“You have stubble now?”
“Well, saving countries is one thing, but shaving… it’s not fun. Plus, I like people to know that I’m male.”
“I’m fairly sure you saved the world a lot.”
“That’s for Valkyrie to do. Not forgetting Skulduggery of course.”
Sarthacus Bolt shook hands with an old friend – Dragona Pine. They’d first met in a bar; a man had been trying to pick a fight with Sarthacus. One thing led to another, and he had got the whole bar fighting for a drink and entertainment.
“Ya pickin’ a fight, pal?”
“I’m not your pal,” Sarthacus said. “And you don’t want to know what happened to the last guy who did this.”
Dragona laughed. “A real life déjà vu episode! But try to keep his teeth intact, and his arms connected to his shoulders.”
“Just a sec,” and Sarthacus grabbed a hand coming for his face, twisted his body and the man’s arm, flipping him over. He then dislocated the man’s elbow, and winded him.
“Sarthacus, I said keep his arms intact!”
“You said arms! I only did one of them. And I think we have a very special guest here.”
“Look at the door to the left. Look past the man vomiting on the table and look for the thin one.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Yeah, why not?”
“Skulduggery doesn’t exactly drink, does he? He’d make a mess of his trousers. He’s a skeleton for god’s sake. It’d fall right to the bottom… and I didn’t mean it literally. I don’t think he has one.”
“Only you could think like that, Dragona.”
“Nope, I’m sure he’s thought about it too.”
“Well, he’s obviously here for information. Let’s ask.”
They walked over to Skulduggery, and Sarthacus tapped him on the shoulder. Skulduggery turned around, his façade covering his skull.
“Well, if it isn’t a friend and a friend of a friend who I would count as an acquaintance. Mr. Pine I believe? A pleasure.”
Dragona shook hands with Skulduggery. “Good to meet you at last.”
“Yeah, well, enough o’ that.” Said Sarthacus. “What do you need help with?”
“Jumping to the middle already?”
“You seem to know me better than anyone.”
“Billy-Ray Sanguine has been spotted in the Barrwood campsite.”
“And how is he still here?”
“He’s wounded. I’ve got Valkyrie checking his movements right now.”
“So you want us to help her?”
“I was actually looking for Tanith somewhere around here, but now that you mention it… no. you’re not involved.”
Dragona looked dismayed, but Sarthacus said, “Well thanks, Skulduggery. We’ll see you at Barrwood then.”
“Seven o’clock, the entrance.”
As they walked out, Dragona asked, “And how did you get him to let us in?”
“Skulduggery’s jokes are good, but you need to be with him for a few years to understand joke codes.”
“So… your car or mine?”
“I don’t have a car, Dragona.”
“I was joking.”
“So, my car then?”
“But you don’t have a car…”
“Yes, right now I’m making a joke code. I’m saying that I don’t have a car, and you offer yours, so I say we go with mine. As I don’t have a car, I say we go with the healthy option. We walk or run there.”
“So, into my car.”
“Screw that, I’m giving you a lift.”
“You know, I knew you would say that.”
It was half past six when they arrived.
“Can you see anything?”
“Yes,” said Sarthacus, igniting a flame and a stick with it. He handed the stick to Dragona. “Here you go.”
“I’m an elemental too, you know.”
“I know. I just take all chances I see to mock people.”
They came to Valkyrie.
“You’re not going to introduce me are you?”
“You? God no. Just follow my lead.” He walked up to her. “Valkyrie!” he said and hugged her.
“Um… hi Sarthacus. Skulduggery said you’d be coming.”
“Just Sarthacus?” Dragona asked.
“I think so,” Valkyrie said.
“What a kind man he is turning out to be.”
“Don’t worry,” Valkyrie said, “He gets better. I’m Valkyrie Cain.”
There was a sound of crunching gravel, and the Bentley parked beside Dragona’s car.”
“Dragona, Skulduggery’s car is way cooler than yours.”
“Oi, shut it. My car’s better in terms of looks.”
“No, It’s not.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“It was made more recently. Say no to that one.” Dragona looked smug in the darkness.
“Skulduggery’s Bentley has bee through more damage than Valkyrie, and that’s a lot. It’s practically been remade, just with the exact same looks. Which are cooler than yours.”
Valkyrie couldn’t help but giggle.
“You,” Dragona whispered, “Are the most annoying man I’ve ever met.”
“No, don’t forget that woman in Italy. She was following us around everywhere we went.”
“Oh her. Wait, is this the one you threw sticks at or the one who stole your money?”
“Oh, Yeah, she was annoying.”
Skulduggery walked up with two people by his side. “You’re early,” Skulduggery said.
“As usual,” Sarthacus said.
“No, you’re usually quite late. Anyway, I’ve got some backup. Kallista Pendragon and Bridget Whiplash.”
“Hang on… Skulduggery, are you okay? You sound different.”
“What? Do I? How strange. Well, anyway–”
“Skulduggery, show me your face.”
Skulduggery looked up, revealing sunglasses, a thick scarf and ears.
“Skulduggery, why do you have your façade up with your disguise?” Dragona asked.
“Now!” Skulduggery barked.
Kallista and Bridget went for Sarthacus and Dragona, Skulduggery moving for Valkyrie. They each countered the grab and prepared their magic.
Billy Ray Sanguine took off a hat and scarf, but kept the sunglasses on. Tanith Low, disguised as Bridget, drew her sword and swiped at Sarthacus’ long black coat, missing by the breadth of a hair. A female necromancer made knives appear out of nowhere and threw them at Dragona.
He rolled out of the way, retaliating with fire.
Tanith kicked Sarthacus in the chest, thrusting with her sword and preparing foe a counter. Sarthacus fell back, rolling away from the sword and shooting his classic elemental weapon: the Branch.
It smashed Tanith right in the face, and Sarthacus scrambled up and ran with Valkyrie and Dragona into the Barrwood forest.
To be Continued in Part 2...