skeletonenigma: (journalwriting)
Skulduggery Pleasant ([personal profile] skeletonenigma) wrote2014-03-08 11:28 pm
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[community profile] tushanshu Application



Player Information:

Name: Amaraq
Age: 22
Contact:

Plurk: [plurk.com profile] Amaraq
DW: [personal profile] amaraqwolf

Game Cast: N/A

Please note – all headcanon will be in purple text.

I've managed to keep spoilers to a minimum throughout, but there is one major spoiler for Book 6: Death Bringer in the abilities and inventory sections. They're both clearly marked. Otherwise, there shouldn't be any spoilers beyond the second book.

Character Information:

Name:
Skulduggery Pleasant
Canon:
A series of nine books – with intermittent short stories set between them – called Skulduggery Pleasant. Eight of the nine books have been published. Despite what the title implies, Skulduggery isn't actually the protagonist of the series.
Canon Point:
The beginning of Book 8, The Last Stand of Dead Men. It opens with Skulduggery being held captive by a witch he was trying to track down.
Age:
Canon has explicitly stated that he’s over 400 years old. Details revealed by the author put his birth year somewhere in between 1580 and 1590. In my headcanon, he was born in the year 1583, which would make him 431 years old.
Reference:
The wikia site!

Note: The wikia site does have the most complete repository of information, but it’s only recently been updated with the events/revelations of the newest books. I've disagreed with it in the past, and I don’t fully trust it.

Setting:

Background:

The world of sorcerers (or mages; the two terms are interchangeable) is one that consists of hidden communities and governments all over an ignorant planet otherwise very similar to our own. Sorcerers are long-lived humans that can wield magic, and each country's sorcerers are governed by that country's individual Sanctuary. Secrecy is the name of the game; there are harsh penalties for sorcerers who reveal the truth to so-called 'mortals' (a term widely used despite its technical inaccuracy; sorcerers are by no means immortal, they just live to be over 800), and plenty of mages who can convince witnesses that they didn't see what they thought they saw. Not everyone has magic – in fact, very few people do. It’s not uncommon to hear of a mortal born with parents who were sorcerers, or vice versa. Most mortal-raised sorcerers never realise they have magic at all, making them effectively mortal. It’s the use of magic that rejuvenates the body and keeps it young, not simply having it.

There are two main types of sorcerers: Elementals and Adepts. Elementals, such as Skulduggery, can manipulate the four elements. With practice, they can manipulate them to powerful degrees - all except earth, which is traditionally purely defensive and purely for use as a last resort. It turns the wielder to invincible stone, but for an indeterminable amount of time - anywhere from 24 hours up to a century.

Adept techniques are much more varied, and are usually more immediately powerful, lacking the subtlety Elemental training requires. From mind-readers to bone-crushers, Necromancers, mages who can run on ceilings and others who can fire blasts of pure energy from their palms, a skilled Adept can have so many tricks up their sleeves that they prove themselves more powerful than even the strongest Elemental.

Magic:

Magic in this universe is a force, a type of energy that exists outside the laws of physics, and can be applied in many different forms. All magic flows from one source, which gives individual sorcerers their power through their hidden true names, but also gives the land itself power. Certain places in the world are known as Cradles of Magic, places where raw magic in the land is so strong that legends and myths have persisted throughout the countries’ existences. These places are Ireland – which is where the books’ main characters hail from – Africa, Australia, and China. Magic can be manipulated by anyone, even mortals, through the use of written sigils, although some sorcerers specialise in the field and develop unique talents with the written language of magic. China Sorrows, one such sorcerer, has engraved sigils into her body, and tapping them in certain ways allows her to do anything from surviving large falls to moving faster than the human eye can track.

As science developed and grew in the mortal world, certain sorcerers found ways to combine it with magic, speeding recovery times and discovering other technologies long before mortals did. One of the leading pioneers in science-magic is a somewhat grumpy man named Kenspeckle Grouse, but he's one of the best doctors in Ireland, and renowned in the magical world for his research.

The grand majority of inhabitants of this hidden magical world are human sorcerers. As children, they can experiment with a small amount of magic in both the Elemental and Adept disciplines. This continues up until around their 21st or 22nd birthday, which is when they stop physically aging and go through what’s known as the Surge – a day or two of intense physical discomfort where their magic ‘surges’ and locks into one discipline and one discipline only. Sorcerers may be largely human, but there are various other species and animals and less-than-human creatures that take refuge in the hidden world of magic. Among these are vampires, werewolves, three different types of witches, banshees, a species of spider-like beings called Crenga, Warlocks, and reanimated zombies.

The Sanctuaries:

Any country with a large enough population of sorcerers is run by a magical government called a Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is led by one Grand Mage, usually a very old and experienced sorcerer, and two Elder Mages. These three Elders are the final authority on matters related to magic, and they set the laws that govern sorcerers' day-to-day lives. These laws are, for the most part, similar to mortal laws, in that they frown upon murder and theft and assault. But they're formed with the goal of protecting mortals, both in a physical capacity as well as protecting them from knowledge they're not quite ready to have. Every Elder that's ever served keeps a journal of their efforts, and these journals are all compiled together to help inform future Elder Mages of their tasks and past decisions. There's been some talk of digitalising these Journals in the modern age, but as most sorcerers don't trust technology, Sanctuaries still run on paper and ink.

Sanctuaries otherwise operate much the same as a mortal government would, with committees and departments that answer to the Elders, all in a building that - depending on the country - is very carefully hidden, usually in plain sight. The Irish Sanctuary, for example, is hidden underneath the mortal Waxworks Museum. The entrance is along one of the exhibit walls, and it was originally opened by tapping a certain brick. After the Sanctuary was invaded at the end of the first book, the entrance is now guarded and operated by a wax statue of the singer Phil Lynott. Sorcerers aren't incapable of a sense of humour, after all.

Law enforcement for sorcerers is a complex business. There are people who set the law, as mentioned above; there are also people who enforce the law, akin to police officers. But there are very few sorcerers who actually investigate the breaking of those laws; Skulduggery is the only one known in Ireland. The reason for this is that magic is very hard to track. Skulduggery's one of the only sorcerers who can track people, so to speak - he doesn't mind not being able to rely on magic when he's investigating a crime scene.

The sorcerers in a particular country who don't work for the Sanctuary generally congregate in the same areas, and form neighbourhoods populated solely by sorcerers. There are seventeen of these in Ireland alone. The neighbourhoods are generally made to look as sketchy and uninviting as possible, so mortals don't stop in to have a look; they are in reality some of the safest places in the world. Not all sorcerers stick to them, of course. Several rather enjoy living in both the mortal and magical worlds, and maintain lives in each. Some would love to establish a place among mortals but can't for some reason, most commonly due to appearance. Others reject the use of magic completely, and live and die as mortals. Others still resent or despise mortals and everything they stand for, and live as far away from them as is humanly possible.

Names:

Just as there is magic in sigils, there is also magic in names. Sorcerers usually end up with three different names, although most living things have at least two of them at some point or other. The first is the given name, the name other people hand to the person, and the only name most people will ever know. A sorcerer with the right knowledge, however, can use someone’s given name against them – control their physical movement to a certain degree, like a puppet. That’s why most sorcerers take, or choose, their own second name. Taking a new name, especially one that suits you and who you are, seals your given name, so that neither name can then be used to control you.

On top of that, everyone has a true name, the source of all their magic, a name which rests in their subconscious and is normally never revealed. If a sorcerer discovers their true name, they’re capable of going right to the source of their magic, and basically becoming a god. The drawback is that if anyone else ever discovers a sorcerer’s true name first, they can use that name to control literally everything about that person – not just their actions, but their thoughts, their loyalties, their emotions. Most sorcerers don’t consider pursuing the knowledge worth the risk.

The Faceless Ones:

There is a legend among sorcerers that the world used to be ruled by a race of evil gods known as the Faceless Ones, thousands of years ago. They were, however, cast out of this dimension by a group of very early and very powerful sorcerers called the Ancients. The Ancients decided they'd had enough of being ruled over, rose up against their gods, and found a way to kill them by turning their own magic against them. This drove the Faceless Ones out of their reality, and paved the way for mortals to be able to take a foothold. The Ancients, however, had nothing left to use this newfound magic on, so they ended up turning on each other, and were effectively wiped from existence.

The books prove this legend to be true. Valkyrie Cain, the young protagonist and Skulduggery's partner, is actually descended from the last surviving Ancient herself. This doesn't grant her any extra power that we know of; in fact, all it seems to do is put her in danger, since her blood is that of the Ancients and therefore very useful in the use of certain spells. Luckily for her, Skulduggery would kill anyone who hurt her, and since Skulduggery's rage is practically legendary, most sorcerers leave her alone.

The Faceless Ones, also proven in the books to be real, are gods in every sense of the word - before they've taken over a human vessel, they are impossible to look at without going completely insane. They're made of broken reason and fractured logic, towering forms that warp and displace everything they touch. Once they've killed someone and taken their shell, they look human enough. All except for their face, which is wiped completely of all features - hence their name. Even in vessels, the Faceless Ones are nigh immortal. They're impossible to hurt, and they can implode a human body with nothing more than a glance.

There is a cult of sorcerers who worship the Faceless Ones - the Church of the Faceless. Rather than most mortal religions, in which God is seen as infallible and most people are content to sit back and wait for their miracles to occur, sorcerers in this Church know that the Faceless Ones won't be able to return without help. So they're constantly seeking a way to find them, to breach the barriers between dimensions, and invite them back to take their 'rightful place.' Sorcerers in this cult are by no means naive or ignorant; they know precisely what the Faceless Ones would do if they ever came back. They know the entire world's population would be killed, tortured, or subjugated. And that's precisely what they want. Many sorcerers who follow this faith believe the Faceless Ones will spare the faithful (they won't, as several of them find out in the books). Either way, sorcerers who worship the Faceless Ones tend to be evil bastards.

The War:

Around the early 17th century, an Elemental and worshipper of the Faceless Ones called Mevolent gained enough followers in Ireland to launch a war against the Sanctuaries. Mevolent wanted to bring the Faceless Ones back. Most sorcerers didn't believe in them, but recognised Mevolent as enough of a threat that a rebellion quickly rose up to challenge him.

The war was secret, brutal, fought all over the globe, and lasted for centuries, with no end in sight until the early 20th century. It left mortals largely alone, as even Mevolent recognised the dangers of the rest of the world joining the fight, but that doesn't mean mortals didn't feel the effects. Many of those effects were explained away as outbreaks of plague, or mistakes in map-making, or natural disasters; but if someone knew where to look, it's possible to trace the war back to its origins through mortal documents alone. The war shaped much of the modern attitude of sorcerers towards mortals, and the role sorcerers theoretically play as protective guardians. And even in the modern age, many of the threats that sorcerers like Skulduggery Pleasant have to face can be traced back to the war in some way, or are remnants of something one of Mevolent’s Three Generals was planning.

Mevolent was the instigator, and by far the most powerful of the sorcerers on his side. Directly underneath him were three sorcerers known as the Three Generals. The first was Nefarian Serpine, an Adept who tortured others to learn their Adept techniques and is powerful for the sheer amount of them he's stacked up. The second was Baron Vengeous, a military man through and through who managed to salvage the long-forgotten corpse of a Faceless One, and who has an ability very similar to theirs - he can look at someone, and rupture their body. The third was by far the most feared, and rumoured to be even more powerful than Mevolent himself. His name was Lord Vile, and he was a Necromancer encased in a full set of shadow-like armour. He was capable of killing hundreds at once without visibly doing anything. A popular saying at the time went that you didn't face Vile without an army at your side - and even then, all you could do was hope someone got in a lucky shot. Fortunately, Vile only fought in the war for a period of five years. After that, he vanished, and no one's seen him since.

On the side of the good guys, Skulduggery was a member of a special ops unit nicknamed the Dead Men after his death. The name was a nod to the fact that this unit always seemed to come back from suicide missions alive, rather than a reference to Skulduggery. The unit consisted of seven sorcerers renowned for their considerable power and their close-knit bonds with each other. Unfortunately, two of them were killed before the end of the war, and the unit drifted apart once Mevolent had been defeated.

The war ended with Mevolent’s death, the arrest of Vengeous and many of his followers, and an uneasy Truce with those who remained - Serpine included. Eachan Meritorious, the main leader of the rebellion since the war's inception, became the Irish Grand Mage once the dust settled, and his desire for no more fighting deafened him to Skulduggery's insistence that Serpine was not reformed, and would attack them again. Lo and behold, he did, about a century later, but Skulduggery was on hand to stop him. Serpine is now dead as well.

A giant and expensive Requiem Ball is still held every ten years, to celebrate the victory of the Sanctuaries and to commemorate those who gave their lives.

Personality:

Skulduggery was a charismatic leader in the war until his death on October 21st, 1701. Mevolent, in desperation, had launched an attack on all of the rebellion’s leaders during that time. His right-hand man, Nefarian Serpine, led Skulduggery into a trap that killed his wife and child. Serpine held Skulduggery for weeks, torturing him purely for fun, before finally killing him and dumping his skeletal remains into a river. Against all odds, Skulduggery came back, baffling even the most intelligent minds in science-magic. His consciousness was able to possess his skeleton, and it’s this unique state of existence that drives much of what has motivated him since.

Skulduggery is, to put it in a nutshell, an enigma. The rage he felt towards Serpine when he died was the main reason he managed to regain control of his body when he was brought back, and that rage is inextricably linked to who he is now. For most people, rage as strong as Skulduggery's would burn out very quickly – it has to, or it would kill them. Skulduggery no longer has a physical brain or a physical bloodstream, and is therefore free from physical restraints. He feels that immediate, burning rage all the time. He's learned to bury it deep, or cover it with other emotions, and to meditate when events become too hard to handle.

The thing is, most people who meet Skulduggery for the first time have a hard time believing he's even capable of anger. Despite his appearance, Skulduggery is very much the honourable gentleman, chivalrous and dapper to a fault. He maintains an annoyingly positive attitude towards most things in life, even during the most inopportune times, and he loves to make jokes. His dry, classy, and understated sense of humor is one of the things that first draws the protagonist – Valkyrie – to him. Skulduggery has a very polite and sophisticated way of speaking, often using 'big words' that Valkyrie doesn't understand or old-fashioned turns of phrase. That’s probably a side effect of living through four different centuries, which has also honed his detecting skills, if not quite his ability – or his desire – to plan ahead. On the plus side, his ability to improvise is unparalleled.

While Skulduggery does see the humor potential in being a supernatural skeleton detective, he takes his job very seriously. He insists on using the language of an old-fashioned private eye - 'clues,' 'hunches,' etc. - and even dresses the part. While he never forgets that he is a skeleton, he does occasionally forget that some people might find that difficult to swallow.

Of course, becoming a living skeleton has not killed Skulduggery's sense of fashion in the least. His good friend Ghastly Bespoke works as a tailor, which means that Skulduggery only wears the finest magical suits. Although he often has to cover up completely in public – usually with scarves, hats, sunglasses, and outrageous wigs – Valkyrie can't help but think of him as a gentleman from the moment she first sees him, due in part to the clothes he wears.

Skulduggery had a talent during the war for inspiring loyalty and motivation in the troops he led; he’s very charismatic, very charming, and very convincing. He’s also overly confident, which is one of the first things people tend to list as a fault of his. And they have a point - perhaps the most obvious and most endearing aspect of Skulduggery's personality is how impressed with himself he is. He loves showing off his abilities to Valkyrie, and gets genuinely puzzled when people don't seem to like him right off the bat. He takes pleasure in his own wisecracks, exalts his own plans to high heaven, and frequently comments on his own 'natural grace and athleticism.' To be fair, he does have good reason to brag – not only does he have an impeccable sense of balance, but he also has a very sharp mind that doesn't miss much. Even before he died, he was gifted with a near-eidetic memory – the effect has just been compounded now due to the lack of a physical brain. He's suave, charming, witty, and pleasantly enthusiastic about many of his undertakings.

On a darker note, Skulduggery is also very aware of the kind of anger he's capable of, and what it can make him do. He's described his nature to Valkyrie as a 'dark and twisted thing.' But it's also made him painfully sensitive to the losses of others, and although he accepts death as a necessary part of his work, he's reached a point where he’ll do everything in his power to avoid it.

That isn't to say he won't break rules, given the chance. Skulduggery is not above the occasional bout of crime, trespassing, or otherwise illegal activity – all for the greater good, of course. He admits that he'll go exceedingly far to solve a crime. His judgement, which is usually detached, neutral, and objective, fades whenever something makes him angry. He was, for example, willing to go up against two vampires and break into a highly sacred vault - the highly sacred vault of his best friend, no less - just for the chance at some information that might lead him to his desired vengeance on Serpine. His anger is a known fact among any sorcerer who fought in the war, which is the greatest reason Valkyrie is left alone. Skulduggery's fond of her, and hurting her in any way is a surefire way to have him tracking you down.

In the magical community, Skulduggery is not well-liked and not well-trusted, partly because he tends to politely insult anyone he doesn't like, and there are a lot of people Skulduggery doesn't like. Apart from that, many sorcerers won't trust someone whose face they can't see, and whose motivations they can't predict. This doesn't seem to be a big problem for Skulduggery, though. Most sorcerers in Ireland respect him as a detective and an Elemental, and many people will bypass the Sanctuary and go directly to him for help. They know that – despite Skulduggery’s many quirks of behaviour and eccentricities, his infamous legendary rage, and his dry sarcasm – when you have a real problem, Skulduggery is precisely the kind of person you want on your side. He’s persistent, stubborn, and gifted with far too much determination.

It's those exact traits which make Skulduggery such a good detective, meaning that his time in Tu Shanshu will be characterised by trying to discover as much as he can as quickly as he can. He'll talk mainly to the kedan, since they're the oldest residents, and try to gain access to libraries so he can do his own research. He's not a huge fan of technology beyond what's obviously useful, so once he's familiarised himself with the console in his suite, he likely won't use it too often. Being told that he's on the back of a giant turtle isn't really going to faze him as much as you'd think - Skulduggery's seen much stranger, and he'll be able to confirm things for himself before long. He tries not to judge people, even giant turtles, by what they look like on the surface. After all, some people would even consider him to be an anomaly. All in all, he'll take things in stride, and try to get to work right away.

Appearance:

Skulduggery, with about half of his disguise.

Skulduggery, full-body after a fight.

He’s a living skeleton, which is... pretty self-explanatory. Skulduggery communicates more through tilts of his head and well-placed pointed silences than through facial expressions. It’s also entirely possible that not every bone in his frame is actually his, since in canon he spent about twenty years wearing a skull that wasn’t his own. It’s difficult to account for every single miniature bone while fighting in the middle of a war.

Otherwise, Skulduggery wears finely-tailored suits, usually accompanied by either a disguise or, these days, a ‘false face’ when he’s dealing with mortals. The false face is a gift from a friend; it’s a small sigil engraved into his collarbone that, when he brushes it, generates a human face to cover his skull. It’s a different face every time, with different hair and features, and it’s not quite perfect if one looks closely enough. The skin is a little too waxy, for example, and the eyes don’t quite focus properly. It does, however, let Skulduggery use facial expressions to communicate meaning again. The façade only works for about an hour each day, so he tends not to use it more than he has to.

His voice is deep and 'smooth as velvet,' and Skulduggery speaks with an Irish accent.

Abilities:

Supernatural abilities:

Skulduggery is an Elemental sorcerer, which means he has control over all four elements. This goes beyond the control that other Elementals in his world have, since he spent a year trapped in another dimension where he had literally nothing to do but practice.

- He can manipulate air, which includes solidifying it to form an impenetrable shield, displacing it violently enough to blow holes in brick walls, and – more recently – fly. He can also feel disturbances in the air around him, an ability that reliably tells him whether he’s alone or not. He can, on a good day and in a tunnel where the air hasn't been disturbed for years, tell where the group of people who came down an hour before him went, how many of them there are, and how far down the tunnel they made it.
- He can conjure fire from the friction of heat, such as snapping his fingers, and use it to throw fireballs or light a roomful of candles.
- He can condense water out of the moisture in the air, evaporate it, freeze it into ice, hold it aloft, or walk on the surfaces of lakes and rivers.
- While most Elementals never use earth, what with it being purely defensive and too unpredictable, Skulduggery’s reached a stage where he can actually manipulate the earth itself. He can collapse underground tunnels, and commandeer the land to carry him along like a surfboard.

Note: Elementalism is a branch of magic requiring focus and concentration. If Skulduggery’s close to unconsciousness and/or severely injured, none of it is going to work. It also means none of it is immediate or ‘instinctive,’ and that he still has normal reaction times to events. Insanely fast reaction times, mind you, honed over the centuries, but even so.

- Due to the lack of a physical brain and the unique nature of his consciousness, Skulduggery’s mind can’t be read or manipulated by any form of magic.

Major Spoiler Territory: (Skip to ‘Other Skills’ to miss it.)

Skulduggery is also what’s known as an ambidextrous sorcerer, or someone who can use more than one discipline of magic even after their Surge. In Skulduggery’s case, he can use Necromancy as well as Elementalism. Necromancy is a branch of magic that draws its power from death; because Skulduggery is technically dead, that makes him one of if not the most powerful Necromancer in existence.

Necromancers place their power in a channeling object; for Skulduggery, it’s a suit of armour. Because he’s so powerful, the armour can condense itself into shadows, and thus be hidden practically anywhere. Skulduggery can’t use Necromancy without wearing the armour, though he can certainly feel when someone else is. While he’s wearing the armour in canon, he’s pretty much unstoppable.

- Necromancy manifests itself mainly through shadows. Unlike with Elementalism, the shadows of Necromancy are much more instinctive and linked to a sorcerer’s thoughts, effectively erasing the variable of reaction time. While wearing the armour, the shadows respond to Skulduggery’s intent instead of his command. They can solidify around him, slam as tangible walls into objects and people, or sharpen and stab through practically anything.
- An ability linked to Necromancy, but not specifically Necromantic in nature, is something Valkyrie refers to as the Death Bubble. When Skulduggery’s wearing the armour, he can expand his awareness around him in a bubble, capturing the life forces of any living thing caught in its path, killing them all. He can then draw those deaths back into him, making himself more powerful. The Death Bubble was unheard of before Skulduggery used it, and it does require intense concentration, so it’s not very useful in the heat of battle.

Note: Necromancy feeds off both death and rage. The last time Skulduggery gave into his rage and became a Necromancer, he became Lord Vile, and murdered thousands, if not millions, of people. Suffice to say, his emotional control is much better these days, and he isn't going to give in to Necromancy again. His true identity also isn't known by anyone other than him and Valkyrie, for obvious reasons.

Other Skills:

- Intellect. Skulduggery is canonically capable of memorising things with barely more than a glance, and making connections that most people would miss. He’s incredibly observant, and very thorough when he’s working on cases.
- Martial arts. He knows several different forms, and he’s a very skilled fighter.
- Marksmanship. He carries a revolver around with him, and can hit exactly what he’s aiming for every time.
- This probably goes without saying, but Skulduggery doesn't need to sleep or eat. Meditation is more of a way to pass the time than to refresh his sanity.
- On that note, Skulduggery can feel pain. He can lose limbs without permanent damage, but that doesn't mean he doesn't feel it.

Suitability:
Skulduggery has been through at least two vastly different types of physical and psychological hell, and come back out the other side. He was renowned during the war for being able to make the morally difficult decisions others balked at, decisions like sacrificing innocent lives for an advantage that had the potential of saving hundreds. He is perfectly capable of handling himself in whatever capacity he’s needed, both physically and mentally.

Inventory: (Major Spoiler Territory. Skip to ‘Suite’ to miss it.)

- The suit he’s wearing, notable because it’ll be magical and therefore bullet-proof.
- His hat. No magical properties; just some sentimental value, of a sort. He likes his hats.
- His six-shot revolver, fully loaded. No magical properties.
- His cell phone. No magical properties. Practically useless to him in Tu Shanshu.
- His Necromantic armour. Skulduggery needed a proper place to hide it after the events of the last book, and the only place he can ultimately trust is himself. The armour is condensed into shadows, and hidden in the shadows inside his own skeletal frame. While Skulduggery canonically has some trouble keeping it under control, I don’t foresee him using it in Tu Shanshu without an immediate and pressing reason that excludes all other options. And Skulduggery’s very good at finding other options.

Suite:

The Fire Sector, and a two-level suite. Skulduggery’s house in canon is an elegant mansion with two levels, even though he spends very little time there. It’s what he’s comfortable with, particularly since he grew up a nobleman. He finds other uses for the many rooms, up to and including a room dedicated solely to hats. Skulduggery can afford the luxuries others often can't, since he doesn't need to eat, and he takes full advantage of that where he can.

In-Character Samples:

Third Person:

Sewers had been around for almost as long as any form of bathroom had been. From the very beginning, they had already replaced the depths of catacombs as a hideaway for criminals. Skulduggery didn’t have a problem with that, per se, although catacombs had been easier to hide in. All he had to do was lie down, and perhaps make threatening noises if someone got too close.

The problem with sewers was that maybe ten percent of the material was actually water Skulduggery could manipulate, and he wasn’t too keen on finding out what the other ninety percent was. The stink stayed on his clothes for days afterwards, and even Ghastly’s magic wasn’t capable of removing it. To save the clothes, Skulduggery was forced to stick close to the sewer wall, and that left very little room to maneuver if he was caught off-guard. That was annoying. That gave the criminals the upper hand, and Skulduggery very rarely enjoyed being stuck with the lower.

But the hours passed, and no one bothered him. The air in the sewer tunnels remained stale and still. Skulduggery counted that as a minor blessing, and then finally turned into the small hidden cavern he’d been stuck down here searching for. It, too, was similarly empty. Another minor blessing.

This was, of course, usually the part where things went spectacularly wrong.

“Hello?” he called out. His voice echoed around the cavern. “Anyone home?”

No one answered. Skulduggery stepped over into the middle of the room, scanning the arches and walls. The architecture was Greek in origin, but many of the paintings on the stone were more Roman. Some were Egyptian. One, he was fairly sure, was an eclectic-looking symbol that actually belonged in the cover art for a band that had grown famous quite recently.

“Interesting décor,” he murmured, as though there was someone else in the room listening. There wasn't, as far as he knew, but it didn't stop him from trying. “You haven’t set foot on the surface recently, have you? Or maybe you have, but only once, and stole anything that looked suitably old and ominous to you.”

Nothing answered him but silence.

“I hate to break it to you, but you've really only made the place look like a very confused library.”

Skulduggery stopped just short of the exact center of the cavern, and looked down. A circle of sigils was carved into the stone floor, and he’d been about to step into it. He wasn’t exactly an expert in reading the language of magic, but he couldn't imagine passing into the circle would have been pleasant. At best, he wouldn't have been able to leave the circle again. At worst, he would have keeled over in agonising pain.

Clever, but very old-hat. He sighed and shook his head. “Just come out and talk to me, please. I promise I’m not going to threaten you. I’m trying to find someone, and I was told you might know where she’s hiding.” He paused. “I will have to threaten you if you don’t tell me where she is, but that part’s entirely up to you.”

A gust of wind blew through the cavern.

Skulduggery didn’t have the foggiest idea what it meant. “Yes.”

There was another gust of wind, a stronger one this time. Skulduggery hesitated, and then sent one back, just a little stronger, ruffling the scarf around his neck.

That was when the ceiling caved in.

Network:

[To be honest, he would have preferred text, but this is a perfect opportunity to test out his brand-new console. The keyboard is self-explanatory. The video function isn't. One of the kedan had offered to show Skulduggery how it worked, but he’d politely declined. He didn’t particularly feel like being saddled with a guide for the entirety of his time here.]

Ah, there we go. Excellent.

[This does, of course, mean that he can now be seen. He was a little concerned about that when all of this was first being explained to him, but then he saw someone walking around in the city with blue skin and two heads. He’s rather less concerned now.

He doesn't really have anything to ask, now that he’s thinking about it.]


Thank you. Carry on.

[Yes, that was a skull talking just then, jaw movement and Irish accent and all. Why do you ask?]


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