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Death bringer, p.1
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       Death Bringer, p.1

           Derek Landy
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Death Bringer


  Dedication

  This book is dedicated to my nieces. Girls, none of you were born when Skulduggery Pleasant first appeared. But since you’ve arrived, no one in our family wants to talk about the writer any more. Now all they want to talk about are the damn babies. All of a sudden, no one wants to cuddle me, and for that I blame you.

  But, I suppose you have your good points. It’s because of you that Valkyrie has a little sister, after all. You’re all mildly cute, reasonably adorable, and you make me laugh when you fall over.

  So this book is dedicated to you, Rebecca and Emily, Sophie and Clara and

  (insert names of any more nieces or nephews that might sprout up between now and when they’re old enough to read this).

  I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I am your favourite uncle. And you probably prefer me to your parents, too.

  (I’ve met your parents. I don’t blame you. They’re rubbish.)

  Epigraph

  “Good and evil are so close as to be chained together in the soul.”

  Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1941)

  Contents

  Cover

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Epigraph

  Prologue

  Chapter 1 - Kenny

  Chapter 2 - Me and the Girl

  Chapter 3 - The Christening

  Chapter 4 - Craven

  Chapter 5 - The Jitter Girls

  Chapter 6 - China’s Secret

  Chapter 7 - The Death Bringer

  Chapter 8 - Friends in High Places

  Chapter 9 - Friends in Low Places

  Chapter 10 - The Warlock

  Chapter 11 - Alone at Last

  Chapter 12 - Bump in the Night

  Chapter 13 - Shadowknives

  Chapter 14 - The Call

  Chapter 15 - The Doctor is In

  Chapter 16 - Full Recovery

  Chapter 17 - The Zombie King - And Co

  Chapter 18 - The Arrest Warrant

  Chapter 19 - Gods and Monsters

  Chapter 20 - Riding Out

  Chapter 21 - The Love of a Vampire

  Chapter 22 - The Church of the Faceless

  Chapter 23 - The Homecoming

  Chapter 24 - The Temple Siege

  Chapter 25 - The Vivid Dead

  Chapter 26 - Terminal Two

  Chapter 27 - Into the Temple

  Chapter 28 - A Vile History

  Chapter 29 - Who Knows What Darkness

  Chapter 30 - Tenebrae

  Chapter 31 - Fuel

  Chapter 32 - A Bad Night in Haggard

  Chapter 33 - Willow Hill

  Chapter 34 - Valkyrie and Fletcher

  Chapter 35 - Teaching the Twins

  Chapter 36 - Confiding in Uncle Gordon

  Chapter 37 - The Wisdom of Leonard Cohen

  Chapter 38 - Back at the Window Again

  Chapter 39 - Killing Craven

  Chapter 40 - The End of the Death Bringer

  Chapter 41 - Home Sweet Home

  Chapter 42 - A New Mission

  Chapter 43 - A & E

  Chapter 44 - Mission Accomplished

  Chapter 45 - The Nicest Town in Ireland

  Chapter 46 - The Requiem Ball

  Chapter 47 - This Evening’s Entertainment

  Chapter 48 - Going Underground

  Chapter 49 - The Pre-Emptive Strike

  Chapter 50 - China’s Ally

  Chapter 51 - Flirting Disastrously

  Chapter 52 - All Fall Down

  Chapter 53 - The Death Bringer Rises

  Chapter 54 - Monster, Murderer

  Chapter 55 - Tunnel Vision

  Chapter 56 - Panic

  Chapter 57 - Beheaded

  Chapter 58 - The Main Event

  Chapter 59 - Hero and Villain

  Chapter 60 - Tattletale

  Chapter 61 - My Twilight

  Chapter 62 - They Walk Among Us

  Also by Landy Derek

  Copyright

  About the Publisher

  Prologue

  he closing do or made the candlelight dance, waltzing and flickering over the girl strapped to the table. She turned her head to him. Her face, like every other part of her, was decorated with small, pale scars, symbols painstakingly carved into her flesh over the course of the last few months. Her name was Melancholia St Clair. She was his secret. His experiment. His last, desperate grasp for power.

  “It hurts,” she said.

  Vandameer Craven, Cleric First Class of the Necromancer Order, esteemed Scholar of Arcane Languages and feared opponent on the debating battlefield, nodded and patted her hand. She had entered into this arrangement with the kind of zeal that only the truly greedy can muster, but recently her bouts of annoying self-pity were becoming more and more frequent. “I know, my dear, I know it does. But pain is nothing. Once our work is done, there will be no pain. You have suffered for all of us. You have suffered for all life in this world, in this universe.”

  “Please,” she whimpered, “make it stop. I’ve changed my mind about this. Please. I don’t want it any more.”

  “I understand,” he said sadly. “I do. You’re scared because you don’t think you’re strong enough. But I know you’re strong enough. That’s why I picked you, out of everyone. I believe in you, Melancholia. I have faith in your strength.”

  “I want to go home.”

  “You are home.”

  “Please…”

  “Now now, my dear girl, there’s no need for begging. The Surge is a beautiful, wondrous thing, and it should be cherished. You’ve taken your next step. You’ve become who you were always meant to be. We all go through it. Every sorcerer goes through it.”

  She gritted her teeth as a spasm of pain arched her spine, and then she gasped, “But it’s not supposed to last so long. You said I’d be the most powerful sorcerer in the world. You didn’t say anything about this.”

  Craven made the effort to look her in the eyes. He despised people who sweated, and the perspiration was rolling off her in heavy rivulets. It turned his stomach to look at her wet, dripping, scarred face. “With the power I promised you, you’ve just had to suffer a little more than the rest of us,” he explained. “But all the work we’ve been doing, preparing you, it’s going to be worth it. Trust me. The symbols I’ve etched into you are seizing the power of the Surge and they’re keeping it, they’re looping it around, letting it build, letting it grow stronger.”

  “Let me out.”

  “Just another day or so.”

  “Let me out!” she screeched, and shadows curled round her, rising and thrashing like tentacles.

  He stepped forward quickly, gave her a smile. “But of course, my dear. You’re absolutely right – the time has come.”

  Her eyes widened, and the shadows retreated. He doubted she was even aware of them. Strapped and bound as she was, she shouldn’t have been able to wield any kind of power. For once, Craven’s smile was genuine. This was a good sign.

  “It’s done?” she asked, her voice meek. “You’re going to let me go?”

  “Let you go?” he echoed, and gave a little laugh as he undid her straps. “You make it sound like I’ve been keeping you prisoner! Melancholia, I am your friend. I am your guide. I am the one person in the whole of the world that you can trust to always be honest with you.”

  “I… I know that, Cleric Craven,” she said.

  He took a handkerchief from his robes and used it to take hold of her wet, slippery arm in order to help her sit up. “We have to choose the right moment to tell the High Priest about you, but once we tell him what we’ve been doing down here for all this time, it’s all going to change. Word will get out that you are the Death Bringer, and there will be many people vying for your favour. Trust non
e of them.”

  She nodded obediently.

  “There will be some who won’t understand,” he continued, “even within the Necromancer Order itself. Whenever you feel unsure, or scared, or whenever you just want to talk – I’m here for you.”

  “I’m scared now,” Melancholia said, her fingers closing around the skin of his wrist. It took all his self-control not to shiver with revulsion at her clammy touch.

  He smiled reassuringly. “There’s nothing to fear, not while you’re with me. Rejoice, my dear. Very soon, you’re going to save the world.”

  Chapter 1

  Kenny

  enny Dunne wasn’t an expert on cars. He knew enough, to be fair to him. He knew what wheels were. He knew how to open and close the doors. He even knew where to put the nozzle thing when the car needed petrol. He knew the basics, enough to get by, and nothing more. But even to a man like Kenny, smoke billowing from beneath the bonnet while you’re driving is generally seen as a Bad Thing.

  The car spluttered and coughed and retched, and Kenny’s grip tightened on the steering wheel. “No,” he said. “Please.” The car belched and juddered in response, smoke filling his windscreen. Images flashed into his mind of the car suddenly exploding into a giant fireball, and he tore off his seatbelt and lunged out on to the sun-drenched street. Horns honked. Kenny jumped sideways to avoid a cursing cyclist who shot past him like a foul-tempered bullet. Dublin traffic on a Sunday morning wasn’t that bad at all. Dublin traffic on a Sunday morning with a big game on was terrible. Irate drivers with county flags stuck to their cars glared at him as they were forced to change lanes.

  Kenny smiled apologetically, then looked back at his car. It was not exploding. He reached in, grabbed his bag and turned off the ignition. The car wheezed and slipped gratefully into an early death. Kenny left it there in the street and hailed a taxi.

  He was late. He couldn’t believe he was late. He couldn’t believe that he hadn’t learned his lesson, even after all these years of being late to things. How many interviews had he messed up because of his inability to arrive on time? Actors, rock stars, politicians, business people, citizens both rich and famous and poor and unknown – he had been late to meet all of them. It was not a good quality in a journalist, he had to admit, especially when every newspaper was cutting back on staff. Print was dead, they were saying. Not as dead as Kenny was going to be if he didn’t get the piece finished by the end of the month.

  This story was juicy. It was glorious and bizarre and unique – the kind of thing that stood a chance of being picked up by other papers around the world, maybe even a few magazines. Whenever Kenny entertained that possibility, his mouth watered. A solid pay day. Food in the fridge, no worrying about rent for a while. Maybe even a half-decent car, if he got really lucky.

  He glanced at his watch. Fifteen minutes late. He bit his lip and tapped his fingers on his bag, willing the road ahead to miraculously clear. He didn’t know how long his source would stick around, and if Kenny missed this chance, he doubted he’d get another. Tracking down Paul Lynch in the first place had not been easy, but then finding one homeless person in a city like Dublin was never going to be straightforward. And it wasn’t like Lynch had a phone or anything.

  The taxi crawled along to another set of traffic lights and Kenny almost whimpered.

  It was probably unhealthy to pin so much hope on one article that hadn’t even been commissioned, but there was really very little choice. Kenny needed a lucky break. He’d started off well, worked up to some high-profile interviews and articles, but then it all started to slide away from him. He could see it happening, but couldn’t do anything to stop it. Now he was freelance, thrown the occasional job, but his editors left it up to him to go out and find the stories himself. And that’s what he’d done.

  When he’d first heard the rumours, years ago, he’d dismissed them. Of course he had. They were crazy. He wrote a few articles, noting the trend in the modern urban legend, but he’d never read more into it than that. But they persisted, these stories of strange people with strange powers doing strange things. Wonderful stuff, and not just the ravings of lunatics and paranoids and the disturbed. These stories were everywhere. They popped up occasionally on the Internet, then vanished just as fast. A few of the reports he’d followed up on had turned out to be hoaxes, with the person who reported the sighting now claiming to have no idea what he was talking about. He’d been close to forgetting the whole thing when he met Lynch. Lynch was Kenny’s link. In all his years of casual investigation, Lynch was his one solid lead – as solid a lead as a muttering homeless man could be, anyway – and Kenny had a feeling he was ready to reveal everything he knew. Kenny had spoken to him three times already, and felt he was beginning to earn his trust.

  Today was the day, he knew. If only he could get there in time.

  The taxi stopped again and Kenny lost patience. He paid the driver, lurched out of the car, swung his bag over his shoulder and ran.

  Twenty seconds of running and he was seriously regretting this move. He hadn’t run in years. Good God, running was hard. And hot. Sweat formed on his brow. His lungs ached. He had shin splints.

  He staggered to the next corner and hailed a taxi. It was the same taxi he’d just got out of.

  “Didn’t go too well for you, did it?” asked the driver smugly.

  Kenny just gasped and panted in the back seat.

  They finally reached the park and Kenny paid the driver, again, and hurried across the grass. There were people everywhere, stretched out in the May sunshine, laughing and chatting, walking and eating ice cream. Small dogs scampered after their owners. Music played. The pond glinted.

  Kenny saw Paul Lynch, sitting in the shade away from everyone, and a smile broke across his face like a wave of cool water. He wiped the sweat from his brow and walked over, taking it slower, holding up a hand in greeting. Lynch didn’t return the gesture. He just sat there, his back against the railing, shoulders slumped. He was probably in a bad mood.

  If only he’d really been a psychic, then he’d have foreseen Kenny’s late arrival and there wouldn’t be a problem. Kenny’s smile turned to a grin.

  “Sorry,” he said once he stepped into the shade. “The traffic, you know, and the car broke down, and I had to get a taxi.”

  Lynch didn’t answer. He didn’t even raise his head.

  Kenny stood there awkwardly, then shrugged and sat down. “Glorious morning, isn’t it? I swear, you can never tell how an Irish summer is going to turn out. Do you want an ice cream or something? I’d love an ice cream.”

  Again, no response. Lynch’s eyes were closed.

  “Paul?”

  Kenny reached out and nudged his one solid lead. Nudged him again. Then he saw the blood that drenched Lynch’s shirt, and he grabbed him and shook him. Lynch’s head rolled back, revealing a throat with a long, smooth slit, like a red eye opening.

  Chapter 2

  Me and the Girl

  enny sat in the interview room and tried not to fidget. He was mildly disappointed that there was no two-way mirror built into the wall, like he’d seen on cop shows. Maybe they only had two-way mirrors in America. In Ireland, the Guards probably didn’t even have one-way mirrors.

  The door to his right opened, and two people entered. The man was tall and thin, dressed in a dark blue suit of impeccable tailoring. He wore a hat like a 1940s private eye. He sat on the other side of the table and took the hat off. He had dark hair and high cheekbones. His eyes seemed to have trouble focusing. His skin looked waxy. He wore gloves.

  His companion stood against the wall behind him. She was tall and pretty and dark-haired, but she couldn’t have been more than sixteen years old. She was dressed in black trousers and a tight black jacket, zipped halfway up, made of some material Kenny didn’t recognise. She didn’t look at him.

  “Hi.” The man’s smile was bright. He had good teeth.

  “Hi,” Kenny said.

  The girl said nothing.
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  The man had a smooth voice, like velvet. “I’m Detective Inspector Me. Unusual name, I know. My family were incredibly narcissistic. I’m lucky I escaped with any degree of humility at all, to be honest, but then I’ve always managed to exceed expectations. You are Kenny Dunne, are you not?”

  “I am.”

  “Just a few questions for you, Mr Dunne. Or Kenny. Can I call you Kenny? I feel we’ve become friends these past few seconds. Can I call you Kenny?”

  “Sure,” Kenny said, slightly baffled.

  “Thank you. Thank you very much. It’s important you feel comfortable around me, Kenny. It’s important we build up a level of trust. That way I’ll catch you completely unprepared when I suddenly accuse you of murder.”

  Kenny’s eyebrows shot up. “What?”

  “Oh dear,” said Inspector Me. “That wasn’t supposed to happen for another few minutes.”

  “I didn’t kill Paul Lynch!”

  “Could we go back to the nice feeling of trust we were building up?”

  “Listen, I had arranged to meet him, I was going to interview him, but when I got there he was already dead.”

 
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