As always, the city of Hades was as bright and excited as the sky above was dark and foreboding.
Deegan Prost made his way to the large, iron-barred gate, always keeping his eyes on the gate guards. They worked for the Faythe—Lucifer’s army—and were therefore suspect. His dead, grey eyes darted back and forth. His body was relaxed, but anxious.
All of his senses were working at their most keen levels. He had been called in for a meeting with Ren, the highest-ranking member of the Fay the, and rather unpredictable fellow. Ren had inherited the position when Lucien, his old boss had been killed by a traitor. It had happened at a festival called the Ceremony of the Spears, and Deegan had heard all sorts of first and second-hand accounts of the carnage. Some Angels had been more than toilsome trying to rescue one of their own. But none of that concerned Deegan.
What was on his mind was, ‘what the hell does the top brass want with Deegan Prost?’ He would know soon enough.
“Vos bist dasti, Spears?” The guard said to Deegan, speaking the language of the Dark Angels and Demons.
“Yabist cuy Ren, fit Spears,” he answered gruffly. I’m meeting with Ren, at the Spears Monument.
The guard studied him, taking stock of the man. Deegan wasn’t a large, intimidating man, but there was something about him that made you shiver when he was nearby. You didn’t even have to see him, but if you did . . . you’d see those eyes. The closest thing to Deegan’s spooky, searching eyes would be those of a white shark. The analogy works too, because both of them are predators.
Hunters that only find solace when their prey has been incapacitated. For both Deegan Prost and the shark, everything was for the hunt.
The guard turned to another who was watching down from a guard shack that was raised above them several stories. “Achy Deegan Prost.”
“Speak English, please. I don’t like hearing that old language. It’s dirty,” Deegan said as the guard turned to him perplexed. They weren’t used to being talked to like that. The rumors of Deegan, however, were enough to persuade the guard not to push the issue.
“You know, it’s a habit of working at the fence,” the guard replied.
“It’s not often that Ren talks to citizens. Must be very important.”
“Well,” Deegan said impatiently, “If you’d open the bloody gate I might be able to keep my appointment.”
The guard looked down on Deegan, towering over him. The guard stood over six feet tall, and had fifty or sixty pounds more mass than the smaller civilian. Deegan was not quite 180 pounds, but none of it was wasted size.
Deegan looked deep into the guard’s eyes, and what he saw was curiosity.
This guard might want to try his hand at Deegan. “You want me to write you a note so you can read it slowly a couple of times. Open . . . the . . . gate.”
“Little man likes to talk big. Don’t think I won’t just smash your—”Deegan had heard enough. As the guard was trying to threaten him he kicked him in the right leg, just above the knee. It dropped the guard to his hands and knees. Deegan then punched downward with a short, closed fist to the back of the guard’s neck. The bigger demon, clad in a red and black soldier’s uniform fell flat to the ground, unconscious. Deegan then looked up at the other guard, up in the shack.
“Open this fucking gate,” Deegan barked. “I’ve an appointment with Ren . . . your boss!” Within seconds the gate started to open. Deegan didn’t even bother to check the fallen guard for signs of life. He knew that the demon would be alright. If he had killed him, which he easily could have done, the guard would have started to burn and smolder, eventually turning to smoke and ash.
Deegan slid through the small crack in the large gate and continued onto the black, soft sand of the Torn Valley. There was a small stretch of this black wasteland that had to be crossed in order to get to the Spears Monument. As he made his way across the forty meters or so of dark desert he studied the newly formed ruins in front of him. The sound of the city of Hades was behind him now. Except for a tiny star in the sky, everything was pitch black. Small torches illuminated the fallen statues and broken sculptures that used to be the pride and joy of Hades. Now, it was a grim reminder that nobody is immune to treachery.
He didn’t know what to expect from Ren. But, as he made his way to the outskirts of the Spears Monument he had a feeling that things were about to change for him. He was correct.
“Deegan Prost,” Ren called from one of the broken statues. It had been broken in half and the red-clad, Dark Angel was sitting just above the hip, his legs dangling off the sides. “It’s bloody good to finally meet you, mate. Lucien always spoke very highly of you.”
Deegan walked forward, not speaking or thanking Ren for his words. He just studied him. The first Lieutenant under Lucifer looked like a English rock star. His hair was pointing in several directions, with no real pattern or design. Maybe that was the plan. His face was just a tad more tanned than being olive, and his eyes were greenish grey—almost sparkling in what little light there was. Deegan’s eyes searched for any signs of an ambush. Trust nobody and you’ll never be surprised.
“I’ve just been to visit the big man, and he has an assignment for you,” Ren said as he adjusted his long, leathery jacket. The wind was cutting through the wreckage and there was a particular sting to it. There was a faint howl, almost like the whisper of a dying banshee.
Deegan approached within several meters of Ren. “And what, if I may be so bold, is so important that the most powerful man in Hades requests my
“Deegan, you’re an old pro,” Ren said in a thick English accent. That went with the rock star image like butter and toast. “So let’s you and me carryon like mates, and dispense with all the blagging.”
Deegan nodded as he walked a few paces forward, folding his arms in front of his chest.
“Lucifer wants you to go down to earth and hunt an angel named Mavet.
Your constant professionalism and record for success was naturally a feature for selecting you for this assignment. It is very important to Lucifer, so I suppose you know that it isn’t really a request.. Then again, I imagine that a bloke like you fancies a bit of adventure every now and again.” Ren kicked his feet and legs back and forth in little circles like a little kid.
“Why is that name, Mavet, familiar?” Deegan asked. He already knew, but he wanted to know how much information he was being given . . . see just whose side Ren was on.
Ren jumped down off of the statue and walked towards Deegan. They were almost the same height and build, although Deegan was sure he was better looking than Ren.
Ren said, “Well, he used to be an archangel. Was one of Lucifer’s brothers . . . long ago. Now,” he shrugged, “Michael has lost control of him and he killed an angel.”
“No,” Ren said with a laugh. “They sent him to earth to clean up some religious garbage, fucking greedy priests and what-not. Anyway, he goes out of his head and starts to like the work. So, when he’s supposed to come in, go back to Heaven, he just flips. Tells Michael that he wants to stay and fix some things. Like he’s on a crusade.”
Deegan snorted a tiny laugh. The idea brought a smile to his otherwise expressionless face.
“That ain’t even the half, mate. Apparently, there’s some kind of bloody shake-up in the Vatican. It’s got the angels running around like chickens with their heads cut off. It’s all a tragically funny affair.” Ren cleared his throat and got more serious. “So, here’s the score: You’re a shape-shifter. Naturally, that will aid in your ability to conduct this kind of job.
Lucifer doesn’t want you creating much of a stir, but if your search takes you to any targets of opportunity . . . well, you just use your best judgment.”
Deegan wondered out loud, “Will any of Heaven’s forces be looking for, me?”
Ren grinned knowingly. “I can’t elaborate, but I will tell you this,”
Ren lowered his voice and looked to his left and right. “You will not have problems from anyone other than Mavet, himself. In fact, Uriel will be your first contact on earth. He will provide you with the necessary information to begin your hunt.”
“And when I find Mavet . . . what then?”
Ren was quiet, which was out of character. “It would be nice to bring him back here, but,” he shrugged, “you make that call when you’re on the ground. Mavet is a tough cunt, so I guess it might not be as simple as taking him alive.”
“So this angel . . .”
“Uriel,” Ren reminded.
“Right. He’s going to give me the scent, and then I’m on my own?”
“Yeah, that’s about the color of it.”
“Weapons?” Deegan asked, one of his eyebrows rising curiously.
“Take nothing across, bring nothing back. While you’re there, take what you want. It’s been a while since you been down there, eh?” Ren asked with a half smile.
Deegan nodded. “But hunting is hunting. Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you.”
Ren pursed his lips and thought for a moment. “You really capture those four angels and bring them to Lucien?”
Deegan didn’t answer. He didn’t have to. Slowly he turned and walked back towards the black sand, with the wall to Hades off in the distance, and three lonely spears shaking with the cold gusts of biting wind.
“At the second call of the banshee, be here. Dressed to kill,” Ren said with a self-pleasing laugh.
Deegan didn’t respond other than with a slight nod. In less than a day hunting season would open.