Title: Hell Gate
Author: Andrew P. Weston
Publisher: Perseid Press
The Angel Grislington is dead, effaced from existence during an epic battle with Daemon Grim that destroyed a Zion forged blade and one of Satan’s premier palaces in the process.
Chopin and Tesla have gone to ground. So much so, that they might as well be six feet under helping to push up hell-daisies.
Even Erra and the Sibitti, his living weapons of vengeance and destruction, seem reticent to show their faces.
Rioting sweeps the length and breadth of the underworld. Yet the halls of the Mortuary lie vacant, for someone is stealing soul-essence, the very means by which Satan condemns sinners to everlasting torment.
But who would dare such a thing? And how does the hush that descends upon the dirty streets of latterday hell tie into ancient prophecy relating to the Reaper’s destiny?
It’s often calmest before the storm.
Just imagine how bad things will get with the apocalypse approaching.
The space immediately in front of me formed the apex of a wide mound, dominated by two large stones which had been fashioned into the shape of ornate miniature obelisks. Lying on their sides a couple of yards apart, they were obviously the apparatus responsible for drawing the essence of hell’s citizenry here, for I felt their influence on my own dark soul the closer I got.
Time to make a statement. Inverting each sword, I adjusted my grip to suit, dropped to one knee and put all my strength into a simultaneous downward thrust. Both rocks shattered into tiny fragments, releasing a blaze of amber and green light, along with a piercing howl that made me suspect they were somehow sentient. Tough luck if they were.
Only once that essential task was completed did I bother to look beyond the hillock.
A desolate flatland yawned away on all sides, bordered by mountains – dark and foreboding – to the north and west. To the south and east, a molten sky fused into the horizon in shimmering waves, giving no indication as to how far this oven extended.
About a quarter of a mile in front of my position, an elaborate series of linked trenches and fortified bulwarks stretched off, left and right, manned by creatures I couldn’t quite define...except for their predominant proclivity. That was one of open hostility.
But they were not my immediate concern. The five thousand shock troops much closer to home were, for that rabble was comprised of missing denizens of New Hell, with one or two interlopers from more exotic climbs thrown in. So, the Blades are into inhuman trafficking? Another point of contention I’ll have to remedy while I’m here.
Casting my eye across the front column, I could see they were all armed to the teeth with strange serrated blades or gnarled cudgels, and hyped into the twilight zone on something that had them frothing at the mouth. Not that it would do them much good. None of them seemed capable of lifting such weapons for more than a minute or two without flagging, let alone wielding them for long enough to survive a battle.
They must be cannon fodder.
My hunch proved right. Obeying some unspoken command, the mob broke into a run. Shouting and screaming at the top of their lungs, they came right at me. Is this supposed to slow me down? I think I’d better reinforce my last statement.
Spinning both ninjaken, I reverted to a normal grip and leaped from the top of the hillock. Landing in a cloud of dust, I stamped forward and made a double pass in the air – inward, then out – across my body. The moment my gleaming blades came to a standstill on the return stroke, the entire charge collapsed into a tumbling mass of cloven flesh and fragmented bones that dissipated before they hit the ground.
Though pitifully scant, I channeled the sum of their remaining life-force back through the portal to where they belonged. I’m sure the Undertaker will know what to do with what’s left. If nothing else, he’ll be able to increase his staff or boost the retinue at the Cirque du Freak. Not that...hello?
A palpable shock ran through the ranks of my mystery hosts. They probably didn’t expect me to execute the whole damned lot of my own people. Suckers! I decided to press that slight advantage. Time to get blunt.
Striding confidently out across the open ground, I slammed my swords into their back sheath and projected my voice mentally. “Who leads here? In particular, I’d like to know the cretin responsible for sending this ill-conceived warning: ‘Intrude upon our sovereign affairs again, and you will face the wrath of the Blades of the Left-Hand Path.’ Rather ironic, really, seeing as it’s you who intruded upon Satan’s sovereignty by poking your noses into his realm and stealing his subjects?”
A resounding silence met my rebuke.
Okay, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. They might not comprehend the...? My recollection of the Blades’ message induced a strange reaction from deep inside. Responding to that compulsion, I repeated the entire question, but reverted to their language – a language I had only ever heard once – to do it.
“Min stakû aleh? El haûs, wê elhûd alnad atî set kô-me mesoôl êl serkhî her pfat’atâr ta-hadeê: ‘Elmôh at fell janhîm rah e’ile, âgus cog to-gar nich set fêagk id set Ha’rthao id set Drig’vn Se-mol.’ Neshîd er-hnêt, hel, seêl hedh indá cog areê elmêh at Shaiatâhn janhôme de kusâme coâg entî thêh ahî ahrnêm âgus tesslâh ahî el-nâha?”
A rumbling challenge issued from the midst of the throng, easily carrying across the intervening gap, “And who are you that dares to speak the sacred tongue of the Al-Jinn?”
“The Jinn? I thought you lot were just a myth?” So, they do understand Standard English. “But, in reply to your question...I am Daemon Grim, Satan’s Reaper of souls, guardian of all that is ungodly, and chief among those called Hell Hounds and Inquisitors. I ask again, who is it that speaks bravely while hidden away among a multitude?”
Movement throughout the lines massed opposite indicated my comments had struck a raw nerve. A low buzzing sound – part growl, part major chord – swelled in pitch, filling the stillness of the air with the promise of brutality fulfilled. The noise was joined by multiple sparking outbursts and miniature nebulas that swarmed and swirled like wheeling flocks of birds.
Look how they flow from one state to another. These Jinn must be shape shifters?
In amongst the seething horde, I caught glimpses of tusks and fangs, glowering orbs that pulsed like dying embers, and all manner of dark glittering swords, barbed chain flails and spiked clubs. My chest began to heave at the prospect of imminent battle.
Now this...this is what I live for.
I pushed further. “Do you feel no shame at remaining huddled like a sheep amongst your flock?”
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Andrew P. Weston is Royal Marine and Police veteran from the UK who now lives on the beautiful Greek island of Kos with his wife, Annette, and their growing family of rescue cats.
An astronomy and criminal law graduate, he is the creator of the internationally acclaimed IX Series, along with Hell Bound, Hell Hounds and Hell Gate, (Novels forming part of Janet Morris’ critically celebrated Heroes in Hell shared universe). Andrew also has the privilege of being a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, the British Science Fiction Association, British Fantasy Society, and the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.
When not writing, Andrew devotes some of his spare time to assisting NASA with one of their remote research projects, and writes educational articles for Astronaut.com and Amazing Stories.
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