does. And some that don’t. Even the demons want to go up dancing during that time of the month. The non magical demons I mean. It makes sense Quan and N’1 would want to go. I guess I’ll have to take you. Young fairies have the most pressing urges. It tapers with time. Do the Ritual a few times and you’ll just want to go, no headaches or pain. Skip it for too long and it’ll be annoying again.”
Artemis scoffed. Young fairy. Well, he wasn’t even fifteen. With fairy lifespans that would be what, a toddler?
“I’ll take you to Tara this weekend,” Holly said with finality. “It’ll be safer for you to be among warlocks if your magic goes haywire than if we went somewhere more secluded.”
“Not without me you aren’t,” Butler stepped in, sitting on the other side of Artemis.
“Artemis is just short enough to pass as an extremely tall elf,” Holly chided. “You don’t.”
“Then let me have a cam-foil cloak,” Butler insisted. “You’re not separating me from my principal.”
Holly’s eyes narrowed. “Butler, have you ever seen Disneyland around Christmas?”
Butler frowned. “That bad?”
“It’s the autumnal equinox moon, it’ll be max capacity. And imagine everything my size. Quan’s at the largest. Even with cam-foil you’ll send civilians flying just walking between the food stalls.”
Holly thought hard for a moment. “You could… probably hang out in a tree at the edge. If anything actually did happen, you’d be in the middle of it all in five strides. And a better view of the whole thing anyway.”
“That’s fair,” Butler said, nodding.
“I’ll get you an aerial map of the site by tomorrow night, is that okay? We won’t ever be out of your sight.”
Butler grunted, crossing his ams. “If you do…” he started.
He didn’t need to finish that sentence.
Artemis sputtered for the second time in as many days. “I… what.”
“You’re not going in a suit, Artemis. You’re supposed to blend in with the group, not stick out like a sore thumb. You have an hour to go through the magazines I just messaged you and pick out clothes.”
“Or what?” Artemis asked curiously, staring at his fairy communicator screen.
“Or I pick for you. And you wear it. I hear ruffles are in,” she added mischievously. “Or would you rather a kilt?”
“Irish,” Artemis replied, color draining from his face. “Not Scottish.”
“Don’t care. Tick tick, mud boy,” she added more as a jab than any kind of mean spirited insult. “Three full outfits and I’ll stop at the shopping center and get them in your size. And pick a hair color.”
“You are not stuffing me in a wig all night,” Artemis protested.
“Of course not. You’ve already got a migraine and that’ll just be worse. I’m dyeing it.”
“You’re what,” Artemis replies flatly.
“With colored wax. It washes right out. You can’t look too much like you, Artemis. This is supposed to be incognito.”
“Next you tell me you’re going to glue points to my ears.”
“I figured that was a given,” Holly replied nonchalantly, before looking at his horrified expression. “Artemis, I’m not bringing a teenage human to a fairy circle. Even if you are, medically speaking, not human. It’ll be chaos.”
“I… suppose,” Artemis replied slowly, breathing out and sighing. “Fine. As long as nothing is permanent. I don’t really have a choice, do I?”
“Not unless you want to live with massive headaches, no.”
Butler looked over his shoulder at Artemis at his desk. “Something bright, then. Your boss had pink in his hair. That normal?”
“Normal, yes. The only color we don’t have naturally is purple. But some will dye it that color, so it’s not odd to see.”
“What’s bright but rare?” Butler asked.
“Can’t I just be blonde?” Artemis squeaked.
“Blue’s not so common right now,” Holly said with a grin. “Green’s been in.”
“There you go, Artemis. Blue hair. For one night.”
“I cannot believe you people,” Artemis slunk.
“Forty five now, Artemis,” Holly replied, before shutting communications.
If he had to go through with this, he’d do it correctly. Artemis took out a small notebook.
Elf. Tall elf. What fairy size was he again? A six? Seven? No, he’d grown to an eight now, and nine was the largest their clothes even went. Blue hair, so untrendy by Holly’s description. He tapped a pen on the page. A cover- he needed a backstory.
Well, if Holly was dragging him into this, he was going to embarrass her while getting stares from the other fairies at Tara.
He scrolled though a fairy baby name site, picking common, but not too common.
As he started flipping through the fashion magazines Holly sent, Artemis lazily began penning our a cover for himself, with a name on the top.