|Break Me Down
Author: Maddie Rose PM
Nefarian Serpine took his family. But why did Serpine keep his daughter? This is what really happened during the War. This is what changed Skulduggery Pleasant into Lord Vile, a sorcerer of limitless power...Rated: Fiction T - English - Tragedy/Horror - N. Serpine & Skulduggery P. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 11,675 - Reviews: 40 - Favs: 20 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 11-16-11 - Published: 08-29-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5339946
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter One: Haunted Memories
A/N: Edited as of 9/13/2011. The changes are mainly the exclusion of the character of Ryan, and just some editing of the content. Follows basically the same storyline, but will be a little different along the way.
Nefarian Serpine was savouring his triumph as he stood over his prisoner – the detective known as Skulduggery Pleasant. Serpine's lips curved into a contemptuous smile as he acknowledged that the detective wasn't the man he once had been – in fact, he wasn't a man at all. Just a skeleton, a shadow of his former self. A shadow of the Skulduggery Pleasant that Serpine had relished killing.
The Adept's green eyes glittered with cruelty as he observed his victim. Skulduggery's head hung and his bony shoulders sagged. He was helpless to stop him. Serpine paced around Skulduggery, revelling in his victory. He'd finally captured his nemesis and he was going to make the most of it. Then, when Serpine grew tired of the detective's screams at last, he would kill him…for good this time.
"Do you remember your family?" Serpine inquired tauntingly, a hint of menace entering his tone as a delighted grin spread across his entire face. "I can remember them. Your wife, Raven Beckett…she died quickly. I suppose you could it the easy way out."
Skulduggery couldn't stand the mocking, as Serpine knew. He tried to lurch forwards, his head suddenly snapping up, attentive. Yet there was nothing he could do against the magical bonds Serpine had shackled him with.
"What about Bella?" Serpine smiled gleefully. "Surely you remember her? Such a beautiful girl…shame I had to kill her, really. She was a fighter until the end, as I'm sure you recall."
Skulduggery could think of no witty retorts this time. Words were his weapons, yet he was defenseless. The vengeance and the all-consuming rage were back within him, and he hated Serpine more than he'd ever hated him before. The Adept stood and boasted about murdering Skulduggery's wife and child, his eyes sparkling as though he found it nothing more than an amusing game.
"Don't you ever speak about my family, Serpine," Skulduggery warned, his tone low and serious. "They were nothing to you. The only reason you murdered them was to get to me."
Serpine merely shrugged, neither confirming nor denying Skulduggery's accusations. His smile grew more malicious paced around the detective, his red right hand ominously evident. He wasn't trying to conceal it – it was a warning, a warning of the pain he was capable of inflicting upon the skeleton's weary bones.
"I miss those old days," Serpine mused candidly, "It's been almost two hundred years, hasn't it? Long time…"
There was a tense silence between the two before Serpine spoke again.
"I enjoyed making her scream." His voice was coated with sadistic joy, taunting the detective, knowing there was nothing Skulduggery could do to him. "She wasn't easy to break, but then, they all do in the end…"
"She was seventeen," Skulduggery hissed, trying to suppress the sick feeling inside him that Bella's death brought up, "She was just a kid, Serpine. Are you saying that you actually relished torturing an innocent girl?"
Nefarian Serpine's green eyes flashed with anger and Skulduggery realized that, without meaning to, he'd touched a nerve. The Adept ceased his pacing, halting right in front of Skulduggery and crouching down to the skeleton's level.
"She was no innocent girl," Serpine retorted, "You know that as well as I, Skulduggery. Your wife might have been a ragdoll who was just too easy to dispose of…but Bella was too much like you."
Skulduggery didn't say anything, but he felt a brief surge of pride for his long-dead daughter. Remembering her and his wife brought out the livid anger in him. He wanted nothing more than to break free and kill Serpine, but he was a little tied up at the moment – literally.
"But you didn't just kill her," Skulduggery reminded him, attempting to discern the psychopath's reasoning, "You murdered Raven straight away…but not Bella. You kept her. Why?"
"You know why," sneered Serpine, "Seeing the torment I had caused her was too much for you to bear. After I'd tortured her, after I'd broken her…that's when I killed her."
There was another tense silence as Skulduggery left himself dwell on the past. Nearly two hundred years ago – it was still difficult to believe it had been that long since he'd last seen Raven and Bella. He missed them every day, always wanted to take his vengeance out on Serpine…but he kept the pain locked deep down. Not to mention that there was the Truce, and he couldn't break that.
Serpine continued to smirk as he observed the deflated skeleton detective, rising to his feet and pacing once more. This was what he loved – tormenting Skulduggery, jeering at him about his past and the knowledge that Serpine had murdered his wife and child. No matter what Skulduggery did, he could never have them back. Killing Serpine still would not resurrect his family, and that broke his heart.
"She was about to take her name," Skulduggery muttered, more to himself than Serpine, "She was old enough…she had decided upon it and everything…"
Serpine's lips curled into a cold smile. "The name she'd decided on was Jade Penumbra, wasn't it? In the later days, when she started to lose herself, her mind…"
"Bella never lost hope." Skulduggery's tone was furiously defiant, and this just made Serpine's smile even more prominent. "Not even in the end."
"She was brave, your daughter," the Adept conceded, eyes gleaming, "I gave her chances to turn back, to stop all of the pain by helping Mevolent…"
"But she wouldn't." There was definitely pride in Skulduggery's voice now. He was immensely proud of his daughter – although young, she'd managed to defy Serpine for far longer than even full-grown sorcerer seasoned in battle.
Skulduggery let his mind drift back to those dark days, the days of the War and of Mevolent, of a time when Raven and Bella had still been alive…
"Is he ever coming back?"
Raven Beckett turned to face her teenage daughter with eyebrows raised in astonishment at her question. Bella stood at the sink scrubbing at the dishes, but her violet eyes were somewhat hard as she sloshed through the hot water.
"What do you mean, darling?"
Bella didn't even look at her mother. The bitterness in her tone was indication enough.
"You know what I mean. Father. This War has been raging for years now. Do you think we'll ever see it end?"
Raven sighed heavily, as she was prone to doing when the War was discussed. She could understand the frustration Bella experienced. Her father was constantly away and when he returned, the time spent together was only ever brief. Raven missed her husband, too – yet she knew that he was needed. In Berlin, in London, in Paris. On the battlefield, wherever the fight might take him.
"You'll be eighteen in just over six months," Raven reminded her, swiftly changing the topic, "Have you decided what your name is going to be yet?"
When young magicians turned eighteen, it was known as the Naming Day. It was the day they would announce their chosen name to the public, and it was an occasion of much celebration. Most of them had their names picked when they were young – but not Bella.
The girl moved away from the sink, drying her hands on the towel and raking back a strand of caramel brown hair. She shook her head in response to her mother's question.
"It changes all the time."
Raven hefted the pot of broth over to the dinner table, straightening the knives and forks as she nodded sympathetically.
"When you were three, you were insistent that your name was going to be Candy Pink, and that there wasn't a thing your father or I could do to change your mind."
She smiled wryly, but Bella didn't. There was precious little to smile about these days, since the War had consumed their lives and since Skulduggery Pleasant had left his wife and child to fight on the frontlines. Raven didn't condemn him for it, but Bella had become embittered by it. She held her father responsible for all the hardship in her life.
Bella had heard a lot about Mevolent, the powerful, dark Elemental who the 'good' side fought against. He was crazed about trying to return power to the Faceless Ones, a race of cruel gods that despised humanity. While many opposed him, he had many followers as well. Bella suppressed a shudder at the rumours she'd heard about them.
"I should be out there," Bella ruminated aloud as she sat across from her mother, "I'm seventeen. I'm an Elemental. I could help them."
Raven looked a little startled, but it wasn't the first time they'd had this conversation. She shook her head firmly. She was against the idea of her teenage daughter going to war, no matter her skills with magic.
"It's out of the question, Bella. You know that you're far too young."
Bella continued to eat in silence, before she inspected her mother with those brilliant purple eyes, the eyes that she shared with her father.
"Do you think we can really win the War?" she asked quietly, stirring her spoon in aimless circles in her broth, "Do you think Father can help them defeat Mevolent?"
Raven didn't even need a moment to consider. She had absolute faith in her husband. She nodded a vigorous affirmation.
Nefarian Serpine was well aware that they were losing the War – and this fact made him livid. Mevolent had instructed him to deal with all those on the opposing side who were primary instigators. Serpine was planning a series of murders and assassinations…but there was one hated man who he knew could not just be killed on the spot. Skulduggery Pleasant.
The Elemental was thoroughly irritating. He treated the War as if it was the world's biggest joke, refusing to be daunted by Mevolent or Serpine or any of the opposition. Serpine had fought Skulduggery numerous times in combat – and he loathed the man. Killing him would not be damage enough, especially when it could prove to be so damn difficult.
Serpine was aware that Skulduggery had a family. The spies had made it clear that his wife and their child – a teenage girl – were living just outside of Dublin. A smug smile crossed Serpine's lips, for suddenly he knew exactly how to defeat Skulduggery.
He had gone to the Necromancers and demanded that Tenebrae teach him how to cause agonizing death simply by pointing at someone. It hadn't been easy, yet now Serpine had his red right hand and the power he wanted. Now, he wanted Skulduggery Pleasant dead. That, too, was achievable – but first he needed the family.
Of course, he couldn't accomplish it himself. So many people to kill, so little time. There were other deaths to contemplate, so despite the fact that it would have been simply delicious to go and collect Skulduggery's little family himself, he would have to delegate the task to others.
The Diablerie would most likely get the job done. China Sorrows and the other were fanatically loyal to Mevolent, and despite the fact that they may not like Serpine, they would not question his judgment. He was not sure how powerful the wife and child were, so he would send all of them, just in case. Serpine just knew he would have to make it specific that he wanted the family alive…or else he held nothing over Skulduggery.