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Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of Dead Men

Last Stand of Dead Men Cover

Last Stand of Dead Men PB

Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of Dead Men
Author Derek Landy
Cover Artist Tom Percival
Date Published 29 August 2013 (hardback), 27 March 2014 (paperback)
Date Set In August-October 2013
Publisher HarperCollins
No. of pages Paperback: 576
Hardback: 604
ISBN 978-0007489206
Publication Order
Preceded by
Kingdom of the Wicked
Followed by
The Dying of the Light

Skulduggery Pleasant: Last Stand of Dead Men[1] is the eighth book in the series, and focuses on a war between Sanctuaries. The eighth book was released on 29 August 2013 in Ireland and Britain.

Derek has stated over Twitter that more Children of the Spider are due to appear[2] and that Bernard Sult will also make an appearance[3].

Synopsis

War has finally come.

But it's not a war between good and evil, or light and dark- it's a war between Sanctuaries. For too long now, the Irish Sanctuary has teetered on the brink of world-ending disaster, and the other Sanctuaries around the world have had enough. Allies turn to enemies, friends turn to foes, and Skulduggery and Valkyrie must team up with the rest of the Dead Men if they're going to have any chance at all of maintaining the balance of power and getting to the root of a vast conspiracy that has been years in the making.

But while this war is only beginning, another war rages within Valkyrie herself. Her own dark side, the insanely powerful being known as Darquesse, is on the verge of rising to the surface. And if Valkyrie slips, even for a moment, then Darquesse will burn the world and everyone in it.[4]

Plot

Five years prior The Man with Golden Eyes meets with the Torment, who tells him that he is onboard with his plans, and the man with the golden eyes sends several mortal mercenaries to kill some Warlocks at a nearby camp. After the Warlocks are dead the Torment sends three mercanaries away so that they will boast about their mission and kills the other two, leaving their bodies for other Warlocks to find the dead soliders and start hating mortals.

Three months prior a mechanical robot called The Engineer prepares to head to Ireland to shut down a machine before it inevitably leads to the probable destruction of the world. However, on his travels he gets hit by a truck.

Donegan Bane, Gracious O'Callahan and Valkyrie Cain prepare to head into a Witch's cabin to seek information about Skulduggery Pleasant's disappearance. They meet the Witch's granddaugther Misery and after convincing her that they're not there to kill her grandmother, they head into the cabin and into the cellar. They meet the witch Dubhog Ni Broin, who is holding Skulduggery captive after he attacked the front door. Through trickery, Skulduggery manages to trick why Broin was seen conversing with a Warlock who was sent to kill both Pleasant and Cain. Broin reveals that the Warlock was trying to convice her and her sisters to join with the Warlock's leader, Charivari to go to war. During a meeting between Irish Elders, Ghastly Bespoke, Erskine Ravel and Madame Mist, they conversed with English Elder lllori Reticent where she tries to convice the Elders to let the Supreme Council establish a Council of Nine and not three so the other Sancturies around the World would not be so frightened should another disaster strike Ireland. Ravel refuses because he says the Supreme Council has no right to dictate other Sanctuaries on how to conduct their business. Illori tries to convince the Elders to at least shut down the Accelerator because it would boost the Irish Mage's powers beyond anything imaginable. Ravel again refuses because the Accelerator is possibly the only cell in existence that can hold Darquesse.

Afterwards, Valkyrie and her parents with Alice, celebrate her 18th Birthday and her parents present her with an orange car which Valkyrie calls the "Oompa-Loompa" but still loves it all the same. Later she and Skulduggery go meet Solomon Wreath. Wreath gives Valkyrie an "upgrade" to her Necromancer abilites as a present. Pleasant questions Wreath over why Bison Dragonclaw convinced the Warlocks to kill Skulduggery and Valkyrie. Wreath reveals that Dragonclaw gave a name to the Warlock that Charivari wanted which was Department X. Skulduggery says that Department X doesn't exist; It's just used as an excuse in case any mortals ask any questions over why creatures died. Wreath also says that five years ago Baritone, one of the necromancers during the Battle of Aranmore Farm, noticed three mortals boasting about how they faced warlocks. Baritone asked who hired them but they couldn't remember the man. Skulduggery states that they have been hearing a lot about the mystery man; Davina Marr couldn't remember who hired her to blow up the Sanctuary and Sean Mackin was relased from his cell by someone who he couldn't remember.

Meanwhile, Ghastly is out jogging and is startled when he realizes he is being tracked. He follows the trackers to the Accelerator where Bernard Sult and other Supreme Council members are planting explosives to destroy the Accelerator. Sult says that if the Supreme Council cannot have the Accelerator then neither can Ireland have it. Ghastly manages to defeat the Council members but Sult detonates the bombs himself. He and the others survive but are astonished that the Accelerator wasn't destroyed or even damaged. Ravel and the Cleavers arrive to arrest Sult and the mages.

Valkyrie visits China Sorrows to find out who and how the Man with Golden Eyes manages to erase himself from other people's thoughts. China tells her that a type of amethyst crystal exists, that could induce a level of amnesia so the thoughts can be erased. However, it is not a discipline of magic so anyone can use it. China also says that most of the crystals are locked away carefully and there can even be one in The Sanctuary in Roarhaven. China then asks why Valkyrie really came to her. She says that she wants advice. Her parents expect her to go to college and study but she keeps wanting to work at the Sanctuary but also does not want to get too distant from other mortals. China tells her that its called Second Lifetime Syndrome and it happens when sorcerers watch their friends or family die around them. Valkyrie suggests that she could tell her parents about magic. China strongly advises her against that since Valkyrie's parent's lives will be ruined with fear and worry about their daughter and their lives.

Scapegrace, now in a woman's body, trains under Grandmaster Ping. He insists that he is still a man, and Thrasher appears to be developing romantic feelings for him. They return to Ireland in the hopes of thwarting evil, becoming vigilantes.

At the Sanctuary, Valkyrie meets Saracen Rue where the two converse with Erskine. He reveals that a robot called The Engineer was the only machine capable of deactivating the Accelerator. The Supreme Council are demanding the release of Sult and respond by accusing and arresting Irish Mages all over the world of spying on the council. They arrest many Irish Mages including Dexter Vex. Skulduggery and Valkyrie go to the Repository to find the amethyst crystal that China mentioned. On the way, Valkyrie mentions that she was talking to China about the Second Lifetime Syndrome but Skulduggery responds that saying that she wants her to be happy and whatever way she can achieve that is fine. They find the crystal and Skulduggery realizes that the Crystals are so rare that the Man with Golden Eyes could have been using that same crystal. They then also realize that the Man is probably a Sanctuary Mage. They receive a message from Cassandra Pharos who says she is going to have a vision, and wants them to be there.

Dexter Vex is arrested in America, alongside another Irishman, Caius Calavier. Caius is distraught as he is being imprisoned and that he did no crime to deserve it. He is being escorted by Grim - the ex-bodyguard of Grand Mage Strom, who lost his job after Strom's assassination. Grim beats Caius by shoving him against the wall, and Caius responds by saying that he is 'a big, tough man' when he is beating another with shackles on. Grim takes this as a challenge and goads Caius into taking his shackles off, even thought Dexter tells him not to. Caius lunges at Grim, but Grim easily overpowers Caius, and puts him in a chokehold. Dexter attempts to convince the both of them to stop, but Grim kills Caius. The death of an imprisoned Irish mage makes the Irish Sanctuary very angry. The Supreme Council does not directly apologize, saying that he could have been an Irish Spy. They find that Bernard Sult is not in his cell, and the guard on watch is unconscious. The Supreme Council's channel, which is broadcast internationally, is hacked by Syc and Portia - the Children of the Spider. They murder Bernard Sult on live TV, saying that if the Supreme Council harms any Irish Mages, it will be a 'life for a life'. Madame Mist is mysteriously calm on this matter, firmly stating she had no control over them.

Skulduggery and Valkyrie go to Cassandra's house to witness her new vision. In this vision, Ghastly (with a new scar on his forehead) kisses Tanith, implying that Tanith is free of the Remnant. However, Tanith is injured on her lower torso. They also see Ravel, in his Elder Robes, in unbearable agony, with his hands shackled behind his back. They see Valkyrie, pleading not to watch something again, and is holding an unrecognizable object in her hand. They witness Darquesse, wearing a black suit so tight that looks like a second skin, kill Desmond, Melissa and Alison Edgley using black flames. They also see Darquesse kill Skulduggery then kiss him. Cassandra alerts them that people are outside, with a mission to kill them. Skulduggery and Valkyrie go outside Cassandra's house to meet a man that Skulduggery fought with in the war against Mevolent. They are told of Bernard Sult's murder, and the Supreme Council have sent people to kill potiental threats, and Skulduggery Pleasant and Valkyrie Cain are on the top of the list. They are able to subdue their enemies. They then realize they are at war. A shield is sent up over Ireland, to prevent people coming in.

The Supreme Council (Based of 14 Sanctuaries) meet to discuss the Irish Santuary's plans. The German Grand Mage, Wahrheit informs that the Irish have put up a force-field dome that stops any mages entering Ireland and also discuss the possiblity of Austrilia and Africa (The Other Cradles of Magic) alling themselves with Ireland, although they dismiss this as they assume they wont get involved due to the two countries having nothing to do with the War. They also plan to assassinate people such as China Sorrows, many of the Sensitives in Ireland (as not to predict the future of the war) and Fletcher Renn as he will probably ally himself with Ireland.

Fletcher Renn is targeted. Myra, his girlfriend, turns out to be a mortal assassin. Two Australian mages sent to protect Fletcher are murdered by Myra and Myra tasers Flecther, rendering him momentarily incapable of teleportation. Before she can kill him, he manages to escape, and then teleports to the Irish Sanctuary. Anton Shudder is targeted at the Midnight Hotel. All his guests (Supreme Council Soliders including Regis) attempt to kill him, but he manages to escape through a hidden exit. Finbar Wrong is targeted. Through a sly conservation with his assassin, he reveals that his powers are slowly returning after he was possessed by a Remnant. He foresaw him coming and had poisoned his assassin's mug of tea, killing the man. China Sorrows is targeted by Foe's gang. She escapes, but they chase her.

Dexter Vex is being relocated with an escort of three Cleavers, one being female. After regarding how uncommon female cleavers are, the female Cleaver kills the other two. She reveals herself to be Tanith Low, and she abducts him. Meanwhile, Vaurien Scapegrace and Thrasher have changed their minds about being "bad guys" and try to be "good guys" by trying to find Silas Nadir through their disguises as The Dark and Stormy Knight and the Village Idiot respectively. Tanith and Billy-Ray Sanguine hand over Dexter to Skulduggery, Ghastly and Valkyrie and even want to join the Irish Side. After a brief scuffle between Ghastly and Sanguine, the three agree and send Tanith and Sanguine with Donegan and Gracious to disable the Midnight Hotel which is the only the Supreme Council can send their troops in through the shield.

The Supreme Council recruit General Mantis - one of the best generals of all time, who was a 'secret weapon' against Mevolent and send him along of 80 other sorcerers on the Hotel and into Ireland. Sanguine manages to disable the Hotel however he and Tanith are captured. Tanith is later freed by Aurora Jane and rescues Sanguine where the four manage to escape.

At the Irish Sanctuary, the Dead Men reform, with Skulduggery, Erskine Ravel, Ghastly, Anton, Saracen Rue and Dexter Vex. Valkyrie is recruited to the Dead Men as the seventh member. They want to retrieve the Engineer, who is currently in possession of the French Sanctuary. They tip off the Australian and African Sanctuary in the hope that they will gain new allies in the war. The Dead Men encounter a ghost town along the way that brings about seemingly invincible creatures known as Wraiths. Wraiths cause intense burning with a single touch. They suffer intense burns. The Dead Men infiltrate the French base that holds the Engineer. After some time, they retrieve the Engineer and bring it to Ireland, with the assistance of the Australian and African Sanctuary.

A Warlock kills several mages in the African Sanctuary. He investigates the fact that all the murders of fellow Warlocks lead to Department X, a non-existent mortal organization. This Warlock, who declares himself to be Charivari, notes that someone is trying to play the Warlocks against Mortals.

The Irish Sanctuary has a decoy trap hidden in the Keep, in the hope that Mantis springs the trap and they can subdue him. The Keep is located in low ground, against a cliff side. They have an army of cheap Hollow Men in the Keep, that appear to be human from a distance, but not up close. By then, Mantis would realize the trap, and the Irish Sanctuary would have the high ground as they would be teleported there by Fletcher, and Mantis would have no way to escape. The Irish Sanctuary also has the aid of Moloch where Skulduggery and Valkyrie promised him another building to store vampires in. He provides 50 Vampires for the Irish and has them commanded to only attack Mantis's men. The Engineer is kept at the Keep, as bait, but it is damaged. It must shut down the Accelerator, as is will cause a apocalyptic explosion, but the Engineer has damaged its memory files, so it cannot shut it down. The replacement is held at the English Sanctuary.

Madame Mist appears to have set up a shield around Roarhaven. She is making mysterious actions lately as both Ghastly and Erskine have been on missions.

The trap at the Keep is sprung. Fletcher and the Monster Hunters are at the Keep, and as soon as Mantis takes the bait, they teleport away. A battle is fought, and the vampires do not show up. Valkyrie discovers that Moloch, had them contained in a cage and would release them upon order. However, Moloch was decapitated by Dusk. Dusk could open the cage, but as he broke the vampire code, the vampires would kill him. He leaves letting Valkyrie know that Dusk knows a secret about her that she herself doesn't even know.

Valkyrie fights in the battle, but is captured, alongside Tanith and Gracious O'Callahan. Sensitives pry into her mind, trying to turn her against Skulduggery and reveal her location. Darquesse subdues the Sensitive, but is contained in Valkyrie's mind. She frees Tanith and Gracious. They escape.

Valkyrie returns home, and speaks with her reflection. When the reflection goes inside the mirror, it gives Valkyrie certain memories - of her being tortured and of her killing Carol. Valkyrie fights her reflection, but her reflection grabs the Scepter of the Ancients. It destroys the mirror it came from, which means that the reflection can only die - it can never return to a mirror. The reflection takes up the name Stephanie, the name that Valkyrie abandoned. Valkyrie and Stephanie continue to fight until their parents come home. Valkyrie then leaves her family, breaking through the window before her parents can see her face.

Valkyrie tells Skulduggery about what Stephanie did, and Skulduggery promises that he will get her her family back. Erskine stops Skulduggery and Valkyrie from investigating the murder in the African Sanctuary, sending the Monster Hunters and Flecther instead. During their visit, Fletcher is kidnapped.

The Dead Men split up - Skulduggery, Dexter, Saracen, Valkyrie, Tanith and Sanguine go the the English Sanctuary to get the Engineer's memory, while Ghastly, Anton and Erskine go to the Sanctuary to investigate what Madame Mist is doing.

The mission to retrieve the Engineer's memory is successful, and the English Sanctuary mages admit to wanting the war to be over. Most international Grand Mages have been assassinated.

China Sorrows, after months of being on the run, goes to the Church of the Faceless to confront Eliza Scorn. China admits to being weak last time, but now she has nothing to lose and she is back in fighting form. She overpowers Eliza, but her assailants return. She escapes to the Irish Sanctuary.

Ghastly, Anton and Erskine enter the Sanctuary, to discover that the Children of the Spider are there, with the Black Cleaver - the resurrected White Cleaver. Ghastly orders the Cleavers to attack Mist, but an Elder cannot order an attack on another Elder (only the Grand Mage can do that). However, as Anton is neither, Mist sends a swarm of Cleavers to kill him. Anton is slaughtered, and as his gist attempts to emerge, he is decapitated. Ghastly feels something sharp and cold enter his back. He reaches for a scythe handle, but grabs the handle of a dagger. A firm hand grips the dagger and Ghastly falls to the ground to face Erskine. Erskine kneels, raising the dagger high, but Ghastly fails to stop him as he is too weak. Erskine stabs Ghastly in the throat, apologizing to him as he chokes on his blood, dying. Ghastly realizes all the regrets he has had, and then looks at Erskine one last time. Erskine Ravel is the Man with the Golden Eyes.

Erskine puts the plans forward for sorcerers to rule over mortals. He nearly kills Syc for insulting Ghastly, but he stops, deeming Syc unworthy of being killed with 'a blade stained with the blood of a great man.' He reveals that Kenny Dunne is his idea to shows mortals the world of sorcerers.

Scapegrace's goal as a vigilante is to capture the serial killer on the loose - Silas Nadir, the dimensional Shunter. He sees someone shunt, and attacks him. He turns out not to be Silas Nadir, but he is involved with Madame Mist. Scapegrace escapes.

Skulduggery and Valkyrie look for Fletcher's kidnappers - the Brides of Blood Tears. Valkyrie feels somewhat unstable after the Sensitives got into her mind, and Darquesse is now a clear voice in her head. They go to the Bride of Blood Tears place and Valkyrie changes into the clothes of one. She feels remorse in leaving Ghastly's clothes behind. She finds Skulduggery and Fletcher trapped, and she fights a Bride. The Bride is her physical match, so Valkyrie resorts to magic after her ear is bitten off. She intends to push the Bride away with air, but accidentally kills her will a spear of Necromancy. She hears Darquesse again, who presumably made that happen.

Book8Back

Valkyrie succumbs to Darquesse forever.

Darquesse conflicts with Valkyrie's thoughts, and as they are escaping, Darquesse tricks Valkyrie into taking the wrong turn. Instead of escaping, she is stuck in a large room surrounded by hundreds of Brides of Blood Tears. They shoot beams of powerful energy, and Valkyrie's leg is blown off. Darquesse remarks that she can help. Valkyrie then loses an arm, and Darquesse tempts her again. Valkyrie loses another leg, and Darquesse manipulates her, telling her that if Valkyrie lets Darquesse take over, there is 'no more sharing'. Valkyrie gives in to Darquesse, and she obliterates all the the Brides. Fletcher and Skulduggery turn back to rescue her, but Darquesse flies off.

Fletcher goes to Stephanie, unaware of what she had done. Stephanie says she does not know where Darquesse would have went as she is not her. She talks to Fletcher about Valkyrie, which ends with them kissing, and her saying "Valkyrie didn't love you. But I can."

Stephanie goes to Gordon's house, believing it to be her responsibility to stop Darquesse. She walks in to hear Dexter yelling at Skulduggery, disappointed that he knew all along but didn't kill her. Skulduggery is confident that he can stop Darquesse. Stephanie introduces herself, aggressively defending that she is now a real person, no longer an it. Skulduggery immediately points his gun between her eyes, about to avenge Valkyrie and her family. Fletcher attempts to defend her, but learns about what she did. Stephanie claims that her emotions were not developed enough for her to understand what she was doing. Skulduggery lets her live because without her, her parents will get worried. Stephanie reveals that she has the Sceptre, and they discuss killing Stephanie to gain access to its power. Tanith nearly kills Stephanie, but is intercepted by Skulduggery. Fletcher takes her away and displays his disappointment in her actions. They return, and Skulduggery says his plan of breaking into Roarhaven.

Erskine delivers a speech to Roarhaven about overrunning the world. He also discusses his sorrow for murdering Anton and Ghastly. He ends with his Dimensional Shunter turning the town of Roarhaven into Roarhaven City - a fortress.

Skulduggery, Saracen, Dexter, the Monster Hunters and Stephanie get into Roarhaven and see China. It is revealed that Skulduggery forgave China at some point.

China is forced to tell Mist and Ravel that see spotted Skulduggery. She is forced to lure them into a trap - if she doesn't, they will kill her. Ravel then states how after the world is governed by Sorcerers, he will admit to his crimes and go to jail.

Although Skulduggery knows that it is a trap, he spring it anyway, allowing himself and the others to be captured by Ravel. Ravel attempts to talk to Dexter and Saracen, getting the response "You killed Ghastly and Anton, you son of a *****. There's no coming back from that". Erskine believes that he is not like Serpine or other villians. Skulduggery admits the Dead Men have fallen - only three out of seven remain.

The Warlocks attack Roarhaven. The Irish Sanctuary refuses to fight for Ravel, so Ravel lets Skulduggery take charge. The Battle of Roarhaven begins. Mantis attempts to send a small party with cloaking spheres to kill Charivari, but they, alongside Mantis, are captured and burned on the stake. Skulduggery orders the mages to shoot them to spare them the agony.

It is revealed that the Accelerator cannot be shut down quickly - it takes two weeks. Ravel sends some mages to use it, and they join the battle. However, it is shown that although they are powerful, they can be killed. The Monster Hunters, Saracen, Dexter and Stephanie engage Charivari in battle, which ends with Stephanie blasting him with the Sceptre. Darquesse enters Roarhaven, killing anything that comes in her path - using black fire for the first time.

Skulduggery and China work together, going after Ravel. They fight the Black Cleaver, and it brings Skulduggery to his knees. As it is about to decapitate him, Skulduggery mysteriously uses Necromancy to hit the Black Cleaver 'with enough force to break every bone in its body'.

Kenny and his friend, Patrick Slattery, were present during the battle and Slattery is killed. Kenny sees Stephanie disappear. She was saved at the last second by Fletcher, but in Kenny's eyes, she appears to have died.

Skulduggery fights Ravel and China fights Madame Mist. Skulduggery lunges at Ravel, and they begin fighting. China shatters Mist's arm, but a torrent of spiders are unleashed on China and they begin to crawl down her throat. China accepts that she is going to die, and uses a last resort tattoo. She got it under Mevolent's suggestion, knowing that because Skulduggery came back, he was going to come after her and kill her, so she would die and kill him at the same time. Her body becomes 'a furnace' and she is engulfed in fire. All the spiders inside her die, and she feels her organs burning. She places her hands on Mist's shoulders and Mist dies before she can scream, her body a charred figure, barely recognizable as a corpse.

China begins to die. She tells Skulduggery that she deserves this for what she did to his family, but Skulduggery forgives her, because he knows that he has done terrible things himself. She hints that she finds Skulduggery attractive. Before she dies, Darquesse breaks through the ceiling.

Skulduggery approaches her and she flings him aside. Darquesse places a small ball of light inside Ravel, cursing him with 23 hours of unbearable agony every day, with the pain heighting if his body gets used to it. China has the ability to kill Darquesse, but she hesitates, seeing Valkyrie's face. China touches her, and the heat is transferred to Darquesse, who heals China. Darquesse, still wearing the clothes of a Bride of Blood Tears, ignites, and her clothes burn and her Necromancer ring is destroyed. However, she cools herself, and the shadows tighten around her, becoming like a second skin. Skulduggery attempts to negotiate with her, but Darquesse says that Valkyrie is gone, not even a little voice in her head. She says that she does not want to kill her parents, she just wants to be alive. Darquesse then flies off.

Afterwards, Saracen, Dexter and Skulduggery state that Roarhaven will become a prison and all people who were citizens are charged as being an accomplice of Ravel. It is mentionaed that Ravel is taken to a prison, but nothing can ease his pain. They asked the Engineer to shut down the Accelerator, and it asks the group 'who will be contributing?'. This confuses them, so the Engineer explains that is the Accelerator is not shut down within the four weeks of activation, a soul must be willingly given to seal off the Accelerator from the source of all magic. If a sacrifice is not made within 23 days, the Accelator will self-destruct. China declares herself Grand Mage to no objection. She assigns Dexter and Saracen the task of stopping the 19 super-charged mages - courtesy of the Accelerator - and Skulduggery must stop Darquesse. Skulduggery recruits Stephanie, on the condition that Stephanie can kill Darquesse if she must.

Kenny approaches Stephanie's house, abandoning his career, but telling Stephanie's parents that she died (Kenny knows that Stephanie Edgley is Valkyrie Cain, but not that the reflection - now Stephanie - exists). The book ends with Kenny knocking on the door, with Desmond asking ' Can I help you?'. This implies that Stephanie's parents will now know about magic.

Chapter List

Trivia

  • Although there is no prologue (unlike the previous few books) there are two intros set during earlier adventures.
  • Based on dialogue in Trick Or Treat and The Maleficent Seven, the three months ago section took place no later than a month after the latter.
  • Last Stand Of Dead Men features the most fans of the series from various online locations (including Derek's Blog, The Forums and Facebook) out of all the books so far.
  • It won the Senior Irish Children's book award in 2013.

References

  1. Derek Landy Blogs Under Duress: Book Eight
  2. Twitter: Derek replies to mention of Mist and the Torment.
  3. Twitter: Derek replies saying Sult will be back.
  4. Derek Landy Blogs Under Duress: The Synopsis

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