Gold, Babies and the Brothers Muldoon
Gold, Babies and the Brothers Muldoon
he cemetery was cold and dark, and the dead man was standing on his grave, watching her as she approached.
“Hello,” she said.
The clothes he had been buried in were torn and musty, his shoes caked with mud. He stood with a slight stoop and he had, for the most part, skin and hair. The middle of his face had rotted, however, robbing him of lips and nose and eyelids.
“You’re late,” he grumbled. “Midnight has come and gone.”
“Sorry about that.”
“Lives hang in the balance. You’re lucky I stayed.”
“Yes, I am.”
“You are Valkyrie Cain.”
“Thirteen years old, Elemental by power, partner of the skeleton detective, and late.”
“You’re lucky I stayed.”
“So you said.”
“I could have left, you know. One minute past midnight, when you weren’t here, I could have walked away. I didn’t have to wait here for you. I was under no obligation. But I stayed, because I have no wish to see innocent lives taken.”
“You’re a corpse,” Valkyrie said. “Where were you going to go?”
He glared at her, but didn’t answer.
He started walking, shuffling off his grave, up towards the ruined church. She followed.
“I thought the skeleton would be with you,” the dead man said as they walked.
“We’re quite busy at the moment, so Skulduggery had to stay behind. I said I’d take care of this one on my own.”
He looked back, and she was thankful the moon was only a sliver, for his face was mostly hidden. “Maybe you underestimate what awaits.”
“No, I think I’ve got it. Three babies snatched from their cots, being held by a family of goblins who want to exchange them for gold. Fairly straightforward.”
“If you fully realised the danger you are walking into, you would not be so calm.”
“Ah, I’m sure I would. They’re goblins, you know? How bad can they be?”
“They were not always goblins,” the dead man said, irritation in his voice. “The Muldoons were sorcerers, descended from a long line of the most powerful mages the world had ever seen. They were rumoured to be descended from the Ancients themselves.”
“That was disproved,” Valkyrie said.
“I asked Skulduggery about that. He said the Muldoons reinvented their own family tree in a sad attempt to appear threatening, and then they actually started to believe their own lies.”
“If you know so much,” the dead man scowled, “then why are you asking me ?”
“Oh, right, sorry. Please go on.”
The corpse muttered something under his breath, then resumed. “The father died, and the mother went insane, but the children maintained the belief that, because of their heritage, they should be the rulers of the world. They believed in the inherent superiority of those who wield magic, and they despised the mortals, whom they saw as pedestrian and drab.”
“Why are they called mortals?” asked Valkyrie.
“I’ve been wondering that. Non-magical people, I mean, why are they called mortals? Sorcerers are mortal too.”
“Sorcerers don’t claim any different.”
“But by calling non-magical people mortal, it’s like they’re implying that they themselves are im mortal. And they’re not – magic just makes them live longer.”
The dead man stopped suddenly and turned. His brows were furrowed across his unblinking eyes.
“Do you want to hear the story of the Muldoons or not?” he asked.
He grunted, then turned and carried on towards the church. The breeze caught the mustiness of his clothes and brought it down to her. “The Council of Elders identified the Muldoons as the sorcerers behind a spate of attacks on mortals. In an effort to keep the mortals safe, and to keep the magical communities hidden, the Muldoons were ambushed, and although they escaped, they were not unharmed.”
“This is my favourite bit,” Valkyrie said. “This is when they get turned into goblins, right?”
“Correct. Over the years they have amassed a collection of gold, for gold is the only thing that could return them to human form, but it has not been enough.”
“So they started stealing babies.”
They arrived at the ruined church. The dead man looked at her “My role is almost fulfilled. I agreed to make the introductions and witness that both sides keep their sides of the bargain. There are innocent lives at stake.”
“So you keep
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