impudentsongbird: (i can fly)
Gabriel ([personal profile] impudentsongbird) wrote2012-08-20 08:38 pm

let me be the one you call / if you jump I'll break your fall

Book Four: Dark Days
1 | into the breach
2 | finding skulduggery
3 | retreat to the tunnels
4 | into the cacophony
5 | sanctuary in the cathedral
6 | reuniting old friends
7 | kenspeckle's new patient
8 | holy water and disinfectant
9 | objecting to china sorrows
10 | the roadtrip
11 | baffling guild
12 | shenanigans at the safehouse
13 | reassuring fletcher
14 | valkyrie's intervention
15 | solomon's revelation
16 | visiting the edgleys
17 | recalled to the sanctuary
18 | guild's confusion
19 | gabe is busted
20 | the psychic tattoist
21 | envisioning the cacophony
22 | angel's first migraine
23 | the morning after
24 | china and solomon
25 | detectives' council of war
26 | china's foolishness
27 | the collector dethroned
28 | finding crux
29 | skulduggery's vileness revealed
30 | sorrows in aftermath
31 | finding equilibrium
32 | the devil's number
33 | at the carnival
34 | meeting authorities
35 | solomon's confession
36 | the stray soul
37 | sanguine unsettled
38 | solomon's choice
39 | a cowboy underground
40 | in scarab's basement
41 | striking midnight
42 | craven contested
43 | emergency services
44 | on your feet
45 | and don't stop moving
46 | easy recognition
47 | a deuce of an evening
48 | engines roaring
49 | compromising judgements
50 | solomon's conflict
51 | axis turning
52 | thinking circular
53 | blasting the past
54 | reviling vile

Book Five: Mortal Coil
55 | sanctuary unsanctified
56 | shudder unravelling
57 | catching an angel
58 | layering dimensions
59 | dead men meeting
60 | when it rains
61 | power plays
62 | sing on gold
63 | the valley of death
64 | grand aspersions
65 | no evil feared
66 | new days rising
67 | angelic neuroses
68 | step-brothers working
69 | the many sorrows of china
70 | peacefully wreathed
71 | tarnished gold
72 | the secret in darkness
73 | magical intent
74 | scars worth keeping
75 | benefits of a beau
76 | grand magery
77 | lighting the darkness
78 | old dogs and new tricks
79 | flouting traditions
80 | drawing lines
81 | brothers and sisters in arms
82 | channelling angels
83 | return of the carnies
84 | the death bringers
85 | meriting agelessness
86 | knick knack, paddy
87 | give a dog a bone
88 | americans propheteering
89 | the right side of honour
90 | tailored shocks
91 | hosting angels
92 | elders anonymous
93 | rediscovered strays
94 | changings and changelings
95 | a state of reflection
96 | adding hope
97 | the devil's truth
98 | dead mens' hospitality
99 | lives half lived
100 | next to godliness
101 | devilish plans
102 | beached angels
103 | lights of revelation
104 | heroes worshipped
105 | new devilries
106 | angels under the yoke
107 | brains frozen
108 | father, mother, daughter
109 | parental guidance recommended
110 | driven round the bend
111 | ongoing training
112 | privileged information
113 | reasonable men
114 | passing the buck
115 | gifting magicks
116 | strengths and weaknesses
117 | immaturity's perks
118 | priests and prophets
119 | scaling evil
120 | blowing covers
121 | marring an afternoon
122 | lie detection
123 | five-dimensional pain
124 | reliving nightmares
125 | taking stock
126 | sampling spices
127 | sleeping prophets lying
128 | rueful returns
129 | dead men reunion
130 | medically-approved hugs

The life of an angel was a contradiction in changes and stability. On one hand, they understood very well the way the cosmos was shaped by events within it. On the other, they stood at one step apart from it—or at least had, for a very long time, up until their Master's recent wager with Lucifer. Changes in the recent past had, even for angels, been fast and turbulent, but there were none that concerned Raphael more than Gabriel's abrupt reserve.

In the aftermath of the wager Gabriel had been almost the only one to know where their Lord was at any given time, a fact which had put the Archangel very firmly under Lucifer's radar. Raphael had joked that Gabriel ought to arm himself with more jokes or worse clothes to drive the fallen angel away; Michael had offered the peace of the Garden Coast. (Rafe thought his idea was better.)

Either way, even though their Master was fair hidden, every angel knew that they had only to ask Gabriel and the Archangel would pass on a message.

Then Gabriel had simply blipped off the radar himself. Poof! Gone! No one had noticed at first, because, well, they weren't exactly in constant connection. It was just when Raphael had taken a whim to seek out his younger brother that he'd noticed it, and let it be, because there was absolutely a reason for it. Gabe did not just off and vanish, except that once with his self-exile, and that didn’t count.

But when Gabriel had come back, he had been strangely agitated and yet close-mouthed. The younger Archangel had vanished off to wherever their Master was hidden for a long chat Raphael was dying to have listened into, and yet couldn't (but only partly because it would have been rude). Now he was here, floating among the stars and examining a black hole with unnerving intensity.

For a time Raphael watched without letting on that he was there, but eventually Gabriel spoke. “I’d rather you came to join me instead of lurking, brother.”

Absolutely refusing to feel chagrined, Raphael let himself manifest with an arm around Gabriel’s shoulders and ruffled the younger angel’s hair. Gabriel threw a fond, longsuffering glance up at him, but there was something in his eyes, something distracted and sharp, which indicated that Gabriel still wasn’t truly present. Raphael only wished he knew where the other Archangel was.

“Just wondering what you’re doin’ all the way out here,” he said teasingly. “There’s a party going on down there on Earth, Gabe.” There was always a party going on down on Earth. “You oughta be down there bobbin’ for apples and switching up party-hats!”

“I can’t,” Gabriel said quietly, with a sort of seriousness Raphael had, for all Gabriel’s literalness, rarely heard from him. So Raphael fell into the same seriousness, lost his playful accent, and spoke directly.

“Why not, brother? You’ve been reserved of late. I conf—I’m worried for you.”

For a very long time Gabriel said nothing and stared into the slow-turning swirl of the black hole. Raphael waited patiently, his arm still companionably across the other Archangel’s shoulders. Eventually Gabriel spoke. “Did you know, Raphael,” he said, “that the universe you see around you here isn’t the only one our Master has created?”

Raphael was so startled that he couldn’t answer. That wasn’t what he was imagining. He hadn’t been sure what he’d been imagining, but that wasn’t it. “I’m not sure what you mean, Gabriel,” he said after a moment. “Our Lord told me the story of Creation not all that long ago, and he never mentioned anything of the kind.”

Gabriel nodded. “He told me that story as well. And then He asked if I really wanted to know details.” He hesitated. “I … admit, I declined. It’s something He said—about faith. I decided I didn’t need to know details. But it’s true, nevertheless. Just beyond this …” The Archangel reached out his hand and touched that gossamer and unbreakable fabric that supported reality. “There are other universes, even with different versions of us.”

“Different versions of us?” Raphael repeated, appalled and uncertain and entirely confused. How could that be possible? What could their Master want with more than one of any of them? What was going on? Where had Gabriel gone in that time he’d vanished? Then something occurred to him and he smiled with relief. “This is a joke, right?”

Gabriel looked up at him and smiled back with such a gentle understanding that for a moment Raphael felt very small indeed. “No, Rafe. I’m not joking. It was a shock to me too. That isn’t the point, though.”

“Isn’t it?” Raphael asked, feeling as dazed as an angel possibly could, especially when he wasn’t even inhabiting an actual physical body.

“No.” Gabriel returned to watching the black hole intently. “I met some people from other realities. One of them is in a kind of Hell, and he very much does not deserve it. I promised him that, if I could, I would save him from it.”

Which did not in the least explain why Gabe was staring at a black hole, let alone a million other questions Raphael would have liked to ask and for which he couldn’t find the words. Finally he found one. “How?”

“First,” Gabriel said with a sort of tranquillity Raphael had heard in his brother’s voice a million times but never after delivering so turbulent a piece of news, “I’m going to jimmy open a crack in the door through this hole.”

Raphael stared at Gabe, and then at the black hole, and then back at Gabe. He opened his mouth to ask whether their Master knew he was planning this and then closed it, because that was a stupid question. He opened it again to query if Gabriel had asked whether he could go around lifting the sheets and then realised that was also a stupid question, because whether he had or not, their Master probably would have told him to do what he felt was best.

It was equally clear that Gabriel very much planned to go through with this, no matter what Raphael said, and really, did Raphael have the right to object? Surely if this carried a risk, their Master would have already forbidden Gabriel from making the attempt?

“I’ll come with,” Raphael said at last, and this time when Gabriel glanced back the younger Archangel’s expression was startled. A moment later that expression shifted into grateful apology.

“I’m sorry, Rafe, but I’m not entirely certain I’ll make it through, and we can hardly leave Michael here alone.” He grinned. “Did you see what he was wearing last festival day on the Garden Coast? He hasn’t moved out of the eighteenth century yet. How would he possibly handle the rest of the world?”

Raphael laughed out loud, warm but startled, and the sound of it rang through space. Gabriel chuckled quietly beside him, and for a few minutes there was just companionable humour that faded into an equally comfortable silence.

Still, Raphael had a lot of questions. How did Gabriel plan to find his friend, let alone the universe he was in? How was he going to get back? What would he do if he met another version of himself? Or, worse, Lucifer? Finally the Archangel just asked, “Have you figured out how to crack open the door?”

“I think so,” Gabriel said, considering the black hole. “Once I figured out what to look for. I wouldn’t have gotten even that far if it weren’t for some things our Master said.”

Which meant that, in some fashion, this expedition was sanctioned by their Master, Raphael translated, and something tense in him relaxed. “Something do to with this drain here, I’ll bet,” he said, falling into his casual accent once more. “Gonna rip out the kitchen sink, li’l brother?”

“Just to see what’s hiding underneath,” Gabriel said with a grin.

“I’ll try’n keep it open for ya,” Raphael promised, and Gabriel sent him a smile which lit up the very space around them with its brilliance.

“Thank you, Rafe,” he said, and straightened. Raphael took his arm away as Gabriel lifted his hands, not exactly stepping back so much as giving Gabriel space. The youngest Archangel didn’t often reveal his power, but it was always a sight to see, a song to hear, when he did.

As it was now. Gabriel’s voice started deep, lifted high, split and wove and became more melodies than one would think a single being could possibly sing at once. The sound of it made Raphael’s heart soar, made him want to fly and laugh. It was so deep, so light, so resonating that it was physical; it touched the slow turn of the black hole and made it, for just the briefest of moments, still. In that moment Gabriel sent a carefully-aimed bolt of energy into the heart of it.

It was the kind of sight Raphael hadn’t seen in thousands of years, a play of physics and metaphysics which he hadn’t thought possible, let alone imagined. There was an eruption in the centre of the black hole, where gravity was condensed; the cascade of energy plumed upward and was dragged back down as quick, a tear in the fabric of the reality not allowed the time to widen or become a danger.

Raphael didn’t even know Gabe had moved until the younger Archangel was gone, he was so busy staring in awe. With a start the Archangel stretched out his senses and just barely managed to catch a glimpse of his brother shooting toward the hole at speeds few angels could have achieved through such a gravity well. Raphael certainly couldn’t have.

How, he suddenly wondered, was he meant to keep that open if he didn’t even have the speed of thought to track Gabriel’s movements through it?

Desperately the Archangel cast about for something to jam in the door, as it were. There was some dark matter nearby and with a thought he fashioned it into a spear and pitched it toward the centre of the black hole. It struck just as Gabriel flitted through the crack nearly wholly collapsed in on itself; the star’s gravity caught it, pulled it in, and plugged the opening like a metaphysical sink.

Slowly Raphael made every part of himself relax. For good or ill, Gabe was gone on this quest of his, and now Raphael should probably go and round up some of their younger siblings to guard the area. Just in case.

Book Four: Dark Days

into the breach | finding skulduggery | retreat to the tunnels | into the cacophony | sanctuary in the cathedral | reuniting old friends | kenspeckle's new patient | holy water and disinfectant | objecting to china sorrows | the roadtrip | baffling guild | shenanigans at the safehouse | reassuring fletcher | valkyrie's intervention | solomon's revelation | visiting the edgleys | recalled to the sanctuary | guild's confusion | gabe is busted | the psychic tattoist | envisioning the cacophony | angel's first migraine | the morning after | china and solomon | detectives' council of war | china's foolishness | the collector dethroned | finding crux | skulduggery's vileness revealed | sorrows in aftermath | finding equilibrium | the devil's number | at the carnival | meeting authorities | solomon's confession | the stray soul | sanguine unsettled | solomon's choice | a cowboy underground | in scarab's basement | striking midnight | craven contested | emergency services | on your feet | and don't stop moving | easy recognition | a deuce of an evening | engines roaring | compromising judgements | solomon's conflict | axis turning | thinking circular | blasting the past | reviling vile

Book Five: Mortal Coil

sanctuary unsanctified | shudder unravelling | catching an angel | layering dimensions | dead men meeting | when it rains | power plays | sing on gold | the valley of death | grand aspersions | no evil feared | new days rising | angelic neuroses | step-brothers working | the many sorrows of china | peacefully wreathed | tarnished gold | the secret in darkness | magical intent | scars worth keeping | benefits of a beau | grand magery | lighting the darkness | old dogs and new tricks | flouting traditions | drawing lines | brothers and sisters in arms | channelling angels | return of the carnies | the death bringers | meriting agelessness | knick knack, paddy | give a dog a bone | americans propheteering | the right side of honour | tailored shocks | hosting angels | elders anonymous | rediscovered strays | changings and changelings | a state of reflection | adding hope | the devil's truth | dead mens' hospitality | lives half lived | next to godliness | devilish plans | beached angels | lights of revelation | heroes worshipped | new devilries | angels under the yoke | brains frozen | father, mother, daughter | parental guidance recommended | driven round the bend | ongoing training | privileged information | reasonable men | passing the buck | gifting magicks | strengths and weaknesses | immaturity's perks | priests and prophets | scaling evil | blowing covers | marring an afternoon | lie detection | five-dimensional pain | reliving nightmares | taking stock | sampling spices | sleeping prophets lying | rueful returns | dead men reunion | medically-approved hugs
skeletonenigma: (writtenname)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-20 08:22 pm (UTC)(link)
It had been two months since Skulduggery disappeared through the yellow portal.

Tanith missed him, of course. Everyone did, even if they never talked about it. China, who had lost her brother in the same day, wasn’t seen at her library for days at a time – so unlike her that Tanith had almost considered putting together a search party the first time it happened. Several times now, Tanith had caught Ghastly simply staring off into space, an expression of such loss and hopelessness on his face that it broke her heart. He’d only just come back into the world, only just reunited with Skulduggery, and then… this.

But none of them were strangers to loss, and Tanith knew that given time, even Ghastly would eventually move on. The only person she was truly worried about was Valkyrie. As maturely as the young girl liked to present herself, she wasn’t even fifteen yet, and she’d just lost her best friend.

It only worried Tanith more when Valkyrie didn’t seem to collapse, almost didn’t seem to care. Face closed, few words, carrying on with her life as if nothing had changed except her own bitter view of the world. That, Tanith knew, couldn’t last. At some point soon, Valkyrie was going to come to her with an impossible and reckless plan for getting Skulduggery back, despite the Sanctuary’s firm insistence that the portal could not be opened again. And Tanith was going to have to gently explain that Skulduggery himself made sure the portal was closed forever. Without the Grotesquery, without the Isthmus Anchor, he was well and truly gone. Tanith only hoped that it would be enough to break through the wall surrounding Valkyrie’s heart, so that Tanith could finally help her young friend begin to heal. That was her role, right? The mature big sister.

Well. She was right about some of it, at least. Valkyrie had come to her, with a cocky and reckless plan for rescuing Skulduggery from the Faceless Ones. Except that this was a cocky and reckless plan that might actually work.

Tanith closed her eyes and shook her head. “You want to run that by me again?”

There was no frustrated sigh, no snappy line so characteristic of Valkyrie. It was like she’d emptied herself of emotion, forced herself neutral and utterly focused on the task at hand. “To open the portal, you need a Teleporter and an Isthmus Anchor, right? Something that belongs over there, but it’s here instead.”

“Yeah,” Tanith agreed. “Like the Grotesquery.” She hesitated. “Which is gone.”

“I know,” said Valkyrie evenly. Her tone was so deadpan that it physically hurt Tanith to hear it. “We have the Teleporter, obviously. Fletcher’s more than happy to try again. But we also have an Isthmus Anchor, and that’s Skulduggery’s head.”

And that was the crux of the plan, the assumption that Skulduggery hadn’t simply been exaggerating stories when he told Valkyrie that his current skull was not actually his own. “Which he lost in a poker game, eh?” Tanith finished quietly.

“No. Goblins stole it. He won the head he’s wearing now in a poker game.”

Only you, Skulduggery. Tanith fixed Valkyrie with a sympathetic look, wondering if it was really the teenager she was now trying to convince, or herself. “But that was twenty years ago, you said. That skull could be anywhere. It could take us decades to track it down.”

Valkyrie smiled, an expression that startled Tanith as much as the happiness that wasn’t in it. “Then we’d better start now. I already did. Skulduggery found out a while ago that someone named Larks stole everything the goblins had, and then sold them on. He never found out who bought them.” Her smile vanished. “I did. The skull was bought by a mortal woman as a wedding gift, but she used it to beat her husband to death after he stole from her. It was logged as evidence. Have you ever heard of the Murder Skull?”

“Once,” Tanith admitted. “Didn’t it disappear?”

“Exactly. And I need your help to find it. You and Ghastly and Fletcher. Maybe even China, if she’s feeling generous.”

Tanith couldn’t help scowling at the thought of China helping anyone other than herself. “Valkyrie, opening that portal is dangerous. There’s a reason Skulduggery made sure it could never happen again. We might let more Faceless Ones through, or maybe something else just as nasty. And I know you don’t want to hear this, but Skulduggery…” Tanith bit her lip, and took the plunge. “He’s alone in a dimension with a race of evil gods who are angry at us, and have no one to take it out on but him. He might not even be Skulduggery anymore.”

“He’s my friend.”

Tanith looked at Valkyrie, at the single tear on her cheek, and instantly knew that they had to try. Because the knowledge that it was at least possible might be the only thing holding Valkyrie together. And besides, Skulduggery would have done the same stupid, reckless thing for any of them by now.

Tanith gave a curt nod, and a smile. “What do you need us to do?”

Valkyrie didn’t return the smile. She just reached up to wipe away the tear, staring down at the floor. “What do you think it’s like, where he is?”

Tanith gripped Valkyrie’s shoulders, somehow even more scared of this new, unsure version of her friend than the empty shell. “Don’t, Valkyrie. Don’t do that to yourself. There’s nothing anyone could have done, okay? Wherever Skulduggery is, I can guarantee you he’d rather be there alone than let the Faceless Ones get control of this reality. And it doesn’t matter anymore, because we’re going to save him. You hear me? We’re going to get him back.


Everyone was home.

That was the first thought to cross Skulduggery’s mind as he tumbled out onto the thick white stone. The Institute may or may not have been gone; it was impossible to tell now. Even Martin Landel’s fate was unknown, supposedly in the hands of people who knew better. But the one hard fact was that everyone was free, and back where they belonged, for better or for worse. For Skulduggery, it just happened to be worse.

He’d been poised to run. If the battle at Aranmore Farm was any indication, it was practically impossible to run from a god, but Skulduggery was not going to let them take him without a fight. He’d been prepared to run, prepared for the wonderful feeling of his magic once again flooding his body, prepared to escape into an unfamiliar environment that was likely just as dangerous as anything the Faceless Ones had to offer.

But he’d made one mistake, apart from apparently misjudging the height of the portal. He’d gotten a little too used to his new human body during his imprisonment in that Institute, and when one foot moved forward to begin the process of running, far too little weight was on top of it, and Skulduggery ended up crashing painfully into the ground. He thought he’d be returned to the exact moment he was taken, that he would still have that intestine wrapped around his leg, pulling him through the portal, and he would look up to find himself surrounded by insanity-inducing blasphemies of nature intent on ripping him apart. Instead, it seemed a lot of time had passed. Skulduggery was alone, the portal was nowhere in sight, and nothing was moving around for miles, according to the air currents.

Skulduggery looked down at his skeletal form, surprised at how strange it suddenly looked. It felt just like the first time he’d glanced down to see nothing but bones where his leg should be. This time, fortunately, he wouldn’t have to crawl out of a sodden cloth bag and put himself back together. That was an experience that did not bear repeating. On the plus side, he now knew the human skeleton better than most doctors did.

Over the next few hours, Skulduggery was no closer to understanding where, exactly, he’d ended up – or even knowing how to describe it. The closest equivalent he could think of was a Brazilian mountain town. It was a sprawling city carved out of the rock into the side of a mountain, baking underneath a sun at least five times bigger than the one Skulduggery was used to. The sky was blood-red, and any ground that wasn’t rock sparkled like the golden sand of a desert.

All in all, the effect should have been rather beautiful, but there was something ominous about it. The city, and the horizon, which the sun never seemed to touch. When Skulduggery finally made it to a proper cliff at the edge of the city, he looked out over nothing but more city, extending down into the valley floor and up onto the side of another mountain off in the distance. Everywhere he looked, there was only the blinding white of sun-bleached stone.

The skeleton detective was fascinated, despite himself. Of course, the Faceless Ones wouldn’t have been the first to occupy this reality. Millions of people would have lived here once. He wondered what they looked like, before the Faceless Ones carved into their city and slaughtered all of them.

As more time passed and still, nothing moved but Skulduggery, he began to wonder if the planet in this reality was as big as Earth. The Faceless Ones might be thousands of miles away by now. He might have nothing to worry about, other than an eternity of loneliness in a city that looked as big as a country.

It didn’t matter. Everyone he cared about was home, and safe. Whatever happened next would do nothing more than satisfy his curiosity.

Of course, in a city as big as a country, there were bound to be survivors, and Skulduggery ran into a small group of them some unidentifiable amount of time later; it was difficult to judge the passing of time, as the sun never seemed to set and he never got tired or hungry. The survivors, though initially suspicious of him, grew very friendly after a while. The language they spoke really was beautiful, designed to be a fluid painting of sound rather than to get information across. Skulduggery could imagine, when millions of the creatures lived in the city, that the constant sound of their talking would be magnified by the bare walls of their stone houses and mix together to create a symphony in the air above the valley. Nature really was remarkable.

It didn’t take him long to learn that language. He’d never be able to speak it as fluidly or captivatingly as they could, which seemed to amuse the younger ones in particular, but he learned enough to get by. Eventually, when they told each other stories, he even understood a good deal of them. And what he learned darkened his mood.

When the Ancients first cast the Faceless Ones out of their reality, they hadn’t even considered where they were sending the dark gods. It turned out that they ended up in a reality very similar to this one, killed everyone in it, tore through the walls into a different reality, killed everyone there, and continued on, until they came to this one. Countless trillions of people, dead because of the very first sorcerers in Skulduggery’ s world.

And he’d made another mistake, he realized bitterly as the dreaded, thunderous whispers finally picked up over the valley after one such story. No sooner had he convinced himself to stop feeling responsible for everything the Faceless Ones had done over the last few eons, than the Faceless Ones had tracked him down – and he’d led them right to the last group of survivors.

Of course. It was idiotic to think they might have forgotten about him.

Skulduggery never saw what happened to his new friends. He couldn’t even remember if they’d screamed or not. All that filled his waking moments now were his own screams, the blur of unendurable agony separated by a few hours of sheer bliss as he was generously given time to find his various limbs and pull them back on. And as soon as he was in one piece, like clockwork, a Faceless One would appear in its shambling, broken-down human form with no face, and it would hunt him back down to start tearing him apart all over again. It, and all of its equally-nasty-looking pets atop flying black beasts.

In his more lucid moments, Skulduggery would try to put together lists of everyone and anyone who knew where he was, who would have the capability of rescuing him, and the willingness to try. Those survivors? Of course not. They were dead. Skulduggery should be dead too, but either there really was no way of killing a skeleton, or the Faceless Ones actually felt something close to satisfaction with his pain.

Valkyrie? Tempting. He hallucinated her occasionally, talking to him. But there was no way back into this reality. The Sanctuary, and Thurid Guild, would make damn sure that Valkyrie never even tried.

Anyone from Landel’s reality? Gabriel, maybe. He’d made it clear he wouldn’t let anything like this happen. But he was an Archangel with a whole universe of his own to run. He might even be cleaning up Landel’s mess. Besides, was Skulduggery worth rescuing? Gabe might have said he was, but there was no way any kind of Christian God would want him out of harm’s way anymore, not after the war with Mevolent and what happened in it.

So Skulduggery allowed himself to accept the simple truth he’d known since that intestine first wrapped around his ankle so long ago – he deserved this. He deserved this and worse. In fact, it was mildly surprising his punishment had waited so long to get here.
skeletonenigma: (pencilskul)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-23 11:08 pm (UTC)(link)
Throughout the various, colorful histories of the Church of the Faceless - from the truly and fanatically religious, such as Mevolent, to the more nefarious followers using the Dark Gods for their own purposes - only one fact remained constant. Everyone who worshiped them seemed to agree that once the Faceless Ones were brought back into their rightful realty, the reality that had belonged to them from the start, they would expunge the stain of humanity and have mercy on no one but their true followers. The list of reasons for worship was long and varied, ranging from the selfish expecting gifts of gratitude to the noble who believed only sorcerers should rule the world.

While most sane sorcerers agreed that this was ridiculous, there weren't very many who truly understood that if the Faceless Ones ever were brought back - because they did, of course, exist, contrary to popular belief - they wouldn't have any concept of mercy, nor any need for disciples. They would kill anyone and everyone, traitors and devotes and mortals alike.

That didn't stop a select few from working to open a portal even after the war with Mevolent was over, convinced that they alone would be spared. Were the Faceless Ones capable of planning, or any form of reason, they might have tried to use this to their advantage. As it was, only sheer luck had brought them so close to reentering their home reality time and time again.

Luck, of course, should have been all they needed. One devout follower idiotic enough to think he might be spared, one window, one bright yellow portal between worlds. It should have been enough to seal that world's fate. Every single one of the dark gods should have made it back home on much less than that.

But that black crystal had somehow survived the millennium, now in the hands of a young thing who shone almost as brightly as the last Ancient did, and it had killed two of them. A bright, impossible pain that shuddered through each and every single Faceless One, tearing holes in their careful disregard for physics. And then the dead man had closed the portal, sealing them all on the 'wrong' side, and their last chance at escape had been destroyed shortly thereafter.

The standard for 'right' now had to be lowered to the standards of this suboptimal reality. A feat which was made slightly easier when the dead man's existence reappeared, and there was suddenly someone to blame. Someone to punish. Someone to put through the same pain every Faceless One had to endure at the death of their brethren. All was 'right' until, quite suddenly, it was not.

A blast of energy, a sear of nothingness so intense that it alerted even the weakest of them. Time, noise, a cacophony that swept through the valley, unnoticed by anything without the ability to transcend each of those concepts themselves. It was the same string of impossibilities that formed their own existences, whipping through a dark void they knew all too well. But something unfamiliar came with it. Something loud, something painful, something remarkably similar to what the beings in this city used to be.

Whatever had caused it managed to do what even the Faceless Ones could not. It had broken through multiple curtains at once, walked a path that nothing should be able to, kept its balance through a whirlpool that, by all rights, should have disintegrated everything within it.

It was something powerful. Someone powerful. Someone who had just broken through the curtains of several universes using nothing but a melodious sound that the Faceless Ones couldn't even begin to understand.

And it was wrong. It brought with it the stink of the void and loud pain, and it was wrong. It would have to be dealt with.


None of them thought to find the little knotted and beaded rosary, because a being that shies away from music has no way of tracing the individual melody that the Archangel was following. The long-forgotten souvenir now lay in what might have once been a courtyard, half-buried in sand, only a mile or so out from the center of the city in the valley floor. The courtyard was otherwise empty, save for a small pile of bones in one corner bleached white by the sun.

The pile of bones might not have looked too out-of-place in a city where the population had been massacred, except that the rest of the city showed no signs of violence. Many of the stone buildings were beginning to crumble due to neglect, but there was otherwise nothing to cause panic - no blood, no bodies, and no remains of any kind. If one looked closer, this particular pile of bones looked like they could be put together to form the lower half of a human's right arm, hand and all.

But just because none of the Faceless Ones registered the tiny rosary, didn't mean it wouldn't be dangerous to find it. The center of the city was where most of them gathered, and where their pets - skinny things dressed in leathers and furs and primitive tattoos, sitting atop massive black beasts with jagged tails and thunderous screeches - flew overhead. Even now, they were circling around the sides of each mountain, keen eyes on the lookout for anything that didn't fit their masters' patterns.

The disturbance in the curtain of reality was gone - shielded, protected, untraceable, it didn't matter - and it didn't change that something felt wrong, like an object just enough out of place to be annoying, but not to lend itself to discovery. Something was here, and they all knew it. Two of the closest Faceless Ones began pouring slowly through the streets, preceded by their silent head-splitting whispers, heading for the place where the powerful act had been committed. They were expecting to find whatever had caused it - or, at the very least, a trail that thing had left.
skeletonenigma: (snap)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-24 03:29 am (UTC)(link)

The protection slipped, just for a moment, but it was all they needed. A good distance away from where the being's presence had first been detected, but that should have been predicted. Distance wouldn't mean anything to something that could slip so easily through the void.

Without the capacity for worry, there was no reason for the Faceless Ones to hurry. Several began moving towards the disturbance, and one - quickly growing bored of the proceedings - descended back into the vessel they had kept for the fairly new pastime of torture, a rugged and worn-down mortal body inhabited so many times that the skin of its face was now permanently smooth and featureless, even when it was empty.

Its powers were heavily limited within the failing flesh, but tracking down the dead man was never satisfying if it could simply pick out the glittering consciousness immediately.

Its brethren closed in on the fateful spot where the disturbance should be, several of their pets flying in to hover just above the rooftops, but it was all in vain; nothing was there. A vague afterimage of sound permeated the air, but it was all the Faceless Ones had left to grapple with.

This went beyond the protection that had sprung back up as quickly as it had faltered. There was simply nothing existing there, or anywhere nearby, nor any sign - apart from the afterimage - that anything ever had.

Whatever protection it utilized was powerful, but it also indicated fear. It wouldn't be long before the being would have to reveal itself again, and the Faceless Ones would be more than ready. Their pets circled out, searching, watching for any unfamiliar movement. The Faceless Ones, their torrents of impossibilities flaring high and distorting all heat and light in the area, began to destroy the surrounding buildings. One by one, the stone structures crumbled, their rate of decay sped up until the nearest ones were nothing but piles of choking dust.


Some distance away from both the destruction and the courtyard, there was movement the pets had learned to ignore until their masters commanded otherwise. It was a walking skeleton, wearing the remains of a tattered blue suit, his skull awkwardly bleached in a way that suggested he had worn a hat until very recently. He had, in fact, lost it just a few hours ago, and given up searching for it when he realized how useless the article of clothing really was in this situation.

He'd regret it later, no doubt. How, he wasn't sure, particularly since there was no hope of escape.

His voice, in complete contrast to his disheveled appearance, was as clear and velvet as it always had been. It echoed off the stone walls a good few feet before he came into view, only forming understandable words once he'd come a bit closer.

"She was a lot like you," he was saying. "Same misguided desire for attention, same utter disregard for authority. Selfish, too. But intelligent, and fearless, and willing to do what was necessary."

"I don't know whether to take that as a compliment or not," Valkyrie answered with a weak smile.

Skulduggery tilted his head towards her. "Always take everything as a compliment. It makes you feel better about yourself and keeps your enemies off-guard."

"I'll try to keep that in mind."

There was a raw, scratching sound, the exhale of nonexistent air through a nonexistent mouth. "Don't bother. Your mind is my mind, after all. You can't learn what you already know."

Valkyrie frowned. "What do you mean? I'm-"

"Not real. Obviously. Unless Valkyrie somehow gained the ability to walk through walls when I wasn't looking. Look, no offense, but I've had this conversation with myself hundreds of times now, and it never goes any differently. You keep telling me I can fly, and in one unfortunate lapse of judgment, I believed you. Never again. You will also insist you're real until I can prove otherwise, whereupon you disappear in a cloud of smoke."


The skeleton reached out and poked the dark-haired girl sharply in the side. His hand went through her, but the image only wavered slightly before becoming just as solid as before. Valkyrie lost her look of confusion, and smirked.

"Ah," was Skulduggery's only reaction. "That usually works."

"You're losing your mind, you know," she informed him smugly. "And you know this is only the beginning."

"Yes," Skulduggery agreed morosely. "I know. You'll turn into Lord Vile in a moment and find new ways to torture me. You're me, remember? Anything you could possibly do to me I've already thought of, so I'd appreciate it if we could skip the preamble. It's really rather obvious."

The smirk turned into a frown. "The story's no fun if you already know how it goes," the hallucination of Valkyrie pressed.

"And yet, you continue to be impressed by me." Skulduggery stopped, turned to the right, and climbed a set of stone stairs he was almost positive hadn't been there before. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have a right arm to go find."
skeletonenigma: (yes?)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-24 01:39 pm (UTC)(link)
Skulduggery gave up trying to reason with himself. It was the first time poking a hallucination hadn't dispelled it immediately, and he knew exactly what that meant. As Valkyrie had so succinctly pointed out, he was losing his mind. But, for the first time since regaining consciousness all that time ago, he didn't try to fight it. There was no way Skulduggery could stay sane, so it was high time he simply gave in to it. Embraced his inner lunatic, as it were.

So he began muttering to himself as he walked, for no reason other than muttering seemed like the thing to do. It broke the silence and, hopefully, kept him somewhat grounded. Valkyrie continued to pester him, and Skulduggery continued to ignore her. Everything was going remarkably well until the sound of collapsing buildings managed to drill through the haze his body and mind had fallen into.

Skulduggery hesitated a moment, then swept his hands down behind him and propelled himself up through the air to catch the edge of a rooftop. A higher vantage point, but also a greater chance of being spotted by the flyers. Skulduggery was taking the chance that whatever had caused the destruction of buildings was taking up their full attention.

To his surprise, it seemed like the Faceless Ones were causing the destruction themselves. Building after building crumbled before them, not out of rage - they had Skulduggery for that - but out of methodical purpose, like they were searching for something.

That was... unprecedented. It meant, among other things, that whatever they were searching for could hide from them.

Skulduggery hung on to the edge for a moment longer, his rusty detective instincts trying their best to kick in, but it was like trying to spin a gear rusted into place. When Skulduggery let go and gently alighted back onto the ground, the phenomenon was all but forgotten. He needed to find his right arm, after all. No distractions.

Ironically, as Skulduggery rounded the next corner, Batu became visible at the other end of the alley. Batu, with his smooth head and fleshy, jerky movements, stone dead and operated by none other than a Faceless One that slowly shambled over the rocky ground in an unfamiliar meat suit.

For the first time, fear crept into Skulduggery's calm tone. "You've changed the rules."

The vessel didn't stop, probably wouldn't have answered even if it was capable of speech. It moved ceaselessly towards him, the loud screech overhead warning Skulduggery that it had already summoned one of its pets to track him from the sky.

"Come on," he tried again, backing away. "I haven't even found my arm yet. Where's the fun in torturing someone who isn't whole?"

The unspoken answer, of course, was none at all. Fun wasn't what the Faceless Ones were after. Skulduggery took a moment to plan his route, and then took off running - towards the Faceless One.

It may not have caught the creature off-guard, but it certainly surprised it. And it did fool the flyer. While the great black beast swooped down to the corner, Skulduggery swept the air up around him and rose quickly into the sky, shooting over Batu's clear head and landing seamlessly on the other side. Then he took off running in the opposite direction of his pursuers.

It was a useless gesture, and one Skulduggery would have given up long ago if running actually tired him out. It didn't matter how far he ran or where he hid; they always found him. And yet, with no other option and no future free from pain, Skulduggery continued going through the motions, ducking through doorways and running up streets until he carefully dropped down a 12-foot incline into a large, square alleyway that offered at least some protection. He knelt against the wall under a small overhang, wary of the sudden silence surrounding him, until his gaze fell on a beaten-up old black hat a few feet away.

His beaten-up old black hat.

Skulduggery didn't move to pick it up. Instead, he slid down to a sitting position on the scorched rock with a short groan. The hat meant he'd been here before. And that meant tracking him down would only be a matter of time.

Skulduggery resigned himself to the wait.
skeletonenigma: (skulnoname)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-24 05:15 pm (UTC)(link)
Thus far, all of Skulduggery's hallucinations had at least acted like normal people. Valkyrie, when she first appeared, had walked around a large slab of rock to meet him. His wife, Ghastly, the Dead Men - all had been less frequent, but just as persistent, and so characteristic of their real life counterparts that Skulduggery could hold entire fascinating conversations with them.

This was the first time a hallucination formed out of nowhere and appeared right beside him. His skull whipped towards the image of Gabriel so sharply that it almost looked in danger of spinning off his spine.

He'd honestly been expecting Lord Vile. It would make more sense to pour on the guilt in this small window of time, not to remind him of their successful escape. Yes, he'd hallucinated Gabriel before, but there had always been a purpose, a way to cut him down farther than he'd been cut before. A Gabriel who stood aside, apathetic, while Skulduggery was ripped apart; a Gabriel bearing news of either a nonexistent God, or a God who had decided on this as just punishment. Gabriel now just didn't make any sense.

The Archangel's sense of urgency washed over and bypassed Skulduggery completely, totally disregarded. For a long few seconds, the detective didn't move. He might as well have been a normal skeleton lying against the wall, for all the difference it made.

"Alright," he finally said, turning his skull to look back out at the alleyway. "I give up. I have no idea what this is supposed to teach me."

Was false hope the goal? Because if there was one person in all the universes that Skulduggery could picture pulling this impossible rescue off, it was the Archangel he'd befriended while trapped at the Institute. But he'd long since accepted that if it was even a remote possibility, it would have happened by now.

"Taking on a new form," he added a moment later, "isn't going to make me any more likely to believe you. As long as you accept that, I don't mind talking. How long do you think I have?" He tilted his head up towards the sky. "Screech, or Batu?" As soon as the words left his jaw, Skulduggery was already shaking his head. "I'd go with screech, myself. Batu just can't move that fast, and see all the open sky?"

He grunted in sudden pain as his intended movement failed to take, thanks to the missing limb. "You can't tell, but I'm pointing up."
skeletonenigma: (Default)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-25 02:16 am (UTC)(link)
"That's exactly what the last version of you said," Skulduggery pointed out. "And the version before that. The one before that was more the quiet type, but I'm sure he would have said the same thing, given the chance - "

He was abruptly cut off when, for a few moments, he felt this particular hallucination of Gabe's existence much more strongly than he had the others. A gentle squeeze, a flood of concern that wasn't Skulduggery's, and a sudden piercing shaft of hope that he immediately tried to squash. Emotions didn't prove anything. He was losing his mind, after all.

Less easy to explain away was how a hallucination managed to possess a very real rosary. Or at least, a rosary that felt solid enough, as it was wrapped around his hand. The detective stared down at the familiar beaded cross, trying not to think about when he and Gabe had first made them. God, Skulduggery couldn't even remember when he'd dropped it, much less where. And then the bag, the bag that he knew, even before he saw the glint of white inside it, would contain the remains of his arm.

The scratching undertone of his friend's voice grew all the more alarming.

"I could be hallucinating all of this," Skulduggery tried, but even his own tone of voice had lost its certainty, and he tentatively took the bag from Gabe. "I used to be well-known for being imaginative. And, of course, I still don't know all of their tricks."
skeletonenigma: (fightfire)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-25 12:04 pm (UTC)(link)
Skulduggery numbly allowed himself to be pulled up, torn between the misplaced desire for this to be real and the certain resignation that it couldn't be. He'd made mistakes like this before, and they'd never ended well. He couldn't trust anything he saw or felt, not even the bones still in the bag he was holding.

What was wrong with believing it? Just for a moment? Skulduggery didn't have to be sure. This Gabe was encouraging him to run, and that was all he could ask for at the moment. Just someone real enough to hold onto until they inevitably vanished away back into the recesses of his mind. Just to hold off the pain a little longer.

He gave one short nod when Gabe picked up his hat. "Lost it a while ago," he explained, slightly surprised with how even his voice had become. "I came to without a hat or an arm." He dropped the bag on the ground, took the hat, and perched it on top of his skull. "I was more upset about the hat. Bones are easy to come by. A hat like that has to be custom-made."

Of course, he was good friends with the man who custom-made them - used to be good friends with the man who custom-made them - but that certainly didn't mean anything here.

With his hat back where it belonged, bolstering his hope despite his every effort to the contrary, Skulduggery glanced down into the bag on the ground. The humerus was easy to pick out. He picked the large bone up, and began twisting it back into its socket with a sharp intake of breath.
skeletonenigma: (snap)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-25 07:48 pm (UTC)(link)
Once again ignoring the urgency, Skulduggery knelt down and focused on pulling the rest of the bones out to fit them carefully together on the smooth stone before him. "If you want me to fly," he replied calmly, "or climb the cliffs any faster than the general pace of a snail, I need both arms. It won't take long." Manipulating air with only one hand was doable, but it wouldn't lift him more than a few feet off the ground at best, and those few feet would probably be amusingly lopsided.

He did look up when Gabe asked where the portal had opened, however. "That's not how it works," he said. "To open that portal, you need something that belongs in this reality to be over there. An Isthmus Anchor. None exist anymore, and that means there's no breach. For all intents and purposes, there never was. There used to be an Isthmus Anchor, but it's here now. Useless. I tried looking for it at first, but this place is much too..."

He paused, looking from the nearly-finished skeletal arm below him back to Gabe. "I'm rambling."

The surprise in his voice was almost as unfamiliar to Skulduggery as that fact. Was he really so rusty at basic conversation? Was even the mere possibility that Gabe might be real already dispelling his better judgment? He'd talked to hallucinations; it wasn't as if he didn't have practice. Maybe he was simply used to the one-sidedness.

He slowly stood back up, arm in hand, and gingerly stuck the whole thing back together. "I wouldn't worry," he assured Gabe, slowly flexing the fingers of his right hand. "We'll know they've spotted us when one of them screeches."

As luck would have it, an ear-splitting screech cut through the air moments later, and one of the giant black flying creatures circled back over the alley to disappear from view.
skeletonenigma: (Default)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-26 08:50 pm (UTC)(link)
He just needed to know which tune to sing.

In all the brief and hopeless fantasies of someday being rescued, that sentence had never really occurred to Skulduggery.

For a split second, an image of a little cherub with a harp crossed his mind, complete with a little skeleton in a suit clinging onto the angel's ankle and the golden music of the harp tearing a hole in the background. It almost made Skulduggery laugh. The annoying thing was, he couldn't be sure if this revelation proved Gabe was real or not. Honestly, it could go either way. It wasn't like he had any idea what God's angels would be able to do, although Skulduggery had to congratulate his imagination on the new concept if this turned out to be another pointless attempt at getting away.

The whispers came almost immediately after the screech, and while Skulduggery had been expecting them, they didn't hit him any less hard than they clearly hit Gabe - or the hallucination of Gabe. Skulduggery was simply more used to them; he knew how to think over them and how to ignore their grating, powerful effect on his psyche.

"High," he answered the question, heading over to a break in the alley wall. "Er," he added as an afterthought. "Near the top."
skeletonenigma: (skulnoname)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-27 01:17 pm (UTC)(link)
Skulduggery hesitated, turning back into the alley. "I can't," he answered, acutely aware that any hallucination of his would have known that. "I tried, back near the beginning." The detective inwardly winced at the memory of that first attempt, and the pain he'd stupidly brought down on himself. "I think it's possible. Given a few more months here, I might have learned how to do it."

Pressure popped in ears Skulduggery didn't have, and for a moment the world spun away from him. He angrily reached out and pulled it back, using a technique he'd learned for sharpening his thoughts by using the ever-present anger within him, saving himsef from becoming completely useless. The instant he could think again, a shockwave crashed through the alley, breaking down surrounding walls and forcing Skulduggery back a couple of steps. A few moments of trying to pick apart the forceful air currents, and he realized as suddenly as the Faceless One was gone that the rush of wind hadn't originated from it; it had originated from Gabe.

Skulduggery had never hallucinated a Faceless One before. And he was fairly certain he wouldn't have gotten the physical effects down so accurately. But that meant...

At Gabe's cry, Skulduggery spun his palms, pushed the air down, and propelled himself up onto the nearby rooftop, hoping to catch a glimpse of anything coming from any direction. A group of five flyers were approaching from the mountain, their massive wings beating down gusts of wind and disturbing everything below them. A stream of Faceless Ones, no direction perfectly clear, and - another flyer directly behind him.

With his energy somehow renewed, Skulduggery spun around and launched a fireball right at the beast's head. It screeched and grounded to a halt mid-flight, throwing its rider off and spinwheeling away from the flames.

The rider had fallen onto the rooftop, dazed. Wishing for the first time in far too long that he still had his gun, Skulduggery chanced a quick look down into the alley to search for Gabe.
skeletonenigma: (yes?)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-27 02:22 pm (UTC)(link)
Skulduggery was about to remind Gabe, once again, that he couldn't fly, and therefore 'slipping past them in flight' would be even more difficult than the Archangel was imagining. He barely had a chance to start getting the words out, however, when Gabriel snatched him up and took off anyway.

The expression 'there one moment and gone the next,' which Skulduggery had always considered somewhat of a hyperbole, didn't even begin to describe what just happened. It was like he blinked and suddenly they were about halfway up the mountain, and there was absolutely nothing Skulduggery could do but trust that his friend had everything under control.

After living for over four hundred years, he thought he'd experienced everything there was to experience. Angel flight, he reflected, was something very few people probably got to experience - and certainly no one from his own world. Despite everything, there was a small glow of pride.

He didn't feel Gabe falter, but he did feel the Faceless Ones taking advantage of it. Their immediate presence slammed against his bones with the force of a speeding car, and then the Archangel's grip vanished and Skulduggery was falling. He just barely had the time to solidify the air surrounding him before he crashed down into a shallow pit outside one of the larger buildings carved out of the mountain itself.

Cushioning the impact was all that had kept his skeletal frame from flying apart. As it was, Skulduggery blinked away the painful haze to discover that his right arm had, once again, snapped out of its socket with the blow.

... At least the arm had remained intact this time. With a short groan, Skulduggery dragged himself over to it, jammed it painfully back on, and turned to find a pile of rubble a short distance away, dust drifting over the ruined stone like smog.

"Gabe?" he called out, staggering to his feet. "Gabe?" For all the hopelessness Skulduggery had felt these past days, the foreboding disappearance of this last hope struck him more harshly than he'd thought it would. Perhaps he really was coming to believe this version of his friend was real.
skeletonenigma: (darkfirewind)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-28 02:59 am (UTC)(link)
When Gabriel didn't answer right away, a sensation of nothing washed over Skulduggery, like every extension of him had gone simultaneously numb. He'd felt it before, knew exactly what it was. And while he normally tried to hold back the onslaught - normally didn't let it get to this point at all - he really didn't see a reason to this time.

Until a white star began shining behind the stone.

Despite two long centuries of a bloody war with the Faceless Ones' disciples, most people never truly believed they existed. Until Skulduggery saw three of them for himself at Aranmore Farm, he had been among those people. Oh, he'd given their existence the benefit of the doubt, especially after finding the Scepter of the Ancients, and he'd always worked under the assumption that the threat they posed was very real. But his shock at having that proven beyond any shadow of a doubt had still been thorough and absolute.

There was a little bit of that same shock now, hot on the heels of relief, dulled by the persistent belief that this was all a figment of his imagination. Gabe had mentioned his true identity multiple times since Skulduggery first found out, even demonstrated occasionally with what little power he had at the time, but it wasn't until this moment that Skulduggery finally realized exactly what the term 'Archangel' meant.

There was very little he could do but stare, and very little that would have been visible on his impassive skull even if he'd been capable of it. The massive wings were stunning enough on their own, but Gabriel... he just seemed to embody everything that was beautiful in the world, and reflect it back out. The beauty of God's angels - another expression Skulduggery had attributed to hyperbole. And it was another expression he was going to have to reconsider.

For all Gabriel's insistence of hs divinity, it wasn't until this moment that the knowledge finally hit Skulduggery full-force. Even the first words Gabriel spoke didn't quite sound like anything Skulduggery had ever heard. It was a stranger standing in the rubble; an unbelievably powerful stranger who sat at God's right hand.

But then Gabe spoke again, a more lighthearted phrase this time, and it was quite definitely Skulduggery's friend standing there, same as he'd always been. Skulduggery was able to chuckle, though it sounded dry and weak. "I'm not too thrilled at the prospect, either," he admitted.

He had befriended an Archangel.

The whispers were starting to knock on the edge of his consciousness again, and Skulduggery followed Gabe's gaze to the sky, although he knew now that he would be able to see far less. "We need to move." And if flying was no longer an option... "That building back there," Skulduggery decided, gesturing towards where he'd crash-landed. "Sometimes there are caves in the backs of certain houses, tunnel systems into the mountain." He hesitated; the ginger way Gabe held his wings wasn't lost on him, and his tone turned sympathetic. "They might not lead anywhere, but they would give us a chance to rest."
Edited 2012-08-28 03:06 (UTC)
skeletonenigma: (fightfire)

[personal profile] skeletonenigma 2012-08-28 04:39 am (UTC)(link)
In any other situation where his partner was hurt, Skulduggery would have objected to their offer of cover - strongly. But this wasn't any other situation, a fact confirmed when Gabriel summoned a spear seemingly out of the light that was still emanating from his center. And without another suggestion for warding off a race of metaphysical beings, Skulduggery left Gabe to his magic and turned back towards the mountain.

Music, he had to admit, was a little more powerful than he'd imagined at first.

The Faceless Ones might have been repelled by the bright and soothing melody, but the same couldn't be said for their pets, which Skulduggery had forgotten about until now. Two of the skinny, tattooed creatures must have already been hidden nearby, because they dropped down into the front room as soon as he ducked into the building.

Skulduggery wasted no time in rushing the pair; slamming a fist directly into each narrow head, catching them by surprise, and flipping the right one over onto its back before it had a chance to react. The left one recovered from the punch fairly quickly, broadsword suddenly in hand, and it swung the blade toward Skulduggery's head. The detective ducked out of the way, grabbed the offending sword hand, and snapped it. An unearthly yowl was the only indication of any pain it felt; it continued its ferocious fight one-handed, and now its partner was getting to its feet. Skulduggery dodged back and snapped both palms out, sending both of the creatures flying up onto the stone wall and holding them there, pinning them with the air.

Robbing them of oxygen, unfortunately, didn't seem to do anything. Skulduggery had tried that too many times to count. The intricate robes, however, were flammable, if you got them to stay still long enough. Palms still outstretched, Skulduggery slowly snapped the fingers of each hand, and the bottoms of their robes alighted. Minutes later, they were both in flames, and no longer a threat. Skulduggery let them drop.

He only took a moment to marvel at his new-found ability of manipulating two elements at once. It was the only natural outcome of so much time to practice, after all. Given a few more months, he might really have been able to fly, just like he'd predicted to Gabe.

The building, thank God - Skulduggery checked himself, made a mental note to ask about the phrase later - did have a cave in the back, and it did seem to lead into one of the tunnel systems. They had never worked as successful hiding places before, but... well. Suddenly, many things were happening to Skulduggery that had never happened before. Maybe all he needed was a little bit of faith.

The cave was also free of anything living for at least a mile ahead, as the undisturbed air drifting against his fingers confirmed. Skulduggery made his way back to the building entrance and called out to Gabe, a wary eye out for any more surprise parachuting riders. "I was right. Let's go."