“Violence?"Skulduggery said. "Violence is never the answer, until it's the only answer.”
“Honesty is, honestly, the best policy,” said Saracen. “But when honesty doesn’t work, lie, and lie convincingly.”
“Gracious ignored him. "A farmer's daughter, she was, though back then every girl was a farmer's daughter. Or a farmer. She had long hair like rope, and a nose. All her eyes were blue and she had a smile like a radiant hole in the ground, with teeth. God, she was beautiful."
"She sounds terrifying," said Donegan.
"Hush, you. I will hear no bad word spoken of your sister.”
“Punishment is not the answer. Punishment is easy. It’s lazy. Redemption is hard. Redemption makes you work.”
“Please just admit it," said Valkyrie. "You're going to miss me, aren't you?"
"Obviously," said Skulduggery.
"Like a drowning man misses the land."
"A w w w..."
"Like a hesitant man misses the chance."
"Like an oblivious man misses the point."
"I have a feeling you're mocking me somehow, but I can't put my finger on how.”
“He stood there, looking at her. She glared back, opened her mouth to continue the conversation, but he suddenly turned, walked away, like he'd just remembered that she may look and sound and talk like Valkyrie Cain, but she wasn't Valkyrie Cain.
And she never would be.”
“The traffic warden looked up. "This your car?"
"It is," said Skulduggery.
The traffic warden nodded. "Very nice, very nice. But you can't park here, day or night."
"I wasn't aware of that."
"There's a sign right over there."
"I didn't think it applied to me."
"Why wouldn't it have applied to you?"
Skulduggery tilted his head. "Because I'm special."
"Don't care how special you think you are, you're parked in a no parking area and as such you're---"
"We're here on official police business."
The traffic warden narrowed his eyes. "You're Garda? I'm going to need to see some identification."
"We're undercover," said Skulduggery. "This is a very important undercover operation which you are endangering just by talking to us." He opened his jacket. "Look, I have a gun. I am Detective Inspector Me. This is my partner, Detective Her."
The traffic warden frowned. "Her?"
"Me," said Stephanie.
"Not me," said Skulduggery. "Her."
"Me," said Stephanie.
"You?" said the traffic warden.
"Yes," said Stephanie.
"I"m sorry, who are you?"
Stephanie looked at him. "I'm Her, he's Me. Got it? Good. You better get out of here before you blow our cover. They've got snipers.”
“And what, if you don’t mind me asking, is really important?”
Valkyrie holds her hand palm upwards, and it starts to glow from within. She smiles at him.
“Magic,” she says.”
“There’s nothing I would change about the last few years. Valkyrie has proven herself to be an astonishing individual and one I would gladly lay down my life for, such as it is. How many people leading normal lives would you be able to say that about?”
“Until the end,” Valkyrie said softly.
Skulduggery looked at her, his head tilting gently.”
“Stephanie glared at Skulduggery. "What was wrong with the door? You could have just come down the stairs and walked out the door. Why did you have to jump out of the window?"
"You know why," Skulduggery said, walking away.
Axle looked up, tears streaming from his eyes. "Why did he do that? Why?"
Stephanie glowered. "Because doors are for people with no imagination," she said, and led Axle to the car.”
“It was a trap. It was so obviously a trap.
“I thought you wanted me to talk more," he said when he noticed her silence. "Can't have it both ways, Stephanie. I can't be quiet when you want to sulk and chatty when you want to chat. That's not how it works. That's not how I work."
"I'm not sulking."
"Well, you're doing something with your face that resembles sulking. Are you glowering? You might be glowering. Glowering is like sulking only scarier.”
“I’m no hero,” said Scapegrace. “I’m just a man, who used to be a woman, who used to be a man. My name is Vaurien Scapegrace, and I have come here to—”
“Scapegrace went to roll his eyes, but lost his enthusiasm halfway through and ended up looking at the ceiling.”
“Don't open the door to strangers," said her dad. "Unless they're selling something. Then open the door and see if I'd like it. If I'd like it, buy it for me. But nothing cheap. I have standards. Nothing too expensive, either. My standards aren't that high.”
“It's not so bad."
Melancholia looked at her. "You're lying."
"I'll get used to it. So will you."
"I... I don't think I'll be able to."
"I'll be there to help when you need it."
"But I hate you."
Valkyrie smiled. "No you don't."
"No, I do. I want to kill you and stuff."
"We actually became friends in those caves."
"That's not what happened, " said Melancholia.
"We're pals. We're buddies.”
"If my wrists weren't in shackles, my hands would be round your throat."
"You want to hug my throat because we're friends.”
“You got stuck in a wall?" she said. "For how long?"
"A few minutes. Half an hour. An hour at the most. Maybe two. Or a day. Remember that day I called Valkyrie and told her to take the afternoon off? Yeah, I was stuck in a wall.”
“Over his shoulder, she saw Skulduggery walk in. "Oh, hell," she muttered.
Wreath's smile reappeared. "It's Skulduggery, isn't it?"
Over his shoulder, she saw Skulduggery walk in. "Oh , hell," she muttered.
Wreath's smile reappeared. "It's Skulduggery, isn't it?"
"Please don't annoy him."
"Me? When have I EVER annoyed the great Skulduggery Pleasant?"
Skulduggery arrived at their table. Wreath smile up at him. "Hello."
"I will shoot you in the eye," Skulduggery said.
Wreath glanced at Valkyrie. "I think I've annoyed him.”
“I... I don't, I don't think I can do this."
It didn't answer.
"Do the tests?"
"I can't work with you when you're like this!" it blurted. "To every one of my specimens, I am the last thing they see! Terrror is what I am used to-- terror is what I like! I prefer my subjects to scream and beg, not ask to see results!"
"I'll scream my questions, if that helps."
"It won't," it said sadly. "I'll know you're only trying to make me feel better.”
“You're not used to early mornings, are you?"
He shook his head. "Early mornings were invented by the system to keep the people occupied. But not me. I'm on to them. They're not gonna catch me napping. Metaphorically, like. Obviously, they can catch me physically napping like, four or five times a day, but, metaphorically, I am so far beyond their reach.”
“This is all very regrettable, though it isn’t really, and I wish to assure you that I, in no way, derive any personal satisfaction from any of this, even though I so obviously do. If you feel the need to vent any more of your frustration, please feel free to do so, as I intend to build a collage of this moment and I’d like some more amusing anecdotes to go along with it.”
“What's this about slippers?" Stephanie's mom said, walking in.
"Dad's just saying he could never lead the resistance against a robot army because he wears slippers."
"This is very true," her mum said.
"Then it's decided," Stephanie's father said. "When the robot army makes itself known, I will be one of the first traitors to sell out the human race."
"Wow," said Stephanie.
"Now that's an about-turn," said her mum.
"It's the only way," said her dad. "I have to make sure my family survives. The two of you and that other one, the small one--"
"That's her. You're all that matter to me. You're all I care about. I will betray the human race so that the robot army spares you. And then later, I will betray you so that the robot army spares me. It's a dangerous ploy, but someone has to be willing to take the big risks, and I'll be damned if I'm about to let anyone else gamble with my family's future."
"You're so brave," Stephanie's mum said.
"I know," said her dad, and then quieter, "I know.”
“Put a smile on that face, Valkyrie. You're unique. Easily as unique as I am."
"Two freaks in a pod, eh?"
His head tilted, amused. "Wouldn't have it any other way.”
“What did you do?" Scapegrace asked.
A series of expressions flitted across Clarabelle's face. First, there was indignation, then there was resignation, followed by hope, chased by confusion, and finally knocked down and sat upon by innocence. "Nothing.”
“Skulduggery? Where's Skulduggery?"
"I'm here," Skulduggery said. "I was beginning to think you were lost to us."
Finbar's mouth twitched into a brief smile. "Sorry. You're not going to get rid of me so easily.”
“This is a very important undercover operation which you are endangering just by talking to us.” He opened his jacket. “Look, I have a gun. I am Detective Inspector Me. This is my partner, Detective Her.” The traffic warden frowned. “Her?” “Me,” said Stephanie. “Him?” “Not me,” said Skulduggery. “Her.” “Me,” said Stephanie. “You?” said the traffic warden. “Yes,” said Stephanie. “I’m sorry, who are you?” Stephanie looked at him. “I’m Her, he’s Me. Got it? Good.”
“My magic," Valkyrie said, looking at him. "Darquesse took my magic.”
“The scepter hadn't bonded to her. Meaning it had already bonded to someone else.
Valkyrie sank down onto her haunches and closed her eyes. "Oh, Alice...”
“I didn't think they even existed. They're in stories, in legends, and we have Dragon Eye jewels and dragon threads and dragon this and that, but no one ever seriously thought these things came from actual dragons. That would have been... ridiculous. - Skulduggery”
“All I needed for the mind was to be led to new stations. All I needed for the heart was to visit a place of greater storms.”
“First impressions are meaningless, because not everyone can be on point all the time, and yet, one bad day can ruin us.”
“The final insult to all of this is that when Trump secured the nomination, media companies looked down at their bottom lines and realized that, via the profits they made during his run—Trump is “good for business,” CBS president Les Moonves infamously confessed—they had been made accomplices to the whole affair. —”
“I knew in my heart that without her, I’d never be able to coast.”
“You have risen from the ashes before. The only way to survive, " he said, "is to believe you always will.”
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