A/N: Blame this one entirely on Alchemechanist. I may have been brainstorming in her inbox recently when suddenly I started seeing little snapshots of Artemis as an illusionist and Myles and Beckett taming lions, and I simply could not resist. Thoughts, critiques, and criticisms are most appreciated c:
Les Cirque des Rêves
"A dreamer is one who can find his way to moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world." - Oscar Wilde, 1888.
The snow first falls when Artemis Fowl the First contemplates an idea of vast impossibility. He thinks in the comfort of his office, his thin mouth quiet and thoughtful as he sips his tumbler of well-aged whisky.
The fireplace snaps ecstatically in the far corner of the room, tongues of brazen red and orange licking at the wrought iron mantelpiece. The lights are dim, muted to a color that blurs the fragile line that separates the excess of reality from lucid hallucination. Artemis Senior's eyes roam over a number of countless blueprints that overlap on the cold surface of his oak and cherry desk, and it is when his glass is empty that he allows a rare smile to curve the stiff corners of mouth.
"Butler," he calls, already reaching for the bottle of alcohol to pour himself another glass. He hears Butler knock on his office door precisely three times before the manservant enters, two silent bundles wrapped in expensive fabric nestled soundlessly in his muscled arms.
"I hope you don't mind the twins tagging along," he says in a low tone, careful not to wake them up. There is a particularly harsh wind that slams against the tall windows, and one of the bundles stirs softly in his dreams before falling back to sleep. Artemis Senior's stern face breaks into concern at the sight of his two children, and he shakes his head, keeping his voice low as well. "No, no, of course not," he mutters, "but I am afraid that they will find our conversation tedious enough to start bellowing again, and I wouldn't want to wake Angeline from her sleep."
Butler nods his agreement and sets Myles and Beckett Fowl in a crib his employer recently set up only nights before Angeline's pregnancy was due. He adjusts the blankets for a moment, catching the rustle of Artemis Senior's night robes behind him. He looks to his right to find his employer thoughtfully stroking his beard, his gaze lingering on his children before he murmurs, "They are beautiful."
"They resemble their older brother when they aren't causing mayhem in the manor," says Butler with a hint of a smile.
"Very true . . ." says Artemis Senior absentmindedly, his thoughts returning to the blueprints cluttering his mind. He sighs, rubbing the exhaustion from his eyes.
"Sir?" says Butler.
"The circus, Butler," he says, voice tinged with exasperation. "It is completed. Kara, Mustafa, Dmitri and I have discussed the final plans concerning the designs, the shows, the spectacles . . . opening night is soon," he says, running a slender hand through his salt and pepper hair.
"How soon, sir?"
A sliver of moonlight slices through the velvet drapes tumbling down the windows, illuminating Artemis Senior's icy blue eyes, which look almost ethereal in the shadows, sparkling with a mild excitement, moments from blazing into a feverish day dream once the insomnia takes toll on his slipping mind. "A year? Fourteen months? Oh I don't know, Butler, something along those lines," he says, waving a careless hand at the towering man.
Butler cranes his neck and his eyes find the blueprints coating Artemis Senior's desk. Faint sketches of tents easily as tall as buildings stand huge and needle like, scratches of white chalk detailing the unfurling paper. Mazes that stretch wide and narrow occupy a large segment of the plans; stalls and strollers selling baked exquisites that have not yet been made public, statues of animals, men, women, dream and nightmare alike, litter the circus grounds, swirls of black and white glitter coating the ground in patterns of Arabic origins. He notices papers concerning a fortune teller's lair, a room compromised of jars of every imaginable shape and size, gardens of ice and rain and fire labeled boldly in black print, contortionists twisting on a circular platform, a room swathed with paper dolls that hang on the tent ceiling like stars . . .
Butler blinks back, overwhelmed at the sheer detail of the circus. And for a moment, he takes pity on his charge, whose fingers are twitching with the yearning of noting down one more detail- a side note amongst infinite numbers of side notes.
"Sir," he begins cautiously, frowning at his employer's recent slight frame and the deep creases wrinkling his forehead.
How malnourished he looks, thinks the younger man, how stooped his shoulders are.
"What is it, Butler?" asks Artemis Senior frantically.
"This circus . . . it is ludicrous. Surely you will not carry out such impossible plans during only one measly year. Our technology cannot sustain it, even for a minute," says Butler.
Artemis Senior considers his words for a minute, and then he smiles. A burst of gleeful insanity dances behind his tired eyes. "Ah– excellent observation, dear Butler. But who is to say that we will be relying on something as trivial as technology?"
Butler frowns. "What are you proposing then, sir?"
"Magic, Butler," breathes Artemis Senior, his eyebrows drawn in absurd amusement. At Butler's frown his smile widens. "There are things in this world that even you are not aware of, old friend. Secrets beyond your wildest imagination. This is a project unlike any other."
"It consumes you," Butler insists. Seeing the sharp look Artemis Senior gives him he bows his head in shame, aware that he has spoken out of line. Butler takes a deep breath, and continues in a tone several degrees less demanding than its former. "I only worry for the best of you, sir, and for the best of this family. Angeline is teetering in and out of mental stability. Artemis sulks quietly in his room, constantly reading about concepts that his superiors shy away from. You only ever leave your office for midnight dinners, and the sun has not touched your skin in months."
Artemis Senior's face is grim, placating. He glances at the crib for a fleeting second before shifting his attention back to the manservant. His tone is crisp, concise, and unrelenting. "I know that Angeline is dying," he says quietly, voice ripping through the silence like an axe, "she has not been the same since the twins have been born, and there is nothing you, nor I, could do about it. This circus will honor everything she represents. Were she to have been stable she would have snatched the idea out of my hands and execute it all by herself. Don't you see, Butler? The circus is a symbol of Angeline. Of her imagination. And I will not abandon it . . . abandon her, for as long as I am living."
Butler gives a stiff nod. "Very well, sir. Am I to leave you with your children?" he asks.
"Yes," says Artemis Senior softly. "Their company often douses me with inspiration. The night is yours, Butler. You are free to go."
At his dismissal, Butler bows his head again and departs the office, his chest contracting with worry.
Artemis Senior sighs deeply to himself before hobbling towards his desk, plucking the untouched glass of whiskey resting on an empty blueprint and downing it in one go. His eyes stray from the leaping fireplace, which throws dancing shadows on the circular Turkish carpets, and land on the blueprints. A slow smile stretches his lips.
"Les Cirque des Rêves," he wonders, pouring himself another glass. "The Circus of Dreams."