In the aftermath of a devastating battle, Azrael the Angel of Death lost his life in Gemstone City. The Shadow ended Azrael’s quest to kill the seven princes of Hell by decapitating him with his own sword. He claimed Azrael’s sword and left his body to rot in West Central park. Azrael’s death sent shockwaves throughout the afterlife.
Beneath the radiant glow of moonlight, a lone figure wearing a white tunic, gathers Azrael’s remains and ascends to Heaven. In a white solitary room, Sabriel the Angel of Miracles, places his hands on Azrael's lifeless body. He knows that while an Angel can be killed - their life-force remains. Sabriel’s hands start to tremble as he focuses all his energy into Azrael’s body. A bright golden light fills the room like the rising sun, and Azrael is reborn.
Sabriel speaks in a deep throbbing voice, “Rise Prince Azrael!”
Azrael slowly rises to his feet and takes a moment to collect himself. He places his hands around his neck - making sure his head is fully attached. Feeling satisfied, he pulls the white cowl over his head.
“Stand aside Sabriel, I have unfinished business with The Shadow!”
Sabriel started to laugh. “You know the rules Azrael. Once I bring someone back from the dead, they are trapped in this realm forever!”
Azrael squeezed his fists together and shouted, “I must have my vengeance!”
Sabriel smiled wearily, “I might be able to make an exception in your case...Give me your sword and I will allow you to leave this realm.”
Azrael shouted, “The Shadow stole it from me!” He pointed at Sabriel, and continued, “If you let me have my vengeance I will kill him and give you the sword!”
Sabriel folded his hands together and thought to himself. “You already failed once… You must bring me the sword. If you fail again, I won’t be able to bring you back! You will burn in the pits of Hell for eternity!”
Azrael reached over and grabbed Sabriel. “I will not fail this time!”
Sabriel pushed him away. “Don’t touch me again or I’ll make sure you never leave!”
Azrael took a step back and replied, “I will bring you the sword. I accept your terms...do we still have a deal?”
Sabriel took a deep breath. “The deal is done! Bring me the sword, or you will burn forever!”
Meanwhile in Gemstone City…
In an abandoned warehouse, a thunderous pounding could be heard throughout South Main Street. Frank Gillispie could feel his arm burning as he hammered the last nail into his latest victim. He stood back, folded his arms and smiled at his handiwork. Hanging on the wall were twenty empty corpses with holes cut into their chests. Their hearts were missing.
He chuckled to himself as he walked over to the nearby table. Each heart was placed into a separate cooler packed with ice.
“This will be the biggest payday yet! The black market will pay me a fortune.” he said to himself.
Frank looked around the room and noticed that the lights were starting to dim. He shivered as a cold chill raced through his scrawny spine. He noticed goosebumps forming on his pale white arms. He raised his trembling hands to his jet-black hair and wiped the sweat from his wrinkled forehead. He heard a haunting voice directly behind him.
“Did you say payday...Boy!”
Frank quickly turned around and came face to face with The Shadow.
“Wh-who are you?”
The Shadow parted his black trench coat and pulled out the Shadow Sword. He held the sword above his head and chuckled to himself as black flames ignited around the blade.
“I’m a simple debt collector, and I’ve come to collect!” he said pointing the sword at Frank.
Frank started to tremble as he felt a warm yellow liquid flow down his right leg. He opened his eyes wider as he heard a loud growling noise just off to his left side. He slowly turned his head and saw a mighty hellhound hulking in the darkness.
“Have you met Hot Head?” asked The Shadow. “Don’t worry this won’t hurt...much!”
Hot Head pounced on Frank ripping him limb from limb. Blood quickly filled the concrete floor as Hot Head’s razor-sharp fangs tore into Frank’s flesh. His screams echoed through the empty corridors of the warehouse. As Hot Head ripped Frank’s head off, the hanging caged lights exploded in unison. Sparks floated down like fireflies soaring through the night air.
Suddenly a bright light filled the room and Azrael appeared out of nowhere. He threw his iron chain around The Shadow before he had time to react. With another flash of light, they both vanished. The Shadow was gone…
In the surrounding darkness, Frank’s head was still in the grips of Hot Head’s mouth. As he bit down with a large crunch, Frank’s eyeballs shot out like glass marbles. Hot Head searched in vain for his master but did not find him. He whimpered and ran to the roof. With the bright moon shining in the night sky, Hot Head howled - shattering all nearby windows.
On East Market Street…
Darby O’Gill was pushing his mother Anne in her wheelchair. Darby was in his mid-fifties, and Anne was in her eighties. They loved their evening walks in the warm spring air. The markets were closed, and the O’Gill’s loved the peaceful isolation. As they passed the Western Steer, Darby felt something brush up against his back legs. He turned around to see a massive dog with glowing red eyes, and wisps of smoke emanating from its mangy black fur. He could smell sulfur in the air, which burned his eyes.
“Hey ma! Would ya look at this big ugly fuckin’ dog!”
She twisted her wheelchair around and said, “You leave that dog alone! You're always out here messin’ round with strange animals.”
Darby turned around to face Anne. “Oh, come on! I bet he’d make a great guard dog!”
“Forget about it, I have a hard-enough time feeding your fat ass. You honestly think I can afford to feed a big dog like that!” she said.
Darby closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Please ma! Let me take em’ home. I bet he’ll clean up real nice!”
Anne shouted at him in a stern voice. “Yeah right! I bet the next thing you’ll tell me is that you will actually get a job and keep it this time!”
Darby squeezed his lips together and replied, “Ummm-”
Interrupting Darby, Anne said, “That’s what I thought! If you keep messin’ round with these strange animals - one of these days you're gonna get burnt!”
Darby started crying. Turning around to face the dog he said, “You wouldn’t burn me would ya boy?”
Hot Head opened his mouth wide and spewed forth a massive inferno of flames. Darby stood frozen in time as his flesh melted away from his body. Anne started screaming, and Hot Head closed his mouth - stopping the onslaught. There was nothing left of Darby except for a charred black skeleton that fell to the pavement. As his ashes started to blow away, Hot Head cocked his head and looked at Anne.
He whimpered, and Anne was speechless. She stared at him with glassy eyes and trembled in her wheelchair. As Hot Head walked past her, she kept her eyes fixed on him until he was out of view.
“Oh my God! I thought he was going to kill me too…” she said to herself.
Just then Hot Head swatted at Anne’s head with his mighty paw, sending it soaring through the air. Hot Head was ready to sink his teeth into her lifeless body, but a noise in the wind caught his attention. Curious - he followed the sound to a back alleyway just behind the Gemstone Apartment Complex.
Moans of ecstasy were coming from one of the first-floor windows. Hot Head turned his head and listened. He ripped the screen away and snuck in - prowling his way through the lavish apartment. As he approached the bedroom door he discovered the source of the moans - a young couple mating in the darkness.
“Oh, Candy Cane, you’re groovin’ tonight!” the man said.
“Shut up! You’re only paid up for thirty minutes!” she replied.
Hot Head started panting loudly as he stared at the white bedroom door. A large amount of phlegm oozed down from his mouth staining the sumptuous carpet. He turned his head and let out a small whimper.
Hearing the noise, the man sat up in bed and said, “Candy Cane! I’ve never heard you whimper like that. Are you finally enjoying yourself?”
“Enjoying myself! I don’t think that’s possible. You know I fake it right?” she said in a stern voice. “If you keep panting like that, I’ll have to charge you extra!”
Just then, Hot Head crashed through the bedroom door. He jumped high into the air and landed on top of the couple. He bit off the woman's head and slashed at the man’s face. The silk white sheets turned to a red crimson color as their blood flowed like a waterfall down a mountainside.
A few blocks away on Mason Street, Gary Larson was locking up his gun shop. Big Bubba Wetzel was waiting for him because he was hoping to trade in his new Benelli 20-Gauge shotgun for a few hundred dollars.
“Sorry buddy we’re closed for the night,” Gary said.
Big Bubba hung his head low and said, “Oh, come on man… I just need a few minutes to trade this baby in!”
Gary looked at the shotgun and smiled. “Hey, is that the new Benelli?”
“You're damn right it is!” Bubba replied.
Gary nodded his head and unlocked the door. “Well, come on in my fine sir! Those guns are a big seller. I just can’t seem to keep them in stock.”
Big Bubba slapped his big round belly and said, “Hot Damn, it’s my lucky day!”
They both turned to enter the store and caught a whiff of sulfur in the air. They looked around and saw Hot Head staring at them from the parking lot. Step by step he slowly approached them.
Big Bubba immediately pointed the shotgun at Hot Head and said, “Hold it right there you dumb dog, this thing is loaded and I’m not afraid to blow your guts to kingdom come!”
Gary turned his attention to Bubba and said, “You can’t bring a loaded gun into my store!”
Hot Head looked them over and burped a fiery flame that scorched the pavement. Gary and Bubba looked at each other with eyes wide open. Hot Head took another step towards them and licked his lips.
Gary and Bubba spoke in unison, “Nice puppy, that’s a nice puppy…”
Hot Head let loose an explosive howl that broke the store windows behind Gary and Bubba. Bubba was so startled that he twitched and shot Gary’s head off. Blood spurted out from Gary’s neck, and his dead body fell to the pavement with a loud thud.
Bubba looked back at Hot Head and said, “Look what you made me do, you stupid mutt!”
Hot Head ran towards Bubba like a runaway freight train and tackled him to the ground. Bubba desperately tried to fire at Hot Head, but he was too late. Hot Head ripped open his stomach and ate his intestines like a big bowl of pasta.
Further down the road on Gamble Street, a young man dressed in a grey business suit was filling up his new Chevy Spark at the local Exon. He happened to turn his head and saw a big rabid dog running towards him. His hands started to tremble, and he removed the gas nozzle from his car. The gas flowed onto the pavement surrounding the gas pumps.
The dog was getting closer, and the young man closed his eyes expecting to be attacked. He stood there for a moment and nothing happened. He opened his eyes, and watched the dog run around his car. When Hot Head felt the gas beneath his paws, he farted a fiery flame. The gas ignited, and quickly raced towards the gas pumps causing them to explode into a big fireball.
Azrael and The Shadow emerge at Sabriel’s home in Heaven. The Shadow is wrapped tightly in Azrael’s thick black iron chain. Azrael swings the chain towards a white wall and The Shadow crashes through it leaving a thick cloud of white dust floating in the air.
“What have you done?” Sabriel shouts. “You cannot bring that evil abomination to this holy place!”
Azrael turns his attention away from The Shadow and says, “I brought him here so that when I kill him, the sword can be transferred to you.”
Sabriel screams, “The wrath of God will descend upon us! You have doomed us both!”
The white smoke starts to clear in the purified air, and The Shadow is standing before them. The iron chain is still wrapped around his slender body. He focuses all his power and breaks the chains in one swift motion.
The Shadow steps through the broken wall and says, “It’s not the wrath of God that you need to be afraid of...boys!”
Sabriel pushes Azrael towards The Shadow. “You better kill him now!”
Azrael stumbles forward and is caught off guard. He doesn’t notice The Shadow pulling out his sword. The black flames ignite, and The Shadow lunges forward cutting in an upward motion. The shadow sword cuts through Azrael from groin to head - splitting him in half. His bloody corpse falls to the floor with a splatter.
Sabriel tries to run away but The Shadow quickly grabs him and says, “You're coming with me...boy!” The Shadow hooks his arm around Sabriel’s neck and they disappear.
A few moments later, they reappear at West Central Park in Gemstone City. The Shadow forcefully throws Sabriel to the ground. He quickly crawls back towards The Shadow and grabs his trench coat - crying out for forgiveness.
“Please let me go, I did nothing wrong!”
The Shadow starts laughing and kicks him back to the ground. “The Angel of Miracles groveling at my feet!”
Sabriel stands up and shouts, “You cannot kill me! I’m an Angel from Heaven, God will never allow this to happen!”
The Shadow raises his finger to his puckered lips, “Shhhhh!”
“Thanks to your special miracles, terrorists all over the world have obtained weapons of mass destruction.” The Shadow folds his arms, and continues, “Crime lords big and small have received special miracles, in the forms of lawyers who get them off free and clear! I could go on and on...but I want you to meet my special friend.”
The Shadow places two fingers in his mouth and whistles loud and clear into the night air. Sabriel covers his ears and squeezes his eyes together.
“Are you trying to make me deaf?” he asks.
The Shadow starts to laugh. “Oh no... I just want you to meet HOT HEAD!”
Sabriel hears a rustling in the bushes behind him. He turns to investigate, and sees Hot Head flying towards him. As Hot Head lands on Sabriel, the sheer weight of his body crushes his bones. Hot Head tears him limb from limb, savoring every bite. He saves his head for last…
He snatches Sabriel’s head in his mighty maw and tosses it towards The Shadow. In one swift motion, he pulls out the shadow sword and slices Sabriel’s head into two halves.
Hot Head looks at The Shadow and whimpers.
The Shadow walks over and pats him on the head. “Good boy Hot Head...good boy!”
The Shadow turns to walk away and says, “Come on Hot Head, we still have a lot of work to do…”
They fade away into the warm night air.
Deep in the bowels of Hell, Azrael and Sabriel are tied to iron posts planted firmly in the fiery ground. The eternal flames of Hell ignite just below their feet, and slowly engulf their entire bodies. They will burn forever in the realm of damnation. Their screams are heard throughout the entire Kingdom of Hell and will echo in the Kingdom of Heaven. A warning to all renegade Angels - that you don’t mess with The Shadow and the Beast.
Daniel R. Hayes